What customer-centric IT really looks like

CIOs are making cultural and organizational changes to forge a direct connection between IT and end customers as part of their charter to boost digital innovation.

When Bernie Gracy took the tech leader reins at Agero, his first order of business was to take stock of the company’s extensive technology portfolio and spend the day riding around in a tow truck.

Agero, a digital platform for connected vehicle, roadside assistance, and claims management services, serves automotive OEMs, insurance companies, and an extensive network of roadside assistance companies. To understand the various customer constituencies, Gracy embraced a number of ethnography-based practices, including the day-in-the-life tow truck driver excursion. The ride-along experience empowered the Agero team to deliver platform innovations keyed to solving the drivers’ principal pain points — specifically, streamlining operations, providing better customer service, and achieving the work/life balance that was proving so elusive.

“Living in your customers’ shoes is the best way to inform the set of business strategies, offerings, and services a company can deliver,” Gracy explains. “It’s all about taking an outside-in role and living the experience of our service through the customers’ lens.”

CIOs have long had customer requirements in their sights, but leaders like Gracy are taking a broader view of customer centricity, promoting techniques and making cultural and organizational changes that create a direct line of engagement between IT and the end customer. Traditionally, IT organizations have primarily concentrated on delivering enterprise solutions and support strategies that meet the needs of internal employees. Customer-centric IT organizations are expanding that charter to account for the needs of external partners and consumers as they build out their digital product and service portfolios.

“Before it was about servicing the internal customers who were serving our external customers,” Gracy says. “As we digitize, the internal gatekeeper role goes away and you engage straight through with customers. You have to link internal business processes to experiences those personas want to have.”

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