"We're no different to any other business, we have to be close to and know our customers," I recently told our head of marketing as part of a submission process. Journalism and the media lives in a strange bubble, perceived to be all knowing about its customers, but in fact often being completely removed as a circus (a very suitable phrase too) of peripheral players such as agents and agencies set the agenda that all too many choose to follow.
There is no excuse for not knowing your customer in 2015, the Internet has made it easy through the myriad of social tools. Although the social tools are there, building relationships does involve time and therefore a bit of effort. In today's spoon-fed world it is very easy to become a production line part producing the same banality as is available elsewhere. The effort you put into a relationship to ensure it has value is how you ensure continued relevance in today's fast paced and incredibly risky economy. Failure to know customers and invest in a relationship will result in collapse. Whilst in the past scarcity of access or technological resources meant the anodyne could survive as there was little in the way of market choice, today the customer is armed with as much, probably more, resource and access as you.
When I joined this title seven years ago the stick that was used to hit CIOs with was poor alignment, many claimed CIOs just didn't understand the business and therefore IT projects and services failed to meet the needs of the business. I advocate this problem has largely passed. But I also advocate a new alignment debate is just round the corner. Judging the 2015 CIO 100, the panel and I are concerned that too few CIOs realise the need to know and have relationships with the organisation's customer.
The CIO of a major well known distribution company does and has put understanding the customer at the heart of both improving the business services and the digital vision. As former Sainsbury's IT Director Rob Fraser recently told members of CIO Plus, new web skills are required in your teams to accelerate your department and align it with the customer of today. Whether a CIO or an Editor, we must personally know our customers.