SoftLanding Systems Survey Reveals Top Business Considerations for IBM i Users

PETERBOROUGH, NH – June 27, 2017 – 91 per cent of IBM i users questioned in a new poll said offering a greater choice of ways in which customers could interact with their companies – such as web and mobile self-service – would help improve customer engagement, and over half (54 per cent) said they are planning to introduce new customer engagement channels within the next three years. The research reveals, however, that initiatives such as this are being tested by cost considerations and IBM i skills shortages, as well as worries about making changes to core business systems.

The survey of 43 US and European IBM i shops consisted of interviews conducted primarily at two recent IBM i conferences, the COMMON Annual Conference and Exposition 2017 and International i-Power 2017, by SoftLanding® Systems, a division of UNICOM® Global.

In addition to recognizing the need to give customers a greater choice of channels, 62 per cent of the survey sample said engagement could be boosted by implementing data analytics to help understand customer behavior and preferences. 57 per cent believe it would be beneficial to enable customers to switch seamlessly between channels. The same proportion said customer engagement could be improved by creating a single view of the customer across all channels and also by greater personalization of marketing and customer service.

These considerations are reflected in many of the customer engagement initiatives that respondents said they are planning in the next three years: moving from paper to digital communications (43 per cent); implementing data analytics to improve customer insights (43 per cent); personalizing customer communications (32 per cent); and creating a single customer view (19 per cent).

“IBM i users, like most businesses today, appreciate that the balance of power has shifted towards the customer. They know they have to invest in improving the customer experience if they want to thrive and there’s a real appetite to bring in new digital technology to drive better engagement, as the research suggests. The findings also underline that IBM i shops are committed to staying with the platform as they take on these new challenges,” said Jim Fisher, SoftLanding Operations Manager.

When asked about the key barriers to rolling out new customer engagement initiatives on the IBM i, 54 per cent of those questioned in the research pointed to cost considerations, followed by shortages of IBM i skills (41 per cent). Other concerns included the technical challenges involved in bringing together customer information from multiple sources (39 per cent); the risks involved in making changes to core business systems (33 per cent); and limited integration between front and back office systems (31 per cent). 

“Many of the barriers that respondents pointed to, such as costs and the technical and skills challenges, are to be expected,” said Fisher. “Our advice to anyone who is concerned about the cost and risks attached to embracing new customer engagement initiatives is to not immediately assume they’ll have to rip up or radically change their existing applications. They should look for non-invasive solutions that build on what they already have – for example by taking existing output such as bills, statements, policy documents and promotional material and repurposing it for web, mobile and social channels – without requiring any changes to underlying applications.”    

An infographic that highlights the main findings of SoftLanding Systems’ survey can be viewed here:

https://www.softlanding.com/files/5914/9805/9675/SoftLanding_customer_engagement_survey_2017.pdf

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