The Role of the CIO in Building the Connected Enterprise

Is your digital transformation in pilot purgatory?

By Chris Nardecchia, Senior Vice President, Chief Digital & Information Officer, Rockwell Automation

CEOs trying to accelerate digital business transformation have their strongest business partner already sitting at the decision-making table: their chief information officer (CIO).

A transformational CIO can align the C-suite on digital strategy, facilitate change across the enterprise, and use emerging and proven technologies to innovate and drive agility.

Pivotal Role of the CIO

CIOs are well-positioned to lead digital transformation and to design operating models that leverage data for deeper insights. The CIO:

  • Is at the centre of the convergence between operations technology (OT) and information technology (IT).
  • Likely has spearheaded other enterprise-wide efforts, such as ERP deployment.
  • Can bring transformation to scale through emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, robotics, automation, and virtual and augmented reality.

Addressing Concerns Around Digital Transformation

Only a few years ago, the technology for digital transformation was still rapidly evolving with gaps that needed navigating.

Now that the technology has evolved to nearly push-button ready, CEOs have turned their attention to other barriers a CIO is able to address:

How do I keep my data secure? Industrial espionage, ransomware, protecting hard-earned intellectual property that offers a competitive advantage – this is a constant source of tension. As companies look to leverage data in new ways – through the cloud, AI and hybrid approaches – production data must be secure. Every discussion about digital transformation will focus on security.

How do I move from concept or small pilots and adopt at scale? In pilot purgatory, you succeed in one area or one plant and then have trouble scaling across the company. You can’t manage digital transformation at scale in silos. The solution requires organisational alignment, and that leads into the third concern: change management.

Are our people, and our culture, ready for the change? CIOs can help get the right skills onboard to bridge gaps and build competency, creating and leading the agenda to align roles and responsibilities across the organisation. In addition, culture plays a huge role in successful transformations. A skilled CIO will align leadership on the path forward and play a critical role in defining what success looks like from a cultural perspective.

Remember, we are not limited by technology but rather by our imagination, culture, alignment across the organisation, and organisational inertia. To succeed in digital transformation at scale these barriers need to be overcome.

Sense of Urgency

Every organisation is a technology organisation these days. CIOs have to keep operations running and hit revenue and growth targets, as well.

Every organisation needs to be data driven and, while many companies are data rich, they are lacking insights from that data.

Our company specialises in using information to expand human possibilities. We do it for our customers, and we do it for ourselves. Our work to connect the imaginations of people with the potential of machines helps us, and our customers, become more intelligent, connected, and productive.

While some thought that digital transformation would have the greatest influence on the outside – for customers – there is just as much change, value, and benefit for employees.

Accelerating the Work

The CIO brings perspective for both internal and external audiences; you need to balance both to take full advantage of the next industrial evolution.

Success requires sifting through an abundance of data for insights. Each company I encounter is on a different journey and level of maturity. The pandemic has accelerated the migration to the cloud at scale, and people are looking to connect their enterprise and leverage data to develop insights that drive decisions around growth and profitability as well as sustainability and energy management.

The most progressive are using digital transformation to create new products and get better connected with customers. The trend once most prevalent with retailers is now a driving most industries: personalisation of the customer experience.

While CIOs and CEOs are at the centre of transformation, this is a cross-functional initiative that requires a different mindset for senior leaders and across the company. The conversation around the Connected Enterprise has moved from manufacturing and supply chain to the C-suite for connectivity and consistency of data so you can scale to realise the benefits.

Expanding Human Possibilities

Digital transformation was a priority before the pandemic; it’s even more so now. The CIO will be the visionary and the primary driver; the person who will spearhead the implementation and the engagement throughout the organisation.

This time is a test of intelligence for humans and machines. The foundation of our company is our ability to improve the quality of life by making the world more productive and sustainable.

As a transformational CIO, your peers and your people will look to you to collaborate on digital transformation strategies, lead the change for the organisation, drive agile and flexible practices, and be at the forefront of emerging technologies. Improving the employee experience will reduce internal and external friction, which translates to improved customer experience.

Find out more about driving successful digital transformation at our Management Perspectives hub. There, you’ll find a wealth of resources for executive industrial decision-makers, providing the information you need to thrive in the evolving digital landscape.

About Rockwell Automation Rockwell Automation Inc. (NYSE: ROK), is a global leader in industrial automation and digital transformation. We connect the imaginations of people with the potential of technology to expand what is humanly possible, making the world more productive and more sustainable. Headquartered in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Rockwell Automation employs approximately 23,000 problem solvers dedicated to our customers in more than 100 countries. To learn more about how we are making Smart Manufacturing more productive, visit

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