These days, IT budgets just don't stretch as far as they used to. Despite higher scrutiny on tech spending, tech leaders have the unique opportunity to enhance productivity, generate revenue and enable collaboration through digital change.
In times of economic uncertainty, technology leaders must step back and evaluate product lifecycle management, Murat Genc, global data, technology and transformation officer at Whirlpool, said during a CIO Dive virtual event.
Sunsetting applications or tools that no longer serve end users could liberate resources and mitigate application sprawl. Leaders must also ensure applications and tools can work in an integrated environment, eliminating siloed data, Genc said.
But maintenance and upkeep is just one part of Whirlpool's playbook. Digital transformation efforts range from supply chain improvements, scaling core digital products and driving top and bottom line growth.
Technology leaders, even with the added pressures, have ample opportunity to improve how their companies operate — from mitigating application sprawl to driving revenue and improving end user experience.
“There’s still those pressures being put on the chief technology [and] the chief information officers to find ways to differentiate,” Matthew Guarini, VP, senior research director at Forrester, said. “Is there as much in the budget as before? No, but they’re being looked at to really think about that, and that’s where we think that there’s a lot of opportunity for tech leaders today.”
CIOs walking this tightrope have to balance their company’s risk appetite, needed improvements and solutions. Then, CIOs should communicate those findings with board members.
Digital transformation, in this economy?
Regardless of the economic backdrop, technology decisions still need to be made.
“I don’t think there is really any better time than now to actually drive digital transformation to use technology and data,” Genc said. “It’s really an opportunity to drive top and bottom line impact… [and] growth.”
One of the key areas of action for Whirlpool is making the company more agile.
“For example, we are doubling down on our real-time supply chain visibility as it’s a critical enabler to create a more agile, more nimble enterprise to act faster in a more reliable and cost-effective way,” Genc said.
Whirlpool also focuses on scaling important core digital capabilities. Across operating regions and brands, the company uses consistent tools to drive scale and speed.
“Those are, I think, the opportunities for technology leaders to have a more value-driven lens and how we can impact both bottom line and top line, as well as how we can really drive non-value-adding work out of the picture,” Genc said.
But even great projects can be stunted without executive and board buy-in, especially when boards are facing economic uncertainty. Some may feel compelled to stick to the status quo, so it’s up to technology leaders to communicate the potential added value.
If the board doesn’t understand an investment, there are two possibilities: either it's not the right project or they aren’t hearing the right stories, according to Guarini.
To communicate value and garner understanding, tech leaders have to emphasize outcomes through shared accountability. This means projects shouldn’t belong solely to IT — instead, they should be approached as a project of the entire company.
To get the full picture, CIOs need to connect with end users. That connection is part of the blueprint for Whirlpool.
“I think having great, great stories requires walking the floor, really being connected to users, consumers, retailers, our workers on the line, our sales team [or] marketing teams,” Genc said. “I think it really requires us to be business leaders first with zero distance between technology, digital transformation functions and the business.”
Editor’s note: CIO Dive hosted this discussion live on March 15. Register here to watch a replay of the full event on demand.