Cargill’s Jennifer Hartsock, Chief Information and Digital Officer, on elevating digital and data strategies


Jennifer Hartsock, Chief Information and Digital Officer at Cargill, joins host Maryfran Johnson for this CIO Leadership Live interview, jointly produced by and the CIO Executive Council. They discuss elevating digital & data strategies, optimizing ERP outcomes, insourcing IT expertise, innovating in a "portfolio mindset" and more.

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[This transcript was auto-generated.]
Maryfran Johnson 0:04
Hi, good afternoon and welcome to CIO Leadership Live. I'm Maryfran Johnson, your host for today's program, and the CEO of Maryfran Johnson Media. Twice a month we produce CIO Leadership Live, which is a video show and podcast with the generous support of my friends at and the CIO Executive Council. We're streaming live to right now on both LinkedIn and on CIOs YouTube channel. And we welcome any of our viewers who have tuned in today to join in the conversation by posting questions of your own directly for my guest. Our editors are watching the chat and they'll be happy to pass them along. And joining me today I'm very pleased to introduce Jennifer Hartsock. She is the Chief Information and Digital Officer at Cargill Incorporated. She joining Cargill as executive team 18 months ago, Jen is overseeing its global technology portfolio, digital and data strategies. Cargill, as many of you may may know, is the largest privately held company in America and employs 155,000 People across 70 countries, and it earns an estimated 165 billion in annual revenue. Headquartered outside Minneapolis, the company delivers a vast array of products and services to food, agriculture, financial and industrial customers across more than 125 countries. Jen brings more than 20 years of technology business leadership to her new role. Well, her new ish role at Cargill. Her most recent post was Chief Information Officer at Baker Hughes, where she led the company's successful merger with GE Oil and Gas. Before Baker Hughes. She was the CIO of Cameron International. And before that spent 17 years with Caterpillar, where her most recent role was Group CIO for construction industries. In January of this year, Jen joined the board of directors for Ingersoll Rand, which is a global leader in industrial technologies and services. And as you'll hear a lot more about in our conversation today, she is a great believer in solving real world problems with technology. And of course, in driving transformative change everywhere she goes, which is something we run into a lot on this program. Hi, Jen, welcome.
Jennifer Hartsock 2:31
Thank you, Maryfran, and such a pleasure to be here. Huge shout out to your team and you for making this possible. I'm so pleased.
Maryfran Johnson 2:38
Well, and so are we here we are in the absolute dead middle of summer, and you've made time for us. So we really appreciate it. Now, Jen, I usually start out with this 30,000 foot view question where I asked about how your customers and your your industry is dealing with all the challenges of the last few years. But that's a little daunting to do for Cargill, because you've got five major lines of business. So you're not serving just one industry out there like agriculture, which I know is of course a big one for you. So I'd like to start out instead by having you describe briefly what those five big businesses are, and thinking with your chief digital officer had on how many how do you fit all those into where do they fit into Cargill? is big corporate strategy, which I know is a lot about better together? I think is there's a lot of consolidation going on. So take us through that for our start off here.
Jennifer Hartsock 3:35
Yeah, it is. It is an interesting and complex mix, right. And when you're outside of a company, it's difficult to appreciate. And I can say coming in there was so much and continues to be so much for me to learn about Cargill, so happy to walk through, we do we have five large business units. If I say the word enterprise recognize that we interchange enterprise with business units. So sometimes that makes my head hurt a little because in most of my career enterprise represented the whole, so just want to make sure that I don't mislead, but I'm adopting the language. So I occasionally slip that in. So are finding business units. We'll start with the one that most people would associate with Cargill, it really is. We're 158 years old. And it really is our agriculture supply chain business. It is how do we take commodities, so agriculture based commodities, originate them and have relationships with farmers, take them from places where we have too much or excess and take into places where we have a deaths, so we do a lot of that work. In addition, we will transform those commodities or those grains into other products. So that's our first business unit that is certainly the longest lasting as part of cargoes legacy. The second one that comes to mind and this is really in no particular order at this point is our protein and salt business. So this is really about how do we take animal based protein and get it into our food retailers, distributors, customers, so all Ultimately in the hands of consumers around the world, and then we also have a salt business. So for all of you foodies out there that love Diamond Crystal Salt, that's us. So we like a lot, a lot of love for that business unit. Third one is Cargill food and bio. So our food solutions and bio industrials business. So that also has an opportunity to take commodities, a lot of it starts in the agriculture food place. And then we create value added ingredients, in many cases that go into health care, beauty food. So there's In fact, I would say, overall, I don't have the exact number very friend. But the number of people that eat food every day that include Cargill product is probably in the billions. So like we have a lot of people out there that are consuming Cargill product. So that is number three. Our fourth one is animal health and nutrition. So we care about those animals that helped produce the food in the world. So we absolutely are very tightly aligned with our farmers and producers of the of those livestock. And it could be backyard farmers, pet food all the way out through large industrial that, you know, I guess farmers that produce live livestock, right large livestock. And then our fifth one is probably the hardest for folks to understand because it's a little bit less, you're limited to financial services and metal. So to your point, how do we think about risk management and financial services on behalf of our customers so that they can better participate in the food supply chain or in the overall global supply chain. So it is our fifth business unit as well. So those are the five business units of Cargill. And to your point, it's difficult to provide a 30,000 foot view of that because in 70 countries, the the opportunities and the channels and the customer needs vary. And that is probably one of the most challenging parts about this job. Because to your point, we absolutely know we're better together and finding where where we are better together and leveraging the scale and size of cargo, and also allowing for where should the services be differentiated? Because that allows us to serve our customers better is a really important part of ongoing daily conversations as well the strategic conversations for the team.
