What can you learn from a cup of coffee? A single cup might seem trivial in terms of its impact on the overall business. But capture that cup with a smart camera, track it, apply analytics—and voilà! Suddenly, for the coffee shop, that beverage becomes an opportunity to gain insights to deliver better experiences for all of their customers. These high-quality experiences delight coffee aficionados, save them time, and sharpen the shop’s competitive edge.

How? Tracking each cup could reveal details like how long each beverage takes to make, how long it sits before it’s picked up, and if it hits any bottlenecks along the way. The result? Patrons get their beverages at just the right temperature, as fast as possible—every time—ensuring consistent quality that turns occasional customers into regulars. One global coffee retailer is already deploying these kinds of capabilities to 10,000 locations across North America, with more shops coming online all the time.

And it’s not just coffee retailers. Every day, technology offers organizations countless opportunities to improve their customers’ experiences—and reap the benefits that go with them, like deeper customer loyalty and better differentiation. Now is the time for IT leaders to seize these opportunities and lead the way to better business outcomes.

Customer experiences depend on IT

In the 2022 State of the CIO, 42% of CIO respondents said improving the customer experience was a top imperative. But for IT, improving customer experiences keeps getting harder. Today’s experiences aren’t confined to a single space. Far from it: they extend from locations, things, and applications to people, organizations, and communities. They depend on connections between everyone—and everything.

And the connections keep evolving and multiplying, making them harder to see, manage, and scale. As a result, the IT experience is suffering. This has ramifications beyond just IT. A poor IT experience can often mean a poor experience for end users, customers, and business partners.

How IT can be the hero

How can you empower your teams with the speed and agility they need to accelerate digital business? The answer is to simplify the solutions and platforms IT teams use, empowering them with the technology to work and innovate as one. This approach helps IT build secure bridges between different technologies, locations, organizations, teams, people, and things to deliver the unified experiences their customers, employees, and partners expect.

Providing unified experiences for your users requires a transformation that includes both network simplification and data intelligence. With a simplified, more data-driven approach, you can bring together the benefits of cloud-driven automation, network insights, and APIs to break down barriers and complexity.

Unlocking the transformation potential of IT

Transformation isn’t driven by advanced technology alone, but by innovative approaches like bringing a cloud operating model to the network. This enables IT leaders to expand the agility and scalability of cloud management across the entire infrastructure. It lets them apply automation to help siloed organizations work better together, using a common, consistent set of tools for more agile, frictionless collaboration. Armed with cloud agility, you can transform your operations from being reactive to more proactive and predictive.

Transformation also means not being satisfied with just simple integration that can add to tool sprawl, and instead, moving to the idea of convergence—like organically bringing together networking and security to sidestep manual, time-consuming integration steps. It lets you take advantage of automated provisioning, unified policies, and integrated workflows to manage risk—and work smarter, not harder.

We saw how a single customer touch point can lead to more consistently satisfied patrons, a smoother workplace for employees, and improved efficiency and revenue. As more businesses understand the competitive advantages that come with a fully empowered IT team, we’ll see a renewed focus on aligning IT and technology for better outcomes. With a simplified approach, CIOs can seize more of today’s opportunities to help their organizations unlock the full possibilities of every moment, and every experience.

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Digital Transformation

Creating new revenue streams, identifying untapped audiences and better engaging fans onsite and all year-round are just some of the wins iconic Australian sporting events are chalking up thanks to human-centric digital innovation.

If there’s any lesson brands should have taken from the last three years of the Covid-19 pandemic, it’s that investing in digital can deliver even more engagement – online and in-person. And with increasingly immersive technologies such as virtual reality, data-driven insight using artificial intelligence and creative video delivery coming to the fore, opportunities to unite digital with human-centred design principles to win in both physical and digital realms are growing.

The power of human-centric digital experiences is particularly apparent in the work Infosys has been doing to ensure leading sporting brands create unparalleled customer experiences. Here, we explore two stellar examples in the Australian Grand Prix and Australian Open.

Serving up digital innovations for the Australian Open

Using digital, immersive technologies and data to ensure fan engagement is even more immersive is also a long-term imperative for Infosys and Tennis Australia around the Australian Open. And this year’s event proved an unparalleled showcase of how physical and digital are coming together in innovative ways.

Among the highlights of the 2023 Australian Open were a revamped Match Centre 2.0, available on the AO website as well as mobile app for all matches throughout the tournament and providing fans with immersive insights such as Matchbeats, Stroke Summary, Rally Analysis, Courtvision and AI Commentary. A ‘win predictor’ also gave fans real-time predictions as each match progressed. Accessibility was equally in the spotlight, while an enhanced Infosys MatchBeats presented simplified game data and visualisations thanks to contrasting colour combinations that met Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.1 AA.

A host of AI Video Insights further powered on-court strategy and media reporting while giving fans, players and coaches unprecedented insights into every game.

In addition, an enhanced Player’s Portal with AI-generated videos democratised the level of insight available to players and coaches around game and competitor insights for post-match reviews and pre-game analysis. For example, Get into the Zone served up video montages of a player’s former winning performances, while an opponent tendency feature allowed players to view and analyse the statistical playing tendencies of their opponents.

And AI Shot of the Day also boasted of enhancements, enabling Tennis Australia’s media team to quickly analyse and post social media ready clips from the best shots of each day.

