CEO directives: Top 5 initiatives for IT leaders
CIO Talvis Love has weathered a tsunami of rapid and significant changes at Baxter International over the past year — with little reprieve in sight.
In late 2021, the med tech company completed the $12.4 billion acquisition of Hillrom, the largest in its history, to expand the company’s digital health and connected care offerings. While Love and his 3,500-person IT team were working on that integration, the company announced in January 2023 plans to spin off its acute care and renal units, which is about a third of the business. One month later, Baxter began changing its operating model and restructuring the remaining company.
“Those are huge, significant changes that require us to pivot and adjust our approach, and tech is the linchpin to all of them,” says Love, senior vice president and CIO of Baxter. So he’s fast-forwarding his plan to embed IT within business teams to make these critical transitions. “The only way we can meet our goals is having the IT and business teams working close together as part of one team.”
Talvis Love, CIO, Baxter International
The need to strengthen business and IT collaboration tops the list of priorities that CEOs have for their CIOs this year, according to Foundry’s 2023 State of the CIO survey. As organizations face macroeconomic uncertainty and rapid changes to market conditions, collaboration between IT and business units are crucial to making those transitions quickly and smoothly.
Security, customer experience, and business and digital transformations also made CEOs’ top priorities lists for their CIOs this year. IT leaders describe how those priorities are playing out in their IT organizations today.
Foundry / CIO.com
Upgrading IT and data security
CIOs always have cyber and information security somewhere on their priority lists, but global turbulence with China and Russia have many CEOs taking notice too. More than a quarter of CEOs want CIOs to upgrade IT and data security to reduce corporate risk in the next 12 months, according to the survey.
Cybersecurity became a bigger issue this year for Josh Hamit, senior VP and CIO at Altra Federal Credit Union, due in part to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which touched off warnings about possible Russia-backed hackers stepping up cyberattacks on US targets. As a result, Hamit has brought extra attention to partnering with Altra’s CISO to perfect security fundamentals, cyber hygiene and best practices, and layered defenses.
More likely cyber scenarios have IT leaders increasingly concerned as well. For instance, three out of four global businesses expect an email-borne attack will have serious consequences for their organization in the coming year, according to CSO Online’s State of Email Security report. Hybrid work has led to more email (82% of companies report a higher volume of email in 2022) and that has incentivized threat actors to steal data through a proliferation of social engineering attacks, shifting their focus from targeting the enterprise network itself to capitalizing on the vulnerable behaviors of individual employees. This will require hardening email and collaboration tool defenses and response capabilities, but also securing the data they’re seeking.
Improving the customer experience
Customer and employee experience have become central tenets for successful digital transformation, and about a quarter of CEOs are continuing to invest in technologies and processes that improve the customer journey, according to the State of the CIO survey.
JP Saini’s top initiative at Sunbelt Rentals is “the obsession with our customers,” he says. For Saini, CIO and chief digital and technology officer, this means humanizing the business and technology aspects of each worker’s job and serving each persona — whether that’s the office workers, salespeople, equipment rental specialists in the stores, technicians, or even drivers, he says. Then he dissects each persona-based journey to understand what they go through in doing their daily jobs. That way “you’re designing a [technology or digital process] based on what they need,” to create greater efficiencies, he says.
JP Saini, chief digital and technology officer, Sunbelt Rentals
Leading business and digital transformations
Nearly a quarter of CEOs place business and digital transformations as a top-three priority for their CIOs.
CIO Max Chan’s digital mandate at electronic components distributor Avnet is driving improvement in the supply chain and design chain. As a distributor that sits between its supplier partners and downstream customers, “we have all the demand and supply signals that we can help navigate, and then we can apply that to solve these supply chain challenges that everyone is having,” he says.
Max Chan, CIO, Avnet
To that end, Chan’s team is working on machine-to-machine frictionless transactions between suppliers and customers, and creating a single pane of glass for suppliers to solve issues more easily. In the design chain, “we’re creating design capabilities where stakeholders can get together and come up with new designs faster to ultimately help enable customers to go more quickly to market,” he says.
New digital transformation projects will help foster more autonomy for employees at the Judicial Branch of Arizona in Maricopa County. CIO Charisse Richards wants to empower the business to handle some technical tasks on their own without IT intervention. So she’s prioritized a ServiceNow implementation to automate tasks and give employees more control.
Charisse Richards, CIO, Judicial Branch of Arizona in Maricopa County
Judicial Branch of Arizona in Maricopa County
“We have a lot of people that call and email the service desk,” Richards says. “I want to see a reduction in the time that the helpdesk spends in those rote tasks — entering tickets and answering calls — and spend more time with our high-touch customers,” namely judges, she says. “We’re not getting more money for additional staff, so we need to be more efficient.”
Helping reach revenue growth goals
The CIO’s role continues to evolve from focusing only on uptime and availability, to cost-cutting and efficiency gains, to now holding a key position in the C-suite where technology influences every part of the organization. One in five CEOs now place corporate revenue growth as a top priority for their CIOs, according to the survey.
CIO Ajay Sabhlok believes his mandate is “to figure out how to generate revenue” for security technology vendor Rubrik. One example is the company’s lead-to-cash process. Data showed the company wasn’t closing expected orders, which was showing up as lost revenue in quarterly reports, Sabhlok says. So he and his team identified the need for a more advanced opportunity management process that has an engine for more accurate scoring of business leads, automates manual tasks that were holding up orders, and delivers data-driven insights through user-friendly dashboards. The result: more leads converted to sales, which boosted quarterly revenue figures.
Savvy CIOs should already be steps ahead of CEOs on these priorities and shouldn’t wait to be asked, says Baxter’s Love. “Create a deep understanding of what’s driving the business. Understand how your company makes money and how that’s changing over time, and what are the biz leaders’ goals and priorities,” Love says. “Don’t wait to ask to be at the table. Sometimes IT leaders wait to get asked to the party. I say invite yourself.”