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Innovative CIOs show how to make money with IT

Diane Frank | Dec. 3, 2012
A select few CIOs are generating cold hard cash through innovation and collaboration. We rounded up examples of CIOs who generate revenue with IT, either by boosting sales or developing a product or service sold externally.

But Hammonds is aware that improving productivity within Boeing is IT's primary job. Only about 10 percent of her organization currently works on revenue-driving efforts, and the people who do so are mostly dedicated to that role. While that group may grow in the future, the rest of the IT organization is still focused on internal productivity, Hammonds says.

This kind of split is usually necessary, says Peter High. Chasing revenue could easily become a distraction from maintaining the infrastructure of the business. Balance is required. "CIOs must be cognizant of how they are going to divide their time," he says. Some of the IT leaders he works with assign days to work on core versus revenue-driving efforts, while others pick direct reports to have daily responsibility for each area while the CIO oversees them both. Whatever they do, they can't forget that IT is still in charge of maintaining the tech infrastructure or they will find that the trust that allows them to work on revenue-producing services disappears, High says.

Adapt to Customer Trends

Unlike aerospace, the housing market isn't a place people often look for IT innovation. But for Hovnanian Enterprises, as it adapts to today's home-buying patterns, technology is essential. Vice President and CIO Nicholas Colisto has formed such a tight partnership with his VP of marketing and sales that "these days, we finish each others' sentences," he says.

When the marketing group found that homebuyers like to research houses online, just as they research consumer appliances, the marketing and IT teams worked together to create a product called Style Suite, which launched last summer. This online design tool allows homebuyers to review options--such as available lots and floor plans, or design elements like cabinets and lighting--but does not provide pricing or allow purchases. The buyer portal is in a limited pilot in New Jersey, but will be rolling out to a wider group in the coming months.

In just the few months since the site's launch, the company has already increased the value of individual sales because customers are now choosing to include options that they didn't know about before. In this pilot, Colisto expects Hovnanian will see a 15 percent average increase in the dollar value of option sales per home, a figure promised by the Style Suite software vendor, New Home Technologies.

"We're turning what is a very long, laborious process into a friendly education and buying experience," Colisto says.

Another new product tackles the other side of the buying process: The people who prefer to visit an on-site sales center so they can see options in person and talk to a sales associate. Prospects often do this on weekends, which creates a swarm of people who have to wait for an available sales associate and mill around looking at static information, like a poster or a brochure.

 

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