Maryfran Johnson 7:09
Okay. Well, I know when I think about it, I talked with a lot of CIOs and usually, especially if there's an effort underway to get it all consolidated or to get digital, I think you call it digital and data services.
Jennifer Hartsock 7:23
Yes, digital, services, digital technology and data. Yep, that's who we are.
Maryfran Johnson 7:27
And I I'm always a big fan of renaming it because it is we talked about when we got ready for this program today. It has meant so many different things over the decades, but often internally focused. And when I think about the external focus that you it's not just b2b or b2c, it's all of the above in what you're dealing with at Cargill. So let's go back to when you joined the company in February, early in February of 20 to 2022. What were your marching orders from the board? I mean, the board, of course, knows all the complexity involved here. Were there three major accomplishments they were looking for you to take on? Talk us through that part of your story?
Jennifer Hartsock 8:10
Yeah, and I think it's a really important thing, because I think understanding a little bit of context. So for those that may not know, Cargill, well, we just successfully completed a pretty major event of a CEO succession. So Brian Sykes is the current CEO of Cargill, took on that role on January 1, one, I have to say, Cargill, and the board do an amazing job of very well orchestrated, smooth transition. So I just love Brian, I love Dave McLennan, who's, who is now our chairman or executive chairman of the board. And one of the cool things was is that by, by naming Brian, early on, he was able to then sit down and think about the strategy of Cargill, you had a leadership team in place that was going to be here for the duration of his tenure. So like, how can he form his team, which we all know, the formation of teams to be able to accomplish big ambition is incredibly important. And I had the opportunity to join at the point that Cargill was refreshing their business strategy as part of Brian's ascension, if you will into the CEO role. And it was such a cool time to be here. Because to your point, part of that mandate was Jen, we want to have better clarity on what it will take to help support our strategic business ambitions, leveraging digital and data capabilities. So number one is like help us both define and then deliver on those strategic ambitions. And absolutely, we want to have a better understanding of where digital and data shows up throughout the business, inclusive of to your point externally facing and then not forgetting that it also has to help support our employee experience. We have 155,000 employees and they need to show up and have the tools they need to be successful everyday and everything in between. I like many of my peers would love to play and that we don't still have ERP projects in our portfolio we do. That was another one, because we knew that there was such opportunity going back to that one Cargill vision, that there was leveraging of scale for Cargill, meant that we needed to help support process transformation. And we all know systems have a role to play in that. So how do we help simplify our business internally so that we can spend more of our energy for market differentiation? So I'd say to start with that, and then I'll add a couple that I discovered that maybe the board didn't ask for, but I put on my list, because I think that's part of our opportunities when we come in, as well as Yes, listen very carefully, can't ignore that incredibly important group of stakeholders. Right? And then of course, we bring expertise. So we have to talk about how we can make that possible. I'd say the three big house for us is we have to further strengthen our function. So in order for us to show up as business leaders that have digital and data domain expertise and responsibility, how do we do that most effectively? What's our talent strategy? How do we continue to invest? The second was we got to help the rest of Cargill, understand the power of digital and data? Yes, where does it belong? Where are we throwing tech at the sake of tech, but not necessarily matching that to market need? And then the third one is really is we have to be hyper focused on delivering on those strategic ambitions. And those fall into three big areas. How do we grow with our customers? How do we strengthen at our core? And then how do we support new markets, which is not exclusively m&a, or mergers and acquisitions, but as largely how do we support inorganic growth? So those are the big three that I added to the list?
Maryfran Johnson 11:37
Yeah, well, and I want to pivot back to that second one about elevating what you deliver digitally. Raising the water for everything, making sure the outcomes are aligning, you had to also take on the core question of what does digital mean, a company like Cargill, with five major enterprise businesses under them? So how did you approach that? And what have you discovered about what digital means for all of Cargill is different businesses?
Jennifer Hartsock 12:07
Yeah, and I think that you know, we can get incredibly prescriptive around narrow or broad definitions of digital as as it pertains to our businesses. So it Cargill The first thing I did very far I like many is I sat down one on one with so many different people in this small groups of people visited our plants. And everywhere I went, I asked that question like, What do you think digital means? And the answers varied. Some of them it was like they had a very precise definition like decimal point precision, here's what it means. Here's what it is not. Some of them were like, I don't know if that's what you were here to figure out. And so in everything in the middle. So here's what we decided, we were going to be pre inclusive around digital, because digital does show up and supply chain end to end capabilities. We decided our digital framework was there's four major areas where digital should be delivering on business outcomes. First one is digital digital products and services. And that means both standalone products and services, as well as what I'll call augmentation. How do we add incremental value or differentiated value to the products and services we sell by accompanying them with digital capability? So that was the big first column? Like, how do we think about that. And the second one was digital customer experience. We are not exclusively but largely b2b. There are some areas of the world where we're b2c, but we are largely b2b. And so that digital customer experience had to be able to scale from individual Bodega owners all the way up through large, you know, food distribution colleagues and other big large organizations like multinationals, we had to find ways to be able to scale that digital customer experience across that whole gamut. Third one, and is so near and dear to our heart, because we are a complex supply chain organization is digital at our core. And as a predominantly, but not exclusively commodity driven organization. Our margins are tight, which means that we squeeze out efficiency effectiveness from end to end. So that is a large part of our focus as well. And then the fourth one is digital employee experience. How do we make sure people have the tools they need day in and day out to serve our customers the best way they can? So those are the four we adopted all four and said, we are going to call it all digital. And we're going to make sure that when we look at our portfolio of investments, we understand which part of digital we're trying to serve.
