Forbes CIO-plus Series: Filippo Passerini, Procter & Gamble

March 18, 2013
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Filippo Passerini of Procter & Gamble powers the Global Business Services for an $84 billion company with advanced analytics and diligent strategic planning.

by Peter High, published on


Filippo Passerini had a circuitous route to the CIO role, both in terms of functional as well as geographic experience. He rose through the ranks from junior to senior-most positions at P&G beginning in his native Italy through his arrival at P&G’s world headquarters in Cincinnati, Ohio. He started in IT, but also spent time in marketing and operations roles before becoming CIO.

As Passerini notes herein, P&G has a history of hiring CIOs who have traditional business experience in the hopes of having IT run as a typical business function. Passerini continued this tradition, and in 2005, as CIO, he led the integration of Gillette. In 2008, Passerini was also named the president of Global Business Services, and 2011 he was named Group President of Global Business Services. Now with his cross-functional responsibilities, he has developed digital war-room of sorts, assembling an assortment of leading edge analytics capabilities to enable the $84 billion colossus to make better decisions, drawing insights from across geographies, product segments, business functions and the like. As such, his organization has managed the “big data” conundrum as well as any organization in the world.

(This is the fourteenth piece in the CIO-plus series. To read the prior twelve interviews with the CIO-pluses from Waste Management, McKesson, Merck, Red Robin Gourmet Burgers, Ameristar Casinos, Owens Corning, Marsh & McLennan, ADP, Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta,  the San Francisco Giants, Walgreens, and GSX as well as a partner in the CIO/CTO practice for Heidrick and Struggles, please click this link. To receive notice about future interviews in the series with CIO-pluses of P&G and others, please click visit the column’s page. in the weeks to come.)

Peter High:
Filippo, you have a non-traditional path to the CIO role. You joined P&G as a junior IT resource in Italy, and then spent time in a variety of business functions within the company before being named CIO. How have such diverse experiences colored your thought process in what makes a successful IT leader or a successful IT employee?

Filippo Passerini:
I don’t see myself as a “stereotypical CIO.”  I continue a long-tradition at P&G of CIOs who are not entirely technical.  At P&G, we have a few hiring practices that set us apart from IT organizations elsewhere.  First, we hire people for who they are, not what they know.  The technology can be learned, but you cannot teach curiosity.  You cannot teach passion for the business. So, much of our recruiting focuses on finding people who have the right raw ingredients—leadership, business acumen, communication skills, passion for technology—that helps ensure that they will be successful almost no matter where they are staffed.

We are also a promote from within company.  It is rare at P&G to find a person in a senior role who  did not rise through P&G.  We invest heavily in our people.  This long-term commitment that we make to our leaders of tomorrow means that we have well-rounded colleagues with deep knowledge of our business.  This business knowledge is more important than technical knowledge.

We take the view that technology is almost always a commodity.  It is what you do with it, what business priority you solve, what business capability you enable, what process you render more efficient.  This is true value.  The conversation should never begin with technology, and our recruiting and training reflect this fact.  Therefore, the ideal employee for us is a business person who is passionate about technology as opposed to the other way around.

Additional topics covered in the article include:

  • How does the thinking about business first and technology second apply then to the application of technology?  For instance, P&G has become a world leader in data analytics and in harnessing big data.  How have you gotten past the buzz to what is real in these concepts?
  • What are the different parts of Global Business Services (GBS)?
  • With an organization that is as diverse as yours is in terms of disciplines and in terms of geography to name only two variables, how do you think about strategic planning?  How do you set direction from the top that can be translated into the various parts of Global Business Services, and how do you ensure the filtering has happened successfully?
  • How have you fostered an innovative, R&D mentality throughout Global Business Services given the size of your operation?

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