Thursday, July 05, 2007

Focus on the Customer

I know it has been a ridiculous amount of time since I last posted. I will try to do better. I lost focus. I am trying to correct that.

"Focusing on the Customer..." is the latest interview from the McKinsey Quarterly. You need to register to view the article. The piece focuses on Merrill Lynch (where I landed my first job that didn't involve delivering newspapers or replenishing gallon jugs of milk) and their efforts to drive quality of service by combining IT and customer operations.

I like this approach. I like it a lot. I am not a technology zealot. I do not think that technology is the answer to all problems. If anything, I am on the opposite side of that fence. I am not a Luddite, don't get me wrong. But technology can do more harm than good. Especially when the stakeholders put all of their bets on it.

Merrill has combined these two business units under one leader, Diane Schueneman. She seems to have her eyes on the prize...she understands that the customer does not care about whatever product the suits put together. The customer cares about quality of service and the overall customer experience.

So the whole reason to combine technology and operations rests on the customer's needs. And to deliver against those needs requires the best operational processes and the best technology. But you can't start with one and graft on the other.
I've seen this happen many times in my career. The technology investment was so overwhelmingly great at one point that fear of change sets in - no one has the courage to stand up and admit that the best course of action is to stop what we're doing and start over. Instead, we patch. We duct tape. We MacGuyver. We make it work. But is that the best thing for the customer?

Schueneman goes on to identify what her team found:

...if you really want to satisfy customers, let's make sure that human beings aren't touching processes and slowing them down.
I love it. Technology should help. Not be a hindrance. Ponder that for a minute. Maybe a couple of minutes.

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