The Fragrance & Flavor industry is challenged by digitization as well as any other industry. Firmenich’s Chief Information Officer Eric Saracchi has strong leadership maxims and clear focus on innovating the business. Playing a leading role in designing the companys digital future makes Eric the Swiss CIO AWARD winner 2018.
How is the Fragrance & Flavor industry changing as a result of digitization? What are the key challenges for your business?
Fragrance & Flavor industry is getting affected by digitalization like every other business. We see an evolution in consumer expectations of natural, personalized products, last mile service, ethical and sustainable sourcing of raw materials. New business models are evolving, presenting opportunities to be hyper-connected, to co-create and co-innovate as well as becoming better and faster in servicing our customers using digital commerce and interconnected systems. Our focus is to embrace this evolving eco-system and apply emerging technologies such as blockchain, artificial intelligence, and hyper-connectivity through IoT to maintain our leadership in creating and servicing superior products, while actively dealing with disruptions in our business model. Of course, people are at the heart of our business, developing their skills and talents, employee experience, and evolving our culture will be key to our success.
What role does IT play in overcoming these challenges?
IT is the center of our evolution as a digital organization, and we have been putting the building blocks in place to face these challenges during the last few years. We started with a significant investment push to evolve our business and operational systems, improve infrastructure and user environment, and mitigate cybersecurity risk. In parallel we have built dedicated teams to adopt innovation, agile, and data & analytics approach across the organization. These efforts have evolved into a formal Digital Transformation strategy for Firmenich, with a joint effort of business and IT teams working on a portfolio of digital objectives and use-cases ranging from applying artificial intelligence for creation, IoT and blockchain for sustainability, and digital commerce for sales growth.
How does the role of a CIO come into play? What influence can a CIO have on changing the company?
In my view the CIO’s role has evolved drastically in the last few years, from a support and enabling function to being in the center of business strategy. ‘Business is IT’, and a CIO has to not only engage and educate business on its significance, but also to lead the organization and techniques to deliver on these strategic opportunities. If I take the example of Firmenich, we have been able to create a successful dynamic with our business partners and executives to develop and drive a joint digital transformation strategy.
How do you see the relationship between IT strategy and company strategy?
As I said ‘business is IT’, and digitalization presents significant opportunities for our business, to stay hyper-connected to clients, create superior products to delight the consumers, reach next level of efficiency and service, and to evolve our business models. These ambitions are reflected in the company and divisional strategies and embedded in the IT strategy. The future will drive us to become a software company creating perfume and flavors.
Where do you see the most important areas of activity for modern IT?
I would say the first area is communication and change management, including the education of business and executives on the impact of digitalization to get their sponsorship. Secondly, adopting agile approaches in exploring and developing solutions and business use-cases. Thirdly, IT should embrace automation and simplification to improve the employee experience and productivity and to reduce their repetitive workload.
What are your top 3 IT manager recommendations for success in Digital Transformation?
Serve business objectives instead of technology objectives, hack the company culture, and think exponential.
What does the Swiss CIO AWARD mean for you? Why is it important to give IT management recognition?
This award is the recognition of a team which has embraced change and went through very challenging times. It is also an opportunity to share our fantastic journey over the last 4 years and receive positive feedback from key leaders in our country. We have grown into a digital transformation organization during this time and had a lot of fun along the way. I have always resisted the temptation to follow a 2-track IT approach, and kept an integrated organization in order to grow the team and face these challenges and opportunities together. It is hard work but certainly worth it in the long run, and we continue to be on this journey all together, with the trust of our business partners and executive team members. My team will be happy to receive the recognition of their success in the form of this award.