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The top challenges facing CIOs in 2019

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Echo's Software Services Director Andy Mack discusses the challenges CIOs face in 2019, how to overcome these challenges and future steps...

Today’s CIO needs to be the centrepiece in delivering innovation and added-value to any organisation. This must be executed with a rigorous focus on business outcomes, agility and improving customer experience. However, with resourcing and budget challenges – not to mention legacy system barriers - key issues in today’s landscape, this is easier said than done.

More than this, the systems and software needed to deliver true business transformation can be hard to find. Easy integration, great usability and client-led empowered change are at the top of the shopping list, but, despite emerging technologies and an array of potential solutions available, this continues to be a headache.

Software must grow with the business’s ideas and enable - not hinder - innovation as CIOs push traditional boundaries relentlessly forward. Surely, it’s a time for change and time for such reliance on external software vendors to shift.

With this in mind, let’s consider some of the challenges CIOs currently face and how software vendors need to support CIOs to move forward with momentum.

Truly empowered teams

Currently, companies remain heavily reliant on software vendors for even simple changes; work that is often also chargeable and slow to be delivered amongst a software vendor’s ongoing commitments and workloads.

This hinders agility and is an ineffective model for the future and business transformation. CIOs must feel empowered to customise and enhance their solution to drive a truly personalised and tailored customer experience.

Greater internal control of purchased software is needed, enabling businesses to configure at a pace that matches their needs and empowering their own teams to implement customisation and process enhancements with agility – whether to quickly react to a changing environment or as part of forward-looking innovation change programmes.

Only then can the company easily personalise customer experience and evolve as customer expectations change; keeping them ahead of the competition who may well be stuck in the old ways of working. Of course, having additional support there if needed from your software supplier is important - the emphasis being on only if needed and no longer being reliant on them for every change and need.

Integration headaches

Delivering a positive experience across all customer touchpoints – while getting contact resolution right first time - can be challenging, relying upon a deep understanding of customer preferences, with the data used to inform this being drawn from a range of touchpoints.

Seamless integration of customer-facing technologies, such as CRM and billing platforms, is therefore crucial in order to gain the 360-degree view of the customer so vital to delivering great service. However, even cloud-based solutions – renowned for their speed, ease-of-deployment and use – still fall short in this regard, often requiring significant skill, experience and investment to integrate properly.

As it stands, therefore, a challenge businesses face is having to choose between a unified, single view of the customer, and lengthy, drawn-out integration processes which act as a hindrance to business process and ongoing digital transformation goals. Neither of these options are ideal – each coming with some degree of compromise - meaning that finding the correct balance continues to be a real headache for many businesses as we move into 2019.

Another area of compromise, of course, comes in the form of the age-old debate of ERP vs. best-of-breed (a.k.a. point-focused) software solutions. Should businesses invest in best-of-breed applications for each application area (CRM, document management etc.), or opt for the simpler integration processes associated with ERP systems and take the risk of a “jack of all trades” system that does not match up to best of breed?

However, we’re gradually seeing change in this area. Indeed, software vendors are now partnering, giving rise of a revolutionary “zero-integration” model which enables companies to “plug and play” market-leading, best-of-breed solutions with no integration. This may finally put to rest the ERP vs. best-of-breed software debate through offering the best of both worlds, which could be incredibly exciting news for the sector.

Prioritising usability

Often, businesses must compromise on the usability of their chosen software systems because they fit certain requirements or have added benefits such as artificial intelligence (AI) elements.

However, this is not a successful strategy for long-term success. Great customer service relies on a confident team of well-trained and empowered advisors that can use business technology confidently and effectively.

Staff must be comfortable and confident with using technology in their day-to-day role. Software that is user-friendly and 'great on the eye' is therefore vital for successful business change programmes. Great user experience drives great customer experience, so it’s crucial that usability is front of mind - not treated as an afterthought.

Considering future roadmaps

Given the rate of change brought about by digital transformation, it’s important that CIOs choose software that’s right for both today and the future, whilst considering the software vendor’s product roadmap in purchasing decisions.

Immediate pressures and concerns clearly have to be met, but this shouldn’t be at the expense of a more long term view. Solutions need to demonstrate how they’ll support the company in its digital transformation in the longer term. For example, plans to integrate AI, what business challenges this will solve and whether the vendor’s roadmap is aligned with the individual business and market needs.

Fit for the future

This is an exciting time for CIOs. Many will be looking to reposition their departments and teams from being a service provider to a business partner; one that is focused on strategic business outcomes and bringing the business closer to its customers.

Vendors also need to move with the times to support CIOs in the new world. Software can no longer be allowed to hold businesses back from achieving their goals and both CIOs and software vendors who ignore this new era will find themselves quickly left behind.

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