The Modern CIO: Relationship Builder and Money Maker

Shelly Lucas, Content Marketing Director, Dun & Bradstreet

For CIOs, 2015 is the year of convergence. Forty percent of IT organizations will be implementing data center consolidation this year. This initiative has moved up in the ranks because of technology’s mission to connect the enterprise (via applications, mobile devices, etc.). Now, with the Internet of Things on the horizon, IT leaders are taking connectivity to the next level—integrating systems to clarify and capitalize on the relationship between data sets and the people who use them. Essentially, this is IT’s value in a Big Data world: assembling the big picture that is data-rich and prime for driving business growth.

This is hardly surprising to CIOs, who are well aware that growth is the number one imperative for their CEOs. What’s also clear is that CEOs are looking to technology as the primary enabler for making that growth happen. The trouble is, it’s not happening—at least not for most companies or at the pace CEOs expect. At Dun & Bradstreet, we analyzed 1.7 million businesses globally, and only 31 percent grew revenues in 2014. Even fewer actually achieved their growth objectives.

These sobering numbers prompt technology chiefs to wonder what they’re not doing—but should be—to bring in top-line revenue. For CIOs who want to create more business value, there’s a new frontier to tackle. They must optimize technology to master data in ways that help the business build stronger and more valuable relationships.

"To determine where to start, CIOs should prioritize which platform benefits are the most valuable"

Yes, it’s the “r” word—again. CIOs has already done a lot in this area. They’ve made relationships a priority, working hard to strengthen their bonds with internal business partners (especially marketing). And as the demand for technology chiefs with “soft skills” has increased, they’ve listened—and learned. CIOs have even embraced shadow IT (and erased it from their vocabulary) to better serve the business’s collaboration needs.

But there’s still much more to be done. Data-inspired relationships lie scattered throughout the business—undiscovered and untapped inburnished (but buried) shards of revenue potential.

If CIOs really want to drive business growth, they need to devote attention to relationships (among both data and people) beyond their internal clientele. The Holy Grail to tech-driven revenue lies in a company’s relationship ecosystem, which includes customers, suppliers, partners and influencers as well as employees. But extracting new value from this data-rich web of connections requires CIOs to go beyond “aligning” with the business and its keen relationship focus. In short, CIOs must helpbuild it.

Relationships have always fueled business. Traditionally, they were governed by sales calls, cocktails and handshakes. Today, we connect with people through clicks, taps and swipes. In a digitally hyper connected, Big Data world, brands simply cannot form, feed and sustain lasting relationships at scale without technology. And if a company can understand and predict what all of these interactions mean, it can drive exponential growth.

This is a perfect opportunity for CIOs to lead withstrategic thinking. Essentially, the business need is this: a technological infrastructure or platform for sharing information, understanding interactions and gaining insight throughout a company’s relationship ecosystem— platforms have more power to create new value.

To determine where to start, CIOs should prioritize which platform benefits are the most valuable in the business’s relationship-building efforts and critical to their growth objectives. To guide the decision-making process, technology leaders may refer to John Hagel’s list of platform types and advantages to formulate critical questions.

• How can you improve data aggregation and integration to improve the business’s relationship-building performance?

Fewer than 20 percent (or as low as 6 percent) of companies have a single view of the customer--quite a quagmire for employees struggling to understand customer interactions across channels.And marketing isn’t the only team stymied by this fragmented customer/prospect view. If someone has engaged with your brand’s social media channels, your customer care and sales teams need to know; these exchanges can reveal interests and sentiment that are helpful in shaping new interactions. Imagine how helpful it would be to a sales professional to have data on a prospect’s creditworthiness, delivered directly into the CRM system. It’s not only about building relationships, but building the right ones that turn into revenue.

• What relationship value can youcreate with a platform that connects extended business process players?

In a digital world, companies must respond quickly to the market’s demand signals. By integrating data silos, platforms can strengtheninternal collaboration and increase organizational agility. Functional leaders can share the data, analytics and associated activities of their teams across silos, maximizing coordination and effectiveness in customer experience delivery. The connective benefits of a relationship platform can also extend beyond company walls. For example, how might technology help foster deeper, multi-tier collaboration within your company’s supply chain? If that scenario sounds too utopian, think about the decision-making advantages of pulling in multiple data points about supply chain players into a centralized platform. Access to providers’compliance details, financial scores and market-sensing analytics would equip leaders to manage risk and recover potentially lost revenue during a supply chain disruption.

• How can a platform connect your company with the capabilities of other businesses— and ultimately make your brand’s offering more attractive to buyers?

CIOs can create new value by building an infrastructure to support joint products and services offered by their companies’ partnerships and alliances. More and more enterprises are taking this route as they realize that building their own “proprietary” capabilities may not unseat smaller market players that have already mastered thatmarket niche. At Dun & Bradstreet, we know streaming our commercial and contact data into our customers’ existing technologies makes it convenient for our customers to use. But we don’t build marketing automation, digital marketing, CRM, or ERP systems ourselves. Instead, we partner with businesses that already excel in those areas. Likewise, we work with companies that use our commercial data to enhance what they’re selling. Franchisers, for example, use our geospatial data in their sales pitches so potential franchisees can view prime locations for launching a new business.

Because CIOs stand at the intersection of technology and information, they have a uniquely cross-functional perspective. This gives them a premium purview of their company’s relationship ecosystem, within which data-infused meaning circulates continuously. A pretty ideal position for pointing data at high priority business questions. So to all CIOs, I say, step up and step in. Think platform integration, not point solutions. Help the business connect, integrate and engage. CIOs that are relationship-builders will be money makers.

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