CIO Spotlight: Chris Bedi, ServiceNow

Does the conventional CIO role include responsibilities it should not hold? “I don’t think there are any responsibilities that CIOs shouldn’t have as IT impacts every facet of an organisation.”

cio spotlight chris bedi servicenow

Name: Chris Bedi

Company: ServiceNow

Job title: CIO

Date started current role: September 2015

Location: Redwood City, California

Chris Bedi joined ServiceNow in September 2015 and currently serves as the company’s Chief Information Officer. Prior to joining ServiceNow, Bedi served as CIO of JDSU from August 2011 to March 2015 where he was responsible for IT, Facilities, and Indirect Procurement. Prior to JDSU, Bedi held various positions at VeriSign from April 2002 until August 2011, including CIO, VP Corporate Development, and VP HR Operations.

What was your first job? I have had two sorts of “first jobs”. My very first job was at a taqueria making tacos while my other first job (and the start of my career) was an entry-level consultant position at KPMG. Both taught me valuable lessons. At the taqueria, not many people spoke English so working there taught me the value of communication and establishing human connection. My experience at KPMG solidified the importance of looking at digital transformation through a business and value lens, which is an approach I still use today.

Did you always want to work in IT? No, I’ve held a couple of roles outside of IT. For 18 months I was VP of HR operations, which was a great learning experience because it allowed me to look at the company from purely a talent perspective. I’ve also held roles within corporate development managing acquisitions and divestitures, which has contributed to my business acumen and helped me become a technology-oriented leader.

What was your education? Do you hold any certifications? What are they? I have a BSE in computer engineering from the University of Michigan. I also make a conscious effort to learn new things whether it’s through books, online seminars, peer engagement, etc. It’s important to push yourself outside of your comfort zone and stay hungry for knowledge – it makes you a better leader.

Explain your career path. Did you take any detours? If so, discuss. When I first started at KPMG, I thought I was going to eventually become a partner at a big five accounting firm. However, after the dot-com crash, budgets shrunk and so I moved to a new organisation to do IT work internally. At the time, the move didn’t feel too great, but looking back at it now, it was invaluable in terms of understanding how hard it is to drive enterprise-wide transformations and understanding what they fully entail, such as multi-year strategic plans.

Another detour was moving into HR and corporate development, which is something you don’t usually see among those in IT. I wanted a challenge and to push myself to be successful in an area outside of technology. This is advice I often give to people who are early in their careers – don’t be afraid to take detours. It will lead to a diverse portfolio of expertise and skills, which will help in the long run.

What business or technology initiatives will be most significant in driving IT investments in your organisation in the coming year? In this period of uncertainty amid COVID-19, CIOs have never been more critical in leading the employee experience and being drivers of change. So right now, our focus is on making the employee experience as great as the customer experience – making it a seamless digital experience, built around self-service capabilities, to ensure employees are engaged and productive no matter where they are. This trend will only continue in a post-COVID world.

Creating a seamless experience requires organisations to double down on AI and machine learning – so that’s a big focus for us right now. By giving our customers and employees access to advanced automation, AI and machine learning capabilities, we can help them boost productivity, ultimately freeing up employees from mundane, repetitive and time-consuming tasks and allow them to instead focus on meaningful work. That’s our focus at ServiceNow – making the world of work, work better for people.

What are the CEO's top priorities for you in the coming year? How do you plan to support the business with IT? ServiceNow CEO Bill McDermott and I are in full alignment that digital transformation will be the defining business theme of the 21st century, with workflow technologies playing a critical role in bringing employees back into the office safely and enabling business resilience amid COVID-19. As businesses start executing on careful return to workplace efforts, CEOs and CIOs must be in full lockstep in navigating the path forward.

I work closely with Bill to work with our customers to continue driving digital transformations forward. COVID-19 has proven that digital transformation is no longer only a business imperative; its impact is human, extending far beyond productivity and business performance to protecting employee health & safety, sustaining workplace culture, and providing a ballast to navigate unchartered territory.

Bill and I remain focused on making sure our products can digitally scale operations quickly and efficiently to ensure business resiliency as well as deliver employees the right digital experience from anywhere. COVID-19 has upended a lot of our plans, but our commitment to our customers remains the same.  

Does the conventional CIO role include responsibilities it should not hold? Should the role have additional responsibilities it does not currently include? I don’t think there are any responsibilities that CIOs shouldn’t have as IT impacts every facet of an organisation. But in terms of additional responsibilities, a lot of that varies based on a company’s focus and key initiatives. Take for example a company whose main goal is ramping up automation in the workplace to drive productivity and cut down cost. It would be beneficial for its CIO to have more operational functions to eliminate barriers when implementing tools and speed up time-to-insights.

In other instances, such as working with IT and analytics, CIOs would benefit from a research arm that could work to inform those analytics. Having functions that are traditionally outside the realm of IT, such as data labelling or data maintenance, could certainly help streamline analytics processes. Additionally, we’re seeing an uptick in non-digital organisations often creating digital services – in those organisations, the CIO is usually the one developing those digital services, so in turn, they are also becoming responsible for customer experience outcomes as it relates to the digital service.

