Do you know what your CEO really wants from your IT team? Do you have a grasp of what matters most to your organization's chief marketing officer?
Unless you're working for a highly evolved company that gives the CIO equal time at the table, chances are that you'll find it difficult to answer both of these questions. Perhaps the perspectives of a CEO and a CMO will help you along in finding some clarity.
At last week's Interop 2014 in Las Vegas, I attended two sessions, one featuring a CEO and the other featuring a CMO. Each provided valuable insights into his company's IT needs and expectations.
Let's start with that CEO/CIO question. In a session entitled "No CIO Ever Got Promoted…," Pradeep Rathinam, the CEO of Aditi Technology, shared firsthand his tale of trying to find a CIO about four years ago "who could help transform customer interactions and interpersonal interactions inside the company with employees, to basically make IT transparent."
As the CEO, Rathinam said his focus is always on where to drive expansion and how to transform the business so it's easier for the company to grow. However, when he began perusing the LinkedIn profiles of potential CIO candidates, he found most were focused instead on these three areas:
- Optimizing the business
- Supporting the business
- Reducing costs
"It became clear to me that more and more of the CIO profiles are essentially around control, process, cost optimization, and internal audiences," he said.
He ended up interviewing a number of candidates for whom "their risk appetite was very low." After reviewing his pool of potential CIO candidates, he asked himself: "Do I have anyone with whom I can have the strategic conversation about how I can create a better customer experience?"
Rathinam decided to hire a director of IT and have that person report to the CFO. "I said, 'I want you focus on decreasing costs, keeping the business happy, and improving efficiency.' It didn't make me happy, but at that time, I didn't have the choice. From what I could find in the marketplace, that was the best fit."
That IT director was not promoted to the CIO role, let alone a business-side position within the company. In fact, the person who ultimately became Aditi's CIO came from the business side of the fence.
So what, in Rathinam's view, makes an IT executive worthy of promotion? It's all about shifting the focus from traditional IT to transforming the business. "Every business has two types of systems: systems of record, which are your line-of-business tools -- your Oracle, your ERP -- and systems of engagement. Those are systems that a business builds to engage its customers," he said. "In order to engage customers, businesses build web services, mobile, analytics, CRM, and loyalty programs," for example.
The fundamental shift I see today is between the CIOs willing to make the strategic shift from systems of record to systems of engagement. Businesses are actually talking this language. Today, business units are running programs around multi-channel, including web and mobile, [and looking to] understand how to increase retention and loyalty with customers. That's the conversation that's core to technology. There are ways to go about bringing those systems of engagement to your business. Those systems of engagement drive the differentiators for the business. Where are you in your conversations, in terms of your understanding of the business and engagement?
Rathinam sees the dawning era of the "CIO++," a tech-savvy and business-savvy executive who can navigate systems of record and systems of engagement and move effortlessly between IT and business. He described the three pillars of this "CIO++ Agenda":
- Systems of engagement
- Agility of execution
- Deeply engaged customer experiences
It was just this type of CIO who helped Vala Afshar -- CMO of Extreme Networks and co-author of the book The Pursuit of Social Business Excellence -- become the social media guru he is today.
During his session at Interop, Afshar related the tale of how his CIO set up Afshar's Twitter account in 2010 and encouraged him to embrace social media. The CIO noticed that Afshar was one of the most-followed members of the company's internal social network, and that he was well suited to replicate that success outside the company.
Fast forward to 2014, and @ValaAfshar has nearly 28,000 Twitter followers, including a number of prominent, social-leaning CIOs. Afshar is paying IT back in spades by providing a helpful, open, and supportive environment for CIOs, CMOs, and anybody else in the technology looking to connect and get questions answered. Internally, Afshar attends his CIO's IT staff meetings, and the CIO attends his marketing staff meetings.
A culture of transparency means sharing the logic behind your decisions. The CIOs that I consider to be successful CIOs have tremendous business acumen. They're not starting the conversation with technology questions. They're defaulting to 'Yes' instead of 'No.' And, if they have to say no, they're being transparent about reasons we can't do something. Control is for beginners. A co-creational value mindset is important.
Externally, he invites CIOs and CMOs to participate in a Google Hangout every Friday at 3:00 p.m. ET to share their success stories.
"Most of the time when I'm connected to CIOs today, I'm connecting through social," Afshar said. "I believe that's the future of customer service and support. It will be posting mobile video to a social network, or something like a Google Hangout, where you can have 10-15 concurrent sessions and deliver service and support through mobile devices."
A social persona "isn't something you do," he said. "It's something you are." In fact, he has his own mnemonic to remember the core tenets of being social:
"Welcome to the new digital economy," he said. "The user experience is shaped by technology trends. The digital economy is defined by mobile, social, cloud, big data, and apps. The network is a strategic business asset."
It's within this environment that CIOs will have to learn to succeed.
What do you think? Do you aspire to the four pillars of the CIO++ agenda? Are you seeing them in action in your organization today? What about the culture of transparency that Afshar describes? How do you view social media? Share your ideas in the comments field below.
— Susan Nunziata, , Director of Editorial, EnterpriseEfficiency.com