Maryfran Johnson 14:26
Yes. Well, I wonder I think within the next few years, we're not even going to throw the word technology behind digital. So I think it's going to be digital and data. I mean, as an editor. I love that because you've got the alliteration of digital. And data, of course, is what we're all what we're delivering with digital. I remember the one story when you were talking to our mutual friend Peter High from Meta Strategy and you talked about the app that Cargill is now providing to bodega owners to help manage the supply chain like how many chicken parts do you need delivered this week? she'd like, that's a wonderfully that's a wonderful human example of what a company the size of Cargill can do. That makes the digital happen in people's hands. Correct? I want to I want to pivot back to ERP, you mentioned Yes, reprise resource planning systems. When we first talked, and we're getting ready for today's broadcast, I was a little surprised that you brought up process optimization in ERP, because here in 2023, I would have assumed that every major corporation and Cargill, certainly as a major one would have that down pretty pat. But there are still what's going on with ERP that makes it not delivering optimally on all the outcomes that everybody hoped for. Because, of course, were everybody wanted that one source of the truth from Yeah, I do remember those days. Okay, so coming in, what did you and you have done a lot of process optimization in all the industries you've worked in? So what did you encounter when you got to Cargill, and what's happening with it now?
Jennifer Hartsock 16:10
Yeah. And in the spirit of real talk, you know, the show I'd like, first of all, I think most of my peers at large, major multinationals would say they're never really done with ERP, even though we like to talk about it a little less. So in fairness, like, I'll just be entirely transparent. When I came in, what I was told is that, you know, we have more work to do, and maybe a little bit of a history lesson, so go with me for a moment. It wasn't that long ago in Cargill history 10, 12 years ago, that we were 120 ish independent business units that acted more like a holding company than like an operating company. So that's part like, I think that's very fair on your face, I don't know like, oh, well, this helps understand, right, because at the time, these independent business units had the they own IT teams, their own finance teams, their own HR teams. So if you're thinking about when many of my colleagues were doing a lot of the heavy lift on process optimization, we were thinking about it were from an operating company structure where we were already decided where we're going to better together, and we were looking at ways to standardize simplify in I don't know, like automate the execution of those processes, right. So of course, we had a lot of that happening in these individual business units. But then when we decided that Cargill was in fact better together, in some areas, we established, centralized functions. So we established a centralized IT team at the time. So like, again, we're not that now we're digital technology and data, but centralized IT centralized finance, centralized HR dot, dot, dot, and we had, we had to figure out how to sort that, because when you take something that has had huge amounts of entrepreneurial independence, and you start bringing things together, you just have to work through that, that transition. So a huge amount of credit to my predecessor, and then Bolton, the CEO, and then my predecessor, Justin, who I know has been on this program, he has started to lay a lot of that really significant Foundation, and you have to pace with your business. And that is one of the things that we all know, like you can't outpace your business. So we've had fits and starts we've had lessons learned. And one of the things that I think may I may be No, I know I misunderstood coming in is they're like Jen, we need you to take a look at the ERP investment and help make sure that we're doing it the right way. Like cool got in remember, I didn't like fully understand the complexity of Cargill, either. Holy cow. We don't have one ERP transformation running, we have four running simultaneously. And I said, so let's start with resetting. Why we need to talk about this is four major investment transformations. Because again, the complexity of Cargill is business model, I think we were oversimplifying the level of change that we were taking on and the approach we could take to do that. So I would say it's still absolutely an opportunity. It's part of our one Cargill journey, because we are absolutely continuing to find ways where the scale, the breadth of Cargill helps us serve our customers and shareholders better. And then again, how do we provide that flexibility and agility for inorganic growth, market differentiation at the same time, so yep, still absolutely part of their agenda. We can't be investing what we are and not have that be an important part of the conversation.
Maryfran Johnson 19:27
Well, it used to be I'm thinking like 10 years ago, there was a lot of ERP consolidation that went on because a great big business might have 10 or 12 different individual market ERP systems running. Today with the advances in micro services and all of the online abilities. There probably isn't that push anymore to try and get all of the ERP into under one tent. I mean, that's, that's a dangerous thing for CIOs to do as well because they end up a hole a lot more expensive. Is there? Have you settled on an approach like that? Do you do pick like three major providers, and they end up taking care of all of your ERP needs? Or is that part of the strategy?
Jennifer Hartsock 20:15
So yep, and I'm not gonna lie, we're predominantly, but not exclusively, like all things an SAP shop, we're not one instance of SAP shop, because that would not reflect the business complexity that we have. So we have chosen to be largely, again, enterprise, that word, but large business unit, the Big Five, get to set their strategy with us in partnership. So where are they going to push for process simplification, where are they going to allow for market differentiation is largely set within those business units. And then we work with them to lay out the right roadmap. And of course, working in significant partnership with my finance team. So our CFO is my partner in crime, because we of course, can then embed, both process simplification, business value, as well as, like the incredibly important controls that we need to have competence that our businesses running well, that can get embedded together. So we again, largely business aligned so that we can help have flexibility, both where, when and what. But then still leading it with the expectation of certain things are minimum expectations for all of Cargill, because of when you're part of Cargill, you get to play with certain sets of rules. And then outside of those, you have the discretion to support the markets that you serve. So that's where how we've chosen to do the balance, because it is not a one size fits all. It is also not an infinite size. So like how do we find the right balance, which absolutely requires some debate, occasionally some friction? And, of course, a lot of collaboration with my colleagues.
Maryfran Johnson 21:49
Yes. Well, and it's I mean, that in and of itself is probably just that problem itself is something we could spend probably our whole hour on, but we're not going to, I want to pivot over a back to you mentioned digital customer experience for employees. But you have a unique problem. Again, a lot of your your issues seem to be kind of unique to the size of the company, the fact that you're privately held, instead of like, you had mentioned that two thirds of your employees are actually not connected on a daily basis. So when we were talking about digital meaning different things to different people, I would imagine that for a lot of the Cargill employees, digital comes down to what what app they have on their phone and what they need to do with it. But explain that part of it. Like how you're bringing everyone along to the digital customer experience, depending on what level they're interested most in being part of that guest.
