Randy Krotowski, CIO at Caterpillar, discusses his plan to make his first days as CIO count.
When Randy Krotowski learned that Caterpillar was looking for a new CIO, he had just come to the conclusion with his wife that he would end his career with Chevron, a company that he had been gainfully employed by for 29 years. He had had a diverse array of experiences at the energy giant, and thoroughly enjoyed the work. He listened to the details of the new opportunity not thinking that he really could be convinced. The more he listened, the more interested he became, until he ultimately joined the company in February of 2012.
It had been a while since his first 100 days with a new company, but Krotowski recognized that his newness meant that he needed to get out and meet other leaders, learn more about the supply chain of the company, draw parallels between his old employer and his new one in order to generate creative insights, and to get some quick wins under his belt. In this interview I recently conducted with Krotowski, he talks about what he has done well, as well as what he would do differently if he had the chance to do things over.
(“The CIO’s First 100 Days” series kicked off with this article. This is the first interview in the series, and an extended audio version of this interview can be found here as part of the Forum on World Class IT podcast series. To read future interviews with the CIOs of companies like Time Warner, Intel, J. Crew, AmerisourceBergen, Cox Communications, Viacom, Amtrak, and the American Cancer Society, please click the “Follow” button above.)
Peter High: You joined Caterpillar a year ago after three decades and several senior roles at Chevron, and had some time to think about your new plans in terms of the first 100 days of operation in those new roles. This however, was your first opportunity to do so in a brand new company. How did you develop those initial plans at a new company, in a new industry, and within a new culture?
Randy Krotowski: It wasn’t a whole lot different from the job changes at Chevron. Being in a new industry and with new people, however, I did have a great deal to learn in those areas. In any role, I try to answer the question, “What does the company need from me?” Given where Caterpillar is going, given where we want to be in the future, and given the companies we are competing against, what does the company need from IT? These are the same questions I would ask in any role at any different company.
The hard part was that here at Caterpillar, I initially did not know anyone. I did not understand manufacturing, and I did not know the culture and the history of the company. My 100 day plan included the normal things; I placed a huge emphasis on getting out and meeting people, to learn their business, to develop those relationships, to help them explain Caterpillar to me and to help them explain their strategy.
Caterpillar is an iconic company; the culture here is one that captured me quickly. If I want to do anything, make any changes, or move us to a better place through the use of technology, it has to be built on what this company already is and what the culture is. Learning the culture was probably the trickiest part. When you look at Caterpillar, the quality of the leadership, the quality of the business focus, and the quality of the people and culture are all very powerful.
Additional topics covered in the article include:
- You read all you could and began to seek counsel from your fellow leaders at Caterpillar; can you tell us more about those conversations? Also, did you ever seek counsel from anyone outside the organization?
- How did you gauge success? What were the metrics or key performance indicators that you implemented and monitored from the outset?
- Can you share a bit about the substance and priorities of that strategic plan, and the degree of success you had in implementing it?
- One of the first steps that new executives typically undertake is the evaluation of their teams. How did you evaluate the talent of the IT team upon your arrival? Were there changes that you felt the need to make?
- What are your priories going forward in your effort to implement a more customer-centric IT strategy?
- You lead Global Information Services in addition to your responsibilities as CIO. Can you talk about the different responsibilities that are encompassed in these roles and how you balance them?