July 7, 2014

Has CI yet found the best org design?

By Paul Laughlin

Org DesignIt may seem like one of the curses of modern corporations but org design and regular reorganizations are now a fact of business life. I’m sure as an insight leader you will have seen your fair share.

As you’ve risen up the hierarchy you’ve probably changed in your role with regard to these events; from recipient to author. If you haven’t experienced this then I would encourage you to seek to be an author of such change.

From my experience two major opportunities exist for customer insight functions in this regard.

The first is to bring together the different technical areas who can best collaborate to provide deeper and more actionable insights. These include teams that are often located in different functional “silos”.

In line with my definition of Customer Insight, I would recommend bringing together: Customer Data, Analysis & Modelling, Research and Database Marketing teams. Suitably integrated and with an outcome focussed culture, these teams can together for an ‘Insight Engine‘ that produces not just technical output but actions that result in both commercial impact and improved customer experiences.

The second opportunity tends to come later in the maturity of a customer insight function. It is the centralisation challenge. Whereas I would not encourage accelerating this (my experience is that insight teams drive more value when close to the business area they serve, with shared targets and emotional engagement), there do come times when it is appropriate. This will often be driven by wider corporate changes in line with simplification and cost reduction. But it can also be an opportunity. Integrating into one customer insight ‘centre of excellence’ that drives consistent processes and coordination of customer interactions across lines of business can also driven value.

Here are some of the benefits and risks I’ve seen in these centralised models:

Benefits of a ‘Centre of Excellence’:

  • Economies of scale in specialist technical work;
  • Career paths for more technical practitioners;
  • More independent overview from business partners;
  • Optimisation/Coordination of customer interactions.

Risks of a ‘Centre of Excellence’:

  • Loss of ‘domain knowledge’ (becoming an “ivory tower”);
  • Loss of a sense of belonging to a business area (engagement);
  • Inflexibility to different local needs (one best way);
  • Apparent bureaucracy/some things take longer (common process).

What is your experience?