CIOs today are in the perfect position to lead the next wave of customer-centric business evolution.
I long ago took a young woman to see a Danish film about existential fear and angst, and the movie was utterly, incomprehensibly terrible. I probably don't need to add that she never went out with me again.
And today in too many companies, we can see some of that same hollow fear, that crushing sense of isolation, and that self-absorbed paralysis as was experienced by the miserable wretches in that nightmare of a movie. But when businesses lose their will to excel and to compete and to fight and to delight, when they spend most of their days scratching out subsistence-level existences and hope nothing too terribly bad will happen to them today, they become the walking dead.
So it's been a great relief to see that, in spite of the ravages of the recession, strategic business innovation continues unabated as many companies right here, right now are rapidly reconfiguring their products and services to meet customer needs. And no one -- no one -- is better positioned to make that happen and drive the necessary changes as the CIO, who's helped create the IT-enhanced business processes behind many of these sweeping innovations. For all of the very real short-term challenges, CIOs today are in a perfect position to lead this next wave of customer-centric business evolution.
The question is, are you up for this challenge? Will you accept it? No, forget "accepting" it -- will you eagerly embrace this phenomenal opportunity?
Or will you take the simpler -- but ultimately deadly -- approach of saying, 'It's not my job'?
Before you let recession-era tactics become the norm, and before the CFO puts you under his thumb as a permanent accounting tool, CIOs must step forward and eagerly take accountability for being full-fledged and full-time advocates for growth and opportunity. And make no mistake -- while many companies in a wide range of industries are pursuing new businesses that expand into related or even new markets, none of those new ventures would be in development if those companies limited themselves to head-down, just-get-by-for-another-month mentalities.
That very likely is the single-biggest challenge CIOs face today: making the leap from being reactive "supporters" of the business to being fully engaged, fully accountable drivers of the business, with significant skin in the game for product innovations, brand extensions, and enhanced customer engagement and loyalty. Yes, this is a theme we've touched on before in Global CIO, but it's also the single-biggest professional question facing CIOs around the world: Will you accept being positioned on the back bench as tactical cost centers, or will you fulfill the potential of your expertise and capabilities as someone who shares full responsibility for revenue and products and customers?