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Raytheon CIO Ken Wilcox on Enabling Digital Transformation While Empowering Teams to Navigate Change

Raytheon Vice President and Chief Information Officer Ken Wilcox has built his career on curiosity, embracing change and seizing opportunities, even if the challenge was uncomfortable.

Wilcox came up through the ranks, having spent most of the last 25 years at RTX and various affiliated organizations. He started out as a software developer at Pratt & Whitney (now part of the RTX portfolio), where he nurtured a passion for software development as well as how technology can enhance innovation and product design.

His roles at RTX, P&W, Collins Aerospace and Raytheon have spanned engineering, manufacturing, aftermarket and business development. In this Executive Spotlight interview, Wilcox shared his perspectives on change management, digital transformation and more.

What makes a good digital leader? What needs to be done differently and correctly to make that happen?

First and foremost, cultivating curiosity about emerging technologies and staying informed through continuous learning is crucial. This involves actively reading and exploring new concepts to understand their potential applications in our business.

Secondly, it’s essential to identify and address the specific challenges faced by the organization and seek ways to solve them using technology. While having innovative ideas is valuable, it’s equally important to tailor technology solutions to meet the current needs of the business.

A key aspect of effective digital leadership is demonstrating empathy and care for the people you lead. Digital transformation relies on the collective effort of the entire organization, so fostering a culture of belonging and alignment around common goals is vital.

Lastly, navigating through the complexities and obstacles of digital transformation requires resilience and determination. Whether it’s overcoming  investment constraints, solving intricate business problems or managing resistance to change, strong digital leaders must persevere to deliver meaningful outcomes across the business.

Qualities such as curiosity, adaptability, empathy and resilience are paramount for effective digital leadership. By embodying these traits, leaders can drive successful transformations and inspire their teams to achieve their goals.

What role does digital transformation play in an organization?

When implemented effectively, digital transformation acts as a powerful catalyst for enhancing business performance. Digital leaders are change agents at the forefront of simplifying processes, leveraging new technology and promoting new business models that help a company innovate and compete. We accomplish this by partnering closely with functional teams such as engineering and manufacturing and driving organizational change and create meaningful impact.

Digital plays a vital role in the employee experience and provides the capabilities that promote enterprise collaboration and raise workforce engagement. This is essential, especially in today’s evolving work landscape shaped by factors like remote work due to events like Covid.

Another critical aspect is driving operational excellence across the value stream. By digitizing product lifecycles and leveraging technology, we can optimize design cycles, manufacturing processes and ensure quality and timely delivery to customers. This directly translates to improved customer satisfaction and increased profitability.

Furthermore, leveraging data to differentiate products and services is paramount. By harnessing the power of data analytics, we can make informed decisions that enhance the company’s operations and add value to our offerings worldwide.

How do you know when and if digital transformation is successful? 

Navigating digital transformation is indeed a challenging journey, one without a definitive end, but marked by significant milestones along the way. However, leaders can implement strategies to gauge progress and measure success throughout this ongoing process.

Firstly, it’s essential to assess the allocation of resources and financial investments toward digital initiatives. Organizations must dedicate a meaningful percentage of their efforts to driving operational excellence and enhancing customer experiences through digital-first approaches. This allocation typically ranges from 10 to 30 percent, depending on the industry, signaling a deliberate commitment to digital transformation.

Secondly, upskilling and maximizing the talent base within the organization is crucial. Leaders must ensure that their teams possess the necessary skills and capabilities required for the journey ahead. Emphasizing practices such as product management and adopting safe agile methodologies enables teams to focus on delivering tangible business outcomes alongside technological solutions.

Lastly, integrating digital initiatives into the broader business roadmaps and objectives is vital for alignment and long-term success. Whether it’s collaborating with functional partners, or senior leadership, ensuring that digital efforts are seamlessly woven into future plans demonstrates their strategic importance and impact on organizational growth.

By focusing on these key areas leaders can gauge the trajectory of digital transformation within their organizations. As these elements align and produce tangible business value, it becomes evident that digital transformation is progressing in the right direction.

How does digital transformation help businesses innovate and be successful with their customer base?

Reflecting on the evolution of digital transformation over the past few years, it’s clear that perceptions and expectations have shifted significantly. Just a decade ago, understanding the concept and envisioning its mature state was a challenge for many. We dedicated considerable effort to elucidate the value proposition of digital transformation and advocate for a shift in thinking and working methods.

Today, however, digital transformation is not just a buzzword; it’s an expectation across various industries, from defense to consumer products, manufacturing machinery and automobiles. Consumers and customers now anticipate digital capabilities to be seamlessly integrated into the products and services they purchase. Whether it’s a mobile application for vehicles or smart home devices, consumers expect connected experiences that enhance value and functionality.

In the defense industry, there’s a growing demand for digital simulations and demonstrations to validate product efficacy and ensure they meet customer requirements. Companies that embrace digital transformation and proactively leverage digital technologies gain a competitive edge. They are better positioned to secure more business and foster long-term relationships with their customer base.

Moreover, digital transformation doesn’t just impact product delivery; it also plays a crucial role in acquiring new forms of revenue. By leveraging digital tools and strategies, companies can streamline sales processes, engage customers more effectively and ultimately drive growth.

Embracing digital transformation is no longer optional; it’s a strategic imperative.

Could you talk a little about encountering resistance to change and how to deal with that? As well as the best approaches you’ve identified for change management?

Navigating through change, especially when it involves significant shifts like digital transformation, requires a strong resolve and strategic approach. Change can be challenging as people naturally gravitate toward routines and comfort zones.

First, while it’s essential to have long-term strategic goals spanning three to five years, it’s equally important to start small and demonstrate the value of new approaches early on. By focusing on driving efficiency, simplifying processes and achieving small wins, teams can showcase tangible benefits of adopting a digital mindset.

Second, aligning with colleagues who are enthusiastic about innovation can be a catalyst for progress. Whether it’s partnering with engineering teams interested in product lifecycle digitization or collaborating with manufacturing teams exploring Industry 4.0 initiatives, leveraging internal champions can accelerate digital transformation efforts.

Third, prioritizing “time to value” is crucial. It’s important to deliver results quickly to demonstrate the impact of digital initiatives. Adopting agile methodologies and embracing the concept of minimum viable products, or MVPs, can help teams expedite the delivery of solutions, gather feedback and iterate based on real-world insights.

Leading and fostering through change requires a combination of strategic alignment, collaboration and a focus on delivering business value. By adopting this approach, organizations can successfully navigate through the challenges of digital transformation, embrace innovation and be a leader in the markets they serve.

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