Instrumented Interconnecteds Intelligent

Peter J. Korsten,  Global Leader, IBM Institute for Business Value

Peter J. Korsten, Global Leader, IBM Institute for Business Value

By Peter J. Korsten

From high profile security breaches to technology failing in major product launches, CIOs are being pulled into the world of customer experience and engagement. CIOs formerly were “masters of the back office” making sure computers that didn’t crash, networks were fast and supply chains that didn’t lose products. That’s all changed as much of that day-to-day IT functionality has been automated and mastered. In fact, 66 percent of CIOs think their IT departments have mastered the basics of tech according to a new IBM report.

With customers gaining a virtual seat at the board room table over 60 percent of CIOs intend to focus more heavily on improving the customer experience and getting closer to customers. The study reveals that there is no distinction between business strategy and the customer experience

More and more often, CIOs are feeling the heat for breaches in security that lead to customer data being compromised. They even are being held responsible for products not functioning properly since so many products rely on real-time information to perform.

Take a GPS, which these days is connected to the cloud to provide accurate and real-time traffic and road conditions. CIOs are responsible to make sure that cloud is up and running and the data it’s providing is accurate. Performance of products is directly tied to customer satisfaction thus CIOs are now part of the equation.

These insights emerged via 1,656 face-to-face interviews IBM conducted with CIOs as part of the company’s CIO study. It seems that most CIOs are seeing this new environment as an exposure for their business and an opportunity for innovation. IBM has been encouraging and advising the top technology officers within businesses and governments ever since the role emerged along with the rise of computing in the 1950s.

Where does opportunity exist for CIOs in this new model? CIOs have been the curators of companies’ most important asset – data. They understand it like no one else, know how it got there and how to best access it. With the shift to a more “Customer-Activated” model, their ability to act as a steward of and innovator with data will be essential. That is why our research found that more than 80 percent of CIOs report they are shifting their focus to the front office where marketing, sales and service managers work directly with customers.

CIOs can help their companies navigate this new era by making their organizations more responsive digitally and relevant, all while protecting the brand and customers data. Cloud, mobile and social are quickly emerging across the enterprise and each of these relies on data to be most effectively used. Also, data will be the basis of competitive advantage if CIOs can help their C-suite colleagues to launch new business models.

The study identified three critical drivers of success:

1) Engage digital savvy customers: CIOs need to be at the head of helping their companies know customers better. Many companies have plenty of data — carefully collected from social networks, apps, Web sites, supply chains — but what they lack is actionable insight. The key will be crunching all the relevant information to create an action plan.

2) Shine at the basics: CIOs have to get all the basics right before turning their focus to business strategy. More than 50 percent of the CIOs we spoke with say their big data platforms, which underpin their businesses, aren’t yet scalable or extensible. Meantime, when it comes to handling nuts and bolts, CIOs are learning to master the challenge of managing IT risk.

3) Build new systems of engagement inside and out: It’s not just what people know that makes them valuable, it’s what they share. When employees, suppliers, and partners cooperate, they’re more productive and innovative. Some 70 percent of CIOs expect to work with a broader group of partners in the future – not to boost efficiency or cut costs, but to bolster strategy. Mobile computing will play a big role in building these new systems of engagement.

To learn more about IBM’s c-suite studies visit: www.ibm.com/csuitestudy.
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