Summer here in London sometimes catches out visitors to the city. As usual, the city received its sudden hot snap—10 degrees centigrade above the normal summer average—for a week or so, and all normal life fell apart, the rail lines melted and the lack of rain at Wimbledon bankrupted the city’s umbrella salespeople. Melting in my non-air-conditioned house, I was setting about turning off all distractions to complete a draft of a long-format report, wrapping up some of the early thoughts I’d shared here previously on the "dynamic supply chain" and how it is being driven by compressed processes and creating converged organizations.

Last winter, I spoke at the Gilbane conference in Boston (where in defense of London’s tourists, I forgot to take any gloves and froze my fingers to the bone), and I recall a question discussed about ownership of customer experience as organizations go through processes of transformation. It’s a topic that continues to do the rounds, and in part, this cyclical discussion remains one that is difficult to settle when it is only seen through the prism of customer experience.

The critical thing here is that customer experience, such as it is being typically defined, is, at a bare minimum, referencing marketing, perhaps sales and occasionally some form of customer service. It’s due to this that the debate is often mistakenly centered upon to what extent a chief marketing officer (CMO) might exert their control across this entire estate. As fun as arguments about the role of the CMO might be, they amount to a zero-sum game when you consider the much larger, complex and ultimately high-stakes game that is playing out behind that "spear tip" of customer experience.

As I mentioned in the previous discussion here about the dynamic supply chain, it is only as strong as its weakest link, and those links that are often neglected are those which are far less visible—euphemistically referred to as "back office," as if having a signed, chained-off "Do not enter; noisy, oily machines beyond this point" disclaimer. Yet, if we really want to get to the crux of the sort of organizational transformation that needs to occur to turn the early experiments with customer experience into something that is really holistic, then our blinkered over-fascination with the shiny front-end stuff—and, with it, the CMO confab—has to end.

What is emerging with a focus on the entire customer life cycle—which the dynamic supply chain underpins—is that when its entire extend is unraveled, it is a decent representation of the working estate of many organizations. It’s not the realm of a single line-of-business control; it’s actually the entire business laid bare. Discussions about the culture to support business transformation are important, but by seeing this as some sort of C-level reshuffle, this obscures that the culture has to be driven from the person who ultimately retains the responsibility to direct the organization: the chief executive officer.

Matt Mullen is a senior analyst of social business for 451 Research, where some of his primary areas of focus are digital marketing and social media technology. Follow him on Twitter @MattMullenUK.

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