by Jennifer O'Brien

CIOs need to drive tech innovation to bolster customer-centric mentality

May 12, 2018
CareersCollaboration SoftwareCRM Systems

CIOs have an “influential role to play” in not only leading transformational change across the organisation, but in steering the company towards a more customer-centric approach.

“We’re talking about a massive change. We’re talking about making the customer the centre of your total operating model, as an organisation,” Forrester vice-president and research director, Michael Barnes, told attendees during his keynote address at Forrester CX Sydney 2018.

And like their marketing and CX counterparts, Barnes said CIOs also need to step up in order to drive the technology innovation that’s crucial to bolstering customer experience.

“CIOs must drive technology innovation within their firms to be successful long-term, but their mandate is so much broader than that. CIOs are responsible for implementing and maintaining much of the technology that drives experience, whether it’s e-commerce platforms, mobile capabilities for CRM systems, analytics – those are all critical. And they are the ones responsible for those.

CIOs are also responsible for the technology and capabilities to drive employee experience including things like collaborative applications, he explained.

Michael Barnes

“Then there’s the third area where CIOs traditionally spend most of their time, which is managing ongoing business operations. Managing the core systems and processes and applications and platforms that drive the business and essentially run the business.

“The problem: The reality for CIOs is the fact they need to get out from out of that ongoing maintenance so they can actually focus far more on innovation, on driving value through customers.”

In calling out CIOs to make changes, Barnes spoke about how companies can be the engine of growth and leverage the customer experience, and discussed capabilities around CX related practices and disciplines.

“The reality is most firms have gotten better at this. They have untangled some of these wires. But here’s the irony. In many cases, they spend years, decades, improving operational efficiency. Finding cost savings, and becoming more effective at provisioning technology, leveraging cloud-based systems, more flexible contracts and sourcing options. All of these things have been an absolute benefit in terms of making their core operations more efficient. Making them more cost-effective, saving money.

“But the problem is that that’s come at a cost. They’ve lost key resources along the way as they’ve striven to be more efficient. And those skills, to a large extent, are around software development. The very skills that are required to drive innovation are often lacking in a lot of IT organisations that are focused on improved efficiency, on automation. This is where CX functions can come into the story.”

CIOs need to recognise that one of the things CX divisions have done well is implement innovation capabilities and innovation labs. They have become far more adept at doing prototyping and minimum viable product, and in being more agile in understanding and responding to what customers need with actual workable solutions.

But these exact same types of skills are often the ones that many IT firms currently lack.

“Thankfully, CIOs increasingly understand this. Certainly as they face the pressure to be part of the innovation discussion, they are becoming aware of this,” he said, citing the example of the efforts made by Sydney Water in setting up an innovation lab which is already seeing benefits in terms of improved innovation and enhanced CX.

Indeed, all c-suite execs need to reconsider the role of innovation. Like the CIO, Barnes said the CMO also needs to pivot their focus and recognise the customer’s reality and their experience is the brand.

“The problem for marketing folks is that most are still focused on brand maintenance. They are not leading the charge for driving brand building – and this is the challenge they face is how to overcome this gap in knowledge, in capabilities, in training, in experience.”