The CIO of Logitech explains how he approaches issues such as:

  • Business resilience
  • Digital transformation 
  • eCommerce strategy
  • Digital business and the IT operating model
  • Customer experience
  • Enabling remote work through virtual collaboration

Massimo Rapparini is Chief Information Officer at Logitech. Massimo leads the global IT function and is charged with implementing a technology strategy targeted at the company’s growth opportunities through Digital Business, Employee Collaboration and Product Innovation using Cloud.

Transcript

This transcript was lightly edited for length and clarity.

Massimo Rapparini: The crisis has created almost a magnetic field of pulling all these functions together such that we actually deliver a much coherent journey for our customers and consumers.

Introduction: About Logitech

Michael Krigsman: Massimo Rapparini, he is the chief information officer at Logitech.

Massimo Rapparini: So, brands in our portfolio you may be familiar with are Jaybird, Blue Microphones, ASTRO Gaming, obviously Logitech, Logitech G, and Blue Microphones.

I think, just briefly, the scope of what I do, yes, like you said, I lead the IT function at Logitech, but I also head up customer experience, which is basically running our contact centers around the globe, providing support to our customers and workplace service, managing about 80 offices across the globe.

Michael Krigsman: Now a quick thank you to Productiv, a SaaS management platform that unlocks the power hidden in your SaaS applications to bring you higher ROI, better team collaboration, and lower license costs.

You are a walking, living, breathing representative of Logitech right now. Tell us the equipment that you've got.

Massimo Rapparini: [Laughter] Yeah, well, as you can see, I'm using a Blue Microphone, a Blue Yeti, which I think you're familiar with as well. I'm using a BRIO Webcam that is immensely popular, of late, of course. Then I have in earphones, headphones, from Ultimate Ears PRO, and then, obviously, mice and keyboards that complete the whole setup here at home for me.

Managing change and the global crisis

Michael Krigsman: Let's talk about managing change. We are all experiencing this global crisis situation. Tell us what the impact has been on Logitech.

Massimo Rapparini: First of all, just to start, I think I want to express obviously our sympathy with a lot of people that have been impacted by the epidemic. I think a lot of people are in way worse situations than, for instance, I personally have been and a lot of the employees at Logitech, so I definitely feel for them. With everybody else, we're all hoping and praying that pretty soon this pandemic will be over.

Stepping back and looking at what happened back in March, I think, like everybody else, we responded when the pandemic started spreading. Immediately, the impact was more in Asia, obviously, and we have a large operation there that is where a lot of our production happens, a lot of our design engineering teams, and I think our first reaction was trying to figure out how to maintain the ability to operate.

But then, at some stage, that shifted to, as we resume the ability to manufacture products, how do we actually figure out how to distribute them? Borders were closing. A lot of restrictions were being imposed in different regions, and so how do we look at different sales channels to still get products and, often, products that are really essential and critical to customers across the globe?

I think, for us, there is definitely a silver lining. In so many categories that we were already playing, we became even more relevant with the crisis. You probably know we've always been in the personal collaboration space. We have always promoted things like streaming, gaming, and all of these areas have seen a huge increase, obviously, since the start of the pandemic, which, like I said, a silver lining in a good way for us.

Michael Krigsman: You've got demand exploding for your products.

Massimo Rapparini: Yep.

Michael Krigsman: At the same time, you have to be closing your offices and, therefore, ramping up production while all of this is taking place.

Massimo Rapparini: Yes.

Michael Krigsman: How did you do that?

Massimo Rapparini: Like you said, looking back, it feels like a herculean effort, and especially, I think, like I said, in Asia. Kudos to our team members there who very quickly adapted to how to, in a safe way and in a secure way, still be able to maintain some of that operations and production.

Initially, for sure, I know consumers noticed. As I run customer support, I have first-hand experience of people obviously being desperate to get their hands on products essential for them to be able to do their work.

I think we've been able to get over the hump there and I think, especially after the summer, around the summer, been able to ramp up. Also, we tried to leverage different ways to create that kind of production capability.

I think the challenge with people being in a whole different setting and working more remotely was something a little easier for us to overcome since we've always been a very distributed company. We have, like I said, 80 offices in pretty much every region of the world. But also, we'd been adopting distributed collaboration, using video collaboration within our four walls already for years. I think that's also obviously a benefit that we had that we could quickly pivot to that.

Really, the trick for IT, as an example, was mostly us scaling, but not so much about how do I educate people about how to use Zoom or how to actually get into video calls. I think different kinds of ways to adapt, but that's pretty much what happened.

Scaling remote work from home

Michael Krigsman: For you, ways of working, working from home, working with a globally distributed team, you were already doing that, but the challenge was scaling.

Massimo Rapparini: Yeah. Yeah, I mean I think, as an example, before the crisis, we already had a very high utilization of video collaboration. On average, we were doing 30,000 video calls a month with more than 80 sites connecting, with about 3 to 4 … (indiscernible, 00:05:10) every video call. If you translate, if you do the math, that translates to at least one or two video calls for every employee of about 3,000, 4,000 employees.

I think, since March, we've seen almost a three-fold increase in that. We're now looking at 75,000 to 90,000 video calls a month. The good news is, since we're already pretty cloud-centric, we were able to really leverage the quick scaling up and scaling of the infrastructure to be able to meet that type of demand.

At the same time, I think it's starting to create also a burden on IT in terms of being able to respond to this. But I think that's, like I said, a great example of how we've been able to leverage some of the things we already had in place.

Michael Krigsman: Tell us more about the role of IT and some of the challenges that you faced in IT during the transition period.

Massimo Rapparini: We had an impact both internally in terms of, like we talked about, the infrastructure and scalability, security, how to enable people who are already used to working remotely to be doing this more securely. As well as externally, how do we partner with sales and marketing leaders so we can actually shift to different channels, a lot of increase in our direct to consumer channels, and adding capacity for things that impact our partners, our operations, and as well as supporting our customers?

We've seen a huge increase in demand from customers asking us for support. Finding ways to more flexible and provide, again, that ability for people to also work remotely. Those are obviously some of the things.

I think the cloud infrastructure, like I mentioned earlier, was a big benefit to us, the fact that we were already pretty heavily in the cloud. Also, thinking about just ways to enable safe, remote connectivity in ways that you can also adapt to much more video traffic or different ways of collaborating with partners in different regions of the world.

Michael Krigsman: What was the hardest part?

Massimo Rapparini: The biggest challenge is really rethinking the impact of an adapting operation to the technology platforms that you have. You really have already a collaboration tool. Maybe you have a sales enablement platform like Salesforce.com.

All these tools work well in one setting where you have a model, which I'm sure we'll talk a little bit later about resilience, which is really optimized for efficiency. Now you need to shift to something that's maybe more flexible that adapts to different channels, that adapt to different partners. Really tweaking and adjusting those platforms to a different business model, I think, was probably the hardest for us.

Michael Krigsman: How did you go about accomplishing that?

Massimo Rapparini: Things that potentially seemed unassailable in the past, right? There was such a focus on razor-thin cost optimization. There was such a focus on things that were really, again, how do I make things more and more efficient?

I think, all of a sudden, you see a shift to, how do I actually embrace technology across the whole value chain? How do I make it something that pretty much leading the charge in terms of adapting to the crisis situation?

I think being able to figure out how technology brings people closer together and finding ways that we can innovate and build new products while, at the same time, making operations more scalable. I think those are all of the things that we've tried to embed, let's say, in the fact that there's this once in a lifetime, almost, opportunity to make change and that's something that you should grasp as a CIO, for sure.

Challenges of managing change

Michael Krigsman: Again, I'm very interested in the difficulties, getting into some of the details of how you go about driving this kind of change, shifting from the focus, the historical focus, on efficiency to now, obviously, you need to remain efficient but now you need to do things differently. How do you go about doing that?

Massimo Rapparini: First of all, there are a lot of opportunities to rethink how you've really structured processes and the systems that support them. If you take an example just on the manufacturing side, a lot of the efficiency-focused outcomes mean that you have just in time processes, you have systems that have very little room for redundancy, and so there's that risk around reacting to shocks of those systems.

I think what you can do is really step back and consider where is an opportunity to build something different than optimization without redundancy, to some extent. What are the infrastructure gaps and the lack of fallback scenarios that you're trying to erase in that example, as an example with manufacturing?

