If you recycle, you’re living your belief that using and regenerating products or components in environmentally friendly ways is good for our planet and its people. By extension, you’ll likely find value in the circular economy concept. According to the renowned Ellen MacArthur Foundation, “Through design, we can eliminate waste and pollution, circulate products and materials, and regenerate nature, creating an economy that benefits people, business, and the natural world.”

The question: Are your product teams prepared to implement circular economy practices?

A personal view of a circular economy

As a child, I played nearby while my parents tugged thousands of rusty nails from used lumber salvaged from a weathered gray warehouse 75 miles away. That lumber formed the walls of our first home. We kept our garden busy year-round, rotating crops to replenish the soil. We canned, froze, and dried our produce because the closest grocery store was 25 hard miles and one-fourth of a tank of gas away. From peelings, stalks, and cuttings, we fed our pets. This was our circular economy, where we reused and repurposed everything until we used it up.

The push from the top to deliver against goals

Now, with 94% of organizations integrating environmental, sustainability, and governance goals into their strategy, CIOs, operations teams, and solutions engineers are under mounting pressure to produce results. One way to transform operations and deliverables is to consider circular economy practices when designing offerings. Unfortunately, many in design and development roles lack formal training in these practices and need help integrating them into their offerings while delivering against shrinking deadlines. 

How a rapid learn-and-pivot methodology can help

The good news: An agile, four-phase innovation methodology can jumpstart sustainable development by helping teams ask the right questions at each phase. With the underlying concepts in mind, teams can begin creating more sustainable products. 

To do this, teams must emphasize the “cycle”–starting with a traditional life cycle like the one shown but with sustainability at its core. Every team and team member involved in the product life cycle must consider multiple variables, factoring in the environmental and human impact of the offerings they’re developing and putting into the market.

The Innovation team at Iron Mountain uses a four-phase customer-focused methodology called Compassion-Driven Innovation.

In this paper–How to Accelerate Sustainability  – we’ve augmented that methodology by adding critical sustainability concepts and sharing our approach to integrating sustainability into innovation practices.

We’ve outlined the four phases of innovation—Include, Discover, Enlighten, and Activate—and included foundational information about emissions and circular economy concepts. We’ve also integrated questions about sustainability and related considerations regarding a product’s impact on society.

For example, in the Include phase, teams might ask questions like:

What are the sustainability considerations related to this area?What is the state of the art for circular practices in this area?How can a solution or process related to this area reduce waste, lower energy consumption, or cut emissionsHow might it impact societal considerations? For example, can it improve the user’s life?Might it take away or shift jobs? How can we be sure that it is non-discriminatory?

Using this approach, product design and development teams can have exploratory discussions with internal environmental, sustainability, and governance (ESG) experts and external customers to better understand a product’s potential impact. With this information, they can design offerings that benefit us all.

Every effort matters

My family had no words for what we did while living in our circular economy. It was simply a way of life passed through generations. We minimized our environmental footprint while reusing and recycling what might have been waste, minimizing pollution, and regenerating the soil. We thrived from it. That house built from those weathered boards still stands more than a half-century later, covered in rosy shingles just as my mom imagined–inviting us to gather and remember the warmth and joy we’ve shared inside. Someone else’s trash became our refuge.

No matter how small or insignificant, everyone’s efforts matter. Anyone who recycles, reuses, and repurposes materials contributes to sustainability and, to varying degrees, the circular economy.

More resources

A wealth of information exists on the circular economy concept, particularly from The Ellen MacArthur Foundation website. For more information about achieving your organization’s sustainability goals, see Rethink Sustainability.

Debra Slapak, Senior Director of Innovation Strategic Initiatives at Iron Mountain

Iron Mountain

Debra Slapak is a co-author of “Compassion-Driven Innovation: 12 Steps for Breakthrough Success”. She is senior director of innovation strategic initiatives at Iron Mountain, where she leads the team responsible for the global enterprise innovation thought leadership and research programs. Debra has led marketing programs at Dell and IBM, crafting thought leadership research, education, and outreach in areas such as enterprise edge and 5G, artificial intelligence, data analytics, data management, sustainability, metaverses, and unified asset strategy. Throughout her career, she has engaged with customers, analysts, researchers, subject-matter experts, and strategists to illuminate innovation opportunities springing from emerging technologies. She’s a registered nurse, adventurous chef, therapy pet handler, wife and mother, pet lover, and natural gardener in the fertile wine country of central Texas.

Digital Transformation

The new year brings with it enthusiasm for new priorities and accomplishments to come, resolutions to seize opportunities and overcome challenges, and the opportunity to assess takeaways from the previous year and turn the page on projects and missteps past.

In the ideal beginning of the year scenario, organizations would have completed celebrating and cerebrating on accomplishments of the previous year and performing forensic root cause analyses of the smattering of initiatives that failed to meet expectations. Now, rolling into Q1 with heads held high and bursting with confidence, the enterprise should be enthusiastically embarking on programs designed to realize the full promise of explicitly articulated goals and objectives.

This, however, is not the situation in many — probably most — IT and digital organizations today.

Having just completed my walkabout of the C-suite in 12 vertical markets, I have found that the three words most frequently used to describe the general attitude toward 2023 were “uncertainty,” “headwinds,” and “conservative.” This has led me to conclude that the No. 1 job of IT and digital leaders in 2023 is to “un-cancel” the future. They have to get their organizations to believe and behave as if 2023 is going to be better than 2022. 

Navigating a tsunami of macro-pessimisms

The general message from a multiplicity of disciplines is lack of hope and optimism. “Doom Porn” — for example, books resembling Paul Ehrlich’s The Population Bomb and Nouriel Roubini’s MegaThreats: Ten Dangerous Trends That Imperil Our Future, And How to Survive Them — continues to top non-fiction best seller lists.

Forecasters at my former hangout, The World Bank, tell us that growth will be a less than breathtaking 1.7%. My classmate at Carnegie Mellon, hedge-fund manager-extraordinaire David Tepper, told CNBC viewers that they “can’t fight the Feds” and that equities are not going anywhere in 2023.

“More than two-thirds of the economists at 23 large financial institutions that do business directly with the Federal Reserve are betting the U.S. will have a recession in 2023,” according to The Wall Street Journal.

In the foreign policy community gloom has become commonplace across the “West” in recent years.

Important voices in the environmental movement counsel that we are to adopt a “future of less, a restricted life, purged of joy.”

