Dan Simpson understands business transformation – and the critical role the customer plays in it. Before joining Trustmark, Dan led the Enterprise Technology Group at Physicians Mutual in Omaha, Neb., where he was the driving force behind the company’s business transformation strategy and the Greenfield program, which implemented new customer-centric business processes, service-oriented architecture (SOA), a new enterprise data warehouse, and several key business applications. For these efforts, Dan was recognized as Technology Chief of the Year in 2010 by the Applied Information Management Institute.

I spoke with Dan in preparation for his keynote next week at Forrester's Application Development & Delivery Forum.

Q: What are the business challenges and issues that typically motivate the need for business and IT transformation?

Dan Simpson: Common challenges facing business today include changes in market conditions, consumer behavior, and the regulatory environment as well as increasing competition and complexity. The inability to adapt to these changes drives the need to put new business process and technology foundations in place.

Q: How have you approached business process redesign?

Dan Simpson: The most effective approach is to focus on business process first before diving into systems. Depending on specific situations, I’ve seen great value in taking an approach where processes redesign starts and ends with the customer. This customer-driven approach helps drive customer-friendly decisions and efficiencies.

Q: What is a customer-driven application, and why is that concept important to transformation outcomes?

Dan Simpson: Application development can occur within a framework that ties business processes, business services, technology components, and data components together. If the business processes and technology components are service-oriented and customer-focused, then the resulting system can provide the ability to centrally identify, track, service, and engage customers in a personal way, as every step of the process is building more information about customers and their interactions with the firm, within a coherent model. This can also enable the ability to improve integration of distribution channels and enable more-effective customer analytics.

Q: In the end, what are the chief benefits companies can realize as a result of business transformation?

Dan Simpson: Many different benefits can be accomplished, including lowering operating costs, becoming easier to do business with, improving customer acquisition and retention, and decreasing time to market. In my experience, improved insight into customers is often the biggest payoff, bringing further benefits in more efficient and effective service delivery as well as better outcomes.