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Customer Experience and Operational Excellence join forces for digital transformation

In early 2017, we declared that operational excellence (BPM) practitioners and customer experience (CX) experts would join forces this year to transform the business, starting from initial customer interactions and then going all the way through to back office operations that support those customer interactions. It was a powerful statement, especially since the project teams working on these types of cross-functional processes are often oceans apart–unaware of each other and the projects they are working on. But is it any wonder why they are blissfully unaware of each other’s efforts? After all, operational excellence practitioners working in process improvement teams typically report to the COO or another line of business executive, while most customer experience practitioners report into marketing or a customer experience executive.

To recap, here’s what we predicted in Trends 2017: Six Operational Excellence Trends That Will Dominate Customer Experience Management:

  • Operational excellence will align outside-in and inside-out thinking. Most firms start their “outside-in” approach by looking at engagements from the customer’s point of view. They map the customer’s digital and physical experience across devices, channels, brands, business units, etc. so the business delivers delightful experiences at all times, under all circumstances. “Inside-out” looks at internal business processes. Most inside-out efforts tend to focus on efficiency, lowering defects, and improving quality, and are less customer-centric than outside-in.
  •  In 2017, more outside-in and inside-out teams will realize they are reverse mirrors working on different aspects of the same processes and will begin to join forces. This trend will be a slow, steady movement that won’t happen overnight. That’s because putting the two world views together will take senior leadership, significant effort and skills, and a substantial organizational change management effort.

I’m delighted to say that this trend is becoming a reality and is surfacing at both customer experience and operational excellence conferences. These events are showcasing leaders who have started down this path toward digital outside/inside transformation. For example, this trend was clearly center stage at the recent OPEX Business Transformation Summit in late August this year. The conference started with an all-day session dedicated to the role of operational excellence practitioners within customer experience management initiatives. In fact, the entire multi-day event never strayed from looking at business processes from the outside-in.

In one of the breakout sessions about how to reach maturity in operational excellence and customer experience, I had an “ah ha” moment.  I realized how much the typical customer experience and operational excellence practitioners are different from one another–starting with different ways of thinking, different training and expertise, and different ways to solve business process problems. Yet, despite the differences between practitioners, business transformation projects with a digital outside/inside focus require practitioners from both disciplines.  Here are some thoughts and questions that I quickly jotted down:

Operational Excellence maturity

  • What does operational excellence maturity look like and how can customer experience practitioners learn from it?
  • Practitioners need a shared business strategy (which includes both customer experience and operational excellence) at the executive level
  • Operational excellence practitioners need to learn about and understand strategies and tools for customer journey mapping
  • Change management practitioners are hugely important to operational excellence projects
  • Operational excellence operates in a mature world – people know how to do these projects successfully and they have proven methodologies to draw from

Customer Experience maturity 

  • Customer experience practitioners need a shared business strategy with operational excellence practitioners at the executive level
  • CX experts need a working knowledge of Lean, Six Sigma, and value streams
  • Change management practitioners are hugely important to the success of customer experience projects
  • Customer experience management is largely an immature area of expertise (especially in some laggard industries); as a result, some firms are struggling to build expertise and methods

Here’s a comparison between the two disciplines:

And here’s my recommendation:

Executives responsible for business transformation and digital transformation initiatives need to recognize the core skills that reside in customer experience and operational excellence teams, and draw upon both disciplines.  This may involve seconding individuals from one group to another, or co-locating teams from both backgrounds, and definitely integrating the two disciplines at the executive management level. This will lead to better project teams, better outcomes and a greater chance of having the customer drive all business processes being transformed and moved to digital platforms.





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