Architecting and delivering optimal customer journeys

To make meaningful progress in their digital transformation, corporate leaders need more then agile approaches.

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Marketers and product managers are getting very good at the elaboration of enticing and optimal customer journeys.  Their organizations use various agile methodologies in the hope of speeding things up and yet most of them struggle in delivering these journeys on time and within budget. Enterprise and business architecture can unravel and prioritize customer journey initiatives early on by identifying and focusing foremost on the problematic and enabling capabilities of their organization using a “Personal Loan” customer journey map example.

Customer journeys today

The recent upsurge of new digital technologies has created empowered customers, forcing companies to adapt and focus on their customer experiences.

As David C. Edelman and Marc Singer wrote in “Competing on customer journeys”:

“Now, leveraging emerging technologies, processes, and organizational structures, companies are restoring the balance of power and creating new value for brands and buyers alike. Central to this shift is a fresh way of thinking: Rather than merely reacting to the journeys that consumers themselves devise, companies are shaping their paths, leading rather than following. Marketers are increasingly managing journeys as they would any product. Journeys are thus becoming central to the customer’s experience of a brand—and as important as the products themselves in providing competitive advantage.”

Based on this article, a customer journey will be variations on the following basic steps:

  • Consider – the customer has a need and is considering purchasing a product;
  • Evaluate – the customer is comparing prices and checks on a variety of products, including the organization’s rivals;
  • Buy – the customer commits and buys the product;
  • Enjoy – the customer is satisfied with its purchase;
  • Advocate – the customer communicates with friends, family and its extended social network about its new purchase
  • Bond – the customer identifies with the brand of its selected product to eventually purchase again.

Key elements need to be considered when planning the customer journey within an organisation. First, automation, using artificial intelligence and machine learning among others, can insure that fastidious manual processes are simplified and automated as much as possible. Second, proactive personalization must be advantaged, where services are designed in such a way that they seem very specific to each persona or customer segment targeted by the organization. Third, contextual interaction must also be considered, where the organization can switch from online to physical and back while interacting with its clients. Finally, the use of practical innovations must be examined while optimizing a customer journey, where creating and experimenting with new spheres of value that sometimes did not previously exist.

Linking customer journeys to value

Linking the customer experience to value creation both for the customer and the organization is essential to justify any transformation. As pointed out in “Creating value through transforming customer journeys” from McKinsey, “many customer-experience transformations stall because leaders can’t show how these efforts create value. Patiently building a business case can fund them, secure buy-in, and build momentum.”

This is why business architects in conjunction with marketers, product managers and subject matter experts often use value streams to examine closely value creation. Each value stage of a value stream can usually easily be related to a Customer Journey Stage. As indicated on Wikipedia:

“Value streams are artifacts within business architecture that allow a business to specify the value proposition derived by an external (e.g., customer) or internal stakeholder from an organization. (…) The value stream is depicted as an end-to-end collection of value-adding activities that create an overall result for a customer, stakeholder, or end-user. In modeling terms, those value-adding activities are represented by value stream stages, each of which creates and adds incremental stakeholder value items from one stage to the next.”

Customer journey requires new enabling capabilities

A set of current and new emerging capabilities is required to capture the value from optimal customer journeys.  As revealed in another McKinsey report (“Customer experience: new capabilities, new audiences, new opportunities”), “Decision makers from all stakeholder groups should align together and embrace uncertainty together, developing capabilities throughout the entire design process. The use of existing resources can keep the investment in time and costs low.”

Focusing on problematic enabling capabilities

To ensure the delivery of strategic goals and objectives, a customer-experience measurement system needs to be put in place, where customer journeys are at the base with their enabling current and new capabilities. As well, the preference for a collaborative approach allows to engage key internal stakeholders and bring in a diverse assortment of measurable capabilities throughout the planning process. Measuring current and new customer-centric enabling capabilities, as shown in Figure 1 below, according to their priority, performance and business complexity for example will allow to build strategic initiatives that focus foremost on the capabilities that will provide the most value to both the customer and the organization.

lambert fig1 Daniel Lambert

After measuring the enabling capabilities of the “Obtain Personal Loan” value stream for example, the following observations can be mentioned:

  • The Account/Agreement Interest Determination and the Financial Transaction Disbursement Management capabilities are of critical priority and performing low.
  • The Collateral and Loan Pairing capability is of very high priority with low performance.
  • The Client Risk Scoring capability is of high priority and performing low.
  • The Client Survey Management, the Loan Authorization Management and the Financial Transaction and Client Pairing capabilities are of high priority and of high or very high performance. They are not problematic capabilities.

