The CIO and IT department carry the reputation of being the obstructionist party vetoing most internal customer requests. So it’s ironic that CIOs manage and support every piece of software that touches external customers – call centers, billing systems, sales support – despite not having close relationships with customer experience (CX) executives.
“The head of digital CX at a financial services provider in Australia was specifically directed by her CEO not to work with the tech team, as it would just slow her down – and the CEO was right,” says Forrester analyst Tim Sheedy, in a research note. “The CIO operated ‘slow IT,’ could not support the pace of change that the CX team required, and was ultimately replaced.”
For CIOs and channel partners serving companies with CX in their crosshairs, a shift to a customer-centric mindset can mean the difference between being at the heart of the business or standing in the unemployment line. Technology and CX go hand-in-hand, and so they must play well together. It’s up to the CIO to change the perception of IT and repair relationships with CX teams.
In the digital world, disruption to CX happens in a hurry. This means CIOs must shake off slow processes, such as requests for proposal that extend sales cycles by months. At a marketing event in San Francisco a couple of years ago, marketers chuckled when a speaker said, “Whenever IT says the word RFP, an angel loses its wings.”
Forrester recommends CIOs build APIs to make technology systems and data easier and faster to access. Slow systems core to CX might have to be re-architected for APIs, and channel integrators can help with this.
“Inserting integration experts into CX projects will position them to better understand the requirements for data or processes that reside in back-end systems and build APIs to more easily access them,” Sheedy says.
It really boils down to nurturing customer-first thinking among technology professionals – external customers, not internal ones. Sounds easy, but it isn’t. Forrester cites an example of a bank that brought its CX team and developers together for a confab. The CX team wanted to explore customer outcomes that could be achieved quickly, while the developers focused on bug fixes and elegant technology implementations.
One way to help technology professionals think about the customer is to get them out of their comfort zone and in front of their CX peers or in the field talking to real customers. Forrester cites an example of a mobile development team spending time in branches speaking to customers, testing new ideas, getting instant feedback.
“The CIO of a large Indian automaker wanted his developers to think more about customers and their need in the development cycle, so he worked with his CX peers to have his inactive ‘on the bench’ developers sit next to the CD team when creating new products and customer experiences,” Sheedy says.
Of course, forced collaboration can backfire. A couple of years ago, a CIO told me that his company, in its quest to align marketing and IT, came up with a plan to have technologists and marketers work side-by-side. A lot was at stake, considering that marketers can hold the reins of CX. But the quiet, focused working style of IT clashed with the vocal, collaborative nature of marketers.
Perhaps a better way is to have IT and CX teams share the same metrics, not necessarily the same office space. Traditionally, IT metrics are availability, uptime, projects on time and budget. Not changes to the customer experience. Not revenue from these new experiences. But metrics need to be tweaked so that IT has skin in the CX game.
“The CIO at William Hill brought product and technology together and uses both metrics to measure the entire team,” Sheedy says. “The shared metrics include service availability and the revenue generated by new products; this helps the product team think about the technology when designing new products and helps the tech team think about the customer when delivering solutions.”
Based in Silicon Valley, Tom Kaneshige writes the Zero One blog covering digital transformation, AI, marketing tech and the Internet of Things for line-of-business executives. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.