The Three Factors Central to Every Successful CIO

Being a successful CIO means excelling with technical prowess, business acumen, and customer centricity.

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Adobe Stock

At Adobe Summit, I participated in a panel discussion with Accenture CIO Andrew Wilson and Intuit CIO Atticus Tysen, to discuss the evolving role of the CIO with enterprise digitization.

In addressing what it takes to be a successful CIO, insights spanned across three key areas: technical prowess, business acumen, customer centricity.

To me, this is the triumvirate for success. To excel as a CIO in this data-driven, experience-first landscape, you need to build upon your technical expertise, be closely aligned to the business, and put the customer front and center.

If you achieve this, you’ll be able to guide your processes and decisions, orchestrate the right technology for business advantage, and create outstanding experiences for IT workers, your internal clients, and your end customers.

Know your technology and what comes next

Ideally, CIOs should be guiding their internal partners toward the right technology — and that doesn’t mean ditching your legacy technology all at once. Instead, it’s a process of looking at what technology you have, evolving it, and breaking it apart into different micro-services that you need in order to be resilient.

Here, Andrew said, “We, as CIOs, are experts in the businesses we serve. We actually have to understand more about the business than anyone so that we can insert the technology in clever, meaningful, sticky, secure, and scalable ways when it’s ready.”

For example, if you can’t be cloud native right away, you can at least start with being cloud enabled. Then go through the journey to get your apps and services there and eventually you will be cloud native.

This can be a perplexing process but you’d be surprised at what your teams can do given the space to learn from failure and the opportunity to experiment and create. I’m always amazed at the brilliant and quick solutions people can come up with.

Leverage critical business acumen

As a CIO, you also need to understand the business goals, outcomes, and vision of your organization, so you can put in the right data strategy and be a true partner to the business, said Atticus. He recommended getting a clean pipe of data to answer one question, then another, then another.

This is exactly the route we took when we tested Adobe Experience Platform with our internal Creative Cloud Support Team. The team required up-to-the-minute access to key customer data housed across the organization — from Adobe Experience Cloud, CRM, ERP, commerce, sales, product usage, and more.

With the right data brought together, support reps now can understand a customer’s opportunity areas and where they might be facing challenges. But the benefits don’t end there. The IT team that provides support for Creative Cloud solutions now has a single source of data that is fulfilling internal requests for many other uses across the organization — and it all started with one business need.

Focus on customer centricity

You can’t really know your customers unless you understand their journey — what it takes for them to interact with you. As CIO, it’s essential to know when and where customers digitally interact with your brand.

If you take a step back and walk a mile in your customers’ collective shoes, you can gain a level of empathy and understanding of what your customers are experiencing. IT needs to be a powerful advocate for the customer and provide technology that removes the friction in customer interactions. This will instantly elevate your customer experiences.

We’re all getting more sophisticated with data, especially with subscription or SaaS models. Adobe has moved to the cloud and away from boxed software, for example, which enables us to better serve and understand customer needs. Now, we have real-time knowledge of who our customers are and can build relationships with them in different ways. But it’s not just real-time data for you, it’s also real-time engagement for your customers, so you need to re-engineer your systems to support customers in an always-on environment.

For example, if you have a 24/7 e-commerce site, you can’t shut down your ERP system for eight hours on a Saturday due to maintenance needs. You have to actively work to shield your customers from these disruptions and ensure their experiences are always live and always positive.

Orchestrate success

Ultimately, that invisibility of IT is part of the positive customer experience — whether inside your organization or for your external customers. Andrew notes that “IT at work should feel like IT at home and IT in the rest of the world.” If that happens, you can be assured you’re doing a great job! You’re the orchestrator that enables the business with tools and technology so they can easily do what they need to do. Additional perspectives about IT leadership can be found here.

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