by Puneet Bhasin

CIO at Waste Management Wears Many Hats

Oct 29, 20133 mins

Puneet Bhasin is CIO and senior vice president of technology, logistics, customer service and strategic accounts -- a portfolio that keeps him focused on business matters.

My role is somewhat atypical for a CIO. In addition to managing IT,I also run our WM Logistics subsidiary and manage our Strategic Accounts business unit, and I’m responsible for customer service across our 20 call centers.

When I joined Waste Management three years ago, two things appealed to me: It was a large, Fortune 200 company with tremendous potential to use technology to drive efficiency and increase revenue through an enhanced product portfolio, and it’s a green company that considers itself a steward of our environment.

Shortly after I joined, I realized that, fundamentally, this wasn’t a garbage company but a logistics company. Like FedEx or UPS, we are in the business of picking up and dropping off packages–it just so happens that our package is garbage and recyclables. From my previous work at American Airlines and Ryder, I realized we could use logistics capabilities in many parts of our business. So one of the first things we did was set up a decision sciences group, which has three charters: routing, scheduling and operations research; industrial engineering; and sophisticated data analytics.

One of our strategic imperatives is to get to know our customers and serve them better than anyone else. While we provided good customer service, I felt we could significantly improve our service through improved interdepartmental communication and more efficient processes enabled by technology.

We have invested significantly in process improvements, self-service tools and e-commerce, and have seen some very positive results. We are also consolidating our call centers into a couple of mega-facilities.

In our Strategic Accounts division, we provide customized solutions to about 1,000 of our largest customers, including helping them reach sustainability goals like not putting anything into a landfill, an achievement referred to as “zero waste.”

I see many CIOs constantly fighting fires, dealing with a project that’s not going well or facing scalability, performance or security issues. We are fortunate in not having to deal with many of these issues, and the credit goes to my team for doing an excellent job. That was not the case when I first arrived at Waste Management.

The IT department lacked credibility, we had an aging IT environment, and we had legacy skill sets. The first year and a half, I spent my time fixing those issues and rebuilding my team. We came up with a new strategy involving new systems that included mobility, on-board computers, logistics and ERP.

I have been a CIO for many years, and technology is certainly in my DNA. When I come across a business problem or revenue opportunity, in addition to looking at it from strategic, operational and management points of view, I also envision how technology can play a role. I am the business user and the IT guy at the same time. Still, my natural inclination is not to approach issues from a technology perspective; instead, I try to achieve our business objectives and strategies. I prefer to drive results at the P&L level, and that’s what any technology leader needs to do to take on responsibilities outside of technology.

Puneet Bhasin is CIO and senior VP of technology, logistics, customer service and strategic accounts at Waste Management.