Customer needs and requirements have set the pace for digital business evolution. 

In days long gone — circa 1996 — it was enough to have a website. By the time 1999 rolled around, people figured out that the webmaster couldn't be the bottleneck to changing things on a website — enter website content management. 

Just a few short years later, in 2003, it became evident that enterprises had different needs for such things as commerce, extranets and intranets and, thus, enterprise content management was born. 

A Trip Down Marketing Memory Lane

Throughout this phase of digital business, the "tunnel effect" was in play: marketers would request features, IT would develop them, marketers would review and request refinements and IT would tweak the code. The CIO kept all the systems running, accommodating new features as time allowed. The CMO hired advertising agencies to push potential customers into making a purchase. 

Detailed data reports were printed weekly to show user statistics and to project trends. This information focused on getting ahead of the customer buying curve to facilitate transactions. 

And then 2008 rolled around — when the CMO became responsible for brand AND demand. Marketers now looked to drive customer acquisition via the web, using basic targeting, segmentation and analytics … bringing about the dawn of web experience management. 

The 'marketing cloud' entered in 2012, integrating web experience management solutions with broader digital marketing stacks for email marketing, social marketing, optimization and web analytics. The CIO and CMO expanded their roles in new directions, but they still depended on reactive information. 

And yet, despite their shared company mission, their functions remained isolated from each other. 

Where We Are Today

The digital enterprise has continued to evolve to where it is today, focusing on expanding and managing the entire customer journey with a given brand. Good business today meets customer expectations for seamless, invisible service that predicts their needs and wants. 

On the "inside," good business leverages ubiquitous information about customer history, preferences, activities and more from the Internet of Things. It depends on real-time analytics to create a personalized experience across all channels and organizational silos over the course of the customer lifecycle — from acquisition to post-login to all supporting employee experiences. 

In this new stage, authentic relationships are the name of the game and these relationships depend on trust. The foundation of consumer trust in the brand relationship rests on respect for consumer data transparency, privacy and protection. It is now the dawn of digital experience management.  

The CMO now "owns" the entirety of the customer lifecycle. CMOs must be strategic, have at least a basic level of technical savvy and generate fresh outcomes using their expertise — talking with and moving people to action. Their challenge is that, at times, they must disrupt the status quo in the interest of building sustainable relationships with their customers. 

CIOs now engage in "social" business, connecting the dots between people more effectively for collaboration, leveraged intelligence and bottom-line performance. This takes the CIO into a more strategic role, influencing and supporting business-building in new ways. CIOs are also tasked to innovate with an eye on future-proofing technological investments. 

And the CEO supports the overall vision of the company by leading the charge to be customer-centric in all facets of the business ecosystem. This affects the corporate culture, resource allocation and every phase of employee operations. 

The Customer at the Center

Evolution is natural. However, technology evolution depends on humans to bring it into being. Humans have the ability to assess and then choose what they are willing to do and will, accordingly, either benefit or suffer the consequences of their choices. 

For the purposes of understanding digital enterprise, human decisions will determine the fate of brands large and small. We — as organizations — must prioritize our customers in every thing we do. When we do that, workflows, systems and teams can work together with synchronicity and profit becomes a by-product. 

This paradigm shift underlies the evolution of our success in digital marketing. Your company’s future rests on it. How evolved is your organization?

Title image by Anubhav Saxena