Disclaimer: I am not a political analyst, and this post is not intended to promote any political party.

December 8 was an historic day for Delhi: The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), which arose from the anti-corruption movement of Anna Hazare a year ago, achieved a spectacular result in Delhi’s assembly elections — one far beyond anyone’s expectations. The party won 39% of the total assembly seats, sending Congress (which is India’s oldest party and had ruled Delhi for the past 15 years) plummeting to third place.

AAP’s rapid rise and strong showing highlight a fundamental shift in India’s political system toward citizen engagement and empowerment, especially in urban and semiurban areas. In particular, India’s youth are ready to take risks to realize their hopes and aspirations. About 350,000 18- and 19-year-olds have recently joined the voter rolls and saw in AAP the possibility to change the existing political system. And AAP was in tune with them, putting volunteers to work on social media platforms to connect with citizens on issues like corruption.

Indian CIOs should sit up and take heed, because just as empowered citizens can disrupt traditional politics, digitally empowered customers will disrupt businesses in every industry. Forrester calls this the age of the customer, and we define it as:

A 20-year business cycle in which the most successful enterprises will reinvent themselves to systematically understand and serve increasingly powerful customers.

You must prepare to deal with this disruption and understand what you must do to make your organization customer-obsessed:

  • Re-examine your firm’s customer engagement model. Firms like Kodak that was slow to respond to changing customer needs got disrupted. Your firm will face stiff competition from smaller and niche players that will come on strong and disrupt the marketplace with their ability to connect digitally with customers.
  • Elevate your firm’s customer engagement model. You can’t just hire a business/IT relationship manager and assume that you’ve bridged the customer experience gap. IT organizations must radically shift focus; this means that CIOs must alter governance processes, job descriptions, IT performance metrics, and even the culture of their IT organization.
  • Make customer intimacy critical to your tech management organization. Add a business technology (BT) agenda to the IT agenda your team already carries. Invest in technologies (like social, mobile, and customer analytics), systems, and processes to win, serve, and retain customers. Once your tech management organization has a BT agenda, you need customer, financial, and system-of-engagement metrics that track technology’s contribution to customer creation and retention; link BT to revenue and profitability growth for your firm; and enable BT to serve customers and sustain connections.

The age of the customer is forcing firms to disrupt or be ready to get disrupted. What’s your take on the age of the customer? How are you driving customer experience in your firm to avoid disruption?