CIOs must build brand value to play in the co-creation game

Can enterprise IT co-create without a strong brand equity of its own?

My research colleagues at CSC Leading Edge Forum have just released a compelling report entitled “A Guide to Co-Creating Value with Your Customers.” One of the key findings of the report is that enterprises must build a “culture of co-creation” as opposed to expecting it to happen organically.

It goes without saying that co-creation and collaborative innovation are the epitome of outside-in business strategy. To open the kimono and permit the customer deeper into the typically cloistered product development process requires building a level of trust, on both sides, through a serious co-creation branding process led by the CIO.

To take this one step further I would argue that CIOs need to develop a co-branding strategy before they can develop a co-creation strategy. Branding is rooted in building trust and reinforcing an innovative competitive advantage though the lens of the customer.

Unfortunately the business units have their own brand equity in the eyes of the customer (and other departments) that enterprise IT must now compete with. For example it’s no secret that marketing might be developing more cutting-edge technology products than the enterprise IT department that is saddled with legacy products and keeping the lights on.

The most successful co-created products are the result of combining great brands and great technology. Think about the Nike-Apple wireless system that permitted shoes to talk with the iPod. Or how many of you have hummed the chime of the Intel Inside® advertisements that co-branded the chip technology with the PC manufacturer that embedded it. In the “marketing confidential” spirit, despite increasing sales, we all know that co-branding does not always guarantee an increase in product quality.

So how can the CIO develop a culture of co-branding that better ensures competitive advantage in a co-creation partnering process?

First, be shameless in documenting technology innovations and how they contribute to the bottom line. Don’t wait until you need to list them on your resume, put them on an internal promotion piece designed for co-creation project pitches! This may take some contract or internal marketing talent to develop.

Second, develop a digital “yearbook” that promotes the talent base you have in your IT organization. Be sure to emphasize double- and triple-deep skills that you and individuals on your team have in order to kill the stereotype of only being the “tech guys.”

Next, rehearse co-branding and co-creation talking points in team meetings. This exercise will be important in building the overall “Brand Called IT,” in addition to building trust with potential innovation partners.

Finally, and perhaps most important, do an audit of the departmental skills strengths that contribute the most to your brand equity, and map them up against co-creation targets that match best against these strengths. Don’t be afraid to promote capabilities beyond your current comfort zone. Collaborative innovation requires messaging that assures you are able to exceed your current limits – without over-promising. Better this than to be painted as specialists in the last big thing as opposed to the next big thing!

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