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.”

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These are all part of the company’s strategic framework, and we both hire and develop with these cultural attributes in mind. We regularly survey employees for engagement and cultural alignment and use feedback from these surveys to adjust. We are currently in the process of conducting culture workshops, led by company leaders and ambassadors, starting with the senior leadership, and then shifting to all employees. There are also very specific KPIs and metrics that we monitor, track, and measure our progress against. Ultimately, we will mature to OKR’s throughout the organisation.

What roles or skills are you finding (or anticipate to be) the most difficult to fill? Cloud operations, data scientists AI/ML, software skills, and individuals with a growth mindset. Think STEM + SMAC (social, mobile, analytics and cloud) along with cognitive flexibility, high emotional intelligence and change and learning agility. It is a very competitive marketplace where these skills and attributes are in high demand and it will only get greater.

What is the best career advice you ever received? The best career advice I ever received was “go slow to go fast” meaning take the time and do the hard work up front to get alignment and input on your strategic roadmap before jumping into execution.

Do you have a succession plan? If so, discuss the importance of and challenges with training up high-performing staff? Yes, IT has leaders from inside and outside of the IT organisation. I think the biggest challenge I see is related to finding the time from their daily responsibilities to work on development activities. I see many leaders underestimate the importance of having a “second in command” that they can rely on for critical operations so that the leader can find time to work outside of their primary responsibility area. Managing their peer network, learning the fundamentals of the business, and operating outside their primary responsibility area requires significant effort and high EQ. Emerging leaders need to find ways to spend time there while ensuring their primary accountabilities are operationally excellent.

What advice would you give to aspiring IT leaders? The best advice I can give to aspiring IT leaders would be to understand the business you are in, deeply, and how technology drives the business – IT is the business, and the business is IT; be a finance expert – understand the company’s financial statements and partner closely with the CFO. Finally, lead and own the digital agenda and build a strong external network. Focus on the following leadership attributes: deliver results, create a compelling vision of the future, and get people aligned to the vision, develop your people – build a pipeline of talent, influence beyond your primary area of responsibilities and manage your peer network. 

IT leaders also need to be teachers to educate boards and executives of the company on how emerging and advanced technologies can be leveraged to maintain relevance for the company.  What needs to be done to keep your company competitive and relevant going forward? Create and communicate your digital narrative in simple and compelling terms, hone your communication skills.  As a former CEO and board member I recently heard speak said “Executives want to know the time, not necessarily how the watch is made”. 

What has been your greatest career achievement? My greatest satisfaction is seeing people that I have hired, work or partnered with progress in their careers. Many are digital leaders, entrepreneurs, or executive technology leaders, and I would like to believe I had some influence on enabling their success. I am proud that throughout my career, no matter the environment, I was able to quickly understand the business context and drive forward transformation efforts focused on growth and scale by leveraging technology, data, and analytics.

Looking back with 20:20 hindsight, what would you have done differently? Developed a time machine. I missed a lot while at 35,000 feet. It is time I cannot get back for my family.

What are you reading now? Measure What Matters (John Doerr), Think Again (Adam Grant), Competing in the Age of AI (Karim Lakhani and Marco Iansiti). Up next on my list to read is Getting to Nimble (Peter High)

Most people don't know that I… was a radio DJ, piloted a hot air balloon, my very first-time skiing (no lessons) was at the Olympic ski run at Lake Placid or that I coached a now famous NBA basketball player in his youth.

In my spare time, I like to…participate in outdoor activities, woodworking and learning about new technology and geopolitics. At the moment, I am particularly interested in AI, blockchain and NFT’s, determining how I can help transform our healthcare system and the long-term geopolitical implications by the changing trade and security landscape.

Ask me to do anything but… don’t ask me to violate my ethics or integrity. There is not much I will not do/try at least once. I am up for any challenge, no matter how difficult, however please don’t ask me to compromise my personal code of conduct or that of the entities I represent.

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