Digital innovation & the changing role of the CIO

Today many CIOs are going through an identity crisis. The crossroads that CIOs find themselves in is driven by the mainstream proliferation and consumerization of technology. In other words, now everyone is a technology “guru”. The question then becomes: where do CIOs go from here? How do they reinvent themselves to become even more relevant? Luckily, with crisis always comes opportunity. I believe that CIOs must transform their roles to encompass the roles of Chief Data Officer and Chief Innovation Officer, or they risk becoming irrelevant. The Chief Innovation Officer of tomorrow must build teams and environments that foster an entrepreneurial spirit and make it safe to experiment and make mistakes. They must collaborate with Chief Marketing Officers (CMOs) and other stakeholders in the organization to transform their operations into a digital business. Make it easy for customers to find you and do business with you.

There are many ways to define innovation:

  • A change that results in significant transformation of business processes
  • Complete transformation of how products or services are offered (business model innovation)
  • Doing new things or creating new products and services
  • Optimizing existing processes

For the purposes of this post, we will consider it innovation when the change touches customer engagement or revenue streams.

In most companies today, technology is used to automate business processes and accelerate decision-making by having accurate information available to those who need it on a timely basis. It is a foregone conclusion that this is squarely the responsibility of enterprise IT or the Chief Technology Officer. In order for CIOs to go beyond this responsibility and be drivers of growth of their businesses, they need to embrace and lead digital innovation. They need to go from being an enabler of the business to becoming THE business. One way to do this is by leveraging Gartner’s SMAC Nexus of Forces to transform the customer engagement model. Social, Mobile, Analytics and Cloud (SMAC) technologies present fantastic ways of connecting with customers, gaining insights and delivering personalized customer experiences:

  • Use Big Data and Analytics to better understand your customer profile, their behavioural patterns (online and otherwise), what they want, how they want to be reached (email, popup, text messages, agent call) and when (day of week and time of day.) Analytics is the most powerful enabler of the Nexus of Forces. It helps you create a personalized customer experience using social, mobile and cloud technologies. Most successful businesses agree that their data is their biggest asset. This may be a way to monetize data and measure return on your data
  • Use social media to create real-time customer-engaging experiences, measure sentiment trends towards your brand, and engage them in two-way forums to elicit not just their feedback but also ideas for product development, essentially outsourcing to your customers the R in R&D
  • Use mobile technologies to develop applications for your customers to use in order to nurture brand loyalty and make it their first choice. If I have a specific coffee-brand app on my phone, I am more likely to use it to look up the nearest store. The app can then make it easier for me to use this brand first and use it always by pushing promotions and discounts and allowing me to e-pay. Combine contextual mobility with analytics and now the app knows my coffee preferences and the time of day I usually have it. Now there is an opportunity for the application to let me know of a nearby store as I drive to the office and offer to pre-place the order for me. I just have to pick it up at the drive-through
  • Use cloud to quickly develop, deploy and scale these customer engagement solutions without the need for capital-intensive projects.

Now it’s your turn to participate and turn this post into a discussion piece. Is your role changing? How are you using technology to help your company grow? Are you leveraging the Nexus of Forces? What are some lessons learned?

While the thoughts and opinions expressed here are my personal opinions, I credit publications from Gartner, Harvard Business Review and McKinsey & Company for helping me shape them.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada
Sherif Sheta
Sherif Sheta
Sherif Sheta is a turnaround CIO and transformational IT leader who believes that information technology is achieving greater purpose within the corporate culture, becoming the competitive advantage, not merely an enabler of business objectives. He excels in the design, implementation, and execution of IT strategies that break down organizational silos, foster collaboration, convincingly build consensus, and drive positive change. Eminently relatable, Sherif leads by example, leveraging digital innovation to unleash creativity, generate new product ideas, heighten connectivity with customers, and grow the business.

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