Making the Most of the CIO


Author: Jason Watson

Scouring the Sunday rags for any cheery thought is a tough task now. I was, however, attracted to a piece in the Times on Sunday, about the Rise of the CIO, documenting the shift that saw strategic players in the basement as well as the boardroom.

The pandemic accelerated the demand for new strategies from the IT chief’s wheelhouse in a hurry to allow us all to work remotely and we’ve seen the prominence of the CIO rise within our client engagements. No longer are they relegated simply to functional leaders or just deployers of the latest technology - we see them driving the need to bring together a diverse bunch of people with a vast range of digital skills to solve business problems. This is very prevalent in Customer Service functions, product and with HR IS, but we still see little love from sales. Why?

Our clients tell us that Sales has created for itself a belief that their requirement is so vastly different from the rest of the business that they are OK to go it alone. They say it needs to operate at a pace that IT cannot match, giving rise to virtually every Sales Enablement vendor shifting to SaaS solutions, which can be stood up at pace and circumnavigate IT involvement. However, experience tells us a very different story. Engagements where CIOs are involved from the outset drive massively superior outcomes.

The ‘why’ requires a little story. In a client engagement a few years back, we were engaged by a CIO to evaluate different CRM vendors in a drive to shift sales from perpetual licenced products to SaaS. As usual, our in-depth discovery looked beyond the surface requirements document, to look at the root cause of the challenges encompassing People, Process and Tools. Unusually for this type of engagement, this was an initiative led by the CIO and therefore the process benefitted from us having conversations with everyone upstream and downstream from the sales function - able to map the customer experience end to end. This uncovered the usual breakages and manual offline process bottlenecks exacerbated by intersystem mapping tables and duplicative, outdated or incorrect data. It also highlighted that the net outcome of all of these challenges was a whopping 60% of the sales persons day being spent doing non-sales tasks manually chasing order status, approvals etc.. It also highlighted how long the customer had to wait for a response from the client (be it in problem resolution or the generation of a quote). It was a truly illuminating experience and resulted in a far superior outcome for the client leading to tangible, sustainable increases in sales efficiency and effectiveness.

As highlighted in the Sunday Times article, 58% of CIOs are considered strategic advisors to the CEO, with 52% of CIOs reporting as engaging with their CEO more than anyone else on the C-suite. This is a message for the CEO and CRO: Include your CIO in your strategic conversations relating to sales and not just about technology decisions. It might not be immediately apparent, but the difference in the way they think can give you a new perspective on your sales function and lead to dramatic results changes. If nothing else, joining up the customer experience end-to-end will help you understand how to retain and grow your customer base in a way that sales, marketing and service are often blind to. The CIO might think in bits, bytes, and data lakes, but it’s that bringing together of everyone to find those data points that gives you the very human information you need to improve your sales function and customer experience.

At Strategy to Revenue, we’ve been applying this enhanced methodology in several businesses since that first engagement, generating some transformational change programmes spanning across the whole customer experience. We’ve had amazing results, so if you’re considering change, grappling with diminishing results or just looking for a sounding board to check you are considering the right things, talk to one of our consultants.

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