How CIOs can manage the expectations of the connected customer

  • By Aaron White, Regional Director, Sage Middle East

The role of the CIO has changed significantly over recent years, evolving from network operator and general FAQ answerer to business brain and strategist. Regionally, the change has been driven by the next wave of Social, Mobile, Analytics and Cloud (SMAC) technologies, which promised to unleash innovation and productivity in the enterprise by delivering better employee and customer experiences. Yet the game changing idea was that the CIO would execute those experiences.

These technologies put power in the end-user’s hands by making apps, services and information accessible everywhere (mobile), collaborative and easy-to-use (social) and tailored and responsive to their needs and context (analytics).

In the background, the power of the cloud makes it affordable and easy to deploy the latest applications and solutions to users wherever they are. The CIO’s role in this world is ascertaining how to use SMAC (also known as the Third Platform) to deliver personalised experiences that are tailored to new working styles across social and mobile as well as the expectations of the connected customer. Etihad Airways has enjoyed success with this recently, using Virtual Reality (VR) to allow passengers to experience its headline grabbing first class cabins – a marketing tool from the office of the CIO.

The engine powering SMAC is a next-generation business management system that empowers end-users and puts information and services at their fingertips. Such a system has a simple user interface, requiring little or no training, but delivers a powerful user experience. It resembles and is as easy to use as a mobile app for a social media service.

It also embeds social networking features that make it easy for people to collaborate with others and share information. As such, today’s business management solutions are tailored to the needs of a digital native accustomed to WhatsAppNetflix and Snapchat rather than a worker used to email and old-fashioned ERP.

The solution is accessible anywhere, via a mobile app or a standard web browser, extending CRM, ERP, project management and business process management software to any place where there is an Internet connection. With wearables and the Internet of Things coming of age, enterprises will have new interfaces where they can interact with employees and customers, as well as collect data.

Analytics tools are another important piece of the puzzle. Managers and leaders will have access to real-time data about the business’s performance on their mobile devices for strategic decision-making; at an operational level, a combination of big data and machine learning will allow companies to tailor customer and employee experiences to the needs of different segments to optimise sales and productivity.

Paired with the Internet of Things, advanced analytics and machine learning are bringing about the fourth industrial revolution. Connected devices and sensors, cloud computing, advanced robotics, intelligent software, and a range of other technologies are enabling companies to produce complex products in a smooth, automated process using specialist robots with very little human input.

In this environment, analytics is used to forecast issues such as machine errors or supply chain interruptions so that quality levels and uptime remain high. Major change is inevitable as the trend to manufacture in low cost economies could reverse via the use of smart technologies. Industry 4.0 also offers the ability to personalise customers’ needs into the production process in real-time.

The CIO’s role in the Fourth Industrial Revolution is all about managing the challenges and opportunities presented by digital transformation and the Internet of Things. Expect this trend to bring the level of disruption to old-style industries such as mining, manufacturing and construction as the Internet has already brought to banking, media and retail.