CIO Spotlight: Bhuvana Badrinathan, Convergint Technologies

Describe the maturity of your digital business. “We are currently focused on maturing our digital business, as most successful organisations are. At Convergint, we centre our IT focus into two sections—the ‘run’ and the ‘grow.’"

Convergint Technologies

Name: Bhuvana Badrinathan

Company: Convergint Technologies

Job title: CIO

Date started current role: May 2019

Location: Chicago, IL

Bhuvana Badrinathan has over 20 years of experience in technology, including software development, data strategy, service delivery, and infrastructure. She joined Convergint in 2019 as Chief Information Officer. Prior to working at Convergint, Badrinathan served in various technology and executive management roles in different industries, including financial services, eCommerce retail, and insurance brokerage.

What was your first job? My first job, like many young people, was as a part-time worker. I was working as an office administrative and leasing assistant for an apartment complex in my late teens and early twenties.

Did you always want to work in IT? When I was in college, I was interested in studying law, specifically financial law. However, like most young graduates, I graduated and entered the job market, and found myself working in the information technology space. It was a new, exciting, and unexpected path for me. As the days, weeks, and months went by, I found myself gravitating to it more and more. I liked the industry, how driven everyone is, and how the industry itself continues to evolve, challenging me to think differently and learn more—which was something I embraced. After some time and a great deal of learning, I grew into a leadership role and realised information technology was the perfect fit for me. Being a strong IT leader has become something I am very proud of, and I never looked back. 

What was your education? Do you hold any certifications? What are they? I am a graduate of Northeastern Illinois University and the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University, where I earned my BS and MBA, respectively.

Explain your career path. Did you take any detours? If so, discuss. I began my IT career as a software developer, predominantly working with Microsoft technologies and various back-end systems. I really enjoyed finding solutions, and at the time, I saw myself staying on the more technical side. Management was not something that I was working towards early in my career, but I started seeing certain aspects of the management process that I felt could be better, and it has inspired me to embark on the management side. I went all-in on management to help organisations make more insightful decisions for people at all levels within the organisation, from the top down.

During this process, I realised my desire and passion for helping those in the field grow in their careers. I’ve always been interested in assisting colleagues, helping them understand their passions, and matching their talents with business opportunities to grow with the business. This is what led me to management and what keeps me here—helping people grow and become successful is my passion.

What business or technology initiatives will be most significant in driving IT investments in your organisation in the coming year? When I first joined the Convergint team, we did not have a formal data team or data scientists. See, the heart of what we do at Convergint is customer service. As our company grew, we realised our internal processes had to grow alongside our colleagues and the company's direction. Since data is something that businesses need to create a strong team and streamline operations, I set out to first establish a data governance and data steering committee. Today, we are in the early stages of implementing a new enterprise resource planning (ERP) system, which is probably the most significant technology initiative we currently have in motion—and it's the most disruptive for our back-office processes. 

Convergint is an entrepreneurial organisation, and a lot of our processes are decentralised. This has been helpful because it has allowed us to focus on what's key, and that's being our customers' best service provider. We have grown to become a $1.4 billion global company, which means that we need to have a global reach with a local touch. This necessitates that we standardise and improve our processes to consistently serve our customers regardless of where they are located. Essentially, when you don't have data in one place, you're losing out on an essential component to the internal decision-making and strategy.

Companies that have a deep understanding of their business—and can connect customers, products, people, and data—can unlock critical insights to transforming information into actionable insights. We have all the necessary ingredients to achieve this goal—we have great colleagues and global knowledge about the industry—and the ERP that we are implementing will continue to help us as we progress.

What are the CEO's top priorities for you in the coming year? How do you plan to support the business with IT? Our core values and beliefs express our responsibility to our customers, colleagues, and communities. Since day one, every decision made at Convergint has aligned with our values and beliefs. It’s an accepting, exciting culture—empowering people to do their best daily. Each year, I sit with our CEO, Ken Lochiatto, and discuss our company goals, where our business focus is, and how I can contribute to the company’s success. 

This year, I am incredibly focused on our ERP initiative, and beyond that, doing what I love—helping and assisting other colleagues where they need the support. For me, and our overall business, a long-term goal is to develop and implement a robust cyber strategy—which I look forward to sharing one day!

Does the conventional CIO role include responsibilities it should not hold? Should the role have additional responsibilities it does not currently include? At Convergint, there are no boundaries, only guiding principles—our values and beliefs. Our company is the kind of place where we, colleagues and myself included, have defined roles but no boundaries.

