Hu Yoshida

An Interview With Renee McKaskle on Digital Transformation

Blog Post created by Hu Yoshida Employee on Sep 9, 2016


Renee McKaskle has been our Hitachi Data Systems CIO for a little over a year now and she has played an important role in leading the digital transformation within our company.  Before coming to Hitachi Data Systems, Renee was the chief information officer and vice president, business process and technology, at SC Johnson & Sons. Prior to that she served as chief information officer and vice president, IT governance services, at Symantec Corporation. She also held senior IT leadership roles at Oracle and PeopleSoft.


Last month Renee was invited to our ASEAN CIO Summit in Danang to share her thoughts as a fellow CIO who is involved with Digital Transformation. During an interview on stage with our ASEAN GM, Ravi Rajendran, Renee coined the term “Business CIO” to describe the role of the CIO in Digital transformation and provided this advice to the CIOs.


“In this Digital Transformation era, the role of a CIO and his/her organization is to provide leadership & team execution as a governor/integrator/broker that delivers value and powers growth to the bottom line while overachieving on business objectives. This is how you stay relevant.”


When Renee bought this up, there were many questions from the CIOs in the audience. Does a Business CIO need a business or financial background? Is there a need for a Chief Digital Officer? How do you get started? When should you start? Renee’s response was that IT is a key enabler for Digital Transformation through the adoption and deployment of new technologies like social, mobile, analytics and cloud. This requires the skills of a technology leader, a CIO. But the traditional CIO who has often been a technical specialist, who ran the IT organization and had little involvement with the rest of the business, must now take a leadership role in realizing business goals and strategies. This is what Renee views as a business CIO.


After the Summit I had to the opportunity to talk to some of the CIOs and I followed up with Renee with some of the concerns that I heard.


Renee, the recommendation that CIOs need to be more connected to the rest of the business might take them out of their comfort zone. The CIOs I talked to in Danang seemed to be a little discomforted by this aspect.


“Yes, that does not surprise me. Some of my peers here in the U.S. also feel the discomfort – they come from the “Modernize the Core” heritage. So the “Create new Relevancy” will be the new muscle memory they will need to exercise – with the business. New relevancy cannot happen in a vacuum – else it is IT for IT’s sake.


IT does makes many contributions to the business, but they are rarely recognized except when some IT service is disrupted. You have done a lot to make IT visible in our company through efforts like your annual IT report and your participation with customer events like the CIO Summit in Danang. What should CIOs do to be more visible and communicate their business value or user benefits?


“Market Bi-modally. There will always be the traditional metrics by which IT is measured for efficiency (labor, financials, % of revenue, etc.), so they will need to include this (CFOs love these measurements). But to market oneself with new relevancy, a CIO needs to also be a “story teller” as it relates to what he/she has done for the business in terms of competitive advantage, improved business process (discuss a Kaizen event), new revenue, a business unit financial efficiency.”


Bimodal IT can create the perception of second class citizens that are relegated to traditional IT while others are assigned to systems of innovation. So how does one address the issue of personnel development and inclusion?


“The most important assets a CIO can invest in is his/her human capital assets. The CIO needs to authentically bring them along the change continuum that sometimes is a bit scary, but assure the staff that you have their backs and are committed to investing in them as knowledge workers, moving up the value chain.


Renee, thank you for sharing your thoughts about the role of the CIO as a business CIO. This helps us understand the challenges our customers face in order to be more effective in supporting their digital transformation. It also helps us be more confident in our efforts knowing that we are also progressing in our internal digital transformation. I hope to have further dialogue with you as we progress on this journey.