CIOs: Life In The Fast Lane

Sharyn Leaver

The pace of business – heck, the pace of life, gets faster and faster. Faster processing, faster delivery, faster innovation – and faster adoption and abandonment of that innovation -- is the reality we all live in today.

Leaders run fast businesses to win and to stay apace or in front of dynamic customers and disruptive competitive forces. They can’t out-slow the competition. Speed is the only option.

I had the pleasure of participating in a webinar panel to discuss what it means to work at one speed (fast) versus at two speeds as bimodal IT advocates. We discussed why businesses are forced to go fast, the reality and downside of a bimodal IT strategy, and the strategies and approaches to winning based on speed. Here is a quick view of the ground we covered.

Why fast?

The first part of our discussion focused on the factors that are making companies operate at fast speeds. Broadly, it comes down to three factors:

  • Hyper-adoption and hyper-abandonment: Customers are willing to rapidly try, use, and then possibly discard content, apps, and services in a world of seemingly infinite choices and extremely low cost to entry and exit. This dynamic fundamentally changes – speeds up – what it means to “have” a customer.   
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Your Business Technology Strategy: Go Fast Or Go Home

Sharyn Leaver

CEOs and their leadership teams are at a crossroads as technology underpins virtually all customers’ expectations and unlocks new sources of customer value. The choice is rather straightforward: invest heavily in business technology (BT) to win, serve, and retain customers, or flounder under the weight of legacy IT.

The choice is obvious, isn’t it? We know and have proven that a better customer experience correlates with higher revenue growth. And what firm can claim immunity from the pressure of increasingly powerful customers wielding unbelievable technology power? 

This is no time to hedge. Strategies like bimodal IT that advocate for silos and two operating speeds may appeal to risk-averse leaders, but bimodal won’t get the job done. In fact, it works directly against the key operating principles of customer-obsessed firms in B2B and B2C industries like General Electric, Netflix, and USAA. These firms and other leaders use the customer as the central design point for their business technology strategy and strive to be:

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Change Is Afoot For The Modern B2B Seller

Mary Shea

Everybody is telling us this: Today's modern B2B buyer is soooo empowered! Well, that’s because they can use digital and mobile channels to get access to competitive, pricing, reference and other information they need. Not only that, they even prefer to transact anywhere, anytime, and anyhow they want. So, the pressure is on for sales people to raise their game. Those who can only communicate in terms of product and service capabilities will see their messages fall flat.

Go-to-market leaders that fail to empower their sellers will see their selling organizations commoditized by those that do and their businesses surpassed by disrupters. While change is clearly afoot - I can’t think of a more exciting time to be in Sales! B2B sellers who embrace change, who are adroit at leveraging new technologies to support more contextual engagements, and who seek out less cluttered channels such as social - will not only remain relevant but will be wildly successful!

To hear and see more, watch the below Animated Interview And Podcast with Chad Quinn, President and Founder of Ecosystems.

The US Presidential Election Is A Lesson In Adapting To Changing Times

Victor Milligan

It is often said that campaigns work in poetry (beautiful language with lofty ideals), but one governs in prose (the pragmatic workings of the day). If we are in a poetic state, this is one strange poem with little rhyme or reason. 

However, there are common threads that are meaningful that tell us something about not only the election but also the business climate.

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Key Takeaways: 2016 Predictions Webinar

Victor Milligan

The transfer of power from companies to the customer is driving a wide variety of changes: some small and targeted and some that are far-reaching and fundamentally change the trajectory of companies (and careers, I may add).

I had the pleasure of moderating a video webinar last week that explored the customer dynamic, specifically looking at how it will play out in 2016. We also looked at how companies sense and respond to this dynamic change: how well companies are reading the tea leaves and taking action and what actions seem to matter to compete and win in a customer-led market. 

I had a blast moderating this panel with Sharyn Leaver, Michelle Moorehead, and Harley Manning. If you saw it live or on-demand, I hope you had a blast as well and took something away that can make a difference for your company and yourself.

We captured the webinar through a thought-illustration that provides an artistic touch to a great conversation. 

It’s complex, right? There are a lot of moving pieces, big ideas, and really big decisions. So let’s break it down:

Strategic And Operational Pressures Loom . . .  

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The Race To Digital Mastery Is On In 2016

Martin Gill

When it comes to digital, we are at a pivot point. Digitizing your business isn’t about technology: it’s about customer obsession - and in 2016, it will be among your ten critical business success factors helping position your firm for success in the Age of the Customer. In fact, next year will be a year of consequence: those firms that “get digital” will begin to pull ahead, and those firms that don’t will begin to look increasingly archaic, facing the risk of extinction.

The preliminary results from our recent digital business survey are telling. An increasing number of firms are reporting that they have a coherent and comprehensive digital strategy. While this is good news, these firms are still the minority. The vast majority of firms report that their approach to digital is limited at best, and non-existent at worst. But the consistently bleak picture is that most executives think the wrong people are in charge of their digital activities and few (very few) think they have the capabilities to deliver.

But there are some shining lights.

Leading firms like John Deere are pathing the path to digital mastery, demonstrating revenue and share price growth that outpaces less digitally savvy competitors. Executive committees are taking note. Innovation spend is on the rise, digital skills are in hot demand, and a new breed of digitally savvy senior leaders is finally emerging.

