Management Speak: Let’s keep our eye on the big picture. We can work out the technical details later. This is an opportunity we can’t afford to miss.
Translation: I vaguely recall reading something about this in a magazine. I’m not sure what it means, or even if it is possible.
We get a glimpse of the big picture from IS Survivalist Jason Gill

Last week we listened in as the CIO of the Amazingly Bright Colors Corp. briefed the IS leadership team on the company’s new business strategy. The bug I placed seems to be working well. The chief marketing officer (CMO) has just joined the meeting and is about to explain the new strategy.

CMO: Thanks for inviting me to join you. I’m going to start with a question: What do you know about customer relationship management – CRM – and one-to-one?

Process redesign manager: It means treating our customers better. We’re going to re-engineer our core processes to improve customer service, reduce cycle time, improve quality, and reduce costs. Uh … doesn’t it?

Database manager: You’re really looking for a customer database or data warehouse, aren’t you? Something that supports demographic analysis, target marketing campaigns, screen pops in the call center, stuff like that. One-to-one I know something about – it’s one of the four basic data relationships in relational design.

Application development manager: Or are you just looking for us to install a CRM package? I’ve been keeping track of that market and we have several good ones to choose from.

CMO: I guess we have some work to do. First of all, we’re calling our strategy “molecularization.” Get used to the word – you’re going to be hearing it a lot.

Operations manager: Why not something more pronounceable?

CMO: If you can pronounce “molecularization,” I’ll know you’re not drunk. OK, the real reason is that we didn’t want to just grab an industry buzzword. We’re combining the best ideas from several sources and putting them together. It’s molecularization because in the end, each thing we do becomes an atom and we put the atoms together flexibly to create a custom “molecule” for each customer. Another way of looking at it: We’re Cheers, and every customer is Norm.

Process redesign manager: The place to start is to identify and redesign our core processes.

CMO: How is it you don’t understand the problem, but you do understand the solution?

Process redesign manager (confidently): Everything’s a process.

CMO: No, it isn’t. Process redesign is going to be important, but it isn’t the centerpiece. The customer relationship is the centerpiece. It’s our primary asset. We’re going to assess its value, invest in it, and derive returns from it. Our products are important because they help us maintain these relationships. So is customer service. So is marketing … at least, I sure hope so! But the customer relationship is the centerpiece, so we’re going to start by redesigning that, and the customer experiences that affect it. Process redesign comes later.

“One-to-one” describes our relationship with each customer. We’re going to personalize every interaction, with every customer, through every communication channel, and we’re going to personalize our products and services, too. We’re going to be just as personal as Cheers. Only much bigger.

Operations manager (incredulous): That’s impossible.

CMO: Then how come two of our competitors are succeeding at it? It is possible. The question is how to make it happen.

App dev manager: Well, I’m unencumbered by any facts, but this smells like a five-year project to me.

CMO: Better get your nose checked. We have three years, and we need some tangible results in half that time.

App dev manager: I don’t know if our boss has explained the facts of life to you, but systems development and integration projects just don’t happen that fast. We can make a lot of promises right now, but if we do we’re setting all of us up for failure. I suggest the first thing we do is put together a more realistic schedule.

CMO: Let me explain the facts of life to you: With your “realistic schedule” we’ll be out of business before we’re ready to compete.

I have to go. I’m due in manufacturing. But don’t worry – we’ll be seeing a lot of each other.

Next week: The dramatic conclusion.