I think that's the approach, as an IT leader, you can take but, obviously, fully in partnership with business leaders. It's really almost a redesign, a rearchitect, the way you're not just doing systems but really the processes that they're supporting.

Rethinking the IT operating model

Michael Krigsman: How do you separate the technology dimensions from the nontechnology dimensions, whether it's culture, talent, anything else outside of technology?

Massimo Rapparini: I think you don't necessarily want to separate them. I think you're trying to bring those together. I think, as an IT leader, you're trying to really make technology the accelerator and the enabler of some of these business changes that need to occur.

I think, if you look at, for instance, again back to our value chain, the opportunity now shifts to multi-sourcing, dual suppliers, for instance, for manufacturing operations in different regions. As an IT leader, you're trying to really adapt to that and fully align to the type of changes that business operations are doing and find out how, for instance, even things like what talent and roles you want to staff in different regions to lower the risk of new business interruptions.

What kind of technology evolutions do you want to do and upgrades and features that you potentially have put on the back burner because of a focus on efficiency? I think you just really need to be opportunistic than jump into those types of situations that are completing changing some of the rules of the game, so to speak.

Michael Krigsman: If you're rethinking the role of IT in this innovating and adapting value chain, what are the challenges in doing that? It kind of goes outside the traditional role of IT.

Massimo Rapparini: Yes. Yes, and I think it leads to IT almost being redefined as technology and not just IT. Technology, in general, becoming almost kind of the business itself, right? I think what used to be traditionally, okay, we have business functions and then there's IT and they bring technology to try to support the business functions.

Whether you're trying to innovate and build new products, whether you're just executing a specific operation, whether your business is hardware or digital, and a full, online service, all of these are more and more showing that technology is essential. It's kind of almost what runs those types of services and products.

I think that's where, as an IT team, you can think about, okay, what can I do to bring technology to bear in ways that are relevant and have a positive impact on the business? It could be in regard to building new services. It could be in regard to applying technology for more intelligent and automated operations. It could be mining data to gain insights about things you couldn't gain before because you didn't have a direct relationship with consumers. Yeah, I think, across the board, there's no shortage of these types of opportunities.

Michael Krigsman: We have an insightful, interesting question from Arsalan Khan. Arsalan says, "The pandemic created an urgency for IT to perform in various areas all at once. Why does it take a reactive approach from the business to understand the importance of IT and is this going to last?"

Massimo Rapparini: I think what he describes is pretty much the experience of traditional IT where maybe it's somewhat—I wouldn't want to exaggerate—a second-class citizen. You're kind of like a back-office function that, okay, yeah, it's a necessary evil, so to speak. If things go wrong, everybody cries and, otherwise, you don't really notice it.

Obviously, I think that's by now, hopefully, for a lot of CIOs, something of the past. I think that observation about the business really noticing or somewhat appreciating some of the things that technology can do with them is something that, as a CIO, you can anticipate and, for sure, the crisis, like I said, has accelerated it.

You can create all the conditions and position IT such that if not just a crisis, but a huge business opportunity—maybe it's an M&A event or what have you—arises that you set up your teams. You set up your contribution to what the business does to be super impactful. That's the type of thing, like I mentioned earlier, where we had embraced video collaboration and we were showcasing it internally. We were showcasing to prospects as an IT to IT team. I think those are all the things that then pay off in dividends when the crisis happened because it's something that we could hugely leverage in that situation.

Yeah, I guess that would be my advice is, don't wait for the crisis. Yes, there is some frustration with how the business looks at it. But I think you can create conditions such that you can be much more critical and impactful beforehand.

Business agility and resilience

Michael Krigsman: Let's talk about resiliency. You mentioned that a few times, but let's drill into that. When you talk about resiliency, what does that mean? What does that refer to?

Massimo Rapparini: Yes. Everybody has probably seen this as an outcome of the COVID-19 crisis. A larger appreciation for previously whether it's a dependency on superefficient, lean, just-in-time processes, systems that have very little redundancy, or can't react to shock to those systems.

I think, in supply chain as an example, a manufacturer or customer operations, I think a lot of businesses realize that over-reliance on specific locations, for instance, or specific partners or cost-efficient sites where you could just get the best in time, lowest inventory level, super cheap way to actually get products to customers, all of that has obviously a huge drawback when you start experiencing a shock like COVID-19.

For me, business continuity and resiliency is about more than being ready to handle something like a natural disaster or a big cyber incident. It's surely about the full resilience of business operations and being able to flexibly reassemble processes, people, and tools, and really show that ability to rapidly adapt to changing conditions. That doesn't need to be just about the crisis like COVID-19.

Michael Krigsman: This definitely sounds like you are extending beyond the traditional boundaries of IT as we've known it historically.

Massimo Rapparini: Yeah. Grab the bull by the horns, so to speak. What better role IT can play in a situation like this than truly driving and leading the conversations and the opportunities for our business, which could be both from a risk mitigation as well as from a business opportunity. I think both of these angles are valid.

Risk management and mitigation vs. IT innovation

Michael Krigsman: Do you think about both of those angles, the traditional approach of risk mitigation as well as the business opportunities created that IT can help create?

Massimo Rapparini: Yeah, and I think, for Logitech in particular, obviously, I mentioned at the beginning the Corona crisis is a disaster and obviously has a huge personal impact to millions of people around the world. We are happy that we can actually not only contribute and help with some of the products that people actually require in this situation, but also the fact that, again, our business is relatively unscathed by what's going on with the crisis.

I think there is a lot focus on—you mentioned at the beginning—scaling to be able to build more products, meet some of the demand, and that's very easy to get kind of sucked into. But I think, as an IT leader, you also need to be somewhat the guardian of, let's manage risk.

Let's make sure, as people change the way they work, we're looking at cyber risk. We're making sure there are secure ways to connect remotely. We're connecting with different partners, introducing new technology. You want to, obviously, grasp the opportunity but, at the same time, keep an eye on the risk as well.

Cloud computing and business resiliency

Michael Krigsman: Let's talk about the technology aspects of this because the rapid transition relies on that. You said earlier that you have been a cloud-based organization. Tell us about the technology.

Massimo Rapparini: Cloud, in this case, is for sure also something that has demonstrated the importance of having the ability to rapidly and flexibly adjust to things that are changing. It could be burst capacity that you need all of a sudden with the ability to also scale down if you don't need it as business conditions change.

I think, for us, things like the redundancy of cloud architecture is something that really emerged as something critical because, yes, you can, for example, have a ton of workloads all on a Google Cloud Platform or AWS, whichever you pick. But if you don't have something like multi-cloud, the ability to shift to one vendor or another, you don't have geographical redundancy.

If I had put all my workloads in Asia at the beginning of the pandemic, my business would have been at a standstill. But the ability to do things like rapid provisioning, agile architecture, and easily transfer workloads to new environments, all of these pieces, I think, have been clearly shown as the go-forward not just for crisis but to go forward to build that ability to be resilient.

Michael Krigsman: That technology foundation is just a core part of the fabric, so to speak.

Massimo Rapparini: Exactly, and I think it becomes a much more relevant, salient part of what IT does and becomes something different than purely, let's keep the lights on and make sure business can continue, but how can I actually respond to opportunities as well in a much faster and much more agile way?

Digital twins and simulations

Michael Krigsman: I know also that, at Logitech, you used digital twins, which I find interesting because I tend to think of a digital twin as being part of the design process for—I don't know—jet engines or very heavy, large industrial equipment as opposed to cameras and microphones.

Massimo Rapparini: Obviously, I think there are multiple ways to define or apply things that account for a digital twin. I think, for us, one of the biggest use cases applications has been in the manufacturing operation itself and the fact that, as we, for instance, 1) had operations that were impacted for our factory in China at the beginning of the pandemic and then, 2) had to be able to more flexibly engage and basically partner with different contract manufacturers, it really helps to have the ability to start modeling, simulating large-scale operations, collect real-time data on processes, deviations from processes, looking at quality, uncover weak links, single points of failure, and basically use that to our advantage to then decide where are you going to either invest capacity, how do you staff things differently, what systems do you need to implement, or what capacity you need to add in terms of network connectivity, all those different decisions that come at you at a hundred miles an hour in a crisis like this. A simulation, digital twin type of capability allows you to deal with that, too.

