We’re half way through 2018, and it’s a good time to examine customer priorities for the year. I’m on the East Coast this week meeting with customers. This is one of my most favorite activities, for two reasons. First, it’s tremendously satisfying to see how the services you provide enable the accomplishment of an organization’s objectives. Seeing your work “in action” with organizations that are solving real problems or addressing crucial social issues is quite rewarding. Second, these visits are a great chance to find out what’s on people’s minds. What problems and issues are top of mind? What’s bugging people these days? I thought I’d share some of what I’ve learned so far.
What CIO’s Are Thinking
I saw this article, that said CIO’s are prioritizing customer experience and operational efficiency in their budgets, ahead of cyber security. I found this interesting, though not earth-shattering. Who wouldn’t want to drive greater operational efficiency? The question really is, “how much improvement?” I know from my experience that 10-15% savings goals are often achieved by tinkering around the edges of processes, to squeeze out some efficiencies. But if you want to make step-function improvements, you have to reconsider the entire way that services are delivered, and tasks accomplished.
As for customer experience, I found this a bit more puzzling. Who has to worry about customer experience? Certainly, if you’re delivering a service or product to consumers, customer experience is a big, big deal. I’ve abandoned web sites that seem to require more clicks than I’m willing to provide, or that ask me for the same information over and over. But what about organizations in the B2B space? Does customer experience matter there?
Well, it does if your service is reaching out directly to end consumers. We’ve seen that end users have options for using software and services that they never had before. It’s pretty well accepted that the days of controlling the applications users employ are gone for good. In fact, one customer I met with this week told me that they made some of the changes in services because their staff were using personal accounts on those services to conduct the organization’s business. This IT manager felt that offering the same service in a corporate context would at least give them the opportunity to manage the data being stored as part of that service. I thought this was an enlightened version of “if you can’t beat them, join them.”
Digital Transformation and Digital Evolution
I have a particular interest in “digital transformation.” Early in my career I was in the telecommunications business, working for a company that used “digital” to (in today’s language) disrupt the communications market. Never mind that “digital” didn’t seem to deliver anything that “analog” didn’t already do. There came a point where people wanted “digital,” whether they knew what it delivered or not.
Fast forward to today. I hear the term “digital transformation” over and over. Even the high-priced consultants have taken it on, offering to advise customers on how to achieve it.
But what is it?
I’m seeing a couple of answers emerge.
For some “digital transformation” is about digital media… including social media. It’s about how an organization is going to deploy its “digital assets” to advance the organization’s objectives. In this sense, “digital transformation” is largely a Communications activity.
I think (going back to the CIO article) that “digital” also refers to workflow and process automation. How is Marketing being conducted? How are customers and prospects being engaged? How are donations being accepted and processed? How are grants being awarded, and applicants being kept apprised of the process? More and more companies, knowing that email as the default method for communications, are asking, “is there a better, more engaging way to do this?”
May 25th has come and gone. So far, no one’s been brought before the GDPR court and pilloried for abusing someone’s personal information. But that day is coming.
I’m happy to see that organizations have taken a reasoned approach to GDPR compliance. They’ve consulted with their legal counsel. They’ve updated privacy policies. They’ve addressed the opting in or out of newsletters or other communications. They’ve identified where personal information exists. And they’ve developed procedures to remove such information if asked.
Without a doubt, the market will react as and when a company is charged with violation of GDPR regulations. Until then, organizations have taken (or are taking) reasonable steps to comply with the regulations.
Cyber Security and the “Unit of Management”
I’m seeing organizations move their applications to the cloud, either via SaaS applications such as Office 365, or PaaS services such as AWS and Azure hosting. This action has reduced the “threat surface” (I love being able to talk like a spy) of organizations. But it hasn’t eliminated the risk of breach. In fact, it’s highlighted that one of the main avenues for getting into an organization remains the end user. Social engineering, phishing and spear phishing are still big issues. Solutions exist, but they largely revolve around user awareness and education. And IT Managers are right to not feel like those kinds of solutions are robust.
As I see the dismantling of remote desktop access to corporate services and abandonment of VPN access, I’m happy to see a source of user pain go away. But I also know that movement away from a “walled garden” approach to security has to be supplemented with a shift in the focus of security. This shift moves from making access hard so that security can be easy, toward assigning security directly to the information assets being used. If you presume the bad actors have already breached the perimeter, you more easily move to securing the data that has been located within that perimeter. This is where digital rights management and data loss prevention tools come into play.
Bridging Generational Divides
IT Managers frequently must juggle the preferences of “baby boomer” employees with those of “millennials” or younger employees. There’s no easy solution here, except to listen to all parties and to encourage all groups to consider new ways of working. Try new things. Make learning and experimentation fun. Celebrate successes. Learn from trials that don’t deliver expected results.
Now I’m on to Washington, DC. We’ll see what insights I can uncover next!
I’m the VP of Global Services at CGNET. I manage our Cybersecurity and Cloud Services businesses. I also provide consulting and handle a lot of project management. I wear a lot of hats. Professionally, I’m a builder of businesses. Outside of work, I’m a hobby farmer, chef, skier, dog walker, jokester, woodworker, structuralist, husband and father.