Robert Silverberg, in his introduction to This Way to the End of Times: Classic Tales of the Apocalypse, reminds us, “the market in apocalyptic prophecy has been a bullish one for thousands, or more likely millions of years.” We may like our fictional future dark and dystopic but science-fiction novelist William Gibson is concerned that people have given up on the future they will actually live in:

“All through the 20th century we constantly saw the 21st century invoked. … How often do you hear anyone invoke the 22nd century? Even saying it is unfamiliar to us. We’ve come to not have a future.”

Re-branding the future

The fact that the macro-picture is less than rosy is not an excuse to sit back and coast through 2023. IT and digital leaders need to re-introduce stakeholders to a future they want to live in. 2023 can be a great year. For this to happen IT and digital organizations need to re-establish trust that their agency will make things better.

Step one: IT/Digital needs to clean house. We need a skills- and attitude-driven purge of the incompetents who inhabit so many critical positions. Cheryl Smith, former CIO at Keyspan, McKesson, and West Jet and author of The Day Before Digital Transformation: Unlocking Digital Transformation for Business Leaders, has long lamented the lack of credentialing in the CIO/CDO arena. Lawyers are required to master a basic body of knowledge. As are doctors, nurses, and accountants. Any yahoo who can steam a mirror can be a CIO/CDO.

Debra Hockemeyer, who has designed and managed multiple digital transformations in multiple industries, is similarly shocked at how IT/Digital is being managed in many major enterprises today. “There is a way to consistently, reliably, and affordably deliver the benefits of digital,” she says.

Put very simply, basic IT blocking and tackling snafus such as those that recently devastated Southwest Airlines and the FAA should not be allowed to occur. Applying the words of Glenn Kelman, CEO of Redfin, to the tech and digital arena, we need to “stop doing stupid stuff.”

US Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg is spot on when he demands a root cause analysis of exactly what happened. The names of the sic IT professionals who brought the entire aviation infrastructure to a screeching halt should be plastered over every science classroom in the country with the admonition, “Don’t be these guys!” The contractor they work for should be banned from all government work for no less than five years.

Let me be perfectly clear: I am not against making mistakes in the IT/digital realm. This is the only way our discipline can grow. I am advocating that we make new mistakes. We cannot — like so many organizations — be so afraid of “breaking something” that we conduct no experiments and stifle all innovation. The blow ups at Southwest and the FAA were not innovations gone awry. They were malfeasant acts by incompetents.

Step two? Collaboratively imagine a future that works — and that we can work toward.

Emerging Technology, Innovation, IT Leadership, IT Strategy

The product line is designed to be beautiful as well as sustainable in terms of its durability and benefits for the environment. It’s highly resistant to scratches, abrasions, dry heat, solvents and cleaners, food, ink, makeup, crayons, and much more so that it can stay beautiful for years to come. But what the revolutionary high-pressure laminate (HPL) FENIX® line can’t handle is traditional HPL manufacturing.

A problem more than skin deep

Developed by Arpa Industriale S.p.A. of Italy for interior designs — including kitchen counters and cabinets — FENIX undergoes a unique series of production processes, with a multilayer coating and the use of next-generation acrylic resins. Its thin, mat surface is prone to defects when manufactured traditionally. In the early stages of product development, that vulnerability led to a large amount of scrap material along with wasted water, energy, and other resources. Clearly, this was not good for the company’s bottom line or the environment.

What’s more, with traditional manufacturing, too much time and resources were spent analyzing factory processes, and the company was unable to combine employee best-practice knowledge with operational data. The result? Production delays and stalled production-line innovation.

A fresh approach

Arpa wanted to standardize and optimize its FENIX production to cut costs and improve product quality and innovation — as well as reduce the consumption of resources in the production process. So, instead of modifying an existing factory, the company smartly started from scratch. It created a new manufacturing facility just for the FENIX product line that represents more than 50% of the company’s current business. That’s where the beauty of SAP intelligent solutions comes in.

The new factory runs on SAP. Data from more than 1,600 sensors, in addition to every system and subsystem, throughout the facility is fed directly into SAP software. As a result, Arpa is able to obtain real-time insights and predictive analytics about the state of the operation — where it’s at now and what the future might bring for preventive management.

Arpa can create customized performance dashboards that use the real-time sensor data for monitoring and analyzing every millisecond of daily production, including product quality and waste and for fine-tuning processes. Employee practices that deliver the best results can be identified, and the plant machinery can be programmed to deliver similar results. Wow!

Where design beauty, sustainability, and efficiency meet

Processes can be coordinated with SAP software. For example, sales orders entered into the SAP customer relationship management (CRM) solution automatically update SAP manufacturing and warehouse management software. This results in timely and efficient raw material provisioning and production-line scheduling. Laser-guided vehicles (LGVs) in the factory warehouse work autonomously around the clock to load and reload bar-coded rolls of raw materials, staying in sync with SAP CRM. SAP artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning technologies help Arpa constantly improve performance and sustainability. Wow again!

“With best practice and intelligent automation functionality integrated into the factory’s operation using manufacturing and supply chain solutions from SAP, Arpa’s vision of a reproducible template for operational excellence and sustainability has become a reality,” says Stefano Rossetti, production manager for Arpa.

Beautiful results

Thanks to its employees and SAP solutions, Arpa has been able to reduce energy and water use in its manufacturing process by 80%. It has cut scrap waste by 96%. Productivity has improved more than six times compared to traditional high-pressure laminate (HPL) factories. And all those improvements have helped the bottom line. In the first year of the factory’s operation, Arpa saved €750,000 in production costs.

The FENIX factory has established a best-practice model for operations company-wide. Based on that success, Arpa plans to leverage SAP software to run a multiyear initiative and deploy new production methods and technologies across its other factory operations — a proven design for sustainable success.

These accomplishments have made Arpa a WINNER of the SAP Innovation Awards for 2022. For more information on what they did to achieve this honor, see their pitch deck.

Digital Transformation

In a world where sustainability has become the new norm, technology is a key driving force for innovative businesses. Today, companies are looking for sustainable ways to reinvent the entire ecosystem of customers, suppliers, contract manufacturers, logistics service providers, and partners to support their supply chains from product design to operation.

Let’s look at last year’s SAP Innovation Awards (SIA2022) winner cases to see how future-minded companies are harnessing cloud technologies to create economic, social, and environmental impacts to improve people’s lives.

Improve decision-making with real-time planning

The 50th Anniversary Legend of the SIA2022 program, Freudenberg Home and Cleaning Solutions GmbH (FHCS), used different planning approaches and sources, which made it difficult to get a consolidated enterprise-wide view.

FHCS integrated its landscape built on SAP ERP and SAP Business Warehouse with specialized forecasting in SAP Integrated Business Planning (IBP). Having a single, centralized source of data enabled the company to generate simulations, planning, and reporting solutions based on SAP Analytics Cloud. It now takes FHCS only two days to create an initial top-down production plan. By standardizing forecasting processes across its consumer products division, Freudenberg achieved 10x faster planning despite larger data volumes and greater granularity.