Michael Krigsman: How much do you use those kinds of simulation capabilities?

Massimo Rapparini: I think, for us, it's early days, as in, again, partly maybe luck. We have actually started building this before the pandemic and able to invoke a lot of this as part of a response specifically to manufacturing impacts.

I think we're now starting to see more applications. Yes, when it comes to think like design or building and innovating new products, I think there's a huge opportunity there. Especially, we need to adjust to not being able to get engineers and designers in one room and work together on tangible work and design artifacts but having to simulate that all online.

Building design workflows, journeys, and design outputs that are used by engineers, all those pieces become really something you need to do online and digitally. I think that's the area that I would say we would want to turn our attention to next but, yeah, like I mentioned, I think it's early days for us.

CIO strategy and IT business model innovation

Michael Krigsman: Arsalan Khan has another question. He's concerned about the commoditization of IT and these kind of value-added, value chain discussions that you were describing. Does that fight the commoditization of IT?

Massimo Rapparini: One hundred percent, and I think, again, hopefully for many people, IT as a commodity is something of the past. The opportunity where businesses are more and more turning towards digital as not just a platform for delivering products and services, but actually as the product itself I think means IT and I think, obviously, some of that has led to more sexy terms like chief digital officer and people that are a hybrid CTO/CIO.

But, at the end of the day, it's that opportunity where technology, whether it's traditional IT or some of the things that are more emerging like digital, starts playing a huge role that is beyond, "Does email work?" "Is the wi-fi up and running?" and "Can people actually use the network?" I think it's that transition and, for sure, something like a crisis like COVID-19 can be seen and hopefully used as an opportunity to change the perception as well.

Michael Krigsman: Many companies have found that the pandemic forced transformations—and you alluded to this earlier—that were slowly in play anyway. Did you find that that happened, to a large extent, at Logitech? If so, how?

Massimo Rapparini: I think if people are familiar with Logitech, you probably have noticed most of the time people would run into our products—even if it's the traditional mice and keyboards or headsets and webcams—at places like Best Buy in the U.S. or Media Mart in Europe, and those kind of large retailers, physical, brick and mortar shops. That, I think, was traditionally a big reliance for us in terms of how we bring products to customers, which then also got augmented with things like Amazon, eBay, and all these other large online platforms – JD.com in Asia.

I think what happened with the pandemic is, obviously, partly because of the demand for our products but also partly because of consumer behavior that changed. There was a much bigger appetite and interest in our own direct to consumer platforms. Logitech.com, you can go there and buy products and you could do that always, but again because of the demand in all these other channels, we've never invested as much or really focused as much as a potential opportunity for growth.

I think that's really what's happened and I think, again, that has obviously led to a huge appreciation and realization that we can do more with this and not just start to respond to the demand but rethink what is the purpose and the value of an e-commerce channel. How can you design it? How can you set it up such that it's the best value for our customers, consumers to go there and it's also something that is providing a whole different output for the companies like us, instead of going through traditional retail channels?

Aligning CIO strategy with business objectives

Michael Krigsman: As you're looking at these different technology aspects and different business processes, how do you ensure that what you want to do fully aligns with the business owners in those processes or technologies or customer interfaces, whatever it is?

Massimo Rapparini: Yeah, this type of event creates a much stronger attraction, so to speak, between all the different touchpoints of a customer journey. Previously, you maybe had silos and functions that were pretty self-contained and isolated and, maybe from a customer, your experience also came across as quite fragmented. Now, I think something like the crisis has created almost some sort of a magnetic field of pulling all these functions together such that we actually deliver a much coherent journey for our customers and consumers.

I think that's really what I see as something that doesn't necessarily mean IT needs to kind of pitch for, "Hey, here is a point of view. Here is what we should be doing or think about how we design an e-commerce platform this way," but you're really being pulled.

There's a huge pull for being able to apply technology to develop channels, allow for people to have a way to purchase an additional warranty on their products, or being able to have a connection between sales and support. All these pieces are becoming, like I said, a demand that you don't necessarily need to offer yourself or offer opinions on yourself.

Customer experience and CIO strategy

Michael Krigsman: Well, it's very interesting for me to hear you talk about the customer experience and customer journey because that's something usually the CMO talks about as opposed to the chief information officer. Where is the link there?

Massimo Rapparini: I have a great relationship with Heidi, our CMO, because I think we do have a lot of overlap. I think we've found a good way to complement each other in the sense that she's obviously very focused on what is that brand experience we want to provide, what's at the end of the day the way that we can facilitate the marketing of our products to all these different and more digital channels.

I think, selfishly, as I also run operations, I'm also looking at the kind of back-end of all that, which is, okay, what happens when somebody actually has made a purchasing decision and how do we ensure that those two pieces really seamlessly integrate? Like I said, if you have the right conditions in place, I think you'll see that emerges as a great opportunity to actually make IT much more valuable to the likes of a CMO. Then there's plenty of opportunity for both sides to really impact something positive for the company.

Michael Krigsman: Would be accurate to say that the CMO is responsible for the brand and you as CIO are responsible for the technology and processes to enable putting that brand forth in the right way? Is that a way to describe it that's accurate?

Massimo Rapparini: I think that's one way and I'm pretty sure companies have probably different models and a different way of looking at it. I think there's an element of technology savviness that is obviously individual to each company and each of the people in these different roles.

If you take Heidi Arkinstall, in our case our CMO, she is very technology savvy and she's been a big evangelist for tons of ways that we can implement better platforms for our consumers, really use the data, and leverage the data to the benefit of consumers in different ways. I think, from that point of view, I have a somewhat easy job where I can really actually rely a lot on her to help drive some of these implementations and these initiatives and, at the same time, try to complement that with, well, what is the piece that is beyond the brand, let's say, execution but is also the consumer journey post-sales, as an example. I think that's where we have a good fit.

Michael Krigsman: I've always found it very interesting with you that customer care reports into you as well. That's unusual for the CIO also, in general.

Massimo Rapparini: Mm-hmm. I think I've run into maybe a couple of other people that have similarly this as part of their portfolio. CIOs that, for instance, own services I think is not that unique. Services could include, in different industries, something like consulting or implementation services or training. There may be a support piece as well. I think, more and more, we'll see that.

My own explanation is, I think, as technology again becomes so much more prominent as a way to execute something like customer support and deliver on a brand promise and deliver on expectations of a customer that's purchased a product, then there is nobody else, I think, better placed to actually help customers have a great experience. Obviously, there are still a lot of other things that are not technology, but I think where GenZ, some of the millennials, newer generations are looking for engagement with brands, a lot of it does involve things they could do on an app, on a mobile device, or on texting and things like that. I think that's where also the future will go. Maybe in a couple of years, Michael, you'll be interviewing a dozen CIOs that are taking on support.

Michael Krigsman: If you're not focused on more strategic aspects and innovation aspects of running the business, well, that is the prescription for the commoditization of IT.

Massimo Rapparini: I agree. Yeah, I think so. Again, obviously, there are things sometimes beyond your control, but there are also self-inflicted wounds. I think being passive and somewhat expecting people to commoditize you for sure will happen.

Michael Krigsman: Another question from Twitter. Would you prefer a CEO who is IT aware or a CIO who is business aware, if choosing both was not an option?

Massimo Rapparini: [Laughter] I think I would probably go for the latter, so the CIO that is business aware, I think, is a larger opportunity to influence, impact, and drive conversations that maybe peers at the C-level or the CEO, him or herself, may not be thinking of. I think it's a little harder if, let's say, the CEO is IT aware but then encounters a maybe traditional IT shop that is very much about, okay, we have rules and we're just about devices and we're just about network and we're about tools and technology for the sake of it. It's a lot harder to try to make that change and drive that change.

I think my observation is most CEOs these days, obviously, are technology aware. At the same time, I think CIOs are evolving more and more into realizing the value they can provide to the business. Yeah, nice quite and a hard dilemma, for sure.

Michael Krigsman: There are certainly degrees of this. For example, in Logitech, you obviously have an environment that encourages, that enables you to take this more expansive role. Not every company is like that.

Massimo Rapparini: Totally. Yeah, I think the culture matters. I think, also, the other element is your own initiative in terms of claiming or pitching that you can have a different impact on the business than maybe traditional IT. I think the third piece is also the business you're in.

