Improving the customer experience is not a top focus for CIOs despite much talk about it being core to a technology strategy, our 2013 State of the CIO survey has found.
The survey of more than 200 Australian CIOs and IT leaders shows less than a third (27 per cent) focus on improving the customer experience by studying market trends and customer needs to identify commercial opportunities. Only 24 per cent identify opportunities for competitive differentiation and 22 per cent develop new go-to-market technologies.
Instead, the majority of CIOs spend most of their time on improving IT operations and systems (74 per cent), aligning IT initiatives with business goals (68 per cent) and cultivating IT-business partnerships (65 per cent).
The survey also found only 7 per cent of CIOs have some responsibility for customer service, with most focused on shared services, risk, operations and procurement.
Interestingly, however, is those figures may turn on their heads in three to five years’ time as CIOs plan to focus less on IT operations, systems and partnering and more on customer experience and engagement activities.
The number of CIOs indicating they would study market trends and customer needs in three to five years' time will increase by 7 per cent, an additional 13 per cent will identify opportunities for competitive advantage, and 17 per cent more will develop new go-to-market technologies between now and 2018.
In contrast, IT operations and systems management will be a top focus for only 21 per cent of respondents in three to five years' time, aligning IT initiatives and business goals for 36 per cent, and IT-business partnering for 38 per cent.
The CIO of Cross City Motorway, John Toner, said the reason why customer experience is not a top focus for the majority of CIOs at the moment is that they need to get “their house in order” first in relation to the provision of infrastructure and application hosting.
“Once this has been achieved, they will then be able to focus their attention on customers and growing the business in the knowledge that they have the necessary suitable underpinning architecture and platforms to provide customers with the experience they will demand – robustness, great performance and intuitive usability,” he said.
Elizabeth Wilson, CIO Edith Cowan University, said the mapping of customer experience is high on her agenda, but like Toner, she still has to lay down the foundations so she can implement new technologies that drive customer engagement.
“The Australian market is not particularly mature in service offerings around commodity IT. For example, there is little in the way of mature cloud services models that offer the true elasticity in supply and pricing that is one of the greatest benefits of cloud.
"Until this market matures, CIOs are reluctant to outsource commodity IT, thereby freeing up internal resources and their own attention to value-add activities,” she said.
Another reason why customer experience isn’t a top focus is that the old view of IT as a cost centre is still prominent in many organisations, Wilson said.
“Many organisations do not consider the possibility of IT becoming a profit centre through focusing on customer experience and engagement.
“This is possibly exacerbated by a perception that internal IT is not particularly responsive, particularly when compared to the ease with which consumers now access technology through such vehicles as an app store or Amazon Web Services.”Read more: The state of the Australian CIO
The group CIO of Schiavello Group, Krist Davood, said many CIOs are still adjusting to the socio-technical aspects of their role, where they need to think about a “multi-dimensional customer” rather than a “two-dimensional product”.
“People’s interactions with technology are multi-dimensional and not a series of bi-directional transactions,” Davood said. “Strategic proposals need to have a customer-centric approach.
"One theory is called process innovation; in plain English this means business process re-engineering which is customer focussed and not product focussed.”
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