Season 1, Episode 1: Norwegian Cruise Lines’ IT Charts a Course Through COVID

Business Excelleration Podcast

Two of Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings’ lead information technology (IT) executives – CIO and SVP of Operations and Governance Dimple Jethani, and CIO and SVP of Enterprise Applications and Emerging Technology Scott Piccolo – discuss how the company’s IT organization has responded to the pandemic, the critical role played by IT in the organization’s digital transformation, and the IT challenges and opportunities presented by the next normal.

Show Notes

In today’s episode of the “Business Excelleration Podcast,” host Jay Ruffin is joined by Dimple Jethani and Scott Piccolo, chief information officers (CIOs) for Norwegian Cruise Lines (NCL).

When Dimple and Scott took on their roles two years ago, they knew foundational items were missing from NCL’s IT infrastructure. Amid the COVID pandemic, the IT strategy has had to change dramatically. The IT role has changed as well by becoming a strategic advisor to the organization. To ensure a successful digital transformation, they began building a foundation that included a mobile workforce and changing the culture and mindset as they got everyone shifting to work from home. One major challenge was making sure cybersecurity extended to their home workforce.

Scott explains that one of the things that is lost in COVID is the office culture. There is a buzz and comradery that comes from working in an office. At first NCL CEO Frank Del Rio was ready to make getting staff back to the office a top priority; now, with the success of work from home, he doesn’t see the need for hurrying back to the office anymore. Scott explains that efficiency and performance haven’t taken a hit, so playing it safe and keeping people healthy at home can continue until the timing is right. Keeping the culture alive digitally can be difficult, especially when the pandemic has hit the cruise line industry so hard. Dimple explains that communication and one-on-one meetings with lots of transparency have been key in maintaining a good culture and relationship with employees.

Jay asks if Scott and Dimple see work from home continuing as part of their company structure. Scott explains that telecommuting wouldn’t have been an option in the past, but now their executive team has seen the successes and are more comfortable with it. The talent pool opens up when companies are willing to hire employees who can work remotely. Especially in IT, this will allow NCL to get the best talent available, regardless of where they’re located. Dimple believes in a hybrid model, where some workers are remote, but many are also still able to come to the office for important meetings.

As the cruise industry reopens, Scott emphasizes the importance of cleaning, and how much of that they were already doing prior to COVID. Those efforts will certainly be enhanced as they begin cruising again. From the IT perspective, Dimple and Scott stress that they will be looking to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for guidance, and attempting to use technology not only to ensure safety, but also enhance the customer experience and make things better on the ship. Dimple says people are their key assets, and Scott agrees, saying their employees have stepped up, even with limited staff, and made things run smoothly.

Finally, Jay asks Scott and Dimple what advice they would offer to other leaders who are experiencing a crisis. Scott explains that even before a crisis, your company culture should be such that your employees are willing to stick with you through a crisis. He also says, “The devil is in the details,” so keeping on top of little things is essential. Dimple agrees, while adding that an emphasis should be placed on being proactive rather than reactive, and adaptability is key.

Timestamps:

:59 – Jay Ruffin introduces today’s topic and guests Scott Piccolo and Dimple Jethani.

1:27 – Jay asks about the COVID response in the cruise industry.

5:25 – How has their strategy shifted?

7:54 – Dimple explains how she and Scott are taking care of their team during the pandemic.

9:10 – Jay asks if their company will continue with remote work?

11:47 – What has the reaction been from the leadership at NCL?

15:37 – What are Dimple and Scott planning for the new normal?

24:48 – Jay asks Scott and Dimple what things are essential to leading in a pandemic?