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CIO's move to chief customer officer role signals trend

Clint Boulton | Oct. 13, 2016
As CIOs are increasingly called upon to pitch their company’s products, long-time Equinix CIO Brian Lillie has a new job: Massaging the customer experience for the data center service provider.

It’s a tech industry thing

Forrester Research analyst Sharyn Leaver says the practice of promoting CIOs to chief customer officers may accelerate in the tech industry, where it’s common for IT leaders to purchase products from dozens to hundreds of vendors.

However, it is less likely to become a trend in traditional companies where the CIO doesn’t interact with consumers. In nontech companies, heads of sales, service or marketing – executives who already has strong customer empathy -- are more likely to be appointed to chief customer roles.

“What you want in any industry is someone who has a high level of empathy and knowledge about the customer,” Leaver says. “In most other industries the CIO is not the one who’s got that.”

Lillie, who acquired this empathy by joining customer engagements, recently joined Baack to share best practices with executives from Equinix customer Salesforce.com. "The principles of how you map and instrument a customer journey with listening paths that you can combine into a common platform that you can draw insights from is precisely we're they're at. And they're way down the path."

Lillie also tapped Jeanne Bliss, who engineered customer experience transformations at companies such as Microsoft and AllState, to help him make customer experience services a strategic differentiator for Equinix.

Lillie's promotion comes at a pivotal time in the market. Equinix stands at the vanguard of the market for colocation services, in which companies rent data center space from providers to get their servers closer to cloud providers, which reduces data transfer costs.

Catalyst Paper CIO Paul Einarson, under pressure to cut costs following the acquisition of two paper mills, recently told CIO.com that he has closed a data center and moved its servers and networking functionality to a colocation facility.

The market for colocation services will reach $55.31 billion through 2021, with a compound annual growth rate of 14.45 percent, according to Research and Markets.

 

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