iStock 000005682045Small

Today's market is customer-driven and CIOs across many industries are faced with delivering on customers' demands - before their competition does. From digitally-enabled sales and services professionals, to programmable products and customised offerings, businesses have started taking steps in the right direction to accelerate their business technology agendas - but, they still have a ways to go.

The transformation into a digital business won't happen overnight, but there are ways that CIOs can plan for and successfully address what Forrester calls the age of the customer: a 20-year business cycle that the most successful enterprises follow to reinvent themselves to serve increasingly powerful customers. As such, organisations should expect and prepare for significant changes in order to become customer-obsessed, requiring CIOs to adopt new technology capabilities. The CIOs who embrace the challenge will come out on top.

While there are countless skills that CIOs will pick up along the way, Forrester has identified the top five capabilities that CIOs should master first. Understanding the urgency of these capabilities will allow CIOs to rapidly transform their business, regardless of size, industry, and location.

1. "Customer-in" Strategy and Design

Customer experience is a key factor in driving business success when transforming into a digital organization, CIOs must keep this top of mind to ensure end-to-end support for clients. A new, customer-focused approach will require investments in business technology, such as the creation of customer journey mapping, usage of customer data analytics, and engagement in both product and service strategies.

2. Fast-cycle Planning and Governance

Good things don't always come to those who wait, which rings true in the case of improving business technology agendas. The time for transformation is now, and CIOs should master the ability to implement change within their organisations in a quick and ongoing fashion. Having a responsive, continuous business-strategy in place will make all the difference when transforming into a digital business.

3. Continuous Delivery

It's not only important to plan for and embrace change, but new products or services must be delivered in an ongoing fashion, too. By leading with a lean and agile culture, CIOs can use customer-in design to benefit partners, customers and users with continuous delivery through agile development methodologies, as well as integrated facilities to improve the customer experience.

4. Flexible Sourcing

As technology advances, CIOs need to stay up-to-date with the best tools, apps, services, and partners that are most beneficial to their organisations. According to a recent Forrester survey, 7% of technology spend occurs outside of the enterprise, so CIOs should keep in mind that sourcing vendors outside of their technology management organisation is also a viable option.

5. Information Security

Data breaches regularly bombard headlines, and attacks have become increasingly more sophisticated overtime. As the executive responsible for keeping the organisation's' data safe - for customers, partners, and employees using it - CIOs must make mastering new security techniques a priority as they build their business technology agendas.

Delivering Change: The Roadmap to Success

As CIOs master these capabilities, their ability to build successful business technology agendas will come down to delivering the necessary changes in a timely, yet well-planned, manner. Building a technology management roadmap is a must, and the most notable individual changes that CIOs implement include culture, balance, and operations.

Since CIOs will be leading their organisations' new technology developments and strategies, they should be fully on board to make cultural changes across the entire organisation. For example, levels of collaboration with upcoming projects may be completely new - by clearly outlining the changes that will occur during the transformation process, all teams involved will be prepped and on the same page ahead of time.

CIOs should not stop there, though. Taking the next steps, being transparent about when the changes will take place and in which functional area, will help keep the organisation on track. When putting the roadmap together, CIOs must also ensure that future changes are balanced and properly mapped out. While this may slow down the process initially, it's better in the long run to avoid hindering key functions within the organisation.

Finally, it's common for CIOs to look past how pending changes to the system and processes will affect technology operations. Aside from including operations with flexible sourcing, CIOs should focus on implementing enhanced service capabilities just the same. With change comes potential performance issues, such as response times and continuous integration - CIOs should think ahead and keep the operations team in the loop throughout the entire transformation to avoid the fallout.

Accelerating the Business Technology Agenda

The adoption of fresh technologies and change will help CIOs improve their organisation's' business technology agendas. Of course, implementing changes will not be a simple task - but, by focusing on the skills and capabilities we have identified, CIOs will be one step ahead of their competition when it comes to digital transformation and putting the customer first.

There are many different paths that CIOs can take - be a customer-obsessed leader who drives growth by embracing change.

Bobby Cameron is a Vice President and Principal Analyst at Forrester Research serving the information needs of CIOs