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MIT CIO Symposium: Disruption, Immersion Key for CIOs


Every May, the MIT Sloan School of Management hosts a one-day CIO Symposium where great academic minds mix with great business minds. The result is always an outpouring of IT and business thought leadership, and this year was no exception. A panel of CIOs, including Adriana Karaboutis of Dell and Roger Gurnani of Verizon, discussed what leading the digital enterprise means for today’s top IT executives, and why taking a leading digital enterprise role is so critical. Following are a few insights gleaned from the session:

Embrace, then Lead, Digital Disruption

“The Internet and e-commerce were major disruptors, but what we’re seeing now is the biggest disruption ever from a technology perspective,” said Karaboutis. “Embracing digital technology will enable you to lead the digital enterprise.”

Karaboutis pointed out that the current wave of technology disruption does not just include well-publicized applications like connected devices and social media, but also nanobots as well as wearable and even ingestible technologies. Thus, CIOs need to fully embrace and master every aspect of digital disruption as it develops, to prepare themselves to take a leading role.

“Embrace change so you can make change happen,” she said. “Stop asking people what they want. If Henry Ford had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.”

Immerse Yourself in Your Customers’ Lives

Today’s constantly connected, tech-savvy consumers present CIOs with a radically different engagement model. Gurnani advised CIOs to immerse themselves in their customers’ lives, using Verizon’s customer service strategy as an example.

“More than 80% of our customer interaction is digital,” said Gurnani. “Customers engage with Verizon through their entire technology portfolio, and we engage with them in the way they live their lives.”

Customer immersion means that when Verizon sees customers adding devices like video game consoles, smartphones and tablets onto their home networks, the company reaches out and makes recommendations for service upgrades they can perform with a single click on their TV or device. As more devices, such as vehicles and appliances, are enabled with Internet connectivity, immersion into customers’ lives through all their digital touch-points will become more important.

Customer in the Middle

The notion of a “customer-centric” IT strategy, where enterprise technology is implemented around the needs of the consumer, is not new. However, Karaboutis and Gurnani both emphasized that in this era of hyper-connected customers, keeping them in the middle of your digital enterprise is especially crucial.

“The digital enterprise is about winning the customer,” said Karaboutis. “The customer is at the center of everything we do. Data is the new currency in the digital world. You can (use digital technology to) gain insights from, have personal conversations with and tailor offerings to your customers.”

Gurnani agreed that knowing and serving the needs of customers is of paramount importance to CIOs.

“Customers have a vast amount of information and a stronger voice,” said Gurnani. “We live in a digitally charged, super-connected society, and are only getting more so.”

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