Operating Model: The Processes, People and Technology Supporting the Customer Journey

Part seven of a series

In relation to digital, there are two levels of the Operating Model:

  1. Enabling your organization’s people processes and technology to work together to leverage digital capabilities to support the desired customer journey.
  2. Creating an organization that responds at digital speed and continually adjusts for the continual changes that the digital world serves up.

Organizations focused only on the first model look to adjust their internal operations to align with their new digitally-enabled customer experience. However, customers quickly see through the façade of a cool front-end that only gets bogged down in the machinery of manual back-office processes (the gerbils), or systems that have not been adjusted for digital speed or expectations. An app that has to retrieve data, but is unavailable due to a 12-hour system upgrade process on Saturday night, negatively reflects on the entire customer experience. Centric’s Matt Cotter further explored the necessity of paying attention to the end-to-end process in his post Learning from Edison: A Digital Pioneer Who Considered the End-to-end Process.

An Opportunity to Evolve

For some organizations, this may be about catching up — automating paper-based or manual processes to become straight-through processing (STP) or use customer self-service apps. Leveraging business process management (BPM) tools or workflow engines are often easier ways to help organizations with legacy apps evolve to a more mature state, without having to transform everything at once.

Defining an operating model should happen concurrently with the development of new customer interaction models. Many organizations are exploring how to implement an omni-channel model in reaction to consumer’s expectation to choose how and when they interact with companies, and the back-end systems need to be there to support this. Service reps that answer chats or phone calls from online customers need Customer Relationship Management (CRM) platforms and knowledge management systems (and be well-trained in how to use them) to seamlessly service customers in an omni-channel model.

The Digital Iceberg

The digital customer experience is often the focus of a digital strategy, but it really is just the tip of the iceberg. Below the surface lies the (often more challenging) work of adjusting legacy systems, integrating products and developing the operational procedures to support the change management coordinating all this while bringing your people along. In complex organizations, it can take years to fully realize the desired state operating model. Iteratively adjusting the model along the way is often the only path to get there.


Most organizations don’t have the process analysis and design skills internally to holistically develop their future state operating model. This is an area where seeking assistance to supplement your customer experience, marketing and IT skills can be very helpful.

Moving at Digital Speed

The second level models are more often found in organizations that are further along in their digital maturity and look more like digital startups. Since digital startups build the foundational operating model components from scratch, they think and act “digital,” hiring leaders and workers with digital awareness and skills. They use the data captured by their digital systems to make daily decisions and adjust their systems regularly, while their systems employ continuous delivery and DevOps best practices. For example, Netflix deploys code one hundred times per day while Amazon deploys new code every 11.6 seconds. Individuals managing these business functions often have technical skills in addition to their business knowledge.

These digital operating models leverage mature digital components:

  • Configurable, state-of-the-art nimble technology components
  • Agile product development and management processes
  • Customer-centric, data driven feedback mechanisms
  • A governance model and culture that supports continual evolution in response to the pace of digital change

As traditional organizations work to evolve their digital maturity, they should selectively include the most valuable attributes of a digitally mature or startup organization in their digital strategy.

Read the Series

zink-150x150John Zink is the Digital Strategy Practice Lead for Centric Consulting, responsible for client engagements, project methodologies and practices. He is passionate about aligning Digital Strategy with the overall business objectives and helping clients deliver change by leveraging enabling digital technologies.

John spent 13 years with a Big 4 Consulting firm and over 15 years in IT and Financial Service operations executive leadership positions. His experience in living on both sides of the business operations and technology spectrum in organizations provides him with a unique perspective that bridges the often too-wide gap in how these stakeholders look at their businesses and digital opportunities.

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