Struggling with Customer 360?In one of the great ironies of the information age, the more software solutions exist to address business innovation, the more difficult it becomes to make it all work together and to create an accurate, useful system and view of the customer that enables us to serve our customers better. Customer expectations continue accelerating and the delivery gap continues to widen. Accurate diagnosis of why this happens is half the solution, and we pride ourselves in having developed approaches that produce results that consistently and reliably produces customer value in their investment in Salesforce.Click here to download our view on Customer 360, concerns and how we approach projects. Executive Summary:What people often don't understand about customer 360 is that this goes significantly beyond just the “single view” of the customer. There's work to be done to understand every single part of the interaction with your customer. EXAH as a practice started as a sales and service consultancy, and what we saw after every engagement was that within two or three months after leaving the engagement, the old behaviour was back. At that stage we realised that we needed to instil the behaviour that we were trying to encourage inside a system, not just through analysis and consulting. And the natural choice in pursuit of that goal was Salesforce. Therefore we started building our entire practice around an idealized design of the processes required to implement Salesforce projects successfully. A very important concept that we want to instil is the concept of “data as symbols.” Words are just symbols, a representation of something else but not in itself something real. If I say, for example, the word “tree,” the image that comes into your mind for a tree will be vastly different than the image that comes to my mind, yet we would both be “right.” The problem with data, if you see it in the same spectrum, is that I can tell you something about both trees above that still does Not align our representations of that tree. I can tell you it has leaves, I can tell you that it has branches, I can tell you that it has roots. All those descriptors are true for both of these pictures, but if you look at the pictures, you understand that they are still significantly different. Data is precisely the same. So ultimately, what becomes important is that the more descriptors we have, the clearer the shared picture becomes, and the more powerful the data becomes. If you start looking at how data is manifested as objects and fields, the decisions you make about which parts of your data are core to your business, and how much of your business’ reality is manifested as data, this makes an enormous difference to the digital representation of your business, and the processes it enables. If you understand chess well, you also understand that even though it's a small board, there is an infinite amount of configurations, and you can have an infinite amount of moves. No two games are the same. Thus the key lesson is that having the same software stack as another company is by no means an indication that the implementation will be the same. So what we often see when we walk into businesses and analyse their software stack, we notice a very fractured existence. Various systems contain similar data points without ever being properly integrated, and where integrations exist, they exist as Ad Hoc point to point connections between specific systems, with some systems not being integrated into any other systems or data at all.The green line in the graphic above represents the “customer experience layer,” the layer determines which systems are ultimately visible and usable by your end customer. Your customer experience in terms of the digitization of your business then only exists within certain parts of your data. Many parts of your data are inaccessible, even if you wanted to make them accessible. The second picture indicates the “ideal state.” In this state, the integration layer envelops all of your operational systems and data, and allows for seamless connections between all of the systems inside your business. In this scenario, you are able to produce a customer experience layer that is able to access and use any part of the data that exists across all of your systems, while still maintaing security and access control. Additionally, the final layer, the reporting layer, is able to span all systems and data, rather than piecemeal data from only a specific system.What that means practically:All of your operational systems gain from access to data in all other systems through your integration layerYour integration layer eliminates the need for any ad hoc point to point connections between any of the spanned systemsYour customer facing systems such as your communities, website, and e-commerce platform is able to access and use data within all of your systems if you require it to, or block access if you don’tYour reporting layer can now span every piece of data within all of your systems Part of the reason we love Salesforce is because it enables us to have chess pieces in almost every single part of this diagram within the Salesforce Platform. Salesforce becomes the glue that pulls all the other systems together to create a true customer 360 experience.Consequently, taking the chess metaphor again, though the board and the pieces are the same, the difference between a grandmaster and a beginner is vast, simply because they play in a different way. Therefore the 2 investment decisions you have to make that will help determine if your digitisation project will be a success or failure:Deciding which pieces to purchase as part of your implementation (your Software Stack) Deciding how they will be implemented, and how your implementation partner plays the game Deciding on the pieces:The decision on what pieces you will bring into your implementation is one of the keys to success. Under some circumstances, failing to purchase key parts of the landscape can have a severe effect on the strategies available to your implementation partner to bring you closer to success. Since the parts interact and cooperate, if a key part is missing, it can have a negative effect on all the other parts, even when they aren’t directly related to them.Deciding on the Strategy (of Implementation) The second key to success lies with your partner’s implementation strategy.What is crucial to understand is that there is a misunderstanding about what “out of the box” functionality means. In chess, these would be set moves that have a predicted effect, but it doesn’t go all the way towards playing the game well.In our projects, we often get the instruction that the client would like as much “out of the box” functionality as possible, without understanding that there are no two businesses that are the same, and that every single implementation is to some degree a custom implementation. Just like in chess, no two games are the same. So if you look at the complexity of the software and the vast amount of possible configurations, it's a lot like a Lego set where there's a beautiful picture on the front of the box, but when you open the box, you’re just confronted with a whole heap of different piece that “could” potentially fit together. One key real world problem that almost all operational IT departments face is the “Delivery Gap.” The delivery gap is the “difference between service delivery intentions and the actual delivery of the service.”The reason the gap exists is because customer expectations outstrip our ability to produce results fast enough to be useful. There’s a saying that goes: “No problem is too big, many problems are too fast.”So in order to close the delivery gap, what we require is both a software stack that is potentially powerful enough to deliver and surpass customer expectations, and an implementation methodology that’s able to produce results at a pace fast enough to be relevant.At EXAH, our practice’s sole mission is to build and deliver solutions to close the IT Delivery Gap for our customers on the Salesforce Platform. We do this using a series of blueprinting and consulting methodologies to help customers develop a clear picture of how their systems will be built on the Salesforce platform to have the maximum impact on the business, and development practices that emphasise quality without ever losing flexibility or velocity, and that can operate at scale.