Lowe's CIO and EVP Seemantini Godbole has a vivid memory of the final pre-pandemic days in the office.
"One day, I was just standing in my office looking through my window, and I'm seeing this line of people," said Godbole. "Some people were carrying a monitor in one hand, and in the other I see a mousepad, a mouse."
The sudden shift to remote work and the equipment needs of employees were far from the only thing that would change in the months ahead. The company needed to beef up the scalability of its website, launch digital tools to enable curbside pickup and support remote work — all of it quickly and simultaneously.
"What I remember is there was a lot going on at the same time," Godbole said of those early pandemic days.
CIOs faced new pressures this year, with organizations asking more of tech leadership as businesses reimagined operations. For Godbole, a combination of calmness, focus and data helped support IT priorities as the company adapted.
"When you see me in all these situations, it's not like we're going crazy," said the CIO, a Target alum who joined the company in 2018. "We are actually very calm."
With cooler heads, leadership can best understand what problems actually need solving while a company manages multiple elements of disruption — from enabling work from home in short-notice or mapping an IT roadmap to meet new business requirements.
"I'm a big fan of not solving the wrong problem because sometimes you're running really hard, but running in the wrong direction," Godbole said.
Launching new digital capabilities at Lowe's was made easier by the ability to build its software in-house. It's been an internal mandate since 2018, when the company began an IT overhaul and set aside $500 million each year devoted to reversing years of underinvestment in IT.
In July, the company ticked off another milestone in its IT overhaul roadmap: a full migration to the cloud which allowed Lowes.com to manage online traffic that Godbole said compared to Black Friday levels all through Q1 and Q2.
Upgrades to the company's IT help websites stay online, but they also play a role in enabling more data-driven decision making, a desirable trait often found among companies that beat their revenue goals.
"We read a lot of data throughout this process," Godbole said of the adjustments Lowe's underwent during the pandemic. The company tracked metrics such as the status of contact centers, cancellation rates and associate morale in order to monitor how the company performed.
Data is also helping Lowe's improve its client-facing systems. Work is underway at the retailer to improve the search and recommendation components of its website. The site should tailor the experience depending on what a client is looking to buy, and should complement it with services accordingly.
"For example, you're trying to buy a ceiling fan," Godbole said. "And you're wondering 'How am I going to install it?' We should give you options to do that right there while you're buying your ceiling fan, so we make the experience complete. That's the journey we are going on."