by Nathan Williams

The brand conversation: what’s a CIO’s role?

Jan 29, 20123 mins
IT Leadership

Previously we looked at how a CIO can, and should, play a critical role in delivering the modern brand experience, an experience which is increasingly technology enabled.

But if a CIO is reluctant or not sure of their role in brand discussions where can they turn to acquire the insight, knowledge and understanding to talk brand language with their in-house or external marketers and the rest of the board?

How do they gain the confidence to play an active role in these discussions?

There is a fairly easy way to approach this conversation, from the outside in.

Quite often the CIO’s focus is put on the systems that underpin the business, rather than the pieces that the customer touches.

This often reaches a CIO and their team as a set of requirements and use cases, technical documentation with little humanity woven through it.

But, the humanity this lacks, is critical to understanding how people want to interact with your organisation as a brand, and therefore the services that are required to meet and pre-empt those customer needs.

Service is the key word here.

We can think of service in two simple ways: How we service our customers, and the services we provide to do that.

A good place to therefore start thinking about the brand experience, is the field of service design, not only because services are fundamental to modern brands but also because, as we have stated, most services are today underpinned and enabled by technology.

What is service design? Rather than focus on the definition, the purpose is more interesting.

One definition might be to design according to the needs of customers or participants, so that the service is user-friendly, competitive and relevant to the customers.

I would take this a step further and say the purpose of service design is to define in a tangible way the role of brands in people’s lives.

And, by tangible I mean how the brand actually touches peoples lives: how it enables them to do more than they previously could, to do new things, or old things better.

Many great texts exist on this field.Starting with any of the must-read titles is a great first step to understanding how brands are changing and evolving so they play a greater role in their customers lives and what, from a technology perspective, can be done to support this.

So where does this get us? A critical aspect to service design is that by its nature it is multi-disciplinary, services cannot, and should not be designed in isolation.

Instead they require collaboration amongst those who traditionally face inwards and outwards within a business.

One of the simplest tools we use to define a brand in its entirety if summarised, has those two sides:

– The internal capabilities and culture – The externally facing offer and identity.

Services require the whole, the outward facing manifestation our customers touch, and the internal capability (technology) and culture to support it.

If thought of in this way, then the role of the CIO is clear: that of enabler.

CIO’s are fundamental to enabling the modern brand experience, and in a world where brands live and die by how customers perceive that experience, the role of the CIO becomes increasingly important, to provide the bedrock on which those services are built.

And, if you’re clear in your role and right to be in on these conversations you’ll bring clarity and direction to your team and the often mystifying subject of communicating and managing your organisation’s brand.