Many of our clients are asking how to utilize organization design mechanisms to take customer centricity to the next level. Customer centricity is defined here as creating unique product value propositions and strategies to deliver against unmet customer needs. Specifically, how can we ensure that we are appropriately looking ahead, curating market opportunities, and defining holistic responses to address the specific needs of our customers?

You may be asking, isn’t it the role of a Chief Product Officer to create solutions across products? Doesn’t the Chief Marketing Officer look at opportunities out in the market? However, for many of our clients, their desired level of customer centricity requires systemic integration and value creation across various units of the company. Tacking on customer centricity as an additional responsibility to an existing c-suite role is no longer sufficient.

We recently worked with a high-growth medical device company that makes sophisticated hardware and software systems. The company was structured around fully loaded product business units, each with its own Engineering, Supply Chain, Operations, and Product Marketing. Like many product companies, they also had a consolidated go-to-market approach that configured bundled solutions within markets on the front-end (See figure 1). This model served the company quite well, providing a high degree of product specialization and focus. Since inception, they have consistently developed cutting edge, best-in-class products.

Figure 1: Today’s Organization Model (Simplified) – A consolidated front-end go-to-market approach and a differentiated middle/back with fully loaded business units

However, because this company is both high-tech and medical products, true customer centricity requires integration across the company, balancing both the technologically possible (engineering) and the medically advisable (clinical). To remain the market leader, the company needed to produce highly innovative client-driven solutions, while at the same time maintaining product excellence.

To manage this complexity, our client created a c-suite role called the Chief Ecosystem Officer. This leader directly manages only a small number of people. The role gets work done though a broad set of partners seated in the back, middle, and front of the organization that work together as an integrated collaboration network.

Key accountabilities of the Chief Ecosystem Officer include:

  • Creating an integrated customer storyline across all products based on customer insights and intelligence
  • Leading industrial design and UX decisions to create consistent user interface and customer pathway mapping across all product business units
  • Spearheading pricing processes and methodology across all products and geographies
  • Designing and packaging customer programs that cut across products
  • Developing the macro company innovation and offering roadmap for all products and services

While such a role solves an integration challenge, it also creates potential complexity regarding boundaries and decision rights with existing, more traditional roles on the leadership team. We are closely following this story and other clients that are introducing new c-suite integrators.

Jaclyn Kates

Kates Kesler, part of Accenture