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AT&T CIO says customer relations will be 80% digital by 2020

The customer is always right -- right? F. Thaddeus Arroyo, AT&T CIO and 2014 winner of the MIT Sloan CIO Leadership Award, certainly subscribes to that. In part 2 of this SearchCIO video, Arroyo talks about delivering value to both IT's internal customers and the phone company's external customers. Extending digital capabilities to both groups is of paramount importance, he told SearchCIO's executive editor, Linda Tucci, at this year's MIT Sloan CIO Symposium. Arroyo said the technology delivered to internal employees and directly to consumers is converging in ways that are transforming AT&T operations from the inside, out.

To hear Arroyo talk about how he got to be a CIO, go to part one of this video, AT&T CIO built IT career by taking on 'least comfortable' roles.

One of the things we're hearing on panel after panel is that today's CIOs have two constituencies they have to serve. Of course, their internal employees need reliable, innovative IT services. But then, increasingly, there are the external customers of the business, who need technology that will deliver value to them as well. How do you prioritize -- how do you begin serving these two constituencies in a way that brings value to them?

Thaddeus Arroyo: As I look at that, I see these two paths converging. I see they're converging, because as we now tap into new capabilities that are emerging and we extend these digital capabilities and weave them throughout our operations, we really ultimately solve for both constituencies. And there's a convergence taking place. Whether I'm solving that problem to provide a tool to an employee that's going to serve a customer through a physical channel, or whether I'm building a digital capability that the consumer is going to ultimately consume directly, there's a common denominator to that. They're both solving the same customer problem.

A simple example of that is, let's look at then, tapping into these new digital capabilities as I deliver tools in our retail stores. Rather than deliver that as an internal IT system, which frankly looks a lot different and maybe more arcane than the digital experiences our customers consume, whether they're coming in from the Web or their mobile device, we now expose those capabilities using comparable digital technologies to our sales representatives, [and in doing so] we've pulled them from behind the counter.

We give them tablets using the same mobile technologies that our customers use, and deliver a digital experience to our employees who serve those customers; we push the [business intelligence] insight into the experience in the digital application that our employees use so that they're always informed about that customer's needs, that customer's relationship with our company; then we leverage that same insight and data as we build those direct experiences for our customers.

So as you move along this digitization spectrum … where do you think AT&T is along that spectrum?

Arroyo: So the change in thinking, the transformation of change, for us, in moving along this journey, is to now make sure that everything that we launch is digital-first by design. And if it's digital-first by design, we can use that same technology to support the physical channels, and we can use that same technology to support digital channels directly. But it's important to get and advance this journey. You asked where we are along the way. I would find us as obviously deeply digitally-engaged, but we set out a very bold vision. Our vision for 2020 is to be able to meet our customer where they want to be met. And today 76% of AT&T's customers prefer digital experiences.

What was the percentage?

Arroyo: Seventy-six percent. And of that, the majority prefers mobile digital experiences. That's where our customers want to be met, so we've set a bold objective that by 2020, 80% of our interactions will be served digitally.

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