In a round of client visits that took me 17,500 miles in eight days, and to meetings with over 75 businesses over five time zones, I saw experiments with Twitter, SMS, FaceBook and Wikis that laid bare the huge gap between where businesses want to be in engaging customers, and where the major business software application vendors are in providing solutions.
Most of the major vendors who grab the attention of CIOs are serving up commodity functionality while renovating the technology stack. From a CRM process perspective, they have fallen far behind what businesses and their customers expect. The good news is that there are terrific innovations going on a companies such as Telstra, the Australian telecom provider, Dell Computer, Unilever, and Kraft Foods. They are not waiting for their application stack provider to point the way.
And here is the interesting thing: in about 85% of cases, the innovation springs from the line of business, and not from core IT at all. Core IT did not come up with the idea, sanction the project, or fund it. The new technologies and applications are easy to source and easy to deploy and easy to use. They are cool, yet so far lack process design capabilities and are outside of the business process. The next step is for the innovators in customer service, marketing, logistics, and sales to make sure what they are doing is consistent with the business as a whole, and for IT to gain a facility with the new tools out there. Right now it is like the US Gold Rush in the mid 1800s: some people will benefit, while others will come up empty.
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