As technology weaves its way into every business function, the roles of both the technology organization and the technology leader have changed. In the case of the technology leader, this role has shifted from focusing primarily on technology operations to becoming a crucial business enabler with a seat at the C-level table, where pivotal decisions are made and solid revenue growth is generated.
It’s clear that customers and growth are the “raison d’être” of companies, and that growth is an even more important focus during uncertain economic times. What may not be as clear is that technology is an essential component — the power, if you will — of every company’s growth engine. The key to achieving technology-powered growth is alignment — honest and open collaboration within the technology organization and between technology leaders and their marketing, sales, product and customer experience counterparts.
How can technology leaders power their organization’s growth agenda?
Ultimately, when it comes to powering growth within their organizations, technology leaders can achieve this goal in five key ways. They can:
Enable growth by operating secure, rock-solid operations and customer-facing systems.
A business’s marketing, sales, product, digital and service platforms span the customer journey. These customer solutions — those that power customer self-service and those that empower employees — are vital everyday tools that should work so well that they disappear into the background for customers and employees. Job one for CIOs and other technology leaders is operating those platforms flawlessly while reducing costs. In doing so, they will earn a recognized place at the growth table.
Create growth by collaborating to produce and scale new products and market channels.
Creating growth is everybody’s responsibility. Because CIOs and the IT organization have the broadest span of control and visibility across the business, processes and data systems, they are in the best position to see the big picture and help in this regard.
Some growth will be powered by new technologies; CIOs and other technology leaders can demonstrate how emerging technologies create specific growth opportunities. Instead of pitching random acts of metaverse or blockchain, which require radical changes in life or trade to matter, technology leaders can iterate on new technologies and infuse ideas from these into their own products. For example, they can show how computer vision accelerates checkout, how generative AI carries human expression into digital products, or how edge computing creates better machinery replenishment services.
Amplify growth by optimizing everything through insights, automation and artificial intelligence.
Outcomes of all kinds can always be improved — AI is just the newest tool in the improvement toolkit, joining analytics, automation and software. Personalization at scale is a good example of amplifying growth. Technology leaders should collaborate with marketing colleagues and mine databases to find better purchase signals that improve offers and outreach. They can also automate processes to streamline onboarding and improve revenue recognition. Putting customer and product insights into employees’ hands and making them experts will lead to customer engagement success.
Activate partnerships to scale their ability to transform and grow.
No technology leader and no company will do this alone. They will work with technology and service providers to build and operate the new capabilities, including those powered by generative AI. The technology organization can expand its talent and capacity, scale its company’s ability to grow and empower business colleagues with co-innovation partnerships that focus providers’ attention on successful business outcomes.
Harness AI to rewrite the calculus of growth.
AI is a game changer because it builds on the technologies that came before — software, cloud, IoT and more — to create new growth opportunities. Although it’s tempting to regard AI as just a better tool in the analytics toolbox, the ability to learn, reason, make inferences, draw conclusions, make recommendations and generate content is what elevates AI as the next major driver of every vector of technology-powered growth.
How can technology leaders themselves achieve recognition as a pillar of growth?
CIOs and other technology executives have the primary responsibility to insert technology squarely into their organization’s growth conversation. No other executive has the full visibility and opportunity to advance technology-driven growth and gauge what peers and competitors are doing with technology. To elevate their position and become the go-to technology executive, they should build on their organization’s current position, identify their priorities and communicate the business value of technology to their firm.
Leaders can also take three steps immediately to establish IT and themselves as pillars of growth. These include raising their organization’s growth awareness and tying it more deeply into business performance; establishing technology’s role in growth for the next 12 months; and communicating what they are doing to drive growth both today and in the future.
This article was written by Ted Schadler, vice president and principal analyst at Forrester. As a member of Forrester’s Technology Executive research team, Ted’s research and guidance expertise focus on technology strategy, the role of service providers as co-innovation partners, the CIO’s role in the growth agenda, and digital experience and commerce services. Co-author of the books “The Mobile Mind Shift: Engineer Your Business to Win in the Mobile Moment” (Groundswell Press) and “Empowered: Unleash Your Employees, Energize Your Customers, and Transform Your Business” (Harvard Business Review Press), Ted has a master’s degree in management from the MIT Sloan School of Management, an MS in computer science from the University of Maryland and a BA with honors in physics from Swarthmore College.
To hear more from Ted Schadler on the technology leader’s role in powering growth, check out his keynote at Forrester’s upcoming Technology & Innovation North America Forum, September 10–12, 2023, in Austin, Texas.