Jennifer Hartsock 22:46
Yeah, and I think that we can And while our challenges are unique, I think there's a lot of parallels. And if we think about different personas that we plan for and design for into any digital product, we have similar types of personas. So yes, we have infrequent or disconnected wire less, if you will, they don't have wire, they're unwired employees, and they're about 100,000 of that 155,000. So not a small group of humans. And candidly the folks that show up each and every day. So whether the weather is hot or cold if the roads are, you know, we live like I currently live in a northern climate, which means that occasionally there's snow out there, not right now. But all of those things, they show up every day, to make sure that food shows up on our table. So I have a huge amount of respect for their word. So yeah, we do have to think about that population differently. So I think one of the things that we've been working on over the last year or year and a half since I joined as well as our CHRO, we've been working on an initiative called powered by plant. So how do we better enable our frontline workers for an incredibly amazing employee experience? How do we do we support our production supervisors of those frontline employees? Yeah, their job is to wander around and ensure the safety of our employees and the delivery of our products to our customers. They don't need to sit at a desk every day and look at their screens, they need to be out on the shop floor walking around supporting their teams. So we've actually been looking at those personas really carefully, and finding the right opportunities to provide them to your point mobile capabilities. Yeah, where do we just take things off their plate entirely? Where do we change some of our preconceived notions of rules? One of the ones very friend that I think that our cybersecurity team felt poignantly connected to, is there are times where some of these folks only need to log in like once a quarter. Last time I checked a quarter generally is 90 to 93 days. Yeah, but yet password expiration was 90. We locked them out. Yeah. Which meant we were guaranteeing service desk tickets. Every time they had like what a terrible employee experience right? And I suspect there's not a significant difference in the risk of a 90 day or 100 Day password. So we're like, well, heck, we can change that. No big deal. But until you're actually thinking about that persona differently, because if I'm logging on every day, who cares? Like, yes, I would like to have it be as long as possible, because then I don't have to change it very often to remember something different. But the fact that matter is 90 days or 100 days really doesn't make a difference in my life, because I sit in front of the screen on pretty much every day. But for those folks, it mattered a lot. So there was a lot of this, go and see and listen, and then challenge assumptions and be very focused on those incredibly important personas. And being willing to challenge it like while I absolutely expect us to get scale, we also have to find ways to differentiate to our colleagues just like we would differentiate for customers.
Maryfran Johnson 25:52
Okay, excellent. Now I want to talk next about your technology team and how its structured. But before we do that, we have a question from one of our alert watching audiences. It's very specific. The question is about what is the return on investment, or real time visibility of location and temperature data of pounds or boxes at that level of visibility and food supply chains? And is that? Is that beyond the scope of what you're doing as the CTO? Or is that something you can speak to?
Jennifer Hartsock 26:28
So maybe I'll generalize it a bit? So the answer is, of course, it's in our scope, where we have responsibility for that part of the supply chain. So in fairness, like we turn things over to fit food distribution, in some cases, then they're the ones watching the warehouse temperatures, the truck temperatures after that, but absolutely, I we and I'll link it to a couple of really important things for us. So first of all, as it relates to food safety, we are incredibly diligent about leveraging data, science, and everything we can because we have such a human commitment to like our purpose is very alive. And well, we nourish the world in a safe, responsible and sustainable way. First one is safe. So yes, so if you think about the importance of data acquisition, about leveraging temperature, sensors, cameras, all of that, to ensure that we have the controls in place, we are tightly connected to our operations and supply chain teams to make sure we're doing that, as well as anybody because we absolutely have a commitment to that. But if I were generalize it, and I think about the food supply chain as a whole, you know, and we think about the data collection, absolutely. We have incredible intelligence and deep insights. And many cases, I would use their highly confidential Crown Jewels type of information on what's happening around crops. What we see happening, I guess, the fact of the matter is, we're in the business of helping feed a growing population on a warming planet. And we have we believe data has a huge role to play. And digital has an enormous role to play, as we continue to find ways to cope with that reality. So a partnership with our customers, but yes, leveraging satellite imagery, leveraging, you know, the photos that we can take, we have crop reports that come in from our employees, we do all of those data sources, because we do think that it allows us to serve our markets better 100%.
Maryfran Johnson 28:21
Well, and I think I saw one report I looked at said that in the next probably three years, there was going to be a 70% increase in the amount of protein needed in countries around the world. It was, it was some big, staggering kind of number. That's probably the sort of stuff that you have all sorts of brainy employees working on every day.
Jennifer Hartsock 28:41
We do. Yeah, we do. And it is our job to make sure they have the tools, they need the data and the technology to make it all part of what they can do. Because again, it's in service of that.
Maryfran Johnson 28:51
Yes, yes, that well, and I like the company theme about nourishing the world. And it's not just about feeding the world, it's actually nourishing, which is, you know, very well done in terms of, you know, picking a great verb for that. We have another question. And this one is related to what I was hoping to pivot to your thinking on talent to progress, the digital initiatives that we've been talking about today. Which segues nicely into my next question about the size and scope of the tech team you have and how you are nourishing that talent and attracting more of it. So take that away.
