Be a Digital CIO in a Digital World


By Samuel Greengard

One of the remarkable things that we take more and more for granted is just how much digital technology surrounds us at any given moment. We're all carrying smartphones, tablets or an array of other personal computing devices wherever we go. Digital tech has essentially become the sun around which all things orbit.

Yet, services and public infrastructure to support this post-PC environment are woefully lacking. Only within the last couple of years have airports begun to install electrical outlets and recharging stations. Many airports continue to charge for Wi-Fi. Does it occur to executives that nickel and diming customers, who are already paying a fee to use the facility, is a pretty crappy way to treat customers?

Unfortunately, most airplanes still lack electrical outlets, especially in economy class. Not a big deal on a short hop but a major pain on a long domestic or International flight. And while a few airlines have made an earnest attempt to install Wi-Fi on their planes, most are operating in a bygone era.

Let's not even talk about hotels, which invest in high-tech fridges that detect when a person removes—or even moves—a bottle of booze or a can of soda, but can't modernize rooms with adequate electrical outlets or USB recharging stations.

Meanwhile, few retailers offer store maps, product locators or price scanners in their smartphone and tablet apps. While companies are stumbling all over themselves to barrage customers with mobile coupons and promotions, it's as if executives have never shopped in the store or considered the experience through the eyes of a customer.

The list is endless and the complaints are many. Few industries or companies have taken a really close look at digital technology and, truth be told, very few CIOs have fully embraced it. Starbucks and Apple, yes. Just about everyone else? Sort of. Sometimes. In some ways.

At the heart of the problem: Most companies, despite what executives think, put systems and tools in place to deliver internal benefits. There's often little or no consideration for technologies that benefit customers or build a brand because they're difficult and sometimes impossible to measure—and even more difficult to justify. In today's fast-changing world, some lag in adopting new solutions to support customers is understandable. But, really, we're years into the digital age and a lot of CIOs haven't gotten the memo.

It's time to connect the digital dots!


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