Businesses need a two-speed IT department with a focus on rapid development

date: 26 November 2013
reading time: 3 min

The vast majority of our clients are business-to-business (B2B) organisations, but a few are business to consumer focused (B2C). We have already seen a massive change in business IT, thanks to consumerisation.

The vast majority of our clients are business-to-business (B2B) organisations, but a few are business to consumer focused (B2C). We have already seen a massive change in business IT, thanks to consumerisation. For example, in your average business, video isn’t just for conferencing anymore, as consumer services such as YouTube and Vine are driving business video collaboration and content sharing in the enterprise. I am sure that the newer trends our B2C clients are currently experiencing will soon be upon our B2B clients too.

Multi-channel is one such trend. The rapid adoption of the ‘multi-channel customer experience’ that B2C organisations now offer their customers is changing the structure of their IT departments. Just to be clear, by multi-channel customer experience I mean providing content and customer service for customers via website, social media, mobile phone apps, email, call centre, shops/ offices etc. This multi-channel phenomenon is already touching B2B organisations. The more it does, the more we will see the profound impact that multi-channel is having on B2C organisations’ IT departments in B2B businesses too.

So what is this profound impact? Many large B2C organisations are now employing two IT directors who look after very distinct areas and have very different expertise. The teams that they run operate in very different ways and often at different speeds. Typically, one IT director looks after infrastructure and ‘keeping the lights on’ and the other deals with customer facing developments. For example at investment bank Nomura, there are separate “run the bank” and “change the bank” teams.

The skills of the two teams are quite different and software development typically plays a much bigger role in the customer development team. In fact many of the IT directors or CIOs in this area have a software development background, like Mariano Albera, the CIO focusing on customer-facing IT, at travel company Thomas Cook.

At a recent event Albera said that in the area he looks after, the IT department is like an agile software development house, as it needs to quickly develop and launch online services before competitors do, so speed paramount. This is sharp contrast to things like major IT infrastructure upgrades which need to be perfect first time and therefore take a lot longer to consider, architect and develop.

Another key trait I have noticed is that this part of IT is much more closely linked to the business. It is responding directly to customer needs and requests, and its output often has a very direct link to sales, so it is tied to the customer service, marketing and sales departments in an immediate way that IT infrastructure just isn’t. It is resulting in much greater on-the-hoof, inter-departmental collaboration.

What is clear is that these IT developments are being driven by customers, not the board of directors and that they are sweeping through B2C companies incredibly fast. They are already affecting our consumer-facing clients. Without a doubt, they will be affecting the business-facing ones soon too. Will your organisation be ready?

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