Chief Information Officer
JTI is the world’s third largest tobacco company, operating in 130 markets with a workforce of 44,000 people, 29 factories, 8 R&D centers and 6 tobacco processing facilities around the world. The company’s Chief Information Officer is Atiq Samad, and he has been in the role for two years. Such a large, global company has had a head start on the adaptations companies are experiencing worldwide in the face of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, as he explains: “Fortunately at JTI, we were already used to having virtual teams, because we are spread out all across the world, representing many different locations. We’ve learned over the last 15, 20 years how to work in a virtual team.”
When Samad joined, he made it his mission to look at the company’s IT landscape holistically, in order to modernize its technology platforms under the banner of a Business Platform Modernisation (BPM) program. “We were one of the first big companies with a single instance database on SAP that moved from ECC to S/4HANA. And this was of course a big technology migration, but not only that, we also did a finance transformation. In terms of our CRM, as part of our trade marketing excellence (TME) program, we decided to go to the latest technologies with Oracle, which is the Oracle Engagement Cloud. We’ve also brought in a single source of truth called One Data, and we‘re looking into the factories and logistics too, to bring them up to the same level.”
It’s not just technology that has changed as part of the BPM initiative, but also the culture. “We are bringing in an investment mindset. So, hand-in-hand with the business platform modernization program, we have implemented what we call the technology investment portfolio management process, where we have a portfolio of all the technology investments. We look at each investment and look at both their initial business benefits and their strategic fit to make a strategic roadmap.”
Part of that strategic roadmap has been embracing emerging technologies. “We’re expanding into artificial intelligence, IoT, robotic process automation. We already have them on a small scale, but now we’re going to expand further into the digital space.”
Thanks to the existing measures put in place by Samad and his team, JTI was well able to weather the coronavirus storm. “We had everything cloud ready - that's why, for example, when we felt the impact of coronavirus we went from 600 remote workers to about 18,000 remote workers within three days. From an infrastructure standpoint, we had to make an effort, but it didn't create big problems.” Samad further sees the pandemic as opening up possible avenues for potential change. “We’re looking at the digital employee experience, and we're even challenging the concept of offices entirely. Can we not have dynamic offices, for instance? But as the CIO, my biggest focus always has been and always will be on remaining secure, compliant, and resilient.”
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With this greater interconnectivity of machines comes greater exposure to risk, so we have to make sure that we protect these newly formed connections.