The golden rule for every business man is this: Put yourself in your customer’s place.

-Orison Swett Marden

Businesses today make a cardinal mistake in believing that quality products and services are sufficient to keep the show running. Reality check – Quality service is no longer the differentiating factor but a fundamental expectation of customers!

Let’s take a case in point. As a bank’s customer you expect a monthly bank statement. While ‘Bank A’ sends you the e-statement and it satisfies your need to stay informed. ‘Bank B’ sends you the e-statement and communicates to you a 20% discount on air tickets, basis your transaction history. It not only satisfies your need to stay informed, but also caters to your future transaction needs and incentivizes you. E-statements from banks is what you expect, but the moment your bank says “get 20% off on air tickets” basis your past transactions, they are talking context and harnessing it for a future transaction!

So now that you have been in a customer’s shoe, it’s easy to understand that successful business today is all about context. Every interaction that a customer has with your business, whether it is placing orders, lodging complaints, providing feedback…are all opportunity windows for your business. You need to utilize these opportunities for designing an effective customer servicing capability.

You need to deliver services, not in isolation, but in context!

So, what’s the challenge?

You might retort…it is easier said than done or we are already doing this to some extent…but is it effective? Let’s have a look at where things might be going wrong.

As you might have already deciphered, the crux lies in plugging the right information in context. So how do you ensure seamless flow of contextual information? In the given example, the first bank is already capturing all your transactional information but the real bottleneck resides in the flow of information. The operations department, the IT department, the marketing department are all working in silos. Even though IT infrastructure (CRM for a bank) is available for information capture, it is not accessible to the marketing department to plug in the vital information in their communication template. The result is lost opportunities for engagement in context.

If you really look into the matter, it is more of a case of trying to fit a square peg in a round hole. In this case, the existing IT infrastructure is the round hole to which you are trying to fit the square peg of a business requirement. The outcome is of course as expected-sub optimal.

So far, the role of CIOs in majority of organizations has been that of housekeeping, to keep the IT backbone working, to keep the lights on. Business strategy and IT has so long been seen as non-converging entities of an organization and more so because investing in IT infrastructure is considered as a long term investment which is usually done through legacy systems which are inherently irreplaceable for sustaining the current business, whereas business strategies are dynamic and can be molded as per need.

And, what’s the way out?

So how do you overcome this juggernaut of resistance? How do you ensure that critical customer transactional information flows from the IT backend or information on product availability from operations and inventory department is accessible to stakeholders like the marketing department to enable them to communicate contextually with the customers? How do you bring in change in the existing IT infrastructure to align with business strategy?

The solution need not be too radical that warrants the entire IT infrastructure of the organization to be overhauled, nor it should be too simplistic that the organization is forced by its own limitations to forego innovation.

Syncing business strategy with IT seems to be the way forward. It is a case of connecting the 4 most important pillars of an organization-people, process, system and things. There are enterprise technology platforms like BPM frameworks with integration capabilities that can seamlessly connect to the existing platforms and systems of the organization, including user content and systems data. A powerful and well-integrated technology platform comprising of BPM, ECM and CCM sits atop the existing IT infrastructure of an organization and connects the hitherto unconnected systems and processes, making information flow seamless. It is the link that maintains the integrity of the legacy IT infrastructure, while lending agility to the enterprise wide IT capability. It is a powerful mechanism for delivering contextual customer experience.

So get set to do business in context!