The term Chief Information Officer (CIO) was coined in a 1981 book by organizational theorist William Synnott, but the role didn’t take hold for many years. In fact, by the end of the decade fewer than 10% of Fortune 500 companies had established such a position, mostly because businesses viewed technology as a backroom operation versus something strategic that could drive the business.
Fast forward to 2019, and CIOs are leading the charge for digital transformation that is reshaping the global competitive landscape.
According to the latest State of the CIO survey, 88% of CIOs report being more involved than their counterparts in leading digital transformation initiatives, and they are more focused on driving revenue-generating solutions than ever before. That’s especially true in B2B ecommerce, where CIOs are under pressure to produce immediate wins and measurable performance gains.
Putting the ‘information’ back in CIO
CIOs everywhere are harnessing digital tools to deliver new products, capabilities, and services that create a competitive advantage faster. But today, that’s table stakes.
The most effective CIOs — the real change agents — are those who give voice to the customer’s point of view, and leverage that POV to make business decisions that drive revenue. They do that with a relentless focus on data and investments in technology that enable flexibility and agility tied to digital transformation initiatives.
It may be a bit hyperbolic to assert, as many have, that “data is the new oil” as the world’s most valuable resource, but there’s no denying that data (particularly the integration, sharing, and leveraging of data) is at the center of digital transformation.
B2B commerce leaders who are driving change establish systems and processes that enable the organization to gather customer data but also integrate it with other systems (service, marketing, social media, etc.), analyze it to make business decisions, and share it across all stakeholders, whether internal or external.
Let’s examine some of the ways that a cloud platform can supercharge B2B CIOs to become change agents.
The demands and attitudes of online shoppers are constantly evolving, often outstripping a brand’s ability to keep up. That’s true among consumers as well as B2B buyers. It’s crucial to deliver innovative, revenue-driving features and capabilities fast, but that’s nearly impossible with legacy systems, which are the antithesis of fast and flexible.
True cloud platforms come with none of the onerous requirements of on-premises systems, like purchasing and configuring servers, licensing and building a database, and developing a disaster recovery system.
Not only are cloud platforms exponentially less expensive, they let organizations get up and running much faster, and add features and capabilities much faster. This difference in speed, cost, and innovation is transformative for CIOs because they can deploy solutions in a fraction of the time, drive revenue that much faster, and, let’s face it, become heroes in their organizations.
Being a change agent means constantly innovating. Cloud commerce solutions like Salesforce B2B Commerce stimulates innovation with regular updates, baked-in intelligence, and out-of-the-box capabilities. It’s bolstered by a deep partner ecosystem, not to mention the core Salesforce platform itself. All of this means that CIOs can spend their time and resources on revenue-driving innovations and initiatives instead of “keeping the lights on” in the data center.
The beauty of cloud platforms (one of them — there are many!) is that they provide an ideal way to constantly evolve, test, and improve as customer requirements dictate. CIOs can’t be the change agents that today’s marketplace demands unless they support an infrastructure inherently designed to support change.
Align with other business leaders
CIOs should champion and enable revenue generation through digitally-driven strategic products and services, and align with other business leaders across marketing, sales, and customer service to execute on these plans. CIOs are key members of the executive suite, and their knowledge of digital technology and its impact on business performance is now central to all phases of the strategy.
Steve Andriole, Professor of Business Technology at The Villanova School of Business, wrote recently that, “CIOs should establish strategic teams within their own organizations...and work continuously to identify digital competitors that can disrupt the market.” These teams, he writes, “should also develop new products and services ideas for the teams to consider.”
These products and services should always address customer pain points. Indeed, across all industries, customer-centricity is at the heart of digital transformation initiatives. Customers need help unifying all the customer touchpoints across service, marketing, commerce, analytics, and more. This is another area where CIOs can become change agents.
Comprehensive customer-focused cloud platforms like Salesforce Customer 360 create a golden opportunity for CIOs to drive new levels of customer engagement and revenue by enabling organizations to connect enterprise data from any source, build unified customer profiles, and manage customer insights and engagement.
Further, cloud platforms inherently preserve precious internal resources, enabling the CIO to divert non-strategic infrastructure resources (server maintenance, for example) to invest in initiatives that drive the business.
B2B commerce is undergoing a fundamental shift as buyers demand B2C-like buying experiences. For CIOs, the need for flexible, innovative digital solutions is paramount to meeting customers on these new terms. At a time when success boils down to who can give customers what they want right now, cloud platforms give CIOs the powerful tools they need to deliver awesome experiences, and to become change agents.
Click here to learn more about how technology empowers ecommerce CIOs to become change agents.