Transforming the Customer-Centric Experience and EA Practitioner

Internal and External Customers

Business success is often measured in financial terms and the ability to please external stakeholders.  However, pleasing employees, stakeholders, and internal and external customers are critical criteria for customer satisfaction.  Rosenbluth (2002) contends that senior leaders should focus on their employees, not their external customers.  By doing so, external customers will be better served.  How can EA provide quality customer service to both external and internal customers?  Ajmeri (2019) suggests two ways that the EA team can enhance a customer’s experience.  Creating customer journey maps is a critical first step to “customer-centric” design. Second, the Enterprise Architect must identify gaps internally by examining poor transitions or handoffs between different teams that support a product or service. Hojsgaard (2011) stressed that internal and external stakeholders are equally important and impact the organization and customer value.  Hafsi & Assar (2020) identify four areas of how the EA and digitalization transform the customer experience:

 

The Value of Stakeholder Engagement

Alwadain (2020) observed that many enterprise architecture initiatives identify artifacts and objectives yet cannot engage first with stakeholders. There is precedence that enterprise architecture planning begins prematurely. Stakeholder engagement is critical to guide the initiative and offer feedback necessary to navigate the EA project to successful completion. Alwadain (2020) recommended seeking input and feedback from stakeholders to crystalize the purpose, benefits, risks, and organizational strategy with the enterprise architecture initiative. The Project Management Body of Knowledge, along with examples from 3M and Nordstrom, possibly provide valuable insight into engaging stakeholders.

Gain a Competitive Advantage with Your Supply chain

No organization is fully self-reliant without a supply chain. As a result, organizations build relationships with suppliers that integrate external dependencies with internal resources. The 3M Company, realizing the value of the supply chain, integrates its operations from ideation through to the end customer to tap the ingenuity and gain a competitive advantage. 3M is a model for stakeholder engagement. The supply chain connects 3M’s ideas and capabilities with their customers’ needs and wants. 3M uses their Customer Innovation Centers, dispersed globally, to link innovative ideas with current customers, potential new customers, needs, and expectations. The company considers that its customers are a vital part of the integrated supply chain (Garud, Gehman, & Kumaraswamy, 2011).

When leveraging actual experiences and sources of information, businesses are increasingly managing initiatives through cross-functional teams. Nordstrom offers a successful cross-functional team strategy that integrates knowledge from internal and external stakeholders from different disciplines. Nordstrom’s Discovery by Design process shows that the unwavering focus on the stakeholders’ needs and expectations guides initiatives to success (Zorzetti et al., 2022).

Cross-functional communication of Stakeholders in EA

Enterprise architecture is an assembling of processes wrapped in a codified structure. Any process transforms inputs into usable outputs. The transformation process depends on the stakeholders. A stakeholder is any individual or entity with a stake in a specific initiative (Project Management Institute, 2021). Any stakeholder is directly or indirectly affected because of its relationship to the initiative. The Project Management Institute (2021) strongly encourages engagement with stakeholders to surface changing needs and strengthen collaboration.

The examples offered through 3M and Nordstrom provide insight into enterprise architecture planning and execution. A cross-functional approach improves communication and information sharing (Troy, Hirunyawipada, & Paswan, 2008). Sustainable cross-functional teams provide insight to management to adjust and adapt as stakeholder needs continue to strengthen. An EA solution involves both internal and external stakeholders. Engage your stakeholders early in the planning process and empathize with them. Empathy strengthens collaboration and adaptability. By engaging with your stakeholders, your enterprise architecture solution will remain resilient and relevant.

The Value of Emotional intelligence when Communicating

While working collaboratively, management can develop interpersonal skills, which rely on communication and empathy (Piercy, 2010). Engagement with stakeholders depends on the use of interpersonal skills (Project Management Institute, 2021). The ability to integrate across boundaries through interpersonal skills provides insight into the need to act flexibly. Empathetic orientation strengthens the information exchange and encourages trust since personal motivations are tapped (Zorzetti et al., 2022).

Emotional intelligence or EQ can add value to the architect’s collaboration while considering innovative operational models, products, and services. Emotional intelligence is “the ability to monitor one’s and other’s feelings and emotions, to discriminate among them and to use this information to guide one’s thinking and action.” (Salovey & Mayer, 1990)

As organizations advance rapidly, architects and project managers are expected to lead through change even when under significant pressure. Organizations often use projects and programs to introduce and drive change. Project managers usually face resistance and must be good at implementing change for their projects and processes to be successful (Mersino, 2013).

