Several months ago I hosted a roundtable discussion with public-sector CIOs from multiple Singapore government agencies. We focused specifically on social computing — how it will alter the way public-sector agencies interact with constituents and each other. While the focus was on Singapore, the key takeaways are universal, hence my interest in sharing the findings here.
In the midst of discussing the usual suspects — concerns about security, privacy, risk management, audit, and compliance — we came to a consensus on some key points:
Clearly identify what services or information constituents actually want, not what the agency wants to deliver. A poorly implemented social computing app risks becoming a glorified suggestion box, or worse — “next-generation knowledge management.” In other words, a costly solution looking for a problem. Focus instead on how to actively engage users — using advanced analytics and business intelligence (BI) to deliver value. In some cases, it is as simple as asking instead of assuming.
Combining formal and informal data will be a major challenge.The more effective agencies are at encouraging voluntary, “opt-in” style usage, the more challenging it will be to segregate user-provided information and data from more formal, agency-provided data that must be rigorously maintained and secured. Take this information “sourcing” issue into account when documenting data management policies.
Recently my colleague David Cooperstein and I had the opportunity to meet with Robert Mead and Michael Mathias, the CMO and CIO respectively at Aetna. They will be speaking at our upcoming CIO-CMO Forum on September 22 in Boston, so this serves as a bit of a preview to what should be an eye opening presentation. Enjoy!
David Cooperstein: What external changes drove you to build a deeper partnership with your technology peers?
Robert Mead, Senior Vice President, Aetna Marketing, Product & Communications: The U.S. health care system is fragmented and well behind the curve in terms of price transparency and consumer-friendly products and services. The deep partnership between technology and marketing at Aetna lets us put leading-edge technologies and powerful tools and applications directly into the hands of people so that they can be confident consumers and informed patients. Our close collaboration with our colleagues in technology is driven by a few external factors:
the increasing cost of care and the corresponding changes in employer-based insurance – consumers are being asked to take more ownership of their health and wellness and their health care spending;
the introduction and rapid adoption of technology that empowers consumers (and patients) to engage in the health care system where they are in life and in the way they want to be connected; and
health care reform, which aims to bring millions of previously uninsured Americans into the marketplace as consumers.
We at Forrester have written a lot about the “empowered era” in the past year. We’re talking about the empowerment of customers and employees, the consumerization of technology, and grass-roots-based, tech-enabled innovation. There are lots of great case studies around illustrating these forces and how they can benefit the enterprise, but those success stories are only part of the picture. Behind the scenes, there is disruption and confusion about who’s planning the road ahead regarding the technology in our organizations’ future. It used to be that the CIO made sure that happened by making it the exclusive domain of strategic planners and enterprise architects. But isn’t centralized — and IT-based — tech planning the opposite of empowerment? Wouldn’t sticking with the old approach result in missing out on all this employee innovation that’s supposed to be so powerful? Should the CIO no longer establish the technology the enterprise will use? Does the empowerment era mean the end of tech planning as we know it?
Several recent Forrester reports home in on what we call “The Age Of The Customer” in which firms must seek to become customer-obsessed to build differentiation and loyalty. Those firms that embrace this will ramp up investment in four priority areas: 1) real-time customer intelligence; 2) customer experience and customer service; 3) sales channels that deliver customer intelligence; and 4) useful content and interactive marketing. All these needs are technology-infused – wholly dependent on technology and in categories where technology is evolving rapidly. Underlying these investments is the need to master the flow of data about customers: capturing/collecting data about them, analyzing it, distributing to those points of engagement, and, finally, integrating the insights into the customer experience.
Companies can’t succeed at doing this without a close partnership between the business areas leading the charge and IT. The rate of change of your customers, markets, business opportunities, and technology is simply too fast. Forrester is exploring this theme in our first CIO/CMO joint forum.
The reality, though, is companies flounder at this marketing-IT partnership. They flounder because of:
More ideas than capacity. A plethora of desired initiatives are constantly being surfaced – beyond the limits of available budget and with no mechanism to sort them into an achievable plan that IT can deliver on.
Consider the following scenario: It’s a hot summer day and a prospective customer walks into your store to buy an air conditioner. He evaluates several models and then buys one — but not from you. It turns out your competitor located two miles away is offering the same model at a 20% discount. How did he know this? He scanned the product's bar code using the RedLaser app on his iPhone, which displayed several local retailers with lower prices than yours. If he had been willing to wait three days for shipping, he could have purchased the exact same model while standing in your store from an online retailer at a 30% discount.
This type of technology-fueled disruption is affecting all industries, not just retailers. Since the early 1900s, businesses relied on competitive barriers such as manufacturing strength, distribution power, and information mastery. But this is all changing in the age of the customer, where empowered buyers have information at their fingertips to check a price, read a product review, or ask for advice from a friend right from the screen of their smartphone.
