IT leadership is essential. Whether a firm is launching rocket ships or getting burgers and fries out the door, a well-organized, smooth-functioning IT infrastructure is a critical component of doing business in our modern economy. Therefore, upskilling in IT management can be a great strategy to future-proof your career, expand your skill set, and qualify you for leadership roles in your organization.
IT Goes to Space
Alistair Burns, Virgin Galactic’s new CIO, works alongside the space tourism company’s aeronautical engineers, project managers, and marketing experts. According to The Wall Street Journal, Burns ensures the company has the IT infrastructure to support its transition from testing to full-scale commercial operations.
“We’re moving from the very fast-paced design, build, test phase to a more strategic footing where we’re setting much longer-term goals,” Burns said. “I am able now to look at the IT strategy, the IT infrastructure, the information strategy in that context.” Burns’s responsibilities are vast. He oversees systems that design and build spaceships, stores design and flight data, and creates predictive models that forecast vehicle maintenance needs. Eventually, he will be responsible for systems that manage marketing, bookings, and flight operations when the company begins thrusting customers into space.
Burns, who has 25 years in IT and is a licensed pilot, hopes to get his shot into space. “It would be the fulfillment of a lifelong dream,” he told the WSJ.
IT Fuels Food Services
No less dependent upon IT for customer fulfillment is the food service industry, especially online ordering. This reliance on IT leadership has only grown during the recent pandemic. According to Wendy’s CIO Kevin Vasconi, the movement to online ordering and non-contact curbside service made mobile app development a priority.
Vasconi told the Wall Street Journal that some services, such as curbside pickup, will remain a part of operations. The goal is to get orders to customers as fast as possible—no matter how they ordered it or how they want it delivered, Vasconi said.
Plus, with online ordering, Wendy’s has a stockpile of customer data to personalize services. It’s one thing to harvest customer data. Having an IT expert who knows what to do with it is next-level digital marketing. For example, Vasconi plans to develop AI-enabled apps that can predict customers’ tastes by analyzing patterns in past orders.
Wendy’s isn’t Vasconi’s first food service rodeo—he led IT at Domino’s for eight years, developing digital channels for online ordering and mobile apps that helped reduce the time needed to deliver pizzas.
“Digital has redefined convenience, providing new ways for us to meet consumers on their terms,” Vasconi said.
IT Comes to the Rescue
Last February’s cold snap across the American Southwest not only resulted in frozen pipes in thousands of homes and businesses, it, in turn, generated mammoth service disruptions and demands for plumbing suppliers Ferguson PLC and Home Depot.
According to the Wall Street Journal, Ferguson’s CIO Michael Sajor and district operations manager Julia Bell addressed store closures and demand spikes using Microsoft Teams. Store managers and company executives used Teams to help train inexperienced staff and communicate business-critical information, from location closures and openings to product availability.
Home Depot’s CIO Matt Carey leveraged the tools it developed during the pandemic, including mobile apps for curbside pickup services and real-time inventory-tracking software. The result kept plumbers in the disaster area working to bring back running water to millions of affected people.
Trucking’s Essential IT Investments
U.S. trucking company J.B. Hunt began in 1961 with a handful of trucks and trailers. Today, it’s a nearly $10 billion business with 30,000 employees and is the second-largest carrier in the U.S. truckload market by revenue. Recently, it has seen digital-only startups offer online freight-matching services that threaten the company’s market share. The Wall Street Journal reported that in response, the company created the J.B. Hunt 360 platform to help shippers see supply and demand needs days into the future. In addition, carriers can use Hunt’s 360 platform to estimate future fuel and other transportation costs.
Freight-matching services have become more digital in recent years. Traditional third-party logistics providers also have developed digital platforms, as well as technology companies such as Convoy, Parade, and Uber’s Uber Freight unit.
The need for innovative IT leadership in the trucking industry is continuous. Now, J.B. Hunt’s CIO, Stuart Scott, has engaged with Google to co-develop machine learning models to improve the predictive capabilities of the 360 platform. The company plans to migrate its 360 platform to Google Cloud to better access Google’s artificial intelligence expertise. J.B. Hunt will work with Google to build machine learning models that look at market demand, carrier capacity, and truck locations, destinations, and loads.
“It’s an arms race,” Evan Armstrong, president of supply-chain market research and consulting firm Armstrong & Associates said in a WSJ article. He said digital upstarts and technology innovation from traditional players have accelerated the pace of change, and companies that don’t continue to invest in technology risk falling behind.
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