“We are seeing a shift around how organisations work with their customers from the point of first interaction all the way down the supply chain,” says IBM’s Douglas.
He adds that this shift is a result of the world becoming “more instrumented”.
Devices like smartphones and tablets are expanding already high technology engagement by consumers and as technologies like RFID and social media become more widespread, marketers are in a position to extract a mine of information about their customers.
A lot of the information being gathered about customers is unstructured, and neither CMOs nor, in many cases, CIOs are quite sure what to do with it all, and that’s a vexing issue that is driving the new CIO-CMO partnership.
As part of a CIO-CMO leadership program run by IBM, around a hundred Australian CIOs and their CMO counterparts attended a Sydney briefing with IBM global head honcho Ginni Rometty.
Rometty’s keynote highlighted the explosion of data that was changing the nature of business worldwide by making it possible for tech-savvy companies to deal with their customers at an individual level.
“I think this will change the relationship you have with your customers fundamentally, no matter what industry,” Rometty said. “And it will change the relationship between the CMO and CIO.”
The opportunity to combine transactional data with masses of information mined from social media could deliver unprecedented customer insights, she said.
Douglas explains that there’s been an evolution in the CIO’s focus to get to today’s big challenge of managing that data explosion.
“The traditional CIO has worked very much in a structured world,” he says. “In the ’90s, they focused on financial systems. By 2000 that focus on financial systems was all around Y2K. Then, following the GFC, the focus has been all about cost saving.”
The new mantra for business is ‘top line growth’, he says. “The demands on the CIO have moved away from a need to cut costs to a need to get growth.”
The explosion in data gives CIOs an opportunity to make that happen – once they work out how.
“The transactional systems are still there, but now we also have new data that the CIO has never had to deal with before … unstructured data from things like Facebook and Twitter. How do they tap into that?”
There’s a change in customer expectations too, he says, with customers expecting to be given a more personalised experience. Customers understand the potential of today’s technology and their expectations are high.
For the CIO to be able to operate effectively, they need to get inside the customers’ heads, and that’s where the CMO comes in.
“The CIO can go to the CMO to understand what the business’s end customers do, what they look like, and what information needs to be captured when we interact with these customers within our walls.”
A retailer or a call centre or a website can gather transactional information about customers during their direct interaction with them, but they will also interact with the organisation outside their walls, primarily on Twitter and Facebook, Douglas says.
The CMO and CIO need to work together to understand how they can capture that data, he adds.
“A lot of companies are quite shocked to find they have all these followers on their Facebook page and they just don’t know what to do with them – they have never had anything like this before. It is almost a dream come true, people come to them to make comments on their products and services, but they just don’t know how to use it.”
Maybe that’s an opportunity for the CIO-CMO partnership to make the benefits of properly managed social media that much clearer.
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