With a phone in every pocket and a tablet in every home, the consumer population must be recognized as a major player in the IT community. Ripple effects of this technology-heavy society are being felt at the CIO level. As a new global C-suite study from IBM predicts, CIOs can expect to become more and more customer-focused rather than focusing only on tech issues within the company.
Changes to the CIO Role
The IBM report details three key business trends shaping the role of the CIO toward customer interaction and responsiveness:
- Consumers wield more power and have more opportunities to give tech-related feedback.
- Businesses feel mounting pressure and motivation to innovate in digital strategies.
- Businesses are recognizing that digital tools and content need to actively engage the customer.
More than two-thirds of CIOs hope to spend more of their energy enhancing the customer experience in the coming years. While business office digitization remains a vital concern for more than 80% of CIOs, even more want to focus on gaining insights into their consumers. This is reflected in a huge uptick in the number of CIOs who told IBM that they need to increase their focus on customer engagement and satisfaction.
So, what will the shift toward a customer focus look like? While IT officers currently report that physical interaction is the main platform for customer engagement, digital interaction has been climbing and will supplant face-to-face within five years. By then, an estimated 92% of organizations will operate with digital methods as their main customer interaction.
With nearly everyone connected by devices, the mobile platform stands alone as a primary focus for CIOs moving forward. Smartphones and tablets represent the possibility of combining the mobile and physical experience: either medium is able to draw in the consumer.
All this interconnectivity and integration means that the CIO will be thrust further into the role of collaboration with other C-level executives. Gone are the days when the CIO was an outlier in the boardroom.
Consumer Focus Shifts the C-Suite
The CIO of the coming years should expect to be more involved with others in the C-suite to collaborate on projects seamlessly. “One big change is accessibility,” says Ford CIO Nick Smither. “IT didn’t always have an equal seat at the table. Now, my peers are far more tech-savvy.”
Ian Wong of IBM sees the opportunity for a unique partnership between the CIO and his or her CEO and CMO. For 2013, 86% of overperformers featured a close connection between the CIO and CEO, while 53% of overperformers had a close bond between CIO and CMO. Working with the CEO is more crucial than ever because businesses’ digital strategies have gained increased attention, requiring CIO input and creating greater value in the position.
The marketing officer and the information officer in particular have an opportunity for collaboration, as Wong recommends. When a business needs to provide an outstanding consumer experience, the CMO and CIO can work together to craft the most effective digital strategy. The CMO can provide the context of organizational vision and a picture of the customer base, and the CIO can implement the most appropriate methods to reach that customer base and provide the best experience.