CommScope’s Praveen Jonnala on the role of CIO as Chief Transformation Officer


Praveen Jonnala, Global CIO at CommScope, joins host Maryfran Johnson for this CIO Leadership Live interview, jointly produced by and the CIO Executive Council. They discuss leading global teams, rising to the challenges of generative AI and data, sharpening focus on operational efficiencies and more.

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00:00 [This transcript was auto-generated.]
Maryfran Johnson 0:03
Hi, good morning and welcome to CIO Leadership Live. I'm your host for the show Maryfran Johnson, CEO of Maryfran Johnson Media. Twice a month we produce this video show and audio podcast with the generous support of my friends at and our CIO Executive Council. We're streaming live to you right now on both LinkedIn and on our CIO YouTube channel. And we welcome all of our viewers who are participating and watching today to join in this conversation. We have editors watching the feed on both of the live areas and if you'd like to tap in questions directly from my guest today, we will be watching for those and pass them along.
Today's guest joining me is Praveen Jonnala. He is the senior vice president and global CIO at CommScope. Headquartered in Hickory, North Carolina, CommScope is a $9.2 billion provider of network and communications infrastructure products, and employs 30,000 people worldwide and has international production facilities in more than 15 countries. In fact, our CIO our global CIO guest today is coming to us from Goa, India, where there are manufacturing facilities and apparently a lovely beach community as well. Praveen joined CommScope in 2008, serving as the global vice president of digital transformation and business solutions, before moving into the CIO role a little more than two years ago and early 2021. As the global CIO, he leads the information technology organization, as an implements all of the various aspects of an ongoing digital strategy and transformation. Prior to CommScope, Praveen spent 10 years at Ford Mazda Motor Company, as a senior manager of global operations and supply chain. He has more than 20 years of experience leading global teams in everything from product engineering, software development, and manufacturing, to supply chain and most recently, information technology. Praveen welcome, it's great to have you here.
Praveen Jonnala 2:16
Thank you, Maryfran, and thank you very much for everything you're doing for tech community in driving this tech leadership discussions.
Maryfran Johnson 2:25
Well, thank you. You're absolutely welcome. And I just, I never get tired of talking to CIOs and global CIOs. And as, as we discussed, before, we got on the show, more and more, I find there a significant business experience that comes with the CIOs in these modern day jobs today. But let me start out by asking you, what were your marching orders, as you were coming into this, this is your first global CIO role. And you had already been doing a great deal of work with the business and digital transformation at the company. So what was it that the CEO and the board wanted you to accomplish coming into the CIO role here?
Praveen Jonnala 3:05
Yeah, no, great question. Right. And I think I spent, as you said, I spend most of my time in the business. And obviously, I got opportunities to work with IT teams globally in different companies. And coming to CommScope CommScope has grown over the last 20 years, through acquisitions. And now we know we are a global communications infrastructure company, are reshaping the future of connectivity, right.
So we have global customers, as you mentioned, you know, we have factories and design centers globally. So that puts a lot of requirements on tech teams, and how you really help the company to drive this transformation around connectivity and our products to the future. Coming into this role, there are a couple of expectations. Some of them, you know, we could think it's basic, you know, how IT teams at large, you know, over the years struggled to really become one with the business. They thought about the culture of the IT teams. And I think I would even believe the purpose of the IT teams, there's always some disconnect between what the company's purpose does it really aligned with the purpose? So I think the primary ask was in how can it become one with the business? And the second is, as we tried to drive the digital transformation, and how could we look at it as an engine to drive growth, revenue and efficiencies across the company? So I think those were some of the marching orders from from my board and the CEO. But then for me, I think, you know, the biggest thing was, how could we try to redesign or redefine the culture of it? And absolutely make sure that there is a purpose for us, and then why do we exist in the company? And I think those were some of the key takeaways for me
Coming into this role is how we can align people process and culture with the company and then drive with the business -- One goal, one objective and one outcome.
Maryfran Johnson 5:12
Yes, you know, and I'm sitting here wondering whether a lot of your CIO colleagues in other industries outside of technology and network providers and so forth, they might, they might be under the impression that technology companies that you automatically have an app, one with the business feeling because you're in the technology industry, and of course, the IT teams are all part of the business. So it may actually be a little comforting to hear that this is a very common issue across IT organizations in all industries?
Praveen Jonnala 5:46
I think, absolutely, I think the biggest challenge is people don't realize that everybody tries to support the business, right? There's not that, you know, nobody wants to support the business. But there is a difference between supporting the business versus you really take charge in driving.
And if you look at it, even 15 years ago, it is looked at as you are the owner of technology, and everybody put you in that box and respected you for some time that hey, you know, let's go to it immediately wants technology. But now today, technology is so pervasive. And actually, in the company, outside of it, there are more owners of technology, that it itself, right. So now what should it do? Right? You know, in my view, the best thing would be is you co innovate Co Co ownership with the business, right? It should never think about, okay, I'm the sole owner of technology. But you should, you know, go ahead and, you know, partner with the business and see, how could we try out comes together? Yes, for the company's growth. I think that's, that's a shift of, you know, thinking, and we should help the teams to realize that.
