Asian female leader using laptop and communicating with her business team during meeting in the office.
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Today’s tech executives are operating in a rapidly changing market compared to where they were just three years ago. Against this backdrop of accelerated change, however, technology-delivered differentiation is dwindling. Many organizations have stagnant customer experience (CX) that results from pervasive digital sameness. For example, food delivery apps now all have similar interfaces and restaurants—the only things creating differentiation are fee structures and discounting.

In addition to the lack of tech-driven differentiation, we are not seeing gains in productivity from tech investments, even though tech investment has grown every decade. Thus, it is becoming exponentially more expensive to innovate efficiently and effectively. When you consider that all this tech investment often results in rising costs and complexity, today’s tech executive needs to know how to manage and lead their organization and company forward.

SEE: Hiring kit: Customer Experience Officer (TechRepublic Premium)

Future fit tech organizations thrive against these market dynamics

Fortunately, it’s not all doom and gloom out there. There are technology leaders worldwide who are successful in navigating these choppy waters. What is the secret to their success? It is because they are future fit, where they are evolving their technology organization away from digital sameness and efficiency centricity to instead focus on delivering customer outcomes. Technology leaders who rethink the purpose of their organization from enabling operations to creating customer value through adaptive, creative and resilient capabilities will be most successful in a post-pandemic business climate.

From our research, we see technology leaders becoming change agents for their organizations when they specifically engage in the following initiatives that drive toward better customer outcomes.

Place the customer at the center of the organization. Tech leaders who rethink the purpose of the organization as creating value for the customer have a whole new way of framing decisions. Deliverables move away from being project-centric and output-based to delivering specific, measurable outcomes for customers. Roadmaps must demonstrate how tech investment aligns with strategic objectives.

Continuously plan, and be prepared to adapt. The old days of agreeing on a budget and an annual plan are gone. They don’t make sense in an adaptive organization where you want to respond quickly to emergent customer demand and effectively manage risk when it comes to innovation. Tech leaders who adopt agile strategic portfolio planning with more rapid review cycles and iterative delivery can ensure that customer-centric outcomes are being delivered and can redirect resources when required.

Ensure that a customer-obsessed culture is key to success. Cultural change comes from the top, but you cannot dictate a new culture; instead, you have to evolve it. Leaders change culture to align it with the values that they share with their customers, a self-reinforcing cycle of continuously centering the customer in your organization. Embedding a customer-obsessed culture means communicating how customer obsession shapes decisions and actions at your organization. For example, demonstrating how a technology executive has changed their mind on a course of action in light of new insights about customer needs shows how leaders don’t just talk the talk but also walk the walk.

To successfully deliver those outcomes for customers, these tech leaders use the principles of future fitness, including:

Applying insights to differentiate products and CX. Leading tech executives will leverage insights to drive action. Tech executives are in a strong position to work with decision-makers to identify the insights needed and expose the value of internal data, as well as baking data-driven practices across the technology organization. Per Forrester, advanced insights-driven businesses are 1.4 times as likely as beginners to report that increased business innovation is a primary benefit of using data and analytics and 1.7 times as likely to say that improving their ability to innovate is their more critical priority.

Sustaining innovation to create value. Tech leaders can, and should, inspire business leaders to take on joint transformational journeys through their passion for technology and enterprisewide knowledge. This is the means to unlock the value of technology and data to drive improved customer experiences. They do this through sustained innovation practices, including a collaborative culture where all employees participate in innovation with a license to experiment.

Experimenting and creating value with emerging technologies. While many firms follow the adage that tech follows the business, for the truly leading edge, it’s the other way around: Technology can drive the business. While many organizations seek to insert technology into their organization, where they can match it to a known capability or risk, tech change agents look for future and emergent customer needs when innovating, taking an outside-in approach of thinking through the disruptive potential of a new technology to influence customer research. They apply this expansive research process with rigorous hypothesis-driven experimentation that surfaces new questions and drives the innovation toward creating customer value.

Leveraging platforms for speed and innovation. Leaders use platforms to function as the centers of their technology stacks—simplifying management, reducing sprawl and extending innovative services to users in the process. For example, Ping An Insurance created Ping An Technology as a high-tech core and tech business incubator to architect, develop and operate its tech platforms and services. These platforms have shortened go-to-market life cycles by 35% and utilize intelligent automation through customer service robots that answer 860 million calls—all while improving the company’s Net Promoter Score℠ (NPS) score by 16.5%.

Where does the change agent tech leader begin?

Change agent tech leaders need to move quickly and drive innovation to succeed in this rapidly evolving future. It will be key for tech leaders to prepare their organization for change. Build organizational capacity to absorb change by examining your culture. Celebrate innovation and experimentation, as well as continually invest in learning and development that enables and empowers your people to actively embrace an innovative culture and unlock value.

To learn more about how technology executives can expedite growth and differentiation, visit here.

Fiona Mark photo.
Fiona Mark

Fiona Mark is a principal analyst whose research focuses on setting CTOs up for success in leading technology innovation, partnering across the organization and delivering top products; how diversity, inclusion and equity are relevant to technology leaders; and how technology leaders can drive more value from partnerships. Fiona has over 15 years of experience in technology across a range of industries and consulting and is a graduate of the University of Edinburgh in the United Kingdom.