When Global Payments was tasked with putting together a multichannel commerce platform at the Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, the tech challenge was clear: The platform would need to be flexible enough to handle payments, personalization and operations for up to 71,000 spectators.
To execute, customer experience (CX) had to guide the system's development, handling transactions while staying adaptable to customer needs.
"We have really sat down, including our technology teams, with the customer to design what they call the fan experience," said Guido Sacchi, SEVP and CIO at Global Payments. "It's not about just requirements in software, it's really the co-creation of the entire fan experience."
A sweeping shift to digital operations means the CIO now touches more critical components of a business, their impact rippling all the way down to CX. With more people adopting digital-first products or services, CIOs can deliver a positive impact on CX.
Enterprises are increasingly bringing the CIO earlier into projects, a sign of executives adding more CX aspects to their role.
"You really need to be, as a technologist, fully understanding the customer needs and driving the shape of the solution," said Sacchi. "Otherwise, we're missing the boat."
Building a culture of responsiveness to CX can begin in-house.
CIOs can provide insight internally into technologies that can improve CX, said Don Scheibenreif, distinguished VP analyst at Gartner.
Leaders can help support platforms that manage customer data, or enhance customer interactions through robotic process automation, for example.
"The IT group actually has a pretty good handle on business processes," said Scheibenreif. "By helping make a customer-facing process simpler, that has a good chance of coming across as being a low-effort experience, which only contributes to positive feelings towards the company."
Improvements to processes should come directly from the people interacting with a company's website or application. Exposure to what customers go through when interacting with company systems can lead to meaningful change.
Michael Spandau, CIO and SVP for Global IT at Fender, takes an outcome-focused approach to shaping CX.
The ideal way to influence CX from the CIO seat is "starting off with the CX and working your way backwards," said Spandau. "The first question we ask ourselves is 'what is the impact on the CX?'"
CX, a CIO mandate
The CIO guides their company's technology philosophy and as they advise on technology tools and processes they have an opportunity to directly impact experience.
In the case of the Mercedes-Benz Stadium project, Global Payments took a modular approach to technology components, which allowed for customization.
Using microservices and APIs, processes are much more modular than 10 or 15 years ago, said Sacchi.
CIO purview over CX is a sign of broader change. The CIO has progressively added more parts of the organization to their purview as operations became digitized.
"Supporting the CX has a direct impact on business outcomes, which is what we've been advising CIOs for years," said Scheibenreif. "When [CIOs are] able to connect what they do to that type of business outcome, then that's when their influence in the organization gets greater."
That shift is only accelerating as more processes become technology-assisted and, by 2025, Gartner expects one in 10 technology leaders will serve as a de facto leader of CX for their organization.
Companies with a better grasp on the intersection of tech and CX will see improved business outcomes, the firm expects. By 2024, companies with IT teams that understand the needs of customers will outperform the CX metrics of other organizations by 20%, according to Gartner projections.
There's also a link between CX and IT purchasing, which may prove beneficial for technology vendors.
More than two in five CIOs say improving CX is among the most influential business initiatives when it comes to driving IT investments at their companies, according to IDG's State of the CIO report.
The CIO can also get an early sense of CX by way of internal adoption, according to Ken Englund, Americas technology sector leader at EY. CIOs and chief digital officers can have first-hand experience over product input, he said.
At the end of the design process, the CIO continues to get avenues into more closely impacting business strategy.
"We see a direct line between really strong design and experience, and revenue growth," said Englund.