Key considerations when defining an operating model that enables personalization at scale

The right operating model for personalization at scale

You’ve almost certainly heard the old adage “The customer is always right.” Today, companies must personalize the customer experience with the right content, in the right context, and at the right time. Most companies know the importance of personalization when it comes to acquiring and retaining customers, and many have strategies and tools already in place. Yet too many have ineffective or nonexistent operating models that aren’t right for scaling personalization.

Gartner defines an operating model as a blueprint for how value will be created and delivered to target customers. In personalization, “value” is delivered through tailored, consistent campaigns that can turn audiences into buyers on any channel. But scaling that value to growing volumes of customers is challenging when data, teams, goals, and tech stacks are unaligned from the top down.

This means the information needed to make smarter decisions for the customer journey is siloed in separate tools handled by separate teams. Rather than using it to collaborate on different ways to improve the customer experience, teams use it for differing and uncoordinated objectives. The result is a fragmented experience that frustrates customers.

A more modern adage, “People, process, technology,” can help guide organizations toward fruitful conversations about making strategic changes. Here, we look at ways to develop a successful operating model that puts departments, data, and marketing platforms in sync to deliver personalization at scale — all while standardizing the processes that make delivering it possible.

Upgrade from slow and siloed

Businesses need the tools, data, and insights to respond to change fast and create engaging one-to-one interactions. Unfortunately, many organizations lack the structure of a well-oiled operating model that can deliver the experiences that customers demand. Instead of having everything in one place and executed at the right time, operational silos make teams connect the dots in an attempt to connect the customer journey. To operate strategically and deliver personalization at scale, it’s critical to identify and connect these silos.

People silos

People can be considered the best asset when it comes to launching an ideal operating model. When the C-suite talks, people listen and ideas spread. So when CIOs, CMOs, or other leaders fail to champion new strategies, they fail to ensure that teams are working together to set new strategies into motion. When teams lack communication and cohesion on their strategic goals, customers receive disjointed experiences — and retention and revenue can suffer.

Process silos

When teams are ready to set a strategy into motion, they’ll need to update manual processes. Slogging through outdated ways of working creates unnecessary expenses in time, resources, and dollars — all while contributing to employee burnout and turnover. When various departments each deal with their own heavy processes weighed down by red tape and approvals, they can’t operate together to make agile adjustments that address customer needs.

Technology silos

Personalization at scale is impossible without a technology ecosystem collecting readily available, real-time data. When customer behavior is assumed based on historical data, it’s likely sitting in applications that aren’t integrated — with owners who don’t work together to maximize its potential. Even when companies invest in personalization technology, it’s rendered ineffective without a cross-organizational execution strategy and refined operating models.

Being watchful of these areas allows companies to identify their operational silos. Connecting them efficiently and effectively takes a center of excellence team dedicated to ushering in these organizational changes. Once silos connect, companies can shift to operating model strategies.

Four operating model strategies

According to Econsultancy’s Digital Trends research for 2022, 90% of senior executives revealed that they believe the pace of change we experienced in 2020 and 2021 will persist for the foreseeable future. There has never been a better time to refine your operating model and deliver personalization at scale.

Start with technology

Technology is the way to consolidate data, personalize content, and deliver seamless customer experiences. Teams must evaluate their tech stack, understand gaps, review overlaps, and find opportunities for improvement within their ecosystem. Then it’s time to review processes and organizational structures surrounding the tech stack to ensure effective usage and optimal investments are made.

Move ahead with agility

Econsultancy’s research found that 93% of business executives say marketing agility will determine their success. When considering processes and ways of working, it’s ideal to switch from one-off projects to agile methodology built into day-to-day responsibilities. In a recent Adobe Summit session, IBM captured this idea in its “garage methodology,” summarized by co-creation, co-execution, and cooperation across various teams. The key to effective change is ensuring objectives are aligned so teams understand the personalization strategy and how various teams across their organization should play a role in the customer experience.

Put the customer at the center

The same research also found that only a small minority of businesses really understand the customer experience. But businesses are trying to address this, with many CMOs now being retitled as “customer experience officers.” This title change implies ownership beyond marketing and into all touchpoints that customers experience, and it encourages customer-centricity to expand across the entire enterprise. All companies should prioritize leadership roles that are responsible for the entire customer experience — as well as technology, process, and structural investments that support it.

Approach the customer experience from the top down

The entire leadership team within a company should rally behind the customer experience officer and regularly review the customer experience. Rather than only prioritizing their individual agendas and objectives, this will encourage people to work cross-functionally to implement the technology, process, and organizational changes as recommended by the center of excellence teams. Dr. Jens Thiemer, senior VP of customer and brand at BMW, revealed during Summit that the luxury car brand is doing just that — by aligning marketing, IT, and sales teams on the customer experience to meet the goal of 25% online revenue by 2025.

People, process, technology, and personalization at scale

A customer-oriented operating model that scales personalization requires thoughtful review — of people (to align teams and departments across the enterprise), process (to upgrade from ad hoc project management), and technology (to unify customer data in real time and respond to customer interactions fast). After review, investing in personalization technology is a must. The value will be high for organizations that deliver and scale relevant, consistent customer experiences — and for customers who respond with loyalty to personalized treatment.


Read Getting Started with Personalization at Scale to learn more.