IT has never really been about the "IT". It has always been about the business use cases in which IT is employed, and the better business outcomes it helps to deliver. In 2017, this need for better business outcomes (from IT) is more important than ever, and in every part of business operations.
So, what does this include? Well, quite simply, everything that’s done in researching, creating, delivering, marketing, selling, supporting, and improving a portfolio of business products and/or services.
The CIO's Dilemma in 2017
Right now, and for the foreseeable future, the average CIO is under serious pressure not only to:
- Keep the business running – enabling the working parts of the “enterprise machine” with fit-for-purpose technology.
- Deliver new products and/or services – that are built around new technologies and/or innovative technology use cases.
- Reduce the costs of both technology and business operations – through better financial stewardship, and the use of new technology and associated operational improvement.
- Use technology to drive competitive advantage – delivered through some or all of the above.
The CIO is also under pressure to help the corporate sales team to win, retain, and grow business (after all, what is a business without adequate sales (other than a startup). Or, more specifically, to win over customers, and to engender loyalty, wherever they might be in the sales/customer management cycles.
2017 is ultimately about “customer experience” and ensuring that every customer touchpoint and engagement is maximized for both the customer and the business.
Customer Experience as a Differentiator
I could assume that everyone knows what customer experience is in 2017; that it’s not the same as customer satisfaction. But, thanks to the Internet, a definition is only ever a click and cut-and-paste away, so here’s what Gartner describes customer experience as:
“The customer’s perceptions and related feelings caused by the one-off and cumulative effect of interactions with a supplier’s employees, systems, channels or products.”
It’s ultimately something, focused on and employed by businesses as a proven strategy for winning, retaining, and growing customers. And importantly, it’s something that applies to far more than the business’ customer service/support capability and the people who deal with customer requests for help, information, and services.
IT Versus Business Views of Needs, Performance, and Outcomes
In some ways, one could argue that CIOs can no longer take a visibility “vantage point” that only allows them to see how well their people, processes, and technology are working in IT terms (even if there are frequent interactions with other business functions to assess their needs and satisfaction). That they instead need to view the IT department from a higher vantage point – and hopefully you can visualize this as the CIO sitting atop a hill to view all business operations, not just IT, and how well these different “villages” are working together (or not). Plus, the with ability to see beyond the business functions to understand how well the business as a whole is engaging with customers at every customer touchpoint.
It’s ultimately the only way for a modern CIO to truly understand the role that IT needs to play in a business-to-consumer (B2C) marketplace, and for some companies a business-to-business (B2B) marketplace. Marketplaces that need an increased focus on customer experience. Whereas continuing to take an insular view, focusing on IT performance and outcomes, and playing Chinese Whispers with different business functions and their potentially siloed needs, will be unlikely to deliver what the business, and customers, really need.
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So, What Does This Mean at a More Granular Level?
This is an IT service management (ITSM) blogroll in the main, so ITSM is a good example to use – which I’ll do in a moment.
However, we shouldn’t forget the enormity of the CIO’s, and their team’s, task in ensuring that technology is sufficiently enabling customer experience and the pre- and post-sales processes. Whether it be:
- Optimizing the capabilities of inside and outside sales teams
- Supercharging customer support personnel with customer and product knowledge
- Speeding up and providing greater insight into the product and/or service delivery pipeline, or
- Delivering an easy-to-access-and-use online company presence – from accessing product information, through purchase, to post-sales support.
From an ITSM point of view, the question is: “How do IT service delivery and support activities effectively support business operations and the customer experience?”
Some ITSM aspects might be pretty straight forward. For instance, availability – if the right things are measured, in the right places, using the right mechanisms. But other aspects, such as IT support, might not be so clear; or at least clear across the board. Because, while some things might be pretty straightforward, such as the importance of the mean time to restore (MTTR) for the online ordering system, others will be less so. For instance, the quality and availability of IT services employed by outside sales personnel and how these impact their ability to fulfill their role and to deliver a good customer experience.
It’s an extension of what I’ve written about for a while – that “IT support” is really “people support,” “business support,” or even “customer support.” With the reality now, in an increasing customer-experienced obsessed world, that IT is ultimately delivering a better customer experience through a potentially long value, or business outcome, chain.
Which starts to raise questions about the adequacy of current IT service delivery and support strategies, policies, processes, people, technologies, and measures. For instance, when evaluating a new ITSM tool, is your company still focusing on features and functions or is it asking the tool vendor to show how their solution will help to deliver the required customer-centric business outcomes? For me, this is all a CIO “can of worms” whose lid will continue to be opened wider as customer obsession becomes more and more important to business, and thus IT, success.