Organizational theorist and author Geoffrey Moore wrote an article in 2017 regarding the need to move from applications that are "systems of records" to applications that are "systems of engagement." With systems of records, people needed to learn how to interface with the application. Whereas with systems of engagement, the pattern of operations are already understood, much like a cell phone app. These applications work the way humans think. So the question is, where are organizations today in implementing the great digital presences workers and customers need?

Do Your Digital Presences Help Create and Keep Customers and Employees?

In "Marketing Imagination," Harvard Business School professor Theodore Levitt asserted the goal of a businesses is “to create and keep a customer.”  How does technology help or hurt this process? CIO Paige Francis said that her organization is “continuously skating toward an ever-improving user experience puck.” Given this, former CIO Wayne Sadin's statement is unsurprising: “systems of engagement and systems of insight is where I encourage clients to invest these days. Customer experience (CX) and employee experience (EX) are vital and growing in importance. Once you gather engagement data, the real value comes from insight! Bad usability or misunderstanding who users are and why they're using systems of engagement ruin CX and EX very quickly.”

Clearly it's a mistake for companies to develop solutions that don't match their customers’ needs or aid in their making a purchase. Systems of engagement should never just be a set of transactional systems. According to Joanna Young, there will always be “solutions across spectrum from systems of record to engagement. CIO must be adept at figuring out lifecycles that overlap, gap, aren't even in same time-space continuum.” Analyst Dion Hinchcliffe goes further to suggest, “it is unfortunate that few capabilities have more ability to create and retain customers and employees like digital presence. Digital experience is the top success discriminator now. I'm finding that one of the biggest challenges today is that business data is increasingly spread across cloud estates, SaaS platforms, and other data silos. Enthusiastic data management is a prerequisite for rapid digital transformation today. Which is why design thinking, which has deep empathy for the users and customers of a system, has gained so much traction in recent years.”

Related Article: What Design Thinking Can Bring to Employee Experience Programs

Where Does Your Digital Presence Have the Greatest Impact on Workers and Customers?

During COVID-19, Francis said her organization, “tried to make every digital experience as positive as possible.” Sadin made the business case for doing this: “the closer the application gets to the point of service, the more chance they support or inhibit an organizations real work that's being done.” Former CIO Joanna Young said is important to work on “the point of transaction most associated with cementing relationships — in other words, moving from prospect to pre-sale and pre-sale to customer. If digital presence is absent or difficult to navigate, organizations risk achieving a positive outcome.” Common places to work are digital marketing, website, mobile, customer services and customer success. Success in these places impacts directly customer responsiveness to offers and increases overall NPS. 

Do IT Business Partners Perceive the Above Gaps?

Francis sees IT as a strong partner in these efforts: “Our partners often are leading the charge from the front and pushing from behind on everything they need transformed.” CIO Milos Topic rightfully noted that “everyone sees them with a slightly different perspective and priorities. Not everyone wants to do something about it as they necessitate change and work.”

Clearly, success depends on whether “internal partners who are creators and sustainers of the status quo. Do they equate their personal or their teams' value to status quo and ergo feel threatened by the automation required to improve things? CIO influence matters to show value from transformation. This value needs to be perceived in eyes of stakeholder colleagues. In this process, CIO need to get CEO support to move ahead when resistance is baseless,” according to Young. For this reason, Hinchcliffe's statement comes as no surprise, "I sometimes joke that EX is priority 11 on a top 10 list of CIO priorities. This was not the case in 2021, but it is normally."

Related Article: Digital Transformation 2.0: IT and Business Strategy Alignment

Learning Opportunities

A CIO Focus?

Sadin said that “relentless EX and CX focus can help CIOs earn trust and respect they have wanted, especially from customer-facing teammates.” However, he went on to state that "if you screw up front-line systems of engagement, you'll see how clearly users perceive the gaps. Many organizations don't listen well enough or send bland feedback like we understand your concern."

It's clearly a problem when systems of engagement only get partially implemented and fail to improve the lives of employees and customers. This is clearly an area where effective partnering is essential. A great digital presence is almost always the result of working closely with business partners to build the solution. This opportunity, however, is only afforded IT leaders who have made themselves part of the leadership team. For those who have achieved this, the CIO has a major role in connecting key systems and data across all of the touchpoints.

CTO Stephen DiFilipo distills the opportunity by saying “it is important to have a tightly aligned set of maturity indices for all stakeholders. When one or more are out of alignment the center of gravity will be off balance and therefore dysfunctional.” According to Hinchcliffe, a recent survey of the digital workplace advisory board found, “most organizations seeking a center of gravity for digital employee experience. But most are not yet finding it. Yet CMO and CDO are definitely focused today on making customer experience more integrated and multichannel.”

CIO’s Toolkit for Digital Presences?

When asked, CIOs suggested CIOs should include the following in their technology toolkit for digital presences:

  • Low-Code Process Tools.
  • SaaS Application Customization.
  • Quality Integrated Data.
  • Analytics.
  • UX/UI.
  • APIs.
  • IT Security.

With these in hand, having an enterprise strategy and architecture are key. Organizations also need enough budget, ability to comp and reward people appropriately. Finally, Sadin recommended CIOs “focus on listening to users and watching them work, then focus on CX and EX.”

Parting Words

Topic sees digital presences as “an opportunity to grow the relevance of our industry and our organizations. With storytelling, negotiation, communication, leadership, and empathy ... then one focuses on technologies and tools which change frequently.” Clearly, the digital presences that IT enables are a potential game changer for businesses and the CIOs that deliver them. It is time for CIOs to get their digital acts together and lead the front office experience forward.

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