The CIO's Role in Customer-Facing Technology Strategy

Larry Bonfante, Founder, CIO Bench Coach | 7/24/2013 | 18 comments

Larry Bonfante
I hear a lot of discussion from executives as to who should be in charge or developing and delivering a company's customer-facing digital strategy. To me, like so many things in life, I feel the right answer is that "we are smarter than me." Collaboration is the key to leveraging the digital landscape to better engage the consumers of your products and services.

One key group that needs to be involved is your business owners. These are the people who own the services and products your company is selling. They understand the outcomes they are hoping to accomplish. They know their customers and prospects better than anyone else. Getting them engaged and vested in helping to develop and implement your online strategy is critical to the success of this effort.

Another group that often leads this charge is your marketing team. Your CMO understands how to engage and message your community better than anyone else. She knows how to capture and analyze data to allow you to continue to fine-tune and tweak your online presence to ensure that you are reaching the greatest audience and that your message is having the greatest impact.

Of course, the CIO also needs to play a key role in this effort. But this role is not necessarily setting the digital strategy. The CIO can add value by helping his peers in marketing and the business understand how technology can be leveraged to fully engage potential communities of interest. He is the reality check as to what is possible, how much it should cost, and how long it should take. He can bring a level of process discipline to helping run a digital capability like any other technology-based service -- on time, on budget, and on value. Effective CIOs seek to collaborate and support this effort, not "take it over."

As a team these executives must ask and answer some difficult but critical questions. What are we trying to accomplish in the digital landscape? Who are the audiences we hope to engage? What are the outcomes we hope to achieve? What should we be for our community? Perhaps more importantly, what shouldn't we be? The biggest mistake you can make in the digital world is to try to be all things to all people. This leads to a watered down approach where people can't hear a clear voice from your company, hear a clear message, or align around clear calls to action. It's better to fine-tune your message and your audience than to cast a wide net in the hopes that some fish might swim by. In the digital world, like in so many arenas, it's better to be a foot wide and a mile deep than be all over the map but never land the plane.

How are your organizations leveraging their digital presence? What's working for you? Who's involved in your process? Let's start a dialogue and share some best-practices and lessons learned.

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shakeeb   The CIO's Role in Customer-Facing Technology Strategy   7/31/2013 5:25:20 AM
Re: Re : The CIO's Role in Customer-Facing Technology Strategy
Well when it comes to CEO's role, he should be able to handle the internal conflicts before managing the key customers. Having internal problems would definitely have an impact on the key customer you have when it comes to fulfilling their requirement.
Kerstin Carson   The CIO's Role in Customer-Facing Technology Strategy   7/31/2013 3:14:39 AM
Collective Ownership?
These days, "collaboration is key" in many industries. That said, I like the idea of co-owners or multi-owners of a project. One project manager from each faction of the team (IT, marketing, etc.), with the CIO overseeing the tech component of a company's digital presence aspect of a particular project, and the CMO overseeing the marketing or business component of the same project.

Collective ownership of a project may be just as effective as collaboration during a project.
a.saji   The CIO's Role in Customer-Facing Technology Strategy   7/28/2013 9:27:57 AM
Re: Re : The CIO's Role in Customer-Facing Technology Strategy
@Sunita: I think the CIOs role would be to direct and manage key customers if there is urgency. If not its all about directing and monitoring the progress. 
SunitaT   The CIO's Role in Customer-Facing Technology Strategy   7/27/2013 10:05:54 AM
Re : The CIO's Role in Customer-Facing Technology Strategy
Together with the need to expressive more explicitly how technology delivers value to the business, the CIO must "differentiate to lead" through numerous innovation strategies. The need to own innovative and effective brands is a key CIO strategy. Along with IT and marketing, the CIO can align to capture advanced ideas for building customer loyalty, strengthening the brand and creating a differentiated customer experience.
Hayder   The CIO's Role in Customer-Facing Technology Strategy   7/25/2013 3:25:18 PM
Re: The CIO's Role in Customer-Facing Technology Strategy
There has to be a combination of better tech and management mix. Without a fine balance things might not work the efficient way. 
shakeeb   The CIO's Role in Customer-Facing Technology Strategy   7/25/2013 6:25:03 AM
Re: The CIO's Role in Customer-Facing Technology Strategy
@Marif. Exactly. The role for tech lead is ideal as he is more in to make sure the IT deliverables are delivered.
shakeeb   The CIO's Role in Customer-Facing Technology Strategy   7/25/2013 6:19:54 AM
Re: The CIO's Role in Customer-Facing Technology Strategy
@shamika. I think it is a good combination. IT would know the technical aspect of the requirement rather than the business. Working closely with them will help you to develop the exact requirement.
geeky   The CIO's Role in Customer-Facing Technology Strategy   7/25/2013 6:15:25 AM
Re: The CIO's Role in Customer-Facing Technology Strategy
@Zaius: Yes definitely it will be something that the CIOs should look in as a working pattern for them to do. Not happening on a day to day basis but in the long run a study of the progress should be done by the CIO
Marif   The CIO's Role in Customer-Facing Technology Strategy   7/25/2013 4:24:00 AM
Re: The CIO's Role in Customer-Facing Technology Strategy
You are right Zaius, there should be representatives from both sides; the business and technology. I would prefer to assign project management to business who is also normally the project owner. Along with business we need to tag a strong IT professional as the Technical lead to the project, who would not be a decision maker for project tasks or timelines but is responsible for the projects activates falling under IT's bucket.
Zaius   The CIO's Role in Customer-Facing Technology Strategy   7/24/2013 11:53:37 PM
Re: The CIO's Role in Customer-Facing Technology Strategy
It is kind of self explanatory. There is 'technology', so IT will be there. And, ther is 'customer-facing', therefore, the peopel who deal the customers, know their demands, know their angers and frustration should also pitch in. Depending on the case, CIO might need to play the role of the guardian.
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