The roles of CTOs and CIOs have changed. No longer are IT departments silos within organizations, working exclusively on backend systems and processes that are invisible to customers. Today’s IT leaders are joint leaders in customer experience transformation. Not only is this an expansion of what the role has traditionally represented but it’s also an opportunity for Heads of IT to play a more strategic role in the business.

A ‘State of the CIO’ survey in 2017 found that 76% of IT leaders are meeting with customers frequently or occasionally – ranked second after sales and operations. The number might surprise you, but it shows how CIOs are helping to close the loop with digital transformation in their organizations. Without an in depth understanding of the customer needs and behaviours, IT teams aren’t equipped to handle the decision making when it comes to technology solutions that serve customers.

Customer Experience is about defining the capabilities, content and touchpoints that need to be included in the customer journey. This is where data comes into play. CX professionals require data that’s relevant and easy to manipulate in order to do their jobs, which is why the two departments must work hand in hand, rather than just IT acting in a support role.

So what are some of the ways IT departments are helping transform CX?

Introducing digital innovations

Without knowing what’s actually possible, CX, marketing and operations teams have a hard time staying ahead of the curve. IT teams need to help the rest of the business discern what’s currently practical and what’s a few years away. 5G, AI, VR, AR – these are buzz terms commonly thrown around, but line of business teams need to know if there is a real and relevant application available to them, and how to best leverage it. In a report by The Economist Intelligence Unit, 71% of executives surveyed are reported to believe that business opportunities resulting from use cases such as augmented reality, automation, machine-to- machine communication, control of remote devices and physical infrastructure or smart sensors are either a high or an essential priority to their companies.

Measuring success

The number of touchpoints in the customer journey is increasing – we can all see this. When you go shopping, there’s a good chance you received an email beforehand, or saw some advertisement. In the store, you’ll speak to people, but you may also be asked for feedback electronically, you may choose to join the Wi-FI, or use the branded app to pay for your purchase or earn points. You may share photos on social media and then enter into a conversation… All these touchpoints are a response to the many different ways customers choose to ‘enter’ the journey and interact with a brand. Because the journey is no longer linear, the tools required for measurement need to be more sophisticated. A view of the entire enterprise data and systems that integrate with one other are needed in order to gain a single point of truth.

Agility in operations

Legacy systems that make it too hard to surface customer insights or that don’t offer real time insights can create competitive disadvantages. In an interview, Jeanne Ross, Principal Research Scientist at MIT, explains that the number one limiting factor large companies face is that they have not fully become IT-enabled and automated and it’s their legacy processes that hold them back. When organizations fail to move at the speed of the customer, they get surpassed. This is one reason why digital transformation continues to be one of the top priorities of CEOs now – operational efficiency is one priority that nearly everyone can agree on.

The challenges for CIOs and CTOs are vast, but each type of organization has their own strengths that can be leveraged whether that’s being small and nimble or having a large asset base that allows them to build up their capabilities at scale. Digital transformation is up and running and it’s probably the best opportunity IT has ever had to make their mark on the business.