Speaker 2 29:29
oh, this is such a part of my heart. So I really appreciate the opportunity to talk about this. Yeah, the the fact that matter is the world will continue to need more digital and data capabilities. So talent is how we get that done. And at Cargill, we are one of the values that anchor us as people first. And we are very committed to the talent at Cargill, and specifically I love the digital data talent because you know, why would you not? So you serve asking like what's the size of the team? So right No, I would I would put at Cargill employees were somewhere between 2,700 and 3,000. And Maryfran, one of the things that I was what I think about elevating our function and bringing more business leadership in, we have a mix where we're still more outsourced than insourced. And we're trying to find ways to hire more talent to bring that more into balance. Good. All right. So then the commercial, we have amazing roles, technical roles, leadership roles, all the roles that I absolutely would love to talk to people in the audience about about how they can help Cargill because the fact of the matter is, I know, I know, throughout my career, that there are things that yes, technology that we don't want to be the experts at. And we are incredibly comfortable trusting one of our partners to help us. And then there are other places where the knowledge and the proximity of Cargill matters, the passion for our purpose matters. So team is large. So if we include our third party, I'm probably seven, 8000. So it's still it's a very large and complex organization. So lots of opportunities. And it is organized in a way that we're actually even mentioned. But we'll come back to that we'll talk about that model, because we're in a state of transition right now. So yeah, simple answer, six to 8000. We're hiring into really candidly all rolls up and down. So technical leadership, application software engineering, cybersecurity, like, if you have a catalog of job roles, we probably will say yes.
Maryfran Johnson 31:33
Okay. Well, and that I've always found that that is one of the major reasons for CIOs of your caliber to be coming on the program is to do a little commercial about why should you come and work for Cargill. This is actually your first time in in a private company, I believe. Yes. And the difference with private companies. I mean, very small, private companies can be very peculiar to the owners, right? It can be there's the one guy and it's his way or the highway. But with a company is big, the 158 year history, you talked about the I, from what I've gathered from some of your previous interviews, the value you're finding is both the long term thinking that you and investing that you can do. Is there anything in particular that you want to cite as something that you're able to do now at Cargill, that you haven't had the leeway to do at previous publicly held companies?
Jennifer Hartsock 32:30
Well, I think that candidly, I think that there's a long list, but I think you're right, and I think that I probably there's no way you can understand it until you appreciate it and you experience it, right, like you can talk about it. But there is to a certain extent life experience required. And I don't know that I properly understood exactly what it was going to mean to not only be privately held, but family held. And that to your point. Yeah. So you know, we think about that privately held, it's not general shareholders, these are family shareholders. And part of part of my responsibilities is that twice a year, I spend time with our family shareholders actually, more often than that, but twice a year, we have family shareholder meetings, where the executive team spends two days with our family members or family shareholders, where we talk about business strategy, we talk about how we are being stewards of their reputation in their business, how we're aligning on where the challenges are in our market, and where we would like to see investments continue to show the growth and the purpose, the serving the purpose that they expect us to hold. So it is an incredibly different experience. Because in my past life, Marfran, when I would meet with institutional investors, to a certain extent, I knew what they wanted from us, right? They they wanted entire agency. Yep, they wanted to understand financials, they wanted insight intelligence, so that they could refine their predictive models on what was going to happen to our stock price, because they're looking at ways to create value for their customers. So I understood that dynamic Well, like you could go into a discussion and you could prepare for it. And what was different first is just how personal it is. This is their company, and they are incredibly passionate about what we do. And they want to understand and support the management team any visibly and like I can feel it different way. So they want to understand you they want to understand your family, they want to understand your values, because we are the stewards of their brand. And I really, really take that quite seriously. Now what does that afford us the again, I don't have an I don't want to say that all public companies are based in the public company experience I have but there is a bit of quarterly pressure right that you have your quarterly and yester calls. You have a minute by minute or day by day scorecard on how the world thinks you're doing otherwise known as your share price, and that being able to step away and say we will make decisions around the portfolio around our impact. assessments that allow us to hit long term growth, because the fact that matter is our family shareholders continue to have children as they should. And they are continuing to grow. So as we want to continue to support that broader set of shareholders at a high value way, we have to think about growth over the long term. So we will look at investments. You know, in the past life, if you couldn't find two or three year returns on those things, it was tough to sell. Yeah. But if we can talk about laying the foundations that were prepared for a market pivot five years from now, that is a conversation we want to have. And that 10 years from now, that is a conversation we want to have. So it is it's free. And it caused me to have to think about things differently. Because I did absolutely, like there are things that I would have said, personally, I'm like, Oh, I don't think we can sell that. I don't know, I'm like, okay, but maybe maybe my assumptions are false. Maybe I need to go float this and see if this really is something we want to do.
Maryfran Johnson 35:57
Interesting. So it's a it's really kind of a whole new way that you get to think about, I was gonna say about it, but it's digital technology and data. Are those two I just little sidebar on that for just a second? How are you making sure that everybody? How are you raising all of the boats and the tide to make sure the understanding about digital technology and data echoes through the business units? Because that's always been the the that idea that technology was the separate island was with a bunch of very smart technologists on it. But people that didn't really understand the business. And I think we've gotten way past that. In the last decade. I think business most CIOs sound like business strategist when I talk to them, but to have everyone in the business come along, what do you do as the Chief Digital Officer to make sure that education is happening? And what have your experiences been like with that over the last 18 months at Cargill?
Jennifer Hartsock 37:02
I have to give a huge shout out to my peers on the executive team who have been incredibly welcoming, and joining into such an amazing group of leaders who can and they are among the smartest people I have ever met Maryfran. So one of the things I'd start with is it's mutually beneficial. So the approach I've taken with that group has been mutually beneficial. So we meet regularly, and I would say at least monthly, but in many cases, way more frequently than that one on one, where I ask questions about their business, I want to understand their markets. And then I hope, and I think about and I talk to them about and make it really, really safe to talk about, here's where I think digital is headed. Here's something I want you to know more about. Here's some questions, I think you should ask your teams when they're talking about investments. And of course, equipping them with the right partners or my leadership team, who can be part of their leadership teams to help do that with their teams. It's all part of an overall campaign. So the thing is, is I don't think we can ever stop. I think that just the same way to your point. There's a reason why over the last, I don't care 10 or 20 years, we've gone from technologists that were absolutely seen as high value but not necessarily business leaders to where we are today. It didn't happen in one meeting. It didn't happen in one moment, it happened because we committed to a long term journey of working together to understand what it is What are those markets we're trying to serve? What are those customer segments we're trying to support? What are the unique challenges of our business and working through that? It's the same exact approach, just with a different set of objectives and audiences. So I just am incredibly energized by that, honestly. And how do we do that? No, of course, we have other things pick. Yeah, there's tons of learning out there. I think we should absolutely continue to encourage citizen data scientists, citizen software developers, and people like some tools so that they can feel like they're part of it. I don't know that we have to hold the wheel so tightly to try and control it, we can absolutely empower people to do things with on their own. It's a total multifaceted approach on how we can help elevate that capability. Because the more people we have to understand how to extract value from digital and data. Yeah, wow. Like the power of 155,000 Cargill people is way higher than just the six 7000 got and digital and data.
