Brian Paul, Director & CIO - E-Commerce & Digital Marketing, Sales, Consumer & Appliance Care, Whirlpool Corporation
Challenges in Technology Sphere
The connected appliance is by far the biggest technology challenge in the home appliance industry. Our industry is evolving very rapidly from a manufacturing focus to a consumer life style focus. Consumers want more than just a piece of metal providing a basic utility. Ease of use, automated services and a more immersive and rich experience are required. The connected appliance will bring home appliance companies and consumers closer together, but putting the pieces together in a way that makes this new experience relevant for the consumer is a huge challenge.
The 360 degree customer view has been elusive for most companies. Just when you think you've got it, a new social outlet or data provider emerges that changes the game. Converging all the data sources and finding the monetizing insights is a complex big data game. The good news is, there are some really good third party data providers that do a lot of the data procurement and aggregation for you. Finding the right insights to help your business and effectively approaching prospects and customers is the second half of the challenge that usually requires heavy IT and Marketing support to do right.
“Information security is my top concern. I believe that all aspects of IT needs to be deeply involved with security”
Technology with a Competitive Edge
From a technology perspective, almost every company needs to combine digital, big data and mobile in some way. My dream space is one open source platform for go-to-market combining digital, CRM, big data and mobile. This would allow IT organizations to shift energy from finding the right tools to integrate into an already distributed environment to enabling and extracting value for the consumer. The cloud proposition is highly compelling, but for most companies, the financial shift to more of an expense weighted model can be discouraging. This definitely keeps me up at night. I am keeping a very close watch on how the Internet of Things is evolving and what companies are doing to make connected products relevant to their consumers.
The Growing trend toward SaaS
The trend toward SaaS has really picked up in the large enterprise space over the past couple of years. SaaS products used to be mid-market utilities, but now large-enterprises are demanding the flexible consumption models so software companies are jumping all over it. The issue still is the capital to expense allocation challenge. The role of IT is definitely trending toward more of a business leadership role. All aspects of business are becoming digitally enabled and the market places are becoming digitally based. I see IT invited to the table during key business decisions much more than I used to. My IT organization is moving into more of business strategy role. I look for MBA's with a consulting or technical background that can find ways to drive business with technology. SaaS is a major driver behind this shift in bringing traditional IT organizations to front-lines with the consumer.
Role of a CIO as Ombudsman
Information security is my top concern. I believe that all aspects of IT needs to be deeply involved with security. For example, in the digital space, the CSO doesn't design and code new capabilities. They can set the standards and run the necessary audits, but the designs and code should go above and beyond standards and many times, the details are so minute and hackers move so fast that the standards may not cover everything that needs to be covered quick enough. In this respect, I see the role of the CSO growing, but I don't see security being completely centralized.
Advice to the CIO
My advice to new CIOs is to keep things as simple as possible and focus on customer value, keeping customers welcomed, engaged and safe in the process. Simple solutions often translate into a good customer experience.