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Customers in the front, technology… at the back

Today CTO is a tech leader who has to have a business brain and be very close to the customer
Йогеш Малик

When you think of a CTO, be honest, do you think of a techy guy who plays with gadgets and hardware and spends his day with feature checklists, vetting new systems and vendors. Well, we need to shake off that image, and fast.

Look at the mobile operator world, has the ‘technology first’ approach worked?  Sure, we have great technology and vast high-speed networks but we’ve become complacent and detached from our customers and the kind of services they are looking for next.

The CTO’s job has changed significantly over the years. Today, I need to be much closer to our customers, innovate with industry-leading high quality services and deliver much greater returns to investors. This sounds like the job description of the business teams, but that’s who the CTO is today – a tech leader that has to have a business brain and be very close to the customer.

And that’s reflected in the team I’m hiring to support me – technical skills and business brains, IT, security and privacy experts from sectors outside of telecom, analytics and data scientist experts and even marketing graduates or CMOs.

The action starts with understanding the customers we have today, what services are they using, are they happy with us, what can we do better, and are we always two steps ahead of what they need? How can we personalize services and improve their experience?

As mobile operators, we have a lot of data on our customers but we can’t say that we really ‘know’ them and it’s often obvious to them that we don’t, and that there are times that we don’t fully understand what they are asking for.

I’ll give you an example, I told one of my utility companies in The Netherlands that I want all communication in English, yet I continue to receive my SMS alerts and bills in a language that I do not understand – it could be ‘Klingon’. This is not acceptable in a digital world where Google gives you an option on every screen to ‘choose your language preference’ and even allows automatic Google translate plugins to almost any platform or service.

Big Data and related analytics are at our fingertips now and we need to start connecting the dots at a much faster pace in order to find deeper insights around our customers.  This will enable more responsive and immediate modeling of products and services to meet their needs – in real time. The organization of tomorrow also needs to ensure the relevant analysts and teams have access to all parts of the business in order to truly derive customer centric, smart data and insights. Customer care needs to be closely aligned with marketing, marketing with technology, commercial with marketing and network operations. The linear organization of yesterday is no longer adequate. We need to radically shift our thinking around our business models, how we structure our teams and who should be learning from who in the organization.

This allows us to know a customer ‘end-to-end’ without the silos that have defined the internal structures of traditional business models. It is then that we will really begin to innovate, personalize services, improve customer support, and be more efficient with network investment.

So if you know of any data scientists out there with ‘business brains’ – I’m looking for them – drop me a line. I’m listening.

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