Maryfran Johnson 7:00
Well, and that's, that's a great point. I know, for many years, and the, it'd be because before I was just doing the CIO Leadership Live, I've been involved in the tech industry on the media side of both as the editor in chief of Computerworld and then later at CIO magazine. And I can remember all the times that we would describe how it has a helicopter view of the entire business. But in the last few years, I started, I dropped the helicopter idea and started talking about it as more of a central nervous system for a business because that whole helicopter hovering above everyone, that felt like the wrong image to me the way it has evolved over time. In fact, one of the points you made, when we talked earlier, you said you really see the CIO role itself should be probably called chief transformation officer. So I wanted to get a little more of your thinking on when you say that, what do you mean, you're thinking about more about business transformation, but also about the way that it partners with all their business colleagues? So but you explain it, what is it? How should a CIO be a chief transformation officer?
Praveen Jonnala 8:12
Yeah, no, I think it is all about, you know, sometimes titles doesn't make, you know, any sense. Or people can argue whether you know, which title you should have, or should not. But the fundamental point is, if you really want it to dry, a culture of having the business ownership, business sense, and drive business growth and outcomes, you should really look at yourself and say, Who am I in the company, because it should have that purpose, right? The purpose is not for it. And if somebody says, Hey, I'm a technology group, I'm going to bring technology into the company and maybe drive some value to the business. For me, you know, that is just a table stake. Really, unless, you know, you start thinking about, hey, I have an equal footing like any other business function, and I have a goal, I'm going to stay in line with my other partners. And then I'm going to do everything anything, you know, to do drive business growth, revenue, and transformation. So in order to have the branding, the branding is very important. You know, people rally behind branding, people connect with the branding. So this whole you know, it our chief information officer was relevant maybe 10 years ago, because everybody think and it is the one who's providing the information and intelligence and all of it right now. You know, information again, is pervasive, it's democratized everybody uses that. So now I teach you look at it is you know, technology has the great potential of recreating business models or you know, if you don't really act on it, it could put put some some industries out of business. So now if you are in that, you know, crossroads of you know, taking and driving the business to the future. Then you have that role of transformation. And if if a company is positioned it teams in such a way that sends a broader message across the company, right? How could we partner with with IT function to dry the business growth and business objectives, rather than I'm gonna go to it when I need some technology. So that's a whole different different ways to look at it.
Maryfran Johnson 10:24
Well, on the point you made earlier, too, about technology, technologists themselves seeing seeing themselves inside a box, like, Oh, we've delivered the technology, our job is all done. Now. That's, that's now very old fashioned, the way tech teams are working, especially in agile and design thinking environments, and that sort of thing. Talk a little bit about some of the changes that you've been making to the tech organization at CommScope. You have 30,000 employees, and, um, about 1000 people, some of them contractors, but you have a very large IT organization. So what are some of those tell us about the organization and some of those initial changes you've made? And how that's been working out?
Praveen Jonnala 11:10
Yeah, no, absolutely. I think, as you said, you know, we sell our company, from applications infrastructure to cyber, and then digital transformation, but also try to drive some process transformation in the company, and and with those broader responsibilities, and also, we always wanted to see that how could we drive growth? You know, can we help ourselves? Can we help manufacturing to drive efficiencies, so that it can add to the bottom line, but with all of that backdrop, some of the basics have to be very, very solid, before we go make some ambitious statements, you know, with the board and everybody, the basic side, in my view, how do you position yourself so that, you know, it can become that, you know, becoming one with the business objective? So then we eliminate the global organization, and we said, okay, and we went and talked to a lot of I went and talked a lot of business leaders, and you know, what was working? What was not working? And how would they see if they were in my shoe? How would they run? Okay, so we got some great feedback, you know, people, you know, give some pointers that, okay, maybe they didn't see it as an empathetic organization. We were not listening. Maybe, you know, we were nice people. But you know, we really didn't understand where the business was heading. So there was a lot of good feedback. And then we came back to the drawing board. And then we said, Okay, let's go see, how could we address some of these good opportunities and challenges in front of us? And we said, Okay, we're going to design a couple of pillars in IT. The first and foremost, one is, you know, how could we have IT leaders and teams embedded in the business? Because if you remember, there was all terminology people use business relationship manager.
Maryfran Johnson 12:57
I remember at the BRM is that see again, or 10 years ago, but yeah, that was very big.