Are you leading a digital transformation? If so, does it emphasise customer experience and revenue growth or operational efficiency? If both, how do you balance the two? Of course! At ServiceNow, we’ve learned that when embarking on a digital transformation journey, leaning into both customer experience and revenue growth/operational efficiency is key. Customer experience and productivity are two sides of the same coin; the right experience can accelerate adoption and economic outcomes that you’re trying to achieve.

For every company, a customers’ success is their success. Technology can be a powerful tool to create customer value and experiences that drive brand loyalty and high retention. Every customer experience and customer-facing process is powered by a technology platform where CIO-led improvements can have a direct impact on both revenue and efficiency. Research shows that CIOs who lead organisations with the most workflow digitisation are more successful at increasing operational efficiency and speed to market, developing new products and services, and attracting new customers compared to CIOs that are less digitised.

While organisations should prioritise both customer experience and productivity together, sometimes they have to choose between the two. When faced with that decision, leaders should choose that path that brings the most value to their business.

Describe the maturity of your digital business. For example, do you have KPIs to quantify the value of IT? There’s a staggering gap that exists between digital transformation investments and outcomes, due to the fact that business strategy and technology strategy are not integrated from the start. I’ve tried to course-correct this at ServiceNow by creating a digital maturity model that measures progress and visualises the level at which digital transformation exists. The framework was developed in partnership with ServiceNow’s C-suite to ensure that everything was laddering to improving processes across departments, as well as increasing revenues and the bottom line.

With this framework, we can better quantify the value of digital transformation projects, while also standardising a common language across functions, which tends to be one of the biggest barriers to change. By getting all stakeholders to align on KPIs and measure progress consistently, that’s when organisations start to see real impact.

What does good culture fit look like in your organisation? How do you cultivate it? ServiceNow is one of the fastest-growing cloud enterprise software companies in the world. But with scaling quickly and early success brings challenges. Fast growth can put stress on internal functions, create siloes and hinder productivity. So, we have invested heavily into building a culture that’s focused on teamwork, communication and collaboration - working together to achieve our goals, while working smarter, not harder. Staying hungry, but staying humble.

In terms of cultivating our culture, it begins with identifying the behaviours and attributes that are required for a culture of excellence, communicating why they are critical, and then continuously reinforcing the need to practice these behaviors. After all, when a company is scaling this quickly, it’s critical that employees are invested in and are practicing the same values.

What roles or skills are you finding (or anticipate to be) the most difficult to fill? The roles that are going to be hardest to fill will be roles that drive digital transformation. This is because to be successful in this role, a candidate needs to have a good understanding of the entire business domain as well as the technology that they are using/plan to use in order to drive change at scale.

Additionally, the talent war for roles within cybersecurity and data science are going to heat up. We are already in a shortage of cybersecurity professionals and their role is only becoming increasingly important as organisations are shifting to a remote work model, creating more opportunities for cyber threats. Aside from remote working, the pandemic has pushed organisations to dial up their digital transformation efforts. Organisations are now beginning to look toward new technologies such as automation, AI and machine learning, and pairing them with data science intelligence to provide more efficient solutions to their business processes. These roles will only become more difficult to fill as more companies move forward with their digital transformation efforts.   

What's the best career advice you ever received? One of the best pieces of career advice I received was from my former CEO related to an analytics initiative. He said, "Chris, you need to create more pull from the consumers of the products you are developing. The way you're going to be successful on this project is if you can get a VP of sales to stand up at a company leadership meeting and say, 'This has made a difference in my ability to drive business.' That will be your accelerator for adoption."

He was right, and I wasn't paying enough attention to creating that narrative when I started my career.

Do you have a succession plan? If so, discuss the importance of and challenges with training up high-performing staff. Succession planning and ongoing training is key for today’s workforce. Top down training programs for communication, influence and consultative selling will set a team up to navigate leadership changes more seamlessly with minimal disruption to IT initiatives in play. In addition to this, one of the lessons I’ve learned with training high-performing staff it that it is important to align on what is important to them in terms of their career development. The best leaders are passionate about what they do, so honing in on skills and goals that really matter to them is critical in being a successful leader.

Another key part of training is underscoring the importance of building relationships with other leaders, such as the CEO, CHRO, and Chief Customer Officer and customers, while also driving technology implementation across the organisation. At the end of the day, as technology proliferates through an organisation, a human-centred approach is critical to driving the best results so the onus is on IT leaders to make this a cornerstone of training and overall culture.

What advice would you give to aspiring IT leaders? When making decisions, look at outcomes through a value perspective. Not enough IT leaders anchor their strategies and executions with outcomes in mind. The value needs to be clear, achievable in the short term, and relevant to the most important company strategies.

1 2 Page 1
Page 1 of 2