“For us, this has been a monumental and strong partnership with the Australian Open since 2019. Post each edition, our team takes a step back through an empathy led approach and assess data from all stakeholders engaging with the AO. This follows design thinking workshops to reimagine how our digital innovations can further enhance the stakeholder experience with the Happy Slam, make it more accessible, immersive and engaging. Our strength is digital whether it is AI, digital learning platforms or mixed reality and we combine it with a passion for tennis.

We’ve seen over 50 million fans engage with the digital innovations built by Infosys over the years with MatchBeats alone seeing 7.2mn views this edition, witnessed over 100 million views of footage generated by our AI driven innovations, launched physical platforms such as the virtual hub to engage 10,000+ key consumers of AO during the pandemic and are now going beyond with Infosys Springboard to nurture future leaders and Engage to leverage digital for sustainable futures. Over 11,000 fans engaged with our VR experiences which has doubled from 2022, highlighting a strong appetite for digital experiences. And being conscious of the future, our entire footprint this year onwards at AO 2023 was and will continue to be carbon neutral”, says Navin Rammohan, Vice President, Segment Head Marketing, Sponsorships and Events at Infosys.

Onsite, Infosys itself harnessed virtual reality in its fan zone activation. This allowed attendees to experience tennis in several creatively themed metaverse worlds, from a ride into hyperspace with moon tennis and battling thousands of flying tennis balls in a spaceship, to sparring with AO superstars avatars on centre court.

“Working with Infosys over the past five years has enabled us to set new benchmarks in fan engagement using digital technologies,” says Tennis Australia CEO and Australian Open Tournament Director, Craig Tiley. “This partnership has enabled us to deliver new innovative digital experiences year after year for everyone associated with the tournament. We remain committed to making the Australian Open a global standard for a digitally-enabled sport that is inspiring, engaging, inclusive and sustainable.”

Focusing on the fans of the Australian Grand Prix

Australian Grand Prix Corporation (AGPC) General Manager of Marketing and Experience, Arthur Gillion, will never forget 13 March 2020. Just two days out from the Formula 1 Australian Grand Prix sporting event in Victoria’s Albert Park Circuit, and hours before practice sessions were to begin, the event was cancelled due to Covid-19.  

“The world was watching. It was a hard moment to go through,” Gillion recalled during the recent Infosys Confluence event. “From a strategic perspective, what we had planned for the following years had to change. The way we approached brand management, from diagnosis, to strategy to tactics all flipped on its head.”

Yet even as the pandemic negatively impacted the physical race, it presented an opportunity for the AGPC to overhaul digital experience to create a more fan-fuelled approach.

“We couldn’t stop communicating or trying to provide some joy to the fans,” Gillion said. “The emphasis had to be on the digital experience. We were very innovative in that space to stay connected.”

Helping AGPC was strategic technology partner, WONGDOODY, the global human experience company of Infosys. Together, the pair reassessed AGPC’s digital ecosystem as a first step. Diving into data the organisation held about its fans to build insights that could be realised in added value and simplified, improved touchpoints was the overarching driving force.

“While AGPC had a lot of data, the team didn’t necessarily know what it was telling them,” WONGDOODY’s chief experience and design officer APAC, James Noble, explains. “The key was to work out what information was relevant, versus irrelevant, then use that to understand the different audiences and what each of those fans wants.

“Being able to convert that into a digital experience would make it easier for audiences to understand the Australian Grand Prix, lead them towards stronger engagement and in time, to purchase things like tickets.”

Focus shifted to digital content as the dominant mechanism for keeping fans connected, and to an annual timeline of engagement, rather than burst of activity surrounding the events. Owned platform articles, blog posts and a podcast series developed by AGPC took centre stage, with built-in capabilities making it easy for audiences to engage with and share content.

With the Formula 1 Australian Grand Prix website the first point of touch from a brand perspective, giving fans what they want online is critical to any human-centric approach, Noble says. WONGDOODY helped AGPC understand its digital touchpoints, understood which customer segments AGPC were trying to attract, inform, educate and engage, and transformed this into a solution. The Formula 1 Australian Grand Prix caters to diverse customer cohorts, from motor and F1 enthusiasts, to those who come for the spectacle, ‘culture vultures’ wanting to be seen; families on a day out; and corporate and sponsor delegates.

“It’s working out not only the user experience but the content strategy and experience and how that leads you through the funnel, as opposed to having people floating around with no direction,” Noble continues. “Do you want them to press that button? Or talk to that person? What is it you want to happen next?”

As AGPC began work to bring its physical event back, digital experience took on another vital role. A major achievement was improving the ticketing pathway online for the returning five-day event.

“There are lots of different permutations of tickets and it had been difficult for a consumer to understand what they’re buying,” Noble says. “We looked at the matrix of all the ticketing permutations and experiences you could have, put in a simpler interface and easier-to-use experience, and skipped all the doing it again to go straight to purchase. Just by that happening and knowing what ticket types were selling out, the AGPC team could make informed business decisions and understand where to adapt and create more of what’s popular.”

The work done as an organisation to lift digital innovation has without doubt delivered AGPC incredible growth. In 2022, almost 420,000 people came to the Formula 1 Australian Grand Prix, up from 324,100 in 2019, adding more than $170 million to the visitor economy. AGPC also saw a 154 per cent increase in digital traffic during event week and a 218 per cent increase in traffic in the months leading up to the event. It exceeded 2.6 million unique visitors to the site in 2022, a 200 per cent increase on 2019.

