CIO Spotlight: Jon Dack, Celonis

What advice would you give to aspiring IT leaders? “Technology changes, so don't get too focused on a particular vendor or tool. The objective is to understand the needs of the business today.”

Headshot of Jon Dack, CIO at Celonis

Name: Jon Dack

Company: Celonis

Job title: CIO

Date started current role: July 2022

Location: Greater Boston, USA

Jon Dack is the Chief Information Officer at Celonis, the global leader in Execution Management. The Celonis Execution Management System (EMS) reveals and fixes process inefficiencies, by integrating real-time data, process intelligence and targeted actions to unlock billions in corporate inefficiencies and also reduce carbon emissions. Dack is responsible for using technology and data to empower businesses to be more efficient.

What was your first job? I’ve been working since I was 13 years old, beginning with various jobs after school as a teenager. However, my first real, full-time job was as a Loan Processor in a large retail bank in London.

Did you always want to work in IT? Not really. I was very passionate about technology as a hobby, and I enjoyed getting computer magazines and playing around with coding for fun, but I never considered it as a career. I honestly didn’t know what I wanted to do early on.

What was your education? Do you hold any certifications? What are they? I hold a Bachelor of Sciences in Computing and Information Systems from the University of London, and I am certified in MCSE, CCNA, CCDA. Most recently, I’ve received both the PMP and CISSP certifications, as my career has grown into more leadership roles around security and IT strategy.

Explain your career path. Did you take any detours? If so, discuss. I started in the banking industry in a non-IT role, but quickly realised that I was more interested in solving process challenges with technical solutions. It was this curiosity that took me down the path of a variety of roles. My next position was a Customer Support role, assisting a piece of technology sold to customers by a large law firm. This was where I started to have a better appreciation of customer support and empathy.

I then moved to the USA, where I started my career path in the IT/systems world, supporting a large scale CRM platform, giving me exposure to a system that powered huge cross-functional processes. I then moved into an IT Management role, owning a Systems Team responsible for ERP, CRM, and HRIS in the banking space. This gave me insight into Enterprise Systems Strategy and how things are interconnected.  

From here, I joined a Marketing Team in a large US Law Firm, focused on CRM, web development and marketing automation solutions. Why? Because it was something I’d never done before, and I felt my experience in CRM was valuable, and I could take advantage of my passion for application development.  

My next four roles were Strategic IT Leadership roles. Before joining Celonis, I was the CIO at Bottomline Technologies where I embarked on a major digital transformation effort, focused on 20 years of legacy processes and technology. This included IT Operations, Business Systems, Information Security, Global Real Estate, and Operational Excellence. Prior to that I was CIO at Toast Inc. running the same functions for more than four years, where I helped scale the business from a few hundred employees and customers to thousands of global employees and tens of thousands of customers, helping to build one of the most widely-recognised restaurant technology brands in the USA.

What business or technology initiatives will be most significant in driving IT investments in your organisation in the coming year? Scale and process improvements will likely have the biggest impact on IT investments. How we plan to grow and where we plan to expand will certainly influence IT investments; however, as we start to understand our core processes and where they need to improve, this may result in alternative solutions we need to invest in.

What are the CEO's top priorities for you in the coming year? How do you plan to support the business with IT? When addressing our top priorities over the next year, there are various questions we can ask ourselves. For instance, how are we supporting our scale, in the most efficient and cost effective way? How are we deploying technology that meets our business processes, enables our fellow colleagues to achieve their goals and provide the best technology and service to our customers? These priorities will always be applicable, and are not just for the upcoming year. Continuing to develop and use Celonis EMS to really help us discover these opportunities is also a key priority.

Does the conventional CIO role include responsibilities it should not hold? Should the role have additional responsibilities it does not currently include? Yes, the CIO (and IT in general) should not be policing everyone and making decisions in a vacuum. Historically, across a lot of industries, IT has operated as a “no” team, and we need to start moving into the mode of a “let’s figure this out together” team.