Praveen Jonnala 13:01
And, and if you look at that, right, by definition of it, it shows that you're trying to build relation with somebody. Right, but you're part of the company, you know, the BRM, in my view, that was probably worked in 10 years ago, then we said, Okay, let's go look at a team which can become more like a business integration team, you know, which fits in within the business leaders, you know, for example, I have, I call you know, many CIOs. Yeah. And one of them sits within the supply chain leader staff meetings, and he is part of his team. Right even though he reports to me, but he's part of his team and he's there every day, you know, understanding what's happening the same thing with the product development organization, same thing with corporate function. So, so, we created this pillar where you know, there are dedicated people sit in the business and try to work with the business every day not sit in the back office and taking orders right. So that's completely different. Now, the business leaders see that you know, we are investing we are invested in the business interest you know, we are right there with action takes place with the strategy it could be operations it could be whatever you know, tactical thing but we are there every day. So that was the first pillar and the second we said your data is so important. And and in a lot of people we talk about you know, the business intelligence but the end of the day, if you can provide great insights and information is useless insights to drive an action inside inside should give them some intelligence to go act on something. So we said okay, we're going to have a data organization looking at you know, our process which creates the data, how could we have data governance you know, Fundamentals of Data modeling and data, AI and other good stuff you know, once you have the basics in place, we have a data organization in place. Now obviously we need on cybersecurity, you know, to look at, you know, across our company and look at products and how to secure and protect our assets, I believe build a shared services function, which includes an applications and infrastructure to serve the business across the globe. But I think we'll look at the organization, the driver is in how can we live in the business, understand the needs there, and then, and then figure out how to support the business and drive growth for the business. So I think that's a fundamental shift versus the model based have like a plan, build and run, which was a very traditional in it model. So that's the model we're in two years. And, and we have some challenges. Obviously, this is a journey, it's not going to solve everything overnight. But we got some very good feedback from the business. So the model is working and innovative seeing the results, and we are more and more leaving the business dream every day. More than than IT dream.
Maryfran Johnson 15:54
Yes. Well, and when you talk with a tell us a little bit more about comm scopes customer base is not as straightforward as say, you know, a B to C group of customers, you have both B to B and B to C and channel partners that are involved in other parts of the tech industry. How do you as the global CIO? How do you make sure you're tapped into what the customers outside the company? I've had some CIOs argue that those are the only customers that really matter. But of course, the relationships inside the company are just as important to IT. But how do you make sure that the changes you're making in the tech organization are going to help spur this growth and this ability to work? Well, with all the different customer bases you have?
Praveen Jonnala 16:43
Yeah, great question. You know, I think, you know, we, as a company, two years ago, we launched an initiative called CommScope Next, which is focused on three fundamental pillars, the one, how can we drive organic growth CommScope, historically was built on mergers and acquisitions. But now in its time, it could go expand the business and grow organically. That's that's one of the goals. The second is, how could we optimize a portfolio? You know, over the years, we had quite a lot of companies? How could we have a product line or product lines, which can drive growth and set up for the future? So how could we clean up some of the products and portfolios, and the last one is how to drive efficiencies, whether it could operate operational efficiencies or other efficiencies across the company. So looking at that, you know, it is very important for us to reimagine our business models. And as you mentioned, we are we are predominantly a b2b business, right? Channel partners, we have other partners who would sell and service or products, we do sell directly to some customers, mostly as a b2b. So the general thinking when you have a b2b business is that, you know, you don't have a b2c You know, you don't need to have a lot of that b2c type of experience for your customers. But, but that is not right. Because you know, every b2b customer expects the same experience, because they're also consumers in a different space. So and also, it's an opportunity for us to see how could we provide the best experience, even to our partners, so that, you know, it can help them and their businesses to reduce their operational expenses too, because you know, you don't want to have this in a manual touch points. So the first thing we said was, we're going to go and spend some time with our external customers, and understand their pain points. So we went and talked to some of our biggest customers, and also our sales teams, which are interfacing with the customers, and what are they hearing from the field? So we took that and then we went and said, Okay, and how could we build some of the capabilities which can bridge the gaps, which exists today. And one example is, you know, we, as a b2b business, you don't you don't you don't think that you know, we would sell or try to showcase our products, and think the customer through that buying journey. That was not existed in the past. But now we said, Okay, if a customer comes to a website, no matter which customer it is, we will take them through the journey, where to buy, and then we may land them into a channel partner, the final sale might take place in a channel partner, but we would give them that experience, right? So that's what we've done. So as an example, so so it is very important to treat your customer whether it's a direct customer or channel partner with the mindset of how can we make their life easy when they do business with us? So that's, that's what I think we are trying to tell ourselves every day that you know, our goal is to make our customers life easy.
Maryfran Johnson 19:50
Yes. Well, and then as you mentioned that come scopes next program is actually corporate wide. This is something so well that that's probably good step forward for IT, anyway, to be a big part of a corporate wide program that is focused on customers, to how have you done things as the CIO to make sure that your IT teams are more in those kinds of direct sort of relationships, maybe with sales teams and with customers? Have you set up new structures that enable them to do that?
Praveen Jonnala 20:27
Yeah, no, I think as part of the organizational structure, you know, we talked about little bit, you know, one of the IT function, which I have a mini CIOs, I said, you know, one of them is directly sits in the sales function. And he and his team works with the sales teams, and you know, the the customers together and understand, you know, what are those touch points in which one makes sense, which will provide a win win for us and our customers. That function directly, you know, lives in the business, and then they work with them every day.
Maryfran Johnson 21:05
Let's talk I wanted to pivot over and talk especially since well, and I had asked you, you know, whether some of the common problems that you see other CIOs and other industries, your b2b customers, your B to C customers that they're trying to solve. And when we talked about this earlier, you said it really comes down to talent to data. And then also, of course, cybersecurity, which is prevalent always and with us always. But I wanted to focus in on that data and the AI aspects of it because generative AI and chat GPT and all that is such a big topic now, not just with the tech industry, but with business industries everywhere. Tell us about how you're approaching that. And are there specific things that you're doing that are getting your teams more deeply into working with generative AI?