Importantly, the first release of Grandstand tickets for the 2023 event sold out in under 3.5 hours, testament to the seamless purchasing process. This ticketing architecture overhaul has since triggered changes to the physical environment and decision-making driving further revenue growth.

For example, pre-pandemic, the F1 event had four private lounges. In 2022, there were eight, and this year’s Formula 1 Rolex Australian Grand Prix has 14. Being in the fortunate position of having much demand and selling tickets faster enables AGPC to shift focus quickly, and use insights to innovate physical experiences.

“Because the team knows so far ahead about what kinds of tickets are being sold, there’s an opportunity to create another stand or another section. The forward planning is so much easier and it’s adding millions to sales generated,” Noble adds.


For many IT leaders, taking on an IT opportunity abroad can be a boon for career and life experience alike.

When Richard Ventre got an opportunity to move to India from the Netherlands, he latched on to it. “We live in a world that is more global than ever before and it is important to experience different cultures, customs, and traditions,” he says.

Ventre, who quit his job as director of global IT at Maersk Group port operation subsidiary APM Terminals in The Hague to join Ahmedabad-based Adani Ports and Logistics as its CIO in December 2019, is part of a growing group of IT leaders embracing the “expat CIO” experience, taking their expertise to foreign countries in search of new cultural opportunities and challenges — and, in the case of Bhupendra Pant, larger global leadership roles.

“I had spent more than two decades working for multinational companies such as L&T and Welspun in India and already had exposure to international projects. It was time to step out of India,” says Pant, who quit his position as CIO of Mumbai-based conglomerate Welspun Group to join automotive distributor and consumer electronics company OTE Group as its CIO in Muscat, Oman.

“Oman offers a good work culture, lifestyle, and the salary is not taxed,” Pant says. “It is easier [for Indian IT leaders] to switch to Gulf Cooperation Council countries than Europe and Australia. With lots of Indians here and not much of a time difference, change management is less, too.”

For others such as Brian Ferris, chief data, analytics, and technology officer at loyalty, marketing, and data analytics consulting firm Loyalty NZ, leading IT abroad was about “gaining huge value in seeing different issues and learning different ways of approaching problems, something that can’t be learnt out of a book.” He moved from New Zealand to Amsterdam, working with Nike and Heineken as their global enterprise architect for data and analytics.

Whatever may be the driver for going international, relocating to a different country is a big decision that needs to factor in risk as well as reward. And, as the strong focus on digitization and globalization increasingly presents new opportunities for CIOs to go global, IT leaders must evaluate each variable carefully before taking the leap.

CIO.com spoke with top IT leaders who have taken up international roles about the key challenges they encountered and the strategies they adopted to become successful abroad.

The challenges of managing IT in a foreign land

Adjusting to a new environment, motivating team members, and earning trust are challenges all expat CIOs confront. But differences in levels of technology maturity, project management, and governance can also present issues for foreign CIOs in fulfilling their core responsibilities.

Brian Ferris, chief data, analytics, and technology officer, Loyalty NZ

Brian Ferris / Loyalty NZ

Assumptions about technology development being at the same level in different countries, for example, often prove wrong. “When I landed in Europe, I was surprised to see that New Zealand was ahead of it in cashless transactions. In terms of technology expertise, New Zealand has around half a dozen SAP experts. In Europe, the pool is huge, and the specialization is massive,” Ferris points out by way of example.

As New Zealand doesn’t have nearly as many historical buildings as Europe does, Ferris was also in for a surprise when he was denied permission to run a new cable into an old building in the Netherlands. “There were huge changes in my perspective. I would say the first three months were the hardest,” he says.

Governance is another area that can vary vastly from country to country. Ventre realized this when working on a large cloud migration project for Adani Ports as part of its strategy to digitize ports and logistics.

“The levels of process maturity in India were low as compared to Europe. The entrepreneurial spirit burns bright in India and technology execution and adoption can move quickly but in an unstructured and less controlled manner. In Europe there is a tendency for governance to stifle agility, but you feel that you have more control and confidence in the outcome. I don’t believe either extreme is right, and that somewhere between these two extremes lies the answer,” says Ventre, who has since returned to the Netherlands as group CIO of SHV Holdings.

How technology is consumed can also vary. Joe Locandro moved from Australia to Hong Kong to take up the role of CIO at CLP Group. From there he moved to Cathay Pacific Airways and then to Dubai to become VP of business technology services at Emirates. He experienced a high propensity for bespoke developments outside Australia.   

“While other global airlines used Amadeus or Sabre, Emirates had built its own ticketing and reservation system. Similarly, CLP had a lot of custom development for its transmission and distribution business. It could be because the companies wanted to be self-reliant rather than be controlled by western software companies or the fact that there wasn’t enough support of packages locally as compared to Europe and North America,” says Locandro.

Whatever the reason, getting acceptance for off-the-shelf software packages was a challenge for Locandro, despite the fact that their total cost of ownership would be better in the long term compared to developing and maintaining solutions in house.

In moving to the Middle East, Pant found the lack of a vibrant startup and partner ecosystem difficult. “PoCs take a lot of time,” he says. “Skill sets needed are not readily available or are available at high price points, all of which prevents us from getting results fast.”

As a foreigner, building trust with the IT team is extremely important, an aspect that proved to be “the most important and challenging issue” for David Berry, CIO of apparel and accessories manufacturer Boardriders, when he shifted from Häagen-Dazs in the US to become VP of IT at Grand Metropolitan Foods Europe in France.

