The Experience Disconnect—and How to Fix It
Posted by on August 27, 2019
Gordon R. Schonfeld
How can you tell when your company’s cross-functional work processes are truly integrated?
The telltale sign is the experiences of your customers and employees. Customers can make purchases or get support intuitively, quickly, and hassle free, and employees can be more productive with processes and systems that function together seamlessly.
And as experiences go, so go customers and employees: Satisfied customers will come back for more and refer their friends to you; happy employees will stay with you longer because they’re more engaged and committed to pleasing your customers.
But this rosy scenario doesn’t apply to most companies. A recent Lawless Research study of cross-functional processes commissioned by Cherwell Software found that:
- Just 30 percent of participating companies earned a high score for integrating their processes across functions
- Only 27 percent of the 1,000+ information-worker respondents said that their job apps were highly or completely integrated.
Welcome to the Experience Disconnect
When cross-functional processes aren’t integrated, customers and employees see a huge gap between what they expect their experiences to be and what the experiences actually are. Let’s call it the experience disconnect.
According to Pierre Aeschlimann, a solution strategist at Cherwell, a classic example of this disconnect is when airline flights are cancelled and passengers must book new flights. This can be a nightmare for passengers, he says. “In addition to long lines and delays, they have to endure overwhelmed gate attendants who are powerless to help them, endless treks through the airport to get to a ticket counter, and ticket agents who have to wrestle with inefficient processes just to get them on another flight.”
The experience can be very frustrating for ticket agents as well, Aeschlimann adds. “Checking fares is a cumbersome process with way too many steps. Agents typically have to look at two screens supported by multiple back-end systems. The systems often don’t connect to each other, so agents can be forced to manually calculate what the fare should be. And the rebooking process isn’t always standardized or documented, so inexperienced agents have to hope that other airline reps are available to show them what to do.”
The Immersive Solution
It’s clearly imperative, then, that companies fix the experience disconnect. But how?
Aeschlimann recommends an approach that provides customers and employees with an end-to-end, immersive experience. “Immersive,” in this context, means that work processes are smoothly integrated with all back-end systems instead of relying the glue-and-duct-tape muddle that’s most common.
For companies, this means building immersive links to the operational core of their IT stack. Truly immersive applications must integrate with core functional business systems and systems of record—such as CRM, enterprise resource planning, HR, marketing, monitoring—no matter where they are (internal, external, or outsourced). Users will have simple and intuitive interfaces and omnichannel access (e.g., via desktop/laptop, mobile devices, email, social media, service portals, chatbots, news apps, knowledge centers, catalogs, etc.).
To achieve these results while maintaining security and delivering a seamless user experience, it takes a specific architecture that includes these four layers:
- Consistent self-service and omnichannel system of engagement. While this seems obvious for customers, it’s not always the case for employees.
- Comfortable low-code automation/workflow capability. Low-code development platforms will automate the end-to-end processes and multiple back-end systems. These platforms are additionally important because they enable line employees to build workflows themselves, which reduces their reliance on highly skilled technicians or developers to solve problems.
- Deeper insights into automated workflows. “This is about integrating isolated data to turn it into synergistic assets,” notes Aeschlimann. “While the multiple systems and silos involved all have their own data and reports, end-to-end processes can gather and connect information in a way that’s far more manipulatable and actionable.”
- Holistic integration platform. The final architectural layer is iPaaS (integration platform as a service), a holistic integration platform that retrieves, loads, and synchronizes information within core business systems—and eliminates the need to manage and maintain traditional point-to-point integrations.
Avoid Painful Consequences
Companies face painful consequences if they don’t fix the experience disconnect. Aeschlimann highlights the following as the most emblematic:
- Not fixing the disconnect creates frustration, wastes time, prolongs harmful inefficiency, and keeps costs high.
- It perpetuates the risk that employees—not to mention top management—stay in the dark about how their company’s systems work (or don’t).
- Employees will remain frustrated and stressed by uncomfortable experiences with multiple, often-conflicting ways of working.
- Employees will continue to devise their own ad hoc solutions—such as spreadsheets, email chains, phone calls, personal training scripts, and conversations with colleagues—when processes don’t work correctly. It’s worth noting that all of these are unstructured sources of information, meaning that they can’t easily be captured to improve processes and track progress.
The ultimate—and most dire—consequence, of course, is that customers will take their wallets elsewhere. That’s a disconnect that companies absolutely must fix if they expect to stay in business.
For more on the ways companies with highly integrated cross-functional processes outperform their peers, download the research study from Lawless Research and Cherwell.
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