CIOs need to prioritize intelligence, innovation and customer experience

Defining the new metrics relevant to your business’s bottom line is one thing, but how do you determine what to focus on in order to drive real change?

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As we discussed in a previous post, CIOs can begin to make the IT function a strategic partner supporting business objectives by changing how and what we choose to measure. Once your team is working to metrics that are more relevant to a business’s bottom line though, how can you determine what areas to focus on in order to drive real change? How should you prioritize the most important areas of focus? And how do you separate and minimize “chore” activities that just create unnecessary churn?

The challenge is clear. Far too many CIOs that I speak with on a regular basis say the same thing: they’re struggling with tactical questions and are too mired in day-to-day decision-making. They aren’t free to really concentrate on the priorities, if they even have the time to determine them in the first place. Such questions should be familiar for CIOs: Should we operate our own data centers? Should we continue to have our own software development shop or outsource it? There’s clearly not a one-size-fits-all answer for these types of questions. If a data center is generating revenue for a business, then of course you should continue running it. But that may not be the case for another CIO in a different industry or situation.

CIOs looking to break out of this cycle must focus on intelligence, innovation and customer experience. In other words, any IT action or tool that supports one or more of these areas should be viewed as critical for business success. Tomorrow’s enterprises will thrive on intelligence – either through data analytics, smart devices or human capital – innovation and creating an experience for the customer they value and that inspires their loyalty.

This is a big challenge. Today’s CIO role has evolved to require much deeper involvement in many more facets of an organization as we look for ways to make things run more smoothly, be more efficient and leverage new technologies. This is particularly true when it comes to improving the customer experience, as consumers today are demanding consistent, digitally based experiences. Even something as simple as a retailer offering free in-store pickup for online orders can vastly improve the customer experience. But to provide that level of service, the CIO of a major retailer, for example, has to ensure there is consistency across systems, employee training, communication channels and more.

We can’t just sit back and wait for other business leaders to raise the needs of our organizations. CIOs must innovate proactively and put the right technology in place to drive their organization forward and build a strong customer relationship. If a CIO fails to do that, then their company misses valuable opportunities to deepen customer satisfaction and loyalty.

The first step a CIO must take to improve in this area is to identify which decisions impact these core areas, then work backwards to provide a solution. Or, in other words, what is “core” and what is “chore”? It is critical that CIOs are thinking at a high level about the “core.” Only then can IT can begin to move away from the “break and fix” cycle that encourage “chore” activities.

Again, proper metrics can be a helpful guide. If our performance, and the performance of our team, is measured on things that encourage tactical behavior, that is what a business will receive. A CIO does have the ability to accelerate the customer experience, but it requires courage. It often demands making decisions contrary to how you might be measured. It will likely make others within the business uncomfortable. But ultimately, those CIOs that have the courage and vision to work towards making a real business impact will be far more valued than those continuing to hit targets that ultimately add little to a business.

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