“How do you get people to trust you that you’re not just going to impose an American view on things and [instead] respect the international side of things. If you can’t get over that you can’t settle down because you’re only as good as your team,” he says.

Building trust becomes even more difficult in countries whose cultures differ widely from your own. For instance, as compared to the Dutch, Indians are less direct, more polite, and more respectful of position and authority, Ventre says.  

“As a leader you want to be challenged, you want to be told that your idea is stupid and that there is a better way to do it but there is very little dissent in India. In such a situation, it takes a lot of time to build trust,” he says.

Dealing with business stakeholders

Business expectations of IT can also differ from country to country. For example, according to Ventre, expectations in Europe focus on the ‘how,’ whereas in India they concentrate on the ‘what.’

He felt that taking the time to improve the maturity of the IT function and setting it up for future success was less valued in India than delivering the next project, regardless of how the project was delivered.

Differing corporate structures can also pose challenges, especially when it comes to issues of collaboration versus hierarchy.

Joe Locandro, CIO, Fletcher Building

Joe Locandro / Fletcher Building

“It is very challenging to work in corporate Australia and New Zealand where everybody wants to have a say in technology. Some business units want to share some solutions while others want to build their own fiefdoms and have shadow IT,” Locandro says. “The poor CIO gets pulled from pillar to post because every business unit has a different philosophy. There is a necessary overcomplication of collaboration.”

The Middle East and Asia, however, have more of a hierarchical setup, Locandro says, with implicit trust in specialists, who are allowed to get on with their job, which results in speed to market.

“The downside is that if you try to do that in Australia or New Zealand, you wouldn’t get business buy-in and therefore you wouldn’t achieve your objectives. Similarly, if you tried to use the Australian approach in Asia or the Middle East, you’d never get anything done,” says Locandro, who returned to Australia from Dubai in 2018 and has since taken the CIO role at Fletcher Building in Auckland, New Zealand.

As for Ventre’s experience, business leaders in India expect their CIOs to have an in-depth knowledge of technology and a hands-on approach to it, he says.

“I remember being in meetings and being asked very detailed technical questions and expected to have the answer,” he says. “In Europe, if I was going into a meeting with the board about cybersecurity, I would have my CISO by my side, but in India you find that doesn’t happen as much. The CIO is expected to have the answer and if he/she doesn’t then the fear is that it might reflect on his/her ability.”

Because of this, Ventre says, European CIOs have been able to evolve their careers into business leaders first and IT leaders second. “I am not the expert in cyber, architecture, cloud, project delivery, or data, nor should I be. I have an amazing team of domain experts around me for that. My job is to develop the technology strategy that underpins the business strategy, and to orchestrate my people to achieve our goals and the right outcomes for the business,” he says.

Culture clashes

Aligning with the new culture might not be easy or to everyone’s liking but IT leaders will have to go the extra mile to do so if they seek success.

For example, Europe offers lots of opportunities and people can carve out careers and climb the professional ladder quickly, Ventre says, but India, with its large population, is far more competitive. To get ahead people feel compelled to work harder than the next, often putting work before family, he observed.

Richard Ventre, Group CIO, SHV Holdings, with his family at the Taj Mahal in Agra, India

Richard Ventre

“I had a real challenge to convince my team that I did not want to see them in the office past 6:30pm. It was like a battle of the wills to see who the last person in the office could be. As the working week ended on a Saturday at 2pm, I lost the ‘Friday feeling.’” Ventre says of his time in India.

In some countries, an expat IT leader’s communication skills can be put to the test, as top management may seek advice not from people of position but from those they trust.

“In Australia I can directly tell someone I’m not happy about something. However, in Hong Kong and in the Middle East, you sometimes need to convey messages to your suppliers or to other departments through a trusted third party,” says Locandro.

The Iron Rice Bowl, a Chinese term for employment security, is yet another cultural challenge, typical of Asian countries, that an expat CIO will have to contend with, Locandro says, adding that most people prefer to have a full-time job in these countries, which is opposite to Australia and New Zealand where lots of people, because of tax and other choices, want to contract and consult. For Locandro this was a major hinderance in infusing fresh talent into CLP as the company’s churn rates was as low as 5%.

Over time, Locandro addressed this issue by shifting CLP from being Hong Kong-centric to Asia Pacific-centric, expanding into India, Cambodia, and Thailand, as well as launching projects offshore. “Some people self-selected out as they couldn’t handle the change. For those who stayed back, I did a lot of skill development,” he says. “I started doing such a reorganization exercise every two years, and those who didn’t want to change generally left. Coupled with people retiring, the churn rate increased to 8 to 10%.”

Changing jobs regularly can also be considered suspicious in certain cultures, something that Ferris encountered when he moved to Europe. “It’s typical in New Zealand to move to a new role every three years but in Europe changing jobs frequently is viewed with suspicion. It was a real challenge for me early on because it was seen that there must be something wrong with me where I couldn’t hold down a job. I had never considered my CV from that perspective and had to explain to people that it was very, very normal where I came from,” he says.

Building business value abroad

To address the myriad challenges of leading IT abroad, IT leaders must leverage their communication, collaboration, and relationship-building skills. 

