This past June, Forrester began a conversation about what ails the networks of customers, partners, and employees we call customer experience ecosystems. My colleague Rick Parrish attributed the problems to an unhealthy mix of cumbersome rules, disorganized technologies, and complacent management. The result? Businesses aren't able to leverage those customer, partner, and employee relationships to quickly and effectively respond to market changes. Now, if you've followed this blog, you've seen me argue that you can't resolve these issues without a technology strategy that aligns with your business vision. Why? Because you can only do what your technology allows.

In our new report, Want To Improve Your Customer Experience? Turn To The Cloud, we examine how cloud services can help customer experience professionals drive flexibility and responsiveness into their customer experience ecosystems. At the heart of this report is our read of cloud services' fundamental value:

  • Lowered business costs of experimentation. Worry about the financial implications and reputation damage that can come from failed technology trials dampens business leaders' appetites to try new things. The Weather Company chief operating officer Chris Walters says his organization's embrace of cloud services — such as Google Apps and other elements of Google's cloud platform — positions his company to build game-changing offerings because they don't need to build their own infrastructure to run experiments.
  • Faster development and delivery of innovations. Cloud services vendors like Amazon and have made it easier for company's to enhance existing offerings and build new products and services by providing developers components that they can weave into their solutions. This cuts the time it takes to roll out new solutions because the developers don't have to create all elements of their offering from scratch. So, a company like cloud ERP provider Kenandy can build a manufacturing process application for its clients on and reporting solutions provider Workiva can create a reporting platform, Wdesk, on Google App Engine and Amazon Web Services.

These are liberating capabilities that allow customer experience pros to reimagine the value they deliver to all constituent groups: giving employees freedom of action to deepen their engagement with the business; incorporating partners into internal teams and conversations to improve decision-making; and creating new digital experiences for clients through components pulled from different cloud ecosystems. But first, a word of caution: customer experience professionals cannot do this alone. Cloud services serving different ecosystem constituents have different owners, often making it difficult to integrate these different platforms.So you're going to need to work with your technology managers to verify the security of these cloud tools, ensure they align with your customer experience strategy, and integrate with the systems from which you need to extract data.

What do you think? Are you marching down the path of using the cloud to invigorate your customer experience ecosystem? If so, what's your experience been? If not, what's holding you back? We'd like to hear from you.