How Information and Communication Technology is Enhancing Businesses?

Marcelo De Santis, Group Chief Information Officer, Pirelli

Marcelo De Santis, Group Chief Information Officer, PirelliMarcelo De Santis, Group Chief Information Officer, Pirelli

• Why is ICT Important for Pirelli?

First, it’s important to understand our business strategy. Pirelli came back to the stock market in October 2017 as a pure consumer, high-value tire company specializing in the production of high quality, high performance tires for cars and motorcycles. Within that context ICT plays a foundational role in supporting Pirelli’s business strategy by enabling its digital transformation. We have charted the course for the ICT contribution in a 3-year strategic plan characterized by its focus on enabling business outcomes The ICT strategic plan has five key priorities:

"We must get data management right if we want to compete in a “data driven economy"

“Modernize the ICT core”: Adopting hybrid cloud, software defined infrastructure and API to achieve flexibility, security and speed to deliver business capability.

“Modernize the Business core”: Digitizing core business and consumer engagement processes through the adoption of best in class digital platforms.

“Unleash a data driven culture”: Redefining our information and data management architecture to better support data-science driven analytics and AI.

“Enable digital products”: Architecting technology stacks, DevOps and product management capabilities to deliver digital products - e.g. Cyber Tire in where sensors embedded in the tire connect to the car’s computer to improve car’s security and performance.

“Build a Digital Workplace”: Driving the adoption of collaboration tools along with modern, open office spaces to make our employees more productive, agile and cross-functionally connected. Main Advantages that ICT is Able to Provide to the Pirelli Business:

I think the main advantage ICT provides to Pirelli is the quality and passion of our people. Technology by itself does not transform companies neither delivers business results. It is our people and their ability to lead, build influence and deliver value across the company what makes us successful. For my first day in the company I learned about the passion and commitment that the ICT team has for our company. This attitude and drive is priceless for us to run this size of ICT operations; I have to remind myself to not to take it for granted and make sure that I continue to reward it and grow it, day after day.

Another advantage is that the team has a unique, panoramic, cross-functional view of the Pirelli’s business. If you think that we operate in 150+ countries and have 19 manufacturing plants and approx. 14000 points of sale, you soon realize how important is to know the company to effectively identify opportunities, drive change and business results.

• The most important projects that CIO of Pirelli have worked on?

Before talking about projects, it’s important to highlight the effort of the team on developing a solid ICT 3-year strategic plan in partnership with our business colleagues. This exercise basically intersected the required business capabilities to evolve the Pirelli’s strategic plan with digital technology trends to ultimately secure management agreement on priorities and investments.

Now, under the umbrella of that ICT 3-year strategic plan, we have made solid progress on delivering digital marketing capabilities to better manage our B2B2C journeys by implementing a sold MadTech technology stack. Likewise, we have advanced the agenda of data science driven analytics focusing on improving predictive maintenance (manufacturing) and demand planning (supply chain) while validating the potential of machine learning to deliver business value beyond a proof of concept.

Last but not the least, the successful completion of Conneso - our first ever digital product - has built an important amount of digital DNA within Pirelli in regards to cross-functional collaboration, agile ways of working, new partnerships and new technologies.

The Technologies that can be Beneficial for Businesses:

If we are talking about tech with a decent maturity to contribute to the businesses today, I pick these 3: Cloud, IoT and AI.

The first one – ‘cloud’ – is to me a must, and at this point a no-brainer. There is no possible digital transformation that can be achieved without having a cloud first mentality. In Pirelli we have embraced a “hybrid cloud approach” that recognizes the differences and criticality of our computing workloads. We believe some workloads will be better in public cloud; others in private cloud and others might even remain on-premise or close to the “edge”. It is a fit for purpose cloud strategy.

The second one – IoT – is extremely important for a company like Pirelli that has large footprint of manufacturing plans with a production process that requires close monitoring to ensure the highest possible product quality. In this space, the agenda is larger than “sensors” - which to be honest has been around in manufacturing plants for many years. Our IoT strategy encompasses to review - and in some cases rethink - the whole tech stack – apps, storage, computing processing and cybersecurity. We aim to setting up our IoT platform be able to accommodate the growth of IoT devices as well as to provide the right levels cyber security. We are also going beyond manufacturing IoT to include our “smart tires” - Connesso, Cyber Car- which are critical to our digital product agenda.

