Looking for Business Architects?

Check Out Your Ebusiness Leader

November 23, 2004

Ebusiness visionaries are the true business architects of the 21st century. They invest now in the core services that will be required to both deliver immediate value to customers and partners and support the way the business will operate in the future.


I've been spending time recently with many of our leading-edge ebusiness clients. We call this group of clients our "visionaries," because they are literally transforming their businesses from the outside in. These ebusiness leaders don't limit their purview to the Web. But because they are responsible for their companies' Web sites, they also tend to lead the charge in transforming many of the business processes that impact their customers' experiences. There's at least one characteristic that true visionaries have in common: They control their own destinies. They oversee their own teams of developers. They work in Internet time. They make things happen. They set priorities and they deliver results--to customers, to channel partners, and to the business.

What don't they do? They don't take their cues from "the business." They don't set priorities based on what someone in product marketing asks them to do, or what the CIO thinks is important. They set priorities based on customer-direct input and their own inner compass. This inner compass fascinates me--it leads these visionaries to invest in the kinds of core services and core competencies that deliver lasting results to the business and its customers.

Ebusiness visionaries are the true business architects of the 21st century. They can see the future. They understand where customers' demands will take the business. They invest now in the core services that will be required both to deliver immediate value to customers and partners and to support the way the business will operate in the future.

Don't get me wrong. Ebusiness visionaries, like anyone else in business, have to sell their vision and their rationale to the rest of the business. But what makes them good at what they do is the accuracy of their inner compass, their ability to articulate their vision, their ability to gain support (or at least defuse opposition), their ability to deliver results, and their ability to communicate and amplify those results as they lead their businesses toward their vision of what's possible.


Another thing that sets the true visionaries apart from the pack are the choices they make about where to invest their time and scarce resources. Here are some patterns I've seen recently:

* VISIONARIES INVEST IN FINDABILITY. They recognize the best way to make it easy for customers to do business electronically: by ensuring that customers can find the product and support information they need in the ways that they think about and use that information. They use premium search as a core service across their Web sites. They invest in metadata management: They understand what attributes customers care about, and they ensure that customer-critical metadata and attributes are associated with each chunk of information--and thus make that information both findable and actionable.

* VISIONARIES INVEST IN PROCESSES INVOLVING CONTENT CREATION AND SUBMISSION. These ebusiness leaders recognize that they can't become quality control bottlenecks in their companies' content-creation and -updating processes, yet they need to ensure timeliness, consistency, accuracy, and relevance for virtually all the content that gets posted on their companies' various Web properties. In fact, increasingly, visionaries are ensuring that all content is delivered first for the Web and second for print, catalogs, data sheets, and so forth. This means that the templates, metadata, approvals, and fast-paths required to deliver content to one or more Web sites actually drive the company's content management and document management processes. The important investment decision isn't which content management tool to use. (Tools these folks use are all over the lot--many of them homegrown.) Their investment is in care and attention to detail in ensuring that distributed content creators have both the tools and the knowledge of what's required for submitting and revising content that is posted on the Web sites. And visionaries have the ultimate clout: They can reject content that isn't properly coded or approved and keep it from turning up on the Web until it's ready for prime time.

* VISIONARIES INVEST IN REUSABLE SERVICES. When I look back across the last four years or so at the kinds of investments visionaries have made in designing and enhancing their ebusiness environments, in each case, I find a set of core competencies and reusable services that are being leveraged and continuously improved--not only internally across multiple Web sites and portals, but also externally, in customers' and partners' own applications and systems. These services have become so robust that they are competitive differentiators. The services range from simulation and modeling to cross-channel inventory look-up and order-entry services, to custom e-catalog creation, to rapid FAQ generation, to e-learning environments, to closed-loop campaign management, to renewal and registration services, and to new product launch services. The list goes on and on.

* VISIONARIES INVEST IN MEASURING AND MONITORING CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE. True visionaries have learned how to monitor customer experience hourly and daily; not quarterly or annually. They leverage what they can learn from monitoring customers' and partners' Web navigation and behavior. They use what they've learned to feed directly into their development processes. They rely on those observations for early warnings about product issues and customer support problems. They discover quickly what customers are seeking that the company doesn't yet offer. They watch what actions customers are taking, what products they're buying, what questions they're raising. They spread this knowledge and these observations throughout the organization to reset priorities.


We've been gratified to note that a number of our visionary clients have been promoted within the past few months. These promotions are in recognition that each of these ebusiness leaders has successfully sold a compelling vision for his or her company's transformation that goes way beyond "babysitting" its Web sites, and each leader has a track record both in delivering results and in building buy-in and consensus across organizational boundaries.

As they are promoted, today's ebusiness visionaries are often now gaining more purview over and/or visibility into the other customer interaction channels--contact centers, partner channels, points of sale, and ATMs/kiosks. By combining the real-time metrics from those additional interaction touchpoints with the patterns of behavior and metrics gleaned from the Web, visionaries and their teams find themselves in the best position to sense and respond to customers' changing needs.

Increasingly, our visionaries are also taking control over additional customer-impacting business processes--from product development to product launch, from e-sales to cross-channel sales operations, from e-billing to revenue recognition, from emarketing partnerships to business joint ventures, and from emarketing to cross-channel marketing, PR, and advertising.

So, in case you were wondering, ebusiness isn't dead. If your executives are on their toes, they've appointed and supported the right ebusiness leaders and then given those leaders more purview as they've shown themselves to be true business architects. These are the people who are driving the future of your company. They're in the process of redesigning your business on the fly. Make sure you support them!

Sign in to download the full article


Be the first one to comment.

You must be a member to comment. Sign in or create a free account.