Every business knows that customer satisfaction and loyalty are the most integral components of their brand. At the same time, consumers are innately aware of the fact that technology has brought them closer to their favorite brands. This creates a positive feedback loop in which brands influence customers, and customer opinions and feedback shape the ways in which organizations think, act, and react.
Since customers’ opinions are vital, it’s important to remember that delivering the best experience is a constant, ever-evolving goal. Consumers today look forward to personalized and meaningful engagements and interactions, and in order to develop these relationships, your efforts need to extend well beyond their first purchase or transaction.
At this point, the concept of a connected enterprise enters the equation. Let’s take a look at what a connected enterprise actually is, and the advantages and features it can provide.
What is a Connected Enterprise?
A connected enterprise can be defined as a business ecosystem where every line of business is digitalized. This includes key functions like sales, customer service, finance, human resources, manufacturing, R&D, engineering, logistics, marketing, and more. A connected enterprise has the power to dramatically enhance the manner in which it maneuvers and operates within its industry.
Connected enterprises can utilize smart processes that employ data analytics, by facilitating a secure and seamless connection between people, processes, and equipment. A well-configured connected enterprise aids in improving efficiency and reducing operating costs.
Quality data analytics, combined with the communication and sharing capabilities of the connected enterprise, help make functional and executive-level decision-making processes more robust. Access to crucial real-time data, and the ability to quickly and methodically manipulate it, is a key component of what sets a connected enterprise apart from the traditional, more cumbersome model.
The concept of the connected enterprise is relatively new, and typically first appeared in industrial sectors like manufacturing, logistics, and transportation. The success of the model has led to application and implementation in nearly every other industry at some level in recent years. It’s no secret that speed and transparency are universally useful qualities that organizational models outside of manufacturing would be delighted to have more of.
Components of Connected Enterprises
In order for a connected enterprise to work, it must possess three vital components: devices, infrastructure, and analytics. Devices are the individual interfaces between humans and operational activity. Infrastructure can be defined as the configured network of these devices, the individuals and teams that use them, and the IT “backbone” of hardware and software that ties them all together. Analytics, which serves as the last crucial piece of the puzzle, allows the organization to quickly and efficiently convert raw operational data and metrics into usable decision-making information.
Connected Enterprise Trends
The connected enterprise market has been growing steadily for several years and is projected to hit the $400B mark worldwide in 2021, quadruple what it was a mere 5 years prior. The biggest players in this space include Rockwell Automation, Cisco Systems, PTC, Microsoft, IBM, Bosch, Honeywell, GE, and a handful of other well-established name brands. These platforms are constantly evolving through innovation, partnerships, collaborations, and M&A. For organizations with large footprints, the concept of the traditional IT infrastructure model is rapidly giving way to the concept of the connected enterprise.
The competition among even the most reputable companies in the industrial sector is intense. With the advent of the connected enterprise, lagging organizations and slow adopters will be compelled to migrate to connected ecosystems, or face the prospect of being permanently left behind.
Internal enterprise networks are constantly gathering connected, smart data points, and the sheer amount of this available data has risen sharply as more IoT devices, especially mobile and handheld, become part of the operational infrastructure model. A few trends to keep an eye on as a result of this hyperconnectivity include more geographically dispersed work environments, bring-your-own-device (BYOD) models, and exponentially more secure networks with more advanced architecture and encryption to protect this valuable proprietary data.
What are the Steps to Building a Connected Enterprise?
In order to remain customer-centric during a transformation to a connected enterprise model, companies need to employ an appropriate mix of components and strategies relative to their industry, enterprise strategy, organization size, scaling needs, and other factors. These ingredients include cloud-native applications, cutting-edge and flexible technologies, and a connectivity strategy with a clear vision and goals. A tailored organizational connectivity model should keep its connected network of employees in the foreground, and the methodical operation of the connectivity infrastructure should blend seamlessly in the background, supporting enterprise decision makers top to bottom with quality, real-time information and data.
In order to build a connected enterprise, here are the elements an organization should take into account:
A Single View of Customers
As previously established, customer satisfaction is almost invariably the key driver in any business model. Competition allows unhappy customers to look elsewhere to meet their needs, especially competition that is performing better and more affordably than you are. Easy engagement, responsiveness, and empowerment to solve problems are some of the highest-ranking factors in customer satisfaction. As an example, when a customer calls a helpdesk, wait time and resolution time are obvious variables that impact satisfaction. But behind the immediate call, what happens with the critical customer feedback garnered in that call? How is the customer’s issue captured, categorized, and conveyed to the rest of the company? How long does it take for manufacturing to learn of process issue causing defects? When does marketing and R&D learn of the importance of a product feature that your competitors have but you haven’t implemented yet? How does the finance team learn of a glitch in their customer payment portal? A well-connected enterprise can provide rapid visibility of customer feedback across enterprise functions in the form of usable, actionable information.
In order to ensure customer engagement is optimal, companies should strive to understand them individually and consistently, but with the backend ability to rapidly aggregate and utilize useful trend data.
Front and Back Office
When companies realize how crucial a comprehensive view of every single customer is, that’s when front-to-back office integration becomes critical. Sales and marketing should have a multidirectional free-flow of information, data, and ideas with R&D, engineering, and manufacturing. This allows the connected enterprise to rapidly incorporate feedback from end users about features, issues, defects, and innovation. Understanding what a customer wants, and how and when they want it, and being able to deliver faster than the competition, is what separates world-class businesses from the also-rans.
Optimized for IoT and Machine Learning
Machine learning is what helps in the quick analysis and interpretation of data, allowing your company to strategize your future plans and campaigns. When machine learning is combined with Internet of things (IoT) data and good old-fashioned operational metrics, a business can effectively build a holistic customer view, and craft a best-in-class customer experience.
Data from Supply and Demand
A supply and demand overview aids organizations in analyzing, managing, and responding to the variables within their supply chain. In order to accomplish this, companies need to possess real-time supply chain planning solutions. Quality SCM architecture allows organizations to fully utilize analytics, alerts, “in-case” simulations, and more.
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If you want to use a single trusted customer data model to cater to all customer experiences, a unified suite of cloud solutions that seamlessly integrates your customer data and metrics across your organization has become the obvious single answer to this query. The unified cloud helps in building customer loyalty and trust by delivering improved outcomes and better customer-centric processes.
Advantages of Connected Enterprise
The benefits of having a connected enterprise are numerous and deep. To name a few:
Enables better-informed decisions. Since connected enterprises provide businesses with a comprehensive view of end-to-end enterprise operations, organizations are able to make quick, optimal decisions that lead to profitable outcomes.
Shows where and how productivity can be improved. Merely automating operations doesn’t suffice in the current market. Automation without cross-functional visibility simply allows a business to make bigger mistakes faster. A connected enterprise gathers and processes the necessary data to pinpoint where and how productivity can be improved across an end-to-end operation.
Improves customer satisfaction exponentially. An improved customer experience through enhanced and accurate responsiveness helps a business stand apart from everybody else who doesn’t have this capability.
We’ve discussed what defines a connected enterprise, current trends, building blocks, and a few of the advantages of being connected. Building and implementing a connected enterprise model can yield an earth-shattering return on investment, if done correctly. But what makes sense for your unique business? See if TechFides is the right partner to guide your enterprise operations to the next step.