The report, a synopsis of Bernoff and Schadler’s book, Empowered: Unleash your employees, energize your customers, transform your business, gives great guidance on why organisations both large and small should be unlocking their IT governance and turning IT teams into facilitators, not roadblocks.
As Forrester point out, over half of US employees have better technology at home than they do at work, and as I have long argued it is easier for the frustrated, roadblock-hampered employee to kick back and use their own iPhone or iPad to solve problems than it is to have endless “No you can’t” arguments with IT.
So Forrester recommend that IT teams turn themselves into supporters of employee- and customer-led innovation and provide the tools to help manage risk and scale up solutions, rather than acting as roadblocks.
Of course, the idea of ‘Empowerment’ is nothing new. Those of us with long corporate memories will remember the 1980s (before the financial crashes, after which management wrestled back control of innovation and R&D). Forrester recollect the 1990s when the world wide web led to marketing departments putting their brochures online, HR departments posting their jobs on the company website, support teams posting FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) so that customers could self-serve.
Now, here in the era of social networking, in a time where a disgruntled customer can post a video about a product and it goes immediately viral, in a time where Facebook and Twitter can spread a meme about your company faster than you can react to it, and in a time when a CEO can appear on the cover of the Wall Street Journal without any notice and not in a good light, the need to empower employees to be the evangelists for the company and the frontline generators of innovation (because they are listening to the customers’ woes and praises) becomes ever more important.
Forrester offers a handy table to show the differences in how different departments/roles operate now versus how they should ideally operate:
|Role||Before the Empowered Era||New responsibilities in the Empowered Era|
|CEO||Optimize customer sales and expenses; manage top-down organizational structures||Encourage direct engagement with customers; promote cross-organizational collaboration|
|Communications||Use email, web, print, and social channels for outbound communication||Use video and social channels to promote interactive conversations|
|Customer Service||Serve customers at the lowest possible cost||Engage customers directly using social and mobile technology|
|HR||Use teacher-based classroom or online training for learning and development||Harness video and social technology for peer-led learning and development|
|IT||Keep technology diversity in check to keep costs under control||Harness the technology ideas and initiatives of empowered employees|
|Legal||Assess the legal risks of technology in the context of business risk||Assess the legal risks of technology in the context of empowered customers|
|Marketing||Treat customers as a target population to be reached and influenced||Harness empowered customers as a marketing channel that influences others|
|Sales||Use traditional channels to speak directly with customers||Use mobile and social technologies to speak directly with customers|
Source: Forrester Research, Inc.
In the table above you will see a lot of references to video and mobile technologies. I’ve banged on the table long and hard about the power of video, so it should come as no surprise to me that it also features in Forrester’s report. And as you have no doubt noticed, if your online activities (e.g. your website) aren’t mobile-enabled you are missing a significant amount of traffic.
Everything is happening via people’s mobile platforms and if you aren’t ensuring that every interaction you have with your audience is mobile-friendly then you will increasingly look old and irrelevant.
There’s a stack more thought-provoking information available in the Forrester report, which I thoroughly recommend you purchase, read and pass on to your CEO and CIO.
I think it would also be dead handy to pick up a copy of the long-form version of this report, the book by Bernoff and Schadler, Empowered: Unleash your employees, energize your customers, transform your business