A customer-centric approach means getting the product to your customer. Rubbish products don't succeed. But neither do good products, if you can't deliver on a promise. Here's why CIOs need to be as focused on logistics as they are on the best new tech.
I recently took delivery of a brand new smartphone. Very recently. Too recently in fact.
This particular phone is a brilliant piece of tech, but there was a gap of almost three weeks between me parting with money online and finally receiving my handset. In the intervening days there were a couple of issues, and there was not a great deal of communication, culminating with a text message from the courier asking me to pony up an additional £31 to pay import duty before I could get my device.
There were mitigating circumstances. And anyway this was okay for me as a tech journalist trying to get in a product to review, but would be not so great if you are a consumer waiting for a new phone. In fact, in that circumstance I'd expect that most people would simply cancel the order. A total failure.
As consumer tech has become commoditised, and virtually all computational devices good enough for purpose, the ability to get a product in the hand of the consumer has become paramount. We live in a world in which people expect their desires to be immediately sated. If you buy something online, you want it tomorrow at the latest.
The same is true of all customers, even in the business-to-business world. All CIOs have customers, internal or external. It doesn't matter how good is your product, delivering that product into the hands of your customer is key to your success.
Tim Cook - only the logistics guy
Don't believe me? Consider Apple. Yes, Apple designs and builds great products. It markets them (and itself) beautifully. But Apple is also brilliant at managing its levels of stock, and getting the product you speficied into your clammy mitts within hours of you making a purchase.
This latter aspect was critical to Apple's post-Steve Jobs' return success. Yes, Jobs, Ive and the rest created amazing category-changing products such as the iPod, iPhone and iPad. But it was Tim Cook who made the business aspects work.
Prior to joining Apple, Cook worked for both IBM and Compaq in fulfilment and operations roles. He joined Apple as a senior vice president of Worldwide Operations, and before he was CEO he was Chief Operations Officer. He's the operations guy. The man who looks after logistics.
He can be credited with changing Apple from a brilliant but slightly shambollic company into the ruthless corporate machine that can build hundreds of thousands of iPads without the outside world getting a glimpse of what an iPad is. He's the guy who makes sure that Apple never has more than a few days' worth of unsold inventory. He's the reason that Apple makes a billion Dollars a quarter. And that's why the Steve Jobs wanted Cook to follow him as CEO.
It has been argued in some corners of the web that Cook lacks Jobs' vision and creativity. It could hardly be otherwise. But he understands fully that the customer experience is only part about the product itself. Delivering on a promise is everything. And the CIO is often responsible for the systems and processes by which the product gets to the customer. (See also: How to become a CIO: 17 essential IT career tips for getting a CIO job.)
Amazon - only a book store
To find a company-wide example of the importance of delivery, you need look only as far as Amazon.
Amazon was an online book store, remember. But really, from day one, Amazon was about moving product from a to b. Jeff Bezos set up Amazon in Washington DC so that the fewest possible number of his customers would have to pay additional taxes from buying a book within their home state. He was already thinking about logistics. But the genius of Amazon as it grew in the US and beyond was the ability to get you the things you wanted, as soon as possible.
The UK is only a small country, but isn't it staggering that you can buy just about anything from Amazon on one day, and have it at your day the following morning? Logistics is what Amazon excels at, and it's why it has such a huge business. The Kindle, Kindle Fire and Fire Phone ranges builds from this. Yes they are ereaders, tablets and smartphones, but to Amazon they are simply another way of getting virtual products to you. Immediately. (They are also another way of you ordering physical products, which you can receive tomorrow.)
There is a fascinating anecdote in the definitive Amazon book 'The Everything Store', in which the senior execs are visiting a distribution centre in order to iron out problems in the logistics systems. An academic happens to be present, and expresses amazement at the fact that Bezos - the billionaire founder and CEO - is literally inside the factory machinary, sleeves rolled up, trying to understand exactly how things work in order to improve them. The point isn't that Bezos has an obsession with detail (although the book contends that he does). Rather it is that the person who is driving Amazon's strategy understands that the key to its success is delivery.
Rubbish products don't sell, but great products rarely succeed if the logistics and operations aren't taken care of. Delivery is not just important, it is the most important word in tech. And the CIO is often the person best-placed to smooth the path between customer and product. (Read next: Evolution of the CIO - From IT gatekeeper to strategic business leader.)