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'Torchbearer' CIOs cozy up with customers amid convergence

Clint Boulton | March 30, 2016
CIOs who can transform their businesses and accelerate fiscal growth will help their companies fend of technology disruption and industry convergence.

Partner with marketing: Recognizing that few businesses can provide the full array of products and services customers want, torchbearers partner with marketing and other digital constituents to tailor digital products, such as mobile applications for customers. Collectively, they can innovate more rapidly and extend both their reach and range, without assuming the entire burden of risk themselves.

Knowing the customer cold: Many CIOs rely on thought leaders and market research firms to divine customer needs, but torchbearers go the extra mile. Nearly half turn to external customers for pointers on what’s coming down the pike. Torchbearer CIOs are also more likely to reassess the customer segments their organizations target. "The torchbearing CIO is out there getting that data for the business and is bringing it to the business," Fitzgerald says. This positions the business to stay ahead of the emerging competition and disruption.

More torchbearers wanted

Fitzgerald identified only4 percent of CIOs as belonging to the select torchbearer category, compared to the 35 percent of CIOs he identified as market followers, whose companies post weaker financial results and are slower to innovation. That number will have to ratchet up significantly if businesses are to thrive or at least survive.

Indeed, even 800-pound gorillas can be disrupted, as Frito-Lay CIO Kristen Blum told

"How do we make sure that somebody doesn’t come along and make us obsolete? There’s disruption going on every day. Don’t ever sit back and think, ‘I’m just going to perform business like I’ve always performed business, because we’re the 800-pound gorilla and no one can touch us.’ Au contraire. That’s not the case. No matter who you are and what industry [you’re in], if you aren’t thinking about how you disrupt, stay disrupted, and put the consumer above all else, you will be obsolete, I guarantee that," Blum says.

It falls to Blum and her peers at other Fortune 500 and larger companies to ensure that this doesn't happen.


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