Forrester recently gathered top Customer Experience (CX) professionals from around the world for the\u00a0Forrester CX Forum\u00a0in New York. For the uninitiated, CX\u00a0is the discipline of defining the step-by-step customer journey from marketing through sales and service.\u00a0 It defines the key capabilities, content, and interfaces that need to be present at each customer touchpoint and how those touchpoints work together to form a cohesive experience.\nAt the conference, extensive data was presented to support the argument that\u00a0delivering a seamless customer experience is more important than ever. In fact, it\u2019s the primary way digital disruptors, like Uber and Amazon, are taking share from more traditional brands.\nForrester found\u00a0that from 2011 to 2015, revenues for companies that scored near the top of the Forrester CX Index\u2122\u00a0outgrew that from a group of companies who scored poorly (CX laggards in Forrester's terminology)\u00a0by more than five to one.\nBut who is actually\u00a0in charge\u00a0of CX, and who should be? Many CIOs classically would respond that these types of matters\u2015the design of the web site,\u00a0its features, and generally how we interact with the customer\u2015is the responsibility of marketing or other areas of \u201cthe business\u201d. Once \u201cbusiness\u201d decides what they want, IT will build and support it - that's the breakdown of responsibilities. For the CIO, this may seem to be the most efficient arrangement, as they have plenty to worry about and sometimes it's nice to be able to identify something they\u00a0don't\u00a0have to focus on.\nBut in testing classic mindset through conversations with many of the CX experts at the Forrester Summit, I heard a strong, unanimous dissent with this traditional view. The view of the CX community is that to deliver great results in customer experience, senior IT leadership must be\u00a0intensively\u00a0involved in the full CX lifecycle, not merely a recipient of requirements when it's time to write some code, and not merely kept apprised in an \u201cFYI\u201d type fashion.\u00a0\u00a0For example, Ori Soen, General Manager of\u00a0Medallia Digital, a leading provider of CX software, offered, \u201cWe clearly see that when CIOs and their IT teams are customer-centric and focused on CX, the organization is able to generate much better business outcomes from its CX investment.\u201d\nThese experts point to successful CX companies, such as Google, Facebook, and Airbnb, where the development teams and business teams are working as one unit, making decisions about the experience, and implementing it together.\nAs Daniel Davenport, Managing Director of\u00a0Liquid Hub, an agency that focuses on customer engagement,\u00a0articulated, \u201cI think it is important for the CIO to have a voice at the table and co-create the ultimate solution.\u201d\nBut as busy as enterprise CIOs and their key lieutenants are, I\u00a0pressed the CX experts at the Forrester Forum as to exactly\u00a0why\u00a0it's truly essential that the CIO be so aggressively involved in CX and what the specific areas of value are.\u00a0 After speaking with a number of CX professionals, I derived five key areas of significant value that are derived from CIO involvement in the\u00a0CX process.\n1. Art of the Possible\nCX innovation sits at the intersection of customer need and the ever-changing landscape of what is technically possible. It\u2019s too abstract for CX professionals to define requirements and ask IT to figure out how to make them work if the CX teams don't have a good sense of what they have to work with. New technologies from Artificial Intelligence (AI) to Virtual Reality to In-memory computing make it possible to do things today that were impractical just a year or two ago.\u00a0 But IT can\u2019t be expected to \u201cbrief\u201d CX professionals on every technology in the world. Instead, the process needs to be a collaboration of those studying what customers need and those studying what technology is newly enabling so that they can pool their knowledge and find new intersections where value can be created for the customer and for the company. That only happens when IT is intimately involved in the ongoing process of considering the next generation CX.\n2. Understanding Level of Effort and Dependencies for Prioritization and Planning\nIn an enterprise, there are typically many systems and many simultaneous programs going on that impact what can be implemented, when it can be implememented and with what level of effort. CX teams need to be constantly considering how their visions intersect with the technical reality of enterprise IT to develop CX roadmaps that aggressively bring new capabilities to market, but don\u2019t crash headlong into other initiatives, system upgrades, or compliance issues.\nFurthermore, CX design requires the continuous balancing of the customer's optimal experience and various business considerations, including the cost of implementing new capabilities and the cost of supporting them. A significant component of these cost factors is IT. Therefore, there is a constant and ongoing need to both understand from IT what the level of effort might be for any given enhancement, and perhaps even more importantly, IT should be a creative collaborator in thinking about how to optimize technical approaches so that great CX ideas\u00a0can\u00a0be implemented with a sensible value equation. To do this effectively, IT can't just \u201ccost out\u201d requirements provided by the business, but needs to be \u201con the inside\u201d to understand what is really trying to be accomplished. Sometimes the answer that works economically relies on a different set of requirements than that which was initially envisioned, and an engaged senior IT partner can get creative with their colleagues to search for the best value equation.