The CIO role is also in a strong position to see the business end to end, and provide thought leadership on processes automation and enterprise data. Often individual business units are trying to solve process and data challenges within their smaller areas. However, these are often blocked, as they have dependencies on other business units. This is where the CIO organisation can help to bridge those processes and apply technical solutions to meet the entire process vs. a smaller embedded process.

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, it’s both, but at the moment the primary focus is on operational efficiency, which does also have an indirect, positive impact on our customer experience. By eliminating unnecessary, manual tasks and streamlining internal operations, we will empower our customer facing teams to focus on high value work to support our customers.

Describe the maturity of your digital business. For example, do you have KPIs to quantify the value of IT? No, we are in the early stages of forming a strategy and do not have any KPIs beyond the typical IT Support metrics. However, we do plan to measure the current state versus our future state, to ensure we are receiving the value we expected. We plan to use Celonis EMS to help us understand the processes we are supporting with technology, which will also be an input into the overall success of our transformation effort.

What does good culture fit look like in your organisation? How do you cultivate it?  Highly-motivated to learn and contribute, and equally driven to help colleagues be successful, creating a “we are one team” attitude. This is what I see as the culture of Celonis. To cultivate this, we provide an environment that allows for opportunity, vulnerability and honesty, giving people the space to be expressive, fail, learn and grow.

What roles or skills are you finding (or anticipate to be) the most difficult to fill? Strong Enterprise Data experts or Integration Engineers seem to be the hardest to find. As companies really look to be more efficient and data driven, these are the roles in high demand.

What's the best career advice you ever received? It’s more about the journey than the destination. Explore lots of opportunities, especially ones that interest you. Don’t be too hung up on a specific title or role, this will eventually come to you. Instead learn as much as you can and add lots of skills to your toolbelt. Then you will have the opportunity to be whatever you want to be, in that given moment.

Do you have a succession plan? If so, discuss the importance of and challenges with training up high-performing staff. I haven't been at Celonis for long, but career development is an important part of my role that I take seriously, and I hope to grow a strong leadership team here at Celonis.

What advice would you give to aspiring IT leaders? Technology changes, so don't get too focused on a particular vendor or tool. The objective is to understand the needs of the business today. Try and predict what their needs will be in the immediate future, and then deploy solutions to help the company be more effective. Needs will change, and so will the solutions, so don’t be afraid to tear down something you built up. It's not about preserving the solutions you put in place, it's about the company’s ability to operate as best as it can, at any given point in time.

What has been your greatest career achievement? While I’ve done a lot of fun and exciting things in my career, I honestly take more pride in the people I’ve been able to mentor and help grow along the way, who have gone from entry-level team members to Directors, VPs and CTOs. That’s the real legacy, as they will hopefully pay it forward.

Looking back with 20:20 hindsight, what would you have done differently? Perhaps starting my career in technology instead of in the banking industry? Saying that, I truly believe that all of our experiences, no matter how seemingly unrelated, do shape our approach to problem solving, people management and work ethic.

What are you reading now? Nothing at the moment.

Most people don't know that I… was massively into drama in High School, and took part in a variety of plays and community theatre. I was even a finalist once for a part on a BBC Soap Opera. In the end, I felt like this wasn’t my ultimate passion, but it was fun while it lasted.

In my spare time, I like to…brew beer. I have a nice setup in my garage, and try to brew whatever feels right for the season. From Belgian styles to American IPAs to Stouts. It’s a creative outlet that you can enjoy with friends.

Ask me to do anything but… expect me to ask questions and dig deeper. I love new ideas and want to encourage people to express them, however I’m always going to try and dissect them and analyse the various outcomes, benefits and risks. It’s how my brain is wired, which can be very beneficial in my role, but less fun when someone asks a simple question like “what time should we leave to get to the airport” … oh boy.