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CIOs and the control shift

Posted on: Sunday 27th of December 2009

HMG’s Chief Information Officer John Suffolk has posted on the role of the CIO in the light of the control shift

I think there is a move towards the CIO title being taken over by a very important person indeed – your Customer, or in my case the Citizen. Yes the Customer (or Citizen) Information Owner. This is not the marketing department who believe they own all the customer information, nor is it the salesman who historically attempted to keep all his data on his clients so only he/she could sell to them. This is the Customer/Citizen owning their own information and determining what they do with it.

He’s kind enough to credit me with writing “extensively and passionately” on the subject, then goes on to say:

I am still working through the consequences; I think I understand the theory but I have more work to do to understand the consequences across all business operations and what this means in reality.

Don’t we all! This is quite right, and something of an understatement. We’ve all got a lot more to do to work through these consequences.

The passionate believers – many led and inspired by Doc Searls – have made their case powerfully and repeatedly. Ctrl-Shift, with its research into the rise of volunteered personal information, has so far published a detailed map of one aspect of the great change: the time it will take, the conditions that need to be in place and the value created when volunteered personal information takes over as the predominant form of customer information. On the public-sector side Ctrl-Shift has also helped Nesta map out the role and implications of personal portable education records, and BusinessLink plan user-driven personalisation.

John now asks what are the implications of empowered citizens across all departments. It’s a very good question, but I don’t believe anyone has yet worked this out, far less implemented it in practice. This is where the real work starts.

Would citizens get credit from their financial institution if they didn’t tick the box that asks permission to share their data with credit agencies and organisations who want to offer you a deal of a lifetime?

Here we come to the nub of the matter. If customers have the right platform, where does the power end up and how does it change the basis of participation and transaction? Customers might prefer to choose the financial institution that doesn’t pass on their data and spam them. We don’t yet know, until customers have the platform and John and other CIOs implement strategies that make customer-managed relationships possible.

He goes on

So if the customer/citizen becomes the CIO what does the CIO become… time for a new TLA; How about CCO, the Chief Collaboration Officer?

Most people who have written about the control shift or VRM have done so as individuals wanting to reassert their dignity and rights. Describing its effect on CIOs has not been their priority. But it’s not surprising that for CIOs this question should be front of mind.  And their views will count, because – after all – CIOs have an essential role in making it happen.

But if it is to happen, the finance directors, the CEOs and the rest of the board will all want to have a pretty clear idea what they’re letting themselves in for and why. What does it mean in terms of investment, increased sales and revenues, elimination of waste, competitive advantage and other implications. What will it mean to work with customers to whom one has restored control?

A courteous and mutually respectful dialogue (#CMRD) which includes CIOs is going to be essential if we’re to unpack this.