CIOs focus on Digital Strategies to Stay Ahead of the Curve

By Mehmood Mansoori, Member of Executive Management & Group Head, HDFC ERGO General Insurance

Information Technology can out gun for a competitive advantage. The roles of Information Technology function and by extension that of Chief Information Officers (CIOs) have emerged as critical not only for the growth of the organizations but also for their customers.

The conventional role of the CIOs in organizations has changed significantly in last few years. With growing influence of technology on the way of conducting and managing businesses, there has been gradual shift in the structures of the boards of enterprises.

In a marked departure from the conventional set of technology priorities, Customer Strategies (through Customer Relationship Management) are taking a backseat and are being replaced by Digital Strategies – the strategies that control emerging areas such as Internet of Things (IoT), Artificial Intelligence/Big Data, Image Analytics, Social Network Analysis etc. If the real driver of business value is customer, then the Customer Focus should remain in the top 3 priorities of the CIOs. But this does not appear to be the case. CIOs are looking beyond the obvious to stay ahead of the curve.

Today, the biggest opportunity for the CIOs is to “know before customer knows” to align and plan effectively and meet the customer expectations by pre-empting their moves. Big Data and Business Intelligence are helping corporates make sense of huge amounts of data, offering unique insights into customer behavior & preferences, fraud detection, marketing, medical informatics and more. Business Intelligence techniques such as Predictive Analytics are being employed to identify opportunities for competitive advantage. CIOs of Indian corporations are quick to recognize the trend and the investment in Big Data/Business Intelligence applications has clearly emerged as their top priority.

It is slowly becoming obvious for today’s CIO to create an innovation lab function which is dedicated to explore, employ and enable customer with fresh emerging technologies. We believe, proper nurturing and right investment in this function will leapfrog growth for an organization.  One of the finest examples is how AlphaGo, a computer program developed by Google DeepMind, deployed Artificial Intelligence thereby giving human touch to machine learning technique for personalized services.  For an industry like General Insurance, employing of Artificial Intelligence will be a major technological boost, it can help migrate insurance under-written product to Artificial Intelligence fuelled pre-written products.

Possibilities of integrating more “things” with the Internet are emerging and companies are investing to pilot few such initiatives with Health insurance.  According to Gartner, there will be over 26 billion connected devices by 2020.  The Internet of Things, is essentially the linking of physical objects with embedded sensors. The technology is slowly altering the way people use these “things” conventionally. Telematics, connected health fitness devices, connected homes are all creating opportunity to create differential service and pass on benefits to good customer & creating longer team relationship.  With trend so pervasive, no CIO can give it a miss.

Social Connect has become critical for businesses to engage better with the Social Media-savvy customers and creating unique experiences. For corporates, Social Media is an effective platform to connect with existing/potential customers. Combining SNA (Social Network Analysis) for an industry such as General Insurance, employing composites of  Big data technology will help drive insurance claim experience to customer delights and in turn will
mitigate losses.

CIOs also have key role to play in managing Customer Connects. It is very interesting time as we are world’s fastest-growing large economy with a significant middle-aged population and customers migrating from traditional to technology channels. Amid this backdrop, effective customer connect would be key in superior customer service. Irrespective of nature of your business, you need to be present in virtually every channel. It must be noted that the 20/80 rule may not work here. For instance, being present with mobile app with just iOS and Android may not be sufficient. You need to be present on Windows and other emerging platforms to be able to connect with mobile customers using different operating systems. CIOs must stay ahead of the curve to ensure that no customer connect opportunity is ignored or missed.

Today, products/services are virtually constant in the marketplace, with most providers offering more-or-less identical product/service. What could be real differentiator is how well a firm manages its value chain to deliver the value to the end-user of its products/services. The role of the CIO is crucial to remain focused on high-quality technology development and innovative approach to deliver value to all the stakeholders. Looking ahead, the CIOs would have greater role in the overall organizational strategies with more and more disrupting start-ups challenging their businesses. The key to success amid this transformation would be the organizations’ ability to balance their business between buzz, disrupter, technology trend and innovation.

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