mn19Facing the need to meet heightened customer expectations, C-suite executives need to strengthen their skill sets and technical capabilities to deliver on digital transformation efforts.

Top technology leaders who attended the HMG Strategy 2019 Minneapolis CIO Executive Leadership Summit spoke about these requirement, how they can better align the business to take on competition, and the tools needed stay relevant in the digital age.

“We’re truly at the dawn of a new era,” said Hunter Muller, President and CEO of HMG Strategy. “Highly-effective CIOs keep the C-Suite informed and connected to deliver the most innovative and competitive products to consumers.”

Ed Soo Hoo, Data Center Evangelist for Lenovo, said industry leaders have been pushing for digital transformation for years, but the key to successful modernization is broader than that.

“I want to take the word ‘digital’ out, it’s about transformation itself,” Soo Hoo said. “Too often, we zoom in and see things close up. I’d rather back up and work from a bigger picture standpoint.”

The `Three E’s’ Perspective

Fundamentally, Soo Hoo relies on a system of three `e’s’ to sharpen the competitive edge, and uniformly deliver proficiency from edge to edge—development and production to consumer satisfaction.

“The first ‘e’ is for ‘expectations,” Soo Hoo said. “Customer expectations are very high.”

In order to deliver on the “always available, no-delay” expectations, Soo Hoo said the next two pillars - experience and engagement - go hand in hand.

“If you deliver a bad experience you will not earn the right to engagement,” said Soo Hoo.

Administering AI for Predictive Maintenance

C-suite executives also must prioritize which assets can deliver prime experiences in a secure setting. Machine learning and artificial intelligence are critical tools for creating more intelligent operations from end-to-end.

Robin Brown, CIO for the Cargill North American Protein Group, said her organization is working on a project aimed at utilizing machine learning to strengthen predictive maintenance in its manufacturing plants.

“We, right now, are doing artificial intelligence through machine learning in some of our plants to predict when our machine lines are going to need repairs,” Brown said. “This is something we’re trying out now, and it’s working.”

Brown said a similar plan is in the works for monitoring animal behavior, health and well-being at Cargill. This type of predictive analytics could help us make more informed decisions and prevent disease in the future, said Brown.

How Tech Can Help Deliver an Enhanced Customer Experience

Executives are under increased pressure to create, market and deliver the best product before their rivals. Whether this means creating new, state-of-the-art products or overhauling existing go-to-market strategies, tech advancements are key to staying above water.

As a major U.S. retailer, Target Corporation is competing in a highly competitive market with its stores and online presence, said EVP and CIO Mike McNamara. Amazon dominates a large portion of online sales, but Target has stepped toward the future by strategizing correctly and building on its already outstanding business model, McNamara said.

“How do we beat Amazon?” said McNamara, “We don’t need to beat Amazon.”

McNamara said Target is investing in world-class engineers. Target’s 3,000-plus engineers are working on small product teams writing code and releasing software at an incredible pace, all in the interest of improving the customer retail experience. Tracking customer data to employ predictive marketing tactics and attract consumers before they shop online is key to Target’s new model.

This is one of the ways that a legacy corporation can stay fresh on the highly competitive world-stage, but what about a software provider that has only been around since 2011?

CIO Harry Moseley said Zoom video conferencing software beats out older and better-known options by enabling a reduction in cost, an increase in productivity and a reduction in complexity for its customer base. Moseley said Zoom models its go-to-market strategy around customer needs.

“The global workforce today is made up of two-thirds Millennials and Gen-Zs,” Moseley said. “They’re technically literate. Creating an environment that allows them to work in our organizations is truly important.”

Captivating a digital audience by enabling easy and user-friendly connectivity means that Zoom has become the fastest-growing app for enterprise organizations.

“The way I characterize our meetings is – we can do one-to-one, we can do one-to-a million, and everything in between,” Moseley said.

Advancements like this demonstrate that adapting products and services to customer interests is the most effective way to captivate consumers. Whether a company is new or old, the most competitive products will be those who cater to the fast-paced digital lives of their consumer base.

Communicating to the C-suite

None of these innovations would be possible without open communication within the C-suite and beyond. The only way to get an innovative idea off the ground is to be communicative, organized and focus on strategic goals.

Daniel Ritch, Former VP of Connected Services and CIO of Honeywell, spoke to the necessity of interdepartmental communication. Ritch said the company’s Connected Service Platform was founded at a time when Honeywell’s customer retention rate was trending down.

“Honeywell had a challenge before it to try to make things happen,” Ritch said.

By moving data to the cloud, Ritch said Honeywell revolutionized its creative building management systems. All the while, this shift resulted in better communication between Honeywell’s CIO, CTO and CMO.

“I’m pretty proud that we were pioneers, in a way,” Ritch said

By breaking down the silos internally between CIOs and engineering or marketing, Honeywell improved communications across the board, from the C-suite, to service technicians, to the consumer.

Brown said world-class organization, planning and communication helps Cargill get projects off the ground. Her team is working on a system to test the variables of shifting projects from proof of concept to operational status.

“We have a team called Digital Labs where we have a whole capability of proving hypotheses,” said Brown.

Brown said being able to see all the variables of a POC from an operational perspective will help prevent slow-moving or failed projects in the future.

To learn more about these fundamental keys to success within the C-suite, join HMG Strategy at an upcoming Executive Leadership Summit.