Maryfran Johnson 39:28
Yeah, well, and you're not the first CIO that I've encountered just recently in the last year, who's got a whole new attitude and even appreciation for what we used to call shadow IT. Or, or even rogue it. When we were writing headlines many years ago in Computerworld and CIO magazine, it's much it's much more likely to be encouraged and supported these days.
Jennifer Hartsock 39:54
I have to agree, and you're right. I can distinctly recall in my history Eat of having fear of that lack of control, and being able to pivot to how do we define that guardrails that people can be successful? Really, really important to me? So I'm with you, I'm seeing that same transition.
Maryfran Johnson 40:14
Yeah. Okay, I'm gonna pivot again, we're getting lots of really great questions from our audience, which is actually makes my job so much easier. I just have them take over the interview with you. What are the most ambitious plans you have for sustainability in 2024? And I'm sure the company has overall plans for it, but speak to the digital and data services role? And how that is mapping out for you.
Jennifer Hartsock 40:41
Yeah, and I think it's a very fair question, because, you know, I've had the opportunity to work in two industries that have such a role to play in sustainability, I worked in energy. And now I work in food and ag. So like, if you go look at the list of places we need to target to help support our climate commitments, that's where we have to go. And if I think about our digital and data ambition, so I think that there's a lot that is very similar to other businesses, we got to get better data visibility, we got to see what's happening out there. And we have really good data in some parts of our business. And then we have other places we need to continue to improve. So whether it be the continued maturity around our power consumption, and our plants, land use is becoming a very significant part of our conversation. So when we source our commodities or originate them, are we thinking about that land use, we have human rights, something that's very important to us as well. So when we talk about our commitment to a safe, responsible and sustainable way of nourishing the world, we have to be able to talk about all of those things, and, and part of what I think we have the responsibility to do is really twofold. First of all, figure out the data, how do we help expose that so we can make, we can actually make intelligent choices and trade offs, as well as measure our ability to meet our commitments. And the second one is really looking for ways that that capability in that knowledge can help our customers, because our customers also have sustainability commitments, we are a large part of them being able to meet those sustainability commitments. So then when we think about digital products, and services, and augmentation that shows up, we have a really fun product called Coco why's that allows us to share with our customers of cocoa products, or cocoa and chocolate business, the source of those cocoa beans, and that way, they can have higher confidence in the transparency of that supply chain. And that's added value because their customers, the consumers themselves want to know that when they're buying that chocolate bar, which is very yummy, that they have sourced it from sustainable methods, right. And so we are all part of that being able to educate the consumer, and ultimately meet those needs of both the consumer and our climate commitments all at the same time. So I'd say throughout data, and then what we do with that data to help our customers and our businesses make the right choices.
Maryfran Johnson 43:01
Well, I think we can all be in favor of anything that removes another layer of guilt from that yummy chocolate bar. I know because that is a good thing. I remember after we talked last time, I went right and looked at my my box, my red box of diamond crystal, the kosher salt, because you said that's part of your product. And I had never realized that. And so there's probably I'm now I'm probably now going to be checking a lot of my chocolate bars for the same thing. Very good. I want to get back to you had mentioned and I know in your interview, almost a year ago now with Peter high at meta strategy, you would talked about the transition you were undergoing with your IT operating model. And you know, we don't have to get to nitty gritty about federated versus centralized and all that stuff. But I did want you to kind of catch us up because you're looking you were looking to differentiate and honor that theme of better together. But then again, you've got these five hugely different enterprises, and you can't just have one, you can't have one big townhall where you roll something out, and everybody just gets in line. So where are you in it operating model transition? And what do you what do we mean when we talk about that?
Jennifer Hartsock 44:15
Yeah, and I think that to your point, I think there is there's there's nuance in that for sure. The what we started with is, you know, thinking about it, largely because of our sourcing model that how do we make sure and we were very much into a model where we consolidated our our delivery teams, and we had people that really did the translation so and we knew that that was fit for purpose for a period of time. And that really wasn't allowing us to show up aligned with the current set of cargo strategy. So we knew that we needed to do something. So to your point, what we've identified as I visualize it as a triangle, and the center of the triangle is a four point so think of it as three points and in the center of the triangle. We have core services that we know scale matters. You can call that your infrastructure. There's end user services, your cloud hosting your network, where we know that when you're part of Cargill, there is a base set of scalable services that we can provide. So it's not always a one way, but they're scalable services that we can provide. So that is one data point, if you will, one triangle corner. Another triangle corner, are those horizontal applications that we support broadly across Cargill, but they have multiple, call it multiple stakeholders, where we have to work across business units where we do that together. A great example for that is we have trading applications. So the trading of commodities, and we have a trading leadership team, we work, but the trading itself is done in different business units. So how do we make sure that we're providing the right support to multistakeholder solutions? And then the third one is really just like, where do we have the ability to show up in proximity, the most important stakeholders that we've got? So like, those are the big three model designs, and in the middle is like, how do we run our own business? What are the processes that we have that allow because the fact of the matter is like there is a B in the number of dollars that we spend at Cargill, around digital and data capabilities. And I don't know how anyone runs a billion dollar plus organization slash business, and I don't have to make profit. That's the cool part. I don't have that part. But I do have to make sure that we're spending that money on behalf of Cargill shareholders and customers in the best possible way. You don't do that without having strong process, strong commitments to how we work together. So I would just say those three data points, and then how do we run our organization as a whole.
