jim-swanson-monsanto-transformative-change-article.2There’s a recent adage that all companies are now technology companies due to their reliance on technology to run the business and use data to drive decision-making.

Taking that logic a step further, Monsanto CIO Jim Swanson pointed out that all companies are undergoing some type of transformational change right now, whether it’s connected to M&A, R&D, business disruption, or some other factors.

For its part, Monsanto is undergoing transformative change on at least two fronts. In addition to its announced merger with Bayer AG, Monsanto is digitizing many aspects of its agricultural business.

For instance, Monsanto is gathering and analyzing real-time information from combines that are used on farms to determine how they are executing. The company is using digital tools and data to ascertain how its agricultural products are performing.

In short, Monsanto is leveraging data and digital technologies to bring farming into the 21st Century. One thing that Swanson has learned from his experiences with digital disruption is that time compression is placing even more pressure on executives to execute.

“As companies try to figure out how to navigate through disruptive change, they need to have iterative approaches that deliver business capabilities in weeks,” said Swanson, who spoke about Monsanto’s digital strategy at HMG Strategy’s 2016 St. Louis CIO Executive Leadership Summit. “Companies that don’t move fast enough aren’t going to stick around. As CIOs and technologists, we have to help the CEO and the board to deliver value. It requires courageous leadership.”

One of the ways that Swanson and his team are doing this at Monsanto is by being proactive – and not reactive – with its digital initiatives. This includes the company’s endeavors to monetize its digital efforts.

“You have to be very forward-looking in creating a market, not responding to it,” said Swanson. “By waiting on a market, we lose our ability to shape the future.” Meanwhile, it’s not solely up to the business to move aggressively on digital, said Swanson. “Every single role (in IT) needs to think about how to disrupt the business.”

Still, Swanson believes it’s not enough to merely generate some level of digital disruption. “If we’re not disrupting by a factor of 10x, we shouldn’t think about doing it.”

To help communicate the value that digital initiatives are delivering to Monsanto, Swanson and his team use video and other types of messaging to spread the word across the enterprise.

The crucial role that Monsanto’s IT organization is playing in the company’s digital transformation has stoked Swanson. “There’s no better time to be a CIO and to drive change.”