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Why Build a Connected Enterprise and How to Know When You’re Disconnected


Why build a connected enterprise? In short, it will be the only way to survive and thrive in the next evolution of business. And for many organizations, this has become even more pronounced over the last several months as the concept of “business as usual” has been completely disrupted.

We’ve moved into what Gartner calls the third era of IT, the digital era. That won’t come as a surprise to anyone as digital has become commonplace for most organizations. We’ve watched IT progress from a specialization in many businesses to a utility, to what it is now: the underpinning of competitive differentiation and business value.

The challenge, however, is with digitalization came the commoditization of technology within many organizations. This has led to a complex web of tech, and mountains of data and technical debt, which contributed to the fragmentation and silos that plague most large institutions.

Enter, the connected enterprise.

Building a connected enterprise eliminates silos and promotes cross-functional collaboration. It provides the architecture for a one-team approach, removing dependencies from any one individual or department. It brings together IT and business functions to guide business strategy. And perhaps most importantly, it builds a connected and engaged workplace in which everyone is operating from a single source of truth, guided by a shared vision.

We know independently disruptive technologies can optimize operations, but together, they can fundamentally transform an enterprise by not only connecting and monitoring machines, but also by aligning departments and employees improving the overall work and customer experience. Today, it’s about connecting people, processes, and technologies – as quickly as possible – but that’s easier said than done as many enterprises have learned the hard way.

Signs you’re in a disconnected enterprise

Many organizations assume they’re “connected” because they are inherently digital. Departmental systems are often linked, remote employees don’t feel “remote”, partner ecosystems are global, and enterprise systems and data are accessible through every imaginable computing device. Still, there’s a tremendous amount of fragmentation that exists in businesses small and large.

Sometimes it’s not always easily detectable, but it’s always felt. Here are a few common signs that your organization may not be as connected as it could be:

  • Your technology hasn’t evolved at the same rate as your business and industry
  • The tools your employees are using are more challenging or unproductive than they should be (e.g. employees are still living in spreadsheets)
  • There’s a lack of integration with your legacy systems and you have a fragmented digital infrastructure causing employees to have to log into multiple systems
  • There’s no 360-degree view of your customers
  • You’ve accumulated a lot of technology debt yet haven’t realized the desired return on investment (ROI)

If you’ve ticked at least a couple of these boxes, you’re like the 50% of CEOs who KPMG says still see the need for alignment between their front, middle, and back-office functions to be able to deliver customer-centricity and business growth. And they want it yesterday. According to ZDNet, 94% of surveyed CIOs have strong or very strong pressure to move faster yet the organization’s business needs can often outpace available solutions.

Building a connected organization, however, supports agility and resiliency in the face of uncertainty and rapid change. It establishes a culture of innovation and adaptability, and promotes greater efficiency and an improved experience for all stakeholders (inside and out).

It’s about building the right internal foundation with an inside-out, human-centered approach to enable the agility, digital evolution, and business optimization and competitiveness you’ll need over the long term. Getting truly connected is about:

  • Creating internal connectivity that spreads outwards to your customers, partners, vendors, and other stakeholders for greater efficiencies
  • Enhancing your employee, partner, and customer experience
  • Ensuring continuous feedback mechanisms are in place and leveraging data and analytics to turn intelligence into action for better business decisions and outcomes
  • Enabling organizations to orchestrate change at scale, especially in today’s rapidly evolving markets

A connected enterprise moves beyond the basics of gathering data from the field and provides the strategy, business, information, app, and infrastructure components required to transform or optimize for tomorrow.

Avoiding the common pitfalls

A common reality for many organizations, despite best efforts to optimize or digitally transform, is their teams are constantly battling a convoluted tech stack and navigating their way around a graveyard of technical debt. This occurs when the technology, rather than the people, were the main focus.

Stakeholders, vision and purpose have to remain at the heart of any digital optimization or transformation endeavor. It’s the only way to architect an ecosystem that connects all the parts. Skipping straight to the technology piece is like building a solution without knowing what the true need or pain point is. This only results in individuals and teams taking it upon themselves to find or create a workaround, hindering productivity and eventually ending up in a fragmented workforce.

In fact, according to recent research by Forrester, commissioned by Salesforce, more than 57% of respondents said their CRMs were at least somewhat fragmented across the organization, but more than 80% believed this tool should support the full customer lifecycle and could serve as the single source of truth, ultimately improving the experience for all involved. The challenge is getting there.

Whether you inherited a disconnected ecosystem or it slowly unfolded in your organization over time, it’s not too late to build a connected enterprise. You just need the right roadmap and tools to get there.