Our colleagues work together and remain committed to serving as our customers' best service provider.  The IT department plays an essential role within Convergint—both from an efficiency perspective and a growth and transformation perspective. We work closely together to create a positive culture and continue to make a daily difference.

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? We've reached an inflection point in the tech world, often referred to as the "Fourth Industrial Revolution" or "Industry 4.0." This is where the Internet of Things (IoT), services, data, and people are all converging to become better connected. This means that our myriad of systems all need to be able to communicate with each other better.

By integrating data across various business segments and then unlocking that data's value by transforming it into intelligence, we can better adjust, respond, and progress. We are no longer trying to balance operational efficiency and revenue growth, but instead, we are creating the ability to do both while ensuring a great customer experience.

This is one of the biggest reasons we are implementing a transformative ERP—we need to unify data from virtually any source and leverage it across our organisation. This will allow us to enable operational efficiency and have revenue growth while continuing to provide a great customer experience.

Describe the maturity of your digital business. For example, do you have KPIs to quantify the value of IT? We are currently focused on maturing our digital business, as most successful organisations are. At Convergint, we centre our IT focus into two sections—the "run" and the "grow."

The "run" represents what we must pay critical attention to and focus on more immediately and actively, which is typically the high availability of key systems—anywhere from cybersecurity protection to system performance data and tracking for better agility. We spend a lot of time and money in this area. Our approach to cybersecurity has been to implement a layered defense to have mechanisms in place to detect and stop the "bad guys" from accessing our systems. This is an area we will continue to monitor to ensure that we are proactive while evolving our defenses as cybersecurity threats evolve and hone their tactics to breach systems.

The second area—"growth"—is where we need to be good partners to the business and our customers and be in lockstep with them to ensure our systems and processes are continually improving and evolving to take advantage of technology's constant developments. This is what will continue to position us for success. We are in it for the long-term, focusing on technologies and core business processes—because we consider digital transformation as a journey, not a destination.

What does good culture fit look like in your organisation? How do you cultivate it? Leadership's first actions when Convergint was founded was not to generate business but to take the time and establish what exactly was needed and expected to create a unique and empowered culture. One of the first things they did was write our values and beliefs.

A good culture fit for us is someone who lives our Values and Beliefs (V's & B's) and remains laser-focused on being our Customers' number one service provider.

We constantly cultivate our culture; every executive staff meeting begins with discussing our V's & B's; performance reviews are based on them and award nominations are driven by the V's & B's mindset. We make all our decisions, every single step of the process across all organisation levels, based on our V's & B's, which I view as a true competitive advantage!

 What roles or skills are you finding (or anticipate to be) the most difficult to fill? Our hiring and recruiting process is so close to our hearts that we do our diligence throughout the hiring process. We carefully look at the quality of skills and quality in company belief systems; finding the proper personality fit is essential, especially as we continue to grow and expand. Our HR team does a fantastic job recruiting colleagues across the globe!

What's the best career advice you ever received? The best career advice I have received, words that I still live by, are: Don’t chase money, chase the right opportunities, believe in yourself, and all else will follow.

Do you have a succession plan? If so, discuss the importance of and challenges with training up high-performing staff. I am always trying to match the talent within our business. At Convergint, we look for and hire smart, talented, good people and then invest in them to help colleagues develop and become who they aspire to be in a professional sense. We like to promote from within the organisation when the opportunity arises. The challenge then becomes how we can continue to help our colleagues on an upward trajectory towards growth.

What advice would you give to aspiring IT leaders? I would say the following: Always be curious; Be aware of where you spend your energy; Hire people smarter than you;  Most importantly, stay empathetic while driving hard for results.

What has been your greatest career achievement? My greatest career achievement is building a powerful and results-driven team and having the ability to watch each dynamic individual grow in their career—even when I have moved on from an organisation. I am incredibly proud of the people I surround myself with and work with, and they will remain a priority throughout my career.

Looking back with 20:20 hindsight, what would you have done differently? I would have joined Convergint earlier.

As an executive who joined the company in 2019, I would not have done anything significantly different—my goals would remain the same: protect and support colleagues, enable better internal business practices with more tech-enabled functions, and over-communicate with my team. What I would have done differently is push for a more integrated data system internally earlier.

What are you reading now? I am often switching between books. Right now, I am toggling between Greenlights by Matthew McConaughey and Positive Intelligence by Shirzad Chamine.

Most people don't know that I… am known to prepare excellent South Indian traditional meals.

In my spare time, I like to…spend time with my granddaughter. It’s a new experience becoming a grandmother—it’s the best title I have had yet.

Ask me to do anything but… run a marathon.