Like you said, obviously, at Logitech, we're in the business of actual consumer electronics and technology itself, so finding somebody who is not kind of tech-savvy at Logitech is really hard. I think that enables, again, the different condition for the CIO to play a different role.

Michael Krigsman: This cultural element then actually is really, really important.

Massimo Rapparini: I think it matters both from what is the company projecting outside of their own four walls for the customers, the consumers that they serve, as well as within the company and the employees that you're able to attract and the role that each of the different functions can play. For us at Logitech, we're very tech-savvy, but we're also very aware of what's going on around us.

We, at the end of the day, are also trying to make a positive impact on people's lives directly. We want to understand what drives our customers or consumers and what are some of the even social issues that are happening these days like a drive for equality or sustainability and the environmental impacts. Yeah, I think all of those are eventually what shows up when you get to consumers as well.

Michael Krigsman: We have another question from Twitter. E-commerce and customer experience don't guarantee business resilience. Is business resilience a matter of how you use technology? Is it a matter of the technology itself that you choose to buy? What creates the business resilience?

Massimo Rapparini: Well, like I said, I think business resilience, for sure, is not just about, let me implement a bunch of technologies, and then we'll be resilient. I think you need to make that assessment of those operations, those processes, and the pieces that are maybe those weak links or single points of failure.

I think that's where you then leverage technology to understand, can it create more redundancy? Can it create better distribution? Can it create an ability to scale faster, more agility?

Taking e-commerce as an example, really, our play has been that we bring products to customers in all possible different ways that make sense for them to receive. What we don't want to do is, okay, everything goes through, let's say, Amazon or it goes through JD.com. All of a sudden, they have challenges, and now, all of a sudden, our products never get to consumers.

I think we do see something like e-commerce as an opportunity to go to market in a different channel and it's an opportunity to build a technology such that we can make it either an attractive channel for people or something that is as competitive as Amazon. Maybe, because you can personalize stuff on e-commerce and you only get special products from Logitech if you go to Logitech.com, that's something that is a different way to attract different consumers.

I think the resilience definitely starts with the bigger picture of your business and your goals. Then obviously, technology.

Maybe the other example is when it comes to video collaboration. We've adopted video collaboration way before the crisis. Not as a standalone, well, you know, maybe it's a good way to build resilience because we have teams in different parts of the world, but because it really emerged as a much more scalable, much more appreciated and adoptive way for people to actually work across boundaries and in different regions. I think, as you see that business opportunity and what is able to innovate, to bring new products, and then you see the technology piece like video collaboration can bring to it, then that's where you want to marry them and, at the same time, get the benefits of, for instance, having some resilience built-in.

Michael Krigsman: You could say that business resilience is about understanding the business strategy and the value chain, but then you bake technology into the processes and the operations as you go.

Massimo Rapparini: Yes. I'd say the difference is maybe from how people looked at technology in the past. Instead of technology as a way to just optimize and super-efficiently build everything to be super-automated with very little room for failure, you're actually adopting technology to create flexibility, to create agility, to create that kind of resilience. For sure, you need to change that perception, that mindset, too, and drive a different role for technology to play.

Michael Krigsman: Could you summarize specific advice for building business resiliency?

Massimo Rapparini: Start with the business and understand what is the strategy from an ability to scale and ability to grow that you're aspiring for and what does it translate to when it comes to things like geographies, markets, industries that you want to play in. I think, as an IT leader partnered with all the owners of these type of aspects of the business, to decide, okay, it sounds like when it comes to go-to-market or when it comes to innovating and building new products, we have a very important need to be able to do that fast, quickly, or be able to grow twice the size next year. Understand that kind of strategy.

Then work backward from there to understand the technology you have in place today. Is it developed to optimize for that or is it developed to be able to expand to different scenarios that could happen that you haven't forecast? You have the kind of happy path of the business, the happy path of the strategy you're pursuing, then what are all these deviations that could happen and how does technology respond to that?

That's maybe a kind of way of summarizing. Obviously, it's a little high level. I think, if you take an example of some of the things that I described earlier on our manufacturing in Asia, I think you quickly see how that can cascade into, okay, I'm going to build more cloud operations, multi-cloud architecture. I'm going to increase the capacity to connect to partners in regions I haven't connected before. Very quickly, I think it translates to practical things you can implement as an IT team.

Michael Krigsman: Somewhere along the way, you're in close contact and collaboration with the business leaders from the various domains or regions and so forth to make sure that you're working in concert with what's needed at that detailed level.

Massimo Rapparini: Totally. Yeah, you want to be an equal partner. At the end of the day, each of us plays a role in terms of putting the puzzle together. If you're just doing it standalone in a silo, obviously it will have a negative effect.

Michael Krigsman: As we finish up, how do you plan for what's coming next, given the fact that there are so many variables and we don't know?

Massimo Rapparini: I think it's the keyword there that we don't know and the variables. There are a ton of studies. I think recently one from McKinsey, for instance, just talking about the change of how people work. Some of those will be permanent changes and it becomes, I think, more of a work from anywhere and flexible hybrid working model versus we're all going to shift to working remotely and stay like that forever just like we are today. I think a realization that the transformation of the models and the complexity in different types of models that will occur.

I think, yeah, you can't really predict. You can't even say when is Corona going to be over or what will the world look like after it. But I think you can anticipate there are going to be new things introduced that have emerged as part of Corona. That acceleration has happened that you can prepare and plan for.

As a CIO, you have a huge opportunity to lead with technology. Whether you're focusing on resilience, agility, or the ability to bring completely new services and new products to market that have been somewhat born out of the need of people operating a different way because of the Corona crisis. Yeah, I think we're all trying to look in our crystal ball and anticipate but starting to accept that there's going to be different scenarios, much more flexibility, and have IT be able to pivot faster, I think, is definitely a safe bet.

Michael Krigsman: How do you work with peers as an equal partner? How much of it is a simple conversation and how much of it is some sort of structured planning process?

Massimo Rapparini: When I joined Logitech about four years ago, I guess I would describe it as, you're hired as a CIO. You're given the license to be the person who is going to drive the technology roadmap at Logitech.

Now, the question is, what do you do with that license? I think, if you want to be of value to everybody else in the company, whether it's your peers or your teams or other people's teams, I think you need to proactively take the initiative to, yeah, reach out and engage and find out what are some of the things that make them tick or are keeping them up at night.

I think that's a role you can play that then makes you the owner of the destiny of what your role can be. I think that's partly what led to me, at some stage, being asked to also run customer support and customer experience and facilities and real estate. I think not because I'm such a smart guy but because I think I've been able to engage with the right people and have them feel excited, just like I am, about compassion about customer support, to feel like we could do something together and drive an outcome together with the right combination of the team members that we have.

I'm not sure if I answered the question. For sure, some of this translates to structured conversation. Make no mistake. I think some of the things that we for sure experienced with working remotely is the lack of these kind of spontaneous, serendipitous conversation that happened if you are in a hallway and run into somebody casually. That's for sure, I think, still, the biggest nut to crack is figuring out how you replicate those in a virtual environment.

Michael Krigsman: We just, last week, interviewed the chief operating officer of Dropbox. She raised exactly the same issue that there is no easy way to have those kind of serendipitous conversations.

Massimo Rapparini: Again, no surprise there. I think, again, we've talked a lot about video collaboration. I think I'm a big fan, personally, but I think, obviously, because of Logitech being a key leader in the business.

I think that the challenge that still remains is how do you replicate things from real life completely. I think you probably don't want to do that.

I think you want to highlight things that are actually completely different and maybe more valued in a different setting like a video collaboration. But I think, at the end of the day, even the things we're doing now, video calls and behind Zoom, Teams, or whatever your cloud platform is, it's a whole different impact on you personally. I see it with some of our employees as well.

Like I said, stepping back, in the grand scheme of things, that's probably an easier thing to overcome than a lot of people who were personally impacted by the crisis who either lost their jobs or can't actually work remotely.

Michael Krigsman: Okay. We are, unfortunately, out of time. It was a very quick conversation. Massimo Rapparini, thank you very much for taking the time to be with us today.

Massimo Rapparini: Thanks. Great to be here. Thanks, Michael.

Michael Krigsman: We've been speaking with Massimo Rapparini. He is the chief information officer of Logitech. Now, before you go, please subscribe to our YouTube channel and hit the subscribe button at the top of our website.