To compete in the age of the customer, your business must become customer-obsessed. As Forrester’s Josh Bernoff (@jbernoff), SVP of Idea Development and author of Groundswelland Empowered, advocates in his latest research: “The only source of competitive advantage is the one that can survive technology-fueled disruption — an obsession with understanding, delighting, connecting with, and serving customers.”
With the increasing richness and complexity that digital channels and social media bring to the marketing equation, senior marketers increasingly realize that, to be relevant in shaping their brands’ interaction with customers, their teams need to embrace new technologies with the help of the IT group.
In my latest joint research effort with my fellow analyst Nigel Fenwick from Forrester’s CIO role, I explore how marketing and IT can successfully work together in enabling organizations to master the customer data flow.
Our early findings were not very promising . . . What clearly emerged from our interviews with CMOs and CIOs was how deeply ingrained the stereotypes about the two teams are. We heard that:
IT is the department of “no” and does not care about customers or what’s happening in the market.
Marketing is having all of the fun and spending money without rhyme or reason.
In today’s fast-paced global economy, examples of how empowered customers and citizens use social technology to influence everything from brands to governments are all around us. The Arab Spring clearly shows the ability of technology to empower people. In this new digital age, marketing teams must react at the speed of the market: Product development life cycles that used to last many years are compressed into months or weeks; customer service expectations have moved from same-day response to instant response; public relations snafus must be handled in minutes rather than days; marketing campaigns are adjusted in real time based on instant feedback from social media. In this new era, mastering customer data becomes the key to success and, in my opinion, represents the biggest opportunity for IT to impact business results since the dawn of the Internet.
I realize I'm posting two rants in a row here (my last one was on marketing being a dirty word), but this is important! I just read in the WSJ that it's time more CIOs report to the top... my initial reaction was "oh come on, really, are we still on with this old chestnut?" -- the thing is, I couldn't agree more. But here's what gets me -- we were saying this in the '80s. The hope back then was that, as more CEOs stepped up who had grown up with technology, things would change and more CIOs would report into the CEO. Clearly this was pie-in-the-sky optimism ... so what went wrong?
Traditional wisdom (aka analysts) suggests that it's up to the CIO to "earn" a seat at the table by demonstrating leadership, delivering business value from IT, and lots of other hoops to jump through. While my colleagues and I work diligently on research to help CIOs achieve this, I can't help feeling there is an alternative perspective we are missing, and that's what drove me to write this blog post.
I'm going to date myself here, but in the early 90's when I was working in IT, I created a new role: "IT Marketing and Services." In defining the role, I was quite deliberate about my choice of words -- especially in the use of "marketing." This role was responsible for all customer-facing aspects of IT -- that included IT business relationship managers (yes we had them back in the early 90's), help desk, training, communications (of the PR kind), demand management and planning. I chose the word "marketing" deliberately to reflect the fact that this was a customer-facing responsibility (both internal IT customers and end-customers of the business from a technology perspective).
Twenty years on, and the number of IT professionals who really understand marketing and recognize the importance of marketing as a key component of IT operating strategy has, if anything, declined. Why?
Often when I ask CIOs today about the role of marketing in IT they are overcome with concern about using the term "marketing" in the context of IT. They believe people across the organization will think there is no role for marketing in IT, and that having anyone with a "marketing" title will suggest IT has too much money. Why does this fundamental misunderstanding of marketing perpetuate throughout organizations? So many otherwise knowledgeable executives think marketing is simply advertising or worse "spin." Do "marketing" job titles in IT really suggest that CIOs are trying to "sell" IT to the rest of the business? I wonder if this is a problem for IT or if it is an issue created by the perception of others outside of IT.
Social technology is coming into every organization whether IT wants it or not. The adoption of social technologies to support business and customer needs has been fastest outside of IT — often with IT playing catch-up and struggling to provide value. CIOs are at a crossroads where they can either choose to lead IT toward social business maturity or sit back and watch as the rest of the organization pushes ahead, leaving IT in social business obscurity. The choice is easy, but the execution is difficult. A new report — Social Business Strategy: An IT Execution Plan — suggests CIOs should assess the organization’s current social maturity and implement a plan that positions IT to successfully support a social business strategy.
Organizations are broadly categorized as social laggards, internally mature, externally mature or enterprise mature. The approach recommended for CIOs differs based on the maturity level. For example, CIOs in organizations with strong internal maturity should focus on developing a partnership with marketing in order to extend the use of social strategy out to customers and business partners.
While very few organizations are already at the enterprise maturity level, CIOs in these organizations can take an active role in developing social business strategy by supporting the creation of a social business council and dedicating staff to support social strategy.