Praveen Jonnala 21:58
Yeah, no, I think, great question, right. It's obviously a topic nowadays, and everybody can, you know, just live without talking about it? I can, before we talk about, you know, Gen AI, you know, I've talked a little bit about data. Because, people, it's easy to carried away with all this, you know, the motions of AI and chat GPT, and people get excited with it. But when it comes to enterprises, the data is a foundation. And data is a product of processes, data just doesn't happen, you know, just in a vacuum. So last, like five to seven years, you know, we spent significant time as a company, to looking at how could we establish the foundation, and then governance so that we can have a good data models within the company. And that investment is going to pay off now where the Gen AI kind of, you know, come into existence, and then we can now tap into it. So we are looking at few opportunities, right, at the end of the day, our goal is, how can we drive better business outcomes? Sometimes technology is great, a lot of buzz going on, but you know, can it? Can it make a difference for the business, our business? Every business is different. So we're looking at a couple of things, right? One, you know, obviously, for our r&d groups, we can we use, you know, Gen AI, and you know, Microsoft's co pilot, you know, can it actually help to drive improvements, and then speed and agility in what we do. So that that's one area, the second year as we serve our customers, so can be used in AI to serve customers in a better way? And, you know, and how could that help us to understand our customer needs, and then provide them more capabilities than you know, a human only channel we have today? That's another opportunity we're trying to try and try to take off. And the last one is, we have large manufacturing prisons, and then how could we look at some of the AI capabilities, whether it's, you know, Vision processing, you know, where we have, you know, products we make, and we do inspections, you know, can we automate them, you know, would that, you know, help us our product quality, even better than what we have today. So, we're looking at plenty of opportunities, but right now, the focus is, you know, let's not jump into it in 10 priorities, let's go pick one or two, which can move the needle for the company and learn and experiment, and then, you know, build upon it. So I think that's, that's what we're doing. And we are partnering with Microsoft and then trying to the partner with the partners because this is going to take, you know, a lot more capabilities from different partners. It's not, you know, if somebody wants to think they want to build it, I don't think it makes sense for us to go build on our own.
Maryfran Johnson 24:57
Okay. Now, you'd mentioned earlier that you have, like mini CIOs in charge of different parts of the IT organization as it structured, I explained those to me about their you said there were three pillars. Go go through those, again, on what are the areas? I know supply chain, of course is one of them. And data is another one are there? What are the other areas?
Praveen Jonnala 25:21
Yeah, so we have these many CIOs, you know, the second the business one is on auditing functions. You know, we have a large r&d group, we invest roughly about $600 million every year in our r&d. So one of the pillars, you know, making sure that you know, be aligned with it, and then really understand the needs, and we bring the capabilities to the forefront. And then the second one I already talked about is sales. So how could we sit with sales and understand, you know, the sales challenges and opportunities and our customers? So that that's another pillar. And then the other pillar, I talked about the supply chain and manufacturing pillar? And then the last one is the corporate functions, whether it's finance, legal and other functions, how could we help them to bring efficiencies in their goals.
Maryfran Johnson 26:12
Yes, well, that sounds very much like a real business focused organization doesn't it doesn't have a plan, build and run. It's not here's the applications group. Here's the network group. That's gotten to be pretty much old fashioned, hasn't it? Are there when you had mentioned the supply chain and manufacturing? And I know that that's an area that you've done a great deal of work in from the business side during your own career? What are it tell us about factory automation for Dotto, and the kind of the kind of work that you've undertaken through the IT organization there?Because, as you you mentioned, there's just huge challenges, especially for tech industry companies.
Praveen Jonnala 27:00
Yeah, so that's a that's a kind of interesting question. And the reason I'm saying it's interesting question is, there's also a lot of hype around it.
Maryfran Johnson 27:10
This is our industry. This is what we do, right? We hype everything.
Praveen Jonnala 27:14
Yeah. Yeah. So So I think for us, it's very important in any supply chain manufacturing function, you really understand, What is your business model? What makes sense, either from an automation standpoint, or factory 4.0 perspective? Because what fits in I came from automotive, right, you know, what fits in automotive, from an automation standpoint doesn't work for companies like us, you know, we are a communications infrastructure. So, so then if there is the first first lens is, you know, what is my business, you know, where are the opportunities, again, what the business outcome I can try.
So with that lens in place, and then we went and looked at opportunities, where in some of the product lines where we have lot more complexity than others, and then let's go try to see what with the business and see if we can create a better business outcome and value better quality and throughput. So that kind of the approach, simple approach, it's common sense, it makes sense. And let's go look at it and then but getting the technology what makes sense, but I think if we look at the whole manufacturing and supply chain industry, prior to the pandemic, it was very linear, right? People have global factories, people have, you know, regional supply chains, or most of the supply chain may be coming from China. So life is good. And everybody, you know, driving and the model everybody is used to do right now, a dynamic kind of brought in completely a 360 degree different view, a supply chain challenges, demand spike, longer lead times, and, you know, challenges with people because of the pandemic. So this is kind of, you know, put people in the in a place where, and challenge them to define a new playbooks for supply chain and manufacturing. Yeah. So it took some time. I don't think you know, everybody knew day one, hey, it is I'm going to redefine my supply chain strategy and manufacturing, we are in the same place. But what we have done, as we go through that journey in the last year to two and a half years, one thing we realized was the most important thing for the leaders who are running because they're already under tremendous stress, because you've got to manage all of this complexity. And there was no playbook.
