Last week, I wrote about how the transformation of the consumer economy away from products and towards experiences is likely to impact CIOs and IT organizations.

This week's column builds on that theme, which I believe is becoming increasingly critical to IT strategy. Essentially, consumers are shifting their attention from buying products to buying experiences. That shift requires a corresponding shift in how CIOs plan strategy and lead their organizations.

I strongly believe that shift in strategy and leadership could easily become the most profound and long-lasting transformation in the history of information technology industry.

Here's why: Delivering great products is easier than delivering great experiences. Once a product is manufactured, it's probably going to work as advertised until it breaks or wears out. When you focus on experiences, however, you need to deliver a product (whether it's made of atoms or electrons) that works and delights the consumer. Suddenly, the bar for success is much higher.

CIOs will be involved intimately in the process of helping their companies meet those new - and significantly higher - levels of consumer expectations. CIOs must be prepared to help their companies achieve those newer and higher levels, or suffer the consequences.

Until very recently, the typical buying experience began with consumers going to stores or shopping malls and physically interacting with products. For most consumers, the buying experience no longer works that way.

Today, the modern consumer experience begins on a laptop or mobile device. That means that the typical consumer begins his or her relationship with you company by interacting with IT. It is not a stretch or an exaggeration to say that IT has become the store. In fact, it's become the whole store! Consumers not only interact with products from their laptops or mobile devices, they change the colors and sizes, they "try them on," they choose the speed and method by which they are delivered, and of course, they pay for them via credit, debit or a variety of new payment technologies.

Two years ago, CIOs were satisfied to help their companies complete transactions online. Today, the expectations are much higher. In addition to enabling simple sales transactions, CIOs must help their companies digitize all of the steps required for a successful consumer experience. It's a long and highly fluid process that includes product design, materials sourcing, manufacturing, marketing, sales, fulfillment and customer support.

It's a tall order, but that's the new reality of the big shift in consumerism. In the modern economy, the CIO is absolutely indispensable and critical to the success of the business. Are you ready to leap over the higher bar?