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Role of Architecture in Delivering Optimal Customer Journeys (Part 1)

Digital technologies have created empowered customers, forcing companies to adapt and focus on their customer experiences.  Enterprise and business architecture can support these efforts.

Introduction

Marketers and product managers are getting very good at elaborating customer journeys. Their organizations use various agile methodologies in the hope of speeding things up and yet most of them struggle in delivering these journeys on time and within budget. This article describes how enterprise and business architecture can unravel optimal customer journey initiatives.  The process begins by identifying and focusing on the problematic and enabling capabilities of their organization using a “Personal Loan” customer journey map example.

Customer Journeys Today

Digital technologies have created empowered customers, forcing companies to adapt and focus on their customer experiences. “Now, leveraging emerging technologies, processes, and organizational structures, companies are restoring the balance of power and creating new value for brands and buyers alike. Central to this shift is a fresh way of thinking: Rather than merely reacting to the journeys that consumers themselves devise, companies are shaping their paths, leading rather than following. Marketers are increasingly managing journeys as they would any product. As a result, Journeys have become central to the customer’s experience of a brand—and are “as important as the products themselves in providing competitive advantage,” as indicated in this Harvard Business Review article entitled “Competing on Customer Journeys”.

Based on this article, a customer journey (like the personal loan customer journey map shown in Figure 1 above) will be variations on the following basic steps:

  • Consider – the customer has a need and considers purchasing a product.
  • Evaluate – the customer is comparing prices and checks on a variety of products, including rivals.
  • Buy – the customer commits and buys the product.
  • Enjoy – the customer is satisfied with its purchase.
  • Advocate – the customer communicates with its extended social network about its new purchase; and
  • Bond – the customer identifies with the brand of the product to eventually purchase again.

Key elements need to be considered when planning the customer journey within an organisation. First, automation techniques such as artificial intelligence among others, can ensure that manual processes are simplified as much as possible. Second, proactive personalization must be leveraged, where designed services seem very specific to each persona of the organization. Third, contextual interaction must also be considered, where the organization can switch from online to physical and back while interacting with clients. Finally, the use of practical innovations must be examined while optimizing customer journeys using experimentation.

Linking Customer Journeys to Value

Linking the customer experience to value creation both for the customer and the organization is essential to justify any transformation. As noted in this McKinsey & Co report entitled Customer Experience: Creating Value through Transforming Customer Journeys many customer-experience transformations stall because leaders can’t show how these efforts create value. Patiently building a business case can fund them, secure buy-in, and build momentum.”

Therefore, business architects in conjunction with marketers, product managers and subject matter experts often use value streams to examine closely value creation. Each value stage of a value stream can usually easily be related to a Customer Journey Stage, as demonstrated in Figure 2 above.

Value Streams are artifacts within business architecture that allow a business to specify the value proposition derived by an external (e.g., customer) or internal stakeholder from an organization. The value stream is depicted as an end-to-end collection of value-adding activities that create an overall result for a customer, stakeholder, or end-user. In modeling terms, those value-adding activities are represented by value stream stages, each of which creates and adds incremental stakeholder value items from one stage to the next,”[i] as shown in the detailed value stream “Obtain Personal Loan” in Figure 3 below.

Customer Journey Requires New Enabling Capabilities

A set of current and new emerging capabilities, as those shown in Figure 4 below, is required to capture the value from optimal customer journeys. As revealed in another McKinsey & Co report entitled Customer Experience: New Capabilities, New Audiences, New Opportunities, “Decision makers from all stakeholder groups should align together and embrace uncertainty together, developing capabilities throughout the entire design process. The use of existing resources can keep the investment in time and costs low.”

Focusing on Problematic Enabling Capabilities

To ensure the delivery of strategic goals and objectives, a customer-experience measurement system needs to be put in place, where customer journeys are at the base with their enabling current and new capabilities. Measuring current and new customer-centric enabling capabilities, as shown in Figure 5 below, according to their priority, performance and business complexity for example will allow to build initiatives that focus foremost on the capabilities that will provide the most value to both the customer and the organization.

After measuring the enabling capabilities of the “Obtain Personal Loan” value stream for example, the following observations can be mentioned:

  • The Account/Agreement Interest Determination and the Financial Transaction Disbursement Management capabilities are of critical priority and performing low.
  • The Collateral and Loan Pairing capability is of very high priority with low performance.
  • The Client Risk Scoring capability is of high priority and performing low.
  • The Client Survey Management, the Loan Authorization Management and the Financial Transaction and Client Pairing capabilities are of high priority and of high or very high performance. They are not problematic.

“Reaching the top quartile of CX performers is no easy task. Cost, design, and value are emerging as key differentiators for customers, yet companies often lack guiding principles to shape those efforts.”[i] To reach strategic goals and objectives, an organization need to build its customer-centric initiatives on these four pillars, from the article “The Four Pillars of Distinctive Customer Journeys”:

  • Focus on the few issues and capabilities that matter the most to customers, as shown in Figure 6
  • Provide simple, short customer journeys
  • Master online digital-first journeys over traditional approaches; and
  • For a long-term commitment with your customers, be aware that brand and perceptions matter.

For example, after measuring the 24 enabling capabilities of the Obtain Personal Loan supporting the Loan Service Customer Journey map as per Figure 5 above, it’s easier to conclude that the organization should focus its strategic initiative(s) toward enhancing the 4 problematic enabling capabilities (4 red arrows in Figure 5 and as shown in Figure 6).

Conclusion

In the development of more complete understanding of business processes, it is important to start with identifying problematic and enabling capabilities of customer journeys.  After the steps, effective organizations will base transformative initiatives on problematic enabling capabilities focusing on important applications and their databases. Doing so requires understanding how to use architecture elements to define requirements more precisely, including epics and user stories commonly used in agile deliveries of projects to accelerate planning and lower the number of scrums.

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