CIO Spotlight: Christopher Nardecchia, Rockwell Automation

What business or technology initiatives will be most significant in driving IT investments in your organisation in the coming year? “Underlying cloud operations, software defined networking transformations and investments in digitising the employee and customer experience will be the most significant initiatives.”

Rockwell Automation

Name: Christopher Nardecchia

Company: Rockwell Automation

Job title: SVP & Chief Information and Digital Officer

Date started current role: November 2017

Location: Milwaukee, WI

Chris Nardecchia is senior vice president and Chief Information and Digital Officer at Rockwell Automation. Nardecchia most recently served as senior vice president, Information Technology where he was responsible for strategic vision, operational excellence and change leadership for the development and implementation of information technology initiatives and architecture across the company. Previously, Nardecchia was vice president and CIO, Global Operations and Supply Chain, at Amgen, Inc. With over 30 years of professional experience, he also held leadership roles at Pfizer and Warner Lambert, which was acquired by Pfizer. At these companies he led IT-enabled business and digital strategy and accelerated growth through technology and data analytics.

What was your first job? Technically, it was newspaper delivery where I learned early on the importance of customer satisfaction, growing the business, and balancing the books. However, my first professional role was a project engineer for a division of a large engineering company. We provided a decontamination and remediation service to the nuclear industry (power plants and government development centers). I led teams that built equipment and provided the service to customers. I had a lot of independence and responsibility early in my career and learned a lot about building relationships, assembling, and managing diverse teams and critical path project management. This role really shaped the rest of my career - giving me confidence to learn quickly, deal with ambiguity, be creative, adaptable and bring together individuals from diverse backgrounds, skills, and competencies to achieve a common goal.

Did you always want to work in IT? No, I did not. Early in my career I wanted to leverage my chemical engineering background to build production facilities and optimise processes. I eventually got engaged with Operations Technology (OT) by programming PLC’s and DCS’s to control production processes for pharmaceutical products, and this led to moving data from the factory floor operations throughout the IT network. I also deployed global ERP and other enterprise systems throughout manufacturing facilities, and this work ultimately led to me to managing both IT and OT teams, converging these two domains. After this point, I spent the remainder of my career managing IT and OT teams, leveraging technology to scale processes and operations and grow revenues. This led to my role as a CIO in a company that brings the connected enterprise (i.e. IT/OT convergence) to life.

What was your education? Do you hold any certifications? What are they? I hold bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering from State University of New York at Buffalo and a M.B.A. from The Eli Broad School of Business at Michigan State University. But no certifications.

Explain your career path. Did you take any detours? If so, discuss. I started my career outside of IT, designing and constructing manufacturing facilities, processes, and products. I designed processes for nuclear system decontamination, production of nuclear fuel and continuous chemical production of various polymer products. I also scaled up processes and products from bench-top to pilot plant to commercial production of pharmaceuticals – designing equipment, processes, and controls to globally manufacture. I helped launch several blockbuster therapeutics (designing processes equipment and controls) and scaled global manufacturing and supply chain capabilities to rapidly grow production capacity and revenues. I transitioned from process, project and production engineering roles to computer controls and OT systems management to IT and enterprise systems management. I spent the bulk of my career at the interface of IT and OT managing teams within manufacturing and supply chain. This led to my current role as the CIO at Rockwell Automation where I partner with my peers, the Rockwell Automation Board of Directors and external stakeholders to drive the corporate information technology, digital and cybersecurity strategy.  

Yes, I took many detours and always took on opportunities with high change and learning agility components that were focused on transforming the company either in terms of significant growth and scale or defining new products and business models.

The first big pivot was from engineering-centric roles to computer controls in manufacturing operations to deployment of enterprise class applications within global manufacturing operations. As I began to manage the systems and teams within both the IT and OT domains, I increasingly got engaged with integrating data from these domains and leveraging it to create insights through advanced analytics. Ultimately, this led to my role as CIO with a company whose strategy is “to bring the connected enterprise to life” to improve productivity and profitability for the companies we serve. The connected enterprise is all about IT/OT convergence. While performing in my CIO role, engaging with customers on their digital journeys and our “Rockwell on Rockwell” program (internal adoption of ours and our partners’ technologies in our own manufacturing facilities), it became apparent that to support customers at scale and transition a larger portion of our revenue to annual recurring revenue and subscription-based services would require a new business operating model.

This resulted in a formal digital transformation initiative and evolution of the CIO role to a CIDO role. This eventually pivoted to leading a software and control business unit on an interim basis in addition to the CIDO role. So yes, a lot of twists and turn!

What business or technology initiatives will be most significant in driving IT investments in your organisation in the coming year? Underlying cloud operations, software defined networking transformations and investments in digitising the employee and customer experience will be the most significant initiatives. Furthermore, our enterprise transformation effort to deploy a new business operating model focused on annual recurring revenue and subscription-based offerings will require a great deal of investment in people, processes, and technology. So, we expect to see a lot of data management, process improvement, customer experience, data/analytics and telemetry focused initiatives all designed to accelerate profitable growth in the form of annual recurring revenue.

