This week's MIT Sloan CIO Symposium brings together MIT academics and CIOs to discuss how IT leaders can overcome some of the common hurdles to
Hasbro CIO's trick for creating closer partnership with the business
Steve Zoltick lends out his IT team stars to solve problems
Since joining Hasbro as CIO six years ago, Steve Zoltick has been on a mission to transform IT from a cost center to a profit center. Although IT wasn’t positioned in this way prior to his taking the helm, a laser focus on partnership with the business has enabled him to make significant strides in this transformation.
[ Want to become known as CIO who makes it rain? See our related article, 4 habits of revenue-generating CIOs. ]
Zoltick recently took home the Global CIO of the Year award from the Boston CIO Leadership Association. We chatted with him to learn more about he overcame initial resistance to change, and the program he put into place that caused the business to look at IT in a whole new light.
The Enterprisers Project (TEP): The IT organization is increasingly being asked to focus on how to make money rather than save money. How have you seen this shift impact your own IT organization?
Zoltick: I’m hopeful that, by now, all IT shops have the goal to get out from the back room and be more of a revenue driver. We’re seeing this happen in several different ways across industries and practices, but the goal is the same. At Hasbro, we’ve been focused on integration with the business and leveraging technology in ways that enable them to be more effective and efficient.
For instance, we’re working closely with the business on some of our toys that have digital components. We’re helping in a multitude of ways, from facilitating the code that drives the toy, to assisting with the thought process around how they can leverage external or internal vendors to develop some of those products. The exciting part of being more integrated with the business, for me, is gaining credibility as a true partner. In fact, partnership has become core to our strategy and one of our biggest tenets.
TEP: Was there a resistance to change when you implemented this shift? How did you cultivate a revenue-generating mindset among those individuals who were used to simply "keeping the lights on?"
Zoltick: There was some initial resistance from the business side. I heard things like, “We only really know the IT folks from the help desk and the desktop teams.” And that was discouraging to hear because we don’t just want to be the people who come out to fix things. We want the business to think of us as a partner who can think differently, help them work through their problems or challenges, and bring innovative solutions to the table.
When I heard that, the first thing I had to do was make sure I gained their trust, and that starts with great IT. We had to consistently show them that we could deliver on time, on budget, and at a quality level we were proud of. Those are the fundamentals we needed to get right for them to start thinking of us and leveraging us differently than just the back-end systems that they were used to.
Within IT, I asked my team to question everything they were doing. Not because it was wrong or they were doing it incorrectly, but because I wanted them to look at our standard processes and think, “Is there a better way we could do this? Could we be more effective and efficient and make things smoother for the business?” This questioning led to better devices, new software, collaboration tools, and more. And the business started to see that and say, “You know, we could leverage some of you differently on our teams.”
That’s when I activated the other piece of it, which was getting some of my teams to be more embedded. Whether it was project meetings or staff meetings within the business, it opened up opportunities for my team to not only provide insight into what IT was doing, but start to understand what the business was doing and how we could add value.
TEP: As IT began to partner more closely with the business, how have you worked to break down barriers and encourage open idea sharing? What is your best advice for other CIOs hoping to do the same?
Zoltick: One thing I’ve done that’s been incredibly successful is I’ll lend out some of my strategic thinkers or creative folks to different teams within the business. They’ll help in a variety of ways, whether it’s driving a project, thinking differently about a solution, or helping them map out processes within an organization.
This accomplishes a number of things. It drives credibility and awareness of the caliber of talent that lives within my organization. If someone in the business calls me with a specific problem, and I can free up someone on my team to help them through it, that goes a long way in building trust and increasing engagement of my team.
It also gives my team flexibility and the chance to branch out from their day to day. I’m not one to hold people in their specific job. Rather, I find that giving them opportunities to meet with the business units, have a seat at the table, and show value where they can, helps to elevate the position of IT for everyone on my team.
We’ve had people in the business leverage some of my team, and then, all of a sudden, they’re like, “Wow. This is great. We had no idea.” Now it’s completely normal to have somebody from my team attend their meetings on a regular basis. This is very different than other places I’ve worked that hadn’t engaged IT in that fashion because they never thought of us that way.
TEP: What is one of the most important relationships in your current role, and how do you maintain it?
Zoltick: My direct reports are extremely important to me, as well as the other senior management team members that lead the company. But, truthfully, there’s probably a million answers I could give because all the relationships I have are very important to me. To maintain them, I make sure we meet frequently, stay engaged, and I try to add value by listening to them. When I first started in my role, I was having one-on-ones with all the senior management team, my direct reports, and other folks in the organization to make sure that they knew that I was not just somebody that was going to sit in my office, but I was going to be extremely engaged. I never stopped having these meetings as I grew into my role. That’s worked for me.