The third and last is AI, mainly machine learning. In Pirelli we are fortunate of having a very talented data science team. This team has made significant progress on a couple of critical use cases: demand forecasting and preventive maintenance. They have also established new ways of working while setting up small, cross-functional teams that iterate these data products – basically algorithms - aiming to increase business results after each iteration. One learning from the evolution of our data products is the importance of having access to “good data”; a firm grip on “data management” is the most critical success factor to obtain results in AI use cases. It’s simple“walk the talk”. If we as a company say, “data is an asset”, we must “manage data as an asset” that means each data source in the company must be properly identified and maintained to ensure data quality is at its best for AI use cases to evolve with speed.

Is Artificial Intelligence beneficial for businesses?

AI is real, not a hype anymore and it is mature for businesses to use and generate results; I have no doubt about it. Think about these facts: Investment in AI startups was up 56% in 2017, Google, Amazon, Microsoft and AliCloud are offering some sort of Machine Learning as a service (MLaaS) and lastly AI specific processors are being manufactured to be included in your smartphones as well. So, do the math: Investment + As a Service + Mobility; is not a sort of formula for consumerization of a technology? Get yourself started with AI, it is ready for enterprise adoption.

Now, to succeed with the adoption of AI for the enterprise, we need to harvest the value of AI at the intersection of: a well-known business problem, good data availability and right talent. You want to start identifying a small portfolio of 3-5 use cases that have these characteristics, so you build momentum, get results fast. Even the small victories will help you to understand what is possible, how good is your data foundation and most importantly will develop people capability. It is undeniable that AI can be a game changer; you should start the journey now. It takes time to understand the potential of AI, to build the right organizational capabilities, think about job redesign and scale it up across the company. The earlier you start the better you will be positioned for the future. The clock is ticking.

What unites companies belonging to different industries?

Besides the common request of “do more with less”; if I remove the differences resulting from company size (startup or F500) or different industries (CPG, automotive, financial, Telco) in all the cases “improve the access to information for better decision making” has been a key demand. Whether you call it BI, Analytics, Reporting, Dashboards, etc. this has been always in the radar screen. It has also been an area that presents a similar, repetitive challenge: poor data management which in the majority of the cases results from a history of M&A, lack of enterprise architecture and/or a silo approach to data sources & system evolution. As mentioned before, we are now getting into AI and it is interesting to see that we get surprised by the difficulties to get the right data to feed our brand-new algorithms; the challenge has been there for a long time. If we had difficulties in the past to do “traditional business intelligence” chances are that we will experience similar headwinds with AI. We must get data management right if we want to compete in a “data driven economy”.

The qualities needed to become a CIO

First, I do believe that the role of CIO has changed already and will continue to change rapidly and eventually will not exist as we know it. It will experience a total “reboot”.

But let me explain this better. I do think that as technology and data become the foundational engine of companies it will require every member of the C-suite to be well versed in technology. However, you will need a role to architect – enterprise-wide- the business model and digital products of the company. This role will require business, technology, data and design skills combined with a panoramic view of the company and its external ecosystem. It will be less about implementing technologies – which will become more plug-and-play - and more about acting as an intra-preneur that orchestrates cross-functional teams designing and continuously evolving “experiences” for customers, employees, business partners and machine to collaborate with each other. This role will require remarkable soft skills to influence a complex ecosystem of internal and external stakeholder as our companies get plugged into industry-wide business collaboration platforms. I picture this redesigned CIO role being a sort of Leonardo Da Vinci; a modern renaissance master of numerous skills that is never satisfied with the status quo, with passion, resilience and influence to change minds and embrace new technologies as a vehicle to capture new, untapped business opportunities.

Back to your question on the qualities needed, if you consider yourself curious, a self-starter that enjoys collaborating with others, with high learning agility and great ability to deal with change and ambiguity – and you are good at tech and data - you definitely have the foundational qualities to lead technology for any business. I keep saying that is the best possible time to be in technology, so much can be done, I do love it.

• Is it a career that you feel to recommend to those who today want to find their own professional route?

Definitely I would encourage this career path that I just described. To me a journey of a modern CIO could lead towards the seat of the CEO; technology and data are taking over business models across many industries. I see it clearly and have no doubt about it.

Finally - as an advocate of “women in tech”-I want to strongly encourage those female young professionals to embrace a technology career. The lack of diversity in tech is concerning according to a 2018 Gartner’s survey, 13% of CIOs are female. This number must increase, we do need diversity in the tech world; women bring a set of qualities that are highly distinctive. The MIT has confirmed that teams with participation of females show higher collective intelligence due to the higher “social intelligence” that females bring to the table. This is very important in a world of human-machine collaboration in where the diversity of our tech engineers will help us to build machines that are not biased by gender, race, religion or any other characteristic that make us each and all of us proud of being humans.

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