A high-quality customer experience is the result of interactions between people in a network, which Forrester calls a customer experience (CX) ecosystem. As followers of this blog know, what holds that ecosystem together are value exchanges facilitated by an open, collaborative business culture. My colleague Sam Stern laid out how businesses define workers' roles and create engagement within this ecosystem. And in January, we published a report explaining the advantage businesses with collaborative CX ecosystems have. But we still have one outstanding question: How do companies enable the free-flowing knowledge and information sharing that make CX ecosystems valuable and successful?

Our new report, "How To Spur Collaboration Across Your Customer Experience Ecosystem," grapples with the enablement question from a technology standpoint. Why focus on technology? The people who constitute a CX ecosystems are never entirely colocated, yet they must share and discuss business artifacts (e.g., marketing collateral, contracts, designs) in order to make decisions that affect customers' experience. This problem requires a technical solution.

The report points out two things: 1) Businesses have invested in a broad technology portfolio to connect their employees, partners, and customers (collaboration technology will be a $10 billion market in 2016), and 2) the customer-centric workforce isn't taking advantage of this portfolio. The latter point is critical: The tools that have not become essential parts of workers' toolkits are the very technologies that make it easier for those workers to locate information, access expertise, and share their knowledge. Now, many CX professionals will look at these facts and ask, "I don't manage technology in my business, so what am I to do about this?"

We've reached an interesting moment for productivity and collaboration technologies in business — a point that opens the door for CX pros to exercise a great deal of influence: 

  • Individuals and small teams are acquiring collaboration tools on their own. The workforce, often feeling that it does not have the right tools to collaborate across the CX ecosystem, is taking matters into its own hands. For example, managers in a major pharmaceutical company's partnership organization independently acquired the document sharing technology Box to simplify information sharing with their product development partners.
  • Collaboration technology vendors are bypassing corporate tech managers. These cloud-based vendors have created pricing and packing (including free tiers) that make it easy for individuals or small groups to buy collaboration technology. The draw? They solve specific ecosystem collaboration problems for information workers. Examples of vendors thriving with this model include Dropbox and Slack.
  • Corporate technologists want (and need) to remain relevant in the collaboration conversation. As individuals and teams bring these tools into the business, someone has to make sure they're secure, ensuring the safety of the business' intellectual property and sensitive customer information. So we see technology management groups seeking out collaboration technologies that mirror the simplicity of cloud solutions while delivering the security of legacy systems. To get this right, we also see technology management groups beginning to apply experience design principles to workforce technology.

This shift in the technology landscape means that CX pros can play a role both as a collaboration technology buyer and as an advisor to corporate technology departments. Sam Stern, Deanna Laufer and I begin discussing how CX pros can play this duel role in a new podcast. And we elaborate on this topic in the report. So I want to turn it over to you, this blog's readers. How are you approaching collaboration across your CX ecosystem? How are you using technology to enable it? And how are you influencing technology decisions related to ecosystem collaboration? You can leave your thoughts in the comments section or drop me a line on the topic.