Long Live the CIO

Rates of technology adoption and diffusion are accelerating.

July 17, 2011

“The CIO is dead; long live the CIO!” This prediction about chief information officers (CIO) was made at Pink Elephant’s recent annual conference. Pink Elephant is a global information technology (IT) consulting and training firm.

Although the statement is intended to be provocative, it’s clear IT professionals are increasingly feeling pressure as their role evolves. Today, credit union IT departments must meet the demands of both members and employees with improvements and innovations in processes, services, access, and products.

What’s driving this need for increased IT innovation? Two words: diffusion and adoption. In “Bank 2.0,” Brett King writes, “Diffusion is the speed at which a new idea spreads from one consumer to the next. Adoption is similar to diffusion except that it also deals with psychological processes that an individual goes through, rather than an aggregate market process.”

Rates of technology adoption and diffusion are accelerating, says King. For instance, while the telephone took approximately 50 years to reach critical mass, television took 25 years, cell phones and PCs about 14, and the Internet only seven. Recent technologies, such as Facebook and Twitter, reached critical mass within months.

What’s the takeaway? As we become more used to technology and innovation, it’s taking us less time to adopt new technologies, which further encourages more innovation and business planning.

In other words, if we aren’t introducing innovations into the member experience at the same rate members are adopting them, we risk losing members. More agile intermediaries and third parties will fill the void and capture the market.

Members and employees now expect their credit unions to provide products and services that allow self-control and efficiency. Mobile check deposit, for example, accomplishes this by saving time and allowing 24/7 convenience.

In another example, I recently came across a new bank announcement based primarily on the customer experience. Launching sometime this year, banksimple.com is currently soliciting “beta” customers. While you’re probably familiar with signing up members as “beta” users of new services, this new bank is signing up customers even before it launches.

More than 50,000 customers have already committed. This is adoption on steroids!

The bank’s vision is simply to put customers first. It will support their financial needs via phone, chat, Skype, and e-mail. It’s designing its Web and mobile experiences in tandem. The bank will support both deposits and transaction authorizations by phone to prevent fraud. It will categorize mobile payments as they happen. Alex Payne, the bank’s chief product and technology officer, was one of Twitter’s first employees and led development of its platform.

Another example of fast-paced diffusion is purely mobile apps for financial transactions. Context will soon take over search, so coupons will appear on your mobile device as you walk down the retail aisle. With enhanced context, we’ll stop searching for news, products, and services—and instead they’ll find us.

The tech innovation list is long and getting longer. It’s an exciting time to be in IT, and an exciting time to be a consumer of financial services. Our members’ financial and technology needs are changing rapidly, and we must evolve as they do to retain their business.

RUDY PEREIRA is senior vice president of operations and technology at Alliant Credit Union, Chicago, and chair of the CUNA Technology Council. Contact him at 773-462-2147. For more information about CUNA Councils, visit cunacouncils.org.