How CIOs Can Be Heroes to the Business

By Shams Chauthani

Apr 12, 2022

Zilliant CTO Shams Chauthani on how CIOs and IT leaders have the opportunity to be a hero to the business through smarter use of data and systems.

IT’s Opportunity to Move from Cost to Profit Center

Traditionally, B2B companies’ IT departments have been regarded as cost centers at best, inhibitors to business innovation at worst. The reality is more nuanced, but perception is powerful. However, as advances in data-driven technology accelerate and demands for real-time capabilities come in from an increasing number of customer touchpoints, the B2B CIO should be in the driver’s seat.

Never has the need for nimble, intelligent and scalable technology been more integral to delivering business value. With the right tools and approach, IT can lead the digital transformation that removes barriers and facilitates the free flow of information between systems and business functions.

Here are four questions every CIO of a B2B enterprise should be asking themself before embarking on their hero’s journey.

Can we put our data to work for our business?

Data is the most valuable asset an organization has in this digital age. As technology leaders, you are uniquely positioned to champion the use of data to drive tangible benefits by enabling smart and fast decisions across the organization. An effective data governance program is a critical part of that process. Companies that can capitalize on the use of their data will undoubtedly flourish over the next decade and set themselves apart from the competition.

Does my organization need a data governance policy?

The short answer is a resounding “Yes.” Given the variety of data that enterprises collect both internally and externally it is critical to have the right discipline and process in place to maximize value while reducing risk. Further, any data governance policy you enact must function as a shared responsibility. This important facet is often overlooked by those companies that do already have a policy.

This means that data governance is often treated in a compartmentalized way, mostly as a compliance requirement managed by IT. In today’s digital age, data is the biggest asset and to treat data governance as a siloed effort run exclusively by IT is a disservice to the entire organization.

The organizations where I have seen the data governance process deliver the promise of smarter decisions are those that continuously improve it with engagement from all stakeholders. As an IT leader it often falls on your shoulders to facilitate this process. So here are some thoughts on how you might approach it:

●Step 1:Like any other change management process, start with “Why?” Communicate the value and goals of the data governance process for the organization and get the stakeholder buy-in, including executive team support.

●Step 2:Once you get buy-in from the stakeholders involve the departments and business units by giving them a seat at the table with assigned roles, such as data ownership, and responsibilities, such as data model definition/maintenance and data quality.

●Step 3:Tie the KPIs from the data governance process to tangible business benefits. The ability to demonstrate concrete benefits to an organization is critical for continued engagement by the stakeholders.

●Step 4:Have the IT team focus on defining the systems and processes of how the stakeholders can securely store and access the data being managed.

What legacy systems are holding us back?

Take a long, hard, objective look at the platforms and applications that form the backbone of your organization’s commercial strategy. As we’ve covered extensively,legacy systems of record and systems of management for pricing are often the top candidates for modernizationin an increasingly dynamic and omnichannel world. If your ERP and Excel spreadsheets can’t keep up with modern pricing demands, there are readily available opportunities to drive significant business value with purpose-built SaaS tools.

It's important to note that you don’t necessarily need to allocate a massive budget to solve the problems presented by legacy systems. The traditional choice of “rip-and-replace or lengthy professional services engagement” is now a false binary in many circumstances. For instance, a real-time pricing engine can exist alongside an ERP, replicating the legacy system’s pre-existing price logic while executing price calculation and data lookup logic dynamically.

Is my system architecture and application footprint fully integrated? If not, what is required to connect systems?

Think about how a new piece of functional software normally enters your environment. Often one department drives the requirements for this new tool, but it then has ramifications for a lot of other areas. For example, B2B sales leaders may bring in CPQ to power a more intelligent and streamlined process for their reps. It is imperative to make it standard practice in your organization for any department evaluating a new tool to understand and communicate the technology and process interdependencies first.

The CPQ in question will need to retrieve data from your pricing system of record and potentially a price optimization and management suite. Will it need to integrate with your eCommerce site? Will it be embedded inside an existing CRM instance? These are decisions that need to be ironed out early before they become problems. Just as crucial as seamlessly bringing new technology into the fold is integrating your existing architecture in a way that makes sense and removes barriers.

Finally, always consider how the applications you manage impact your customers’ experience. The technology you choose must produce a unified experience regardless of which channels your customers interact with.Studies have shownthat “companies with omnichannel customer engagement strategies retain on average 89% of their customers, compared to customer retention rate of 33% for companies with weak omnichannel customer engagement.” Determine if your current tech can deliver the same great experience regardless of whether customers talk to a service agent, buy in-person, or visit your eCommerce shop. To do this, you must think about how to integrate and deliver the right information in the right place at the right time, consistently.

Read more:Realize Omnichannel Price Consistency with Real-Time Pricing Engine™

As CIO, the ball is in your court to execute here. These are critical organizational competencies in the digital age and are often the difference between financial success and failure. We are at a hinge point in the B2B world, one in which IT leadership has the unprecedented responsibility (and opportunity!) to chart the enterprise’s destiny.

To learn more about becoming a hero to the business, contact us today.

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