Technology-driven innovation is giving customers, employees and partners the ability to assert control and dictate to the organization how they want to buy, work, and engage. To thrive in this new era organizations must grasp the fundamental nature of this shift, and then create experiences that thrill and delight their customers, employees, and partners at every point of engagement.
In 1998, B. Joseph Pine II and James H. Gilmore famously coined the term the experience economy in a Harvard Business Review article.
While the phrase immediately became de rigueur for enterprise executives and amongst the consultants who saw dollar signs in helping them create these new profit-creating experiences, it was many years before the reality of the experience economy began to finally take root.
Even while speakers at every conference were standing up and trotting out the well-trodden tales of Uber or Airbnb (you know, no taxis and no hotel rooms, yada yada), most industry observers were blithely missing the more significant shift that was underway.
While there is no question that those examples were, in fact, indicative of the experience economy becoming a reality, most enterprise leaders focused on the components such as mobile interfaces, social interactions, disintermediation, and the like.
While those elements, and many others, represented the building blocks, technical components, and business model transformations implicit in digital transformation, they were all derivatives of a much more significant shift that was occurring: a shift in power away from the enterprise and to the customer.
All of this technology-driven innovation was giving customers (and eventually employees and partners) the ability to assert control and dictate to the organization how they wanted to buy, work, and engage.
An Undeniable Shift in Power
“The reason you haven’t felt it is because it doesn’t exist. What you call love was invented by guys like me, to sell nylons.”
“People want to be told what to do so badly that they’ll listen to anyone.”
— Don Draper, Mad Men
The long-running and wildly popular television show Mad Men told the story of how advertisers pitched and sold during the heyday of the industrial age. It was all about selling mass products to a willing, yet unsuspecting public.
But while the zaniness of 1960’s advertising made an enticing TV show subject, the ethos it represented was not limited to the advertising business. In every unit of industrial age enterprises, it was the organization that dictated the terms of how a product was produced, marketed, sold, and used.
The enterprise control was ironclad because it was prohibitively expensive, if not impossible, to go outside of the well-oiled systems they created to produce and deliver mass products to a mass market.
The big shift of digital transformation was the upending of this paradigm.
Technology innovations made it possible for the customer to take control of the situation and dictate the terms of how they would engage with, purchase, and consume a product or service. And once consumers got a taste of that power, there was no putting that genie back in the bottle.
Suddenly, the use of social networks, discussion groups, easy access to every piece of data imaginable, and the instant availability of almost any product, no matter how obscure, shifted attitudes, behaviors, and expectations.
First as consumers, then as employees and partners, we all reached a point where we refused to accept the industrial age status quo.
The shift in power was complete. No more Mad Men. It was now all about the experience.
The Death of Rigidity
While consumer technology companies were quick to figure out the transition that was afoot, traditional enterprises were a bit slower to adapt.
Specifically, the state of enterprise applications lagged far behind their consumer counterparts. It was often a very frustrating experience for customers, employees, and partners alike — especially when they unavoidably compared the rigid experiences of enterprise applications to the consumer applications they used in their every day lives.
For a time, we all just accepted our fate and bought the bridge that enterprise IT sold us — namely, that enterprise applications were not as simple as consumer-oriented ones. They explained that the security, integration, and compliance issues that enterprises had to deal with made the types of snazzy, interactive experiences that consumer technology companies employed impossible in a corporate setting.
Eventually, however, this story became harder and harder to accept — particularly as consumer applications became increasingly sophisticated and handled ever-more-complex tasks. We couldn’t help but have all of this new technology reset our expectations.
Today, there is no going back.
Customers, employees, and partners all expect their digital experiences to embrace the very best of consumer technology approaches: interactivity, social engagement, and dynamic user interfaces. Most importantly, they demand the freedom to interact with their technology however they’d like, free of the rigidity and over-structure that is a part-and-parcel reminder of industrial age limitations.
The challenge is that most enterprise organizations are still struggling to consistently deliver these types of application and digital experiences.
The transition that began twenty years ago is now reaching its climax — and it is now digitally enabled.
Enterprise organizations find themselves competing for their customers, employees, and partners based largely on their ability to create and foster exceptional digital experiences for them.
Customers, employees, and partners have likewise come to expect the freedom to buy the way they want, and to work the way they want — and now demand that the organizations they buy from or work with use technology to enable them to do so.
This is an expectation which requires a degree of speed and flexibility that is becoming nearly impossible to meet using traditional application development approaches.
As a result, organizations are turning to innovations like low-code development platforms and to progressive technology solutions, such as Process Director from BP Logix, that enable them to adopt and implement flexible and dynamic digital engagement models.
Amid all the interactivity, mobility, and the other new technology bells and whistles, it is easy to miss that the most significant shift of all is the shift of power. The organizations that will thrive in this new era will be those that grasp the fundamental nature of this shift, and then build the capabilities they need to create experiences that thrill and delight their customers, employees, and partners at every point of engagement.
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