5 ways CIOs can show leadership in uncertain times

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By Vyshak Venugopalan, Principal Solution Consultant, Adobe India,

The coronavirus pandemic has disrupted lives and businesses around the world. As the situation evolves, organisations are grappling with new ways of working, right down to how to conduct routine daily tasks.

Yet in the midst of this uncertainty there are great examples of how business executives are tackling the situation. In many cases, IT as a function is under strain and chief information officers (CIOs) have become even more crucial to business continuity.

Here are five ways CIOs can emerge as clear leaders and champions of the customer experience for both customers and employees.

  1. Going online needs great leadership

One of the traits of a strong leadership style is adaptability to change. CIOs still need to advise the business and employees on key decisions and going online should not hinder this process. Some key ways to demonstrate this are:

  • Be available. Let your team know you’re still available as a sounding board and approver. Ensure employees and partners know how to reach out to you at any time.
  • Communicate the same message in different ways. Sending staff emails about safety are a good start, but it is essential to repeat the message in other formats. Video messaging can be highly effective as it adds a personal touch, especially if employees can see your home office in the background. Storytelling will help you convey a message that has strong cut-through. For example, a short, creative post with Adobe Spark can convey your message more effectively than a long email.
  • Share your IT vision and progress. As a CIO and business leader, sharing your perspective matters. Break down key messages, help your IT team understand the situation and prepare for increased responsibilities. Remind your team how important they are to business success.
  • Accelerate your digital transformation

Customers are looking for more convenient and higher quality digital experiences, and it’s your responsibility to deliver. For example, change your key landing pages (websites and mobile applications, for example) to reflect your brand’s most sought after product or service.

Specific, contextual information trumps general marketing content during this time. It requires CIOs to monitor self-service channels (such as FAQs and discussion forums) from a customer experience perspective, and this information will help you optimise the customer journey.

Such an initiative will not only increase customer experience and satisfaction, but also increase your capacity to focus on other mission-critical functions.

CIOs also need to identify bottlenecks in the IT function. Pinpoint high-maintenance and limited-scale applications, systems and tools that may be in need of a major overhaul. Look for opportunities for platform standardisation that would offer greater resilience and flexibility.

Empower other executives

Take time to ensure the C-suite is harnessing maximum power from the technology available to them. This should include some evangelisation about your company’s various platforms and the most effective use of them, especially in a remote working scenario.

It’s also an opportunity to partner with your chief HR officer and chief marketing officer to help them communicate effectively with employees, customers, partners, vendors and suppliers. Again, deliver a consistent message in different ways and different channels.

Some examples of partnering with your CMO on customer experience include:

  • Identifying the right channel to amplify the company’s messageIt’s important to select the right channel for the right message at the right time and you can help the CMO with renewed data sets and insights.
  • Act as the ears for the CMO. Test, learn, report and repeat. Your data and feedback can help the CMO understand the effectiveness of the marketing message, fine-tune it and create programs and campaigns to tackle specific challenges.
Reassess your data strategy

As consumer behaviour and business updates change by the hour, an opportunity arises to pay more attention to real-time analysis. Weekly comparisons may not be sufficiently frequent, so adjusting time periods for reporting and analysis may be essential.

This involves shifting your focus away from standard metrics to determine business and customer priorities. For example, move away from your traffic and “counter” metrics and focus more on relative and compounded metrics. Start looking at the engagement score across key products rather than focusing on daily traffic.

Internal training to make data self-service should become a priority. Your team may be drowning in demands for new data sets and preparations. It is worth enabling and training cross-functional teams so they can find the data they need, rather than utilising your resources.

Customer behaviour analytics should take priority – they are a primary indicator for new business strategies as well as for optimising current processes. Contribution analysis and artificial intelligence can help. As developing new machine learning will take time, purpose built AI/ML systems are a much more efficient way of implementing this.

Lead by example

The CIO function extends far beyond technology implementation. CIOs need to reach for complete organisational and customer success. It’s crucial to partner with other business units to ensure they have what they need to support customer and employee satisfaction and trust.

Supporting employees often means offering the flexibility for people to work from home, a task that could crush small IT support functions. Develop strategies to manage this and mentor volunteers within the business to help increase your scale. As the value of your role becomes evident, seek recognition from the board and ask for the funds and procurement process that will enable your team to meet new demands and streamline processes.

Above all, model the behaviour you expect of your staff, especially while working from home. Use the same collaboration tools as everyone else, be available, and recognise the hard work in your team and business.


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