Diversity and Sustainability — One of the biggest challenges with diversity and sustainability is people talk a lot about it, but have difficulty showing real and tangible progress. How do you actually connect people, so that you can start to create a diverse environment? Digital transformation enables this, both in terms of how you communicate who you are and then how you create opportunities. For example, we’re connected to a couple of technology groups that are trying to help individuals who have had to face challenges that are both unfair and unjust find opportunities through technology. We’re able to offer them opportunities, whether it’s an internship or to be part of a small pilot group that comes in as a product team.
As part of our series about “How To Use Digital Transformation To Take Your Company To The Next Level”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Mike Giresi.
Mike Giresi is chief digital officer for Molex, a $6B global business with a presence in more than 40 countries and established leadership delivering innovative connectivity products, services and solutions to the automotive, data communications, electronics, medical, and industrial markets. In this role, Giresi leads global efforts to transform and connect diverse operational threads, modernize technologies, and deploy data-driven processes to empower employees and elevate customer engagement. Prior to Molex, Giresi drove digital transformation at Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines, Tory Burch and Godiva Chocolatier.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series. Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?
I was born and raised in northern New Jersey, and I spent a good part of my early career in Manhattan and Philadelphia. My career has taken me to several amazing places, including Hong Kong, Australia and Japan. I was going to be a dentist, but discovered I enjoyed working with technology more than dental tools. I have approached technology from a value-creation customer mindset, which has evolved with our industry from an overall customer-employee experience mindset.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take-aways’ you learned from that?
One of my first roles was with a technology integrator focused on helping companies adopt and start to utilize distributed computing. I remember showing up to one of my clients fully prepared to help deploy an early version of a CRM. Unfortunately, they didn’t have any technology with which to deploy the solution. That was one of my earliest lessons in making sure everyone is aligned and connected on what must happen to achieve desired outcomes!
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
My CIO at Campbell Soup Company, Doreen Wright, was very instrumental toward helping me evolve my capabilities and contributions. Doreen was so focused on driving value and doing what was necessary from a leadership perspective to help achieve the required goals and objectives. Working with her, I witnessed just how critical it is for the technology team to not only understand and communicate in clear terms that Brand/Product leaders could understand, but also push on areas of potential conflict and friction that could disable the combined team from achieving success. Doreen had great courage, and her desire to ensure that any obstacle would be addressed in a solution-oriented manner was a difference maker.
Is there a particular book, podcast, or film that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?
I have had the benefit of reading so many great books and watching more films that I care to mention. Many trips to Hong Kong and Japan make for a very captive audience! I enjoy learning about leaders who have had to drive significant change. That is not easy, especially in a manner that brings many others along to share in the success and outcomes. The book and movie “Moneyball” are a great example of having to work with constraints that were initially viewed as a significant disadvantage, and yet ultimately were used to deliver a better way of creating capabilities that eventually led to many great outcomes.
A recent podcast that I would recommend is hosted by Sonal Chokshi — the very first podcast for the new book, Working Backwards: Insights, Stories, and Secrets from Inside Amazon, by Colin Bryar and Bill Carr. This book offers great insights and learnings on how Amazon enabled their customer obsession to be realized in a digital world.
Are you working on any new, exciting projects now? How do you think that might help people?
At Molex, we are driving a business transformation focused on connecting our teams toward elevating our customer experiences across critical capabilities. This will enable our teams to innovate faster and with higher quality while commercializing products in ways that will differentiate our offerings.
Let’s now turn to the main focus of our discussion about Digital Transformation. For the benefit of our readers, can you help explain what exactly Digital Transformation means? On a practical level what does it look like to engage in a Digital Transformation?
This is a great question, and there are many ways that digital transformation empowers companies to create improved products and experiences that transform overall performance. We have been implementing and using digital technologies for many decades, with most of those early investments focused on creating efficiency and improving productivity. We’ve gained an understanding of how technology can help improve how we operate in support of the marketplace and ultimately enable customers to engage with brands in ways that are personalized and frictionless. It’s how digital has evolved from the early days of IT.
Simply put, digital transformation is the process of using digital technologies and ways of working to create new — or modify existing — business processes, culture and customer experiences to meet changing business and market requirements. Reimagining operating models, with a digital lens, ultimately enables all aspects of the business to drive value with the customer. This is digital transformation. So what does that mean? The customer, or customer experience, must be at the center of your strategy. Every process, resource, project and financial investment should be directed to the enablement of competitive advantage and differentiation. Our purpose and focus should be on how we create value in the marketplace that is sustainable and provides mutual benefits.
