by Cio Executive Council

3 Ways CIOs Work With Sales to Create Innovative Solutions

Nov 30, 20124 mins

How IT leaders are recruiting ideas, building trust and embracing lessons learned when building tools sales teams want to use.

Here are three ways innovative CIOs are recruiting ideas, building trust and embracing lessons learned when building tools sales teams want to use.

1. Get Continual Input

Sheryl Fikse, CIO, Southwire: Almost a year ago, we set out to ensure that our salespeople are better equipped than anyone else who could call on a customer. We created two new tablet applications that provide real-time access to the information we hold on customers and inventory. The customer-focused app rolled out in June and the configuration-management app went live in September, and we’re seeing an amazing rate of adoption.

This could not have happened without significant involvement from leaders throughout the company. In fact, the vision for the configuration-management application actually came from the president of our largest division. During development, we continually demonstrated the apps to the teams of business staff assigned to each initiative, and their feedback and suggestions made both applications stronger in both big and little ways.

For example, one regional vice president shared a thought when we were fairly far into development of the customer application: It would be good if we labeled the various elements in addition to color-coding them, because some people are color blind. Those kinds of ideas make as much of a difference as input on necessary elements or processes. And now we are constantly receiving emails from users throughout the business saying, “Great app!”

2. Learn to Create Trust

Steve Smith, Senior VP and CIO, TBC Corp.: TBC provides tires, brakes and automotive services to consumers and dealers under a number of brands, including Merchant’s Tire and Auto Centers on the East Coast of the United States and Midas across North America. Looking for a new point-of-sale system for our more than 4,000 locations, there was nothing available in the market, so we created a cloud solution that would make the interface easy and intuitive.

The enhanced Web page looks like a mobile application, and it’s designed to create an interactive experience that raises B players to A players, and to make our A players exceptional.

This was the brainchild of me and two of my peers from the retail operations group. They brought valuable insight at that top level because they oversee all the automotive service centers across our brands.

In essence, we built a guided selling system. It automatically populates information on each car based on the vehicle identification number and prompts the salesperson about the products and services for that car based on information in 35 back-end data feeds. Trust is a big deal in our industry, and this interactive tool lets our salespeople be experts and our customers feel confident that they are getting a great deal. (For more, see “Yes, CIOs Can Be Moneymakers.”)

3. Embrace Unexpected Lessons

Tim Elkins, CIO, PrimeLending: We knew two years ago that we were outgrowing our loan origination systems, and we had three main criteria for a new one. First, it had to be Web-based to reduce maintenance and ensure accessibility. Second, it needed to be an end-to-end system that could support the entire loan lifecycle. Lastly, the system had to be scalable. Leaving behind smaller, more familiar systems was the hardest thing to get our users on board with.

After IT narrowed down the viable vendors, our head of national production picked a committee of about 10 loan officers. This group helped with the final selection and testing of each component as we developed them. However, even with all this up-front work, we found that we hadn’t headed off resistance from the field. Many were not used to having a workflow and rules-based system, which they felt slowed them down. On top of this, there was significant missing functionality that had not been identified by the committee.

This does not mean the software didn’t work. Change will always breed resistance, but having the business involved from the outset was critical. We are taking the same approach with the mobile solution now under development, with that prior experience at the top of our minds. 

Follow everything from on Twitter @CIOonline, on Facebook, and on Google +.