As mentioned in this article entitled “The four pillars of distinctive customer journeys,” “reaching the top quartile of CX performers is no easy task. Cost, design, and value are emerging as key differentiators for customers, yet companies often lack guiding principles to shape those efforts.” To reach ambitious strategic goals and objectives, an organization need to build its customer-centric initiatives on these four pillars:

  1. Focus on the few issues and capabilities that matter the most to customers;
  2. Provide easy, simple, short customer journeys;
  3. Master online digital-first journeys over traditional approaches; and
  4. If you want a long-term commitment for your customers, be aware that brand and perceptions matter.

For example, after measuring the 24 enabling capabilities of the Obtain Personal Loan supporting the Loan Service Customer Journey map as per Figure 1 above, it’s easier to conclude that the organization should focus its strategic initiative(s) toward enhancing the 4 problematic enabling capabilities (4 red arrows in Figure 1).

Transformative initiatives based on problematic enabling capabilities

The problematic enabling capabilities in our example indicate that the bank is generating an abnormally high number of errors while fillings personal loans for its customers. This is why the bank is instigating the “Lowering Errors in Personal Loan Filling” initiative. This initiative consists of 4 sub-initiatives that should impact positively on the 4 problematic enabling capabilities as followed:

  1. The sub-initiative “Increasing the Accuracy of the Account/Agreement Interest Determination” should positively impact the “Account/Agreement Interest Determination” capability;
  2. The sub-initiative “Automation of Loan Filling and Disbursement Process” should positively impact the “Financial Transaction Disbursement Management” capability;
  3. The sub-initiative “Increase the Precision of the Description and Value of Collaterals” should positively impact the “Collateral and Loan Pairing” capability; and
  4. The sub-initiative “Increase the Accuracy of Client Scoring” should positively impact the “Client Risk Scoring” capability.

After examining gap items for each one of the 4 problematic enabling capabilities in the “Lowering Errors in Personal Loan Filings” gap analysis, a specific strategic outcome needs to be established for each one of its impacting sub-initiative. The 4 strategic outcomes in this example are as followed:

  1. The strategic outcome of the sub-initiative “Increasing the Accuracy of the Account/Agreement Interest Determination” could be “Calculate the Account/Agreement Interest Determination Based on Client Risk Scoring and Collaterals”
  2. The strategic outcome of the sub-initiative “Automation of Loan Filling and Disbursement Process” could be “Limit Human Intervention of the Loan Filing and Disbursement Process at the End for Final Approval”
  3. The strategic outcome of the sub-initiative “Increase the Precision of the Description and Value of Collaterals” could be “Have Less then 5% of Collaterals Valued at Least then 90% of Capital Loan”
  4. The strategic outcome of the sub-initiative “Increase the Accuracy of Client Scoring” could be “Establish Client Risk Scoring on 2 Independent Credit Scoring Agencies.”

It’s only at this stage that an organization should examine the current and future software applications that are or could support the problematic enabling capabilities and the databases used by these applications to build various scenario roadmaps.

Delivering optimal customer journeys

Most chief digital officer and their corresponding Scrum teams within an organization a) design user interfaces, b) develop software for apps, websites, and automated journey steps, c) analyze and measure customer interactions data, d) oversee the back-end support of the organization’s sales and customer services operations, and e) provide customer with marketing insight to ensure that branding is embedded throughout the customer journey, without any architecture at the planning stage. As I’ve written in an article entitled “Digital transformation using enterprise and business architecture,” “90% of corporate leaders view digital as a top priority,” and yet “83% of leaders struggle to make meaningful progress on digital transformation.” I strongly believe that if agile teams were to start incorporating architecture at the planning stage, the number of leaders struggling to make any meaningful progress in their digital transformation would be much lower.

lambert fig2 Daniel Lambert

Defining a detailed and very useful user story, as described in Figure 2 above, based on an architected customer journey would accelerate greatly its delivery. Most of the words used in this user story are made up of detailed elements defined and structured within the business and enterprise architecture of the company, including capabilities, stakeholders, value streams, information concepts, and business processes. Gathering the information to complete this user story using a business and architecture model will be completed at a quicker pace and at a lower risk of failure. Furthermore, building relevant requirements, epics and users stories using the organization’s business and enterprise architecture will allow business analysts to waste less of their time and the business stakeholders’ time from which they need to extract knowledge from.

Enterprises use more and more various agile methodologies in the hope of speeding things up with the pursuit of optimal customer journeys. Yet most of them struggle in delivering these journeys on time and within budget. To make meaningful progress in their digital transformation, corporate leaders need more then agile pproaches.  Agile teams need to start incorporating architecture early on at the planning stage of their initiatives.  Focused business and enterprise architecture allow corporations to prioritize better at the planning level, cut time lost building relevant epics and user stories, and finally lower significantly the number of sprints necessary to complete their projects.

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