Which companies can most benefit from a Digital Transformation?
Every company can benefit from digital transformation. If you have a customer, there is value to be realized by enabling your offerings to create more value for your customers beyond the exchange of goods and services. Every company is comprised of consumers, and each one has a desire for how you can help them achieve success.
We’d love to hear about your experiences helping others with Digital Transformation. In your experience, how has Digital Transformation helped improve operations, processes and customer experiences? We’d love to hear some stories if possible.
I have had the good fortune to be a member of many great teams and brands, all which helped elevate their respective customer experience in some manner. The overall ability to drive a very personalized and intimate customer experience in an omni-channel manner helps create superior NPS scores in direct-to-consumer businesses.
One example: enabling data-driven, cloud-based applications deployed at scale helped employees in a retail environment deliver a better experience. This required taking data that was created from over 20 different applications, and delivering the required insights, transaction functionality and, ultimately, performance feedback on a mobile device. The results led to significant improvement across many key metrics.
By starting with desired outcome, and then mapping the necessary steps to achieve goals, you can drive the necessary changes from a cross-functional perspective — using digital technologies — to create value both from a productivity and, more importantly, a customer perspective.
Has integrating Digital Transformation been a challenging process for some companies? What are the challenges? How do you help resolve them?
There are multiple challenges that companies face, including having the right talent, commitment and support to drive the necessary operating model changes. Additionally, you need to be willing to experiment and learn quickly what is — and isn’t — working. It’s critical for leadership to connect the broader organization to the vision. You have to articulate why it is in everyone’s best interest to embrace digital transformation while showing them how to make it better.
Equally important is being willing to make hard decisions when some members simply refuse to engage. These critical success factors are the primary reasons why some companies fail while others succeed. You need to set reasonable expectations, use data to define success and encourage change through incentives, culture and operating models. Ensuring the right leadership is in place is pivotal to bringing all teams forward.
Here is the primary question of our discussion. Based on your experience and success, what are “Five Ways a Company Can Use Digital Transformation to Take It to The Next Level”? Please share a story or an example for each.
1.) Customer Experience
For most consumers, it’s the ability to get access to what they want in a way that enables them to gain more value than just the simple procurement of the product. It’s about creating a more intimate relationship. It’s like you’re purposely thinking through how to interact with the actual customer.
This is going to sound silly now, but when I was CIO in the retail direct-to-consumer marketplace, ordering online and picking up products in the store wasn’t something that consumers could readily do, so we enabled that capability. Doing so provided more opportunities for customers to engage with the brand in the manner which they wanted, which is how all customers would prefer to engage, regardless the type of products or service.
We developed a client-telling system because we couldn’t find anything off-the-shelf that enabled us to do what we were trying to achieve with this capability. We integrated customer buying preferences, sizes, styles, etc., to facilitate gift giving. We received a lot of praise when an article was published about a digital marketing executive in Canada who was able to buy his fiancée a gift that was the right style, right size, right color. Her response was “This is the first time you’ve ever given me something that I actually wanted!”
The takeaway from that early example is to never lose sight of the ultimate customer experience. Constantly think about improving relationships with your customers, and then extend your digital infrastructure to support those elevated and increasingly personalized interactions.
Take into consideration the customers’ preferences. What matters most to them and how is that evolving? Where is the customer going next and how do I get there? How do I make it easy for consumers to interact with my company in a completely frictionless manner? How can technology support our goal for uniform interactions throughout the entire experience? These are the questions that must be answered with a customer-first mindset.
2.) Employee Experience
Most companies don’t think creatively enough about the employee experience. Traditionally the strategy has been to purchase “off the shelf” software that was designed to create efficient transaction processing, attempt to modify that software to achieve what each employee needs to achieve, and ultimately under-deliver and subsequently create several peripheral solutions that add complexity and inefficiency to each team member’s ability to support the customer needs. This neither enables employees to make the right decisions at the speed of the market nor support what the customer is requesting.
In other words, do they have enough functionality to interact with customers and solve problems quickly and seamlessly?
The classic example is the Ritz-Carlton. Most team members have some ability to offer some type of reward (depending upon level) without going through multiple levels of approval. The bottom line: employees are empowered to solve problems and reward customers, which is a winning business model.
It’s crucial for employees to feel like they can work in the same frictionless manner. To accomplish this, companies must equip their employees with the tools and capabilities to service customers. Without that, customers end up feeling like they’re dealing with disparate and different companies that are incentivized in conflicting ways. There’s this amazing application, this beautiful website, but when I call the company, it feels different than how I interact with them electronically.
