The Importance of Joining the Dots

Marketing and Technology

Baxter Thompson Ltd, Jon Baxter


In this post I explain that in order for the CIO to help the CMO identify ways of increasing competitive advantage, someone has to “join the dots”. I do this by way of example. I also suggest that a Business Relationship Manager role is the one to “join the dots”. This means that the role has sufficient knowledge about the impact and applicability of technology opportunities. As a consequence the CIO has a rationale to influence sponsors and the mandate to design and build a solution.

Increasing competitive advantage.

As a CMO you want to increase company revenue and more so than your competitors. How are you going to do that? By joining the following “Dots”:

  • By recognising human psychology – i.e. unconscious decision-making. The ability for the brain to generalise and offload rational decision-making to the subconscious mind. Here is a great example in the life insurance industry that highlights buying behaviour: .
  • By designing compelling product, brand and service - tailoring the product and service specific to the target audience, through recognising their needs and (subconscious) preferences. I’m a fan of this approach Here is an example of product innovation by introducing telematics to reduce car insurance premiums:
  • By constructing personalised customer journeys and creating a segmented audience. Here is a great example of how Hiscox was able to increase website conversion rate: .
  • By using advanced analytics –monetizing trends by monitoring channel activity, forecasting scenarios and garnering insight from seemingly unrelated factors. A resource is here: and an example of how Nationwide applied analytics here:  
  • By leveraging machine learning – creating algorithms that analyse data and improve their accuracy with practice such as voice recognition, face recognition, and can therefore forecast future trends based on analysing patterns in big data. Here is another link that explains further:
  • By leveraging “Big data” – moving away from consolidating structured data (products, sales, invoices) across internal systems (as in the nationwide example) through to assimilating unstructured data (websites visited, location, keywords in chat forums etc) from customer interactions across many sources in social media and other data streams (e.g. news channels). I found this document useful:

To increase revenue more than your competitors, you’ll need to execute better in all of these different capabilities combined. So the key questions are:

  1. What are your competitors doing?
  2. What is your company doing in these areas?
  3. Are the efforts across the different functions being coordinated?
  4. What should you be doing differently and do you have a plan?
  5. And finally, is there anybody thinking about this?

The role of Business Relationship Management

Somebody, somewhere in the organisation has to think about this. It could be a team effort, it could be a single person; but fundamentally someone needs to “join the dots”.

I advocate that Business Relationship Management (BRM) should do this. It’s strategic, it understands the business function and it marshals the different stakeholders across the different domains to help answer the above questions. It doesn’t have to be a person per se but the role needs to be acknowledged and expressed formally for whomever has an interfacing role between business functions and the IT department.

Given that organisations operate in a globally dispersed, cross-functional and matrix hierarchy more than ever, whichever job the BRM competency manifests itself in, it is still absolutely essential. Joining the “dots” like in the example above means sufficient understanding to identify opportunities and having relationships to coalesce stakeholders around those opportunities. You can’t do it alone.

Being an expert in all of the domains is impossible – we need to collaborate and share information to be effective. Indeed, the speed at which one can add value is increased by continued effort in getting to know the organisation, the business function, the relevant technologies, the industry and the revenue model. We need to leverage the expertise in and outside the organisation so that we can gather sufficient information on the impact and applicability of a new opportunity.  

The amount of time in the role required to get insight is significant. It requires research, extending outside the enterprise to understand developments in industry and technology, figuring out how services deliver real benefits to customers. It takes time. If the BRM is distracted by project performance, escalated service issues or demand planning then the BRM cannot also be an active participant in the strategic space.

Effectively joining the dots means being equipped with sufficient knowledge about the impact and applicability of the technology opportunities. As the CIO, you then have a rationale to influence sponsors and the mandate to design and build a solution. Competitive Advantage gets a step closer and Business Relationship Management helps you make that step.

How Baxter Thompson Associates can help

We help IT understand the opportunity with business partners through our Reconnaissance for IT framework and can help implement a business relationship management capability to ensure that the Value in IT is delivered. The framework includes the criteria mentioned in this post and is applied though a short diagnostic comprising mainly of interviews and workshops. The outcome being a report on recommended changes, options and a business case for implementation. We also provide training, coaching, recruitment and change management.

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