Tech Officer Vantage Point: Bristol-Myers Squibb’s Greg Meyers

Leading tech officers give the inside track on how to unlock advantage through tech.

Back to Tech Vantage Video Series main page

Three takeaways from our conversation with Greg Meyers, EVP, Chief Digital and Technology Officer at Bristol-Myers Squibb. 

CIO video series connectors quote

Technology has brought about a really radical acceleration of business model evolution. We'll be in a perpetual state of tech transformation forever.

Greg Meyers
EVP, Chief Digital and Technology Officer, Bristol-Myers Squibb



Why CEOs need to create a culture of experimentation…

Most companies are not technology companies, but every company has to pay attention to how technology will impact their industry. It’s not a question of whether you’ll be impacted, but how, when, and how fast. But it’s not the job of senior executives to try to predict exactly how technology might impact their industry. It’s about getting moving and exploring things from the perspective of the customer.

My advice is to create a culture of experimentation and iteration—something that can seem counterintuitive to large, successful companies that are used to having 15-year plans. But it’s important because with technology things can turn on a dime very quickly.

To a large extent, the default way of being in a big company is to think that tomorrow will look a lot like yesterday. It's up to the CEOs to make it safe for the company to first admit that they don't know exactly how the business is going to look in 20 years and then give people the freedom and the safe space to try and iterate.


How tech officers are like mountain guides…

I view the tech officer role as being like a mountain guide. We're not going to tell the organization what it needs to do and promise that we have all the answers, because the tech world shifts so quickly. As a mountain guide, you will often face a wall of fog—you can kind of vaguely make out shapes. The key is to start moving and not wait for the shapes to fully form—because the fog will not go away. In taking a step forward, the shape will become a little clearer.

If you think about what our role as executives is, it's not to be able to explain to people what's on the other side of the fog. It's to encourage and make it safe for organizations to move forward without knowing exactly what the destination is going to be. The reason I like the word mountain guide is that even though we don't exactly know what steps to take, we've been on the mountain enough times that we can help people avoid the common pitfalls, like adopting a technology even though it has no useful purpose inside the organization.

It's up to us to help the company to innovate in a fast, iterative way with the intention of being able to understand what technology makes possible, how customers, shareholders, and other stakeholders will adapt to those changes, and then take that feedback and adjust accordingly. It's not about laying out a three-year plan with a very clear end state.


How to balance the promise of tech with business needs…

Tech leaders have a very interesting role to play. On the one hand, they must have a deep understanding of the business challenges and opportunities at an organization, and on the other hand, they’re tasked with knowing what can be made possible with tech. Often, when technologies or projects fail to deliver desired business results it’s because these two things are out of balance.

So, you might have technologists saying, “Here's this thing called a blockchain, let's figure out how to implement it into the company even though it might not be needed,”—a sort of solution looking for a problem scenario. Or, you might understand the business really well, but you might be led astray by a false prophet from the IT world.

The role of the tech officer is to have the technology fluency to decipher which tech is relevant, legitimate, and required at an organization. And then be well grounded in the commercial challenges and the competitive nature of their industry, so they can figure out which business challenges are a match for the technologies that exist.



Why tech transformation isn’t a transitory phase…

Technology has brought about a radical acceleration of business model evolution. With technology, the key isn’t to know how much tech transformation will cost or how long it will take, but you should instead be asking: do I have the right skills, capabilities, and business model that’s necessary to adapt to the changes that are likely to occur?

So, even if you can get through the next two or three years with tackling whatever low-hanging fruit you see, whether that's moving to customer self-service or changing your distribution channels or whatever that is, you have to realize that after those two years, there'll be something else, and something else, and something else.

It’s important to think of tech transformation as an ongoing way of being as an organization. We’re probably going to be in a perpetual state of tech transformation forever. It's not something that is a project that has a beginning, a middle, and an end. That’s definitely one thing we have to change our mindset about.


Why tech solutions aren’t silver bullets…

Investing in tech used to be a way to improve productivity and manage costs. Now it has transcended to become a major competitive differentiator.

In the past I felt my job was to convince executive teams that tech mattered. Now, I’m at the other end of the spectrum, where I’m having to temper expectations that tech isn’t a silver bullet and it will not magically serve your customers better. It’s been an interesting flip to see an under-enthusiasm and under-appreciation transform into an irrational exuberance in its ability to problem solve.


Watch more videos in the Tech Officer Vantage Point Series



How Great Leaders Unlock the Power of Technology


Start building the leadership to unlock exponential value from technology

Let´s continue the conversation