How Monsanto CIO built a strong foundation of IT talent

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In this interview, Monsanto CIO Jim Swanson shares some of the key ways his IT organization is fostering talent and building talent from within. 

CIO_Q and A

The Enterprisers Project (TEP): Did you restructure the makeup of your IT team when you started as CIO?

Swanson: We did. We introduced a platform-centric model to maximize Monsanto’s investment in IT and put agility and design-thinking at the forefront of our software delivery.  

TEP: What are those platforms?

Swanson: We have six. First, is our field platform which leverages data and analytics to help growers decide what to plant, when and where. Our Operations and Lab platforms digitize our supply chain and research processes. Our Customer platform optimizes every interaction our customers have with us. Our Finance platform ensures efficient and reliable financial management across all areas of our business. And finally, our Workforce platform focuses on how we enable our entire workforce to be as productive as possible.  

TEP: Once that foundation was in place, what did you do?

Swanson: We took a focused look at our organizational talent and identified critical talent segments like data science, software engineering and product management. We built IT-specific competencies for all talent in IT to grow in areas such as digital acumen, enterprise thinking and technical expertise. We have a strong outreach team that not only focuses on giving back to the STEM community, but also builds and strengthens our team through hackathons and partnerships. Not only does this build our competency, but our overall business benefits from the innovation.  

TEP: What else are you doing to build talent from within?

Swanson: One successful practice is pairing programmers together so they can learn from each other how to develop using new tools, whether it be scale-out, the R language for predictive analytics or cloud-based compute. We apply agile principles in all that we do including the principle of “reflect and adapt” so we can continuously improve what we do. And we strongly encourage knowledge sharing through formal and informal “tech talks” on business and technical topics that will further grow our team. These sorts of activities allow us to build on an already strong base while we focus on technologies that will have the biggest future impact on our company.

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