To avoid this, you have to develop customized functionality and intuitive user interfaces, so employees can actually do the things that you’re asking them to do in supporting customers. It’s imperative to take transactional capabilities and raise them up several levels, so you’re designing products and solving customer problems at an elevated level of collaborative engagement. That’s a lot more effective ultimately than sending emails back and forth while tracking progress via spreadsheets.
Of course, this effort requires the collection and integration of disparate data sources and different functions across the business. That’s why digital transformation is a multi-year journey that takes into consideration every department and job function across the organization.
3.) Operating Model Improvement
The operating model doesn’t necessarily refer to the hierarchy of the organization — it’s how work gets completed. How are you creating teams? How are you connecting people? Are you really thinking about the organization from an end-to-end perspective? Or are you still living in a kind of vertical structure? Where does decision making exist?
There are nearly endless opportunities to improve operating models through digital transformation. I have found that by starting with the outcome and working backward through the operating functions and capabilities by team and then drilling down to explore the best way to connect the organization from an end-to-end perspective — with the outcome as the only focus of enabling these capabilities, most quickly positions the team to execute upon the company’s strategic business goals. Ultimately, this will allow the teams to go faster and accelerate their value.
Companies that have functioned in more of a siloed command-and-control operating model often have difficulty moving to a more agile way of conducting business with cross-functionality. So first, take the opportunity to show why this is better and identify areas of initial improvement across a couple of areas. Tackling incremental improvements is the best course of action for transitioning to a more collaborative, agile operating model that ultimately will be positioned to respond faster and more effectively to changing customer needs and dynamic market conditions.
4.) Product Innovation
Product innovation is key to creating products and bringing them to market faster, better and cheaper. Because most companies know the different parts of the organization that are needed to contribute to product innovation, it’s typically easier to empower a small team with cross-functional capabilities and then set them on a path to move with speed and agility. Giving them the necessary tools to accelerate innovation without the constraints of internal processes or existing organizational infrastructures is essential.
5 .) Diversity and Sustainability
One of the biggest challenges with diversity and sustainability is people talk a lot about it, but have difficulty showing real and tangible progress. How do you actually connect people, so that you can start to create a diverse environment? Digital transformation enables this, both in terms of how you communicate who you are and then how you create opportunities. For example, we’re connected to a couple of technology groups that are trying to help individuals who have had to face challenges that are both unfair and unjust find opportunities through technology. We’re able to offer them opportunities, whether it’s an internship or to be part of a small pilot group that comes in as a product team.
Another aspect about diversity is that because you’re using digital tools, you’re using new ways of working, so you open yourself up to a more diverse workforce. This enables you to look for different skills, different capabilities, and maybe in areas you wouldn’t have looked for in the past. This creates a different kind of structure.
There have been a lot of articles written about intellectual diversity, people learning in different ways, people bringing in different skillsets. Digital transformation opens the door to different types of people who may not have thrived in a typical corporate environment. But using technology and those tools, they’re enormous contributors.
Any of the companies with a self-serve model, if you can put your employees in that same camp, then they have access to what enables them to be successful. It may be different things for different people, but it opens the door for a lot of unique opportunities.
It’s the same with sustainability. Think about leveraging technology to find new ways to create — whether it’s energy, the management of pollutants or how we keep ourselves healthier.
In your opinion, how can companies best create a “culture of innovation” in order to create new competitive advantages?
Embrace change, recognize how you are rewarded, and position teams so that they can execute with speed and quality. Incentivize experimentation and thoughtful risk-taking, reward “failed” efforts that led to critical insights to help progress the respective teams and ensure that teams have the bandwidth and focus to achieve progress toward accelerating and evolving innovation. Fix system/process issues that take time away from value-added activities. Be ruthless with the prioritization of programs and projects that teams take on, and seek feedback from customers directly. Do not listen only to internal perspectives on what could be better.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“Nothing great is ever easy to accomplish.”
It is relevant to all aspects of life. As a wise person once shared, there are “no free lunches.” The reason that digital transformation efforts often fail is because it is hard to drive change across cultures that have existed and achieved degrees of success, and where people have been rewarded. Decision making, territories, ways of working and an overall lack of desire for change are not areas of comfort for most. If I had another quote that would be close to my favorite, it would be “get comfortable being consistently uncomfortable.”
The journey never ends. There is always something else to be learned, experienced or realized that can create value in both your personal and professional lives.
How can our readers further follow your work?