Why The CIO Must Co-Create And Not Just Facilitate

You live with insight most people are still coming to understand. You know ahead of others that technology is not an important part of your business, it is your business. You know that customer experience is your commodity. You also know that there is lack of agreement among key influencers as to what digital transformation really is, that executives need critical buy-in now because market-changes occur at the speed of blur, that budgets are still lacking, and more, that talent is at a critical deficit: Advances in technology outpace the education required to keep up.

You know that 1.2 trillion dollars was spent on digital transformation technologies in 2017. You also know that 2019 will see that figure increase to 2.1 trillion dollars. Yet, people’s poor digital literacy keeps them pinned to the conviction that they are keeping up with advances so long as they use whatever technology customers use.

Because technology is “important,” the CIO has been invited to the table. What companies don’t realize is that the traditional long table with a head that listened and then made decisions has been replaced by the round table. Today’s CIO must co-create, not just facilitate, the very nature of how business is done. The CIO is transformational not transactional.

Co-Creation Requires Three CIO Initiatives

First, the CIO must create a whole new way of thinking. Digital is not a solution. It is not a way to optimize the way business is done so that old ways are now simply faster and cheaper and to the customer’s satisfaction. Digital is a way of being. Customers aren’t just creating new habits. Digital instinctual behavior is being wired into brains. The CIO as a co-creator must constantly, intentionally and strategically vision cast digital transformation. Fear will try to interfere: People will be political, protecting their interests; people will hold to old ways because they are their ways and they don’t want to be found to be irrelevant (or incapable of learning what is essential in the future). But the technological shift has already happened. The key behavior of the CIO is to identify the benefits for those who need to catch up:

  • They have a problem
  • You have a technology that could be the solution
  •  You show them their “happy ending” when they adopt your solution.

Second, the CIO must create a new focus. Technology is not about them – a department – but about us, the company. We cannot move at different speeds, reading from different pages. Since no one can keep up with the pace of advances in technology, the company must create a culture of learners. Across the board, people must learn different aspects of applications, and then be cross-pollenated to help frame right applications. Work teams must have people who represent the user-experience. The belief that perfect exists or that being bulletproof is real must give way to “ready, fire, aim.” Rapid application development models must take hold. Roll-out, review and adjust based on customer experience now prevails over design delays that feared the repercussions of imperfection. Engage the customer now or lose the customer soon. In helping people see that technology is the business, failure is seen as a friend, not an enemy. If every lesson learned teaches a company about customers, it is a valuable lesson learned. The CIO must build a culture of feedback loops, where the focus is on improving for the sake of the end user. The old days of criticism of an imperfect product must be relinquished: It is now the engaged experience of the customer that counts. Companies want to make the best product they can, of course. But the cost of getting it perfect the first time is not greater than the cost of customer alienation. Your competition, which has broadened, thrives on customers who feel neglected. Companies must put more value on having an improved product based on actual customer feedback than on not making an imperfect product.

Third, the CIO must create a new direction of innovation. IT has now recognized that it must innovate or be left out. Architects of digital transformation know that there are two foundational constructs: improve customer experience and create digital revenue streams. Digital will represent 40% of revenue one year from now. Those who have anchored such innovation in their companies are 26% more profitable. Both customer experience and revenue streams require an outside-in perspective versus the traditional inside-out paradigm. Practically, this is why companies are moving from an executive down “buy-in” strategy. Instead, they are using cross-departmental collaboration to co-create solutions and then demonstrate the opportunity to C-Suite executives. As CIO, you envision every technology development as having begun in the street. Then you walk it in to the office. Data and analytics are re-engineering business processes and shaping new value creation. The CIO that co-creates knows the customer journey map, and is able to articulate the opportunities and obstacles toward digital value and revenue.

As a CIO, you have stepped into a bold, new future. You have been lifted up from the underground of systems. You see differently. You see further. By nature of your field, you see what others cannot. Since a company’s horizon is only as small as the limit of their sight, your vision can no longer take what others seek and try to make it better. You must be in the beginning. You must create.

Scott Smeester

Scott serves as unbiased outside eyes to ensure that companies are secure, sustainable and profitable. A geek with executive tendencies, Scott helps businesses that are too small for a full-time CIO/CTO.

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