Predictions 2016: Welcome To The Digital Savvy, Customer Obsessed CIO

It’s that time of year! The time when every prognosticator comes up with their predictions for the next year. And this year my colleague Pascal and I took the lead in developing our 2016 predictions for the CIO role.

Rather than call out banal and obvious trends I wanted to make a stronger call on the CIO role in particular. In part this is because so many people gleefully post blogs predicting the demise of the CIO. And in part simply because it sometimes feels like I see the role of the CIO differently to many; as first and foremost a business leader.

So will 2016 be the end of the CIO role as we know it?

“No" is my simple answer. In 2016 the Age Of The Customer will further accelerate the role of technology in creating new sources of customer value to drive revenue. As a result we’ll see more and more CEOs expecting their CIOs to help lead their firm toward a clear digital future.

CEOs realize that, increasingly, future growth is tied to their ability to continuously deliver new digital services that create value for customers – across both B2C and B2B business environments. But failure to meet evolving customer expectations will result in losing customers and ultimately lower revenue growth. Without a technology team focused on building the digital platforms of tomorrow, companies cannot hope to keep up with their evolving customer expectations. 2016 will be a pivotal year for CIOs and CEOs – one that will see a significant change in leadership thinking when it comes to a company’s technology capabilities and digital assets.

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The Future Of Retail Is Digital

Retail CIOs have always had a tough job, but digital makes it tougher. Emerging digital technologies threaten to transform retail experiences both in stores and at home. Without a good business case, CIOs at large retailers will find it hard to prepare their business to compete with small, nimble startups. My latest report highlights the potential of today's digital technologies to radically disrupt the retail industry once more. It serves as a call to CIOs to begin shaping their strategy to digitize the end-to-end customer experience and start proving the business case in time to make the investments needed.

Specialty fashion retailer Rebecca Minkoff is creating a truly differentiated in-store customer experience by combining RFID tags with new technologies like digital mirrors in the changing room connected to employee mobile devices. At the NYC Rebecca Minkoff store, customers can select products from racks or a digital fashion wall and head to the dressing room, where they meet their personal fashion consultant. Once in the dressing room, a digital mirror displays all the products and sizes the customer has in the room. The customer can easily request a new size by selecting it on the mirror. The consultant delivers the new sizes to the dressing room without the customer having to redress or wander the store half-undressed. By extending what Rebecca Minkoff has already achieved, we get a glimpse of a future in-store experience that helps each customer quickly find more products that satisfy their desires.

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What's Your Perspective On Digital Business?

I’d like to capture your perspectives in this year’s study on digital business.
Last year we started a detailed research study into digital business and published numerous reports on our findings and insights for business executives. This year we have partnered with Odgers Berndtson to help field our digital business survey to business executives. And as we did last year, we’re also extending the survey to our clients and social media followers.
The survey only takes 10 to 15 minutes to complete … the perfect accompaniment to a cup of coffee or tea! (OK that may be a stretch … but you can easily complete it while enjoying a cuppa.)
Please share the link with your social media followers (
If you’re interested in learning more about our latest digital business analysis, check out my recent webinar Digital Predator Or Digital Prey: Which Will Your Business Be By 2020?
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The Digital Bolt-On Conundrum

What’s the difference between a digital bolt-on and transformative digital disruption?
In the two years I’ve been on the road talking with executives around the world about digital business and delivering keynotes on digital transformation, I’ve been most frequently asked about bolt-on vs. transformation; what’s the difference? 
A digital bolt-on is a digital project that is added to the existing business model that might improve the customer experience in a small way, but doesn’t fundamentally change how value is created for, and/or delivered to, the customer. For example, when a company updates a website and provides customers an electronic ordering platform, they are not changing the existing business model; they are simply providing an alternative channel through which the customer can buy products. The value proposition remains the same: buy and experience our product and you’ll gain value from the experience. Digital (in this case an online sales channel) has been bolted to the existing business model in much the same way a teenager bolts a spoiler onto an old car to make it "go faster".
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Predicting A New Business Paradigm For Financial Services

How will digital disrupt the financial services industry over the next 10 years?
Over the past couple of days, I’ve been meeting with clients at Forrester’s Forum For Technology Leaders in Orlando. Clients mostly want to know how digital will impact their business. My approach in responding to this question is to think like the CEO of the company in question: First, understand the customer’s desires; then figure out how those desires can best be met profitably — I imagine how future technology changes might create new sources of customer value.
We’ve already seen massive change in the financial services sector: Technology is dramatically changing our customer experience and helping firms educate their customers. What more is yet to come? And what will companies need to do to win customers in the future?
While this is a complex question, it’s not hard to imagine a very different reality to the one that exists today:
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Is Your Business Ready For A Digital Acceleration Team?

