One of the main requirements of customer centricity is that companies are being required to become more agile, which, in itself is, increasingly throwing classic organisational structures into question. Instead of linear processes, work is project-oriented. To achieve this, skill pools, so-called towers of expertise, are formed.
The core tasks require more creativity; at the same time, many services are strongly influenced by marketing strategies. Seen from the other side, this means that companies that want to focus more on the wishes and needs of their customers must provide their product managers, CIOs and all stakeholders with in-depth knowledge about the new communication channels and strategic alignments.
Competitive advantage through strategic planning
The path to customer centricity requires a systematic, holistic approach as well as a customer-oriented mindset among the managers and employees.
To implement these approaches successfully, large numbers of generalists are often found in classic start-up companies, because the focus is on the overall solution. They are not pure ‘IT nerds’, but are capable of understanding interdepartmental relationships – such as the meshing of product development, marketing and sales – as well as all other participating departments and are also capable of setting up the required steps.
Often, generalists are caught between a rock and a hard place: people often say of them that they can’t really do anything perfectly, but a lot of things well. Here, however, this prejudice clouds the reality: Goethe and da Vinci were also classic generalists, yet also true geniuses in their professional fields. Nowadays, companies are primarily looking for generalists who are able to act independently and responsibly. Ultimately, however, they are increasingly recruiting specialists. This is mostly down to the fact that the short-term personnel requirements that need to be met that are often purely technical in nature.
Customer centricity should be established as a corporate culture
Knowledge of customer needs is a major competitive advantage in the age of digitisation and is increasingly central to success. Customer centricity involves every department in the company, it is more than just the provision of good products to the outside: all areas and functions within an organisation should be set up to meet the needs of customers. Customer centricity should be part of a company’s self-image, embodied in the corporate culture from the top down and realised as the entrepreneurial ‘DNA’. A radical reorientation of users not only helps to promote understanding of the problems and needs of the customers but also to minimise failures during product development, which in turn leads to greater corporate success.
Successful customer centricity requires an agile organisational culture. In addition to a holistic approach, this also includes courage and a willingness on the part of executives, management and shareholders to try out new things, even though it may not be clear to start with whether they are going to be successful.
Success also requires getting generalists on board
For a customer-oriented strategy approach, it is advisable to increase staffing levels by stocking up with generalists. However, generalists are not easy to identify. They are often found in medium-sized and small owner-operated companies, and less frequently in large corporations that do not have quite such a need for such all-rounders because of their larger number of specialist departments, and who thus focus increasingly on the depth but not so much the breadth of employee expertise. Another possibility is that all-rounders often – at least intermittently – have been successful independently. Moreover, large companies are now looking to spin off small, agile companies to increase flexibility and customer focus. In this respect, a possible pool of candidates is available to modern large companies via such intra-company departments.
Among graduates and young professionals, generalists are rather the exception. Due to the standardisation of academic courses, the thematic focuses are increasingly on specialist areas and standardised curricula. Free course design and thus correspondingly generally wider study topic choices, as was possible before the Bologna Reform, is now rare and far more difficult to find. Thus, today’s university landscape is not compliant with the actual needs, which are currently rather tending towards customer centricity and digital transformation.
Also, the substantive evaluation of the résumés of experienced professionals and managers has changed. Whereas experience in a variety of fields, for example in development, in product management or marketing, was not seen as compelling and sometimes even evaluated negatively in the past, the thinking is different in the customer centricity paradigm. Bearing in mind that here we need a professional ‘wide angle’ rather than a ‘telephoto lens’, a diversified manager with experience in different areas will often be the preferred choice.
Pooling digital expertise
Once the high performers are recruited and motivated, the company has a good starting position in the market. If this has not been done, however, there can easily be delays in the implementation of the strategy thus putting the company’s success at risk. Preventing this is a strategic challenge for companies.
Another problem that often occurs with the retention and recruitment of human capital in corporations or large traditional companies, is that the decision-makers are significantly older than the candidates and judge them primarily on the basis of their conventional skills. This is correct in principle, but in the digitisation environment, the classic skills alone should not have the highest priority when the goal is pooling digital competence. Rather, the best minds have a broad portfolio of skills. In the selection of the relevant profiles, each company should question even more critically whether the job descriptions are still up to date.
Strategic planning of human capital, in order to be prepared for a customer-oriented approach, primarily means having a vision, making an investment and, above all, a well-thought out overall plan. Companies that neglect this field might make savings from a short-term perspective but will never attain optimal and sustainable growth.
Dr. Monika Becker, Head of Business Unit Software, Hager Unternehmensberatung
Dr. Monika Becker has been active as a consultant for Hager Unternehmensberatung since 2001.
In the Business Unit Software, she and her team fill demanding technical and leadership positions for clients whose business consists of solutions based on software and digital solutions.
Hager Unternehmensberatung is a partner of Horton International and offers customers at over 40 locations in the globally most important economic regions solutions for issues throughout the working life cycle: Employment Lifecycle Solutions®.
These targeted solutions for the working life cycle are mirrored in our individual divisions: in the placement of the right candidates, the evaluation of staff potential, during training to develop the personal skills of employees and supporting individual change processes.
With over 80 employees working in small specialist teams, a fully digital workflow and over 20 years of experience in the technology sector as well as other innovative markets, Hager Unternehmensberatung brings together the performance and process quality of the industry’s big names with the speed and flexibility of a start-up.
Hager Unternehmensberatung is one of the top 15 recruiters in the DACH region and the well-known executive search consultancy for digital transformations.
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