When it comes to IT strategy, Kimberly-Clark Global CIO Manoj Kumbhat makes one thing very clear: This multinational takes a business-first approach to digital transformation.\n\nThe B2C and B2B retailer of brand-name personal care and professional healthcare products, such as Kleenex tissues, Scott paper towels, and Huggies diapers, has made a big hybrid-cloud push of late, complete with a Snowflake data lake, a \u201cconsumer 360\u201d platform, and a series of cloud-native and SaaS applications geared to increase revenue from consumer channels and giant retail customers alike.\n\nBut for Kumbhat, it\u2019s the business that drives the IT agenda, not the other way around.\n\n\u201cWe\u2019re cloud smart, not cloud first,\u201d he says. \u201cWe actually lead with business transformation \u2014 and then we did a cloud migration as a part of that.\u201d\n\nIt may seem a subtle distinction, but as Kumbhat stresses, delivering digital capabilities such as revenue growth management and what he calls \u201cconsumer-inspired innovation\u201d to fuel business transformation makes all the difference.\n\n\u201cSo many companies started out with a cloud transformation and then selectively they drove business transformation. With that approach, IT is driving the change and then everyone else must follow and it might not be the key priority for the company,\u201d says Kumbhat, who has held the global CIO post at Kimberly-Clark for almost four years and was one of four finalists for the MIT Sloan CIO Leadership Award this year.\n\nInstead of jumping to the cloud to force business transformation, Kumbhat and his team \u201ctruly looked at the value case for it and made sure that we\u2019re not adding a huge cost by moving to cloud. We are being smart about it,\u201d he says of the company\u2019s cloud strategy, which is centered in part around its direct-to-consumer business.\n\n\u201cWe built what we call commercial transformation that had everything to do with the front end of our business, which touches the consumer and the customer,\u201d Kumbhat says. \u201cWe fully transformed our front-end capabilities to drive top-line growth.\u201d\n\nKimberly-Clark\u2019s other major customer segment, B2B2C mass retail partners, including Wal-Mart and Target, is the other focus of its business transformation.\n\nLeveraging AWS and Azure, Kimberly-Clark was able to refine retail revenue growth management and optimize pricing promotions with partners to maximize top-line growth, he says.\n\n\u201cWe use a combination of technologies to build what you can think of traditionally as \u2018consumer 360,\u2019\u201d says Kumbhat, referring to a sales and support strategy that aggregates data from across the enterprise to provide a single, comprehensive view of the customer.\n\nThe blueprint for business transformation\n\nKimberly-Clark began its transformation journey in 2017 with a major restructuring that included layoffs and a migration to leading robotic process automation (RPA) platforms. Kimberly-Cark\u2019s move to RPA was very comprehensive, says Kumbhat, adding that automating supply chain and finance operations led to a savings of hundreds of millions of dollars.\n\nFor example, as a major manufacturer, Kimberly-Clark occasionally receives fraudulent claims from distributors that were often paid due to the lack of tools to detect errors and automate decision-making. RPA has fixed this, Kumbhat says.\n\n\u201cThrough the restructuring of the process and putting it on RPA, we actually reduced the outflow back to our distributors and improved the handling of fake claims, because we used to receive a lot of those,\u201d he notes.\n\nBut RPA tools and rules-based automation can only get you so far, Kumbhat says. At some point, \u201cyou have to apply AI and machine learning so that you further improve the accuracy of the processing,\u201d he says, adding that Kimberly-Clark is currently undertaking this effort as part of an intelligent automation drive.\n\nCrucial to the company\u2019s business transformation have been several enterprise-wide IT initiatives aimed at building a data-driven and connected supply chain and a \u201cdigital core transformation,\u201d on top of the company\u2019s deployment of RPA, AI, and hybrid cloud technologies, he says.\n\nThe company is consolidating five different ERP packages across its five business units into a new single SAP ERP implementation on Azure, Kumbhat says, and is beefing up its data analytics capabilities to create a higher level of consumer and customer intimacy, though a customer data platform (CDP) that provides insights into consumers\u2019 spending patterns.\n\n\u201cData is at the heart of everything we do,\u201d Kumbhat says. \u201cWe have also driven some significant benefits due to process mining tools.\u201d\n\nKimberly-Clark is also \u201cgetting rid of\u201d antiquated supply chain and other business process platforms used internally in favor of best-of-breed cloud-native SaaS solutions for procurement, analytics, and transportation management, for example.\n\nDriving change\n\nStill, no transformation \u2014 business or otherwise \u2014 can succeed without winning over the people involved, especially employees and consumers, Kumbhat notes.\n\nThe global CIO, whose IT budget is roughly $450 million, has the support of the company\u2019s C-suite and has worked with his IT department, which includes 1,200 full-time staff and more than 3,000 contractors, to adopt the platforms portfolio and create 14 \u201cdigital enablers,\u201d including cloud, user experience, agility, team talent, AI\/ML, DevOps platforms, and APIs.\n\nAll this points to a key remit for Kumbhat: overseeing change management to ensure all employees are in tune with the company\u2019s transformation mission.\n\n\u201cEvery facet of our business is transforming so it\u2019s important not to forget the value creation aspect. My focus is to make sure that we do not forget the people element of the change and that the organization is ready for change management,\u201d the global CIO says. \u201cWe need to make sure the sequencing and prioritization is right because we could have all these digital capabilities and we want it to land in a way that\u2019s helpful for the business \u2014 not disrupting the objectives of the business.\u201d\n\nAnd those objectives center around enhancing intimacy with every Kimberly-Clark customer segment, from consumers at home to managers at Wal-Mart. Technology is simply the means to the end, Kumbhat says.\n\n\u201cIt\u2019s the disruptive digital which is really nothing more than building the one-to-one relationship with the consumer through personalized content,\u201d he says.