The Four Leaders CIOs Should Collaborate with on AI-Search Experiences

Take a quick survey of how many search interfaces you have running in the organization. Count every content management system, all the customer-facing applications, and the portfolio of important SaaS tools with built-in search capabilities.

CIO, CMO, CDO, CX collaboration AI Search

The count may go into the hundreds of search and information silos in large enterprises, but even smaller and medium-sized businesses struggle to deliver a consistent search experience in customer-facing apps, customer support functions, and employee workflows.

How technical debt on search experiences hurts IT and the business

Now factor in the underlying costs and complexities CIOs and IT leaders have in maintaining these systems. These include the costs to:

  • Manage legacy search systems running in the data center 
  • Maintain custom search indices created by developers across multiple public clouds
  • Retain knowledgable developers who coded the search algorithms and data integrations
  • Address technical debt, reduce search relevancy defects, and resolve data integration incidents
  • Integrate knowledgebases and workflows after M&A   
  • Respond to customers, employees, and executives when searches are slow or overly complex

Like many other areas where a business has redundant systems, IT is left managing many of the costs and complexities.

Build a simple business case for AI and low-code search experiences

These issues should help justify an easy business case for centralizing search experiences on an AI-enabled, intelligent search platform. These platforms offer several benefits and can

  • Deliver improved experiences through built-in and configurable machine learning algorithms for search results relevancy, related searches, recommendations, and natural language querying
  • Enable rapid development and faster improvements through low-code, pro-code, API, and out-of-the-box SaaS integrations
  • Reduce costs and security risks by consolidating platforms, improving employee productivity, and reducing customer support issues

With all these benefits, why have some CIOs, chief digital officers, and innovators been slow to prioritize search experiences in their digital transformations?

Establish an executive partnership to improve customer and employee experiences

The simple answer is that it requires a collaborative organizational effort to develop a search experience center of excellence that delivers ongoing business improvements. But it’s not hard – it just requires following one of the key lessons I share in my book, Digital Trailblazer – that CIOs must step out of their comfort zones, develop executive relationships, and partner on transformation programs.

In Revisit the Importance of Search for Your Enterprise Tech Strategy, I share details on forging these executive relationships. Here are the four leaders that CIO  should partner with and form the vision, charter, and business case to invest in search experiences:

1. Who owns customer experience in your organization?

If you are a SaaS company or develop many customer-facing applications, your answer might be a head of user experience (UX), the chief digital officer, a head of innovation, the CMO, or someone that reports to them. If you have few customer-facing technologies, the customer experience may be linked to sales, marketing, field operations, and others business areas that require searching for information when interacting with prospects and customers.

Make sure the most influential leaders with customer-facing responsibilities and working in a strategic business area are identified on the search experience’s program charter.

2. Who owns employee experience in your organization?

When no executive truly owns this responsibility, then I recommend CIO to step up and lead the agenda. Other times, it may be a head of operations, a human resources leader, or leaders with the most people reporting to them. These leaders have the most to gain from productivity improvements driven by simplified search experiences and faster access to information.

3. Who owns customer support or account management functions?

These leaders are often the most technically underserved in their organizations once a ticketing system and workflow are in place. But ask anyone on these teams what it’s like to be in a dialog with a customer with little context around who they are, what products and services they bought, where they are in a customer journey, and what problems they may be experiencing.

It’s frustrating and time-consuming for reps to look up information in multiple systems or manage their frustrations of not having real-time access to the most important sources. Centralizing access to customer information and their activity across products and applications can drive significant improvements in customer satisfaction and reduce the time to resolve customer issues.

4. Who owns data governance, data security, and privacy compliance?

Implementing data security, privacy, and other compliance functions is a struggle when many employees must access information across too many systems and information silos.

When everyone has access to everything, data governance has a harder job maintaining data catalogs and dictionaries, privacy officers have more data sources to review, and infosec has more systems to lock down. Centralizing search experiences reduces these risks by channeling employees to fewer systems of engagement. Plus, CIOs should be able to get budget contributions from compliance leaders to invest in search platforms and centralize employee search activities.

When these executives collaborate, investing in an AI-enabled search platform can be a digital transformation force multiplier driving customer and employee experiences. My recently published white paper focuses on planning, delivering, and transforming search experiences.

This post is brought to you by Coveo.

The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views and opinions of Coveo.

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About Isaac Sacolick

Isaac Sacolick is President of StarCIO, a technology leadership company that guides organizations on building digital transformation core competencies. He is the author of Digital Trailblazer and the Amazon bestseller Driving Digital and speaks about agile planning, devops, data science, product management, and other digital transformation best practices. Sacolick is a recognized top social CIO, a digital transformation influencer, and has over 900 articles published at InfoWorld,, his blog Social, Agile, and Transformation, and other sites. You can find him sharing new insights @NYIke on Twitter, his Driving Digital Standup YouTube channel, or during the Coffee with Digital Trailblazers.