In a new report, we lay out how I&O leaders can leverage wearables as a source of customer-centric innovation as they build their BT Agenda. As we have written, today the I&O role is changing, as business imperatives now shape technology choices and I&O pros are judged on business outcomes. You can only add value and achieve relevancy if you reframe your organization's goals and objectives.

Want an example from a real-life I&O leader? Tim Graham is the IT Innovation Manager for Virgin Atlantic and the driving force behind the Google Glass pilot in Virgin's Upper Class Lounges at Heathrow.  His job, as he described it at a recent wearables conference where we were both speakers: "To use technology to reshape both customer experiences and operational efficiency." Here’s a video to show how he led Virgin Atlantic’s efforts to deploy Google Glass and Sony smartwatches in the Upper Class Lounge at Heathrow Airport:

To do your job the way Tim does his, you need to take a holistic view of how technology can help your organization. For wearables, there are four essential choices:

  • Company-owned devices that make workers more effective. They’ll serve customers more efficiently and effectively with wearables. In the age of the customer, this can mean reengineering customer service interactions, as Virgin Atlantic has done.
  • Employee-owned devices that make workers individually productive. As more people buy wearables, they’ll become BYO devices that I&O must accommodate.
  • Customer-distributed devices that shape new customer experiences. In this B2B2C model, a company buys or creates wearables to distribute to customers, either for sale or for free. BarclayCard’s bPay band is changing the way football stadiums craft their customer experiences; Southampton FC is using the band to deploy contactless payments with exclusive loyalty offers and to create special in-person experiences.
  • Customer-owned devices that empower technology-enhanced customer experiences. As consumers buy their own wearables, they’ll look to interact with companies using their own devices. In retail, I&O leaders participate in the design of in-store experiences for wearables, creating systems of engagement in areas like payments, loyalty, customer self-service, and proactive promotions. As Apple Watch builds the market of customer-owned wearables – acting as a digital guide to the physical world – brands will follow W Hotels’ lead: They’re creating an Apple Watch app that will allow customers to check in, unlock the door to their hotel, and make payments inside the hotel.

Why are wearables such a great platform for these scenarios? Because they address some fundamental human needs. Please read the report for more insights there. But I&O leaders should understand that taking a holistic view of the wearables market is key to being a meaningful participant in the customer-centered innovation initiatives of your company.

J. P. Gownder is a vice president and principal analyst at Forrester Research serving Infrastructure & Operations Professionals. Follow him on Twitter at @jgownder