With Brighton rock, you can see the name of the seaside resort spelled out all the way through the sweet, from edge to edge. And in the same way that you see a name through a piece of rock, a CIO can see through an organisation end to end. In fact, I can't think of any role other than that of the CIO which touches every single facet of the business. So, it's imperative that the CIO's vision and touch extend through to the organisation's end customer.
I'm spending 80 per cent of my time focused on issues that have the external customer at heart. We've got to look at everything from the perspective of customers - both internal and external - and help them get where they need to go, aided by technology.
Admittedly, my background is different from that of many CIOs. I have been a general manager and CEO of other businesses, as well as CEO for our international business group. As a result, some people tend to draw the conclusion that it's natural or easier for me to focus on the customer. But I find it difficult to understand how CIOs can do their jobs unless they understand the mission of the business and share in developing it. In the same manner, how can a surgeon do his job if he doesn't understand how the whole body works? CIOs who don't participate in or influence what the business is trying to do for its customers will only develop technology that matches or improves the status quo. If you truly understand the business, you can help to create paradigm shifts that will differentiate it.
At Best Buy, we have to understand how our geeks, as well as the blue-shirt staff in our stores, face off with customers every day, meet them in their homes and ensure they solve their problems. By understanding these customer aspirations, we were able to develop scheduling, routing and dispatch systems that made our geeks 100 per cent more productive.
One of the critical capabilities when you grow a company to 1,000-plus stores is your pricing strategy - it's how you stay ahead and drive value. We developed a price optimisation capability that implements pricing strategies by store location, delivering tens of millions of dollars per year.
Then there are technologies such as WiMax and RFID that boast the potential to change retail operating models fundamentally. It's up to us as CIOs to embed these disruptive technologies into our thinking and figure out how to use them to the customer's advantage. Imagine if customers could just walk into a store, find everything they want, select and purchase an item online, and walk out of the store without having to wait in a checkout queue. That's the direction we're going in, and it will be enabled by RFID.
However, it's not enough for just me to have a customer focus. All of my IT team members are involved in the business's core functions, where they bring the IT change lens to bear on the customer value proposition. They participate in understanding consumer attitude surveys, spend time in the stores, and work with our major vendors who are trying to find ways of being more effective with consumers. When we introduce a new product to the stores, each store will have a different experience with that product. We encourage our people to put that on a blog and share both the issue and solution. This is the best way for a greater number of people to learn quickly. It has become our greatest training aid.
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