CIOs must address value, impact over technology

Successful business leaders understand that IT strategies are foundational elements to corporate strategies and their tech workforce are critical strategic partners to leadership and clients.

Melanie Kalmar, Corporate Vice President/Chief Information Officer/Chief Digital Officer, Dow

Leadership Award Recipient: Melanie Kalmar, Corporate Vice President/Chief Information Officer/Chief Digital Officer, Dow

“Unlike just five years ago, CIO’s now need to know all aspects of a company or organization, such as traditional manufacturing, supply chain operations, how financials in the company are run, security and the latest in technology, not to mention customers’ tastes and demands,” said Melanie Kalmar, corporate vice president, CIO and Chief Digital Officer for The Dow Chemical Company. “This is even more crucial as technology and CIOs help companies respond to unforeseen challenges, such as COVID, to maintain business continuity and connectivity with customers.”

Kalmar is the 2020 recipient of the Michigan CIO of the Year ORBIE Leadership Award. She earned a degree in management information systems from Central Michigan University and took on roles at Dow that helped her understand how technology could solve business issues on a large scale.

CIOs and their teams touch every part of a company every day, “putting them in a unique position to accelerate collaboration across an organization and get alignment on where best to invest in digital resources that will drive the most value for the company and customers,” she added.

More often, companies are looking to CIOs to help improve employee and customer experiences.

“Gone are the days of pushing out the latest new capabilities and then moving on,” Kalmar said. “Here to stay is business-aligned prioritization with shared ownership for change management and adoption to ensure we get the value and continuous improvement needed.

Among other initiatives, Dow also gathers data through market-listening capabilities that, integrated with machine leaning and advance modeling, allows it to develop products faster.

Looking to improve performance in sustainability, the company developed a mobile friendly, web-based lifecycle assessment tool to provide information regarding the environmental impacts of associated products and services and digital technology to reduce its carbon footprint and improve compliance.

A CIO’s biggest challenge, Kalmar said, is helping an enterprise understand that digital isn’t just an IT thing but a crucial corporate function. She said this requires CIOs to speak in terms of value and business impact and not in terms of technology.

“At Dow, we’ve changed the narrative within our teams to talk about technology as business drivers and value creators for the company, customers and employees. The more we’ve linked digital to outcomes in business terms, the more employees understand what’s in it for them, and the more we’ve been able to get them excited about playing a role in our digital acceleration,”

Just as IT strategies shouldn’t be limited to information systems functions, tech employees shouldn’t be relegated to being backroom service providers, she said.

“Members of our CIO teams are now embedded into functional and business teams. They’ve taken on new, ‘hybrid’ roles where they become fluent in business drivers and can translate those into digital strategies. But that is just the start,” Kalmar said. “These teams represent all functions and businesses, and by working together have become key in delivering the right capabilities and getting the right engagement to deliver successfully.”

Crain's Content Studio originally published this story here for MichiganCIO.

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