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The Role of the C-suite in Rethinking IT Infrastructure

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February 23, 2015
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It was either a big problem with a major account or engaging at the highest levels to close new business that got presidents and CEOs out of their offices to press the flesh with customers. Otherwise, the C-suite saw customers as top-line revenue and bottom-line profits. Then, of course, there were business leaders you couldn’t keep away from customers (and not always with the best result, speaking from experience) or CMOs who never attended a trade show or met a customer face-to-face (also speaking from experience). Customer engagement tended to be the exception, not the rule, and when it did happen it was carefully choreographed. And IT? What about IT? We’re talking about customers here!

Obviously, we’re in a different world today. Mobility, social media and cloud services are changing everything. Now C-suite executives hear from customers practically every day, from the smallest to the premiere accounts. And, it’s probably not the bigwigs they’re hearing from but, instead, individuals who never would have measured up in importance to warrant an executive’s time. Suddenly, these individuals have CEOs’ fates in their hands, and both sides know it.

For those executives who are listening – and increasingly, they are – they are taking the lead to remake their entire organizations from largely physical and customer-centric to digital and customer-inspired, customer-initiated and customer-obsessed. And, IT? Of course IT! We’re talking about customers here!

Broadly speaking, executive leadership is being tested today as never before. Remaking organizations to stay ahead of the competition is a familiar war cry. But now, companies must also reinvent their organizational framework and become overwhelmingly digital at the same time they are reinventing their businesses and customer-engagement models in this Age of the Customer. Organizations that will outperform their peers will not simply manage customer experiences; instead, they are reorienting their organizations, strategies and investments to cultivate new relationships across all customer touch points — or all customer interactions.

As a consequence, the C-suite is exerting more pressure to exact greater ROI from investments in IT and business technologies (BT). The organization that corporate leadership envisions cannot succeed – perhaps, cannot exist – without eventually being completely digitally driven. This also requires that the leadership team work together to drive common objectives and outcomes so that they can realize this new customer-active enterprise.

In a recent posting from Forrester Research, Inc., “The CIO’s And CMO’s Blueprint For Strategy In The Age Of The Customer,” (1) the authors wrote, “It’s a tall order, remaking your business for the imperatives of customer experience, digital business, mobile engagement, and big data insights. That’s why it will take the combined efforts of your most senior leaders — from the CIO to the CMO. Most likely, your technology is not up to the task of supporting these market imperatives. If you’re like most firms, you’ve concentrated your technology management efforts on traditional IT — supporting and transforming internal operations. Successful companies will refocus their technology efforts on business technology (BT) — technology, systems, and processes to win, serve, and retain customers.”(2)

We would add to this quote that this will this take the combined efforts of the C-suite to surpass expectations coming down from CEOs, board members, financial analysts, the investor community and, of course, customers. In this way, the C-suite is heavily influencing IT infrastructure strategies, technology and service provider choices, brand management, organizational constructs, and roles and responsibilities throughout the company.

Organizations must rethink how they work and with whom they work. There’s this intersection between the digital and the physical worlds … it’s the leading edge of innovation. Possibilities are immeasurable, and CEOs and executive staffs realize that it’s important to bring digital and physical worlds together and drive innovation. They’re expecting their CIOs and CMOs to make it happen.

For more perspectives on IT as it relates to the C-suite, check out the posts below, or contact us now for a free consultation.

(1)Forrester “The CIO’s And CMO’s Blueprint For Strategy In The Age Of The Customer,” September 2014

(2)Forrester “Technology Management In The Age Of The Customer,” October 2013

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