Technology-the ROI driver for Food and Beverages Industry
By Carlos Amesquita, CIO, Hershey Company
My role fundamentally is to translate business strategy into IT strategy. Technology can be a competitive advantage, but only if properly used in the context of a business strategy. In the absence of this context, technology will always be perceived as a “hammer looking for nails”. As CIO, I have the obligation (and privilege) to influence management to use technology to drive collaboration, productivity and reduce costs. However, the ultimate value I can provide comes from the ability to provide an ecosystem to systemically translate data into insights to help us win in the marketplace. You can drive bottom-line growth to a certain point, but the ability to drive top-line growth with the help of technology is unlimited.
Balancing Business and Technology
More often than not, IT is seen as a black box: a cost center rather than a profit center. Successful CIOs are able to translate capabilities into concrete business outcomes. The ability to explain the complexities of IT in simple and understandable terms, providing investment choices with defined ROIs is key for success. At times, we see brilliant CIOs with deep technology understanding, at other times we see great CIOs with great business acumen. However, it is not as often that we see both combined into one. In my opinion, it’s an ambidextrous leader (as defined by Tushman, Smith and Binns) who will be able to make his or her business counterparts think differently about the importance of IT.
The ability to explain the complexities of IT in simple and understandable terms, providing investment choices with defined ROIs is key for success
Relentless Technology Innovation
The evolution of technology in the area of cognitive, machine learning and analytics in general is what keeps me up and excited. Data is being generated everywhere. From sensors to apps and social media, more and more data is being collected and streamed. The challenge becomes how to make sense of all that data to provide contextual information and insights to anticipate outcomes and course-correct before things happen.
I am particularly excited about the growth in robotics and autonomous vehicles. This includes self-driving cars, air/sea/surface drones, and general “self-aware” robots. I believe this is going to revolutionize how we interact with the world as we know it. I can imagine the time of self-driven cars, airplanes, trains, (Uber) taxis, etc. All this brought to life by the power of technology, data, and algorithms.
Leverage Technology to Stay Nimble and Productive
Packaging is an area ready to be disrupted. Packaging that changes color when product reaches expiration dates, packaging that can change graphics to convert from seasonal to non-seasonal. While this vision may become a reality in the future, we are currently working to have the latest product safety and health and nutrition information displayed through smart phones, via an on-pack code linked to a webpage that can be updated as needed, versus the traditional static on-pack printed information. These and many other technology opportunities will help our industry be faster, more nimble, and operate in real-time when providing information to its consumers.
The Constant Shift in IT
We are shifting towards a bi-modal IT. A combination of Agile with traditional waterfall approaches, depending on the area. We are shifting towards the ambidextrous leader, with a Technology foundation and a strong business acumen and executive influence. We are shifting to more of an asset-less IT, with more cloud services and less traditional in-house data centers. We are shifting from gathering data to analyzing data to become more predictive and less prescriptive. We are shifting to a more robust posture in cybersecurity, in a world of daily attacks, cyber-theft, and operational disruption.