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CIOs need to embrace digital customer experience (CX), otherwise CIO will stand for “Career Is Over”

Published: Oct 03, 2017
Author: Vic Bhagat 


Today’s consumers have more power than ever before, with a multitude of digital tools at their disposal. They demand a seamless experience across all of their smart devices and channels. In response, companies are leveraging big data, artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning to meet rising consumer expectations. Digital disruption is shaping customer experience (CX) in ways that were unimaginable 10 years ago.

With these changes, the role of the Chief Information Officer (CIO) is also undergoing a big transformation. Our job is no longer just about managing IT. We have an increasing mandate to drive CX through technology investment, and I’ve seen CIOs who are struggling to keep pace with these changes. They’re clinging to the old and insular way of doing things, instead of working across organizations and leading their company’s digital CX strategies.

And this is a mistake. If you don’t embrace CX at every level of your business strategy, CIO could stand for “career is over.”

The rapid evolution of digital CX

Last week I made a snap decision to invite my colleagues over for dinner. I needed wine and groceries fast, but I didn’t want to battle the rush hour traffic. I scanned the internet and compared options. One supermarket let me place orders directly through my smartphone app. A second store did the same, but also analyzed my last purchase and predicted exactly what I needed. A third supermarket did all of these things, but also guaranteed delivery within a one-hour timeframe.

Which one do you think I chose? In our fast-paced world of digital innovation, consumer choice often comes down to a few minutes saved. The smallest delay or outdated choices can lead to a poor customer experience.

To put the importance of digital CX in perspective, a recent study found that the majority of consumers who reported an excellent customer experience were likely to repurchase. Outstanding CX isn’t just nice to have—it’s crucial if you want to stay competitive.

Positive digital CX needs to be delivered across multiple channels and devices so customers can make purchases when and how they please. Convenience is king. And with the next wave of digital disruption already in motion—blockchain, the Internet of Things (IoT) and 5G networks—CX will become an even stronger competitive differentiator.

How can CIOs embrace digital CX?

In a world of groundbreaking CX, why should consumers choose your brand?

Such questions were once the domain of the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO). But with digital transformation, CIOs can no longer afford to look the other way. Today’s CIOs need to be fully engaged in the end-to-end process and stay at the forefront of technological innovation and enable an omnichannel experience that the customer demands and deserves.

Here are the key skills and strategies today’s CIOs need to master.

Create a digital “CX culture” within IT

Traditionally, IT has been separate from marketing and other parts of the business that focus on CX. This culture needs to change. CIOs need to train their teams on contemporary skills that include CX concepts, consumer data analytics and communication so they can connect with business leaders on their terms. Likewise, CIOs should realign metrics to measure business outcomes. Staying aligned with the business enables all stakeholders to stay focused on common CX objectives and drive a culture of collaboration.

Build a close relationship with your CMO

More investments are being prioritized by the CMO because businesses lean more on them to deliver on digital transformation and enable growth. As a result, CIOs are shifting investment priorities toward business outcomes and customer experience improvements. CIOs have to adapt quickly to this phenomenon, and modify their approach from a traditional enterprise resource planning (ERP) delivery model to a strategy that’s more agile and contemporary. The relationships between functional leaders and CMOs are more relevant today than before, because the ability for all leaders to communicate in business terms enables all areas to deliver accelerated business outcomes.

Understand the customer journey

Customers should be at the heart of your strategy. The best way of focusing on the customer is by envisioning the desired outcome (or customer experience), and working backwards to create the solution. No one knows the business process better than IT—we designed it, architected it, built it and now support it. We should know the “as-is” design, architect the “to-be” and then digitize the process to reduce the cycle time and deliver great CX. Being agile by continuously working to understand the customer journey and responding with relevant solutions allows us to connect directly with customers, and solicit honest feedback when new digital CX initiatives are rolled out.

Leverage big data and AI

CIOs need to take full advantage of the wealth of data available to them—which is growing rapidly thanks to IoT and social media. The rise of AI will help organizations to make sense of this data and develop actionable insights from it. Partnering with the CMO, we need to become experts in customer data analytics and forecasting. Never rely on preconceived notions of who your customers are—their expectations are constantly evolving, and your technology needs to evolve with them.

Surround yourself with people smarter than yourself

I’m a firm believer that to succeed in business, we should surround ourselves with people who hold more knowledge than we may possess. This means networking with other CIOs and technology executives who are paving the way in CX innovation, to share knowledge and learn from each other’s successes.

The world’s top CIOs will gather at the Gartner Symposium/ITxpo in Orlando from October 1-5, 2017, to share their expertise and gain a strategic view of the emerging trends shaping IT and business. It’s a great opportunity to network with your peers and industry leaders, and learn new ways to put the customer at the heart of your digital CX strategy. I hope to see you there.


Vic Bhagat is Senior Vice President and global CIO of Verizon Enterprise. As a member of the Executive Leadership Team, Vic focuses on innovation, product development and technological systems, helping Verizon Enterprise lead digital acceleration with customer-centered solutions.