859: As the digital landscape continues to evolve rapidly, executives are quick to understand that doing the same thing they did before isn’t going to get them where they need to go in the future. In a panel from our February 2024 Metis Strategy Symposium, Sunbelt Rentals CDTO JP Saini and Grainger CTO Jonny LeRoy join Metis Strategy Co-Head of Research, Media, and Executive Networks Steven Norton in a discussion about digital as an enabler of scale and how these executives are evolving their organizations’ business practices through the integration of technology and people to achieve growth and efficiency. JP and Jonny share insights on their companies’ journeys toward digital transformation, focusing on scaling operations, enhancing customer experiences, and improving predictive maintenance and service quality. These executives also cover the significance of culture, value alignment, and leadership in driving innovation and operational change. The discussion also covers the role of AI in enhancing productivity and decision-making highlighting the practical applications both JP and Jonny have identified and the challenges they’ve encountered in managing the costs of emerging technology. Finally, both technology leaders conclude with strategies they’ve implemented within their organizations for maintaining a forward-looking mindset and inspiring teams to navigate the dynamic landscape of technology and business.

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This episode is sponsored by Nile.

Paul Beswick’s pathway to become Chief Information Officer of Marsh McLennan is non-traditional to say the least. He joined the company via one of its operating companies, the strategy consultancy, Oliver Wyman. He rose through the ranks at that firm to become a partner and global head of Oliver Wyman Labs and global co-head of Oliver Wyman’s Digital Practice. “It all happened because I walked into the wrong meeting one day and got sucked into the project to design Marsh McLennan’s technology strategy with Scott Gilbert, who was my predecessor,” noted Beswick. “Then got sucked into trying to deliver it, which anyone who’s been a consultant should know, you should never do: you should never both write the strategy and take responsibility for delivering it.”

When he weighed the advantages of his pathway, he noted that he has been in executive committee meetings and boardrooms since he was in his 20s. He also acknowledged that having profit and loss responsibilities in various roles along his ascent at Oliver Wyman likely gives him a better appreciation of technology’s power to grow revenue for Marsh McLennan, not just where it can lead to cost savings.

Beswick’s current post has him overseeing technology for a conglomerate that includes Marsh, the world’s largest insurance broker, Mercer, leader in human resources, benefits, and investment consulting, Guy Carpenter which is in the business of reinsurance broking, along with Oliver Wyman. When he took over as chief information officer roughly three years ago, the company was in the throes of moving from a decentralized IT department to one that exerts much more influence from the center. “That’s a fairly new development in terms of how we’ve been organized. When I took on this role, we were starting the process of bringing what had been business unit-specific technology organizations together into one overall organization,” said Beswick. “Prior to that, we’d had different teams by business, but with a shared infrastructure and security organization in the middle. It’s been an interesting journey trying to forge one team out of what were quite independent teams before.”

Beswick sees a primary job of his as increasing the velocity of the business. “We do a lot of work to understand what slows us down, how we get tangled up in our own processes, where there’s bureaucracy that’s unnecessary, where we fail to engineer solutions to problems that we can engineer solutions to that can help things move significantly more quickly,” he underscored. “A huge chunk of where I spend my own time…is focused on trying to change the efficient frontier between speed, agility on the one hand, and security, compliance, robustness, and resilience, on the other.”

A primary pathway to this for Beswick and his team has been in building a platform strategy, building template projects and defining “patterns” that can be deployed readily, streamlining policy, compliance and nonfunctional aspects of every project that his organization undertakes. “One of the things I’ve learned as I’ve come into this job is how important understanding some of the organizational dynamics are and the points of inefficient but stable equilibrium that exist in organization structure that tend to lock you into patterns that are inefficient and thinking very deliberately about how you break through some of those things,” he said.

Beswick is excited about the amount of innovation driven by technology and his team’s ability to convey the art of the possible to the rest of the company. He thinks about technology in the spectrum of hard things to easy ones. “We are not in the game of doing really hard stuff,” he said. “That’s not the organization that we’re built for, but hard things get easier over time, and there’s this constant shift from more complicated and less accessible but powerful technology into things that are increasingly easy to get our hands on. At some point, there’s this tipping point where the hard becomes easy. If we can be there at the point where things become easy and we understand how to put them into action in a real business against our real processes and our real problems, that’s the area where I think we can create the most value. That requires you to be always playing around at the edge of that transition point and make sure you recognize when that transition has happened.”

