The Inversion of the Iceberg

IT departments have been in charge of companies’ life blood of data. They process customer interactions, orders, personnel changes, and supply chain information. The manage processes which are sometimes complex, provide collaboration tools, run email, and keep the information safe. In fact, the customer is often only just the tip of the iceberg and all this computation in reality exists just to serve them and do business with them in some fashion.

IT Iceberg
The corporate Information iceberg. Lots of data below the surface in order to support their customers.

There’s an ongoing trend though. More and more customer interaction is going online. Interaction with any given company directly happens over electronic channels regularly. Prospects who may use a business’ goods and services will shop or do research over the Web. They may convert via a browser, buy from a different channel, or finally call a sales rep. The Corporate Executive Board did a study which showed that buying processes are about 57% complete before a customer actually talks to someone about it.
Electronic activity obviously doesn’t just happen with a specific company. People spend time on news sites, with other businesses, on social networks, and with search. They also make purchases using credit cards, go to work, earn a certain income, went to school somewhere, own a car and a house, travel, and more. Some activities are done at home while others are outside the house. All of these leave digital breadcrumbs behind.
Digital Consumers
Consumers spend time overtly online but leave digital trails in their daily lives as well.

What this leads to is an inverted iceberg. Businesses spend considerable time and effort focused on what’s in their own walls while their customers spend more and more outside those walls. The customer’s electronic interaction with a company is just a tiny point compared with other influences the business doesn’t control or even have visibility to. The need to personalize experiences and provide relevant information is ever-increasing plus the points of engagement are constantly shifting.

The inverted iceberg
The customer is a fulcrum point of engagement. And an unbalanced one at that.

Much, but not all, of the company’s IT structure is there to build data around the customers. Each one is unique yet looks like others in certain ways. They behave similarly and exhibit certain traits which should let the business understand how to attract more like them, retain the ones they have, realize where there’s underserved markets, and even what to create in the future. The challenge is to take this knowledge, marry it with external information, and then to actually do something useful with it.

Customer data
The collection of customers on its own doesn’t mean much unless you can do something with it.

Unlocking this value is the secret and the challenge which enterprises will face in the future. When they can tap into that external information, tie it to their customers, build experiences around them, unleash the experiences where the customers are, then adapt to the response, then they’ll have a true advantage. The status quo will not ever be enough. Continual understanding and learning about whether those customers are buying and getting support in the way they expect is a must. That means the iceberg isn’t going to go away. It will be created differently, be deployed in a variety of ways, and adapt to enable changing requirements. That way, corporate information can get more useful and enhanced over time.

Complete Customer Information
Unlocking your customer data takes an understanding of the outside world and the ability to do respond to it.

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