Agile decision-making is key in volatile business environments. The process involves several factors that create complications. That’s why having a closed-loop planning process based on a single source is essential for companies to plan not only values but also volumes at any level of detail, which helps them avoid discrepancies between financial and operational plans.

Utilize machine learning and artificial intelligence for sustainable logistics

As more and more companies step into the sustainability game, ensuring sustainable logistics processes is now less of a trend and more of a necessity. Companies that realized the importance of moving beyond financial measures have been using artificial intelligence and machine learning for having full visibility into the supply chain operations.

Arpa Industriale, the SIA2022 building products industry social catalyst award winner, needed to respond to explosive growth in demand. The company was looking for a way to optimize and stabilize that production process while meeting ambitious targets for renewable energy use and reduction of waste and resource consumption.

The Italian manufacturer connected all vehicles in the factory warehouse in real time to work autonomously 24/7 with the goal of loading and reloading bar-coded rolls of raw materials. The sales orders in the system automatically update SAP Extended Warehouse Management, SAP Manufacturing Execution, and SAP Manufacturing Integration and Intelligence for raw material provisioning and production-line scheduling.

With real-time data and machine-learning algorithms analyzing every millisecond of their daily operations, the company reduced energy and water consumption by 80%. By using scrap monitoring dashboards in manufacturing operations, Arpa reduced scrap waste by 96% and saved €750,000 in the first year.

Synchronize physical and digital worlds in Metaverse

Imagine a digital world independent of physical conditions in which you can provide real-time information and a collaborative working environment for employees, business partners, and customers all around the world regardless of distance and physical barriers.

Automotive industry leader award owner Martur Fompak created a metaverse that synchronizes a convergence of the physical and digital worlds. The Turkish car manufacturer created digital twins of 45 robotic welding cells and integrated them into the virtual environment to monitor product and process parameters and calculate real-time carbon emission and energy consumption. The digital twins are implemented using two-way IoT connections with the SAP Manufacturing Integration and Intelligence and SAP Manufacturing Execution platform and synchronized with the physical world.

By running real-time analytics, Martur Fompak reduced greenhouse gas emissions by 12%.

Generate renewable energy with predictive maintenance

As one of the most eco-friendly energy sources, solar panels are the cleanest and most abundant renewable energy source that helps companies save time and cost to reach net-zero emission goals.

ENGIE, the utility industry leader and winner of SIA2022, has moved to renewable energy with predictive maintenance in solar farms. The French energy giant utilized 7,600 solar panels in the scope of the digital twin project for maintenance management. This allowed the ENGIE subsidiary in Chile to get an insightful combination of data for optimizing maintenance activities under a cost-benefit evaluation. Generated alerts were 100% reliable, which helped ENGIE reduce the overall cost by 45% for the maintenance of solar panels and inverters.

Focus on end-to-end digitization, not on the problem

Even though companies started their digitization journey a long time ago they can end up with fragmented systems that hinder them to extract meaningful data. Focusing only on the problem area or one aspect may not be the most substantial solution when it comes to digitization.

SIA2022 transformation champion category winner, Fulton County Schools (FCS), is the fourth largest school system in Georgia, with more than 17,600 employees. The school’s existing ERP was more than 12 years old. In addition, the asset management was handled via a third-party solution and not integrated with SAP. Moreover, the system required business users to perform complex manual tasks in multiple disparate systems which increased the risk of human error.

With SAP S/4HANA, FCS created the foundation for a centralized asset data repository, work order management, and equipment tracking to increase overall equipment effectiveness, reliability, and audibility. And with SAP Intelligent Asset Management, the school could identify items that it needed to order and capture while having insights into on-hand assets.

By focusing on transforming the entire organization, FCS is now able to proactively make decisions based on real-time actionable data. This enabled FCS to achieve 52% more accuracy and insights into invoices related to vendors and suppliers while increasing real-time reporting and analytics by 23%.

Discover how future-oriented business leaders embed sustainability within operations to accelerate advancements in both sustainability and operational outcomes: IDC Spotlight: Integrated Supply Chain Planning.

Cloud Computing

Modernization journeys are complex and typically highly custom, dependent on an enterprise’s core business challenges and overall competitive goals. Yet one way to simplify transformation and accelerate the process is using an industry-specific approach. Any vertical modernization approach should balance in-depth, vertical sector expertise with a solutions-based methodology that caters to specific business needs.

As part of their partnership, IBM and Amazon Web Services (AWS) are pursuing a variety of industry-specific blueprints and solutions designed to help customers modernize apps for a hybrid IT environment, which includes AWS Cloud.

The solutions, some in pilot stage and others in early development, transcend a variety of core industries, including manufacturing, financial services, healthcare, and transportation.

These industry solutions bring to bear both IBM and AWS’ deep-seated expertise in the specific security, interoperability, and data governance requirements impacting vertical sectors. Such an approach ensures that app modernization efforts meet any relevant certification requirements and solve business-specific problems.

“A general modernization path brings the technical assets together whereas an industry-focused initiative is more of a problem-solving, solutions-oriented design,” says Praveena Varadarajan, modernization offering leader and strategist for IBM’s Hybrid Cloud Migration Group.

With the right industry solution and implementation partner in place, organizations can steer towards effective modernization. Along with the proper technologies and tools, the right consulting partners can help accelerate transformation, specifically if they can together demonstrate deep and diverse expertise, modernization patterns, and industry-specific blueprints.

Consider the critical area of security controls, for example. Companies across industries have core requirements related to data security and governance controls, yet different industries have uniquely focused considerations.

In healthcare, securing personal health data is key, governed by national standards laid out by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).The financial services industry must adhere to a different set of security requirements, from protecting Personal Identifiable Information (PII) to safeguards that meet Payment Card Industry (PCI) compliance, meant to protect credit card holder’s information.

“Industry verticals have different compliance and regulatory issues that have to be taken into consideration when doing any type of refactoring or app modernization,” notes Hilton Howard, global migration and modernization lead at AWS. “Healthcare and life sciences companies have different governance and compliance concerns along with issues on how data is managed compared to technology companies or those in energy and financial services.”

AWS/IBM’s Industry Edge

IBM and AWS have put several mechanisms and programs in place to codify their rich vertical industry expertise and make it easily accessible to customers in critical sectors. IBM and AWS experts collaborate to identify potential joint offerings and solution blueprints designed to provide a modernization roadmap that is a level up from a general technical guide. Much of the guidance and deliverables is codified from joint initiatives conducted with large customers to provide an accelerated problem-solving path to a wider audience. The deliverables could be reference architectures or an industry-specific proof of concept—the goal is to offer institutional knowledge and near-turn-key solutions meant to streamline modernization and accelerate time-to-value.

