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CIOs in Demand: Top Considerations for Reinventing the Business

After helping lead the way through the pandemic, chief information officers are in the spotlight and looked to for guidance. It’s time for them to step up.

After a year of sudden and radical change, organizations are focusing on the future and how to stay ahead of it. New, innovative ways of working are becoming mainstream as leaders push their companies to be more adaptive, agile, and predictive. Forward-looking enterprises, according to Accenture’s Business Futures research, are picking up several strong business signals that point the way. That includes what Accenture calls “learning from the future,” characterized by sharp analytics and artificial intelligence that help anticipate what’s coming.

And once again, at the center of this action are CIOs, who now can significantly expand their roles.

I’ve previously discussed how CIOs are the new corporate “rock stars” -- and how they must help reskill the workforce and build resilience throughout the organization. Now I suggest that CIOs are also perfectly positioned to shepherd the “reinvention” of how companies engage and interact with customers.

In practice, this means that a CIO should be embracing business-wide initiatives to boost speed and results, while investing in the process sensing technologies that will help get there.

The Need for Change

Change is in the air.

In another recent report, Accenture found that more than three-quarters (77%) of CEOs feel that their company will fundamentally change the way it engages and interacts with customers. I hear this need for change being expressed by clients now all the time: How can we be more agile, responsive, and both customer and product centric?

CIOs can and should lead this change, working with the C-suite and beyond -- including product leads and market-facing business units -- to harness technology that improves business value and outcomes.

The focus should be on using business process mining tools to quickly ingest, synthesize and then “reinvent” business practices. Combined with a strong focus on creating new operating models, this approach can accelerate a CIO’s ability to reinvent how they manage back offices, interact with customers, and improve responsiveness to market conditions.

Top Considerations for Business Reinvention

When approaching business reinvention, CIOs should keep these three considerations in mind:

1. Meeting and exceeding heightened customer expectations. After the shocks and quick transformations brought on by COVID-19, customer expectations about their experience with a business have skyrocketed. Simply completing a transaction is now table stakes. The real question is: Are you providing a superior experience? Accenture’s Life Reimagined research found that 50% of global consumers surveyed strongly agree with the statement: “The pandemic made me totally revise my personal purpose and what is important for me in life.” Among these “reimagined” consumers, 66% said they “now expect brands to take more responsibility in motivating them to live by their values and making them feel more relevant in the world.”

We are leaving the world of mere “customer experience” -- focused on optimizing digital touchpoints -- and entering a new one where the entire business should be focused on creating an unmatched experience for consumers across all touchpoints and interactions with the brand. For example, by offering customers free in-home consultations about which products are best for their individual circumstances and home environments, Best Buy has become a trusted advisor, enhancing its ability to compete with major online retailers. The service has facilitated long-term customer relationships while also supporting a smoother sales process. As a result, it lured customers away from other online options and positioned Best Buy as a trustworthy, more personal brand.

2. Investing in data and automation. Reinvention rests on a foundation of data, insight, and automation. To understand what customers need and expect, organizations have to listen to them using forms of applied intelligence. A Canadian multinational insurance firm, for example, is infusing research capabilities into its product teams to deliver greater impact.

A lean, productive team is necessary but not sufficient to compete today; the team needs research, data, and insights to know which direction to go.

3. (Re)organizing the organization. Reinvention isn’t about bolting on new tools and offerings; it requires nothing short of re-engineering the business. The whole company needs to be focused on delivering a superior end experience to the customer, with reskilled workers fluent in technology working together. The CIO can help usher in these changes. Specifically, the CIO’s role is to pinpoint the right combination of platforms, install them, and then build best practices from a business process standpoint. We see clients across industries starting to recognize that the way they operate today doesn’t work well for speed and responsiveness. Areas like finance, procurement, HR, and legal/compliance need to be adapted.

It’s time for CIOs to seize the moment in reinventing the business. Every company has become -- or must become -- a technology company, and so the technology remit will be expanded to players throughout the organization. Right now, the CIO has the advantage in jumpstarting these changes. After helping lead the way through the pandemic, CIOs are in the spotlight and looked to for guidance. It’s time for them to step up.

Andrew Sinclair and Fabio Sartori, managing directors at Accenture, also contributed to this article.