Maryfran Johnson 46:43
Okay, well, and that was, I was very well explained, we essentially had a PowerPoint discussion without the slide. So I really, I liked that you pointed out the triangle, and you've got the three different points to it. And it actually maps into another question we have from the audience about as companies try to standardize and go global, how you ensure regional agility and differentiation, taking into consideration all these market differences that exists. It sounds like that might be at the core of what you're doing with the it operating model.
Jennifer Hartsock 47:15
Yeah, it really, really is. And that's it's nuanced. Maryfran, like I love like I love the question is actually a question that we've talked about recently on my leadership team, because there is this expectation that people have, I won't say infinite freedom, but we have a very strong entrepreneurial spirit and our business units, did they love to find market opportunities, and then find ways to support them? And I think that we have to be incredibly thoughtful stewards and make sure that we're showing up and the first question that we've asked them is, does this differentiate for our customers? Because if the answer is yes, we want to expend creative energy to figure out how we can do that. Now part of that creative energy is somebody else at Cargill, already working through a customer opportunity like that, so that we can leverage their experiences, because one of the things I observed when I first got here, and I'll quote my colleague, Steph Lundqvist our CHRO, she's like, If only all of Cargill knew what Cargill already knows. And so part of our job is to be that connector, right? Yeah, to be the connector to say, Oh, you think it's a unique opportunity. But based on my colleagues, we can hook you up with this other business unit, this other region that can help you expedite, but sometimes it really is unique. So I wish it were a really binary answer of here's where we allow, like, all autonomy, and here's where it's not. But this is what I think makes our job amazing. Because nowhere else that I've ever worked, do I have the opportunity to have such a broad impact on the world, even quote, unquote, when you're only in a region or you're only supporting one of our sub business units, it is just so amazing. So I would just say yep, it's part of our you're absolutely right, it was thought through as part of our operating model. And part of our interactions are designed so that we can facilitate when it matters, we differentiate. And when we can get scale at Cargill, we have the mechanism to go do that as well.
Maryfran Johnson 49:09
Okay, good. Another question from our audience. How is Cargill using generative AI today and plans for the rest of this year? And next is almost got it's a great question. And one that it's one that we're all thinking about it's very buzzword these days. So well give us give us your Jen's Gen AI response.
Jennifer Hartsock 49:32
That's fun. So let me start with I you know, and of course as a technologist I always want to get really precise and like well you know, Gen AI okay cool is the new thing we might be the hype curve I don't want to alarm anyone we're probably in the hype curve somewhere. And but I would still start with like aI itself they advanced analytics, artificial intelligence, machine learning automation, not new to cargo, but we that is not new to us. So this this this next iteration or next level of generative AI is something that we are incredibly interested in. And we're really thoughtful about because I think that we are in the early days, and we do take our responsibilities for our purpose very seriously. So the early pilots, and they are pilots at this point, Maryfran, I don't think we have anything worthy. What I'll call large scale production, are very much into how do we take large, ingest large amounts of volume is data slash papers, slash market research, slash other things, and help synthesize it for parts of our teams. So those are the first use cases we're going after, they're very narrow in scope. We have limited people that are working on them. And then we're trying to educate the broader Cargill about both the opportunities and the risks. Because again, we know that in early hype cycle, there's a lot we have to learn. And there's also risk that if we don't learn it the right way, we might not serve our purpose that way we'd like to, because it's like we don't there is absolute risk. Yeah. So we've been really thoughtful. We've got a small team working on that we have communicated broadly on what our expectations are. We not shockingly have a workflow that if you have a pilot idea for us, please submit it here so we can get it to the right teams. And we've been diagnosed.
Maryfran Johnson 51:14
Yes, well, and that actually that pivots into I was going to ask about a lot of times companies the size of Cargill have something that it's essentially an ecosystem for dealing with innovative ideas. But as you and I talked about, there's innovation with the capital I and then there's the every day innovation with the small eye. Where does Where does AI fit into that? Is it such a small percentage right now of innovative ideas or…?
Jennifer Hartsock 51:44
So generative AI itself? I'd have a hard time classifying? Is it a Kapalai? I mean, we are focused on it. We're just I wouldn't say that the amount of impact yet is worthy of a capital I innovation conversation. Broadly analytics, advanced AI, advancing analytics AI, ml automation. Oh, total capital wide innovation? Absolutely. I mean, we have formalized teams that have specific business objectives. If you think about the move towards quantitative trading, if you think about how do we help our traders have access to the most recent information that they need to take informed positions, we think about tools that we've put in the hands of our production operations. There's one that we call shift sim shift, sim, it is absolutely designed to be able to predict absenteeism so that we can actually think about how to optimize the workforce, and make sure that we're maximizing the capacity of our plants. And we have ways that we have used computer vision to detect things in our in our factories, we can detect loads and do automation for measurement and tracking of drop offs and carry out the things that we're doing. It is absolutely capital innovation.
Maryfran Johnson 52:57
Okay, good. And related to that, since we mentioned data and advanced analytics several times, one of the questions is who is responsible for data or owns it at Cargill. And I was thinking that everyone I know, your CEO title is not chief data officer, but to a great deal of a lot of those data dollars do stop at your desk. So how do you answer a question like that? And how is it changing?