A case in point is Marsh McLennan’s foray into generative artificial intelligence. It began by partnering with vendor partners, but that proved to be too expensive. However, when Microsoft made the OpenAI back-ends available in a secure fashion, Beswick and his team discovered that with a little bit of extra engineering, they could make that available to the broader company. The goal was to mirror the remarkable uptick in the use of ChatGPT in society. “I didn’t think we needed to spend a lot of time worrying about precisely what the use cases were,” Beswick admitted. “It felt like the use cases would be emergent. Very quickly after we had access to the [Microsoft OpenAI] APIs in a secure fashion, we created the chat interface on top of that, which is what we call LenAI.”

It took only a day and a half to deliver the first version of LenAI to a pilot group within the company. The focus on making IT a driver of velocity improvements were responsible for such a fast path. Soon a few hundred people had access to LenAI and within 28 days, the entire firm had access to it. “I think we’ve identified [roughly] 300 distinct use cases that people have been putting this to,” said Beswick. “Some are very specifically related to some small part of the business. Others are more generic. We’ve kept an eye on that, capturing that information, and we’re using that to then drive our build-out agenda for some of the things that are going to be more scalable implementations of this.”

Beswick believes his team has moved farther faster by turning the typical process on its head. Typically, people gather use cases, find a business co-sponsor, build a business case, assemble a project team, and then get started. Given Beswick’s need for speed, that was too slow. “By going the other way and driving something more generic out and flushing the use cases out, I think we’ve got further faster,” said Beswick with pride. As a result, “we added a couple of extra capabilities into the basics, [such as] internet search document upload. We do a lot of work with documents, so there’s lots of stuff people are doing with document summarization, with data extraction from documents and translation between languages, which these tools are good at. Email drafting, particularly for people for whom English is not the first language when we’re a business that largely operates in English [has been another powerful use case]. A lot of people are using it to tighten up their communications and streamline things.”

Code writing is another layer of value. Beswick noted with excitement that different parts of LenAI were written by LenAI. This will increasingly become the norm. Additional functionality that has been defined has included calculators, stock price lookups, weather lookups, database querying, and the ability to pull from a variety of news sources. “There are clearly some use cases where you can see transformation of various processes that we would run through today and would be fairly manual where we can really divert resources into much more high-value-added work,” said Beswick. “Those are starting to spin out. A lot of it’s around things like document ingestion, processing, and data extraction. Cross-mapping data from one data source to another, one data structure to another turns out to be a pretty tractable problem as well. I think we’re just scratching the surface as to what those sorts of things will be.”

Beswick and his team have made substantial progress in a short amount of time, living up to his goal of being a force multiplier. He believes he and his team are setting a sound foundation, but even higher levels of value will be achieved by building upon that foundation.

830: A primary focus of the CIO is increasing the pace at which IT operates. To Marsh McLennan’s CIO Paul Beswick, a fundamental part of his role is what he describes as increasing the velocity of IT. In this interview, Paul shares the methods by which he accomplishes this which includes forging the right culture, creating central capabilities, and enabling efficiency. He also talks about exploring the art of the possible through innovation, organization, and driving business value. Specifically, Paul explains the inception of the company’s in-house generative AI tool “LenAI”, the process he went through to adopt GenAI internally, and how GenAI might impact IT more generally. Finally, Paul reflects on the keys to success across his unique career path, provides advice on ascending to leadership positions, and looks ahead at the trends that are on his radar for the future.

