Time to Step Out from Behind the Scenes

After years spent developing, building, implementing and maintaining the technology that allows a business to communicate, CIO and IT professionals need to get ready for their time in the limelight. According to a 2013 CIO Magazine survey, within 3-5 years many CIOs aspire to spend their time on more strategic activities including driving business innovation (54 percent), developing and refining business strategy (45 percent), and identifying opportunities for competitive differentiation (41 percent).

CIOs today have already transformed their organizations from disconnected islands of hardware and networks and applications to profit generating services for the business. Today, CIOs need to transform again from delivering discrete services to a truly connected web of services that create greater business value across the enterprise. Getting there doesn’t require change in technology insomuch as it requires a change in perspective.

Perspective can be a difficult thing to change, especially within an enterprise. In that same CIO Magazine survey, many CIO’s listed cloud, mobility, analytics, big data, social media management and customer engagement as initiatives they expected to complete this year. These are all important and strategic technologies vital to the success of your company, employees and customers. Individually they all serve a unique business need, and when viewed separate of each other they relegate the IT position to the corporate shadows off-stage.

In order to shift perspective, the IT executive must take existing investments as well as future investments and connect those discrete services in a way that delivers business value by enabling better, faster, smarter business decisions and service to their customers and partners alike. By leveraging an open and connected platform that integrates all existing and new investments, they can maximize value by providing the right information to the right people at the right time to the right device. When the CIO is viewed as the central role in business change, a trusted advisor to the business needs, the perspective has changed.

CIO’s need to think also about moving their organization the “No” to the “Know” team. All too often in order to balance business risk and reward, CIO’s are seen as stop signs, causing delay in business transformation. With the burst of consumer deployed applications, many IT organizations are challenged by the pace that users can adopt innovative applications. It’s the role of CIO to strike the balance that enables the business to evolve, while preserving a supportable, secure, and resilient infrastructure

Avaya knows that the most effective CIOs create a connected enterprise, an environment that can connect those islands across your enterprise ecosystem (customers, employees and partners). Using an open collaboration platform, like Avaya’s, I believe this connectedness brings your organization valuable, real-time business insight. In this world, analytics distill the data into something actionable and the collaboration tools work in unison across devices and locations to bring people together to solve business issues. A unifying video experience helps to quickly connect teams, reducing travel, while outbound communications provide quick response to customers on the devices and method of their choice, providing a resolution and increasing customer satisfaction.

This environment is created from the existing multi-vendor environment that you have today brought together through a connected platform that takes those discrete services and turns them into something bigger – something that adds business value and shifts the perception of your organization within the enterprise.

Every CIO knows the intrinsic value they hold within their enterprise. They have spent years researching, testing, learning and building systems that touch every piece of the business eco-system. Now they must tie all these systems together and present one body of work that moves the needle–of value and perception. It is time for the CIO to take center stage and showcase that intrinsic value. No more time spent backstage orchestrating – the lights are up and it is time for the CIO to steal the show.

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CMOs and CIOs: Stop Battling and Start Collaborating on Marketing Technology Solutions

In a 2011 webinar, Gartner Research Vice President Laura McLellan boldly said that by 2017, the CMO would spend more on IT than the CIO. Now that we’re just shy of 2017 (how time flies!) the question is: will this statement become reality, or yet another castaway on the island of false predictions? I believe this fast rise of the CMO as a major influencer of IT spending is in fact a reality.

Here’s why…

If you think back (even as recently as 10 years ago), organizations didn’t use much marketing technology in order to achieve their objectives. Just 10 years ago, marketing technology platforms like Marketo and HubSpot had just been founded and were in their primal stages. Facebook was a novel concept that was still only offered to college students. The first iPhone wouldn’t be introduced to the world for another year.

Back in the day, marketing teams didn’t have organizational transparency or seamless access to customer data like they do today. Instead they’d put an ad in the newspaper, or they might pay to rent billboard space and display their toll-free number. Barely any systems were connected and, more importantly, there were virtually no platforms that enabled customer data to be seamlessly collected or shared for marketing purposes. It makes sense, then, why the CMO had little insight into technology processes or control over spending.

But then we saw the rise of technologies like cloud, mobility, social media and big data … and everything changed.

Suddenly, the end-to-end marketing experience was tied together through technology. We began seeing new tools specifically designed to enhance digital media, social media marketing, and mobile marketing, for example. Most importantly, this new state of marketing technology was fueled by big data. How much data? Just consider that last year, Facebook users were liking nearly 4.2 million posts per minute. On Twitter, users were creating almost 350,000 new posts per minute. Customers were downloading an average 51,000 apps through the Apple App Store per minute.

