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The era of empowerment

The era of empowerment

Welcome to an era in which customers and employees drive the IT agenda

As we describe in Forrester’s new book Empowered, your customers are empowered by better information than ever before. They can check a price, read a product review, or ask for advice from a friend right from the screen of their smartphone. They can lambaste or promote your brand on Twitter and Facebook, review your products and services in a blog post, on womow.com.au or Amazon or distribute brand-building or brand-destroying videos globally on YouTube.

Your employees are empowered too. More than half of employees surveyed by Forrester say they have better technology at home than at work, and 37 per cent of information workers are solving your customer and business problems using technology that they master first at home. The trend of technologies showing up initially in consumer markets shows no signs of slowing down. In fact, Forrester believes groundswell technologies will always be first in the hands of individuals, not institutions. Four technologies empower your customers and employees alike:

  • Social technologies connect people and give their opinions and connections tremendous reach.
  • Smart mobile technologies put the power of information directly into your customers’ and employees’ hands.
  • Pervasive video technologies put the power of global media and communications into the hands of customers and employees.
  • Cloud computing services are the delivery platform for thousands of new products and services.

As a result, the focus of technology innovation has shifted. People outside of IT — often in marketing, sales and customer service — are innovating with new technology solutions to reach out to customers. A CIO’s job is not to stop this activity. Instead, you must shift your mindset for a world where technology projects can come from anywhere and IT is a key advisor, not manager.

A new agenda of relevance

The empowered era could creep up on you, slowly and steadily, as empowerment projects appear on the radar. Or it could explode onto the scene as a customer engagement goes badly wrong and lands your CEO (or Minister) in the media spotlight. Either way, you will have a whole new agenda to manage that will make you relevant and valuable for years to come.

Every CIO has an opportunity to be the chief technology advisor on empowered initiatives. The key is to tackle high-impact, customer-facing initiatives that will quickly build momentum and excitement.

Employees are the key asset: Empower them

In addition to championing high-impact, customer-facing empowered initiatives, CIOs should also start work to transform their organisation and relationships with key stakeholders to better identify, lead, and support the growing demands of the empowered era. How? Take big strides to empower your employees:

  • Get the facts about what employees are doing with technology.
  • Anchor your internal social collaboration program in the problems employees face.
  • Turn IT security into a business risk management practice.
  • Tap HEROes as your virtual technology innovation centre.
  • Highly Empowered and Resourceful Operatives (HEROes) are the innovators inside your organisation, creating, developing, or launching technology projects, generally from outside the IT department.

HEROes most typically spring up in customer-facing positions, but can be found in every part of the organisation, building applications and solving problems using accessible technologies like Twitter, communities, wikis, blogs, mobile apps, hosted video, and cloud services.

Your new job is to find the HEROes in your company and to encourage and support their innovative applications.

Tim Sheedy is senior analyst and advisor with with Forrester Research’s CIO Group. Email him at tsheedy@forrester.com

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