“A connected enterprise occurs when all lines of businesses are largely digitized and integrated,” says former Michigan State University CIO Joanna Young. This is similar to the authors of “Enterprise Architecture as Strategy,” who found connected enterprises have five inherent differentiators versus their competitors:
- A stable set of companywide business capabilities.
- The ability to respond to new marketing opportunities.
- Shared data that drives core business processes.
- Supporting integrations and automation technologies.
- The ability to consider customers regardless of channel.
Clearly, more is needed in business transformation today, but where organizations have established a connected enterprise foundation, they have the opportunity for competitive advantage.
Business Advantages of Establishing a Connected Enterprise
Young suggests the business advantages emanating from a connected enterprise include, “flexibility, speedier time-to-market, and better customer service. That being said, advantages are in the eye of the stakeholder and consumer.”
Mevotech CIO Martin Davis adds, “the advantage of a connected enterprise is it smooths the flow of processes and data. As well it makes for better communication and more efficient processes.”
This means, says Arts and Wellness CIO Paige Francis, “There end up being less steps and administrative touchpoints, more time to focus on mission.” In turn, University of Michigan CIO Carrie Shumaker claims “there is better customer experience which in turn means a better product. In higher education this results in better recruitment, higher retention and higher graduation.”
The key enabler of connected enterprise, suggests Thermo Fisher Scientific Enterprise Architect Ed Featherston, is “data and information that is available in a timely fashion to make necessary business decisions.” Summing things up, analyst Jack Gold says, “The benefit of connectivity is that you create a team environment where everyone has a stake in the total organization’s success, and not just a bunch of disjointed smaller groups that work on their own piece of the pie without a stake in the bigger picture.”
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How Connected Enterprises Enable Better Employee Experience
Without question, a disconnected enterprise harms employee experience. It makes it harder to perform routine business tasks starting with employee onboarding.
Additionally, where employee business processes operate poorly, those supporting customers have to work harder to create a positive customer experience. This can result in customer facing personnel frustration and disillusionment. Given this, Young claims it is important that CIOs and other leaders work “to get the grit out of gears of what employees need to do and know most. CIOs should find out where the problems are by asking what employees most need fixed and what is the most painful to do."
Clearly, less friction means less stress, and this can help create happier employees. Smart CIOs dig in on the employee process that most impacts employee engagement. Shumaker says, “A well running organization means there is less tribal knowledge needed to get things done. This means easier/speedier onboarding of new employees.”
Related Article: Is It Time to Combine Customer Experience and Employee Experience Programs?
Engineered Best Practices for Automating Operations
Additionally, having modular and standardized digitized services can create business agility. And this is critical to operating effectively in the digital era. For this reason, Featherston says, “For me, it all comes back to reuse, scale of operations, not wasting time/resources recreating one-off solutions. The process will never scale unless you are doing this.” Young adds, “Start by automating operations that have high frequency/low complexity. Modular, standardized and secure services can enable the scale to grow and mature automation. Important to start as it means to go on.”
Using Plug-and-Play Modules to Meet Customer Needs
Clearly, creating high reuse enables organizations to transform at will and to do so at speeds that less mature firms cannot copy. Featherston says, “It allows organizations to quickly adapt to a constantly changing business environment and customer needs. Nothing is worse than being told to fix it in the next release, six months from now.”
Young claims that being a “connected enterprise should help with time-to-market and customer delight. We're in an age of hyper-acceleration. All these connected enterprise features we're discussing should ideally be applied to the public good. For example, they should be applied to ways of monitoring air and water quality across regions.”
Related Article: Providing Customer Experience In Times of Crisis — Again
Combining Customer Interaction Data
Being able to combine customer data to create a single source of truth can impact business decision making and customer service. Young says, “Healthy, secure, accessible data is paramount to connected enterprise. Healthy data and processes lead to timely decisions and better customer support.”
Healthcare CIO Barry O’Gorman agrees and says, “In the hospital If I know in real time what is going on in operating rooms, radiology, recovery, wards, emergency room, etc. — then I know who I can treat and (provide) better service for patients and referring doctors and safer service.” And this matters under healthcare reform because it also impacts how much a provider of care is reimbursed.
Shumaker says, “This is critical. However, as others have said, too much of it becomes noise, and AI/ML used to simplify it can be biased. So single source of truth, yes, and think very carefully about how you construct the measures and fields in that single source of truth.”
Parting Words: Industrialize First
Without question, there is more than one option for organizations as they move forward on their digital journeys. Creating a connected enterprise or industrializing the organization, however, is critical to success in building an agile digital business.
Clearly many organizations will feel tempted to fix other problems before building a connected enterprise but it makes great sense to industrialize first.
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