IT’s secret sauce for business success with Kevin Haskew


This week I’m joined by Kevin Haskew who is Senior Vice President and Chief Information Officer for ON Semiconductor. Kevin also serves on the board of directors for Desert Financial Credit Union.

Our discussion digs into how IT is constantly changing and Kevin’s secret sauce for business success. In IT, many focus on the hard skills, but don’t spend enough time on the soft skills. Kevin discusses how he looks at the soft skills and how these are critical for understanding the business.


Kevin Haskew LinkedIn:

ON Semiconductor:

Desert Financial Credit Union:

Podcast Episode

Episode Transcript

Tim Crawford:               Hello and welcome to the CIO in The Know podcast where I take a provocative but pragmatic look at the intersection between business and technology. I’m your host, Tim Crawford, as CIO and strategic advisor at AVOA. This week I’m joined by Kevin Haskew, who is the senior vice president and chief information officer for ON Semiconductor. Kevin also serves on the board of directors for Desert Financial Credit Union. Our discussion digs into how IT is constantly changing and Kevin’s secret sauce for business success. In IT, many focus on the hard skills, but don’t spend enough time on the soft skills. Kevin discusses how he looks at the soft skills and how these are critical for understanding the business. Kevin, thank you so much for joining the program today.

Kevin Haskew:              My pleasure.

Tim Crawford:               Kevin, you are the CIO for ON Semiconductor and also serve as a board member for Desert Financial Credit Union, they’re in Arizona. That’s quite a combination. I’m really curious to hear your thoughts on a few of the items that we’re going to discuss today.

Kevin Haskew:              Yeah, I’m looking forward to the conversation, Tim.

Tim Crawford:               Let’s just jump right into it. We often talk about this transformational CIO. We talk about the changing of the CIO role. From your perspective, what is the role of the CIO and ostensibly IT today?

Kevin Haskew:              I think it just one of the areas within an industry that is constantly changing. Lots of departments and functions are pretty much the same as they were 15, 20 years ago. IT is the department that constantly changes, so the role of the CIO has to change as well. And I think it has changed over the last 20 years. Today, you have to be much broader in terms of knowledge about technology, but also business, which brings it into play technical skills but also behavioral skills. So it’s multifaceted and it’s constantly changing and evolving and I think that’s what keeps us all fresh.

Tim Crawford:               We often talk about the hard skills, right? The technology skills and I do want to come back to that, but one of the things you mentioned were some of the soft skills in those business components. Can you talk a little more about some examples of those that might be interesting to dive into?

Kevin Haskew:              Yeah, absolutely. I always have to preface this when I talk to some of my team because quite often I’m guilty of saying, “It’s not a technical problem,” and we’re a technical department and we need the best technical people with the right certifications and experience and it’s a given. So what I want something more than that though. This is in addition to those strong technical skills. If we talk about competencies, we typically have about 13 competencies that we’re looking for. Technical knowledge is just one of those. People need to be able to problem solve. They need to have business acumen. They need to understand program management. They need to understand how to deal with change. To deal with customers, negotiation, persuasion, the powers of persuasion, the ability to influence. It becomes more and more important. So they’re all the sort of soft skills that we really need to focus on and stress.

Kevin Haskew:              Because then in addition then to the technical skills, that’s how you have become an all-round IT person who can really add value to the business. But if you don’t have those soft skills, it’s really hard to interact with the business. And to be honest, the technical skills, even though I say they’re critical and we need them, you kind can actually buy those skills. You can’t buy the soft skills because you need to be inside the four walls of an organization to understand the culture. I think it’s something that people tend to underestimate and sometimes don’t invest in, but I think that’s the differentiator or the secret sauce.

Tim Crawford:               There’re some incredible nuggets right there. Where does digital and data fit into this equation, beyond the soft skills or in addition to or related to them?

Kevin Haskew:              Yeah, it’s actually both. We live in interesting times, Digital has really come out, I will say the last five years, and again for me, there is no silver bullet here. It’s just an evolution, but this is now I think the results of the converged architecture and the ability to capture through IoT a lot more data, data analytics, data intelligence, business analytics and then decision making. All of this is driving digital and then obviously, it’s going into machine learning and then AI. I think it’s a great time for us, for IT because a lot of us have been looking at this for the last 10, 15, 20 years wondering when this day will arrive and what the capabilities will be and then what our role in that is going to be.

Kevin Haskew:              I’m excited when we actually talk about digital, but for me, the first thing is when I think of digital, straightaway I think of business and it’s something that we can actually do to help the business or that the business needs to drive better business decisions. And then that there’s a technical IT component but I look forward to digital actually helping us work on business solutions that require IT as opposed to being just the latest IT buzzword.

Tim Crawford:               And I think that you’re bringing up something that has been a bit of a sticking point in some folks’ conversations in the past, which is in order to drive those business outcomes, in order to be a part of it, don’t you have to have an intimate knowledge of your business?