That’s a lot of data, and it all drives the customer communications experience that the CMO is responsible for. Think about it: among these millions of daily interactions are customers engaging and communicating with their favorite brands. Every action, reaction, interaction, transaction … it all builds customers’ digital footprints. It’s vital that marketing teams have necessary technology that enables them to strategically leverage this data in order to deliver meaningful and contextual customer communications experiences.

The rise of these technologies has transformed the traditional face of marketing and, subsequently, the role of the CMO. Research firm Deloitte puts it perfectly: “Once the leader responsible for creativity and brand, today’s CMO has vast and complex responsibilities reaching far beyond traditional marketing—now spanning technology, analytics, growth and, above all, measurable impact.”

Among the greatest of these “vast and complex responsibilities” is enhancing the customer communications experience as the major buyer of marketing technology. To keep up with today’s rapid pace of innovation, companies must invest in technologies that enable customer communications experiences enterprise-wide, and they should entrust their CMOs to lead this spending initiative.

CMO vs. CIO: Not So Much

Do a quick Google search for “CMO vs. CIO” and you’ll see all sorts of results that discuss the apparent power struggle between these two key players. While it can’t be denied that the CIO does in some ways hold a unique position of power, I don’t think the answer is a battle between these executives to see who comes out on top.

Rather, I believe these changes mark a new and very significant partnership between the CMO and CIO. In today’s smart, digital world, marketing and IT have become interdependent. The CMO may now be the major influencer of technology purchasing decisions, but the CIO is needed to ensure all underlying infrastructure is efficiently running to support these technology investments. CIOs may not wake up every morning wondering how they can better nurture customer relationships, but they still play an integral role in supporting the CMO.

Just consider the drastic importance of security. One of the greatest responsibilities of the CIO involves implementing the highest security measures and taking every security precaution possible. As cloud, mobile and social continue to drive digital consumerism, security has become more top of mind than ever before. Customers must be able to trust that their sensitive data is being securely processed and safeguarded by the brands they love to engage with.

This is why we’re now seeing more forward-thinking companies innovating the role of CMO to work alongside the CIO and other collaborative players. Just consider that 80% of companies now employ a chief marketing technologist—a culmination between the CMO and CIO—according to a recent CMO spending report from Gartner.

Does this mean that some CIOs will need to shift from a position of power to one that serves the needs of their company through different lines of business? You bet it does. But this doesn’t mean there has to be a classic power struggle. It simply means CIOs need to embrace change and perhaps wear some new hats in order to drive better business outcomes.

For example, last week I had a meeting with the Vice President of IT at Kroenke Sports and Entertainment, Rick Schoenhals. During my visit, he walked me into a room where I saw eight data analysts sitting at a table, each mining data. He explained to me that these data analysts were members of his IT team who work closely with their marketing department to make data accessible and drive the customer experience using that information. The team still has traditional IT responsibilities but, as the department with the most access to customer data, the company realized that the role of IT needed to evolve and work hand-in-hand with marketing.

In the end, it seems there are more implications for today’s CIOs than there are for CMOs. CMOs should be major buyers of marketing technology, and CIOs need to work alongside them to drive the heart of business—the customer communications experience.

2017, we’re ready for you.

5 Things CIOs Must Do Immediately to Stay Relevant in Today's Environment

In most organizations today, CIOs are being asked to define in plain terms disruptive trends like IoT, Cloud, Big Data, analytics and others. CIOs are also expected to figure out what these trends mean to their organizations and go the last mile of transforming these inevitabilities into real business opportunities.

This is a new role for CIOs, who had previously just been in charge of managing IT and day-to-day operations. The CIO and his or her team are no longer the “back office.” Businesses assume a lot more from IT today, and the CIO is expected to add commercial value to their organization. In fact, the CIO is at the heart of this digital transformation.

When a CMO is being pressured by technology-empowered customers–whose knowledge of the company’s products might exceed their own–digital business engagement becomes the CMO’s main strategic imperative. If the company doesn’t adopt appropriate digital tools, chances are customers will leave. In this scenario, the CMO has a choice: turn to the CIO, or get external help.

Let’s look at the top 5 things today’s CIO must start doing immediately to continue being relevant to the modern organization:

#5: Accept and Own

The debate over whether today’s successful organization needs to have a solid digital strategy is gone, so accept it, own it, and drive it.

Who better than the CIO knows how to bridge the silos in their organization’s functional departments, create seamless digital touchpoints, and eventually, build an omnichannel experience that delivers a consistent, world-class customer engagement platform?

If you have a solid information and communication technology strategy that details how to efficiently use current technologies, go ahead and own the digital strategy. It starts and ends with the customer–how else can the enterprise experience top-line growth?

