Adobe, Intuit CIOs weigh in on IT’s role in customer experience success

Adobe, Intuit CIOs weigh in on IT’s role in customer experience success

Chief information officers from tech giants share their lessons in what it takes to transform a business to be customer experienced focused

Intuit's Atticus Tysen and Adobe's Cynthia Stoddart

Intuit's Atticus Tysen and Adobe's Cynthia Stoddart

CIOs must pursue business metrics, not IT metrics, and join forces with their marketing colleagues if they have a hope of facilitating the speed of customer change required across modern organisations today.

On day one of the 2019 Adobe Summit in Las Vegas, CIOs from Adobe and Intuit partnered up centre stage to discuss the important role of the IT leader in the latest wave of customer-led transformation. Both agreed changing consumer expectations have not only increased the speed and velocity of IT transformation, they’ve also triggered the need for enterprise-wise, unified data architectures and capabilities that facilitate seamless customer experiences whatever the channel or touchpoint.

And both CIOs saw their growing collaboration with the c-suite, and in particular, marketing, as a vital ingredient in a world where digital transformation now must equal customer experience excellence.

For 36 years, Intuit has been “customer obsessed”, its CIO, Atticus Tysen, said, helping small businesses thrive through software products such as Quickbooks and TurboTax. In more recent years, the vendor had shifted from a desktop offering to SaaS-based solutions, and it’s now looking to adapt once more by harnessing artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning for customer success.

Along the way, IT has played a major part in that transformation, laying down the right infrastructure, the right data pipes and making sure all employees have the right tools to provide those insights and therefore better experience to end customers, Tysen said.

Read more: Adobe unveils customer data platform, Commerce Cloud and fresh Ad, Marketing Cloud capabilities

It’s a journey that required a better customer data action plan. Historically, Intuit would build out customer insights in a manual, physical way, visiting customer environments and watching how they used its products in order to identify any challenges arising in experience.

“This helped provide great insights but at our scale today, it’s not enough,” Tysen said. “We do it still - every employee spends time with customers, and IT spends time with the global workforce to see how they operate. We do that by observing. But that means requires instrumentation and holistic data architecture, models, and agreements on data means and do it at scale.”

In fact, one lesson for Tysen has been the need to monitor data pipelines “like marketers monitor their offerings”. “Bells should be ringing if data isn’t delivered in a clean way to the right team at the right time,” he claimed.

“We’ve also made sure we democratise data, to make it available to all employees so they all have insights and can provide better experiences to customers at speed.”

Adobe CIO, Cynthia Stoddard, has also been involved in taking Adobe from on-premise to cloud solutions over recent years. She said SaaS and subscription-based customer engagement has resulted in far more collaboration across the c-suite, something she’s directly experienced with her CMO counterpart at Adobe, Ann Lewnes.

Like Tysen, Stoddart said these efforts required a better customer data approach. “Adobe’s transformation to the cloud enables us to harness big data at scale. However, our data strategy had not involved,” Stoddart explained.

“We were spending a lot of time wrangling and managing data form various data silos, and our performance reporting was fragmented across various groups. As a result, it took 2-3 weeks to generate insights.”

Through Adobe’s data-driven operating model (DDOM), Adobe has been able to operate with real-time insights. Key tenets have included commonality of data, consistent measurement, actionable insights and data governance, Stoddard said. The DDOM model framework has led to a single source of truth dashboard, which has democratised data and is mapped to the entire customer journey, from discover to buy.

“This is powered by a unified data architecture that stitches together customer experience, product and ERP data,” she said. “Having that holistic view of the customer is key to improving their experiences.”

It’s this need to bring together enterprise-wide data sets to improve customer experiences that has led Adobe to announce global availability of its new Customer Experience Platform during this week’s Summit. The open and extensible customer data engine and platform is designed to stitch data sets across the enterprise, in addition to Adobe’s Experience Cloud, in order to enable real-time customer profiles.

These can be then used to drive intelligent decisioning across the vendor’s wider range of marketing and experience execution platforms via the vendor’s artificial intelligence engine, Adobe Sensei, and machine learning capabilities.

Read more: Adobe unveils customer data platform, Commerce Cloud and fresh Ad, Marketing Cloud capabilities

More broadly, Adobe CEO, Shantanu Narayen, used his keynote address to position the next wave of digital transformation as the shift to recognising customer experience as the core to modern business.

For Stoddart, such holistic transformation doesn’t happen without the CIO.

“But we can’t do it alone”, Stoddard said. Tysen described the modern CIO as a three-way partnership with multiple partners: Between the CIO and chief customer success officer and external partners; between the CIO and CFO; and increasingly importantly, between CMO and CIO.

“One of most sophisticated set of data users in the company are the marketers. There’s a lot to learn from how marketers use data,” he continued. “It’s the relationship between CIO and CMO that ensures clean data is provided to marketers with the right structure and tools to provide those insights.

“Another important role is that of the chief data officer. We’re seeing chief data office roles increasingly being created, and we recently brought this in at Intuit, too, because it ensures people think about data 24/7, 365 days a year… and breaks down the silos so that single view is achieved.”

Metrics of success

However, if IT is to run at speed of the business in the digital era, it must be driven by the same business imperatives, both CIOs said.

“One big shift we have made in our organisation is to have our [IT function] metrics be business metrics, not just IT,” Tysen said. “It’s not just about SLAs and uptime, it’s about true business outcomes – things like the number of calls, revenue, GMS, and so on. We have to use those as well in IT.”

Looking forward, Tysen said it’s also important to constantly bringing in new technologies, again with an external customer lens front and centre. In Intuit’s case, the emphasis is on helping customers better understand receipts, tax forms, and in having more comprehensive conversations on user experiences.

“This is all helping us to broadly think differently about how we operate,” he said. A step forward for Intuit has been instigating horizontal, mission-based teams to break down traditional organisational structures and bring the business together.

“We have teams dedicated to partnering with finance, marketing, customer success – and all various tech teams are focused on delivering those business outcomes,” he added.  

Nadia Cameron travelled to Adobe Summit as a guest of Adobe.

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