How A Non-Traditional CIO is Using His Operations Background as an Advantage
Possibilities Podcast Episode: 1
If you thought all CIOs had to work their way up from the Help Desk, think again.
Scott Bendle is the Chief Information Officer at Rigaku, a company that makes analytical equipment for material science and life science applications. Rigaku has 1,500 employees, 1,000 of which are in Japan. Scott’s IT team supports the remaining employees outside of Japan.
Although Scott has an educational background in technology, he is a non-traditional CIO because he comes from a background in operations. Scott’s background in operational discipline make him incredibly efficient at moving projects across the finish line and accomplishing more with less.
He relies on his IT team and his own research to make up any gaps in knowledge that someone from a strictly technological background would have. Scott joined us for this episode of Possibilities to talk about the changing role of IT departments, digital transformation, data, and best practices he’s learned along the way.
Traditional path versus different path.
Traditionally, CIOs come from an IT background where they start working at the Help Desk then eventually make their way to executive management. Scott came to realize that it ultimately is more important how you’re manufacturing products rather than what product you’re manufacturing, so he knew his operations background would translate well to his role as CIO.
Scott has made a huge effort in getting up to speed researching technology that is relevant to his business. He isn’t shy about admitting he Googles terms from time to time in keeping up with the latest trends.
Where his skills really shine is his ability to focus on how the newest technology as a whole comes together to make his company run smoothly. At the end of the day, he uses his operations background to get the right people what they need, and he does this efficiently.
Scott explains that in the 1970’s and 80’s improving product quality was a huge focus (think automobiles, for example). Eventually high quality products in the US became expected, so it was no longer a competitive advantage to have outstanding quality.
In the 1990’s and 2000’s tools such as CRM and ERP provided the next competitive advantage, but now those tools are used by the vast majority of companies.
Scott believes the new differentiation for this decade is how your company uses the data that is available. This is applicable to enterprise companies all the way to small businesses.
There has never been a time where data is more available at everyone’s fingertips. But are you collecting the right data? Are you turning it into actionable insights? Are you drowning in so much data that it becomes counterproductive?
Scott has also seen creators of cloud based applications moving away from allowing modifications to their core application in order to tailor to individual businesses. Scott has seen that it is beneficial to work within the existing set features in an application because too many customized options create problems when it is time to upgrade.
Structure of Technology Department Changing Over Time
Scott’s initial focus for his IT team years ago was simply keeping the lights on. They needed to make sure the infrastructure was in place to send emails, maintain servers, deliver products, and more.
Now this focus has been shifted. Now they focus on more strategic needs.
For example, if management sets a goal of shipping $125 million in product in a year, how does that drill down to other departments? Each sector of the business needs to hit smaller tangible goals before hitting the overall goal. These kinds of insights are only available from data that Scott’s team can provide through a metrics driven approach.
Scott likes to measure the metric of every dollar spent per employee benchmarked against other companies of comparable industries and size. Scott’s team is doing a lot more with less; his team could probably even have 2 more IT employees for the amount of work they are accomplishing (which is impressive with only a handful of people on his team).
Scott’s team is also getting better at talking to stakeholders. They used to bring in new applications and train employees on the platform, and that was the end of the story. Now they take the time to talk through exactly how this application will benefit employees and work through any issues with the application that may arise.
Finally, it may sound simple, but crossing things off of a list still feels really satisfying. Scott’s best practice that is easiest to implement may be the most powerful: write things down you want to accomplish and cross them off. You may be surprised at what you get done.
To listen to this episode, click here