Exploring characteristics of IT capability in enabling a customer-focused strategy

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AlHarbi, Ahmed M.
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University College Cork
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The customer-focused approach is a prominent trend pursued by organisations. Every part of an organisation that follows this approach has a role in the success of that organisation's customer-focused strategy. The role of information technology (IT) in enabling and facilitating customer focus is not fully recognised or appreciated by some managers. The motivation for this study is to develop a new way of thinking about customer-focused strategy and to illustrate that IT has a significant role in the success of the relationship between an organisation and its customers. This research study aims to explore strategies for focusing on the customer, the characteristics of IT capabilities (ITC) and the relationship between business and IT in delivering customer-focused strategies (CFS). A qualitative exploratory approach was conducted with three large organisations: Saudi Telecom Company (STC) and Arab National Bank (ANB) in Saudi Arabia, and Electricity Supply Board Networks (ESB Networks) in Ireland. Qualitative data were collected by conducting semi-structured interviews with 35 business and IT managers. The data collected were analysed using coding and comparative techniques. These case studies reveal that the focus of these organisations is on knowing the customer and empowering the customer experience through multiple interaction channels, improving the fulfilment time for customers and transforming customer services to digital. This focus on the customer increases the importance of ITC in the fulfilment, continuity, automation, integration and availability of customer services. Both ITC and CFS are supported by a working relationship characterised by shared responsibility, mutual trust, partnership and agility between IT and business in handling customer services. A multi-site exploratory study reveals the emergence of self-service initiatives and customer usability. This highlights an organisation’s ability to predict customer needs proactively and enable customers to control their own services. Roles also emerged for ITC in implementing, enabling and initiating business strategies to focus on the customer. These initiatives and ITC roles support the formation of customer focus digitalisation in terms of provision, interactivity and information capabilities. This study illustrates a theoretical model of customer focus digitalisation. This model refocuses services and interactions between organisations and customers and places greater emphasis on the digital form. This could be one of the building blocks in supporting the processes managed between technology and business. This study also provides organisations with practical classifications for understanding and characterising the role of ITC in supporting organisational strategies towards customers. ITC roles are classified into those of implementer, enabler, autonomous, initiator, and generator of revenue.
IT capability , Customer-focused strategy
AlHarbi, A. M. 2017. Exploring characteristics of IT capability in enabling a customer-focused strategy. PhD Thesis, University College Cork.