“Sometimes it’s best practices or a solution design or some combination,” Varadarajan says. “It’s about bringing internal or external tools to bear to solve specific business issues.”

In addition, AWS and IBM are working on complex transformation aimed at large-scale transformation and modernization efforts. This will help enterprise customers adopt new digital operating models structurally and prescriptively, and transform with AWS to deliver strategic business outcomes. The program builds a meaningful partnership between AWS, IBM, and the client, and delivers an integrated program underpinned by a tailored playbook that delivers the clients’ prioritized initiatives enabled by AWS, while developing sustainable organizational capabilities for continuous transformation.

“Applying an industry lens keeps solutions grounded to the guiding principles of the business,” Varadarajan says. “The goal of transformation is not just to become more modern, but to change the way companies adapt to the new norms of running a business in the digital world.”

United’s Revenue Management Modernization Takes Flight

United Airlines took to the cloud to modernize its Revenue Management system to reduce costs, but also to land on a platform that didn’t limit its ability to apply modern revenue management processes. The airline also sought to provide analysts with finer data access controls so they could be more analytical and creative when driving revenue management decisions.

Working with AWS and IBM, United created and scaled a data warehouse using Amazon Redshift, an off-the-shelf service that manages terabytes of data with ease. Critical success factors included embracing DevOps practices, emphasis on disaster recovery, and system stability, and continuous review of design and migration decisions. Next stop: Migrating a complex forecasting module planned for later in 2022.

To learn more visit https://www.ibm.com/consulting/aws

Application Management

Over the past 184 years, The Procter & Gamble Co. (P&G) has grown to become one of the world’s largest consumer goods manufacturers, with worldwide revenue of more than $76 billion in 2021 and more than 100,000 employees. Its brands are household names, including Charmin, Crest, Dawn, Febreze, Gillette, Olay, Pampers, and Tide.

In summer 2022, P&G sealed a multiyear partnership with Microsoft to transform P&G’s digital manufacturing platform. The partners say they will create the future of digital manufacturing by leveraging the industrial internet of things (IIoT), digital twin, data, and AI to bring products to consumers faster and increase customer satisfaction, all while improving productivity and reducing costs.

“The main purpose of our digital transformation is to help create superior solutions for daily problems of millions of consumers around the world, while generating growth and value for all stakeholders,” says Vittorio Cretella, CIO of P&G. “We do that by leveraging data, AI, and automation with agility and scale across all dimensions of our business, accelerating innovation and increasing productivity in everything we do.”

The digital transformation of P&G’s manufacturing platform will enable the company to check product quality in real-time directly on the production line, maximize the resiliency of equipment while avoiding waste, and optimize the use of energy and water in manufacturing plants. Cretella says P&G will make manufacturing smarter by enabling scalable predictive quality, predictive maintenance, controlled release, touchless operations, and manufacturing sustainability optimization. These things have not been done at this scale in the manufacturing space to date, he says.

Smart manufacturing at scale

The company has already undertaken pilot projects in Egypt, India, Japan, and the US that use Azure IoT Hub and IoT Edge to help manufacturing technicians analyze insights to create improvements in the production of baby care and paper products.

For instance, the production of diapers involves assembling many layers of material at high speed with great precision to ensure optimal absorbency, leak protection, and comfort. The new IIoT platform uses machine telemetry and high-speed analytics to continuously monitor production lines to provide early detection and prevention of potential issues in the material flow. This, in turn, improves cycle time, reduces network losses, and ensures quality, all while improving operator productivity.

P&G is also piloting the use of IIoT, advanced algorithms, machine learning (ML), and predictive analytics to improve manufacturing efficiencies in the production of paper towels. P&G can now better predict finished paper towel sheet lengths.

Smart manufacturing at scale is a challenge. It requires taking data from equipment sensors, applying advanced analytics to derive descriptive and predictive insights, and automating corrective actions. The end-to-end process requires several steps, including data integration and algorithm development, training, and deployment. It also involves large amounts of data and near real-time processing.

“The secret to scale is to lessen complexity by providing common components at the edge and in the Microsoft cloud that engineers can work with to deploy diverse use cases into a specific manufacturing environment — without having to create everything from scratch,” Cretella says.

Using Microsoft Azure as the foundation, Cretella says P&G will now be able to digitize and integrate data from more than 100 manufacturing sites around the world and enhance AI, ML, and edge computing services for real-time visibility. In turn, this will enable P&G employees to analyze production data and leverage AI to support decisions that drive improvement and exponential impact.

“Accessing this level of data, at scale, is rare within the consumer goods industry,” Cretella says.

Data and AI as digital fundamentals

P&G took the first steps in its AI journey more than five years ago. It has moved past what Cretella calls the “experimentation phase” with scaled solutions and increasingly sophisticated AI applications. Data and AI have since become central to the company’s digital strategy.

“We leverage AI across all dimensions of our business to predict outcomes and increasingly to prescribe actions through automation,” Cretella says. “We have applications in our product innovation space, where thanks to modelling and simulation we can shorten the lead time to develop a new formula from months to weeks; in the way we engage and communicate with our consumers, using AI to deliver to each of them brand messages delivered at their right time, right channel, and with the right content.”

P&G also uses predictive analytics to help ensure the company’s products are available at retail partner “where, when, and how consumers shop for them,” Cretella says, adding that P&G engineers also use Azure AI to ensure quality control and equipment resilience on the production line.

While P&G’s recipe for scale relies on technology, including investment in a scalable data and AI environment centered on cross-functional data lakes, Cretella says P&G’s secret sauce is the skills of hundreds of talented data scientists and engineers who understand the company’s business inside and out. To that end, P&G’s future is about embracing automation of AI, which will allow its data engineers, data scientists, and ML engineers to spend less time on manual, labor-intensive tasks so they can focus on the areas where they add value.

“Automation of AI also allows us to deliver with consistent quality and to manage bias and risk,” he says, adding that automating AI will also “make these capabilities accessible to an increasingly larger number of employees, thus making the benefits of AI pervasive across the company.”

The power of people

Another element to achieving agility at scale is P&G’s “composite” approach to building teams in the IT organization. P&G balances the organization between central teams and teams embedded in its categories and markets. The central teams create enterprise platforms and technology foundations, while the embedded teams use those platforms and foundations to build digital solutions that address their units’ specific business opportunities. Cretella also notes that the company prioritizes insourcing talent, especially in areas such as data science, cloud management, cybersecurity, software engineering, and DevOps.

