The DNA of the CIO in the consumer products sector

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The consumer products industry almost always has IT at the core of its business.

The large-scale enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems run by IT are necessary to keep pace with a range of demands. But the industry’s Chief Information Officers (CIOs) now have to grapple with new challenges, as technology evolves and shakes up traditional approaches:

  • Gaining a better understanding of consumers demands new ways of monitoring and analyzing social media.
  • The ongoing consumerization of IT makes the rest of the board keener to challenge the CIO on technology-related issues.
  • As online retailers gain more power, consumer products firms must rethink the ways they gather market-pricing information.

Far more needs to be considered beyond the business firewall — and outside of the CIO’s immediate control. This makes the consumer products sector a huge source of opportunity for creative, business-oriented CIOs.

The DNA of the CIO

For many years, CIOs from across all sectors have been talking about becoming a true partner to the business and the executive management team. But, as our research highlights, relatively few have actually made the leap.

In the consumer goods sector, however, this job description comes more naturally to the CIO. CIOs here have gained a closer appreciation for how to deliver a more strategic input to the business. But, with their clear aspirations for even bigger influence, they still have more to learn.

Motivated to make a difference

Consumer goods CIOs see significant potential to add value to the business, and are strongly motivated to make a difference. Nine in 10 agree that they help the business with its challenges, among the highest of all sectors.

CIOs in this sector believe they have a closer influence on business strategy than their peers elsewhere.

A wide-ranging remit, with a clear focus on strategy and innovation

Seven in 10 CIOs in this sector enjoy the scope and remit of their role. From business strategy and IT innovation through to data gathering and analysis, they have pushed hard to prioritize these aspects of the role.

In particular, 8 in 10 see information management and data analysis as a bigger priority. CIOs in the consumer goods sector are the most likely of all sectors to be prioritizing innovation.

A fulfilling career in itself

CIOs enjoy the depth of responsibilities of their role, making this a desirable career choice overall. Of those surveyed, 63% are content to see this as a final career destination.

Nevertheless, a significant proportion hold greater ambitions. This is most often for a bigger CIO role (32%), but 36% see life beyond the CIO role, including 15% that have an eye on the top job — more so than any other sector.

Despite a more business-minded approach to their careers, nearly 4 in 10 admit that they could use some advice on how to achieve their ambitions.

Frustrated by constraints on their ambitions        

Across every other sector polled, CIOs saw a lack of C-suite support as the single biggest barrier to them being able to deliver effectively on their role. But consumer goods CIOs express greater frustration with both a lack of sufficient budgets and the challenge of organizational inflexibility.

A strong desire to learn

There is strong enthusiasm about developing the skills needed for success. Topping the list are leadership skills, communication and organizational skills.

These CIOs also show a clear aim of developing their financial skills, as far too few CIOs bring a strong financial literacy to their role.

Closer than most to the top table

CIOs need to make the step up into the executive management team. Consumer goods CIOs are closer to this goal than any of their peers in other sectors: one in four hold a seat at the top table, compared with less than one in five overall.

This reflects in their average level of senior strategic input: 48% say that they are engaged with at a board level on strategic decision-making.

Relationships are key to success

Compared to other sectors, CIOs in the consumer products industry have cultivated stronger relationships with a range of other executives —especially the CEO, CFO and COO.

They also hold tighter front-office relationships. Sixty-three percent have a close partnership with the chief sales officer and 59% also have good ties with key clients, both well above the overall average among CIOs.

With their business-oriented mindset, eye on innovation and a good network, the consumer goods CIO is an exemplar for many others seeking a route to the top table. They are closer than most to delivering a more strategic input within their business.

But there is progress to make: three in four CIOs in the sector are still absent from the executive management team. To get there, The DNA of the CIO provides a robust and balanced toolkit on what to change, who to influence and how to do it.


Becoming a true business partner

- Sabine Everaet, CIO of Coca-Cola Europe

Sabine Everaet joined Coca-Cola as a business analyst in 1995, and was appointed CIO of Coca-Cola Europe in early 2009 and European CIO of the Year in 2011.

“I was able to make the greatest impact as focus shifted from back-office operations to front-office activities, in particular, marketing and corporate communications.”

“I assessed the team members’ skills, and recruited people who possessed the skills we required. They were mostly people working with marketing agencies —not 100% IT staff.”

Everaet believes that keeping up with new technology is crucial. “Still, if you consider what is behind hot issues such as ‘social,’ ‘mobile,’ ‘cloud’ and ‘big data,’ you have to keep an eye on the potential business impact. The CIO who does that generates a great deal of credibility.

Once in a while, I used to meet with the European Board of Management to explain a project. Now, I am a formal member of that same Board.

There is no clear-cut profile for the position of CIO, believes Everaet. “It strongly depends on the organization and its priorities.

CIOs with the highest ambitions need to broaden the scope of their thinking: Everaet advises them to:

  • Be very flexible and adapt to changing priorities, while providing added value by meeting those priorities.
  • Focus on the business and ensure that you make a difference.
  • Create a wide network that enables you to venture beyond your own industry.
  • Don’t limit yourself to your own field of expertise; monitor certain trends in society.