Next week, we're speaking with the chief customer experience officer of Comcast, so that will be pretty interesting. Check out CXOTalk.com and have a great week. We'll see you again very soon. Bye-bye.

This transcript was lightly edited for length and clarity.

Massimo Rapparini: The crisis has created almost a magnetic field of pulling all these functions together such that we actually deliver a much coherent journey for our customers and consumers.

Introduction: About Logitech

Michael Krigsman: Massimo Rapparini, he is the chief information officer at Logitech.

Massimo Rapparini: So, brands in our portfolio you may be familiar with are Jaybird, Blue Microphones, ASTRO Gaming, obviously Logitech, Logitech G, and Blue Microphones.

I think, just briefly, the scope of what I do, yes, like you said, I lead the IT function at Logitech, but I also head up customer experience, which is basically running our contact centers around the globe, providing support to our customers and workplace service, managing about 80 offices across the globe.

Michael Krigsman: Now a quick thank you to Productiv, a SaaS management platform that unlocks the power hidden in your SaaS applications to bring you higher ROI, better team collaboration, and lower license costs.

You are a walking, living, breathing representative of Logitech right now. Tell us the equipment that you've got.

Massimo Rapparini: [Laughter] Yeah, well, as you can see, I'm using a Blue Microphone, a Blue Yeti, which I think you're familiar with as well. I'm using a BRIO Webcam that is immensely popular, of late, of course. Then I have in earphones, headphones, from Ultimate Ears PRO, and then, obviously, mice and keyboards that complete the whole setup here at home for me.

Managing change and the global crisis

Michael Krigsman: Let's talk about managing change. We are all experiencing this global crisis situation. Tell us what the impact has been on Logitech.

Massimo Rapparini: First of all, just to start, I think I want to express obviously our sympathy with a lot of people that have been impacted by the epidemic. I think a lot of people are in way worse situations than, for instance, I personally have been and a lot of the employees at Logitech, so I definitely feel for them. With everybody else, we're all hoping and praying that pretty soon this pandemic will be over.

Stepping back and looking at what happened back in March, I think, like everybody else, we responded when the pandemic started spreading. Immediately, the impact was more in Asia, obviously, and we have a large operation there that is where a lot of our production happens, a lot of our design engineering teams, and I think our first reaction was trying to figure out how to maintain the ability to operate.

But then, at some stage, that shifted to, as we resume the ability to manufacture products, how do we actually figure out how to distribute them? Borders were closing. A lot of restrictions were being imposed in different regions, and so how do we look at different sales channels to still get products and, often, products that are really essential and critical to customers across the globe?

I think, for us, there is definitely a silver lining. In so many categories that we were already playing, we became even more relevant with the crisis. You probably know we've always been in the personal collaboration space. We have always promoted things like streaming, gaming, and all of these areas have seen a huge increase, obviously, since the start of the pandemic, which, like I said, a silver lining in a good way for us.

Michael Krigsman: You've got demand exploding for your products.

Massimo Rapparini: Yep.

Michael Krigsman: At the same time, you have to be closing your offices and, therefore, ramping up production while all of this is taking place.

Massimo Rapparini: Yes.

Michael Krigsman: How did you do that?

Massimo Rapparini: Like you said, looking back, it feels like a herculean effort, and especially, I think, like I said, in Asia. Kudos to our team members there who very quickly adapted to how to, in a safe way and in a secure way, still be able to maintain some of that operations and production.

Initially, for sure, I know consumers noticed. As I run customer support, I have first-hand experience of people obviously being desperate to get their hands on products essential for them to be able to do their work.

I think we've been able to get over the hump there and I think, especially after the summer, around the summer, been able to ramp up. Also, we tried to leverage different ways to create that kind of production capability.

I think the challenge with people being in a whole different setting and working more remotely was something a little easier for us to overcome since we've always been a very distributed company. We have, like I said, 80 offices in pretty much every region of the world. But also, we'd been adopting distributed collaboration, using video collaboration within our four walls already for years. I think that's also obviously a benefit that we had that we could quickly pivot to that.

Really, the trick for IT, as an example, was mostly us scaling, but not so much about how do I educate people about how to use Zoom or how to actually get into video calls. I think different kinds of ways to adapt, but that's pretty much what happened.

Scaling remote work from home

Michael Krigsman: For you, ways of working, working from home, working with a globally distributed team, you were already doing that, but the challenge was scaling.

Massimo Rapparini: Yeah. Yeah, I mean I think, as an example, before the crisis, we already had a very high utilization of video collaboration. On average, we were doing 30,000 video calls a month with more than 80 sites connecting, with about 3 to 4 … (indiscernible, 00:05:10) every video call. If you translate, if you do the math, that translates to at least one or two video calls for every employee of about 3,000, 4,000 employees.

I think, since March, we've seen almost a three-fold increase in that. We're now looking at 75,000 to 90,000 video calls a month. The good news is, since we're already pretty cloud-centric, we were able to really leverage the quick scaling up and scaling of the infrastructure to be able to meet that type of demand.

At the same time, I think it's starting to create also a burden on IT in terms of being able to respond to this. But I think that's, like I said, a great example of how we've been able to leverage some of the things we already had in place.

Michael Krigsman: Tell us more about the role of IT and some of the challenges that you faced in IT during the transition period.

Massimo Rapparini: We had an impact both internally in terms of, like we talked about, the infrastructure and scalability, security, how to enable people who are already used to working remotely to be doing this more securely. As well as externally, how do we partner with sales and marketing leaders so we can actually shift to different channels, a lot of increase in our direct to consumer channels, and adding capacity for things that impact our partners, our operations, and as well as supporting our customers?

We've seen a huge increase in demand from customers asking us for support. Finding ways to more flexible and provide, again, that ability for people to also work remotely. Those are obviously some of the things.

I think the cloud infrastructure, like I mentioned earlier, was a big benefit to us, the fact that we were already pretty heavily in the cloud. Also, thinking about just ways to enable safe, remote connectivity in ways that you can also adapt to much more video traffic or different ways of collaborating with partners in different regions of the world.

Michael Krigsman: What was the hardest part?

Massimo Rapparini: The biggest challenge is really rethinking the impact of an adapting operation to the technology platforms that you have. You really have already a collaboration tool. Maybe you have a sales enablement platform like Salesforce.com.

All these tools work well in one setting where you have a model, which I'm sure we'll talk a little bit later about resilience, which is really optimized for efficiency. Now you need to shift to something that's maybe more flexible that adapts to different channels, that adapt to different partners. Really tweaking and adjusting those platforms to a different business model, I think, was probably the hardest for us.

Michael Krigsman: How did you go about accomplishing that?

Massimo Rapparini: Things that potentially seemed unassailable in the past, right? There was such a focus on razor-thin cost optimization. There was such a focus on things that were really, again, how do I make things more and more efficient?

I think, all of a sudden, you see a shift to, how do I actually embrace technology across the whole value chain? How do I make it something that pretty much leading the charge in terms of adapting to the crisis situation?

I think being able to figure out how technology brings people closer together and finding ways that we can innovate and build new products while, at the same time, making operations more scalable. I think those are all of the things that we've tried to embed, let's say, in the fact that there's this once in a lifetime, almost, opportunity to make change and that's something that you should grasp as a CIO, for sure.

Challenges of managing change

Michael Krigsman: Again, I'm very interested in the difficulties, getting into some of the details of how you go about driving this kind of change, shifting from the focus, the historical focus, on efficiency to now, obviously, you need to remain efficient but now you need to do things differently. How do you go about doing that?

Massimo Rapparini: First of all, there are a lot of opportunities to rethink how you've really structured processes and the systems that support them. If you take an example just on the manufacturing side, a lot of the efficiency-focused outcomes mean that you have just in time processes, you have systems that have very little room for redundancy, and so there's that risk around reacting to shocks of those systems.

I think what you can do is really step back and consider where is an opportunity to build something different than optimization without redundancy, to some extent. What are the infrastructure gaps and the lack of fallback scenarios that you're trying to erase in that example, as an example with manufacturing?

I think that's the approach, as an IT leader, you can take but, obviously, fully in partnership with business leaders. It's really almost a redesign, a rearchitect, the way you're not just doing systems but really the processes that they're supporting.

