In a recent survey we asked Line-of-Business (LOB) executives what they wanted most from their own IT organizations and their external IT suppliers. As you’ll see below, their message to the IT community is consistent, simple and challenging: “Make yourselves and your offerings more directly relevant – and valuable – to our business.”
We first asked LOB executives what messages they would like to impart to their own CIOs. We offered the respondents a pick list of thirteen “wishes” we often hear LOBs express for their own IT organizations. As you can see, three of the top four wishes are for their IT organization to understand their own company’s business better and – built on that understanding – to deliver IT services that have direct and timely positive impact on the business. As we’ve noted in a previous post, some CIOs – like P&G’s Filippo Passerini – have, in response, completely reoriented their IT organizations and strategies around the business value imperative.
Thus, it’s not surprising that, when we asked LOBs (and their CIOs) about what they’d like to see from their IT suppliers (from this pick list), business understanding, relevance and value topped the charts… well-after the perennial #1 choice – a good price! The #4 item, a clearly articulated business case for the vendor’s offering, has been on the rise in my discussions with CIOs and LOBs.
These LOB (and CIO) messages should not be a shocker to anyone in the IT market, or any market for that matter. Customer relevance is the ante for competing successfully in any market. But these findings clearly underscore how far we have yet to go as an industry in becoming relevant to our customers’ biggest concerns. Fortunately, these findings also contain an implicit action plan for IT suppliers seeking greater customer relevance:
- For IT Product/Service Development executives: to be able to create (and co-create within a community) a much richer variety of offerings, that can be tailored more closely to – and thus be more directly relevant to – the needs of much narrrower customer segments
- For IT Marketing executives: to be capable of developing and targeting relevant messages, through the right channels, to those narrow segments, whether by industry, sub-industry, process, sub-process, geography, language or size of enterprise – or, more likely, to the most opportune combinations of those
- For IT Sales executives: to continue to evolve to a Sales organization (and network) built around customer segments and sub-segments (particularly by industry), with salespeople who are conversant in business priorities and solutions
I know many IT players who are on one or more of these paths; but relatively few are very far down them. As an industry, we’ll know we’ve made the necessary progress – and have passed the relevance test – when business knowledge, business value and business impact are no longer at the top of customers’ list of “wishes”.