As a household name in the field of household products, Whirlpool has annual sales of 22 billion US dollars, has 54 manufacturing and technology research centers around the world, and has a rich product portfolio, including KitchenAid, Maytag, Amana, Yummly and many other well-known brands. The company also has 69,000 employees worldwide, and the company’s senior vice president and chief information officer, Danielle Brown, has a unique perspective on how to best lead a company’s digital transformation strategy.
Brown, who joined the company in November 2020 to lead its Global Information Systems, understands that cross-collaboration and effective use of data to create new products and services is not only critical to future success, but speaking of the responsibility to sit at the table in such a privileged position That seat next to you means having a say and seeing where technology is going.
“Our vision is to be the best kitchen and laundry company, with a constant quest to improve the lives of families, which has become even more evident and important over the past few years,” she said. “The data shows that people are using our products more consistently. We’re also seeing people researching, browsing and buying more online from home. All of this has been transformative for our business.”
Of course, the end-to-end consumer journey is always a work in progress at Whirlpool, and it started before Brown arrived. “But working on our leadership team,” she says, “one of the things I always say about IT is that we have a unique view of the company. We can see all the different processes, so with that unique advantage, Part of our role is to connect the dots. This is where we have the opportunity to talk about this full journey and understand what the consumer has. We have to think about the technology and how it is layered as an IT organization. This is Part of the value we bring. So with me coming in, those are some of the things that the IT organization is looking at as a leadership team.”
Brown recently spoke with CIO Leadership Live host Maryfran Johnson about advancing product capabilities through sensor data, accelerating digital twin strategies, reshaping supply chain dynamics, and more. Below are some edited excerpts from that conversation. Watch the full video below for more insights.
Regarding the four strategic priorities: One is delivering product leadership, which includes the data and technology to support things like digital twins and digital threads throughout the product lifecycle. And this is where IT organizations can really help achieve product leadership. The second is leveraging IoT and AI to support new digital services and new digital products that we can offer consumers. The third is winning the digital consumer journey by leveraging technology to engage with customers from pre-purchase to post-purchase. Our fourth strategic priority is to reshape the value chain with higher visibility. This is another way our IT organization can advance this work side by side with our business partners. So, from start to finish, our strategic priorities have stood the test of time.
Regarding re-recruitment: Employees today have more choices than in the past. As a company, we have to make sure we advance our value proposition. As the saying goes, people will leave the boss, but not necessarily leave the company. What they want from their boss is someone who cares about their career. This is the employee’s role first, but they work with a boss or supervisor because their perspective is limited. So we have a tool called Career Compass that shares employee experiences and helps employees understand that managers care about their careers. When you have a different leader or a new leader in your organization, you don’t want your experiences to be forgotten. So we start with that person’s career so far, and then explore where you want to go in your career, not on the traditional ladder. I’ve heard it called a lattice. There are many different routes to choose from. It’s not necessarily about the job or the promotion; it’s about the experience that someone wants to have in their career, because that’s what you need if you want to be a global CIO or an enterprise architect. Things like that really matter and allow companies to retain talent.
About the Innovation Ecosystem: You have to consider which technologies are really mature and which are more speculative. Artificial intelligence and machine learning have come of age today. You also have natural language processing, doing technology through RPA and things like that. So we’re leveraging those things in our business and our market. But you also have more speculative technologies like metaverse and blockchain and stuff like that. With emerging technologies like this, we experiment internally and think about how they apply to our business and how it creates new or different opportunities. But things have to add value for the end consumer. It cannot be technology just for its sake.
About Enterprise Data Strategy: I’m a self-confessed data geek. When you leverage internal data, you need governance around that data. Both are extremely important. Our priority is around delivering product innovation and having a data-based digital twin or digital thread. This works with our product organization strategy and how to simplify the data and make sure it’s digital throughout or whether it’s embedded in our systems of record. Proper governance around product data must also be in place so that it can be used throughout the product lifecycle. This is why data governance is critical to our organization, and analytics is a way to unlock value.