To accelerate P&G’s transformation, Microsoft and P&G have created a Digital Enablement Office (DEO) staffed by experts from both organizations. The DEO will serve as an incubator to create high-priority business scenarios in the areas of product manufacturing and packaging processes that P&G can implement across the company. Cretella considers it as more of a project management office than a center of excellence.

“It coordinates all the efforts of the different innovation teams that work on business use cases and ensures an efficient scaled deployment of proven solutions that develop,” he says.

Cretella has some advice for CIOs trying to drive digital transformation in their organizations: “First, be driven and find your energy in the passion for the business and how to apply technology to create value. Second, be equipped with tons of learning agility and genuine curiosity to learn. Last, invest in people — your teams, your peers, your bosses — because technology alone does not change things; people do.”

Artificial Intelligence, Digital Transformation, Manufacturing Industry

Like any other retailer, grocery stores want to build trust with their customers and keep them coming back. But the average bill and already slender margins in grocery can make it challenging to create a loyalty program that provides sufficiently compelling rewards.

Nevertheless, it’s worth the effort, given that loyalty programs are a powerful incentive for grocery shoppers. In the US, for example, more than 60% of grocery store loyalty program members say that the financial incentives (such as discounts and promotions) influence where they shop and how much they spend.1

The first challenge is persuading customers to sign up for a loyalty account. Stores with a digital presence tend to roll loyalty programs into their online accounts. However, stores entering the digital space report that almost 57% of their online customers prefer to check out as a guest, rather than register for an account and the associated loyalty rewards.2 How can stores persuade customers to sign up and keep them coming back for more? Follow these tips:

1. Know your customers and what matters to them

Know who your customers are and make sure the rewards you offer reflect their wants and needs. This involves making a genuine effort to understand your most loyal customers and what will entice them to keep shopping with you. Initially, you’ll probably need to gather insights from surveys, customer service data and customer interviews. Once you have a body of customers signed up as account and program members, you’ll be able to gather data about their shopping behaviors directly, enabling you to further refine and personalize your loyalty program and offers.

2. Make it easy (and rewarding) to sign up

Make the enrollment process as straightforward as you can, while ensuring you capture all the relevant customer information. Consider offering an incentive to new joiners, such as a ‘welcome’ promo code or discount off their first shop.

3. Make rewards about more than just shopping

Think about offering bonus points or other incentives to program members who refer friends and family members to the program. And give people a reason to keep coming back, such as a reward for opening your mobile app every day for seven days, or for visiting the physical store twice in a week.

4. Deliver seamless transactions at the point of sale

Give loyalty program members a smoother checkout experience instore with reserved tills, or the ability to pay using a barcode, QR code or the app itself (with additional rewards for doing so).

5. Provide genuine value to your customers

If your loyalty program is mostly focused on benefiting your business, customers will likely see through that. Instead, make sure that customers feel like they’re getting something in return for all that loyalty they’re showing you. One approach could be to offer different tiers of rewards or exclusive offers based on spending thresholds.

What technology can help optimize the loyal customer experience?

Optimizing the experience for loyal customers means recognizing them regardless of how they interact with your brand, so you can offer them the privileges, promotions and personal touch that will help them feel valued.  

With Cybersource’s sophisticated Token Management Service, you can recognize your customers regardless of the global payment types, brands, methods, channels, or devices they use. Token Management Service creates one, unified, proprietary token identifier, which centralizes and orchestrates management of all tokens to provide a 360-degree view of the customer. That enables you to support the development of omnichannel experiences and incentives that help to further increase customer engagement, satisfaction, and loyalty.

The ongoing shift to digital grocery shopping means that the competition is often only a tap away. A well designed and well executed loyalty program can play an important role in strengthening customers’ loyalty to your brand.

For more about building customer loyalty in grocery and additional insights, download Cybersource’s “Food Experiences” guide.

IT Leadership

So much has changed since the early days of 2020 when the COVID-19 pandemic forced organizations to rethink where and how people work. What didn’t change was the need for organizations to continue to move forward with digital initiatives. For CIOs and IT leaders, that meant adopting a sink-or-swim mentality, and accelerating initiatives even as they transitioned to remote work.

Fast-forward to 2022. A shift has occurred and IT is now viewed as an equal partner in driving business growth with CIOs recognized as the de facto leaders of innovation. Here, they and others share seven ways to create and nurture a culture of innovation.

Prioritize time for experimentation

A sure-fire formula for driving innovative growth is to “try something new, learn fast, pivot as needed, and scale success,’’ says Mike Crowe, CIO of Colgate-Palmolive. At Colgate, this has led to empowering teams to experiment with a global hackathon called Tech Challenge.

Mike Crowe, CIO, Colgate-Palmolive


Company leadership also creates space and time for employees to innovate by dedicating a team of people to explore emerging technologies, run experiments, and identify business applicability, Crowe says.

“This team has prototyped applications involving multiple components of artificial intelligence, blockchain, low-code/no-code development, and even quantum computing,” the CIO says.

One instance of how that exploration led to real business benefits was with the application of machine learning to predict optimal product formulation using a set of desired consumer benefits. “The team was given time to gather and clean data and experiment with machine learning models,’’ Crowe says. Now the capability is embedded in the product development process.

The greatest barrier to innovation is competing priorities and lack of time to innovate, observes Santhosh Keshavan, executive vice president and CIO of financial and insurance services firm Voya. “Technologies advance at an exponential pace, so there are always more ways to leverage and enhance technology capabilities to better serve our customers,’’ he says. “It is a CIO’s responsibility to influence and prioritize time for strategic and innovative thinking.” 

Embrace failure

Innovation is a double-edged sword: It is critical to growth — but that’s also what makes it risky. “It requires bold bets and a willingness to persevere despite setbacks, criticism, and uncertainty,’’ wrote McKinsey senior partners Laura Furstenthal and Erik Roth in a recent blog post. “By providing your employees with psychological safety, an innovation-centric purpose, and encouragement — you can help them find the courage to risk failure in pursuit of creative ambition.” 

Santhosh Keshavan, executive vice president and CIO, Voya


People should not be afraid to fail, agrees Jason Moersch, vice president of technology services at Transwestern, a commercial real estate firm based in Houston. “For ideas that don’t take off immediately, learn from mistakes and revisit occasionally. Sometimes the business is not ready for an idea right now but will be at a later time.”

Instilling an innovative culture comes down to creating an environment based on trust, which breaks down barriers and inspires people to have more open mindsets, says Keshavan. “Your team needs to know they can trust you and each other to brainstorm openly, suggest ideas, experiment, and take risks — and even fail, without consequence.