Rethinking the IT operating model

Michael Krigsman: How do you separate the technology dimensions from the nontechnology dimensions, whether it's culture, talent, anything else outside of technology?

Massimo Rapparini: I think you don't necessarily want to separate them. I think you're trying to bring those together. I think, as an IT leader, you're trying to really make technology the accelerator and the enabler of some of these business changes that need to occur.

I think, if you look at, for instance, again back to our value chain, the opportunity now shifts to multi-sourcing, dual suppliers, for instance, for manufacturing operations in different regions. As an IT leader, you're trying to really adapt to that and fully align to the type of changes that business operations are doing and find out how, for instance, even things like what talent and roles you want to staff in different regions to lower the risk of new business interruptions.

What kind of technology evolutions do you want to do and upgrades and features that you potentially have put on the back burner because of a focus on efficiency? I think you just really need to be opportunistic than jump into those types of situations that are completing changing some of the rules of the game, so to speak.

Michael Krigsman: If you're rethinking the role of IT in this innovating and adapting value chain, what are the challenges in doing that? It kind of goes outside the traditional role of IT.

Massimo Rapparini: Yes. Yes, and I think it leads to IT almost being redefined as technology and not just IT. Technology, in general, becoming almost kind of the business itself, right? I think what used to be traditionally, okay, we have business functions and then there's IT and they bring technology to try to support the business functions.

Whether you're trying to innovate and build new products, whether you're just executing a specific operation, whether your business is hardware or digital, and a full, online service, all of these are more and more showing that technology is essential. It's kind of almost what runs those types of services and products.

I think that's where, as an IT team, you can think about, okay, what can I do to bring technology to bear in ways that are relevant and have a positive impact on the business? It could be in regard to building new services. It could be in regard to applying technology for more intelligent and automated operations. It could be mining data to gain insights about things you couldn't gain before because you didn't have a direct relationship with consumers. Yeah, I think, across the board, there's no shortage of these types of opportunities.

Michael Krigsman: We have an insightful, interesting question from Arsalan Khan. Arsalan says, "The pandemic created an urgency for IT to perform in various areas all at once. Why does it take a reactive approach from the business to understand the importance of IT and is this going to last?"

Massimo Rapparini: I think what he describes is pretty much the experience of traditional IT where maybe it's somewhat—I wouldn't want to exaggerate—a second-class citizen. You're kind of like a back-office function that, okay, yeah, it's a necessary evil, so to speak. If things go wrong, everybody cries and, otherwise, you don't really notice it.

Obviously, I think that's by now, hopefully, for a lot of CIOs, something of the past. I think that observation about the business really noticing or somewhat appreciating some of the things that technology can do with them is something that, as a CIO, you can anticipate and, for sure, the crisis, like I said, has accelerated it.

You can create all the conditions and position IT such that if not just a crisis, but a huge business opportunity—maybe it's an M&A event or what have you—arises that you set up your teams. You set up your contribution to what the business does to be super impactful. That's the type of thing, like I mentioned earlier, where we had embraced video collaboration and we were showcasing it internally. We were showcasing to prospects as an IT to IT team. I think those are all the things that then pay off in dividends when the crisis happened because it's something that we could hugely leverage in that situation.

Yeah, I guess that would be my advice is, don't wait for the crisis. Yes, there is some frustration with how the business looks at it. But I think you can create conditions such that you can be much more critical and impactful beforehand.

Business agility and resilience

Michael Krigsman: Let's talk about resiliency. You mentioned that a few times, but let's drill into that. When you talk about resiliency, what does that mean? What does that refer to?

Massimo Rapparini: Yes. Everybody has probably seen this as an outcome of the COVID-19 crisis. A larger appreciation for previously whether it's a dependency on superefficient, lean, just-in-time processes, systems that have very little redundancy, or can't react to shock to those systems.

I think, in supply chain as an example, a manufacturer or customer operations, I think a lot of businesses realize that over-reliance on specific locations, for instance, or specific partners or cost-efficient sites where you could just get the best in time, lowest inventory level, super cheap way to actually get products to customers, all of that has obviously a huge drawback when you start experiencing a shock like COVID-19.

For me, business continuity and resiliency is about more than being ready to handle something like a natural disaster or a big cyber incident. It's surely about the full resilience of business operations and being able to flexibly reassemble processes, people, and tools, and really show that ability to rapidly adapt to changing conditions. That doesn't need to be just about the crisis like COVID-19.

Michael Krigsman: This definitely sounds like you are extending beyond the traditional boundaries of IT as we've known it historically.

Massimo Rapparini: Yeah. Grab the bull by the horns, so to speak. What better role IT can play in a situation like this than truly driving and leading the conversations and the opportunities for our business, which could be both from a risk mitigation as well as from a business opportunity. I think both of these angles are valid.

Risk management and mitigation vs. IT innovation

Michael Krigsman: Do you think about both of those angles, the traditional approach of risk mitigation as well as the business opportunities created that IT can help create?

Massimo Rapparini: Yeah, and I think, for Logitech in particular, obviously, I mentioned at the beginning the Corona crisis is a disaster and obviously has a huge personal impact to millions of people around the world. We are happy that we can actually not only contribute and help with some of the products that people actually require in this situation, but also the fact that, again, our business is relatively unscathed by what's going on with the crisis.

I think there is a lot focus on—you mentioned at the beginning—scaling to be able to build more products, meet some of the demand, and that's very easy to get kind of sucked into. But I think, as an IT leader, you also need to be somewhat the guardian of, let's manage risk.

Let's make sure, as people change the way they work, we're looking at cyber risk. We're making sure there are secure ways to connect remotely. We're connecting with different partners, introducing new technology. You want to, obviously, grasp the opportunity but, at the same time, keep an eye on the risk as well.

Cloud computing and business resiliency

Michael Krigsman: Let's talk about the technology aspects of this because the rapid transition relies on that. You said earlier that you have been a cloud-based organization. Tell us about the technology.

Massimo Rapparini: Cloud, in this case, is for sure also something that has demonstrated the importance of having the ability to rapidly and flexibly adjust to things that are changing. It could be burst capacity that you need all of a sudden with the ability to also scale down if you don't need it as business conditions change.

I think, for us, things like the redundancy of cloud architecture is something that really emerged as something critical because, yes, you can, for example, have a ton of workloads all on a Google Cloud Platform or AWS, whichever you pick. But if you don't have something like multi-cloud, the ability to shift to one vendor or another, you don't have geographical redundancy.

If I had put all my workloads in Asia at the beginning of the pandemic, my business would have been at a standstill. But the ability to do things like rapid provisioning, agile architecture, and easily transfer workloads to new environments, all of these pieces, I think, have been clearly shown as the go-forward not just for crisis but to go forward to build that ability to be resilient.

Michael Krigsman: That technology foundation is just a core part of the fabric, so to speak.

Massimo Rapparini: Exactly, and I think it becomes a much more relevant, salient part of what IT does and becomes something different than purely, let's keep the lights on and make sure business can continue, but how can I actually respond to opportunities as well in a much faster and much more agile way?

Digital twins and simulations

Michael Krigsman: I know also that, at Logitech, you used digital twins, which I find interesting because I tend to think of a digital twin as being part of the design process for—I don't know—jet engines or very heavy, large industrial equipment as opposed to cameras and microphones.

Massimo Rapparini: Obviously, I think there are multiple ways to define or apply things that account for a digital twin. I think, for us, one of the biggest use cases applications has been in the manufacturing operation itself and the fact that, as we, for instance, 1) had operations that were impacted for our factory in China at the beginning of the pandemic and then, 2) had to be able to more flexibly engage and basically partner with different contract manufacturers, it really helps to have the ability to start modeling, simulating large-scale operations, collect real-time data on processes, deviations from processes, looking at quality, uncover weak links, single points of failure, and basically use that to our advantage to then decide where are you going to either invest capacity, how do you staff things differently, what systems do you need to implement, or what capacity you need to add in terms of network connectivity, all those different decisions that come at you at a hundred miles an hour in a crisis like this. A simulation, digital twin type of capability allows you to deal with that, too.

Michael Krigsman: How much do you use those kinds of simulation capabilities?

Massimo Rapparini: I think, for us, it's early days, as in, again, partly maybe luck. We have actually started building this before the pandemic and able to invoke a lot of this as part of a response specifically to manufacturing impacts.

