Over the past nine months I've been interviewing chief digital officers and senior digital leaders across a variety of industries to gain insight into the emerging role of digital leadership. My colleague Martin Gill and I wanted to discover why firms hire chief digital officers and what they are responsible for — more importantly I was looking to discover what CEOs should be doing to set up their businesses for success in a digital world.
One aspect of the research I'd like to highlight here is the need to think of digital as more than simply a bolt-on to your business. To create a digital business able to compete in the age of the customer, we need to think of building out a digital business ecosystem. I know what you're thinking — "not another ecosystem" — and yes, it's a very overused term, especially by consultants and analysts. But I simply can't think of a better term to describe the interconnected and codependent relationships needed in a fully digitized business (see diagram).
Netflix has come to its senses and revised its strategy in favor of the customer. After a recently announced decision to split out its DVD business from its streaming business, Netflix received a barrage of criticism from customers -- including my last blog post, where I questioned the wisdom of this strategy. Today, CEO Reed Hastings announced a 180-degree about turn -- well done Mr. Hastings. While it would surely have been wiser to have made a better strategic decision in the first place, changing course in face of customer criticism at least shows Netflix is still willing to put its customers first.
This turn of events highlights the difficulty of getting strategic planning right. While abstract analysis of strategic options may point to an optimal choice for any set of circumstances, any strategic analysis which ignores customer impact is fatally flawed. As my colleague Luca Paderni and I pointed out in our recent keynote at the Forrester CIO-CMO Forum, companies must become customer obsessed. Indeed, we highlighted Netflix as an example of a company that had succeeded in large part because it was customer obsessed and had mastered the customer data flow in a way that increased customer value.
There is a lesson here for us all ... success in the future will go to those companies willing to become customer obsessed and put the customer ahead of Wall Street.
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.
If you read my last research report and previous blog post, you’ll know that I’m working with Luca Paderni on a series of research reports examining the IT and marketing relationship. In particular, we’re examining what IT and marketing are doing to master the customer data flow (see Figure 1).
At the upcoming CIO and CMO forum, Luca and I will be presenting a keynote examining the readiness of IT and marketing teams in today’s organizations to master the customer data flow. The really cool thing is that you can help shape the outcome by participating in a very short survey we are conducting in conjunction with Forbes. The survey asks a number of questions around the interaction between IT and marketing and can be answered by either IT or marketing professionals.
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.