Digital technologies have shifted control into the hands of your customers. Your customers are now independent, active agents in everything, from selecting the channels and platforms they prefer, to the very definition of your brands. As CIO, you’re in an enviable position and are more essential to your firm’s success than ever. You have the technology know-how to tap into these digital technologies. And together with your CMO, you can lead your firm to become customer obsessed and create the digital experiences that win, serve, and retain customers. But you have to be willing to change the way you work.

CIOs of customer obsessed firms must embrace an accelerated pace of change and reinvention, for themselves and their organizations. But years of radical IT outsourcing have denuded many technology management organizations. In fact, Forrester's Q1 2015 Digital Experience Delivery Survey found that the top barrier to success was a lack of resources. So your first order of business as CIO?  Invest heavily in new skills:

  • Software engineering.Software (and how well it does or doesn’t perform) underpins the brand for digital businesses, making core software development and delivery skills paramount to your firm’s future success.  Agile methods, continuous-delivery techniques, and product management skills will be critical – not just in pockets, but scaled up to address all software engineering needs.
  • Analytics.Customer obsessed firms will find, test, and codify digital insights in software, leading to more intelligent customer engagement and better decisions. That may mean hiring data scientists or data engineers, but you also may be able to tap skills already under your roof. Partner with your CMO and to merge customer insights professionals with developers, data scientists, and architects into cross-functional insights teams.
  • Experience design.Top-notch digital experiences are designed from the customers’ mindset, requiring new customer insight and design skills. Customer journey mapping expertisewill inject a new level of customer understanding into your teams and boost their empathy when designing new applications, identifying gaps in existing systems, updating technology, and prioritizing projects.

Despite your best efforts, top talent is sometimes simply too hard for even large enterprises to attract and afford. The challenge of making simple, intuitive digital experiences that front complex systems of engagement will stretch the abilities and swamp the resources of many firms. CIOs must anticipate active use of third parties, technology platforms, and development approaches that allow even average staff to shine. Consider new low-cost, crowdsourced options like hackathons, internally funded incubators, digital labs, and open APIs to keep up with customers rising expectations. These options lower the cost and shorten the time required to bring new products, apps, and services to market.

Investing in these new skills and innovation options must be priority #1 for CIOs at customer obsessed firms.  Stay tuned for more on our research in these key areas of the customer-obsessed operating model. And reach out to me if you have questions or ideas on what we may be missing.