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Why some CIOs are taking on customer advisory roles

Clint Boulton | April 14, 2016
CIOs are taking on customer-facing positions, which companies are creating to get a better handle on how to better grow their digital businesses.

HPE CIOs became customer advocates

Perhaps no company in the world is making such a turn on a broader scale than Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE), which late last year split from its consumer brother HP Inc. Speaking at the Forbes CIO Summit last month, John Hinshaw, executive vice president of technology and operations, said he became chief customer officer after the split to better serve consumers of the company's servers, storage, networking equipment and software.

Hinshaw started consulting six HPE customers on how to implement the company's technology, and did it ably enough that the number was bumped to 20 companies, said CEO Meg Whitman, who appeared with Hinshaw. The move affords HPE a certain business agility, she said.

Hinshaw has company in the form of HPE's Ramon Baez, who after the split shed his global CIO role to become senior vice president of customer advocacy. In this capacity, he operates executive briefing centers in Palo Alto, Calif, London and New York City, where some of HPE's 8,000 customers get technology demonstrations, Hinshaw said.

Whitman was pleased with the changes and implied that more could be on the way. "There could be a hothouse effect here. John is all over it. I'm all over it," Whitman said. "We're learning a lot about how we can be of better service to [our customers]."

The hothouse effect is real, says Forrester’s Cameron. He expects the CIO-to-customer-champion moves will continue as the pace of digital transformations picks up in 2016 and beyond. "It's happening everywhere," Cameron says.


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