Kevin Haskew:              Yeah, absolutely. And again, I think it’s critical and that’s why he’s not per se a technical issue, but a lot of people seem to oversimplify or miss this step out completely. If you don’t understand the business, you’re not going to have effective solutions. And that’s the problem sometimes when you outsource everything or you use consultants and contractors. The culture should not be misunderestimated. Understanding the business and the business capabilities is critical to effective solutions. And so I really want people who are close to the business and get to understand the business. I call it the business capability, our internal capability because that will determine the level of success.

Kevin Haskew:              So I think it’s critical, Tim, that we actually really understand the business and really understand how it works because without that you’re going to be suboptimal. And so again, some people might think that’s strange and not in the IT realm, but I would disagree with that. And that’s again why I say I’m not too interested in just having technical skills. I really want to understand the business and the business capability because if we don’t have that, we’re going to have a lot of missteps. Conversely, if we do understand it and we have the right solutions to help enable the business, we’re going to be a key player and we’re going to add value and I think that’s the opportunity. It really is interesting times for sure.

Tim Crawford:               I completely agree with you. I think this is a fascinating conversation. I want to compare and contrast how the technology pieces kind of fit in with that too. Especially as you talk about the emerging technologies. We talk a lot about cloud, we talk a lot about AI and you mentioned ML as well in there. Where do you fit these emerging technologies into that conversation around business? How do you bring those two together?

Kevin Haskew:              Multifaceted is the answer, but typically what, and I think we’re still maturing at this. But first of all, for me, it would start within IT and then with some key business leads. We’ve really got to get better having laboratory type activities where we’re actually doing a lot more trialing and piloting and the things that we never did before. But then it’s also imperative speaking to the business again to understand their capabilities and what they’re looking for, but then trying to then generate some demand that we think is appropriate. And then every year doing, I call it technical roadmaps. So we should be reviewing this constantly throughout the year, but present once a year to executives what we think are the emerging technologies and then what we think could be appropriate to ourselves, but then marry that up to business opportunities.

Kevin Haskew:              This is then where you start to look for the business sponsorship, and that happens say six months prior too that, you should be doing your annual strategic planning with the business. What we really need to do is when you see the strategic plans from the business that needs to including IT activities that have say these enabling technologies but that are presented in a way that it’s to support a business plan. And then that way you get in the right sponsorship, the right visibility. And to me the right way to justify and support the activities. It all starts with actually trying to stay current, experimenting and then feeding into new technologies through roadmaps and then strategic planning.

Tim Crawford:               And I think those are great pearls of wisdom. The one thing though that I want to challenge you on, and maybe you can help provide some guidance as well is around experimentation. I mean, IT historically has been an organization that is expected to deliver the first time, right. And a solution that doesn’t fail. Yet, experimentation, you do 10 experiments, nine of them will fail and one might be pretty decent. How do you bridge that gap between the expectation that IT delivers and delivers a solid solution versus building a culture of experimentation?

Kevin Haskew:              Yeah, that’s a great question. And it’s very provocative as well because it touches on reality and I’ll be honest with you, Tim. I think what you have to do, and I say this is still evolving for us, is you need to compartmentalize. The majority of our work and our staff is focused on delivering quality right time every time. And we get it right the first time and we deliver on time. And I think there’s a separate compartment where you actually create those sandbox and those play areas for people to go and experiment. But they are physically isolated or quarantined from everybody else so that pollution doesn’t really happen.

Kevin Haskew:              I think that to me, it’s justifiable for us to have both scenarios, but it’s certainly wrong for people to think that the whole department is allowed to experiment and make lots of mistakes. I don’t think it’s right. I don’t think it’s acceptable. And I don’t think, to be honest, that’s how it really works. I just think we have to make sure we explain that we do compartmentalize this and maybe it just makes us a little bit schizophrenia. But I think that’s what we have to do is to keep it all in perspective.

Tim Crawford:               So the reality sits somewhere between the two extremes?

Kevin Haskew:              Yeah, and everything, to be honest, everything we do is all about balance. To me, there is never a right or wrong or black or white. In our global nature, to me, it’s always a shade of gray.

Tim Crawford:               Yeah. You and I have had past conversations where you talk about the importance of having a framework and guidelines. Does that fit into what we’re talking about around experimentation or on a broader context?

Kevin Haskew:              Certainly broader. I mean for everything in IT, everything is driven by good planning, and it’s all under the umbrella of strategic planning. If you can’t do strategic planning well you don’t have a good IT department. And when I say strategic planning, I’m talking about going from idea or concept all the way through to execution and deliverable and cycling back around. Strategic planning is critical. But with that though, Tim, I think now with all these new technologies and new ideas, IT is becoming more ubiquitous. And so you’ve got a lot of people out in the business with IT skills. In the past, people refer to that as Shadow IT. And there was debates about whether it’s good or bad.

