A New Frontier for Diversity in IT

By Manjit Singh, Senior Vice President & Chief Information Officer – The Clorox Company

Manjit Singh was recently named 2017 Distinguished Chief Information Officer by the National Diversity CouncilApril 24-April 27 is Silicon Valley Tech Diversity Week.

 

I’ve been thinking a lot about the journey that our IT team is taking here at Clorox. It’s a different path from what you might imagine.

For us, being diverse and inclusive is a wide road.

We’re not just assembling people with varied nationalities, backgrounds and orientations. Rather, we’re building a team of folks with different thoughts, experiences and expertise that, when combined, create a more innovative — and more powerful — result.

Blowing up silos

Clorox, like any global corporation, is a complex organization.

We’re 8,000 strong. Among us, we’ve got specialists in everything from social media to supply chains, from microbiology and packaging design to retail category advisory services and intellectual property.

It’s easy to label each group — Marketing, Sales, Product Supply, Legal, Finance — and contain them in their respective silos.

The IT function, for example, could easily fall into this trap. We’re the troubleshooters, right? The folks who “keep the lights on” in the network 24×7, who ensure orders get filled and reach our customers, who protect us from hacks and make sure Clorox systems run smoothly and securely.

But this “back office” point of view is far too narrow. We are so much more than a support function.

We have people from tech startups and from consumer products manufacturers. Some of us are versed in digital marketing, others in product design and sales. It’s the type of experience Clorox needs to grow the business.

Two worlds collide, combine

So imagine what could happen if Clorox IT folks offered their technology expertise to an R&D product innovation group.

We recently decided to find out.

The result is a first in the consumer goods arena: the Brita® Infinity pitcher.

An “Internet of Things,” device, the wifi-enabled Brita Infinity pitcher securely connects to the internet and automatically orders replacement filters through Amazon when needed.

Consumers are freed from the tyranny of remembering when to replace and reorder filters. When the pitcher’s red light blinks, indicating it’s time for a new filter, that filter will already have arrived in the mail.

This “smart home” device happened because we placed IT people on a product innovation team, because we thought inclusively.

Now, this wasn’t the most obvious thing in the world at the time. Some people wondered what IT was doing there when we first got involved.

Quickly, however, the value of IT’s technical expertise became evident. So, too, did our understanding of how consumers interact with technology products and thus, how the overall product experience had to be designed. Because IT was involved in each step of this product’s development, technology considerations informed every decision as we designed and planned how to release and market this cutting-edge pitcher.

Meanwhile, the IT team members learned firsthand how R&D and the product innovation teams bring an idea to life. By the time the Infinity pitcher launched, our people had a deeper mutual respect for the others’ work.

The Brita Infinity pitcher

Better collaboration leads to good growth

For me, the most exciting thing about this collaboration is not the Brita Infinity pitcher itself, cool as it is.

Rather, it’s the affirmation that we complement, not contradict, each other. We tapped each other’s strengths to achieve common goals. The more we continue to embrace diversity in this way, the better off we will all be.

Because frankly, all of us at Clorox share a single goal: good growth.

By working together, across functions and typical roles, we created something bigger than we could have if we remained in our silos — had R&D developed the concept and then handed the project off to IT who then handed it off to Sales and Marketing. 

The biggest lesson here is that almost everything we do, each and every day, takes teamwork, collaboration and diversity of thought.

Learning how to engage each and every employee and the experiences they bring to the table is essential to our company’s current and future success.

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