Achieving Success in the Age of Customer

Boris Evelson, VP & Principal Analyst, Forrester Research
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The power to define how business is won has shifted into the hands of digitally empowered customers— both businesses and consumers—displacing information and control over distribution or manufacturing. With mobile devices, the Internet, and all-but-unlimited access to information about products, services, prices, and deals, customers are now well-informed about companies and their products, and are able to quickly find alternatives to drive change.

Forrester calls this the age of the customer. But not all enterprises have readily embraced this new cycle; in fact, just the opposite is true—there has been more than 70 percent turnover for the Global Fortune 500 companies during the past 10 years. If there's one common thread running through the profile of most of the companies which disappeared in that time period, it is that they did not succeed in managing change. Business agility— reacting to fast changing business needs— is what enables businesses to thrive amid ever accelerating market changes and dynamics.

What does the age of the customer mean in pragmatic and actionable terms to technology executives working on Business Intelligence initiatives? Forrester believes that in order to survive and succeed in the age of the customer, businesses should focus on and prioritize business agility by:

Treating their business users just like customers

Forrester finds that agile organizations make decisions differently by embracing a new, more grass-roots-based management approach. In addition, to top down Business Intelligence requirements, mandated by management, employees in the trenches, in individual business units, are the ones who are in close touch with customer problems, market shifts, and process inefficiencies. These workers are often in the best position to understand challenges and opportunities and to make decisions to improve the business. It is only when responses to change come from within, from these highly aware and empowered employees, do enterprises become agile, competitive, and successful. And, it is only when technology professionals start listening to all business stakeholders, not just senior managers, that a more realistic picture of an effective and efficient Business Intelligence environment becomes clear and actionable.

"Business agility—reacting to fast changing business needs—is what enables businesses to thrive amid ever accelerating market changes and dynamics"

Embracing business agility, which sometimes trumps a single version of the truth

A modern, agile world is not binary. A single version of the truth is relative to who's asking the question, and other contexts. If it is good, timely and addresses relevant customer data needs, then that takes higher priority in the age of the customer.

Enabling business agility with agile best practices and platforms

Agile enterprises must gather customer and market knowledge and rapidly incorporate it into decisions. In order to support and promote business agility, enterprise knowledge workers must be empowered with easy access to agile, flexible, and responsive enterprise business intelligence tools and applications.

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