Empowering a central team to set digital strategy, provide common platforms, and provide specialist resources can help business units develop their digital maturity by embracing a set of common standards while still tailoring their customer experience to their specific market needs. Yet many central teams run into difficulty. They fail to clearly communicate their purpose and remit, they struggle to navigate the realities of corporate politics, and they forget to demonstrate their successes through clear metrics. CIOs looking to accelerate their firm's digital journey by building a digital acceleration team should first assess their organization's readiness and appetite (see Figure).

Digital accelerator checklist

For more on establishing a digital acceleration team, see my latest research: Your Company Needs A Digital Acceleration Team.

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Four Strategy Tips In The Age Of The Customer

Blog word cloudI just concluded six months of research looking at how firms plan strategy in the age of the customer. Perhaps unsurprisingly, I concluded that companies that fail to adapt to increasingly powerful customers, and disruptive competition, will not simply face near-term disruption — they risk their long-term viability.

I also found evidence of firms making changes in how they plan business strategy. High-performing companies look at strategic planning as a continuous process with a focus on customer value and loyalty.

In my latest report on strategy, I identify new responsibilities for CIOs, CMOs, and business-unit leaders in strategic planning. The report focuses on three ways CIOs and CMOs must step up and serve as a shaper of customer-obsessed business strategy that generates greater loyalty and drives better performance.

To succeed in the future, CIOs need to collaborate effectively with peers across the C-suite, especially the CMO and business-unit leaders, to build strategies and a shared business technology agenda, focused on customer outcomes.

Here are four tips from the research:

1.     It's time to separate strategic planning from the annual budget cycle. Annual strategic plans hold firms back from quickly reacting to fast-evolving markets. While strategies must be funded, continuous test-and-learn approaches will more quickly reveal opportunities and weaknesses.

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Three Tips To Craft A Better Digital Vision

In the age of the customer, your company must exploit digital assets in order to deliver world-class customer experiences and compete effectively. But moving the business from its traditional roots toward digital mastery requires the executive team to paint a compelling digital business vision.
Based on my latest research published in March — How To Craft A Better Digital Vision — here are three suggestions to help your firm develop a compelling digital vision:
1. Illustrate what customers will value in the future. The way your customers derive value from your products and services today will not be the same in the future. Your business will need to use digital technology to create new sources of value. Instead of simply designing a physical product or service to be used by a customer to satisfy a need, your firm must reimagine your products and services as digital services enhanced by physical products and people. Customer perceptions of value will be shaped by the digital experiences you create to help them achieve their desires. Your digital vision must help employees understand this shift.
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The CIO And Digital Business

Digital footprintOver the past year, there has certainly been plenty of press coverage surrounding the emergence of the new “Chief Digital Officer” (CDO). And the research we published in 2013 on the CDO role does identify how some firms can potentially benefit from a CDO role working alongside the CMO and CIO. But I’m beginning to see more business-savvy CIOs follow Starbucks' ex-CIO Stephen Gillett’s example and step up to lead digital strategy and digital initiatives.

In fact, CIOs with experience in marketing and/or business-unit leadership — especially eBusiness — are well equipped to lead the future digital transformation journey in many companies. They understand business strategy; they can relate to the outside-in customer view; and they already have an enterprise perspective.

OK, so there are not many CIOs out there today with this kind of experience (my estimate is around 20%) — but this is exactly the kind of CIO that CEOs need to hire in the future.

So let’s not get too hung up on titles — what really matters is the ability to combine a deep understanding of the customer with an understanding of how digital technology will drive new sources of customer value.

That’s the focus of a new series of reports we’ve just published (see below). The reports help digital-savvy CIOs work with business leaders to create a clear vision for what it means to be a digital business and start down the path toward digital business transformation.

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My Top Ten And What It Means For Getting Your Own Metrics Right

Every so often I check my blog stats to see what you, the reader, find most interesting - my goal is to continue to bring you great content in both my blog and my research. While I was looking back over my blog stats I thought you might like to see the top ten blog posts in case you missed any of them. But just how should I assess the top ten? Like all outcome metrics, this one is open to interpretation. 

I could take the simple route and just count which posts have the most reads (Table 1a). But that would fail to take into account how many days it has been since the blog was published - it stands to reason that older blog posts might garner more reads. So a ranking based on the number of reads divided by the number of days the post has been online would yield a more accurate result in terms of most read post (See Table 1b - Top ten most read posts)*.

Table 1a - Top Ten Most read Posts

1 Unleash Your Digital Business
2 The Secret Of Successful Social Communities: 4 Social Needs
3 Why Customer Experience Will Become The #1 CIO Priority
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