by Martha Heller

Building a digital learning culture at Avery Dennison

Apr 03, 2019
CareersCIODigital Transformation

At Avery Dennison, digital literacy is a key component of its digital transformation strategy. CIO Nick Colisto explains why and offers advice for implementing digital transformation programs.

Your digital strategy is only as strong as your least digital employee. That is why Avery Dennison built “digital literacy” into its multi-pronged digital transformation strategy. Nick Colisto, who joined Avery Dennison as CIO in 2018, describes the operating model changes and strategic programs that are driving digital optimization and transformation at the $7 billion global materials science and manufacturing company.

Martha Heller: What does “digital” mean to Avery Dennison?

Nick Colisto: We are very specific about what digital means to Avery Dennison. Being digital is about having the ability and desire to exploit emerging technologies for better business outcomes. We have the ambition to use emerging technologies both to optimize and transform our business.

While our portfolio of digital programs is more heavily weighted toward digital optimization at the moment, we are shifting to more transformational programs as we work toward our sustainability goals and drive growth in our high-value segments. Ultimately, the cadence of our transformation will depend on when our industry will hit a tipping point.

nick colisto cio avery dennison Avery Dennison

Nick Colisto, CIO, Avery Dennison

We also recognize that our traditional technologies (applications and infrastructure) are the “center of gravity” within our application portfolio, helping to enable top-line and bottom-line value for our company. We view our core traditional technologies as assets and leverage them as part of our overall digital platform. Our team takes a continuous application modernization approach to ensure that our core technologies are properly enhanced and supported to enable our strategies.

What products has your team has delivered that exemplify “digital”?

Under optimization, we have two complementary strategies: Digital Workplace and Digital Commercial Advancement.  

Our Digital Workplace strategy reimagines traditional processes to boost productivity, protect our assets, and increase efficiency. We now leverage a host of cloud-based technologies, including Google G-Suite for productivity and RingCentral for cloud telephony, to continuously evolve our digital workplace. Our employees are able to securely access information and data from anywhere and on any device.

We also employ many cybersecurity technologies as part of our Digital Workplace strategy to leverage robotic process automation (RPA) and artificial intelligence (AI) to detect, defend, and report suspicious emails that are sent to employees.   

As an example of a program related to our Commercial Advancement strategy, we are using Salesforce’s Cloudcraze B2B commerce platform to generate greater revenue from existing products and services and improve the customer experience.

One example under transformation is Freshmarx Temp Tracker, which uses an internet of things (IoT) solution to reduce food waste. The solution enables restaurant operators to automate temperature and humidity monitoring in their cold storage devices to help reduce waste, improve food safety, and increase efficiencies.  

Who is driving your digital strategy or transformation? 

In 2018, we formed a Digital Operating Committee (DOC) represented by leaders across the company. The committee is responsible for driving thought leadership, sharing best practices and expertise, and facilitating discussion to inform better decision making in four areas: digital literacy, internal capabilities, external partnerships, and, of course, digital programs.

What operating model changes have you made to facilitate your business’s shift into the digital economy?

We’ve made two significant changes to our operating model: We created a center of excellence for digital innovation, and we established a technology rationalization and modernization program for traditional IT products.

The Digital Innovation Center of Excellence (DICE) sits in the IT organization and works in cooperation with the DOC to deliver the digital literacy programs, internal capabilities, strategic supplier partnerships, and digital programs to drive better business outcomes to support the company’s strategies.

DICE created a new, innovation process framework (learn, discover, plan, prototype, scale, and support), and the center is focused on three areas: learning, resources, and relationships with the partner ecosystem.

Learning: Under learning, the DICE team has been charged with cultivating a digital learning culture, since Avery Dennison’s ambition for digital solutions is accelerating the need for broad workforce digital dexterity. Promoting digital dexterity is an enterprise-wide effort and requires a coordinated learning program inclusive of influencing the corporate culture to embrace emerging technologies.

DICE will provide educational services to bolster creativity, design thinking, agile methodology, and digital literacy. It will deliver these services using a combination of tools, including webcasts, e-learning, instructor-led training, communications, and external events.

We have a digital newsletter series that pulls curated content from a number of publications and goes out to the company’s senior leaders to help them understand the world of digital.

We are also building a digital leadership acceleration program (DLAP) with a top ranking university and will be launching it this year with our first cohort of leaders who have a deep interest in leveraging emerging technologies. The cohort will meet five times over six months and will partner with external experts to build prototypes for new digital solutions.

Resources: Under internal resources, DICE is forming diverse teams to collaborate on projects to build digital solutions. To take ideas from their inception to delivering value, DICE allocates resources to partner with other functions to execute activities to discover, plan, develop, scale, and support new digital products and services. The team has also established metrics for success and communicates the progress and plans being made with digital innovation throughout the company.

Partner relationships: DICE is building an ecosystem of internal stakeholders, customers, and suppliers to drive digital optimization and transformation. We will develop an outreach program to connect internal entrepreneurs (“intrapreneurs”) with customers, startups, established technology firms, universities, and consortiums to collaborate on innovation programs.

What is the new culture you are building across the company?

To define our new culture, the DICE team uses the acronym LEAD.

  • Learning: Shifting from a “know-it-all” culture to a “learn-it-all” culture and practices.
  • Engaging: Holding ideation sessions with teams and identifying creative ideas to optimize and transform the company through the application of emerging technologies.
  • Advocacy: Encouraging each employee to make the cultural transition a personal priority.
  • Discovering the needs of our customers with a “beginner’s mind” and then creating solutions that delight and surprise them. We need to have an insatiable desire to learn from outside.

What advice do you have for CIOs leading a digital transformation?

  • Don’t underestimate the cultural barriers that exist in your company.
  • Be patient and allow time for IT and non-IT professionals to build digital literacy.
  • Take time to stay current. Read. Go to conferences. Talk to your peer network.
  • Build an operating model for digital: development framework, governance model, learning program, communication program, resource allocation, and external partnership ecosystem. It is not “one size fits all.”
  • Stop talking about customer centricity, and start living it. Ask your IT leaders to spend time with your customers.
  • Recommit to HR: You have to be able to attract, motivate, and retain a world-class team. A failure to do this is the greatest barrier to a CIO’s success.
  • Avoid the 80/20 trap where 80% of your budget is trapped in “lights on” activities that do not move the revenue needle. Pay down that creeping technology debt, and free up money and people to expand into digital.

And most importantly, recognize that IT needs to lead, not just facilitate, the digital transformation. Yes, transformation is a team sport that requires collaboration, but CIOs should be the first among equals to lead in the strategy that will deploy digital technologies to outsmart and outpace your competitors.

About Nick Colisto

Nick Colisto is vice president and CIO for Avery Dennison Corporation, which he joined in March 2018. He is responsible for driving and executing an enterprise IT strategy for the company, including shepherding the overall company strategy with respect to information technology trends, driving efficiencies across the organization, improving the delivery of IT services and products to the business, and building on the existing culture of operational excellence. Prior to joining Avery Dennison, Colisto served as senior vice president and CIO for Xylem Inc. He holds a BBA degree in management information systems and a master’s degree in information systems from Pace University.