The visibility was a challenge for them. And in terms of you know, yep, I know what my supply chain lead times are longer, but how is it impacting my revenue, my products, my customer delivery dates, and the commodities are going through the roof, and how it's going to impact my profitability. So all of these things are happening at the same time. Yes. Now, what we have done is, you know, be our team went to work, and said, Okay, let's go bring the data, create the models, and then go back to the business and say, here's an impact. We may not be 100% accurate, but we kind of started generating that curiosity with the data in the business and say, Oh, we're only looking at one thing, but there are five things coming in here is a correlation. And how will we go and address those problems? Yeah. So I think that is very important for a lot of the IT organization says, Don't wait until the business comes to you. Oh, yes, if you have a sound understanding of the business, you know, let's go ahead and go to work. And put those in front of the business, then from there you work through, right, it's hard work, if you wanted to change planning, if you wanted to change your supply chain factories, and how were you making products, and then putting people bring people to work and the transportation was a challenge and freight was going through the roof, and how to understand those cost implications, hits everyday gotta go to work and start working on these things. But now you have visibility through data. And you know, you have that visibility tells you you know, what to do what not to do, how to improve profitability, what products you need to increase the price. Some cases, you know, increasing price across the board doesn't make sense that but you've got to go very targeted and understand what the impact on our customers that will give that information to the sale, so that they are prepared to deal with the customers. So that that's more than just a supply chain, because it's a connected company, right? Because you make products, and the sales are responsible to sell for the relationships with the customers. So you got to make sure that all these stakeholders are connected and receiving the information and the insights so that they prepare to take actions to make sure that you know, we all comes together as a company, and then runs every day and good work and make CommScope win.
Maryfran Johnson 32:09
And along with that importance of visibility into everything that's going on is the volatility of the business environment today, I mean, the the what you were dealing with, when you came into the job and 2021, we were still very much in the full flow of the pandemic, and all the changes and all the people aspects of that. Now, in 23, there are more issues with managing inventory, which may have really become a glut in some companies and some of the creative ways to deal with that today. I have a, I have a couple of questions from our alert and watching audience who's with us this morning. And it's right in line with what we were getting ready to talk about too. Can you talk about the culture, the culture you wanted to shape and the steps you took to get there? We mentioned culture a couple of times just sort of passing it by. But I do think that the changes in the expansions and the the pivoting of it cultures to be more business focused, while at the same time honoring the importance of technology, understanding and knowledge. I think that that's very much on the minds of a lot of CIOs. So talk about that the culture that you wanted to shape. And I think we've already mentioned a few of the steps you took toward it. But what will be next there?
Praveen Jonnala 33:32
Yeah, no, I think that's a great question. Because whenever we talk about culture, right, you know, some people think it's a very fancy word, it sits in PowerPoints, and you know, some statement on company walls and all of that. But when when we went to work, or when we tried to, you know, look at our culture, we started asking some questions. Not that, you know, as a CIO, I'm gonna go ask everybody, Hey, what you think, you know, you also we all have, we all have the opportunity and a problem, not only the team, and we said, Why do we exist in the company, we started asking questions, do we know? And, you know, the answers were here, we are a technology organization, you know, we bring technology, you know, we take pride in providing, you know, SAP this and that there's a lot of things right. But then we started asking questions, what is our North Star? What is our purpose? Right? Our purpose is and uses purposes. You know, we're technology people and we bring technologies that are purpose. So I think that is very important to really spend time and rally your team to get to a place where we understand that, hey, our North Star is to making the business win. And drive the business growth. Take pride in our products. A lot of times it teams you know, they don't even know their products. Well.
They know I know the technology products, well. They talk about AWS or Azure and this and that, but you know, take pride in our products and see that we all are an integral part of that product going into the market, and then making a difference in customers. And also, if we went a step ahead, if you look at our company, we are a communications infrastructure company. And but we are not a household name, like Microsoft, or like Google's and all of these companies, but they are our customers. And we make Microsoft when we make Google when, but more than So, made a flat, I think one thing which, you know, why do we come to work every day? What is your purpose or passion? If you look at last two years, during the pandemic, because of CommScope, or CommScope, like companies went to work every day, and connected people, businesses and communities globally, yes, people are able to, you know, talk through zoom, and you know, and even though we people may not know our name, but we are the backbone of that, imagine if that would not happen. And you know, people how people talk to each other, yes, and how businesses to connect and communicate. So I think that's what we need to attach the IT team to purpose. It's beyond technology, you know, we come to work and we make a difference. And and I think that's the that's the majority of the time is spent is, how could we connect ourselves to something which we see as a North Star? And then you know, technology, obviously, right? We are the technology, people bring that to the forefront to dry the business goals. So that's what I would ask is spend time and try to connect the purpose and why you exist in the company? And what is the greatest thing you could do? And then you can look at it and say that, you know, that's why I come to work every day.