#4: Have an Open Mind

CIOs must take a hard look at how effective their business unit is. What is the CMO’s objectives? How do those objectives line up with Finance? It’s not all about cutting costs! The CFO will be convinced if sustainable growth and profitability patterns are proven.

The CIO’s job is more than pushing EDM campaigns, or requesting discounts for IT projects. The CIO must understand, align and drive the realization of the big picture in every strategic function of the organization. In a recent report, the Economist found just 37 percent of CIOs consider incorporating new technologies in their business a “high priority.” While being risk-adverse is not always bad, it can severely impact innovation.

#3: Create “Business Engineers”

CIOs must find advocates for change inside their organizations. That process begins inside the IT department, but if the CIO looks hard enough, they’ll no doubt find additional change agents across the business. For transformation to happen, the CIO must engage constituents across the company, changing the mindsets of not only their direct reports, but regional offices overseas. It’s time to create “business engineers,” who can help make that transformation a reality.

#2: Consider an Advisory Board

Gary Wimberly, the CIO of Express Scripts (the 20th-largest company on the Fortune 500) is a strong advocate for having trusted advisors who are capable of enhancing throughput and helping the CIO improve the rate of innovation. Wimberly believes his advisory board helped Express Scripts lower the cost of IT across the board.

CIOs must choose their trusted advisors carefully, and evaluate those relationships regularly. In research done by CIO magazine, 46 percent of CIOs said they considered their vendors truly strategic partners–defined as “an important vendor that has gone beyond effective delivery of systems and services to become a consistently transparent, responsive and trusted collaborator.” It’s important for CIOs to build an advisory board who they can rely on to support them in realizing their vision, while also re-electing when necessary.

So go ahead and elect your “advisory board” who you can always rely on to support you in realizing your vision, but re-elect when necessary.

#1: Believe in Yourself

Change is inevitable, and if not managed well, the results could be catastrophic. Who can understand and create value from a company’s IT investments if not the CIO? The company can talk about the digital transformation, and draw their customers’ digital journey all they want, but the only person capable of acting on the digital business and driving disruptive change is the CIO.

In his book “CIO Leading Change: in the digital economy,” Kapil Dev Singh believes only the CIO can “crystallize the perspectives, thoughts and practical frameworks related to the digital initiatives.”

In a white paper released by Earnst & Young, researchers say they believe CIOs are the most capable to handle digital change–and why not? IT sits at the heart of many business units, from marketing and HR to supply chain management, and is uniquely positioned to lead change inside the organization.

At the 2015 Gartner Symposium/ITxpo Middle East on May 19-21 in Dubai, CIOs will learn how to transform and adapt to the changing world around them and how to remain not only relevant, but an essential asset to their organization. I and a number of my peers have built a track record in helping CIOs and organizations transform. Drop by and have a chat with the Avaya team.

Enterprise Connect 2014: Avaya Cloud UC Triumphs in the 'Game of CIOs'

At Enterprise Connect 2014 last week, a mock Request for Proposal (RFP) was held. This is a simulation of the large contracts that companies and governmental agencies will put out for bidding by vendors, who compete on providing the best technology architecture, features and total cost of ownership (TCO, typically over a 3-5 year period).

iron throne Pat Loika Flickr

Pat Loika/Flickr

I called it ‘The Game of CIOs,’ in homage to a favorite TV show, when I wrote about the RFP competition last year. Avaya did well then, winning one of the three RFPs, deploying an all-new on-premises UC system for 2,000 employees, and scoring among the top in the other two competitions, including beating Cisco in the crucial RFP for deploying UC on top of an existing PBX.

Rob McMaher, chief architect and consultant in the Office of the CTO at Avaya, oversaw Avaya’s entry last year and this year. This year, Avaya placed second in the competition overseen by UC consultant David Stein for the on-premises UC RFP, again, beating out Cisco, he said. More impressively, Avaya took first in the RFP for cloud-based UC for 2,000 employees, beating out Alcatel-Lucent, Shoretel and Thinking Phone Networks.

Avaya Cloud RFP Competition 2014 Enterprise Connect

McMaher said Avaya won on technical grounds because of its reliability (better than five 9s uptime), elegant design and all-inclusive stack of products down to the networking gear and session border controllers, while our suite licensing helped us win on TCO.

Avaya Cloud RFP Competition 2014 Enterprise Connect 2

As a cloud solution, it was assumed that some portions such as the telephones would be purchased, while most of the external data center-based services would be leased.

If you’d like to learn more about our cloud offerings, download the entire deck here from SlideShare. And look for the Cloud guidebook to be published by Avaya next month.