\n3. Measuring CX\nMeasurement is a huge component of CX.\u00a0 The goal of CX is to move the customer through a journey from awareness to consideration to purchase to advocacy and loyalty. Many discreet components make up this journey across many touchpoints: the emails sent to customers, individual features of an app, the information available to call center representatives, and the way returns are handled.\u00a0 The constant obsession of CX professionals is, "How do we make this process better so the customer is more delighted and the business outcome is even more robust?"\u00a0 But to do so, it is essential to constantly measure the impact of each individual component of the customer's mindset and behavior.\u00a0 Measuring these many interactions is often complex, because it requires collecting data across many different touchpoints and then being able to correlate it so as to figure out the puzzle of causality. That requires understanding enterprise data and how to connect it across very diverse systems\u2015an expertise that IT needs to bring to the table.\nIn addition to the enterprise systems themselves, there are many excellent and deeply technical tools that support the CX measurement process.\u00a0 CIOs need to be deeply involved in these systems just as they would in finance or HR systems. I spoke with David McBride, a CX expert and Director of Product Management at IBM who argued, \u201cCIOs have long been focused on creating technology to help businesses operate; when they participate in the CX process, they get to see data or even videos ofcustomers and how they may be struggling to move through the current customer journey.\u201d\u00a0 IBM's Behavioral Analytics tool (formerly known as Tealeaf), for example,\u00a0offers tools that record user sessions for analytical purposes. McBride notes, \u201cThere is nothing like seeing a session replayed to illustrate the extent of a particular struggle.\u201d\n4. True End-to-End Perspective\nLastly, in enterprises very often there isn\u2019t just one CX initiative, but many, focused on different products, channels, touchpoints, or customer segments. The office of the CIO can often make sure that the\u00a0ultimate\u00a0customer experience is achieved by making sure that there is cohesion to both the technology and also the management of data across these different initiatives.\nI spoke with Angela Wells, Senior Director, CX at Oracle about this, \u201cAt Oracle, what we have seen is that the CIO can and should be essential to CX decisions. What has happened at a lot of bigger companies is that they have made many \u2018one off\u2019 decisions about what they thought were best-in-breed solutions in separate [areas of the business], and then the data didn\u2019t talk to each other. It all got pretty sporadic and expensive, and it didn\u2019t\u00a0really deliver the customer experience [desired]. So, what we have found is that CIOs have become a centralized source for thinking about what's going to happen to that data. \u00a0They are thinking more of an umbrella; what's best for the whole company, not just what's best for my little niche?\u201d\nAs small steps in customer experience grow into a larger program, you run the risk of chaos if there isn\u2019t someone with the broader perspective. Dimitry Grenader, VP Product Marketing\u00a0at\u00a0Luminoso, a leading player in the AI arena, expressed this passionately, \u201cIn this day and age, CX should not just be left to marketers. Software is eating the world, and being able to put together the right platform will ultimately determine the success or failure of the efforts. Everything in today's world starts as a feature, then becomes a product, which in turn becomes a platform, and finally becomes the operating system. If you don\u2019t have the right operating system you are building a castle on the sand. I believe that a CIO must at the very least be a strong stakeholder, if not the driver of the CX process.\u201d\nOracle's Wells summed up this shift in terms of the evolving role of the CIO in our new digitally transformed world, \u201cIf you are thinking of the CIO as that straight tech-minded person, you are going to miss out on that more modern CIO that is a Chief Innovation Officer who takes responsibility to figure out how we make the most of what we are spending on technology to deliver the best customer experience.\u201d\n5. Changing the Way IT operates\nFinally, the level of transformation required to enable enterprises to deliver on their customer\u2019s digital expectations may require significant transformation in many facets of how IT operates, so its important for the CIO to deeply understand this differ\nas Forrester Vice President and Research Group Director Sharyn Leaver summed it up, \u201cCompelling experiences, delivered digitally, separate CX winners from laggards. Firms that lead their industries on customer experience aggressively embrace business technologies to help win, serve, and retain customers \u2014 and they do so at rapid pace. This requires intense involvement from CIOs and their teams. Not at an arms length. But through ongoing collaboration and innovation.\n\u201cCX brings new prominence to technology\u2019s role, but also new pressures on CIOs. The pervasive need for digital experiences exposes old systems, static organizations, and especially outmoded cultures that cannot deliver at the speed of the customer. For the CIO, this is much more daunting than merely spinning up a digital or mobile team. For many, success will require an overhaul of their organization \u2013 the people, processes, governance and technology itself.\u201d\nDisclosure: Several links in this post are to articles on the website of my company\u00a0FROM, The Digital Transformation Agency.