Maryfran Johnson 36:48
Yeah. Now, do you do this essentially, with kind of managers doing individual mentoring on their teams? Or do you have programs where it's, you know, I think of the bring your kid to work programs, sort of things that business executives sometimes do? Do you have something where X number of hours per quarter, everyone should be spending time with their closest business colleagues? How do you actually go about doing that?
Praveen Jonnala 37:16
Yeah, I think we took a very simple, simple approach. You know, one, the first thing we said, you know, we all should try it as leaders, nor people, the large organizations or companies like us, right, it's very easy to manage through your management layer, and you don't even know who your employees are, to the level where you want it to know. So we said, Let's connect our people. Right, let's talk to them, whether you have quarterly town halls, and the managers spend time in a weekly with their teams. And, you know, we said, we're going to invite the business leaders, and at every level, everybody's going to invite a business manager or the leader to the staff meetings, and then let them come in and talk about, you know, what opportunities out there? How are we making a difference in their business in their role? And how are we shaping the future of the company? Or you know, what challenges they may see that, you know, it should go and work. So I think that helped us not only be knowing our IT teams better, and connecting with them with the purpose of the mission, but also bringing business into the picture, and then them coming and talking about, you know, why we are all one, we need you. Right? Right. So that I think that dialogue we didn't, you know, dictated a timetable. But we said some of these things initially by example, you know, I host my town hall every quarter for a global town halls. And I make sure I invite a senior leader to my town hall, in my town hall starts with the business leader talking about the strategy and some of the work it has done in the past how it moved the needle. And then what opportunities in front of us, right, so that sets the tone that that tells my team that, you know, now you know, we are part of the business. It's not just CIO talking about cloud data, AI, and then you know, call about okay, they're all doing a good job. And then let's meet in the next quarter.
Maryfran Johnson 39:18
Yeah. Okay, excellent. Now, there was another question as well from our alert and listening audience. And this is a really big picture. One, where do you see the industry heading in the next three to five years when it comes to digital transformation. And we were talking about this before the transformation has gotten to be like the innovation word, where you think of transformation with a capital T. And then there's the small ongoing changes that do ultimately transform companies. But when you look at the entire tech industry as a whole, and think about the sort of work that's being done on so many different fronts with digital transformation, take us out three to five years on what you see or what you would like to see happening.
Praveen Jonnala 40:02
Yeah, no, I think that's that's an interesting question. And but there's a lot of leaders and even teams mind, right, what's going to happen in the next three to five years. I see, you know, this is my view, maybe it's a little bit radical view. But you know, in the three to five years, I see that every business function will have more technology than what we have, collectively, at a company level means, you know, the capabilities and the opportunities that technology can drive digitally with data with Gen AI, and you could combine them the, you can wrap the digital around data and AI and all the other technology advancement, even quantum computing, one, one more to throw in there. But I think the point is, the businesses will have more technology and more opportunities, every business and every function is going to become a digital function, whether they like it or not, that's what's gonna happen. Now, in then what that means in England is that this is what I say a little bit radical is, I could even see the IT teams, the lingo of it is disappearing. And then you know, we're part of the business. Right? And then that point, right, we all driving business using technology, whether it's a digital real estate data, whether it's AI, so you're part of the business now, there is no calling up IP team sitting somewhere, and trying to either support or live within the business. So now it's all one teams, I think I I don't mind the CIO title going away, and then you'd go become part of a business leader, and then drive the digital and other initiatives in the company. I think that's what I would see happening in two to five years.
Maryfran Johnson 41:41
Yes. Okay. Good. Well, and one of the, one of the interviews you've done previously that I read, I like there was a quote, you said, when you're in terms of changing your IT culture, that you're encouraging all of your it, your leaders, your managers, the line workers, that to do 80% listening and 20% talking? And then it people I mean, the the problem is it people are problem solvers. And you pointed out, they're also very optimistic. So they come in thinking they can solve any and everything. How have you, how have you used that tendency of technologists, to your benefit? And where have you tried to change some of those behaviors where they're doing more listening than talking?
Praveen Jonnala 42:27
Yeah, absolutely. I think, you know, when it said in it, people are optimistic people with a good sense, but I think that's why they're optimistic, you know, they don't let the business talk and understand the full requirement, and they think they can go solve the problem.