An architect can have all the technical skills needed to get the job done on a technical side, but if there is no balance between technical and soft skills, you will not live up to your highest potential. The EQ component comprises four skills. The top two skills, self-awareness, and self-management are about you. The bottom two skills are social awareness and relationship management, in which users learn about how they are with other people.

Personal Competence Self-Awareness Self-Management
Social Competence Social Awareness Relationship Management

Elimination of organizational information silos can be easier to tackle by incorporating EQ tools. Consider relationship management. We rely on signals to direct us through intersections as we drive from place to place during the week. When the signals are not working or blinking to proceed with caution, people are often confused. When it is their turn to cross the intersections, they often cross gingerly, looking all ways before moving head. It is the same in relationships. We often send people different signals throughout the project process. (Bradberry & Greaves, 2009) Your facial expression and words should match, for example, telling your team or co-workers, “thank you, you have done a great job,” while frowning sends mixed messages to the team. In other words, people trust what they see over what they hear.  You can confuse others when you say one thing, and your body or tone says something else. Over time this will cause communication issues that could affect your relationships. Similar to information silos, relationships play a large part in collaborating and implementing a process to deliver information.

Reduce information silos by acting with any of these skills. To resolve mixed-signal issues, use your self-aware skills to identify your emotions and use your self-management skills to decide which feelings to express and how to express them.  It may not be appropriate to react immediately. Take time to process your emotions and express yourself in the best way. Also, consider becoming more mindful of your feelings, tone, and demeanor when communicating. Please note when you are sending mixed signals and readjust to match it to what you are sending.

Cross-functional communication, stakeholder engagement, and emotional intelligence are just ways we can add value to internal and external stakeholder relationships.

Dr. Clark, Dr. Dyson, and Dr. Zagerman are faculty in the Project Management graduate program at the Harrisburg University of Science and Technology in PA.

 

References

Ajemari, V.  (2019, October 18). Enterprise architecture and customer experience: Putting customer needs first. https://www.symcor.ca/insight/enterprise-architecture-and-customer-experience-putting-customers-needs-first.

Alwadain, A. (2020). Enterprise architecture: A business value realization model. Sustainability,

12(8345), 1-17. https://doi.org/10.3390/su12208485

Bradberry, T., & Greaves, J. (2009). Emotional Intelligence 2.0. TalentSmart.

Garud, R., Gehman, J., & Kumaraswamy, A. (2011). Complexity arrangements for sustained innovation: Lessons from 3M corporation. Organization Studies, 32(6), 737-767. https://doi.org/10.1177/0170840611410810

Hafsi , M., & Assar, S. (2020). Does enterprise architecture support customer experience improvement? Towards a conceptualization in difital transformation context. https://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007%2F978-3-030-49418-6_28

Hojsgaard, H. (2011, February). Market-driven enterprise architecture. Journal of Enterprise Architecture, 7(2), 28-38. http://www.library.nic.in/e-journalNew/JEAMagazines/JEA_2011-1.pdf.

Mersino, A. (2013). Emotional intelligence for project managers: The people skills you need to

acheive outstanding results. Amacom.

Piercy, N. (2010). Improving marketing – Operations cross-functional relationships. Journal of Strategic Marketing, 18(4), 337-356. https://doi.org/10.1080/09652541003768095

Project Management Institute. (2021). A guide to the project management body of knowledge (PMBOK guide) (7th ed.). Newtown Square, PA: Project Management Institute.

Rosenbluth, H. (2002). The customer comes second:  Put your people first and watch ‘em kick butt. Harper Business.

Salovey, P., & Mayer, J. D. (1990). Emotional intelligence. Imagination, cognition and personality, 9(3), 185-211.

Troy, L. C., Hirunyawipada, T., & Paswan, A. K. (2008). Cross-functional integration and new product success: An empirical investigation of the findings. American Marketing Association, 72(2008), 132-146. https://doi.org/10.1509/jmkg.72.6.132

Zorzetti, M., Signoretti, I., Salerno, L., Marczak, S., & Bastos, R. (2022). Improving agile software development using user-centered design and lean startup. Information and Software Technology, 141(2022), 1-14. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.infsof.2021.106718