As the CIO of MG Motor India, Manish Patel enjoys a role that’s now as focused on business as on traditional IT responsibilities. Working closely with partners in the C-suite, he’s spent nearly five years driving a company with almost a century of automotive heritage to become a disruptive, digital-first pioneer; one that leverages the latest Adobe technology to enable new and innovative customer experiences.

“The role of the CIO over the period has changed,” says Patel. “They are expected to bring in more business value not just in terms of deploying infrastructure and applications, but in how they think about transformation and digitization. Today’s CIO is more business oriented than IT oriented.”

MG Motor India currently is focused on bringing its brand website and its 50 dealer websites, along with the digital screens in its dealerships, onto Adobe Experience Manager (AEM) so that when customers interact with the brand on any of its digital properties, they get a consistent, uniform experience. AEM facilitates the flow of content across mobile phones, tablets, laptops, and desktop PCs, so there’s no need to redesign or recreate content for the different platforms. What’s more, MG Motor India uses Adobe Analytics to capture every digital interaction between the brand and its customers across all these channels, then uses the resulting insights to deliver personalized customer experiences using Adobe Target.

“Today’s CIO is more business oriented than IT oriented.”

In doing so, Patel matches the futuristic technology in the latest MG Motor cars with an equally innovative approach to customer engagement – one that meets the brand’s customers through their favorite channels and responds to their needs and interests. Plus, by using Adobe Campaign with Adobe Analytics to reach out to customers and nurture leads, MG Motor India can convert its personalized offers into sales while supporting customer retention. “This underscores a significant shift in favor of digital media in consumer behavior within the automotive space,” explains Patel.

The strategy is already bearing fruit. By creating and customizing live replicas, MG Motor India was able to get more than 214 dealer websites up and serving customers in just 10 days. In a recent campaign, close to 40 percent of the bookings to see a car or go for a test drive were made online. Overall, this approach has already contributed to a more than 400 percent increase in leads and a nine percent conversion rate.

“We leveraged the power of Adobe Experience Cloud by becoming the first OEM in the automotive space in India to use Adobe Experience Cloud in its entirety to create end-to-end solutions,” says Patel, noting that this success happened during the pandemic, when mobility was low and customer expectations were unusually challenging. In April 2019, he adds, “MG Motor India held a tech event, and on the day of the event, traffic on the website, which averaged 400,000 hits, skyrocketed to 14 million”. Despite the heavy traffic, the website functioned without any lag.

“If the pace of the pre-coronavirus world was already fast, the luxury of time now seems to have disappeared completely.”

Like many CIOs, Patel is also having to adjust to the new speed of business. “If the pace of the pre-coronavirus world was already fast, the luxury of time now seems to have disappeared completely,” he says. “Businesses that once mapped digital strategy in one- to three-year phases must now scale their initiatives in a matter of days or weeks.” However, this pace has proven to be a blessing in disguise because it accelerated digital initiatives. “We had to quickly deploy tools which could help us collaborate with our suppliers and home rooms outside of India,” he says. “However, once tested and implemented, it was not a very difficult task.”

A rapid shift towards remote working practices has also resulted in new security concerns. However, Patel is relatively sanguine about the impact. “Yes, there is an increased amount of threat out there specifically because of the pandemic,” he says. “However, all organizations are expected to take care of the basics, with or without a pandemic. … We have had specific tools implemented for people working off-site.”

“In addition,” he notes, “the application and infrastructure fortifications were strengthened so that any abnormalities detected can be mitigated in a reasonable amount of time without any loss of productivity.”

Patel’s immediate priorities include further digitization of the digital process and eliminating waste from business processes, something he hopes will empower MG Motor employees to carry on innovating at a product level. He and his team are also evaluating where AI makes sense for the company, working on a case-by-cases basic from the perspective of both manufacturing and the customer experience. “We are already running some pilots,” he adds, “and have deployed AI solutions in some areas, specifically within after-sales where it was more meaningful.”

No CIO can drive such wide-ranging initiatives alone. Patel works closely with his C-suite colleagues, particularly MG Motor India’s Head of Marketing, Udit Malhotra, who, like Patel, is committed to breaking down inter-departmental siloes and aligning customer experience priorities at a leadership level. Patel feels that, by combining their skillsets and their leadership experience, they can do more “to unify and strengthen the customer experience each day.”

The key to success, Patel suggests, is to embrace the CIO’s new role. “The CIO’s technology experience can position them to lead digital change,” he says, “if they can also contribute to business strategy development, leverage ecosystems, create talent and culture models that disrupt the status quo, and use technology to change long-standing revenue models and operational structures.”

Most of all, CIOs must stay open to risk and innovation. “A CIO will be able to drive digital business changes,” he concludes, “if there is a mindset to experiment, a risk-taking attitude, and a willingness to challenge or speak out.”

To hear more from Manish Patel and other leading CIOs, CDOs and CTOs around the world, listen to the Living Enterprise Podcast series.