How CIOs Can Help Their Companies Address Future-State Goals While Fostering a Customer-Centric Culture

As the role of the CIO continues to become more strategic, IT leaders find themselves awash with new responsibilities – including identifying new business models, helping to set and execute on organizational strategies and enabling the business to become more customer-focused.

HMG Strategy recently connected with several speakers and advisory board members for the 2019 St. Louis CIO Executive Leadership Summit which is taking place on October 3rd at the Marriott St. Louis Grand to get their perspectives on how CIOs and technology leaders can excel in these areas.

Dan Roberts – CEO, Ouellette and Associates

Question 1: What should be the role of the CIO in helping the organization reach its future state goals?

 Accelerate IT’s journey up the maturity curve. Our research has shown that IT has the opportunity to elevate its game to become the “Innovative Anticipator” (Stage 4). Here, IT leverages its end-to-end view of the enterprise and is able to look around the corner to identify ways to drive new revenue, to be an industry disruptor and to drive a new, differentiated and frictionless customer experience.

The CIO can also take the lead in building a culture of digital fluency across the company.

In the past, companies could forgo being on the bleeding edge and follow a “fast follower” strategy. In the digital era, it’s winner-take-all as evidenced by the rise in market share of those who are leading the digital race.

Question 2: What role can the CIO play in helping the company achieve its strategic objectives?

First, make sure that they are focused on the right Strategic Objectives.

Transformation ideas:

  • Customer experience
  • Employee experience
  • Digital business services
  • Ecosystem driver/platform/microservice

Second, help your company know your customers and have the courage to make bets

Question 3: What are some of the ways that a CIO can foster a culture of customer centricity?

  • Industry CIOs say that they are seeing customer experience as their Number 1 goal and partner integration as their Number 2 goal. 
  • The best CIOs get their people out in the field...into the plants, in front of customers to understand their world up close and personal. It’s amazing how many great things happen when we truly know the pain points of our customers (internal and external).
  • Train your people on IT Service Excellence (note: this is our most popular workshop).
  • Measure the right stuff. We often measure what we (IT) think is important. The research shows that we are being measured by our customers according to the RATER model: Responsiveness, Assurance, Tangibles, Empathy, Reliability.
  • Place yourself in the customer’s shoes. We teach the concept of `Moments of Truth’. Basically, these are those instances, no matter how small, where we touch the customer. Each time we leave an impression that impacts their perception of IT. When we understand the MOTs from the customer’s perspective, we are able to walk in their shoes, deliver service that matters, consult with them at a more strategic level (vs order takers), etc.
  • Don’t forget the importance of internal service. Given the speed and complexities of IT today, we need to collaboratively work together like never before. There is a lot of service that takes place within the walls of IT before we touch the customer. If we trip here, we will trip when we engage the customer.

Erin Stamm – COO, Esse Healthcare

Question 1: What role can the CIO play in helping the company achieve its strategic objectives?

Relationship building has been key for me to work with other executives to solve problems and strategically plan.

Question 2: What are some of the ways that a CIO can foster a culture of customer centricity?

One thing that we encourage our IT staff members to do is go to the “Genba” (where the work happens) to experience a day in our customers lives. So, for us, it looks like our IT staff spending a day in one of our physician offices to see what patient care is all about. It seems to give them a whole new perspective on what our offices do each day and why IT support is so critical for them.

Don Imholz – Founder, Owner and CEO of Don Imholz and Associates and former CIO of Centene Corporation

Question 1: What role can the CIO play in helping the company achieve its strategic objectives?

The best way for this to happen is to be involved in setting the goals and have the goals include digitization and other technologies.   

Question 2: What are some of the ways that a CIO can foster a culture of customer centricity?

First and foremost, be a role model. Spend time with internal and external customers, reporting back to the team on what you see and hear.  

Also, get your staff out of their offices and to where the work is being done, whether it’s on the factory floor, another office, or on the road. Make sure they understand the connection between their work, their customer’s work, and the furtherance of organization’s mission and sustenance.  

Jim Cavellier – EVP & CIO, Cass Information Systems, Inc.

Question 1: What are some ways that CIOs can help their companies achieve their future state goals?

Our Annual Technology Strategy document, along with defined Technology Goals and Objectives, all have a visible and direct line to the company’s goals. This ensures all staff members are able to see and understand how their day-to-day activities support the company’s vision.

Each business division within Cass maintains a 5-year business plan that is developed in collaboration with their supporting Technology team.Based on this plan, the Technology Leadership Team has developed what we call our “5-Year Business Technology Roadmap”.This roadmap identifies and aggregates future technology investments across the enterprise required to support the achievement of future business goals.

Note:  I understand the feasibility of a 5-Year Plan (i.e. versus a 2 or 3-Year Plan) is often questioned. We choose to focus on a 5-year plan knowing that things will undoubtably change; however, it provides a strong basis for our vision and planning efforts.

We are in the process of developing/enhancing Enterprise & Divisional Value Chains, which will be used to identify common services across all divisions and provide the basis for migrating to shared/common systems to gain efficiency.