One key area where an expat IT leader’s soft skills will be tested is in establishing an effective relationship with business stakeholders. In this aspect, Pant’s experience of “working with very demanding stakeholders in professionally managed companies as well as family-owned businesses in India was very helpful,” he says.

Bhupendra Pant, CIO, OTE Group, in Muscat, Oman

Bhupendra Pant

“As IT leaders, you should initiate a few things that add value from the management’s perspective. While they are expected to keep the lights on and secure the crown jewels, they should quickly understand what is being appreciated and what isn’t. For this, CIOs must constantly take feedback from the stakeholders by setting up good communication between business and IT,” he says.

To accelerate this at OTE Group, Pant made the CIO’s office and IT department more accessible across the company’s grades and locations. For example, when his team was working on its OTE Connect mobile app for customer service, the IT team was transferred to the vehicle service location where it not only worked closely with the business but also interacted with external customers.

“Initially there were teething troubles but there was no argument or justification on any adverse feedback, and we would immediately rectify it. We would also not shy away from asking what we needed from the business. This also helped in improving the participation from business,” Pant says, adding that the approach of proactively seeking feedback was much appreciated.

To successfully bring business on the same page as IT, Locandro organized a yearly innovation day during his stint with CLP. On this day, business leaders were invited to talk about the successes of their IT projects and how it helped them. He also set up an innovation center and organized walk-throughs for business units.

Ferris made sure he spoke short, crisp sentences with very clear meaning with his bosses who weren’t native English speakers, even though they could be incredibly fluent in the language. “People get lost in long sentences, and when senior leaders get lost they don’t admit it; they just say no. Give them something they care about, but make sure they could understand it,” he says.

To deliver value and break down silos between business and IT, Ferris leveraged a distributed model — embedding squads into other business units rather than grabbing all the authority himself. “I found if I held the budget and the reporting line, giving away operational control was a powerful tool to build trust. Also, my embedded resources could learn about a business unit far better than I ever could from a conversation. They are in team meetings, hearing the vibe and seeing the opportunity. This approach helped us in breaking down silos delivering value in a big way,” he says.

Staying on the right side of risk and compliance are critical for any technology decision maker, but for foreign IT leaders the need for help may be more pronounced. For Berry, it meant working closely with the human resources and internal audit team. “Dealing with HR is extremely important because they know the law, they know the regulations in the country. Working with internal audit is important from a financial point of view. I stay close to them to make sure what I do follows whatever the regulations are,” he says.

Making connections

Not recognizing subtle cultural differences can lead to a CIO treading on toes without knowing it. For a better understanding of the local culture, Locandro studied Chinese history and took Mandarin classes when he was in Hong Kong. Similarly, he learned about Muslim culture when he went to Dubai.

“In Spain everyone goes out to lunch together. If you are eating alone at your desk, which is very normal in many cultures, it is considered very rude and you’re really thumbing your nose at the team when you do it,” says Ferris, who also recommends CIOs to use websites such as Hofstede Insights to compare countries on key dimensions before making the switch.

Brian Ferris, chief data, analytics, and technology officer, Loyalty NZ, at Nike headquarters in Amsterdam, Netherlands

Brian Ferris

When in India, Ventre ended his team meetings with “theek hai, chalo” (it’s fine, let’s go), a small indication that he understood some Hindi and was trying. “I would never have been able to hold meetings in Hindi, Gujarati, or Dutch but I understood some words/phrases and it is important to show a willingness to learn,” he says. “The reality is that in most global organizations the business language is English, but that does not mean you should be ignorant to the fact that you are working in a different country with a different language.”

Another area where making an effort is vital and can pay off is in developing a professional network.

Locandro, for example, had to map out a network of trusted third parties to get his messages across to business and technology stakeholders within the company and outside. “The trusted people needed to reach out to stakeholders in IT were mostly inside the organization. In case of suppliers, they would be people in business or in chambers of commerce and for government, I had to go through other government departments,” he says, adding that it took him two years to create a social-professional network to break into the inner circles and get accepted.

“Eventually, I ended up being one of the thought leaders and got invited to a lot of Chinese events in mainland China, in Hong Kong and government and advisory,” he says.

While at Heineken in Amsterdam, Ferris formed a peer network “to get together away from everyone else and share learnings and problems.” Under this non-competitive peer relationship initiative, he set up a technology architecture group comprising IT leaders from big companies such as Shell and Phillips, which proved to be “valuable for everyone.”

Embrace the challenge

The decision to go international brings a steep learning curve for IT leaders, but the transition to a new geography has its rewards.

“There is enrichment of thought, diversity, and insights. CEOs look for resilience, adaptability, and clarity in thinking. The experience you gain offshore gives you those dimensions, and when you speak in the job interviews, you can draw from a whole range of experiences,” says Locandro, who credits his entry back into New Zealand to his ability to apply global best practices over other candidates.

Ferris says his international exposure has made him aware that “technology won’t always come out of the US Silicon Valley. Eindhoven and Hilversum are hotbeds of innovation. Culturally, I think it’s really helped me in understanding and building my teams better. I have more empathy and respect for people working and operating in another language,” he says.

And the peer networks built while abroad are invaluable. As Berry says, “I still have contacts in virtually every country I’ve worked in. When I have any business or technology issue, I can call somebody up in any country and seek a solution. This is the power of networking and collaboration.”

