Don’t be afraid of the customer


ValueThe Technical University of Delft offers its curriculum not only on campus, but also as a MOOC, a massive open online course. Thousands of students all over the world are able to attend lectures. So I learned at the opening of the academic year of the University of Applied Sciences of Utrecht, which I attended as I recently joined this institute as a part-time researcher. A MOOC enables universities to reach out all over the world and students to receive education that before was unattainable to them because of practical reasons. To me, the MOOC is one of the many examples of technology changing the ways organizations, or for that matter, consumers, conduct their business. Other examples are crowdfunding, which, according to a recent news bulletin, enables consumers to buy their dream house without involvement of any bank, and of course the familiar examples of Airbnb and Uber.

An important consequence of these new developments is the fact that at last the customer is becoming a key factor in conducting business. A famous quote from feminism is “the personal is political.” In commerce, it is becoming a truth that ”the personal is commercial”: a customer’s individual experience nowadays is also, and immediately, a negative or positive public relations (PR) expression. PR is no longer controlled by the marketing department – any interaction between employees and clients or among clients is a PR action. If we do not like what we see or hear we can turn elsewhere. Businesses face the challenge to make and keep their customers happy, this time for real and without flaws.

New ways of engaging with customers originate at the borders of the organization. Architecture has a role in integrating this into existing or new organizational processes. For an airline employee to be able to react to an angry tweet from a customer who missed his connection, with advice about what flight to take instead, the employee must have access to the relevant information. If he wants to offer the client to rebook the flight for him he must have access to the booking application.

So, we might expect architects to focus on what architecture is needed to not only support customer interaction but also conduct a flawless follow up. But is this happening? Well, not according to the results of a survey that we conducted at the University of Applied Sciences in Utrecht under professionals and managers who, in any capacity, are involved with enterprise architecture. In this survey we asked what kind of benefits they experienced from having enterprise architecture in their organization. We classified these benefits into the four perspectives of the Balanced Scorecard. For which perspective do you think the respondents reported least benefits? Yep, the customer perspective.

Marlies van Steenbergen


Marlies van Steenbergen started her career with Sogeti Netherlands in the role of service manager enterprise architecture in 2000. After working as a consultant for a few years, she became Principal Consultant Enterprise Architecture in 2004. In this role, she is responsible for stimulating and guaranteeing the development of the architectural competence of Sogeti Netherlands. Since 2012 she is the main proponent of enterprise architecture and DYA within Sogeti Netherlands.

More on Marlies van Steenbergen.

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