I think we're now starting to see more applications. Yes, when it comes to think like design or building and innovating new products, I think there's a huge opportunity there. Especially, we need to adjust to not being able to get engineers and designers in one room and work together on tangible work and design artifacts but having to simulate that all online.

Building design workflows, journeys, and design outputs that are used by engineers, all those pieces become really something you need to do online and digitally. I think that's the area that I would say we would want to turn our attention to next but, yeah, like I mentioned, I think it's early days for us.

CIO strategy and IT business model innovation

Michael Krigsman: Arsalan Khan has another question. He's concerned about the commoditization of IT and these kind of value-added, value chain discussions that you were describing. Does that fight the commoditization of IT?

Massimo Rapparini: One hundred percent, and I think, again, hopefully for many people, IT as a commodity is something of the past. The opportunity where businesses are more and more turning towards digital as not just a platform for delivering products and services, but actually as the product itself I think means IT and I think, obviously, some of that has led to more sexy terms like chief digital officer and people that are a hybrid CTO/CIO.

But, at the end of the day, it's that opportunity where technology, whether it's traditional IT or some of the things that are more emerging like digital, starts playing a huge role that is beyond, "Does email work?" "Is the wi-fi up and running?" and "Can people actually use the network?" I think it's that transition and, for sure, something like a crisis like COVID-19 can be seen and hopefully used as an opportunity to change the perception as well.

Michael Krigsman: Many companies have found that the pandemic forced transformations—and you alluded to this earlier—that were slowly in play anyway. Did you find that that happened, to a large extent, at Logitech? If so, how?

Massimo Rapparini: I think if people are familiar with Logitech, you probably have noticed most of the time people would run into our products—even if it's the traditional mice and keyboards or headsets and webcams—at places like Best Buy in the U.S. or Media Mart in Europe, and those kind of large retailers, physical, brick and mortar shops. That, I think, was traditionally a big reliance for us in terms of how we bring products to customers, which then also got augmented with things like Amazon, eBay, and all these other large online platforms – JD.com in Asia.

I think what happened with the pandemic is, obviously, partly because of the demand for our products but also partly because of consumer behavior that changed. There was a much bigger appetite and interest in our own direct to consumer platforms. Logitech.com, you can go there and buy products and you could do that always, but again because of the demand in all these other channels, we've never invested as much or really focused as much as a potential opportunity for growth.

I think that's really what's happened and I think, again, that has obviously led to a huge appreciation and realization that we can do more with this and not just start to respond to the demand but rethink what is the purpose and the value of an e-commerce channel. How can you design it? How can you set it up such that it's the best value for our customers, consumers to go there and it's also something that is providing a whole different output for the companies like us, instead of going through traditional retail channels?

Aligning CIO strategy with business objectives

Michael Krigsman: As you're looking at these different technology aspects and different business processes, how do you ensure that what you want to do fully aligns with the business owners in those processes or technologies or customer interfaces, whatever it is?

Massimo Rapparini: Yeah, this type of event creates a much stronger attraction, so to speak, between all the different touchpoints of a customer journey. Previously, you maybe had silos and functions that were pretty self-contained and isolated and, maybe from a customer, your experience also came across as quite fragmented. Now, I think something like the crisis has created almost some sort of a magnetic field of pulling all these functions together such that we actually deliver a much coherent journey for our customers and consumers.

I think that's really what I see as something that doesn't necessarily mean IT needs to kind of pitch for, "Hey, here is a point of view. Here is what we should be doing or think about how we design an e-commerce platform this way," but you're really being pulled.

There's a huge pull for being able to apply technology to develop channels, allow for people to have a way to purchase an additional warranty on their products, or being able to have a connection between sales and support. All these pieces are becoming, like I said, a demand that you don't necessarily need to offer yourself or offer opinions on yourself.

Customer experience and CIO strategy

Michael Krigsman: Well, it's very interesting for me to hear you talk about the customer experience and customer journey because that's something usually the CMO talks about as opposed to the chief information officer. Where is the link there?

Massimo Rapparini: I have a great relationship with Heidi, our CMO, because I think we do have a lot of overlap. I think we've found a good way to complement each other in the sense that she's obviously very focused on what is that brand experience we want to provide, what's at the end of the day the way that we can facilitate the marketing of our products to all these different and more digital channels.

I think, selfishly, as I also run operations, I'm also looking at the kind of back-end of all that, which is, okay, what happens when somebody actually has made a purchasing decision and how do we ensure that those two pieces really seamlessly integrate? Like I said, if you have the right conditions in place, I think you'll see that emerges as a great opportunity to actually make IT much more valuable to the likes of a CMO. Then there's plenty of opportunity for both sides to really impact something positive for the company.

Michael Krigsman: Would be accurate to say that the CMO is responsible for the brand and you as CIO are responsible for the technology and processes to enable putting that brand forth in the right way? Is that a way to describe it that's accurate?

Massimo Rapparini: I think that's one way and I'm pretty sure companies have probably different models and a different way of looking at it. I think there's an element of technology savviness that is obviously individual to each company and each of the people in these different roles.

If you take Heidi Arkinstall, in our case our CMO, she is very technology savvy and she's been a big evangelist for tons of ways that we can implement better platforms for our consumers, really use the data, and leverage the data to the benefit of consumers in different ways. I think, from that point of view, I have a somewhat easy job where I can really actually rely a lot on her to help drive some of these implementations and these initiatives and, at the same time, try to complement that with, well, what is the piece that is beyond the brand, let's say, execution but is also the consumer journey post-sales, as an example. I think that's where we have a good fit.

Michael Krigsman: I've always found it very interesting with you that customer care reports into you as well. That's unusual for the CIO also, in general.

Massimo Rapparini: Mm-hmm. I think I've run into maybe a couple of other people that have similarly this as part of their portfolio. CIOs that, for instance, own services I think is not that unique. Services could include, in different industries, something like consulting or implementation services or training. There may be a support piece as well. I think, more and more, we'll see that.

My own explanation is, I think, as technology again becomes so much more prominent as a way to execute something like customer support and deliver on a brand promise and deliver on expectations of a customer that's purchased a product, then there is nobody else, I think, better placed to actually help customers have a great experience. Obviously, there are still a lot of other things that are not technology, but I think where GenZ, some of the millennials, newer generations are looking for engagement with brands, a lot of it does involve things they could do on an app, on a mobile device, or on texting and things like that. I think that's where also the future will go. Maybe in a couple of years, Michael, you'll be interviewing a dozen CIOs that are taking on support.

Michael Krigsman: If you're not focused on more strategic aspects and innovation aspects of running the business, well, that is the prescription for the commoditization of IT.

Massimo Rapparini: I agree. Yeah, I think so. Again, obviously, there are things sometimes beyond your control, but there are also self-inflicted wounds. I think being passive and somewhat expecting people to commoditize you for sure will happen.

Michael Krigsman: Another question from Twitter. Would you prefer a CEO who is IT aware or a CIO who is business aware, if choosing both was not an option?

Massimo Rapparini: [Laughter] I think I would probably go for the latter, so the CIO that is business aware, I think, is a larger opportunity to influence, impact, and drive conversations that maybe peers at the C-level or the CEO, him or herself, may not be thinking of. I think it's a little harder if, let's say, the CEO is IT aware but then encounters a maybe traditional IT shop that is very much about, okay, we have rules and we're just about devices and we're just about network and we're about tools and technology for the sake of it. It's a lot harder to try to make that change and drive that change.

I think my observation is most CEOs these days, obviously, are technology aware. At the same time, I think CIOs are evolving more and more into realizing the value they can provide to the business. Yeah, nice quite and a hard dilemma, for sure.

Michael Krigsman: There are certainly degrees of this. For example, in Logitech, you obviously have an environment that encourages, that enables you to take this more expansive role. Not every company is like that.

Massimo Rapparini: Totally. Yeah, I think the culture matters. I think, also, the other element is your own initiative in terms of claiming or pitching that you can have a different impact on the business than maybe traditional IT. I think the third piece is also the business you're in.

Like you said, obviously, at Logitech, we're in the business of actual consumer electronics and technology itself, so finding somebody who is not kind of tech-savvy at Logitech is really hard. I think that enables, again, the different condition for the CIO to play a different role.