Careers, CIO, IT Leadership

Gary Jeter, Executive Vice President, Chief Technology Officer at TruStone Financial Credit Union, joins host Maryfran Johnson for this CIO Leadership Live interview, jointly produced by CIO.com and the CIO Executive Council. They discuss mission-based credit unions, expanding fintech relationships, agile product management and more.

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CIO Leadership Live

The modern hybrid workforce is composed of employees working in a variety of settings, from home, on the road, in the office, and just about everywhere in between. The help desk teams who support these dispersed employees are often in mixed working environments themselves and require enhanced contact center software with robust features to adequately serve their customers’ needs. Many companies are now exploring omnichannel solutions that combine contact center platforms, IT support systems, and video communications to address these new working environments.

With 83% of workers preferring a hybrid work model, and 63% of high-growth companies adopting a “productivity anywhere” workforce model, employees need to be as productive as possible no matter their location. IT professionals tasked with supporting these employees must be confident they can get all employees up and running as quickly as possible to avoid long stretches of downtime.

Getting assistance from IT help desks can include submitting tickets via email, online portals, calling them on the phone or using an on-site kiosk. While many enterprises have geographically dispersed IT help desk teams to support a global workforce, it’s now more likely these staffers are working from home or have their own hybrid schedule – which can make it difficult to deliver a more personalized help-desk experience.

Now, with an omnichannel, video-optimized contact center, companies can equip their IT Help Desk teams to deliver the same empathetic and supportive experience internally that is offered to external customers. IT help desk functions are just as important as external customer support, because an employee’s productivity and uptime depend on reliable technology that works. Adding visual engagements to your contact center allows for face-to-face communication that enhances support between an employee and the IT help desk team member.

Having relied heavily on tools such as Zoom for the past few years, many employees are quite comfortable with being on camera, which provides a human element that makes IT support more effective. For example, a video call allows help desk staff to provide a more personalized and caring experience for a frustrated employee who can’t get their work done. Screen and file sharing during the interaction lets IT staff solve problems faster and more efficiently. Video also can be used to quickly verify an employee’s identity, which can add another level of security with employees working from home or remote locations.

Many interactions require expertise beyond the contact center, so it’s important that IT staff have easy, real-time access to back-office experts while helping an employee. A modern platform that combines the contact center and unified communications creates a more seamless experience for help desk staff to interact with fellow employees and reduces costs while improving operational efficiency for IT staff. This also reduces research time, helps in locating answers to solve a given problem, and leads to higher employee satisfaction. What’s more, the department now has one less product to install, train on, administer, and maintain. Additionally, companies save money by eliminating the need to work with multiple vendors for various tasks.

An open platform that can integrate with the critical business applications that IT help desk staff use, such as Zendesk and ServiceNow, is essential to improving efficiency and streamlining the interactions with employees. Through integration, help desk staffers no longer need to switch between their contact center app and service ticket application, and instead, work directly within one application. This enables more automation capabilities and saves time from manually entering in the ticket and employee information.

Learn more about how Zoom Contact Center can assist IT help desk professionals with faster and more personalized support for a hybrid workforce.

Data Center Management

There’s an old saying when something you value changes and no longer brings you the joy the way it used to, “it’s not like it used to be.” For those who remember the good old days, great service was an essential part of the customer experience. Nowadays, customer service is not what it used to be. For decades now, customer service has become a necessary cost center. The emphasis on scale, automation, speed, and margins have also come at the cost of customer experience. However, new research now shows that the role of service is shifting back to “service,” to unify the customer’s experience.  

Since the dawn of the contact center in the 1960s, customer service evolved into a transactional entity. Over the years, executives learned to think of service as a numbers game, cycling customers on and off the phone and closing-out tickets as fast as possible, regardless of whether or not customers had a positive impression of the company in each interaction. That mindset would serve as models for deploying next-gen technologies, including IVRs, knowledge centers, chatbots, automation/RPA, text/messaging, with each designed to scale transactional engagement vs. delivering the level of service customers hope to receive. 

Customer experience reflects all customer engagements; Service can no longer serve as the weakest link 

The customer experience — the sum of all engagements, beyond customer service, a customer has with a business — is core to business success today. A related study of customers and B2B buyers published by Salesforce, the “State of the Connected Customer,” showed that nearly nine-in-ten respondents consider experience to be as critical as the product, itself, in deciding whether or not to buy from a company. This means that the experience you deliver is also a product.  

Nearly all respondents to that survey said a positive service experience makes them more likely to make a repeat purchase (94%). The same study also found that 71% of customers had switched brands in the last year with 48% switching companies for better customer service. These are critical insights especially in the current economic environment, when budgets are tightening, and loyalty becomes more important to the bottom line.  

Every facet of that experience must contribute to the great whole of the brand experience you promise. If customer service is viewed as a cost center and metrics prioritize speed over quality and transactions over relationship, it will always take away from the customer’s experience instead of enhancing it.  

There’s good news to report for service professionals. In its fifth edition of the “State of Service,” Salesforce found that companies are increasing investments in employees and technology budgets to match case volume and customer expectations. Over half of service organizations (55%) report increased budgets — up from 32% in 2020. And 51% report increased headcount — up from 19% in 2020. 

Mindset: The value of service shines when it’s meant to enhance the customer experience 

As customers become increasingly connected and empowered, their expectations soar. Service as a cost center is no longer a viable strategy to stand out against competitors where everything either takes away from or adds to the experience. It comes down to a shift in mindset, from a cost center mentality to a revenue generator. When executives invest in customer services that enhances their experience, customers are more likely to make repeat purchases and stay loyal.  