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825: Creating high-performing teams is increasingly important in a world defined by hybrid working environments. In this episode, Keith Ferrazzi, Chairman of Ferrazzi Greenlight and bestselling author of Competing in the New World of Work, delves into the world of high-performing teams and the creation of a sense of bonding among team members. Keith explains his process of diagnosing team issues, emphasizing the importance of cross-divisional teamwork and a concept he coined as ‘co-elevation.’ In a profound meditation on evolving work culture, Peter and Keith discuss implementing methods that encourage mutual trust and promote psychological safety in the shifting landscape of hybrid work. They also shed light on re-engineering collaborations and emphasize making the best of face-to-face interactions. Keith also describes his perspective on the implications of generative AI and how to ‘future-proof’ oneself. Finally, Keith reminisces about his transformative journey from being a CMO to becoming a thought leader and shares insightful reflections on leading without authority, the significance of relationships, and the potential for creating high-performing teams in IT.

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823: The role of the technology executive has expanded beyond the help desk capacity and into being a partner to the business. In this episode, Subha Tatavarti, CTO of Wipro, joins us to speak about how she is planning for the future and growing the core capabilities of Wipro in her role at the company. Through a combination of creating compelling solutions, building the right infrastructure, and exploring the art of the possible, Subha aims to grow the company as well as improve its efficiency internally. She explains the organization of her team, the interplay with the company’s think tank Lab45, and the internal training and skill credentialing platform DICE ID. Subha also talks about engaging with technologist clients as a CTO, curating an ecosystem of partners, and experimenting with various use cases for generative AI. Finally, Subha shares the secrets to her career success and the advice she has for other aspiring technology executives.

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This episode is sponsored by Cisco’s Panoptica.

822: The last decade is referred to as the Age of the Customer due to the digital capabilities that have unlocked the customer experience and increased personalization. In this episode of Technovation, we feature a panel from our September Metis Strategy Digital Symposium where Fahim Siddiqui, CIO of the Home Depot, and Kristie Grinnell, CIO of DXC Technology, discuss the future of the digital customer experience with Metis Strategy Partner and East Coast Lead Alex Kraus. Throughout the session, these two executives share how technology has improved the value streams and end-to-end process behind the customer and employee experiences, how data has allowed them to measure the user experience and take corrective action, and how that same data is at the center of the relationship between the customer and the employee. Finally, these executives speak about the culture of learning they foster to stay ahead of trends, the office of AI that was set up to manage risk, and the role leadership plays in shepherding cultural change at the company.

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This episode is sponsored by Cisco’s Panoptica.

811: Marcia Calleja-Matsko discusses the elements behind the remarkable growth of the company throughout her tenure. Marcia explains the way she typifies culture at OneDigital, how it’s impacted the process of integrating the technology functions of the company’s various acquisitions, and how she manages this rapid growth in a responsible and sustainable manner. She also talks about the company’s data strategy and the use cases she has identified for generative AI technology. Finally, Marcia reflects on the keys to her career success, the progress being made to bring more women into STEM professions, and the trends in technology that she has kept abreast of in recent months.

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785: Steve discusses the future of the company, the role of technology in driving strategy, and how Xerox is leveraging emerging technology to reinvent the service industry. He highlights the importance of using this cutting-edge technology, such as AI, robotics, and augmented reality, to drive productivity in the office and serve the needs of small and medium-sized businesses. Steve also emphasizes the value of data and the impact of edge computing and quantum computing on the future of technology. Finally, he shares insights from his experience as a CIO and the importance of taking risks and seeking diverse leadership opportunities to advance your career.

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766: Rob discusses the concept of intrapreneurship, bringing an entrepreneurship mindset to within the organization, and how this concept has helped drive innovation at the company. He talks about the innovation teams he has built, the design thinking and storytelling they bring to the innovation process, and how they collaborate with the rest of the business. Finally, Rob looks ahead at the value potential of emerging tech trends like ChatGPT and generative AI as well as reflects on the keys to his success.

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This episode is sponsored by Quantiphi.

759: Shannon discusses the business unit she leads and how it acts as a start-up within a large company like Jacobs Solutions. She covers the company’s talent strategy balancing new and legacy talent within her team and how her team works with clients to anticipate and respond to changing needs. Shannon also talks about the innovations in sustainability her team is driving, the collaboration she engages in with other business units within the company, and how her team’s ‘cyber-centricity’ has led to developing stronger cyber products for clients across the business. Finally, she reflects on the keys to her career success and looks ahead at trends in data and computing that are on her radar.

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