Customer-centric IT: 4 tips for technology marketers

Customer centricity is reshaping IT in many organizations, as customer experience becomes an increasingly important source of competitive advantage. We’ve seen this trend developing over the past few years and it is now gaining widespread attention. Customer centricity means aligning IT’s resources and objectives to optimize the customer experience. Increasingly, IT’s strategies, organizational structure, and role in the organization are evaluated in relation to the external customer.

The shift to customer centric IT impacts:

  • Goals and objectives: IT’s overall goals become more aligned with customer and business objectives. Rather than viewing internal business functions as its customer, IT works to build its knowledge of the external customer. This is a significant change in mindset for most IT functions, with wide ranging impacts on organizational structure within IT, relationships with the business functions, and staffing at all levels within IT.
  • Organizational structure: IT becomes less isolated and more integrated with the business and customer-facing operations. IT organizations are creating new roles and teams—like Business Relationship Managers and Customer Engagement teams—to act as a bridge between business functions and IT’s technical expertise. Some organizations are integrating IT more tightly into business functions like Marketing and Operations by embedding IT staff within the business function.
  • Talent management: New customer-centric roles and objectives require a different mix of skills and abilities than traditional IT roles. Communication, business knowledge, and entrepreneurial spirit are more important than in the past. IT leadership is focusing more on the chemistry needed for team members to collaborate effectively with external and internal customers, and less on technical skill alone.
  • Vendor relationships: Customer-centrism impacts needs for and expectations of external vendors. Some IT organizations are re-evaluating their outsourcing strategy to bring activities that provide competitive advantage back in-house. Vendors are generally expected to bring a greater understanding of the business, and be able to connect their solution to the overall business goals.

Customer-centric IT has important implications for technology sales and marketing:

  • As IT becomes more connected and embedded with business functions, they’ll become more involved and influential in the buying process. Cloud-based solutions have targeted the business function as the primary decision maker and gone around IT, seeing the function as a road block. But organizations and their IT departments have begun to realize the downsides of each department selecting their own solution – they end up with less than the sum of their parts. As with any pendulum swing in the market expect, IT to once again become involved earlier and at a more strategic level. The business will increasingly view IT as a partner rather than an adversary.
  • New roles and organizational structures mean that the individual personalities that make up the IT function are changing. Messages and creative that resonated with a traditional IT buyer need to shift to be compelling to the business-focused, entrepreneurial mindsets of the customer-centric IT organization.
  • Technology vendors need to understand how their buyer (either as a segment or at the individual organization level) views the IT organization, especially which aspects of IT are sources of competitive advantage and which are commodities. The value proposition and message for a technology that contributes to competitive advantage will be different than one that is a commodity. What constitutes a competitive edge will be different for a pharmaceutical company than a bank.
  • Technology vendors can build relationships by helping IT transition to a customer-centric orientation. Through thought-leadership and content marketing, vendors have the opportunity to help IT better understand the end customer or navigate the implications for organizational change.

Technology marketing and sales organizations that recognize the shift to customer-centricity now will be in advantageous position to differentiate from competitors and help IT navigate this transition. Take the time now to understand what customer-centricity means for your target audience and your offering.