Question 2: Can you offer ways for CIOs to work with the CEO and the executive committee to identify and execute on strategic objectives?

In addition to the above, we’ve defined and deployed a “2-in-a-Box” partnership model with Business Product Owners (BPOs) and Technology Product Owners (TPOs). Both are “joined at the hip” in the development and realization of strategic objectives for our core products.

Question 3: How can CIOs foster customer centricity in their organizations?

We’re in the process of setting up Customer Advisory Boards that will be jointly facilitated by the business and IT.

We continually identify and engage with key customers in the development of our UI/UX projects.

Question 4: What are some ways that CIOs can encourage team members to walk in their customer’s shoes?

I often pull in my staff members as silent participants in customer calls when there has been a negative customer impact due to some sort of technology failure or disruption. For example, I’ve pulled in network engineers and server admins who inadvertently caused a disruption so they’re able to hear and learn first-hand the impact of an outage on our customer(s). This needs to be done in a sincerely constructive and learning manner (as opposed to one which may be punitive) so as to help foster a truly customer centric mindset across all Technology disciplines.

Rick Nolle – CIO, St. Louis County

Question 1: How can CIOs foster customer centricity in their organizations?

First and foremost, the IT organization needs to see itself as a service provider and be focused on their internal customers. The internal customer has options—it’s not a shotgun marriage or forced relationship—IT must provide value and be focused on meeting needs. We accomplish a lot of this with ITSM—a full-featured service platform that helps us understand the needs, communicate regularly and precisely, deliver a solution and query the satisfaction level of the requester. The customer will choose to spend money on technology if the return is there—otherwise they will spend money on people or external solutions.

Technology can be used to build community with customers. In a small town, everyone knows everyone else.When you walk into the bank or the bakery, the person behind the counter knows you and your family. They might ask about your recent trip or about an upcoming birthday. The customer feels like they’re known and appreciated which makes the financial transaction seem secondary. Technology allows big companies with millions of customers this same opportunity to build relationship and show concern for the customer—through connecting internal and external data about the customer together over time and bring relevant information into the transaction with the customer. This is our goal at St. Louis County with our 311 Contact Center—we want to know all that we can about the person on the line. When did they contact us last? About what? What are their recent interactions with the County? Are they an activist? A big taxpayer? A business owner?Is the matter that they are calling about ongoing?Is it an issue with their neighbors too? All that information provides context which allows us to better serve the citizen.

It’s my pet peeve when I use technology from a company (as a customer) and it doesn’t work well. This could be a mobile app, their website or just dealing with a representative of that company who is hampered by internal systems and can’t provide the level of service that they would like to. 

The CIO needs to personally experience each customer-facing aspect of their technology and ensure that they are designing and delivering systems to a high standard. If you’re the CIO for Jet’s Pizza (I don’t know how many times I’ve given up ordering through their website and reverted to calling in the order) then you should know what the competitors are doing and how your site compares. In 2019, there’s no excuse when I see bad customer-facing technology except that the CIO leadership isn’t producing a high-enough standard for the IT organization.  

Question 2: What are some ways that CIOs can encourage team members to walk in their customer’s shoes?

We embed IT business managers into our customer departments so that they can sit in on department meetings, advise the managers on technology issues and opportunities, and ensure sharing of new capabilities across different areas of the business. It’s hugely important that these IT business managers be trusted members of their department’s management team because that allows them to hear and experience the good and bad things that happen over time.

When it comes to building a business solution, there’s no substitute for putting an analyst or designer into a business function role for weeks or months to experience the challenges and opportunities that customers face. I’ve done this many time over the years—from underwriters to corrections officers—so that the IT employee really knows the business process before attempting to automate. The alternative of embedding a business expert in the IT team is OK, but there are more limitations doing that than with going the other way and putting the analyst into the business.

Lisa Nichols – CEO, Technology Partners

Question 1: What are some ways that CIOs can help their companies achieve their future state goals?

CIOs have many competing priorities on their plates, but one of the best things they can do to help their organization reach future state goals is to build a team that not only has the technical skills necessary, but also the core competency skills required to take the organization into the future.

That is why Technology Partners has partnered with Ouellette & Associates to bring a leadership development program to St. Louis to help rising stars in our region’s IT community develop strategic business skills and boost our technology-based economy’s long-term competitiveness. This program will teach core skills such as 1) Leading change; 2) Leading an IT team; 3) Marketing the value of IT to the business; and, 4) Consulting skills.

Additional thoughts: CIOs, as leaders, need to increasingly teach others how to respond to the coming transformation. Culture, change management and change leadership are critical to this journey. New staffing modalities can enable this, too. In other words, bringing in more data and mobility folks and retraining/exiting developers and infrastructure as the organization moves to public cloud. CIOs need to enable a consumer-centric view of technology.

To learn more about the insights that CIOs and IT leaders will share at the 2019 St. Louis CIO Executive Leadership Summit, click here.