CIOs Step into the Forefront of Customer Experience

Linda Ban, Global C-suite Study Director, IBM’s Institute for Business Value

Linda Ban, Global C-suite Study Director, IBM’s Institute for Business Value

Today, new technologies are increasingly transforming the way companies work, as well as the way they interact and engage  their customers, which is changing the roles and relationships of C-suite executives, including the CIO. In the past, CIOs  were "masters of the back office" making sure computers didn’t crash, networks were fast and supply chains didn’t lose  products. But, that’s all changed as most of the day-to-day IT functionality has been automated and mastered. CIOs are now  shifting their attention into the world of customer experience and engagement. Increasingly, CIOs say their main job is  setting strategy by helping their organizations develop new business models, tackle risks, and forge closer relationships  with customers.

"CIOs struggle to address legal, security and privacy issues with employees who want to bring their own devices (BYOD) to work"

With that, responsibility comes an increased working relationship between the CIO and the rest of the C-suite executive team. For example, IBM’s Institute for Business Value recently released study found that when a CIO has a close working  relationship with the CMO, the enterprise is more likely to perform better overall. The study also found that more than 75  percent of C-suite executives interviewed share a common key goal of developing and maintaining a deep understanding of their customers, yet only 35 percent of respondents said their organizations already had this level of understanding. In fact,  more than 80 percent of CIOs report they are shifting their focus to the front office where marketing, sales and service  managers work closely with customers. With the difficult task of shaping an organization’s physical presence with its digital assets and processes to enable these relationships, closer collaboration between CIOs and CMOs is vital for an enterprise.

These insights emerged via 1,656 face-to-face interviews IBM conducted with CIOs as part of the company’s CIO study. Most  CIOs are seeing this new environment as exposure for their business and an opportunity for innovation. Not too long ago, CIOs  were the only C-suite executives with a meaningful understanding of technology. Now, others in the C-suite are becoming  increasingly tech savvy, which has worked to the benefit of the CIO asthe study shows that otherCsuite executives –  especially CFOs and CMOs – are more inclined to collaborate with CIOs than ever before.

Investing In New Technologies

As customer engagement is increasingly a critical driver for CIOs, cloud computing has soared in importance with 64 percent  of CIOs naming it as part of their visionary plans compared to 30 percent in 2009. Likewise, mobility solutions have also  experienced a similar jump in importance with 84 percent saying it’s their top focus compared to 68 percent in 2009. With  these technologies as a main driver, two-thirds of CIOs are now exploring how to better serve and collaborate with customers  using cloud computing and social  networking tools. CIOs at top-performing businesses realize that to improve the client experience, they have to know customers better. Many  companies have plenty of data -- carefully collected from social networks, apps, websites, and supply chains -- but what they lack is actionable insight. That’s why so many survey respondents want to invest in new technologies for crunching all those  bytes with two goals in mind:

1. Use sentiment mining and social network analysis to identify behavioral patterns and predict trends. 2. Use analytics to  quickly and effectively analyze the profitability of products and services so they can change their offering as needed.
2. Use analytics to quickly and effectively analyze the profitability of products and services so they can change their  offering as needed.

Collaboration as a Key Business Driver

It’s not just what people know that makes them valuable, it’s what they share. When employees, suppliers, and partners  collaborate, they are more productive and innovative. Some 70 percent of CIOs expect to work with a broader group of partners in the future -- not to boost efficiency or cut costs, but to bolster strategy. Which is why 82 percent of CIOs at leading  organizations are putting tools in place to improve collaboration, compared with just 69 percent at underperforming enterprises.

Mobile plays a big part in these plans, with more than 50 percent of the most successful companies reporting that they are  now equipped to do business anywhere, via any device. Still, CIOs struggle to address legal, security and privacy issues with employees who want to bring their own devices (BYOD) to work. More than 25 percent of the CIOs we spoke with report they are  holding off on BYOD, though ultimately they may have little choice but to consent.

Over time, playing a strategic role will come down to another fundamental kind of collaboration: working with the rest of the C-Suite including 'new' IT buyers such as CMOs, CFOs and HR. Part of managing the expectations that companies are placing on  CIOs will mean getting buy in. This comes down to crafting partnerships at the top. Over time, every aspect of a company’s  business will depend in one way or another on technology -- and the CIO.

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