So what we have done is we said, okay, you know, why don't we, with the people, we can call it the design thinking or understanding the business better, and try to really see what problem we're trying to solve. Before we jump into the technology, I think we have made tremendous progress in those lines. Because as we are trying to live within the business, but also asking ourselves, you know, why I should be using this technology, what outcome I'm driving for the business. So that made us to go and listen more to the business and empathetic towards the business, and then try to drive that cultural change. Okay, then I think as we get into pandemic, and this is where I'm telling my team is, there are three things we're trying to really take to work every day. The first thing is adaptability. Right, you know, there is a lot of uncertainty. And people could easily say, okay, you know, business priorities changing every day? How am I going to support it? Or how I'm going to, you know, drive the business. So we're saying adaptability is the key, right? You know, you got to adapt to the situation, even two times a day. That's what the business needs are, let's go morph into them. So that's the first one. The second one is, you should be curious, right? You know, people, you and I talked about this innovation with big eyes, small eye and all of that. And in my view, I would I would ask my team to be curious all day, every day, you know, try to be looking into the business. If you don't know, it could be a dumb question, but go ask the question. Right, try to know what's happening. And then once you know that, the last thing is experimentation, right? You go take that, you know, be very flexible, adaptable, and be curious. And then when you see that there is an opportunity to go experimented and if it if it gives results great. If not, you know, kill that experimentation, don't try again. So I think that's what I think we should be doing today's you know, business volatility and what's happening out there, versus we think, you know, I'm gonna wait and then try this for six months. And if it works, then you know, okay, if not, then I'm going to try something else.
Maryfran Johnson 44:54
Okay. Well, and I also wanted to ask you about in again, another big picture question, the strategic business and technology or business technology priorities for CommScope for the rest of this year and into next year? Is there anything that is really shifted more aggressively up your own priority list as the global CIO?
Praveen Jonnala 45:19
I think, you know, one thing, the some of the fundamentals of saying, Hey, we're trying to drive CommScope. Next, you know, that is our key strategic, you know, opportunity. And that's the motherboard and the CEO, right, we're trying to drive that. But given the macro economic situations, you know, playing up there, we are very mindful of you know, how to stay right there with the business. And as I said, that adaptability no try to see in a business needs something today to support our customers, or to change strategy. And we are right there with them. So I think that's, that's one change, I would I would call it as versus if I go back a year or two ago, we were probably may not be that agile and adaptable in terms of, you know, strategy, and and what should we do, but today, it absolutely get right in a business. That is dynamic. And that's what the market demands, and then we be there with them. And drive CommScope. Next, through that change, that's, I think, the primary change for our team.
Maryfran Johnson 46:26
Okay. And I know, too, when we talked earlier, you had mentioned you've implemented with great success, a design thinking framework that you use throughout the IT organization, can you give us a kind of a before and after an example of something that you really ended up with a better business outcome due to work done through a design thinking design planning framework?
Praveen Jonnala 46:50
Yeah, no, I think I'll give a simple example, later, we talked about this b2b versus b2c type scenario. And, you know, because we're a b2b company, the general notion going into is, we don't need to have something on our website where customers need to take through a buying journey to sort of speak. But then, you know, we said, but if you go talk to our customers, and the message was loud and clear, that they wanted to have that experience.
So we went and talk to distributors and customers and others than that, that's what I call whether you believe in design thinking or not, but you try to understand the needs of your customer better. And then you come back and put it to work. So we exactly did the ride, we went before, you know, we never even including some of our business, you know, they all used to say we don't need that, because we're b2b, but nobody's validated that nobody went in, put that design thinking type of activity or the the stream in place and say, let me go talk to my stakeholders, and then bring it back. And then go, you know, figured out how to solve the problem. So that's what exactly we have done, you know, in that example, but but I think the finally, people were the big we take design thinking as a process change, or a framework. But ultimately, the people's mindset has to change. As I said, if it in if you're talking more than the listening, then you know, you are defeating the design thinking principle. So so that's what I think we've been trying to live up to every day, whether it's a small change, we're trying to help with a business or a large program. But how could we be more mindful of listening and and what the customer wants versus what we think they want? Yes. So that's the shift. I think I don't I don't say that, you know, we are we declare victory here that you know, we are 100% successful. But I strongly believe that, you know, success should not be measured with absolutes, but you should measure with mental. Yeah, that's what I'm saying. We got a great momentum. And we're going to continue the format.
Maryfran Johnson 49:00
Okay, awesome. The, one of the other things we talked about were innovation ecosystems. I used to some of these interviews appear when I've been doing this show since Gosh, late in 2017. And in the early years, we talked a lot about how innovation groups were being set up and what it was doing to help the business innovate and so forth. But you've got an entire section that is research and development. You've got an r&d area, and so forth. So do you have anything you would consider an ecosystem for innovating inside of it and inside of CommScope, as it applies to the corporate wide, next change is coming? I'm not quite sure what to ask you about that. But I think you have something going on.
Praveen Jonnala 49:50
No, absolutely. I think at a company level in we've been running a program for several years where we encourage people to put their ideas and you know, they're being scored and picking and then obviously yeah, like a shark tank kind of approach. Yeah. So they all come together to present to the senior leadership. And then you know, whatever the top one or two or three ideas again, which can try a better business outcome will be funded, approved, that process is in place. But coming to IT what we have done even though we don't we did not label it with anything, but I think what we have done is, you know, how could we have small teams, we call them tiger teams that can we could say small teams, yeah, and one area of opportunity where we could go partner with the business and drive a better outcome.