That truth is increasingly penetrating the hallowed walls of C-Suites and the boardroom.  

More than 50% of respondents in Salesforce’s survey of customer service professionals say their management now views their department as a revenue generator, rather than the cost center it may have perceived to be. That’s a significant tipping point that makes service performance all the more important not just for companies as a whole, but for the people in charge of delivering customer service. 

If you need more proof of this phenomenon, consider that over one-third of customer service leaders are now in the C-level — an unprecedented level of representation at the highest reaches of business structures.  

The fact that these are sourced from customer service ranks speaks volumes. And there’s appetite for this trend to continue. Nearly nine-in-ten of customer service respondents who don’t have C-level representation see its value. 

With the rise of roles such as chief customer officers and chief experience officers, service becomes one, albeit critical, part of the overall customer experience. It no longer has to represent the weakest link in the customer journey. 

Connection is the heart of service 

Driving customer success starts with connection to engage customers to meet and eventually exceed customer expectations. 

Think about the myriad of touchpoints that proliferate the path to purchase — and repurchase and loyalty — today. We often talk about this in terms of striving for omnichannel engagement. But beyond business buzzwords, a customer would never use the word omnichannel, it’s important to humanize the customer experience by considering the different, disconnected, departments that touch the customer journey. For example… 

Are service agents aware of marketing campaigns a given customer has received when they make contact? Do they have an informed sense of how a customer has navigated the company’s e-commerce touchpoints? Is the customer’s historical experience, preferences, previous purchases, available to service agents and all frontline executives responsible for customer engagement through their journey? Is integrated data and insights available to power AI in ways that present next best actions and experiences at a personal level, whether that’s an agent, chatbot, or self-guided path? If in a B2B company, are they aware of salesperson interactions?  

This is all critical context that service reps need to meet elevated customer expectations for efficient, tailored engagement. 

So, have companies met those customer expectations for connected engagement? According to the “State of the Connected Customer” survey, they have not.  

Three-in-five respondents say they generally feel like they are interacting with different departments rather than one company. And unfortunately, two-thirds say they often need to repeat information to different agents. When nearly all customers say a positive service experience makes them more likely to make a repeat purchase, is this status quo serving service’s elevated business mandate? 

This attests to a cost-center vs. growth mindset. In each case, the outcomes are very different. 

Compare high-performing service teams — those with the highest customer satisfaction levels — and their underperforming peers. The top teams are empowered to treat unique customers with unique engagement, think freedom from restrictive policies that don’t put all customer situations into a single category of service. Top teams are also more empowered with contextual information that details a customer’s entire journey, whether with service, or another team.  

In these cases, over three-fifths of service teams now share the same CRM software with their colleagues in other departments like ecommerce, sales, and marketing.  

Context matters in a digital-first world 

Let’s talk about the other critical element of meeting elevated customer expectations: digital channels and, more importantly, customer context. 

Even though the world is opening up, the use of digital channels, such as social media and customer portals, have not backtracked. In fact, customers say they are likely to spend more time online than before 2020. This is leading to the adoption of more digital-first touchpoints. Nearly three-in-five customers now prefer to engage through digital channels.  

Before you ask, yes, that preference skews higher among younger demographics. But still, channels such as phone and email are dropping, and digital-first touchpoints are rising across the board.  

Responses to this trend are represented in the increasing adoption among service organizations of channels like mobile apps, forums, and especially video. But a wholesale shift to digital channels ignores critical nuance…context. 

Key objectives are shifting to reflect a focus on efficiency, cost savings, and doing more with less 

Customers veer towards different channels depending on the circumstances. For instance, 59% of customers prefer self-service tools for simple issues while 81% of service professionals say the phone is a preferred channel for complex issues — up from 76% in 2020.  

Wherever they go, customers want their interaction to be easy, seamless, and fast. Let’s focus for a moment on the preference for self-service for simple issues. This is a great example of where customer and company priorities meet — in this case, in the pursuit of efficiency. 

Customer success excellence in today’s environment isn’t easy. Salesforce research found that 83% of customers expect to interact with someone immediately, and 83% expect to resolve complex problems through one person.  

Service professionals are feeling the pressure too, with 60% recognizing the increase in customer expectations since before the pandemic. 

Shifting KPIs reflect a focus on efficiency 

The preference for self-service for simple matters coincides with a heightened focus on efficiency for companies facing uncertain economic conditions. 

Organizations are being asked to do more with less and reduce costs. This is reflected in the rise of efficiency-related service KPIs, such as case deflection, customer effort, and first contact resolution.  

While self-service is a great foray into this pursuit, it can only go so far. How else can service organizations maximize customer satisfaction while using resources most efficiently? 

The answer lies at least in part in technology. Specifically, nearly three-fifths of service organizations now use at least one form of workflow or process automation — freeing up agents to focus on the higher value, more complex work that customers with more pressing or unique needs demand in exchange for repeat purchases.  

Users of automation reported significant benefits, such as time savings, better customer focus, and fewer errors in addressing customer needs. 

Three takeaways to transform service into a growth (and customer relationship) engine  

Service plays an important role in delivering a connected, efficient, and product customer experience. More importantly, service itself is shifting from a necessary cost center to a strategic growth engine. 

Service organizations are now at the forefront of strategic shifts across industries. Leaders are investing in continued momentum as well as future disruptions as customer expectations only continue to increase. 

