CXO Series – Jim Chilton, VP & Former CIO at Dassault Systemes, shares his valuable insight…
Jim Chilton is a results focused executive who leverages expertise in process re-engineering and technology and a 20-year technology executive veteran, who currently manages Channel Sales Operations, OEM Sales, and Anti-Piracy for SolidWorks/Dassault Systemes previously he was Dassault Systemes Americas CIO responsible for all company-wide IT/MIS/web activities. When he was the CIO at SolidWorks, he supported double-digit sales and channel growth. His leadership and project implementation significantly reduced product delivery time by deploying a single integrated system for employees, resellers, and customers. Prior to joining SolidWorks, Jim held various executive-level positions, including CIO of MyTeam.com and CIO/Vice President at MRO Software, where he instituted a common worldwide business system. Jim also directed Operations and Professional Services at CODA Inc. and directed the Information Services Department as the director of MIS at Behring Diagnostics. Jim holds a master’s degree in business administration from New Hampshire College and a bachelor’s degree in computer science from Franklin Pierce College.
Sajid Khan:Jim, Thank you very much for taking the time out of your busy schedule for this Interview. Can you begin by sharing your perspective on the role of CIO in computer software/application Company such as Dassault Systemes?
Jim: The role has changed dramatically in the past 10 years perhaps most pronounced in the past five with the emergence of the CDO the chief digital officer are being leveraged at fortune 500 companies. The perception of the CIO seems to have gone stale in some companies, the notion of a leader who is exists to broker technology to the business is not the priority it once was. The proliferations of Saas products into the marketplace that are targeted at functional department heads have changed the model on how technology finds its way into a company. The emergence of cloud based services with no barrier to entry and rock bottom prices is hard to compete with – and really why they should. The maturity of AWS from Amazon in the past 5 years is incredible, they have a compute, storage, database, network, and identity management offers, top that off with tableau tools leveraging redshift and you have all that most companies will ever need.
This shift in technology platforms available to the masses without the technology barrier to entry really changes the role of the CIO.
Unfortunately what is getting lost is that most folks in the business do not plan to use these technologies out of the box and they are less concerned about the interaction required to support their fellow departments.
In my opinion this shift in technology platforms with direct engagement at the business function level is creating a loss of focus on the processes that transcend all departments, e.g. like the customer life-cycle.
If this lack of process based “thread pulling” continues many companies may find themselves searching for a way to integrate, connect and leverage the reality of the disparate systems that exist in their enterprise.
SK: Would you like to share some of your challenging initiatives at Dassault Systemes and specifically for Solid Works?
Jim: Solid Works was a rocket ship from 2001 to 2010 I was honored to be part of the company and in particular the original executive team led by John Mceleny and then Jeff Ray. They enabled every employee to be the best they could be, what an incredible team.
One of the most challenging initiatives was implementing processes and systems that would support and enable the growth of SolidWorks while it was growing. I developed a strategic plan that included a vision of a single business system that would be shared by all SolidWorks customers, all resellers and their employees and SolidWorks employees. After getting buy in on the vision I assembled a team of veterans to implement a single business system. Today nearly 15 years later the same heart of that business system is used today by thousands of reseller employees and hundreds of thousands of solid Works customers.
SK:How effectively computer software/application companies have been innovating in the past few years?
Jim: Innovation is at the heart of most software companies already, but the past few years have enabled a transformation in technology based offers that didn’t exist before. Perhaps the most recent and recognizable is the abundance of bandwidth, the reality that most households have the option for bandwidth that was typical for an entire business 5-10 years ago. Then the low price compute capability resulting from virtualization has changed the game in low-cost compute cycles. Finally the emergence of data virtualization platforms has fundamentally altered the space, size and copy-data view of storage, backup and recovery.
This perfect storm of high-performing, low cost, elastic compute/storage capability that enables companies to bring software based solutions to businesses and consumers in real-time. What was once a RFP, Demo, and meeting riddled process is completed in days rather than weeks or months. As the consumers’ journey has accelerated so has the technology solutions they want and expect. Very capable applications available on smart-phones have set the bar of expectation for all software vendors to rise up to meet. The proliferation of technology into consumers’ hands has shifted the view, everyone is capable to buy and integrate technology into their business.
SK: What are some of your plans for future as VP of Dassault Systemes?
Jim: I moved into the business a little over two years ago with a focus about learning more of what it takes to introduce technology to a reseller network and to the end customer As a result I have begun a reengineering effort for our professional channel and created a channel alignment system that ensures that the business and the channels are aligned and that the KPI’s and measurements are in place to optimize operations at the reseller. In addition the system ensures that the strategy and the mission of the company is intimately understood by the reseller
In addition I’m leading the anti-piracy effort for solidworks very interesting business especially to be on the other side of instead of that of the CIO.
Finally, my latest endeavor is tacking our OEM business for the SolidWorks products.
SK:What’s been your proudest achievement in your career?
Jim: Twice in my career I have stepped away from the CIO/head of technology roles to learn more about the business. The first time was at CODA (Financial Enterprise software company), when I transitioned into leading the Professional Services business. Although there were connections back to my past, it is one thing to manage implementations of software systems inside your company; it is altogether different when you are doing this for customers like Avon, Caterpillar, Corning, etc. I was particularly proud of this time in my life whereas I pursued my MBA in the evening and tackled a new profession during the day. Today I am in the midst of this again. I moved out of the CIO role about 2.5 years ago to immerse myself in business operations, not just for Sales but for a software business.
SK:Could you please share your leadership Style? Does your leadership style vary with the role?
Jim: My leadership style is all about empowerment and trust. I build teams and develop people by providing them the tools, the mission, and the objectives of where we want to go. The sharing how our work is related to the mission of the company is critical in building motivation and the feeling of relevancy. Then I let them make the mission their own and to take ownership and accountability for what they’re going to deliver into the business so that they truly feel accountable and successful when they reach the goals that support the mission.
Yes, I believe my leadership style varies depending on the role. As the CIO of a multi-billion dollar company with vice presidents reporting in to me my level of expectation and what they need from me is very different than when you are a CIO at a smaller company or when you are part of an executive team at a smaller company.
However the notion of empowerment and trust as a management style and a leadership style is consistent regardless of whether I have 150 people in my team or I have 2.
SK:What advice would you offer for other technology executives who aspire to follow your footsteps?
Jim: Advice I would offer other technology executives. Don’t walk but run away from the CIO role.
Sort of this is no longer the role it once was and that seems to be a consistent pattern that I’ve seen and heard and read about the role of the CIO needs to be redefined and reclaimed inside the business today.
The best CIOs provide something beyond the obvious management of IS, IT and web inside companies. They are the only agnostic leader at the table the only leader that is focused on the complete process that transcends departments. What is best for the total company may not align exactly to each business function or their priorities. The challenge surfaces as technology is enabled the silos to get larger to buy their own solutions to find their own technologies the lack of someone to weave this together will cripple some companies as they try to accelerate and grow fast.
SK:Anything else you would like to share with our readers.
Jim: My focus, regardless of role is to tackle business challenges with the same 3 step process. Always simplify first, this requires that everything is challenged and nothing is sacred. Second, automate, whatever doesn’t require human intervention shouldn’t. This enables scalability and forces the documentation of processes. Finally we must accelerate, the playing field has changed dramatically in the past decade and this will continue we must pay attention to innovation beyond our current vendors.