The Three Factors Central to Every Successful CIO

by Cynthia Stoddard

Posted on 05-15-2019

Being a suc­cess­ful CIO means excelling with tech­ni­cal prowess, busi­ness acu­men, and cus­tomer centricity.

At Adobe Sum­mit US in March, I par­tic­i­pat­ed in a pan­el dis­cus­sion with Accen­ture CIO Andrew Wil­son and Intu­it CIO Atti­cus Tysen, to dis­cuss the evolv­ing role of the CIO in enter­prise dig­i­tal­i­sa­tion. In address­ing what it takes to be a suc­cess­ful CIO, insights spanned across three key areas: tech­ni­cal prowess, busi­ness acu­men, and cus­tomer centricity.

To me, this is the tri­umvi­rate for suc­cess. To excel as a CIO in this data-dri­ven, expe­ri­ence-first land­scape, you need to build upon your tech­ni­cal exper­tise, be close­ly aligned to the busi­ness, and put the cus­tomer front and center.

If you achieve this, you’ll be able to guide your process­es and deci­sions, orches­trate the right tech­nol­o­gy for busi­ness advan­tage, and cre­ate out­stand­ing expe­ri­ences for IT work­ers, your inter­nal clients, and your end customers.

Know your technology and what comes next

Ide­al­ly, CIOs should be guid­ing their inter­nal part­ners toward the right tech­nol­o­gy — and that doesn’t mean ditch­ing your lega­cy tech­nol­o­gy all at once. Instead, it’s a process of look­ing at what tech­nol­o­gy you have, evolv­ing it, and break­ing it apart into dif­fer­ent micro-ser­vices that you need in order to be resilient.

Here, Andrew said, “We, as CIOs, are experts in the busi­ness­es we serve. We actu­al­ly have to under­stand more about the busi­ness than any­one so that we can insert the tech­nol­o­gy in clever, mean­ing­ful, sticky, secure, and scal­able ways when it’s ready.”

For exam­ple, if you can’t be cloud-native right away, you can at least start with being cloud-enabled. Then go through the jour­ney to get your apps and ser­vices there and even­tu­al­ly you will be cloud-native.

This can be a per­plex­ing process, but you’d be sur­prised at what your teams can do giv­en the space to learn from fail­ure and the oppor­tu­ni­ty to exper­i­ment and cre­ate. I’m always amazed at the bril­liant and quick solu­tions peo­ple can come up with.

Leverage critical business acumen

As a CIO, you also need to under­stand the busi­ness goals, out­comes, and vision of your organ­i­sa­tion, so you can put in the right data strat­e­gy and be a true part­ner to the busi­ness, said Atti­cus. He rec­om­mend­ed get­ting a clean pipe of data to answer one ques­tion, then anoth­er, then another.

This is exact­ly the route we took when we test­ed Adobe Expe­ri­ence Plat­form with our inter­nal Cre­ative Cloud Sup­port Team. The team required up-to-the-minute access to key cus­tomer data housed across the organ­i­sa­tion — from Adobe Expe­ri­ence Cloud, CRM, ERP, com­merce, sales, prod­uct usage, and more.

With the right data brought togeth­er, sup­port reps now can under­stand a customer’s oppor­tu­ni­ty areas and where they might be fac­ing chal­lenges. But the ben­e­fits don’t end there. The IT team that pro­vides sup­port for Cre­ative Cloud solu­tions now has a sin­gle source of data that is ful­fill­ing inter­nal requests for many oth­er uses across the organ­i­sa­tion — and it all start­ed with one busi­ness need.

Focus on customer centricity

You can’t real­ly know your cus­tomers unless you under­stand their jour­ney — what it takes for them to inter­act with you. As CIO, it’s essen­tial to know when and where cus­tomers dig­i­tal­ly inter­act with your brand.

If you take a step back and walk a mile in your cus­tomers’ col­lec­tive shoes, you can gain a lev­el of empa­thy and under­stand­ing of what your cus­tomers are expe­ri­enc­ing. IT needs to be a pow­er­ful advo­cate for the cus­tomer and pro­vide tech­nol­o­gy that removes the fric­tion in cus­tomer inter­ac­tions. This will instant­ly ele­vate your cus­tomer experiences.

We’re all get­ting more sophis­ti­cat­ed with data, espe­cial­ly with sub­scrip­tion or SaaS mod­els. Adobe has moved to the cloud and away from boxed soft­ware, for exam­ple, which enables us to bet­ter serve and under­stand cus­tomer needs. Now, we have real-time knowl­edge of who our cus­tomers are and can build rela­tion­ships with them in dif­fer­ent ways. But it’s not just real-time data for you, it’s also real-time engage­ment for your cus­tomers, so you need to re-engi­neer your sys­tems to sup­port cus­tomers in an always-on environment.

For exam­ple, if you have a 24/7 e‑commerce site, you can’t shut down your ERP sys­tem for eight hours on a Sat­ur­day due to main­te­nance needs. You have to active­ly work to shield your cus­tomers from these dis­rup­tions and ensure their expe­ri­ences are always live and always positive.

Orchestrate success

Ulti­mate­ly, that invis­i­bil­i­ty of IT is part of the pos­i­tive cus­tomer expe­ri­ence — whether inside your organ­i­sa­tion or for your exter­nal cus­tomers. Andrew says that “IT at work should feel like IT at home and IT in the rest of the world.” If that hap­pens, you can be assured you’re doing a great job. You’re the orches­tra­tor that enables the busi­ness with tools and tech­nol­o­gy so they can eas­i­ly do what they need to do.

Come hear more about what it takes to lead your busi­ness through suc­cess­ful dig­i­tal trans­for­ma­tion at Sum­mit EMEA 2019 on 15th and 16th May.

Topics: Adobe Summit, CIO, technology, UK, UK Exclusive, Digital EMEA