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Agile Architectures Build Enduring Enterprises

The past century can be divided into three phases, each segment with its own defining characteristics. The first phase is the period before 1960, called the “Manufacturing Age.” During this era, enterprises made breakthroughs in production processes and techniques, and industry giants such as Ford, Boeing, and GE emerged. The second phase, the “Distribution Age,” lasted from 1960 to 1990. Globalization intensified during this period. Thanks to better supply chain systems, enterprises could produce more products at lower cost and within a shorter time. This allowed companies to quickly ship products worldwide. Successful enterprises such as Wal-Mart, P&G, and UPS appeared. The third phase, beginning in the 1990s, was the “Information Age,” a time when PC usage mushroomed. Benefiting from new Information Technologies (IT) and the Internet, a group of enterprises quickly rose into the world’s most influential companies. Amazon and Google, for example, quickly grew into large multi-national businesses within a few years.

The Key to Enterprise Survival: A Better Customer Experience

Starting in 2010, customer requirements began to change as global competition intensified and the financial crisis lingered on. Enterprises came to recognize the need to provide better services to retain their customers. As a result, four strategies have become business-critical to the future of enterprises: transforming the customer experience, enhancing mobility in business models, building the enterprise’s digital economy, and using Big Data to drive business results.

Forrester defines IT and Business Technology (BT) inputs as follows: IT inputs refer to the enterprise’s IT investment used to support internal operations, while BT inputs are investments dedicated to providing services to customers and improving the customer experience. Modern enterprises require both IT and BT inputs to grow their business. It is estimated that by 2018, BT inputs for enterprises will well exceed IT inputs.

Facing new challenges, enterprises must rethink their investments to offer innovative customer services with improved efficiency. Future e-commerce platforms will offer customers more targeted, personalized services tailored to their digital consumption behavior. Consequently, enterprises are expected to make wiser investment decisions with regard to their e-commerce platforms.

Agile Technologies Ensure Enterprise Longevity

To reinvent their technology architecture, enterprises must carefully consider which agile architecture and technologies best suit their long-term requirements. For example, predictive analytics technology is growing in popularity around the globe. By keeping a close eye on such technologies as they become more mature and affordable, enterprises can start to apply them to their businesses.

Enterprises generally have vast amounts of data resources that they need to sift through and collate. Then they must mine the data to find the most valuable information to sharpen their competitive edge. Merely using predictive analytics is not enough. Consolidation of third-party data is another “must” for enterprises if they intend to optimize business results.

Enterprises that provide multiple services must listen to their customers to better deliver these services. Viable channels will need to be put in place to obtain and consolidate diverse types of customer feedback, which can then be applied to improve customer satisfaction. For example, a growing number of consumers use various devices to interact with enterprises over the Internet. In today’s world of smart devices, “Apps” have become the norm, allowing consumers to stay informed about special events and news for their favorite companies and receive updates as soon as new offerings launch.

Enterprises also face many new challenges, such as the constant emergence of new competitors, fast-growing Internet technologies requiring continuous upgrade, and ever-intensifying consumer requirements. To address these challenges, enterprises must become more agile, ensure consistent knowledge transfer, and unify key messages delivered by different employees to customers. Most enterprises, regardless of their size, still have a long way to go in order to truly achieve business agility.

In China today, a majority of Chinese enterprises have been operating for less than four decades. Less than thirty percent of the enterprises included in Global 1000 three decades ago are still in the ranking. Agility is vitally important to enterprise longevity. Successful enterprises must remain agile to adapt to changing markets and satisfy ever-changing customer needs.

By Bryan Wang

China Country Manager and Vice President Serving Infrastructure & Operations Professionals, Forrester Research