“I prefer to talk about changes in direction or strategies that don’t work,” instead of thinking an experiment or project has failed if it doesn’t work the way you thought it would, says Lorraine Marchand, author of the new book, The Innovation Mindset: Eight Essential Steps To Transform Any Industry. Look at it as an opportunity for learning and changing direction. “Taking a different road is okay,’’ adds Marchand, who is also executive managing director of Merative, formerly IBM Watson Health.

Recognize innovation starts and ends with people

Jason Moersch, vice president of technology services, Transwestern


IT is uniquely positioned to see the big picture of what is occurring across the business and identify opportunities for innovation. But this only works if IT leaders get out from behind the “tech things” and have frank conversations with stakeholders across the organization, Moersch says.

“They must understand where people struggle, define the challenges in a manner that makes sense to everyone, and then break them down into small pieces that can be improved through technology solutions,” he says. “This process can go a long way in building trust.”

It’s also important to embrace those in the organization who have explored IT solutions — even if they work outside of IT, he says. “Historically, we would have considered these as ‘shadow IT’ initiatives, but the reality is, IT cannot vet every solution in a vacuum, especially at the pace at which we are expected to adapt.”

People who are willing to explore and engage with IT should be viewed as an asset, not only because they are willing to invest time outside of their traditional job function, but also because they can act as champions who will help push comprehension and adoption throughout the business, Moersch says. 

Lorraine Marchand, executive managing director, Merative


Voya has promoted a culture that encourages free thinking and creativity, says Keshavan. When you bring people together from diverse backgrounds, experiences, and disciplines to offer unique perspectives, that will naturally foster innovation, he says.

“In 2019, this may have looked like a group of individuals coming together in a meeting room, whiteboarding customer needs, brainstorming ideas, sharing past experiences, and ideating solutions. Picture Post-it notes dotting the walls and flipcharts at every table,’’ he says. “Today, we come together on Microsoft Teams or Zoom and use tools like Miro and OneNote, but the core principles of open collaboration, free expression of ideas, and experimentation remain at the center of Voya’s innovation culture.” 

When people are trained to have an innovative mindset, the process of innovation can yield positive results, says Marchand. She likens this to “serendipitous innovations.’’

Emphasize innovation, not technology

New technologies are not innovation — they are just business as usual, says Iliya Rybchin, a partner at global management consulting firm Elixirr Consulting. All companies need to constantly deploy new technologies to maintain competitiveness, he says.

“An upgraded phone system may be a new technology but it’s not innovation. The word ‘innovation’ has been watered down, and as a result, executives struggle to create a culture of innovation because the attempt is often met by skepticism and lots of eye-rolling by employees,’’ Rybchin says.

This has made employees “immune to many innovation initiatives because the word has become a trite, cliche buzzword,’’ he adds.

As a result, fostering a culture of innovation is not tied to the implementation of new technologies or the latest digital solution, he says. Instead, it’s tied to the implementation of tangible business outcomes that drive the company forward. “Employees will rally around a new business model, a new market opportunity, a new product offering,’’ Rybchin says. “They won’t rally around the rollout of a new app.”

Iliya Rybchin, partner, Elixirr Consulting

Elixirr Consulting

Keshavan says he tries to constantly instill the concept of innovation as basic problem-solving by looking at a customer need and then finding creative ways to fill that need. “Innovative CIOs put people — their knowledge, imagination, and human creativity — at the forefront of problem-solving and create a safe space for them to openly ideate solutions,’’ he says.

Only then should the discussion around technology tools and capabilities come into the picture. “For the most part, innovation is not creating a new technology tool or capabilities, it is most often about bringing existing technologies together in a different way to solve a problem or fill a need,’’ Keshavan says. “CIOs who recognize that people innovate, and technology is simply a means to bring that innovation to life will be most successful.”

CIOs must encourage people within the company to be passionate about problem-solving, which is at the heart of innovation, echoes Marchand. “And they have to encourage people to have unbridled curiosity. This is how they get innovation to flourish.”

Bring customer-centricity into the conversation

Prianka Nandy, chief information and technology officer at Special Olympics International, had no choice but to rethink how to innovate after in-person events were canceled during the pandemic. The organization lost a lot of athletes and volunteers, and it became the perfect time to introduce digital platforms and opportunities to get them back, Nandy says.

Prianka Nandy, chief information and technology officer, Special Olympics International

Special Olympics International

Customer-centricity needs to be the focus, but Nandy knew IT needed better data to make decisions for the organization to continue to grow.  

IT is in the throes of launching a couple of mobile apps. One is for caregivers of athletes so they can learn about their child’s developmental milestones and how their children can get more exercise if that is a challenge, she says. The app also enables families to connect with one another and provide support.

Another app is designed to teach socialization and concepts of inclusion so that the athletes can engage and compete through the app. “We ask them to do something kind to a teacher or show appreciation to a fellow athlete,’’ Nandy says. “Through that, [Olympians] are able to do sports-based activities and compete against other high schools. So it’s very engaging and it’s a great recruitment tool for us to get volunteers, future donors, and future participants.”

You don’t know where innovation lies, Nandy notes. “Most of my leadership was very ready and open for change. It just takes time to have those conversations in a different way than we’ve done before.” This includes discussions about product thinking, agile product delivery, and educating people on cybersecurity.

Promote quick wins

While it’s important to think for the long term and solve for bigger problems, you also need to instill the mindset of a quick win, says Laura Merling, chief transformation and operations officer at Arvest Bank, a community bank based in Bentonville, Ark. This requires striking a balance between the two, she says.

Laura Merling, chief transformation and operations officer, Arvest Bank

Arvest Bank

“People have to see progress to understand that innovation can happen, so you can’t make innovation so complicated it can’t be executed,’’ Merling says. “It has to be broken down into smaller chunks. That starts to get people familiar with the agile model.”

Prior to her joining Arvest, the bank’s CEO spearheaded a survey to find out how ready employees were for change. Among the information that leadership gleaned was that there were people who said they had skills that were not being fully utilized. That led to the bank starting a reskilling and upskilling program tied to growth.

“Things like that set a path to innovation” and quick wins, Merlin says.

Transwestern’s Moersch is working on the “measure twice, cut once” approach, but says you have to be able to bring a proof of concept to the table in a timely manner. “From there, you can iterate on the ideas,’’ he says. “But if you wait too long, your client will consider you an obstacle rather than an asset and move on.” 

Broaden your partner scope

Colgate continues to have strategic partnerships with large enterprise technology companies, but Crowe says that “they are not sufficient on their own. We now equally need to spend time with venture capital firms and innovative startup companies.”

