2020: The Year of Insightful Actions

As 2019 comes to an end, it’s time to think about what we’ll see next year. I collaborated with our XM Institute faculty (Aimee Lucas, Ben Granger, Isabelle Zdatny, and Moira Dorsey) to pull together a picture of where we think XM will be heading in 2020. As we looked across the different elements we were expecting to see, an overall theme for 2020 emerged… The Year Of Insightful Actions.

Looking Back At 2019

In the Global State of XM research, we found that senior executives around the world recognize the importance of XM. That mindset propelled many companies to deploy components of an overall XM program in 2019. As we found in the State of CX Management where only 6% of large companies have reached the top two levels of maturity, most companies remain in the very early stages of building their XM competencies.

Customer experience (CX) remained the most common area of focus for XM efforts, with employee experience (EX) gaining significant traction.

Few organizations have yet to take an enterprise-wide view of XM, instead they’ve most frequently deployed XM within isolated compartments of their organization. While narrow XM remained the norm, we started to see a few companies take a more holistic view of XM, often starting with an integrated view of CX and EX.

Five Trends In The Year of Insightful Actions

While most XM efforts have focused on isolated data collection and reactions, we expect organizations to become much more intentional about how their efforts drive actions that create value. That’s why we’re calling 2020, The Year of Insightful Actions.

What does this mean? While many XM programs claim to drive action, they don’t treat this effort as a primary objective. We expect this to change. During the upcoming year, organizations will prioritize their XM efforts in areas that directly help their organizations make better decisions and deliver more tailored experiences. In this environment, we expect to see:

  1. The marriage of CX and EX. XM programs will spread into adjacent areas. The most common form of this diffusion will be the an increase in the combination of customer experience (CX) and employee experience (EX) efforts. Why? Because there’s an inextricable link between CX and EX. Insights from customers can target high priority employee improvements, while insights from employees can identify key customer improvements.
  2. The reversal of metrics mania. Many XM programs have built up a slew of measurements, viewing their experience data (X-data) as a source of metrics. As companies pivot more to insightful actions, they’ll cut back on some of those metrics and focus more of their attention on developing insights in specific areas where they see opportunities to improve.
  3. The reorientation to action-first. In early maturity XM programs, there’s often a focus on collecting as much data as possible. The data, along with some insights, is then delivered to different groups. We expect that many organizations will shift this flow. They’ll start by identifying the actions that people make and use that information as requirements for insights, and then focus data collection on fueling those insights.
  4. The creation of a new discipline, IXD. Rather than just distributing data, organizations will more actively design the insights they deliver to specific groups across the organization. We call this Insight Experience Design (IXD). XM teams will use their experience design skills to integrate insights into different teams’ operating processes and decision flows. This process will also require change management to increase data-centric mindsets across their organizations.
  5. The rise of XM-enabled processes. As organizations use XM to power more key decisions, they’ll spot new ways to inject insights into their ongoing operational processes. Leading companies will start redesigning processes like product development and employee promotion cycles to embed XM insights. Look for existing methodologies like Lean and Lean Startup to incorporate XM insights into their methodologies.

Impact Across The XM Operating Framework

This focus on insightful actions in 2020 is merely a step on the path towards increasing XM maturity. As we described in the report, Operationalizing XM, organizations are on a multi-year journey to create the capabilities to continuously learn what people are thinking and feeling, propagate insights across their ecosystem, and rapidly adapt based on the most important findings. To establish these capabilities, companies will continue to expand their XM efforts in 2020 across the three elements of the XM Operating Framework, technology, competency, and culture.

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Here are some of what we expect to see in 2020:

  • Technology: Within XM, technology plays a very important role. It allows the automation of key activities and it enables strong practices to scale across an organization. In 2020, we expect to see more use of text analytics to tap into rich insights from unstructured data, more predictive analytics to uncover insights from a growing volume of both X-data and operational data (O-data), more instrumentation of growing digital channels, more automated and customized distribution of insights, and the enablement of more closed-loop processes for responding to feedback.
  • Culture: The norms within an organization can both inhibit and nurture XM capabilities. As the Year of Insightful Actions rolls out, companies will need to make adjustments to their culture to ensure that employees understand why XM is so  important for their future success, recognize their personal roles in helping the organization deliver better experiences, and become increasingly comfortable with more rapid, distributed decision-making based on highly tailored insights.

Changes Will Affect All Six XM Competencies

As we often say, the key to path to XM success requires mastering competencies that are enabled by technology and nurtured by culture. Here’s a taste of what we expect to see across the Six XM Competencies during 2020:

  • LEAD: Organizations will expand their governance to cover a broader set of XM areas, starting by connecting many of their CX and EX efforts. The focus on actions will also drive organizations to adjust their program roadmaps to more efficiently deploy their resources.
  • REALIZE: As insightful actions become more of the norm, organizations will start making the case for XM based on the establishment of capabilities to rapidly adjust to changes in the market, not just based on near-turn upticks in business results.
  • ACTIVATE: The spread of insightful actions will force more employees across the organization to rely on data insights in their day-to-day roles. This will require new training to improve overall data literacy and the capacity to use insights to drive decisions.
  • ENLIGHTEN: To fuel insightful actions, companies will redefine what X-data they collect. Rather than relying on static mechanisms that remain as-is, they’ll build more dynamic approaches that they regularly adjust to fuel an evolving set of required insights.
  • RESPOND: This competency will get a lot more attention across the board, as XM programs turn their focus more explicitly on the actions they enable.
  • DISRUPT: With the spread of insightful actions, more employees will benefit from applying experience design skills. Look for organizations to find ways for propelling experience design across their organization.

The bottom line: Welcome to The Year of Insightful Actions!

Written by 

I'm an experience (XM) management catalyst; helping organizations improve results by engaging the hearts and minds of their employees, customers, and partners. I enjoy researching and speaking about leading-edge XM topics. I lead the Qualtrics XM Institute, which is the world's best job. We're igniting a global community of XM Professionals who are inspired and empowered to radically improve the human experience. To achieve this goal, my team focuses on thought leadership, training, and community building. My work is driven by a set of fundamental beliefs: 1) Everything starts and ends with human beings, so you need to understand how people think, feel, and behave; 2) XM is a discipline that needs to be woven throughout an organization's entire operating fabric; and 3) Building the XM discipline requires a combination of culture, competency, and technology.

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