Connecting the Dots with Technology
1. How would you describe the role of a CIO today?
A CIO today is a business leader who understands how to leverage technology to drive business growth through differentiation and operational effectiveness. I view my primary role as operating as a trusted business partner and technology thought leader with the various business functions within our company and more importantly with our suppliers and customers to drive business value.
In my role as CIO of Southern Glazer’s, I currently have three key areas of focus:
- Delivering Strategic Business Solutions
- Providing Superior Execution and Service
- Maintaining a High Performing Team
Strategic Business Solutions include:
- Delivering on a digital strategy with easy to use technology that offers a focused experience that engages users
- Offering differentiated services that connect our value chain and make business easy
- Providing easy to access Insights and analytics that offers fast decision making from strategy to day to day operations
- Implementing real time and connected business systems that drive operational efficiency and accurate business results through a clear destination architecture
It is much easier to get to the destination when you have a map with choices of routes to get there the fastest
Superior Execution and Service focuses on ensuring that we “keep the business running” every day in the most efficient and effective way. Having clear “ways of working” within the IT function and with our business users allows us to deliver quality service that is measured by a scorecard that unifies our team against a common set of objectives and performance standards.
Maintaining an engaging work environment that mirrors our FAMILY values and keeps the talent pipeline filled with talent that ensures we can leverage the most current technologies. We recognize that “we win as a team” and understand the importance that each role on our team plays in delivering value.
2. How can the CIOs make their business counterparts think differently about the importance of IT?
I don’t actually differentiate myself from my counterparts when using the word “business.” I view myself as a business leader of a function that is key to delivering value for our company. My focus is to strive to be a part of the overall leadership team to ensure we are thinking about technology as part of our overall business strategies.
I am very fortunate that at Southern Glazer’s our leaders recognize the value of IT to the enterprise. IT is embedded as part of the culture of our company. Our company vision “to be the world’s preeminent selling, logistics, and data insights company for alcoholic beverages” highlights technology as a key component of the value we deliver to our suppliers and customers. There is also a recognition that technology is an enabler for how we operate every day.
The challenge we sometimes face as technology leaders is helping our business counterparts think enterprise wide. In the age of the cloud and many technology companies selling directly to functional business owners for point solutions, it is easy for an enterprise to find themselves with disconnected technologies. It is incumbent upon the CIO to ensure our leaders understand the value and importance of the “connected enterprise.” It is also important to build trust across functions to ensure we think cross functionally as a company when we are developing solutions.
3. As the technology sphere evolves with each passing day, what are some of the latest trends that are gripping your mind?
Digital, digital, digital and all the things that go with it. Having a digital strategy and thinking digital with everything we do is a key to delivering solutions that engage users and differentiate capabilities.
I am not sure that it is a trend, but I am also always thinking about how my team can deliver faster, better, lower cost, and more secure solutions. I believe a key to success in achieving that goal is to have a clear strategy that allows us to anticipate the needs of the business to ensure we have an integrated platform. I use the term “design for destination,” we always want to know where we are going long term. It is much easier to get to the destination when you have a map with choices of routes to get there the fastest.
For me, I also have to think about how to balance integrating systems from our recent merger while continuing to keep pace with the strategic needs of the business.
4. Which growing or future technology innovation are you personally excited about?
In our business, we want to provide easy to use, self-service analytics within our enterprise and with our suppliers and customers. This gives our business a platform where everyone can focus on business performance and strategic insights that drive joint value without talking about “my data” versus “your data.” Our team partners closely with our advanced analytics and business intelligence center of excellence to ensure we not only offer the easiest to use technology, but also the most valued insights for our suppliers and customers.
5. How can the evolving technologies help Food and Beverages industry overcome the challenges?
The food and beverage industry has many unique challenges. As the industry leader in beverage alcohol distribution, our priorities focus around connecting all of our functions from planning to execution in a way that allows us to focus on growth and effectiveness. Offering core capabilities for our operations and securing our enterprise are table stakes. The real value comes when we can connect our enterprise to our suppliers and customers through technologies that offer integrated business planning, seamless execution, and differentiated insights.
6. What changes have you seen in the IT operating model of your organization during the last five years?
There’s been a shift to “enterprise IT”, balancing on premise and cloud solutions, and shifting focus from ERP to integration of “best of breed.” We also see growing recognition of “open source” as solutions that are used for business, re-developing skills to focus on understanding business needs and connecting with technology solutions versus “coding,” and balancing high value internal talent with external partners and building a millennial workforce for the future.