Business as usual is not an option for customer-obsessed CIOs

How do CIOs shake IT gravity as they shift to focusing on the business technology agenda? Forrester's Chief Business Technology Officer offers his thoughts.

I'm immersed in our strategic view that consumers and businesses alike demand outstanding customer experiences and expect them more than ever before. In fact, it's so important to us that we are being measured against the Customer Experience Index (CX Index™) on delivering a great customer experience.

The trouble is I'm experiencing many of the same blockers that our client CIOs say they have: the over-customized legacy infrastructure that won't go away; constrained budgets; and fewer resources than we wish we had. Sound familiar? Through it all, we've made great progress -- an improved website, a great iPad app, cloud infrastructure, etc. -- and there's more to come.

That's all good, but good is not good enough in the age of the customer. With the threat of Digital Disruption all around us, we feel a great urgency to do more and do it quickly.

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So it only made sense that I would look to our own research and our own analysts to seek out answers and solutions. (I mean, really -- how could I not??!) After reading Forrester analyst James McQuivey's book Digital Disruption and meeting with him, my team and I were inspired to take a very deliberate and different approach than we've tried before. We started our own innovation program, and we did it with hardly any budget and without hiring new resources or re-dedicated existing ones.

Sure, we're keeping our infrastructure modernization priorities going, but we know we don't have the luxury of putting innovation and customer experience on hold in the meantime. Instead, we're taking pages out of our own research playbook and using the weapons and mindsets of the digital disruptors themselves:

  • Avant garde approaches to design and development like crowdsourcing
  • Fee or nearly free tools like cloud platforms and app exchange add-ons
  • Innovative technology and business partnerships with small, hungry companies
  • Small teams that aren't necessarily locked into making more products like the ones we already make
  • A culture that embraces iterative, small, scrappy innovations whose goals are simply to learn and "roll the snowball down the hill" rather than get wrapped up in bet-the-budget projects right out of the gate

It's early in our journey, but we're seeing immediate results and soon I hope to deliver to our clients the fruits of this approach. Along the way, the Forrester technology team is really coming alive.They see that they have been given the permission to experiment and be disruptive, protected from the usual cultural blockers to enable such a scrappy approach. Keeping them happy and motivated is a wonderful side benefit along the way to a better technology outcome.

I don't know if such an approach would work for you in your company. However, what is clear is that in the age of the customer and with digital disruptors looming, CIOs no longer have the luxury of being victims of our blockers.