Years ago I gave a presentation at the HFMA (Healthcare Financial Management Association) titled Strategic Financial Planning and Complexity Theory. My colleagues at our accounting consulting firm raised their eyebrows a bit when they heard the title, but they were used to a little edginess from the strategic marketing division.
At the time computing power, the internet, and enterprise resource planning were in their infancy. But then, as now, the cost of implementing complex information technology systems was a limiting factor for most of our client organizations.
By using a mini-digression into chaos theory, I lead the audience to the conclusion. If they had a need to have better marketing and planning intelligence and had limited resources for development, then they had a choice:
- Use the technology (people and computing power) budget to become better than their competitors at econometric modeling, segmentation, and Enterprise Resource Planning,
- Use the technology to become more responsive in the market to their customers and provide better, computer-aided customer service than their competitors now.
Strategy is still about choice and the lessons from chaos theory still apply. Fast forward to today and it is safe to say that organizations still have the challenge of IT costs, but just as important is the confronting challenge of time. A chief information officer told me recently that “I’m just trying to disappoint people at a rate they can tolerate.”
An article in the recent Harvard business review,  Nicolaj Siggelkow and Christian Terwiesch make a good argument that “thanks to new technologies that enable frequent, low-friction, customized digital interactions, companies today are building much deeper ties with the customer than ever before.” They describe “the individual customer journey as having three stages: recognize, request, and respond. But there’s actually a fourth stage – repeat.”
In another view, we would call this the consumer purchase paradigm: Awareness, Attractiveness, Trial, and Repeat, but no matter how you describe the journey, time needs to be in the equation. Ask a farmer or a fashion designer. Market demand has its season and every customer journey has an implied timetable.
Some organizations may be resourceful enough to 1) know exactly where the market is headed amid multiple regulatory and financial inputs, and to 2) respond to their customers with exceptional, IT-supported service right now. But for many of us, we must choose and if we ignore time in the equation, we may not be able to deliver either.
 The Age of Continuous Connection, Nicolaj Siggelkow and Christian Terwiesch, HBR May–June 2019. https://hbr.org/product/the-age-of-continuous-connection/R1903C-HCB-ENG