Doing this has led to the development of connected health technologies, such as the company’s smart electric toothbrush, Colgate Hum, which promotes better brushing by tracking the frequency, duration, and coverage with a proprietary Colgate Connect app.

Colgate partnered with a startup company on the connected health platform, worked with a security firm specializing in protecting firmware, and utilized new software and user experience skills to develop the consumer-facing app, Crowe says. “These types of collaborations and cross-functional partnerships are key to driving innovation.”

This requires CIOs to both seek and offer external perspectives and Crowe believes it’s important to spend time with VCs and their portfolio of startups since that’s where tech investments are happening. This lets him study advanced technology and determine its applicability.

“Not only does that bring new capabilities to the organization but it helps shape new ways of thinking — and working — within the IT organization and facilitates a spirit of innovation,’’ he says.

Change Management, Innovation, IT Leadership, IT Strategy

Business is business and IT is IT and never the twain shall meet. At least that’s the way it too often seems when a CIO attempts to show business management how a technology initiative can lead to tangible benefits.

Helping enterprise business leaders, C-suite colleagues, and boards understand the value inherent in complex new technologies is a challenge most CIOs face from time to time. Instead of focusing on the tech, IT leaders must clearly articulate the business value generated by technology solutions, says Jagjeet Gill, a principal with business advisory firm Deloitte Consulting.

“A CIO … needs to collaborate with other functional leaders in departments such as sales, finance, and operations to help other CXOs and the board understand how different tech solutions help drive growth and competitive differentiations, address emerging risks, and improve operational performance,” he says.

According to Gill, recent research indicates that tech-savvy enterprise boards perform better than their less knowledgeable counterparts. He notes that on average, enterprises with tech-knowledgeable individuals on their boards experience 5% greater revenue growth over three years, and 8% better stock performance year over year.

Becoming an effective business communicator requires knowledge, commitment, patience, and a significant amount of practice. Here are seven tips to help you get started.

1. Talk like a business leader

Speaking the language of business and having a deep understanding of enterprise needs will drive credibility and, by extension, trust, says Mike Tweedie, research lead in the CIO practice at Info-Tech Research Group. When business leaders begin viewing technology chiefs as true partners, they are more likely to engage, be open to change, and trust that promised outcomes will be realized, he explains.

The days when upper management viewed IT as a cost center are long gone. “Today, technology must be perceived as a business partner and an innovation agent,” Tweedie says. “IT leaders are expected to be able to seamlessly work across silos and be the enabler for all lines of business, actively accelerating unprecedented user and customer experiences.”

A CIO should be less of an educator and more of a guide, Tweedie notes. “Understanding the needs of the business — how the widget is made, how it generates value, expected outcomes — is where this relationship flourishes.”

2. Network with your peers

Carter Busse, CIO at intelligent automation platform provider Workato, stresses the importance of networking with management peers. Each interaction provides an opportunity to ask questions, listen, and share information and insights. “We lack a water cooler in this remote world, but setting up biweekly meetings with my peers helps me understand their priorities and gives me an opportunity to communicate key knowledge,” Busse says. “These meetings also help build the trust that’s so crucial for success as a CIO.”

Knowledge communicated to management peers should align with the enterprise’s basic mission. “As CIOs, we need to share our knowledge of the business first, followed by how the technology initiatives our team is working on are aligned with the company mission,” Busse says. “It’s important to work on a shared level of understanding first to ensure that the message lands.”

3. Advise and collaborate

Work with key executives one-on-one to build the knowledge and confidence they will need to understand the enterprise’s current IT challenges and opportunities. “Then collaborate to develop an action plan,” advises Suneet Dua, products and technology chief growth officer at business advisory firm PwC.

Every enterprise leader has a different relationship to technology as well as a different level of IT knowledge. Creating personalized discussions, specific to both the enterprise and the leader’s role, will help develop a more tech-savvy C-suite, which can lead to improved support and adoption of proposed IT solutions.

Before initiating a technical discussion, it’s important to consider the recipient’s perspective. What are their department’s goals? What do they care about? How will the technology or issue fit into the larger business strategy?

Dua believes that it’s the CIO’s job to help enterprise leaders connect the dots between IT and their departments’ priorities in order to accomplish business goals better and more efficiently. “Providing business leaders with KPIs and expected outcomes will help substantiate the need for IT improvements and underscore expected benefits, which will help promote adoption,” he explains.

Any knowledge-sharing should highlight how IT creates value for the entire business. “For example, a discussion on automation should underscore how it reduces mundane work, allowing employees to work on other tasks and improve overall productivity,” Dua says. “Leaders should always understand the ‘why’ behind a certain technology decision or proposal, since that deeper knowledge can both spur excitement, and ultimately, gain more rapid adoption.”

4. Support the current business strategy

Knowledge shared with enterprise leaders should include how technology is enabling business strategy to drive outcomes in areas such as revenue growth, margin improvements, and customer experience. “Explain how proactive budget planning can help prevent business risks in the areas of scalability, reliability, and performance,” Deloitte’s Gill advises.

A CIO’s explanations of tech solutions should include case examples of how features and functionalities enable business processes, as well as outline business operational KPIs that can be improved by IT solutions, Gill says.

5. Encourage curiosity and embrace influence

Since technology plays such a critical role in today’s enterprise, CIOs should actively encourage executives to be open to acquiring IT knowledge. “As it stands now, many enterprise leaders aren’t truly committed to understanding the CIO’s perspective or technology-focused topics,” says Helena Nimmo, CIO at software development company Endava.

CIOs start at a disadvantage when discussing technical issues with enterprise leaders, given the fact that IT is, for many business chiefs, a strange and foreign territory. When a CFO, for example, discusses “transfer pricing” during a meeting, most executives might not know all of the topic’s technical nuances, but most have a general idea of what it means and how it affects the enterprise.

“Too often, that same level of understanding is not demonstrated when CIOs toss out technology terms like ‘agile’ or ‘on-premise,’” Nimmo says. “CIOs must seize any and all opportunities to explain the context and outputs of technology, since technology is both a requirement and enabler of overall business functions.”

Whenever a key executive appears reluctant to dig into technology topics, or pushes back on complex issues, Nimmo suggests recruiting key IT team members to pitch in and advocate for their leader’s guidance. Such individuals can play a trusted influencer role with the tech-challenged executive, helping the leader become more comfortable with key IT issues, she notes.

6. Focus on business impact

CIOs describing a proposed initiative should focus on the project’s ultimate business impact as much as, or more than, on the technology itself. “Explaining a technology’s benefit, as well as how to use it, can help leaders understand the significance of the digital processes they are investing in,” says Chris Bedi, CDIO at cloud-based services provider ServiceNow.