Michael Krigsman: This cultural element then actually is really, really important.

Massimo Rapparini: I think it matters both from what is the company projecting outside of their own four walls for the customers, the consumers that they serve, as well as within the company and the employees that you're able to attract and the role that each of the different functions can play. For us at Logitech, we're very tech-savvy, but we're also very aware of what's going on around us.

We, at the end of the day, are also trying to make a positive impact on people's lives directly. We want to understand what drives our customers or consumers and what are some of the even social issues that are happening these days like a drive for equality or sustainability and the environmental impacts. Yeah, I think all of those are eventually what shows up when you get to consumers as well.

Michael Krigsman: We have another question from Twitter. E-commerce and customer experience don't guarantee business resilience. Is business resilience a matter of how you use technology? Is it a matter of the technology itself that you choose to buy? What creates the business resilience?

Massimo Rapparini: Well, like I said, I think business resilience, for sure, is not just about, let me implement a bunch of technologies, and then we'll be resilient. I think you need to make that assessment of those operations, those processes, and the pieces that are maybe those weak links or single points of failure.

I think that's where you then leverage technology to understand, can it create more redundancy? Can it create better distribution? Can it create an ability to scale faster, more agility?

Taking e-commerce as an example, really, our play has been that we bring products to customers in all possible different ways that make sense for them to receive. What we don't want to do is, okay, everything goes through, let's say, Amazon or it goes through JD.com. All of a sudden, they have challenges, and now, all of a sudden, our products never get to consumers.

I think we do see something like e-commerce as an opportunity to go to market in a different channel and it's an opportunity to build a technology such that we can make it either an attractive channel for people or something that is as competitive as Amazon. Maybe, because you can personalize stuff on e-commerce and you only get special products from Logitech if you go to Logitech.com, that's something that is a different way to attract different consumers.

I think the resilience definitely starts with the bigger picture of your business and your goals. Then obviously, technology.

Maybe the other example is when it comes to video collaboration. We've adopted video collaboration way before the crisis. Not as a standalone, well, you know, maybe it's a good way to build resilience because we have teams in different parts of the world, but because it really emerged as a much more scalable, much more appreciated and adoptive way for people to actually work across boundaries and in different regions. I think, as you see that business opportunity and what is able to innovate, to bring new products, and then you see the technology piece like video collaboration can bring to it, then that's where you want to marry them and, at the same time, get the benefits of, for instance, having some resilience built-in.

Michael Krigsman: You could say that business resilience is about understanding the business strategy and the value chain, but then you bake technology into the processes and the operations as you go.

Massimo Rapparini: Yes. I'd say the difference is maybe from how people looked at technology in the past. Instead of technology as a way to just optimize and super-efficiently build everything to be super-automated with very little room for failure, you're actually adopting technology to create flexibility, to create agility, to create that kind of resilience. For sure, you need to change that perception, that mindset, too, and drive a different role for technology to play.

Michael Krigsman: Could you summarize specific advice for building business resiliency?

Massimo Rapparini: Start with the business and understand what is the strategy from an ability to scale and ability to grow that you're aspiring for and what does it translate to when it comes to things like geographies, markets, industries that you want to play in. I think, as an IT leader partnered with all the owners of these type of aspects of the business, to decide, okay, it sounds like when it comes to go-to-market or when it comes to innovating and building new products, we have a very important need to be able to do that fast, quickly, or be able to grow twice the size next year. Understand that kind of strategy.

Then work backward from there to understand the technology you have in place today. Is it developed to optimize for that or is it developed to be able to expand to different scenarios that could happen that you haven't forecast? You have the kind of happy path of the business, the happy path of the strategy you're pursuing, then what are all these deviations that could happen and how does technology respond to that?

That's maybe a kind of way of summarizing. Obviously, it's a little high level. I think, if you take an example of some of the things that I described earlier on our manufacturing in Asia, I think you quickly see how that can cascade into, okay, I'm going to build more cloud operations, multi-cloud architecture. I'm going to increase the capacity to connect to partners in regions I haven't connected before. Very quickly, I think it translates to practical things you can implement as an IT team.

Michael Krigsman: Somewhere along the way, you're in close contact and collaboration with the business leaders from the various domains or regions and so forth to make sure that you're working in concert with what's needed at that detailed level.

Massimo Rapparini: Totally. Yeah, you want to be an equal partner. At the end of the day, each of us plays a role in terms of putting the puzzle together. If you're just doing it standalone in a silo, obviously it will have a negative effect.

Michael Krigsman: As we finish up, how do you plan for what's coming next, given the fact that there are so many variables and we don't know?

Massimo Rapparini: I think it's the keyword there that we don't know and the variables. There are a ton of studies. I think recently one from McKinsey, for instance, just talking about the change of how people work. Some of those will be permanent changes and it becomes, I think, more of a work from anywhere and flexible hybrid working model versus we're all going to shift to working remotely and stay like that forever just like we are today. I think a realization that the transformation of the models and the complexity in different types of models that will occur.

I think, yeah, you can't really predict. You can't even say when is Corona going to be over or what will the world look like after it. But I think you can anticipate there are going to be new things introduced that have emerged as part of Corona. That acceleration has happened that you can prepare and plan for.

As a CIO, you have a huge opportunity to lead with technology. Whether you're focusing on resilience, agility, or the ability to bring completely new services and new products to market that have been somewhat born out of the need of people operating a different way because of the Corona crisis. Yeah, I think we're all trying to look in our crystal ball and anticipate but starting to accept that there's going to be different scenarios, much more flexibility, and have IT be able to pivot faster, I think, is definitely a safe bet.

Michael Krigsman: How do you work with peers as an equal partner? How much of it is a simple conversation and how much of it is some sort of structured planning process?

Massimo Rapparini: When I joined Logitech about four years ago, I guess I would describe it as, you're hired as a CIO. You're given the license to be the person who is going to drive the technology roadmap at Logitech.

Now, the question is, what do you do with that license? I think, if you want to be of value to everybody else in the company, whether it's your peers or your teams or other people's teams, I think you need to proactively take the initiative to, yeah, reach out and engage and find out what are some of the things that make them tick or are keeping them up at night.

I think that's a role you can play that then makes you the owner of the destiny of what your role can be. I think that's partly what led to me, at some stage, being asked to also run customer support and customer experience and facilities and real estate. I think not because I'm such a smart guy but because I think I've been able to engage with the right people and have them feel excited, just like I am, about compassion about customer support, to feel like we could do something together and drive an outcome together with the right combination of the team members that we have.

I'm not sure if I answered the question. For sure, some of this translates to structured conversation. Make no mistake. I think some of the things that we for sure experienced with working remotely is the lack of these kind of spontaneous, serendipitous conversation that happened if you are in a hallway and run into somebody casually. That's for sure, I think, still, the biggest nut to crack is figuring out how you replicate those in a virtual environment.

Michael Krigsman: We just, last week, interviewed the chief operating officer of Dropbox. She raised exactly the same issue that there is no easy way to have those kind of serendipitous conversations.

Massimo Rapparini: Again, no surprise there. I think, again, we've talked a lot about video collaboration. I think I'm a big fan, personally, but I think, obviously, because of Logitech being a key leader in the business.

I think that the challenge that still remains is how do you replicate things from real life completely. I think you probably don't want to do that.

I think you want to highlight things that are actually completely different and maybe more valued in a different setting like a video collaboration. But I think, at the end of the day, even the things we're doing now, video calls and behind Zoom, Teams, or whatever your cloud platform is, it's a whole different impact on you personally. I see it with some of our employees as well.

Like I said, stepping back, in the grand scheme of things, that's probably an easier thing to overcome than a lot of people who were personally impacted by the crisis who either lost their jobs or can't actually work remotely.

Michael Krigsman: Okay. We are, unfortunately, out of time. It was a very quick conversation. Massimo Rapparini, thank you very much for taking the time to be with us today.

Massimo Rapparini: Thanks. Great to be here. Thanks, Michael.

Michael Krigsman: We've been speaking with Massimo Rapparini. He is the chief information officer of Logitech. Now, before you go, please subscribe to our YouTube channel and hit the subscribe button at the top of our website.

Next week, we're speaking with the chief customer experience officer of Comcast, so that will be pretty interesting. Check out CXOTalk.com and have a great week. We'll see you again very soon. Bye-bye.