Kevin Haskew:              My view is that it’s here, it’s real. You can’t stop it. We don’t want it to be seen as the bottleneck. So I think the answer there is then we have to have frameworks and guidelines where we’re telling the business, “Hey, you’re allowed to do certain things on your own if you follow these guidelines or this framework.” And I think that’s how IT can retain a position of leadership, but we’re not slowing everybody down. Easy to say difficult to do. But I do think, when we talk about guidelines and a framework, I think that’s slight may be evolution of just normal strategic planning.

Tim Crawford:               Yeah. So well, I’ll just implement that tomorrow, and we’ll be good to go.

Kevin Haskew:              Yeah, absolutely.

Tim Crawford:               I want to shift gears a little bit. In addition to your role at ON Semiconductor’s, their chief information officer, you also serve as a board member for Desert Financial Credit Union. How have you found your experience as an IT leader benefiting your role on the board? But then vice versa, your service on the board benefiting your role at ON?

Kevin Haskew:              Good question that, I’m really pleased to have that opportunity, which recently have happen for me. So you asked two questions. I’ll answer it from both directions. The opportunity now to serve on a board I think’s rewarding for me. It’s a chance to sometimes give back and to try and share experiences and add value and help somebody else. The IT experience I think is really good because we touch everybody in an organization and again, if you take a business perspective, most businesses still operate the same way regardless of industry and so there’s transition to a different industry. For me, it was pretty easy, but you can see though how people sometimes underestimate or undervalue the role of somebody working in IT. The wealth of experience and the breadth of experience they have and when you actually sit in these conversations and listen to people speak from different departments, you realize that the role of the IT is actually kind of unique and I do think we can actually add a lot more value than people realize.

Kevin Haskew:              So for me, it’s been a very good perspective to sit on a board in a different industry and still feel as though, “Yeah, no, I understand this and actually I’ve got some experiences here that can actually help and maybe give a different perspective.” The flip side of it though, is now you really do have to change gears and it’s been a couple of people told me this before, that you really do need to try to distance yourself from or call it an operational focus. And my tendency would be sometimes wanting to just dive straight in and get all the facts and get into all the detail and want to maybe make some decisions and drive it through, and you really can’t do that.

Kevin Haskew:              The idea of the director is to be able to sit back and be more strategic and offer guidance and that’s not as easy as you think when you’ve been on the other side for so many years. I think again, a great, it’s a good learning example for me to see that perspective, but then also though it helps me when I’m preparing to present to my board members what they’re looking for. And so it really does give you that complete 360 view. And so the experience so far it’s been, it’s great, but I think it’s really helping me with my day job and then also helping with my directorial job as well.

Tim Crawford:               No, that’s great. It’s kind of funny, I had a conversation with one of our colleagues who also is a CIO and serves on a board. And I think the funniest part of the conversation was what do you do when you’re engaging with the CIO of that organization and, which hat do you put on? And it’s a very careful line to a traverse.

Kevin Haskew:              Yeah, it is, and obviously, people know that and sometimes they’re looking to you and you have to be careful you don’t get sucked into the wrong conversations.

Tim Crawford:               That’s right.

Kevin Haskew:              So it is, it’s not as easy as some people think, and you do need to really pay attention and try to think about the situation before you say something because you can get sucked in too early, or You could say something that’s not inappropriate but not required. But yeah, that’s a good challenge that, when you’ve got to CEOs together.

Tim Crawford:               You know enough to be dangerous, and know enough to be feeble.

Kevin Haskew:              Correct. Yeah, absolutely. Yeah.

Tim Crawford:               So as we kind of wrap on this episode, I mean fascinating conversation, ton of nuggets to unpack. We could go on for quite a while and talk about these further, but as we wrap on this episode, one of the questions that I always like to ask us is what excites you most about the CIO role today? Where it’s going and potentially where technology fits in if it does.

Kevin Haskew:              Yeah. It’s surprising that even I’m feeling old now, but I’m still excited by this. It never seems to stop. Just when you think you’ve got the end of it, there’s a new technology or a new evolution and I think that’s what keeps us excited. To be honest, Tim, the thing that keeps me excited is this constant challenge is that everybody in the company depends on IT. Everybody. Everybody is a customer. We touch everybody, we connect everybody. We enable people to collaborate. But I’m really fascinated by seeing the evolution though now, of talking about how [inaudible 00:18:07] through to artificial intelligence, rather than talking about IT technologies. These opportunities, and now we’re talking about business opportunities. That’s something that’s really going to add value to the business to still be in IT and be in an era where we’re working on solutions that really help the business, I find. Just fascinating.

Tim Crawford:               That’s great. Kevin, thank you so much for taking the time today to join the program. It’s been a great conversation. I always learn something new when I have an opportunity to chat with you. Thank you again.

Kevin Haskew:              My pleasure, Tim, I’ll speak to you soon.

Tim Crawford:   For more information on the CIO in The Know podcast series, visit us online at, or you can find us on iTunes, Google Play, Stitcher, Spotify, and

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