Five key skills for modern CIOs to master in the CX revolution
Traditionally businesses would compete on the basis of price and value for money, but fast forward to 2018 and cust...
By Sanjeev Jain, CIO-EMEA, Verizon.
Traditionally businesses would compete on the basis of price and value for money, but fast forward to 2018 and customer experience has become a main factor.
Today’s consumers are digitally savvy and demand a seamless experience when parting with their money. To meet this demand companies are investing heavily in new technologies such as big data, AI (artificial intelligence) and machine learning to improve their ability to deliver the experiences customers expect.
New technology is shaping customer experience (CX) in ways that were unimaginable a few years ago. As a result, the role of the Chief Information Officer (CIO) is also undergoing big changes. An imperative for any CIO now also includes driving customer experience (CX) through technology investments. Instead of focusing on the insular ways of old, CIOs should understand the drivers of digital transformation and work across all departments to lead a company’s digital CX strategies.
The rapid evolution of digital CX
Picture this scenario; say you invite your colleagues over for dinner and you decide to purchase ingredients online. One supermarket lets you place orders directly through a smartphone app. A second store allows you to do the same, but also additionally analyses your last purchase and predicts exactly what you need. A third supermarket does all these things, but also guarantees delivery within a one-hour timeframe. Which supermarket will win your hard-earned money?
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Consumer choice often comes down to a few minutes saved. The smallest delay or out-dated choices tends to be associated with a poor customer experience. A positive digital CX needs to be delivered across multiple channels and devices so customers can make purchases how and when they please, convenience is king. New technologies make it possible to create a personalised customer self-service experience that provides unlimited access, speed and convenience. With the next wave of new technologies already entering the market - Blockchain, artificial intelligence, 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 ground-breaking CX, both the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) and CIO need to jointly answer the question: why should consumers choose our brand? Today’s CIOs should be fully engaged in the end-to-end process and stay at the forefront of technological innovation to produce a truly customer focused approach.
Here are five key skills and strategies today’s CIOs need to master.
1. Integrating Customer Experience within IT
The IT department is sometimes unfortunately seen as the lone wolf amongst the other parts of the business. This culture is being forced 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 against company objectives. Staying aligned with the business will enable stakeholders to stay focused on common CX objectives and drive a culture of internal collaboration.
2. Building a strong rapport with your CMO
More investments are being prioritised by the CMO because businesses tend to lean more on marketing campaigns that deliver successful transformation results and enable growth. As a result, CIOs need to be investing in customer experience improvements which will help achieve the business’ priorities. CIOs have to adapt quickly and modify their approach from a traditional enterprise resource planning (ERP) delivery model to a strategy that is more agile and contemporary, where CX improvements can be implemented quickly. The relationships between functional leaders and CMOs are more relevant today than ever before because the ability for all leaders to communicate in business terms enables all areas to deliver accelerated business outcomes.
3. Understand the customer journey
Customers should be at the heart and soul of every business strategy. The best way of focusing on the customer is by envisioning their desired outcome (or customer experience) and working backwards to create a solution. No one knows the business process better than the IT team does—they designed, architected, built and now support it. Being agile by continuously working to understand the customer journey and responding with relevant solutions allows businesses to connect directly with customers and solicit honest feedback when new digital CX initiatives are rolled out.
4. Leverage big data and AI
CIOs need to take full advantage of the wealth of data available to them, especially as innovations such as the IoT are set to significantly increase the volume and variety available to them. The rise of innovative technologies such as AI will help organisations to make sense of this data and develop actionable insights from it. Never rely on preconceived notions of who your customers are—their expectations are constantly evolving, and your technology needs to evolve with them.
5. Build an experienced team
The secret mantra to succeed in business is to surround yourself with smart people. 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 transformation we experience in the world around is not about how well we manage each touch point but instead working together to transform the way we are serving our customers.
SAS: Improving the British Army’s decision making with data
SAS’ long-standing relationship with the British Army is built on mutual respect and grounded by a reciprocal understanding of each others’ capabilities, strengths, and weaknesses. Roderick Crawford, VP and Country GM for SAS UKI, states that the company’s thorough grasp of the defence sector makes it an ideal partner for the Army as it undergoes its own digital transformation.
“Major General Jon Cole told us that he wanted to enable better, faster decision-making in order to improve operational efficiency,” he explains. Therefore, SAS’ task was to help the British Army realise the “significant potential” of data through the use of artificial intelligence (AI) to automate tasks and conduct complex analysis.
In 2020, the Army invested in the SAS ‘Viya platform’ as an overture to embarking on its new digital roadmap. The goal was to deliver a new way of working that enabled agility, flexibility, faster deployment, and reduced risk and cost: “SAS put a commercial framework in place to free the Army of limits in terms of their access to our tech capabilities.”
Doing so was important not just in terms of facilitating faster innovation but also, in Crawford’s words, to “connect the unconnected.” This means structuring data in a simultaneously secure and accessible manner for all skill levels, from analysts to data engineers and military commanders. The result is that analytics and decision-making that drives innovation and increases collaboration.
Crawford also highlights the importance of the SAS platform’s open nature, “General Cole was very clear that the Army wanted a way to work with other data and analytics tools such as Python. We allow them to do that, but with improved governance and faster delivery capabilities.”
SAS realises that collaboration is at the heart of a strong partnership and has been closely developing a long-term roadmap with the Army. “Although we're separate organisations, we come together to work effectively as one,” says Crawford. “Companies usually find it very easy to partner with SAS because we're a very open, honest, and people-based business by nature.”
With digital technology itself changing with great regularity, it’s safe to imagine that SAS’ own relationship with the Army will become even closer and more diverse. As SAS assists it in enhancing its operational readiness and providing its commanders with a secure view of key data points, Crawford is certain that the company will have a continually valuable role to play.
“As warfare moves into what we might call ‘the grey-zone’, the need to understand, decide, and act on complex information streams and diverse sources has never been more important. AI, computer vision and natural language processing are technologies that we hope to exploit over the next three to five years in conjunction with the Army.”
Fundamentally, data analytics is a tool for gaining valuable insights and expediting the delivery of outcomes. The goal of the two parties’ partnership, concludes Crawford, will be to reach the point where both access to data and decision-making can be performed qualitatively and in real-time.
“SAS is absolutely delighted to have this relationship with the British Army, and across the MOD. It’s a great privilege to be part of the armed forces covenant.”