What are the CEO's top priorities for you in the coming year? How do you plan to support the business with IT? Evolve our culture, accelerate profitable growth, add more value through software and increase ARR and deliver differentiated profitability.

All IT objectives are aligned to our company’s strategic framework, and the portfolio of investments are governed by IT to ensure priorities are aligned to company objectives. We have specific integrated objectives and metrics to measure progress, and our initiatives are aligned to these strategic objectives which include business model transformation, network and cloud transformations and high priority security initiatives.

Does the conventional CIO role include responsibilities it should not hold? Should the role have additional responsibilities it does not currently include? The role of the CIO has been changing and can vary greatly between companies. In the near term, I see the conventional activities (datacentre, cloud, productivity tools, network, help desk, business application management, device management, etc.) remaining under the CIO. As these capabilities mature and move to aaS, then many of these fundamental / back-office capabilities could move to an administrative function. The technical and traditional aspects of Information Security / CISO are probably best positioned under the CIO at most companies. In many product and service companies, security needs to be managed holistically. Nonetheless, the traditional aspects of information security are best served within IT.

Organisational structures and responsibilities vary greatly for the role of the CIO and need to align to a company’s digital maturity and strategy. For the most progressive companies, to maximise investments from technology and maintain alignment across global companies, I believe it is most effective to have a CIO that can manage and drive the digital transformation and data analytics agenda. The most progressive are using digital transformation to create new products and get better connected with customers. The trend once most prevalent with retailers is now a driving most industries: personalisation of the customer experience. I cannot think of a role that is better positioned to engage in these activities to drive companies forward in the digital / Industry 4.0 era. A transformational CIO can align the C-suite on digital strategy, facilitate change across the enterprise, and use emerging and proven technologies to innovate and drive agility.

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? Yes, however, it is a very cross-functional effort, and my peers are actively engaged and leading specific work streams and deliverables. We have a centralised Enterprise Transformation Office (ExO) that orchestrates the digital agenda toward an aligned roadmap. It sets the targets, decides on investment priorities, and measures the result.

We are both applying our own, and partner technologies in our own manufacturing facilities to bring the connected enterprise to life and improve productivity in our manufacturing and supply chain operations. In addition, we are transforming our go to market business model towards ARR and subscriptions to accelerate profitable growth. It is focused outside in versus inside out – meaning working from the customer backward toward product and service design. Nearly every organisation is a technology organisation these days. CIOs must keep operations running and hit revenue and growth targets, as well. Every organisation needs to be data driven and, while many companies are data rich, they are lacking insights from that data. Our company specialises in using information to expand human possibilities. We do it for our customers, and we do it for ourselves. Our work to connect the imaginations of people with the potential of machines helps us, and our customers, become more intelligent, connected, and productive. While some thought digital transformation would have the greatest influence on the outside – for customers – there is just as much change, value, and benefit for employees.

The pandemic has accelerated the migration to the cloud at scale, and people are looking to connect their enterprise and leverage data to develop insights that drive decisions around growth and profitability as well as sustainability and energy management. While CIOs and CEOs are at the centre of transformation, this is a cross-functional initiative that requires a different mindset for senior leaders and across the company. The conversation around the Connected Enterprise has moved from manufacturing and supply chain to the C-suite for connectivity and consistency of data so you can scale to realise the benefits. Digital transformation was a priority before the pandemic; it is even more so now. The CIO will be the visionary and the primary driver; the person who will spearhead the implementation and the engagement throughout the organisation. As a transformational CIO, your peers and your people will look to you to collaborate on digital transformation strategies, lead the change for the organisation, drive agile and flexible practices, and be at the forefront of emerging technologies. Improving the employee experience will reduce internal and external friction, which translates to improved customer experience.

We work on both simultaneously and prioritise based on alignment to annual strategic priorities and investment planning to achieve our integrated business objectives.

Describe the maturity of your digital business. For example, do you have KPIs to quantify the value of IT? We have a strong and well-aligned strategy that is tightly linked to company growth and new business operating models. I think it could be best described as somewhere between emerging (channel-centric) and connected (tech-centric) on the way towards multi-moment (true data driven marketing). We are in full execution mode and adding more connected capabilities on a quarterly basis.

Yes, we have metrics related to growing the percentage of company revenue from ARR and the revenue generated from IT data/analytics/ML developed solutions or products. We also have a quarterly dashboard to track milestones on our digital journey.

What does good culture fit look like in your organisation? How do you cultivate it? At the highest level, a 1) commitment to integrity, diversity and inclusion, 2) be willing to compare ourselves to the best, 3) speed of decision making - empowerment, 4) steady stream of fresh ideas – innovation. We seek an agile and growth mindset with high learning and change agility while treating operational excellence as a foundational capability.

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