A CIOs focus is more often than not on the internal workings of the company. We spend our time using the importance of information technology to try to figure out how more things within the company can be automated or how we can keep the bad guys out. However, in this day and age in which we are living, there is a new role that is being thrust upon the person with the CIO job. There are certain customers who are not satisfied with the company’s product and demand changes. This is when a CIO can get involved.
Microsoft’s Problem With China
A great example of the challenges that a single customer can cause a company to experience shows up when we take a look at Microsoft. As we all know, Microsoft makes the very popular Windows 10 operating system that is used the world over. However, a while back in China the government conducted a cybersecurity crackdown and the result of this was that a number of Microsoft’s products stopped being purchased by the Chinese government.
Since the Chinese government has the potential to be such a large customer of Microsoft products, this clearly posed a problem for Microsoft and their CIO. Something had to be done. What the Microsoft CIO decided to do was to develop a custom version of the Windows 10 software for use by the Chinese government.
The reason that the Chinese Government is interested in having Microsoft create a unique version of their software for them to use is because they fear that the standard version of Windows might contain hidden back doors that could allow foreign snooping on government computers. Microsoft is not telling anyone exactly what changes were made to the operating system in order to meet the requirements of the Chinese government.
How To Make A Demanding Customer Happy(er)
If the Chinese government didn’t really trust Microsoft to provide them with a standard version of Windows 10 that would not be loaded with spying tools, then how did the Microsoft CIO go about meeting this demanding customer’s needs? The answer is that Microsoft ended up partnering with a state-owned Chinese company called China Electronics Technology Group. The reason that Microsoft was willing to partner with this company is because they saw it as a way to open doors that had been shut to them and gain access to the Chinese state sector.
Microsoft is not the only high tech company that has found itself dealing with a large and demanding customer when dealing with the Chinese government. Qualcomm, Intel and other firms have been forced to enter into partnerships with Chinese based companies. IBM has also announced a partnership with the Wanda Group that will be used to provide cloud computing services.
Although these partnerships allow a company to sell to the Chinese government, the people in the CIO positon know that they have to be careful. When working with such companies the company with the technology has to walk a very careful line. They are going to end up having to reveal enough about their product to reassure the Chinese government regulators. However, they also have to realize that today’s partners may become tomorrow’s competitors. This means that they need to be very careful and not give away their core intellectual property.
What All Of This Means For You
The traditional role of a CIO has him or her focusing on what the company is both doing and trying to do. This generally means that the CIO looks internally and tries to solve problems before they become big problems. However, things are changing and as demanding customers start to require that companies customize their products to meet the customer’s unique needs, CIOs are being called upon to help manage this process.
A classic example of a company having to change its product in order to meet the unique needs of a single customer is the changes that Microsoft has had to make to Windows 10 for the Chinese government. The Chinese government is afraid that the standard version of Windows 10 might allow foreign powers to snoop on Chinese government computers. They required that Microsoft partner with a local Chinese firm in order to create a new version of Windows 10 for the government to use. These kinds of partnerships have to be handled very carefully. Today’s partner may take the intellectual property that gets exposed to them and use it to become tomorrow’s competitor.
Demanding customers will always exist. CIOs are going to have to learn how best to deal with them. If the company’s product is going to have to be customized in order to meet a customer’s unique needs, then the CIO is going to have to oversee the project and make sure that the company does not reveal too much to any partners that they may find themselves working with.
Question For You: What would be the best way to limit the amount of intellectual property that a firm revealed to a required partner?
P.S.: Free subscriptions to The Accidental Successful CIO Newsletter are now available. Learn what you need to know to do the job. Subscribe now: Click Here!
What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time
So just exactly what does any of us know about the field of quantum mechanics? If you’ve done some science fiction reading, then by now you probably know that quantum mechanics talks about a particle can exist in more than one state all at the same time. Additionally, there is the property that Einstein called “spooky” where quantum particles are able to communicate with each other over vast distances. This is all fine and good, but just exactly how can any of this have an impact on what we are trying to accomplish as CIOs?