Every company, the saying goes, is now a software business. This means software mediates every aspect of operating and scaling a modern enterprise. Core processes—from manufacturing to service delivery to customer interactions—are now defined by and managed with software.
In the past, businesses mostly used digital tech to drive operational efficiencies. Nowadays that’s table stakes. To move the needle in today’s hypercompetitive business and talent markets, everything you do needs to become a service built around data and the digital operating models that make sense of that data.
As you move into this new software-is-the-business reality, keep these four things in mind:
Focus on the customer journey
Companies in every industry are adopting digital business models based on subscription services. When you’re selling streaming media, telecom, or software as a service, it’s all about renewals and churns. That’s equally true for companies that deploy digital business models to sell cars, apparel, ice cream, or anything else as a service. The new emphasis is on transforming everything you offer into a unified experience that meets customer demands even before they articulate them.
That requires transformation at the core of the business and a culture shift that instruments customer success throughout the organization and focuses on persistent customer relationships. And that means transitioning customer engagement from transactional to relational.
Pay attention to new metrics and workflows. One-off sales are a thing of the past. What matters now is how products are being adopted and integrated, how the relationship can be constantly renewed, and whether customers are succeeding by using your goods and services. Assess what workflows you have in place and whether they’re automatically connecting front-, middle-, and back-office functions.
At ServiceNow, we use a customer churn prediction app that deploys artificial intelligence and machine learning to predict when we’re at risk of losing a customer. Such a warning triggers a playbook—a workflow—that can be followed to address customer concerns directly.
Changing metrics in retail requires moving away from a focus on same-store sales measures, instead making e-commerce metrics key, including tracking daily or monthly active users, engagement scores, and retention rates. Other digital operating models can build customer loyalty by delivering exclusive, personalized experiences and benefits through loyalty or membership programs.
Think digital services, not websites
The passive website that you once used to tell customers about your company has gone the way of the fax machine. Today’s consumers don’t want to read a static sales brochure. Instead, they demand digital services: mobile apps, messaging, chatbots, and other multichannel tools that let them immediately tap into what your company offers.
As you empower customers, their interactions with these new tools create windows into behaviors, interactions, and relationships. Simply monitoring this wealth of data as it’s created is wasteful. Monitoring is evolving into observability, defined as the ability to understand the dynamic interactions with users and customers at every touchpoint.
This also paves the way for proactive customer service that can anticipate issues and put users in the driver’s seat to find solutions. Creating opportunities for solutions such as self-service can enhance the customer support experience and save money.
For example, a customer-facing instance of ServiceNow’s Now Platform allows fully automated resolution for more than 100,000 customer requests that previously had been handled manually. The change freed up $21 million annually that now can be reinvested in customer support operations.
Empower citizen developers
As digital demands expand into every facet of the business, there aren’t enough professional developers to automate every manual process. Users know best what they want and need to move forward; adopt the prebuilt templates and drag-and-drop interfaces required to empower them to become “citizen developers.”
This requires an organization where IT and the business are fully integrated. Development, operations, and analytics must all be at the same table so that citizen developers can use low-code/no-code platforms to create applications without engineering intervention.
Back in the day, cybersecurity meant building a firewall around your company’s figurative perimeter to keep the bad guys out. Security is a lot more complicated today. You need to protect the code you’re building, the open-source libraries your engineers are downloading, and the public clouds your various divisions are tapping into, to name just a few.
This expanding threat surface requires a dedicated cybersecurity team beyond the core IT operations team. Working closely with IT, this team can develop a coherent, businesswide cybersecurity strategy and lead the response to any incidents. The team’s focus should be fourfold:
- Detection, response, and containment of any cybersecurity incidents
- Design and execution of risk assessments to conduct real-life tests of security infrastructure
- Support go-to-market activities for key accounts to build trust in data and access protection
- Support compliance verification with industry certifications
I can’t stress this enough: In a software-defined world, success hinges on delivering smooth, secure, intuitive experiences to every customer and employee, every time. Customers who find it easy to do business with you will return time and again. Companies that make it easy for teams to collaborate and produce from anywhere will win the war for talent. Over the next few decades, nimble businesses that adapt to the demands of digitally savvy users will run the board.