1) Shift from a service mindset to an experience mindset 

Customers don’t see a “service department” — they see one company. As elevated, connected experiences become more commonplace, any instance of a disconnected, siloed experience across sales, service, marketing, and beyond will stand out and prompt customers to seek out better alternatives. Connecting service people, processes, and technology with their cross-functional counterparts helps mitigate this risk and elevate the overall customer experience. 

2) Empower employees as much as customers 

Scaling digital engagement offerings for customers has its merits, but we need to also think about what capabilities employees need to engage across these channels and provide the tailored, empathetic, and contextualized service customers deserve. Technology is a big part of this equation. But all the technology in the world won’t make much of a difference without the evolved policies and processes that transformation requires. 

3) Audit metrics for efficiency, scale, and experience 

Tried-and-true service metrics aren’t going anywhere, but a narrow focus on closing out as many tickets with as few agents as possible is a recipe for CX and service failure. Think about how KPIs can help identify areas of improvement as you scale across new channels, for instance. As resources get scarcer among economic uncertainty, look for ways to do more with less, without compromising the experiences customers have and take away from each engagement. 

Business Services

With 190 participating countries and 24 million visitors, Expo 2020 Dubai was one of the world’s largest events, connecting everyone to innovative and inspiring ideas for a brighter future. But what does it take to support an event on such a grand scale? The answer is a robust cloud and modern IT infrastructure, which would allow 1,200 employees to collaborate with one another, amidst nationwide lockdowns and supply chain disruptions.

As part of the World Expos, Expo 2020 Dubai sought to create one of the smartest and most connected places to give its participants a lasting impression beyond the event. More than just departing with the knowledge and connections gained from the Expo, the organization also wanted to impart the rich cultural heritage of the United Arab Emirates (UAE). This means delivering a deeply personalized and hyper-relevant experience, from a smooth ticketing journey to chatbots that offered real-time assistance in multiple languages.

To bring this ambition to life, a robust foundation of technology was necessary, one that could support the seamless integration of systems and apps, and a myriad of digital services, and meet numerous, diverse IT requirements. It was with these in mind that Expo 2020 Dubai decided on a multi-cloud infrastructure that was hyper-flexible, scalable, secure, and reliable enough to support the event’s operations while serving as a platform to manage the build process for the event.

Behind The Winning Cloud Partnership

Expo 2020 Dubai was built from the ground up: a 4.38km² wide site comprising sprawling parks, a shopping mall, and the Expo Village. In the same vein, its cloud journey also underpinned the various stages of its development, including civil infrastructure, building construction, crowd management, smart city operations, and marketing. Key to this multi-cloud infrastructure was flexibility, scalability, and security, upon which its integrated, intelligent systems were built on. This enabled the Expo teams, vendors, suppliers, and volunteers across nations to work seamlessly together.

It is through the collaborative effort of e& and Accenture that the Etisalat OneCloud and Amazon Web Services (AWS) were successfully integrated to make Expo 2020 Dubai one of the first and largest true multi-cloud infrastructures in the region. Etisalat OneCloud provided the resilient, reliable, and secure environment the event needed for its localized business-critical apps, whereas AWS delivered the structure necessary to support global digital services and apps, such as websites, participant portals and eCommerce platforms.

But what brought both solutions together was Accenture Service Delivery Platform, which offered the interconnectivity for enabling several layers of integration at the app and security level.

As the technological groundwork of Expo 2020 Dubai consisted of over 90 applications, Accenture Service Delivery Platform delivered the integration the multi-cloud infrastructure required without any external systems while meeting the stringent app requirements around scalability, security, and hyper-reliability. This was done across six months of development and throughout the entire customer lifecycle spanning awareness, discovery, purchase, and post-sales.

Delivering An Unprecedented Experience

Through this sprawling multi-cloud infrastructure, Expo 2020 Dubai could host all the Pavilion designs, themes, and content from over 190 participating countries while integrating authorizations, supply chain management, and workforce licensing functions. At the same time, the event realized seamless and highly personalized experiences for its visitors with a suite of visitor-facing digital channels. This was inclusive of the Expo 2020 official mobile app, virtual assistant, and an official website.

Expo 2020 Dubai also incorporated a central information hub and a best-in-class ticketing journey alongside digital services tailored to a visitor’s personal preferences in real-time and in their preferred language. Then there was AMAL, a chatbot powered by artificial intelligence, instrumental in gathering critical information on the Expo shows and attractions while giving live feedback as the event took place.

It is clear that behind this global gathering of nations designed around enhancing our collective knowledge, aspirations, and progress, a large-scale digital transformation took place: one which enabled the multi-cloud environment for Expo 2020 Dubai and was instrumental to the success of this life-changing event.

The Expo’s key themes of opportunity, mobility, and sustainability were succinctly captured in its infrastructure, demonstrating the potential of cloud in unlocking intelligent operations and business agility. As evident in the successes of Expo 2020 Dubai and other businesses, such as leading transport fuels provider Ampol, cloud has become an indispensable cornerstone to succeed in today’s digital-first economy. And it’s this very cloud continuum that will continue to bring businesses one step closer to innovation, aiding them in delivering truly transformative services and experiences.

Read the full story here:  https://www.accenture.com/ae-en/case-studies/applied-intelligence/expo-2020-dubai

Hybrid Cloud, Infrastructure Management, Multi Cloud

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