Jennifer Hartsock 53:26
Well, I think that it starts from there's so many layers of how we invest in data, right? So there's obviously the data governance of our large data domains. Because if you can't have strong governance in those data domains, it's harder to get meaningful insights out of them, right. So I'd say we have a fair amount of process control around that data governance side continuing to mature, like everyone. And then when we think about the insights side of it, that's where you start to see things. And I'm stealing that word you said earlier, federated, where we do absolutely have some centers of excellence, where we have data scientists, and we have strength of expertise, especially for groups that may not have it themselves yet. But we're also not afraid of we have a trading analytics team that is amazing. And they partner so strongly with our centralized data team around governance, platform tools, etc. But my gosh, we gave them the keys to the kingdom a long time ago, because they're way closer to our traders. And they're able to move with such speed, and agility to serve candidly, what is constantly changing requirements. So just love, love, love the way that we've thought about it. So we think about where again, where we learned together as cargo, and that's in some of those key data domains. What are those minimum things that we need to track and govern centrally? But then how do we empower our enterprise slash business units to have the freedom to operate in their markets where it makes the most sense?
Maryfran Johnson 54:51
Yeah. And so you're saying you don't have a definitive answer for all of that, but it's…
Jennifer Hartsock 54:57
well, I would say actually, we do it. It's just it's you It's not it's not simple. There's not like a here's who owns it. Because, yes, we have certain data domains that have data owners, of course, like all large organizations, but it's not as simple as one because if we tried to do that we would actually stifle the level of innovation we want the teams to have.
Maryfran Johnson 55:15
Well, it's a very company culture related question to all around that. Now, in our remaining few minutes here, I want to touch once again, on your new role on a public board with Ingersoll Rand, you've been a board director, now an independent board director for six months. And I wondered whether that has changed your own leadership style or enhanced any particular area of it. I'm a great proponent of full time very busy working CIOs serving on at least one public board, if they can. And obviously, there you are at Ingersoll Rand, what has that? What impact has that had on your own leadership style? And what have you been learning?
Jennifer Hartsock 55:57
Well, I think it is both going back to that bi directional, it really is. So I'd like to believe that I'm already providing insights and expertise to my fellow board members and the management team. Because I do come with a unique set of skills and experiences and I won't lie, the cyber risk continues to dominate, or at least be present in more and more boardrooms, as we manage that as an enterprise risk. That those of us that sit in our chairs have a unique set of experiences and unique value add into that now it's not only that, because I've already talked about process transformation, business value, digital products and services, augmentation of digital, you know, products and services with digital. So really thinking about how does Digital Influence The strategy of the company? I'd like to believe I'm providing value even in early days. Now what am I learning? Oh, good lord, so much. And I love that more the CEO that Brian Sykes that I get to work for, and then Ingersoll Rand are both mutually invested and helping me on the what do I get to learn as part of being in public board service? And what do I get to learn as a lot about the governance that happens? Of course, I presented boards, I could do that all the time, right? Well, sure. Yeah. Then what happens? What decisions did they have to make those things are still like, when we're on management teams, not everything is visible to us. So there's so much about board governance, the decisions, the trade offs, the acquisition process that I am jumping right into that I am just enjoying so very much.
Maryfran Johnson 57:27
Yes. Well, that's wonderful. I know I've talked to I was writing for a while I was writing a column about CIOs on boards for And a lot of the change in perspective, was uniquely valuable and wonderful to CIOs, who had been, as you say, presenting to boards for years and years. But when you get on that other side, you're no longer managing a, you know, you're not putting your hands on anything, you're sitting back and taking that strategic view. And that that must have felt that must have felt different.
Jennifer Hartsock 57:59
It is different. And yet, I think most of us go into our fields, because we're lifelong learners. And this is such an amazing opportunity to continue on that journey.
Maryfran Johnson 58:08
Yeah. Well, and kudos to your CEO and your board at Cargill, that they were all in supportive this because of course, when I was at public or private companies can't go joining another company board unless they have the support of that senior executive team. So good for them. Okay. Well, we are wrapping up here. Thank you so much, Jen. This has been a high speed and just highly informative conversation with you today. And a special shout out to all of our wonderful audience members who were sending in questions. One of them even commented on how much they were enjoying your passion for the topics that we talked about. And I even got a compliment on my earrings, which is, you know, oh, they are beautiful. Lovely. They kind of go with the dress. And so I was worried they were moving around too much, but somebody liked him. So that was great. It was wonderful having you here today, Jen, I really appreciated you carving out the time for us here in the middle of summer. And wishing you great luck going forward. And I look forward to when we speak with you again.
Jennifer Hartsock 59:13
And same back to you Maryfran, I just such a pleasure. And thanks to you and your team for making this whole series possible for us as technology leaders.
Maryfran Johnson 59:21
well, it's it certainly is our pleasure and I keep encouraging people if they feel like going to CIO University. We've got more than 100 of these kinds of interviews now so go ahead and binge your way through those over the holiday weekend. If you joined us late today, do not feel despair. You can watch the full episode of my conversation here with Jen bolt on LinkedIn and also on And on CIOs YouTube channel, cio leadership live is available as an audio podcast wherever you find your podcasts it will have shown up either by later today or tomorrow. And I hope that you got as much out of an enjoyed the conversation today with car gills Chief Information and Digital Officer Jennifer Hartsock and that we'll see you back here again in two weeks. On Wednesday, August 9, at noon Eastern went I'll be joined by my guest will be CIO Ryan Kean of Ohio's Total Quality Logistics, which is one of the largest freight brokerage firms in the United States. Thanks again for joining us today and taking the time to tune in. Do take a moment to subscribe to CIOs YouTube channel, where you can find all of our 100 Plus previous episodes. And as I say, you can go and binge to your heart's content. keep enjoying your summer time and tune in to leadership live next time on August 9. Thanks
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