Humana CIO shares 3 essential skills for building a customer-focused IT team

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Today, more than ever before, information technology is about consumers. Technology governs how customers interact with the company, therefore it has become the primary factor in their impression of an organization and what it can do for them. That’s why consumer experience is top-of-mind for today’s CIOs, and why hiring people with a consumer-oriented skillset is crucial to success.

Every time a consumer engages with a company, they expect that company to know who they are, to offer personalized engagement, and to create an experience that, as we say in IT, delights them. They expect the company to already know if they’re having an issue and to be ready to offer relevant guidance, counsel and help. I talk about these needs in terms of four principles of design: know me, show me you care, help me and make it easy.

These principles were born from customer demand for personalized engagement. For many years, a few pioneering brands were responsive to customer needs, and now customers have been trained to expect that kind of personalization from every organization they interact with. When their experience is clunky or impersonal, it erodes the company’s brand, and that customer isn’t likely to be a customer for much longer.

A better customer experience starts with the IT team

When I’m building a team, I look for technologists who are skilled in three areas: human-centered design, agile techniques, and analytics-based information building.

While many CIOs approach consumer experience by creating a series of consumer-focused projects and hiring people to accomplish them, I believe the best approach is to hire a team with a consumer-oriented skillset. Consumer needs are evolving as quickly as technology is. So rather than trying to predict what customers will want many years from now, it’s more effective to build a team that can understand customers and nimbly respond to their needs. 

To do this, we have to hire for a new, consumer-focused skillset. It’s a given that anyone working in IT today should understand the business through keen analytic skills and natural curiosity. But the strongest technologists offer much more than that. They have a combination of experience that creates a customer-oriented skillset. When I’m building a team, I look for technologists who are skilled in three areas: human-centered design, agile techniques, and analytics-based information building.

Three areas to focus on

Human-centered design is about “making it easy.” Developers need to understand the principles of how customers want to interact with a site and how to create a seamless user-experience. They also need to be able to adapt their design to changing customer needs. That’s where agile techniques come in. Developers have to be able to create test-and-learn environments quickly so they can understand what’s working and what’s not. They have to be able to change the design in a timely fashion based on what’s working, and then do further test-and-learns.

The third part of the equation is analytics. Understanding analytics is crucial because that’s what helps us understand the customers. Most organizations have access to a variety of sources of information about their customers, some of it more useful than others. The challenge of analytics is bringing the information together to create a picture of a customer’s unique needs. Customer-focused developers don’t just capture information, they bring information from a variety of sources together to fuel an analytics-based infrastructure that can give us a holistic view of our customer. 

Customers will benefit, and so will you

By building a team with a customer-oriented skillset, you can develop technology that will use analytics to show customers you know them, use agile technology and design to show customers you care about their experience, and then bring these concepts together to help customers in a way that is easy and seamless for them. 

As technology leaders, we have to make it our mission to hire the deft, innovative employees who understand the basics of technology and have an innate understanding of how to respond to customer needs. Find the ones with a fire in their belly to create consumer-centric technology and bring them forward enthusiastically. That’s how businesses will revolutionize, and that’s how we’ll keep our customers happy.

In December 2013, Brian LeClaire became Senior Vice President and Chief Information Officer. In this role, Brian leads the information technology function and is responsible for information technology services, data center operations, print centers and communications facilities, and for developing Humana’s IT strategy.

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