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CIOs prioritise innovation to improve digital customer connections

CIOs prioritise innovation to improve digital customer connections

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CIOs are moving from a functional, to strategic and increasingly integral role for businesses – according to Logicalis’ 2021 Global CIO Survey. Toby Alcock, CTO of Logicalis, discusses how the pandemic impacted the CIO role and how CIOs can ensure they keep up with the needs and demands of the modern customer.

The role of the CIO is evolving with an increased focus on unlocking customer connections through service innovation, according to the 2021 Global CIO Survey from Logicalis, a global provider of IT solutions. The study, which questions 1,000 CIOs from around the world, reveals the shift in the role of the CIO with the majority of respondents stating innovation, operational efficiency and customer experience as their top priorities.  

Over the last 12 months, there’s been a notable shift in the defining aspects of the CIO role, with most respondents noting a significant increase in the time they now spend on innovation (79%), strategic planning (77%) and productivity (62%). This is a stark contrast to previous years, where the majority of CIOs reported a lack of time to spend on both innovation and strategic planning.  

CIOs are now tasked with revolutionising business infrastructures to tackle the modern world and increasingly digitally based interactions. Customers now expect to engage with businesses digitally as standard, and as a result companies need to innovate to redefine and elevate their customer interactions to stand out from the crowd. Over the last year, 73% of CIOs state the importance of customer experience has increased and this isn’t slowing down any time soon. Additionally, four in five (81%) respondents believe that their focus on redefining the customer experience will grow over the next five years.  

CIOs should innovate to build agile and adaptable infrastructures which unearth hidden insights in the digital customer journey to empower closer customer connections. As IT leaders, they have the technical expertise to interpret customer engagement data and unearth hidden insights to improve the customer experience, optimise operations and achieve their business objectives.  

Toby Alcock, CTO of Logicalis, said: “Digital experience has become one of, if not the most, important way to reach, connect and communicate with customers in the new digital age. The ability to provide an optimal digital experience will determine the future of an organisation. To deliver the digital experience, businesses should overhaul their infrastructure and leverage evolving technologies to interrogate the end-to-end digital customer journey. By being in closer proximity to customers, CIOs can ensure they can keep up with the needs and demands of the modern customer.”  

We caught up with Toby Alcock, CTO of Logicalis, to glean some further insight on the changing role of the CIO and how the demands of the modern consumer impact the C-suite.

How is the role of the CIO evolving to prioritise innovation across an organisation? 

The pandemic has driven customer engagements increasingly online, with PwC’s June 2021 Global Digital Pulse survey finding that more than half of global consumers have become more digital in the last 12 months. As customers become increasingly digitised, CIOs are moving away from the day-to-day management of IT and towards customer-centricity. According to Logicalis’ Global CIO Survey 2021, 73% of CIOs state the importance of the customer experience has increased and this isn’t expected to slow down anytime soon. 

Customer experience is intricately linked to Digital Transformation and innovation, with three-quarters (79%) of CIOs now spending more time on innovation. CIOs understand that they need to take their place in the driver’s seat and steer the technology strategy towards an adaptable future. 

Why do you think there’s been a notable shift in the CIO role in the last 12 months, in particular?

Lockdown created a new generation of digital consumers driven by both caution over public health concerns and, increasingly, more introverted attitudes. Customers now make more purchases online and even prefer to avoid direct calls with sales representatives. A recent Gartner report predicts that 80% of all B2B sales interactions between suppliers and buyers will be online by 2025. 

These shifts in buying behaviours have left companies facing new challenges when engaging with consumers. As agents of change, CIOs have had to collaborate with the broader executive team to support the upgrade of all customer interactions. CIOs have had to showcase the importance of agility and encourage the business to embrace digital in the fight to capture and keep consumers’ attention.

What are some of the needs and demands of the modern customer and how is the C-suite meeting them?

Customers now expect their digital interactions with businesses to be as sophisticated as their in-person interactions. Over the lockdown period, many companies who could shift their entire business model online survived, and those who didn’t faced the harsh reality of business shutdown. 

Customer experience is a key priority for CIOs. Our survey found that over four in five CIOs believe that redefining the customer or employee experience will become more relevant in the next five years. The emphasis on the customer has forced the C-suite to focus on Digital Transformation. Three in four (74%) CIOs drew a straight line between COVID-19 and the importance of Digital Transformation, with almost all (98%) reporting that it had accelerated their Digital Transformation plans to some degree. 

Customer service was the third most targeted area in Digital Transformation projects, with 45% of respondents reporting accelerated efforts in this area. However, it’s not enough to think of Digital Transformation as a technology upgrade – it’s also about culture, and businesses must lead by example to maximise their Digital Transformation efforts. 

How can CIOs innovate to build agile and adaptable infrastructures in order to improve the customer experience?

Agile and adaptable infrastructures will help businesses be flexible when it comes to sudden changes in customer demands or market disruption. As CIOs become increasingly customer-centric, they need access to customer data. That data will provide insight into conversion rates, customer satisfaction scores and retention.

However, businesses are yet to realise the true value of obtaining and leveraging customer data. Logicalis’ survey found that fewer than two-thirds are using it to develop new products and services that will appeal to customers (58%), create targeted marketing strategies (57%) and drive agility and speed (48%).

Accessing and interpreting that critical business data will allow CIOs to adjust their strategy according to customer behaviours. For instance, in retail, customer data enables CIOs to understand who their customers are, how they shop, what they purchase and how they choose to engage with a brand. A CIO can then invest further in certain offerings that they know customers will enjoy, ultimately improving the customer experience and driving sales.

How should CIOs be strategically planning for future success?

Technology is an essential element of success in the emerging digital economy. Companies can’t consider technology as an add-on to their strategy, they must align technology with their customer needs and establish how it can help them achieve their business objectives. An organisation’s success depends on the CIO’s ability to move from a functional leader to a strategic, customer-centric business leader. To do so, CIOs should leverage external experts to help drive more efficient customer engagements that connect them more directly with the customer. A third of Logicalis’ Global CIO Survey 2021 respondents already see pandemic-driven changes in customer demands as drivers for outsourcing help.

Third-party experts have the technical knowledge to build security, agility and observability to help organisations future-proof their infrastructure. An external partner can help businesses innovate and transform to stay ahead of the curve. That way, CIOs can focus on driving the technology strategy to obtain and retain customers, improve employee experiences and build long-term business success.

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