You talked about inventory optimization, or, you know, we can look at our planning in aspect of it, we exactly did that we went to work and said, Okay, let's pick, you know, three people from it, and then maybe three people from business. And let's take 30, 60, 90 days, and then see what we can do. And whether that includes in okay, if you want to use Cloud as a playground, you could use it. If you wanted to go do a design thinking on the process transformation, go do it. But how can we take it into small bites, so it is measurable, you can see the progress, if it doesn't want to go to something else, right. So try to make it more practical than you know, trying to drive across it have 10 streams going but then at the end of the day, look back. And you can see that I did not drive any value or delivery around.
Maryfran Johnson 51:29
Well, all these discussions I've had over the years with CIOs, it almost seems that the smaller the teams, and the faster they can work, the better the outcomes for everyone. For one thing, you don't get bored that you don't get weighted down with a lot of bureaucracy. And I just I can't think of a single instance where a giant innovation effort really produced anything. And so it does tend to be those smaller teams, which also taps into that notion that it's just it's People to People relationships, it's you know, we've talked a lot about empathy. And you're actually applying empathy in a much broader sense with it showing more empathy to their business colleagues. I think in the early years of the pandemic, we talked about empathy a lot as people were readjusting their work schedules and where you could show up for work and that sort of thing.
Before we, before we go today, Praveen, I wanted to ask you, just personally, what have you learned, or, consequently changed about your own leadership style in these last few years, especially your first? Well, your first two here on the job, and your first CIO job, when you think about yourself as a leader, from all the supply chain work in the engineering teams that you've led in the past? What do you see has changed about the way you are leading your people today?
Praveen Jonnala 52:53
Yeah, I think, you know, one thing which I talked a little bit about it, which is, you know, more adaptability, right, you know, even for myself, because we're all humans, we are boxed in with a personality and characteristics. And we all want to do things in a certain way. And when I look back in the last, you know, two, two and half years to pandemic and other challenges, there is nobody who can figure this out alone. The only way you could go ahead, and as a company could go in and serve your customers and take care of employees is listening, empathetic, and then adapt to a situation and give up your own personal style, so to speak. Sometimes it's easy for leaders to have a style to carry with them, and then say that, you know, what, I think I figured out everything. Yeah, I try not to do that. And one key thing in how I try to maintain that is be self aware every day. Right? You know, self awareness is very, very important for a leader or anybody, but in this context of what's going on, I think if you're not self aware, it's easy to overlook certain things. Because you think you the CIA, also in the role, which has a lot of information and a lot of data capabilities that your disposal. But if you're not careful, if you try to read the pulse of the business every day, it's easy to keep yourself you know, in a distance from the business. So that's what I try not to do.
Maryfran Johnson 54:17
Yes, it's it wouldn't be easy, wouldn't it to sink into the just the sheer joy of working with technology and seeing small things working out? And that would be and you know, we've made the point many times over the years that the technologist did not go into the fields that they love, because they wanted to be out there talking with marketing and sales and meeting with all customers and that sort of thing. I mean, there's a whole different personality type that's attack attracted to technology. And I It sounds to me like you're doing a lot of really good work, getting the technology people to speak up more and to be seen and heard throughout the business in a way that's not going to frighten anybody off right?
Praveen Jonnala 55:00
Okay, yeah, absolutely.
Maryfran Johnson 55:01
Yeah, I used to, I used to often say that I thought that the technology people are probably the smartest people in the room. But they have to be careful that they don't act like they know everything, even though they might, right? that central nervous system kind of kind of idea. Again, thank you so much for joining me today. Praveen, it was really good to talk with you and to hear all about what you're doing in. You don't sound like a CIO on his his first round. So now that you've been a CIO for two years, do you think you would ever go back to a business leadership job? Or do you just do you just love this?
Praveen Jonnala 55:37
So I'm gonna go, I think and as I, as you asked the question, right, in two to five years, I think, you know, CIOs are going to be disappearing. And everybody knows that become a business leader. So But absolutely, I think even whether I'm CIO or business leader, my goal is to drive the business, the growth, yes, the revenue or customer success.
Maryfran Johnson 55:55
Well, and ultimately, we may not be distinguishing between someone who's all technology background or business background, it should just be all all all in one. I like the idea of Chief transformation officer, although as we said, transformation is one of those words like innovation where you can interpret it so many different ways.
Well, thank you very much. It was delightful speaking with you today.
Praveen Jonnala 56:19
Thanks, Maryfran. Pleasure to be here. And again, as an applaud you for what you're doing for tech community. So thanks for having me.
Maryfran Johnson 56:27
All right. It was our pleasure. Indeed. If you joined us late today, do not despair. You can watch the full episode later today. It'll be here for several hours right on our LinkedIn page on CIO online, but you can also find this interview on And on the CIOs YouTube channel, cio leadership live is available as an audio podcast as well wherever you find your podcasts. And I hope you enjoyed today's conversation about IT leadership with global CIO, Praveen janela of CommScope. We look forward to seeing you back again in two weeks. We'll be here on July 26 At noon Eastern and my guest will be CIO Jennifer Hart Salk of Cargill Corporation. Thanks again for joining us today and do take a moment to subscribe to CIOs YouTube channel, where you can find all of our previous 105 Plus growing library of CIO leadership live interviews. Enjoy the summertime and please join us here next time. Take care
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