Bedi stresses the importance of anchoring IT strategies and decision-making in terms of real-time outcomes. “Working with clear, achievable business goals in mind ensures that the desired outcomes are achieved,” he says.

7. Build your business knowledge

Just as enterprise leaders need to gain IT knowledge, CIOs should work to become more business savvy. “For a CIO to effectively communicate to and educate their colleagues, they must also possess a clear understanding of business priorities and how the business operates,” Gill says. “This understanding will help the CIO effectively advise board members and management on emerging technologies and trends in the marketplace.”

CIO/CXO education should be a two-way street. Work with key executives one-on-one to build the business knowledge and confidence necessary to understand current business needs and goals.

IT Leadership

Most organizations realize that using data to better understand customer needs and preferences is vital to creating consistently great customer experiences. The challenge many face is how to put all of the data they’re collecting to work toward that goal. 

We asked the CIO Experts Network, a community of IT professionals, industry analysts, and other influencers, how businesses can make better use of their data to improve customer experiences. Here are four key takeaways from their responses.  

Be a better listener

Positive customer experience is good for business. McKinsey research has found that improving the customer experience (CX) can increase revenues by 2-7%, boost profitability by 1-2%, and increase shareholder return by 7-10%. Yet organizations continue to struggle with customer experience management. A McKinsey CX survey found that just 7% of the customer voice is shared with CX leaders and only 13% of CX leaders are confident that their organization can take action on CX issues in near real-time. 

“Customers are the heart of every company. However, too many organizations don’t listen carefully enough to them,” said Scott Schober (@ScottBVS), President/CEO at Berkeley Varitronics Systems, Inc. 

“Each customer’s data tells a story that cannot be expressed through gut instinct, emotion, or by committee,” Schober said. “When organizations understand a customer’s habits, buying patterns, and preferences, they will gain that customer’s trust for a lifetime of recurring revenue.”

The good news is that, given the wealth of data that organizations have access to in our digitally driven world, they have more opportunity to analyze customer behaviors and preferences to develop improved experiences, according to the experts:

“Data is ultimately the footprint and behavioral pattern of one’s customers. The data can show what they are using, as well as how, where, and how long they are using it. For example, solutions like website heatmaps can be used to understand a customer’s behavior on a website. Studying that behavior can allow developers to improve the customer experience.”

Jason James (@itlinchpin), CIO of Net Health

“Businesses applying customer data to website personalization [should focus on] creating unique online experiences that delight customers and lead to 1:1 connections that increase return visits to the site and, more importantly, sales.”

Will Kelly (@willkelly), Senior Product Marketing Manager at Section

Invest in tools for managing, analyzing, and using data

Deeper insights about customers require a modern data foundation and tools for gathering, verifying, and integrating data. Investments should focus on improving data quality, ensuring data governance, and layering in tools such as artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning to accelerate insights and make predictions that drive innovation:

“Many businesses don’t do a very good job of verifying data, which leads to customer frustration as they try to navigate through a business. Data quality is even more important than data quantity. Estimates are that up to 30% of corporate data is inaccurate or corrupted. That is a major impediment. Utilize as much data verification as you can manage, especially as there are many tools available to help in this task.”

Jack Gold (@jckgld), President and Principal Analyst at J. Gold Associates, LLC

“Business leaders should centralize real-time customer data profiles by integrating data from across the customer journey. Access to the profiles should go through a data governance process that enables business leaders from sales, marketing, customer service, and operations to create segmentations based on their objectives. Segmentations help drive ongoing experimentation to learn about customer objectives, which leads to creating personalized experiences.”

Isaac Sacolick (@nyike), StarCIO Leader and Author of Digital Trailblazer

“Capturing and analyzing implicit and explicit data from available data streams to answer specific questions and spot patterns improves the customer experience and provides the business with actionable insights. Adding AI and ML to the mix offers a recipe to whip up a competitive advantage that not only delights customers but also helps a company leapfrog — and stay ahead of — its competitors.”

Gene De Libero (@GeneDeLibero), Chief Strategy Officer at GeekHive.com

Break down data silos to open up collaboration and innovation

Unifying data helps businesses “eliminate data silos and ensures all departments — from product and services to sales and marketing — can observe how their work impacts the customer experience, and can work towards improving it,” said Sridhar Iyengar (@iSridhar), Managing Director at Zoho Europe.

It’s also important to recognize that “the customer experience doesn’t end at the front of the house,” said Peter B. Nichol (@PeterBNichol), Chief Technology Officer at OROCA Innovations. “Leaders can coordinate treatments, tactics, and offers across channels by linking back-end processes with front-end services or interactions.” 

To bring it all together, Nikolay Ganyushkin (LinkedIn: nikolaygan), CEO and Co-founder of Acure, offers an example of a telecom company that re-configured how user requests for technical support were processed. “By connecting this data to the CRM system and to the network monitoring system,” he said, “we were able to set up automatic reporting of problems, which reduced customer churn and increased customer loyalty.”

Build awareness on data literacy and privacy across the business

Although data and technology infrastructure play a critical role in improving customer experience, our experts also note the importance of supplementing technology with proper training as well as awareness around privacy issues.

“Teach the data user how to use the insights,” said Frank Cutitta (@fcutitta), CEO and Founder at HealthTech Decisions Lab. “There are illusions that if we simply give them data, we will see the results; or if we visualize the data they will better understand it on their own. Data requires coaching and storytelling, not just do-it-yourself PowerPoint decks with no notes or talking points.” 

Iyengar (@iSridhar) added: “There is a fine line between use of customer data to enhance customer experience and abuse of data privacy. It’s essential that businesses avoid data exploitation, which requires customer consent in all areas of data usage related to marketing, clearly listing all data practices in an upfront privacy policy, and using business tools that are industry-compliant with security and data protection regulations.”

The bottom line

Today’s business and IT leaders realize that data is critical for creating better experiences, but many continue to struggle to enable their people to act on that insight. Organizations can get closer to gaining a 360-degree view of their customers by investing in a modern infrastructure and tools, unifying data across the business, and training the workforce to apply analytics and insights to their daily activities. That’s how a data-driven approach to CX can drive better business outcomes. 

“Hyper-competitive companies know that data-driven environments change customer behavior for the better,” said Nichol (@PeterBNichol). “The conventional request-reply encounters are a thing of the past. Instead, customers demand a superior experience, designed around their data, from purchasing to production.”

Learn more about ways to put your data to work on the most scalable, trusted, and secure cloud.

IT Leadership