CIOs who work in the technology or services industry are likely already engaging with customers. For those CIOs who are in a company that is still trying to figure out how they’re going to make their products or services more innovative through the use of technology, my advice is to raise your hand. Ask the sales team and product support team if you can join them in the field when they meet customers or listen in on customer support calls to learn first-hand about their challenges and goals. I promise that there’s nothing like hearing directly from the customer.
For instance, in my past career in the life sciences industry, we observed the process physicians used to register patients for clinical trials. And it’s no secret IT people sometimes have a different way of looking at the world. So as we watched the whole process—enrolling the patient, getting consent, and so on—we could see several different ways to improve it without a huge effort. So, we worked with our clinical trial management teams and made changes that considerably sped things up for the physicians, which was very appreciated by them and ultimately good for the business.
If you’re not able to regularly meet with your customers, industry conferences are your next best bet. Attend sessions that involve your customer or a similar company, write a summation of what you heard about their pain points and how your company might help, and then test your ideas with your internal business partners. That could be all it takes to bring a fresh and valued perspective to the table, and further demonstrate that IT is a true strategic partner with the business’s best interests top of mind.
Bottom line: By becoming a more customer-centric CIO, you’ll be more valuable, you’ll increase your influence, and quite frankly, you’ll have far more fun—seeing customers use your product to improve their organizations is one of the most inspiring things a CIO can experience.