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Customer Experience Unifies With Brand Management In 2016

Michelle Moorehead

2016 marks the year that the CMO will take control of the customer experience — or risk facing significant coordination challenges (and potential headaches) with some other fledgling executive who sees the opportunity to own it.

Savvy CMOs will lead the charge to convert superior experiences to growth. This includes driving change above and below the visibility line: from aligning experiences with the brand promise to transforming operations to deliver high-value, personalized experiences.

Customers' expectations around personalization will continue to grow in 2016, but most companies still won’t be ready to truly deliver one-to-one experiences. That’s OK: Customers don’t necessarily need perfect personalization; they just want their needs to be met in a way that delights them. Smart companies will use batch processing and segmentation to “fake it ‘til they make it” in 2016, but they will increase internal capabilities for more robust future delivery.

Here are three things leading that CMOs will do in 2016:

  • Lead customer advocacy — or be led. Smart CMOs will use the extensive knowledge that they have of the customer to seize control of the customer experience and customer advocacy programs.
  • Prepare for experience-driven communications. Thanks to hyperadoption — the unprecedented uptake of new devices and services — your customers will soon own devices that enable significantly more engaging marketing experiences that transcend a single, static moment. Savvy CMOs in 2016 will recognize the fundamental interconnectedness of communications and begin to use design thinking to build differentiated brand experiences that link engagement across the full customer life cycle.
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CIOs Move From Custodians To Digital Stewards in 2016

Sharyn Leaver

We’ve been telling you that you need to transition from strictly managing an IT Agenda to owning a BT Agenda, too. 2016 is the year that needs to happen: your CEO will be looking for you to drive digital in your company — and increasingly digital is becoming your business.

At the center of your digital strategy is today’s empowered customer who expects you to be able to serve her in her moment of need. Nearly half of executives in a new survey responded that they believe in less than five years digital will have an impact on more than half their sales. Twelve percent of retailers, that are dealing with consumers showrooming and making their transactions online, believe they will be 100 percent digital by 2020.

Winners in the age of the customer will embed digital into all parts of the business, harmonize virtual and in-store experiences, and be able to rapidly shift to meet the hyperadoption/hyperabandonment behavior of customers.

The scary news? Only a quarter of businesses have a coherent digital strategy to create customer value as a digital business. The onus is on you to deliver that strategy. As CIO, you need to offer a holistic view on the digital transformation that encompasses not just how your firm can harness emerging technology to create customer value, but how your team can help drive synergies across the customer experience ecosystem. We believe the only way to achieve this is a customer-obsessed operating model that will permeate throughout your business and focus on six elements: structure, talent, culture, metrics, processes, and technology.

Here are three things you can do in 2016 to win at driving digital:

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2016: CIOs And CMOs Must Rally To Lead Customer-Obsessed Change Now

Cliff Condon

In the coming weeks Forrester will publish its annual set of predictions for our major roles, industries, and research themes — more than 35 in total. These predictions for 2016 will feature our calls on how firms will execute in the Age of the Customer, a 20-year business cycle in which the most successful enterprises will reinvent themselves to systematically understand and serve increasingly powerful customers.

In 2016, the gap between customer-obsessed leaders and laggards will widen. Leaders will tackle the hard work of shifting to a customer-obsessed operating model; laggards will aimlessly push forward with flawed digital priorities and disjointed operations. It will require strong leadership to win, and we believe that in 2016 CMOs will step up to lead customer experience efforts. They face a massive challenge: Years of uncoordinated technology adoption across call centers, marketing teams, and product lines make a single view of the customer an expensive and near-impossible endeavor. As a result, in 2016 companies will be limited to fixing their customer journeys.

CMOs will have good partners, though. As they continue to break free of IT gravity and invest in business technology, CIOs will be at their sides. 2016 is the year that a new breed of customer-obsessed CIOs will become the norm. Fast-cycle strategy and governance will be more common throughout technology management and CIOs will push hard on departmental leaders to let go of their confined systems to make room for a simpler, unified, agile portfolio.

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CIOs: 5 Steps To Take Digital Disruption From Theory To Reality

Steven Peltzman

As CIOs, we all know digital disruption is happening at a rampant rate. The challenge we face is moving it from theory to reality. An executive at a client company recently posed the following questions to me: “How do you actually innovate and defend against this digital disruption without blowing up the budget? How do you really do that?”

For me, there are definitely a few steps that take this often discussed CIO requirement from the abstract to the concrete:

Are you close to your customers?
Everyone has customers of some kind, including B2B. Do you know where the pain points are in your customer experience? Where the opportunities are to innovate? You’ve got to understand this dynamic and the best way to start that is with customer journey mapping.  Follow it up by  keeping this “conversation” going by leading or staying involved in a regular customer testing and feedback effort or program. Above all, get out and talk to customers!

Can you innovate on your own mainstream platforms, quick and dirty?
If you can’t innovate easily on your major internal platforms — weeks or days, not months for moderately/small-sized innovations — digital disruptors and likely your direct competitors both have a significant leg up on you. This year alone, we’ve launched 35 small-to-medium, innovative improvements to our business by taking advantage of our SaaS platform. Business moves too fast to wait for months.

Do you use the same tools that startups use to go fast?

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