A few weeks ago at the Gartner Symposium/ITxpo 2015 in Orlando, we urged all IT Leaders to make the Big Shift to Customer-Focused IT. The discussion was relevant to the audience because the focus was not on the theory of the Big Shift; rather, it was about real-life (CDW) Customers who actually are making the Big Shift today. 

Fundamentally, the Big Shift is an expansion of IT’s scope to encompass their external customers and all business results, including revenue. The diagram below depicts and describes the Big Shift to Customer-Focused IT.

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  • Big Shift to the External Customer.  This Big Shift is the critical need for IT to continue to serve internal customers and the very real and emerging need to directly serve external customers.
  • Big Shift to Revenue Growth.  This Big Shift is the really important and ongoing need for IT to continue executing on internal productivity initiatives and the emerging need to engage in activities that grow revenue for the organization.

Here is just a sampling of the facts that compel evangelizing the Big Shift to Customer-Focused IT:

  • Between 2013 and 2015, the percentage of CIOs giving priority to customer growth and innovation increased from 32 percent to 38 percent, while the percentage focused on traditional priorities of effectiveness and efficiency actually decreased from 51 percent to 42 percent.1
  • Gartner’s survey of almost 3,000 CIOs worldwide found that they expect revenue from products and services sold through digital channels to double over the next five years, from 16 percent to 37 percent of total revenues.2

The Challenge

You might think this is all a piece of cake, right?  Hardly! Generally, IT leaders know that making the Big Shift is positively critical for their organizations. However, making it happen in a timely, balanced way is an entirely different matter.

When we talk about CIO challenges and with CIOs about making the Big Shift, we usually get a response like, “I get it, but frankly, I don’t have the skills. Furthermore, even if I did, any budget I have is tied up in supporting my existing internal customers and systems and driving productivity initiatives.”

While Gartner data supports the importance of the Big Shift, it also says that roles considered critical today, such as enterprise architect, will quickly give way to new roles requiring talent and staff that CIOs don’t have on board – data scientists, business analysts, managed services engineers and mobile developers.3

In addition, despite the dramatic increase in digital-driven revenue and external customer focus, Gartner projects that global IT budgets will increase by only 2.5 percent in 2015 – and that’s in current currency values. With currency rate changes, the budgets actually decrease by 4.9 percent. Funding for the Big Shift will have to come from other departments, and that process will drive closer collaboration between IT and line-of-business management.4

The Solutions

Does any of this sound familiar? Now before you thank me for helping you relive your everyday IT challenges, let’s look at some organizations that successfully overcame obstacles to make the Big Shift.

Big Shift 1: NFL Organization – “From Bleachers to a 360-Degree Game Experience”

  • THEIR GOAL – This NFL organization needed to generate incremental revenues and create the ultimate stadium experience for its fans through IT.
  • THEIR CHALLENGE – They had neither the business/technical expertise nor the budget to achieve this goal.
  • HOW THEY OVERCAME THEIR CHALLENGE – They created a vision for an immersive, in-the-moment NFL stadium experience that combined the real-life experience of the football game with all of the relevant digital information through a mobile device.  Given the compelling vision, the IT organization joined forces with the line of business to fund the project, which yielded the opportunity for assistance from CDW.
  • THEIR RESULT – Revenue growth and exceptional fan experience.

Big Shift 2: Global Manufacturing Company – “From Lumbering Giant to Global Gazelle”

  • THEIR GOAL – This very large and established manufacturing organization needed to create the ultimate technical support experience for its customers through IT.  Descriptive themes included simple and seamless processes and technical competence.
  • THEIR CHALLENGE – They had neither the business/technical expertise nor the budget to achieve this goal.
  • HOW THEY OVERCAME THEIR CHALLENGE – They created a vision for a world-class technical organization – one that had detailed knowledge of the customer environment and one that could provide immediate, delightful technical support.  Given the compelling vision, the IT organization joined forces with the line of business to fund the project, which yielded the prospect for assistance from CDW.
  • THEIR RESULT – Delightful technical support experience (in addition to significant productivity improvement for the technical support organization).

Big Shift 3: National Restaurant Chain – “From Sports Bar to Destination”

  • THEIR GOAL – This well-recognized global sports bar needed to create the ultimate experience for its customers through IT.
  • THEIR CHALLENGE – They had neither the business/technical expertise nor the budget to achieve this goal.
  • HOW THEY OVERCAME THEIR CHALLENGE – They created a vision for a customer destination experience that combined the real-life experience of a sports bar with all of the relevant digital information through a mobile device.  Given the compelling vision, the IT organization joined forces with the line of business to fund the project, which yielded an opportunity for assistance from CDW.
  • THEIR RESULT – Revenue growth and exceptional customer experience.

So clearly, there are IT leaders who, despite the challenges, have answered the call to make the Big Shift to Customer-Focused IT.  It’s all about customers and revenue in addition to the other important IT initiatives.

Only one question remains: When will you answer the call to make the Big Shift to Customer-Focused IT?

1Source: 2015 CIO Agenda: A U.S. Perspective, © 2015, Gartner Inc.
2Source: Building the Digital Platform: The 2016 CIO Agenda, © 2015, Gartner Inc.
3Source: Survey Analysis: CIOs Are Reshaping IT Workforce Profiles for Digitalization, © 2015, Gartner Inc.
4Source:  Forecast Alert: IT Spending, Worldwide, 3Q15 Update: Gartner Worldwide IT Spending Forecast, © 2015, Gartner Inc.

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