Rob Ramrath is that rare breed - a long-lived CIO whose team is intimately involved in creating value for customers. Rob has led IT at Bose for 17 years, the last 10 as CIO. Survival and success required transforming his IT organization for the digital connected world. Rob and I sat down in his office to discuss what he’s learned over a remarkable career. Five lessons jumped out at me. Watch below or read in its entirety here.
1. Assimilate the culture. Don’t let IT be a silo.
Bose’s culture of innovation has allowed it to survive and thrive, having just celebrated its 50th anniversary in the hyper-competitive consumer electronics industry. Founder Dr. Bose led this culture by believing in people and their potential. Rob has empowered his IT teams to assimilate this culture by taking on new roles and challenges.
2. Figure out the IT mission - align it with the company mission (with video).
Get closer to the mission of the company, which is building great products (not running databases). At Bose, IT evolved with the company’s evolution. The initial focus was to build the basic platform for growth, including capabilities like ERP, but soon it became enhancing the productivity of knowledge workers. Now, the goal is to facilitate the best possible customer experience and support connected products.
3. Continuously move IT up the value chain (with video).
Rob’s perspective on the cloud is interesting. He looks at it as another way to source, but radically more agile. A higher level of abstraction allows his teams to focus higher up the value chain and achieve more.
4. Agility comes from top and bottom (with video).
The consumer electronics market evolves at breakneck speed; IT must keep pace with the business to be successful. Bose IT has now moved from waterfall to agile except for 100% cookie-cutter things like store openings, using mostly scrum. Rob picked up his lesson on agility literally from the “floor”, after he saw how lean, cell-based manufacturing empowered people, eliminated waste, and drove customer focus.
5. Change comes from within.
Rob talks about the need to nurture necessary leadership qualities, particularly ones that don’t come naturally. He increasingly encourages his teams to build relationships, emphasize EQ and embrace ambiguity.