With information technology as the road under their wheels, Specialized is riding hard and fast into the future
Cycling changes lives, and as the premiere manufacturer of many of the best bikes ever to roll, Specialized Bicycle Components has the receipts to prove it. Founded in 1974 by Mike Sinyard, Specialized is one of the largest, most recognizable brands of high-end road, mountain, and e-bikes in the world.
They are a company created by riders, for riders, and that influences every decision they make. Their fierce passion for cycling technology has opened up a world of freedom, joy, and excitement for millions everywhere, from everyday riders and backyard BMXers to the elites blazing through the Butte 100 or the Tour de France. And don’t forget the tots – Specialized has safe and responsive bikes for riders of every age.
Innovative from the jump, the California legend created the first production mountain bike, pioneered wind tunnel technology, and has improved bicycles of all kinds from the tires to the taillights. “We have a saying here: Pedal the planet forward,” said company CIO Peter Jazowick. Noting that studies have shown that riding a bike has a positive impact on kids with ADHD, he added, “Incorporating that with ‘Pedal the planet forward’ has been a passion and an inspiring approach for everybody that works at Specialized as well as all of our riders.”
The company has a presence in nearly every market, including Latin America, Asia, Europe, Canada, Australia, and the U.S. They employ 3,000 people and have a robust global brick-and-mortar retail network and online presence, with bike shops representing about 90% of their business. Their cycling technology may be peerless, but until recently their information technology organization was in dire need of a rethink.
With 25 years in the tech industry under his belt, 17 of which were spent at Nike, Jazowick rode into Specialized with a keen understanding of how technology can accelerate both the user and the consumer experience. “While we continually look to serve the rider, from a technology perspective Specialized was significantly underinvested. What we did not have was a strategy around technology,” he said.
The first step: making sure the global tech group understood their purpose. “That’s not only to make sure that we're simplifying our landscape and our infrastructure and giving our teammates the tools to do their job and be successful,” he stressed, “but also giving our riders a simplified brand high-end experience with the relationships that they have with brick-and-mortar stores and with our retailers’ online experiences.”
All of those experiences need to be at the highest end. “If you think about Nike and their premium experience, we're the same in the cycling industry as we continue to build out our strategy. We really had to recognize where our opportunities were.”
Jazowick joined the privately held enterprise in April 2018. When he assumed the CIO role in March 2020 it was valued at just over $1 billion. The pandemic accelerated the global interest in cycling as people sought safe outdoor experiences to support their wellbeing during the crisis, and Specialized set a course to triple that valuation.
“I wanted to take a step back and say, ‘Why stop there? How can we create a $10 billion Specialized with technology as the enabler to accelerate that?’ To do that we needed to reset technology as a whole,” he said. Understanding their purpose as a technology organization and building partnerships throughout the business was crucial, as was connecting the different IT organizations across their global markets.
The global tech unit was faced with a number of challenges, including disconnected legacy systems, a surfeit of technical debt, fragmented security and infrastructure, and no single source of truth. The technology organization was considered more of a service provider than a strategic partner, so Jazowick put his team on a course to build trust, partnership, and clear communication, demonstrating the organization’s significant value to the business.
Shredding for success
When Sinyard left the CEO chair in 2022 as Founder, Chairman and Chief Rider Advocate, he appointed Dyson exec Scott Macguire to fill his shoes. Maguire asked Jazowick why the tech team didn’t have formal priorities. “That was a great question,” he said. “So we implemented a technology prioritization process that requires the development of a full business case with ROI and realized financial results before approval.”
To power up Specialized’s transformation into a technology-first organization, Jazowick restructured the tech organization in into five strategic verticals. The enterprise applications and data & anaylitics pillars include unified messaging, security, service desk, infrastructure, and architecture. The pandemic expedited their retail expansion, with a particular emphasis on enhancing the technology infrastructure for their brick-and-mortar operations. They aim to ensure a consistent platform is implemented throughout their entire retail network and to collect and analyze pertinent data to successfully achieve their business objectives.
The market enablement vertical connects the dots across all of their technologies, ensuring that they are showing up as the best partner possible. “Proactive communication is a big hot point for me,” he said. “How do we ensure that we are continuing to evaluate our global tech strategy? How does that align to our business objectives, ensuring that we're continuing to build trust in that way. It’s about being a strategic partner and a thought leader in this space.”
Jazowick pointed out that it’s great to have relatable storylines and talking points, but everything really hinges on the ability to act and demonstrate the unit’s value throughout the entire Specialized organization. "It’s something I’m evolving as a leader,” he said. “In order to tell the story, something I feel I'm pretty good at, I must but really action and implement the storyline and show the company and the teams the value of what we're talking about and the innovative spirit that is super important.”
That’s a huge amount of ground to cover, considering that just three years ago they didn’t have a tech strategy. Now they do, and they’re already updating it and are planning a July debut. “We're stronger as an organization, set up to support and accelerate our business through our current company strategy to2027,” he concluded.
Founded on the principle of performance and fueled by innovation, our focus on the rider and their needs is our constant. From seasoned pros and weekend warriors, to kids and commuters—if you ride, we’re for you. The passion we have for sharing our love of bikes with the world can be seen in those who choose to work here. Headquartered in Morgan Hill, CA, the passionate and creative teammates at Specialized have designed and manufactured the world's most innovative bikes and gear since 1974.
Specialized Bicycle Components, Inc.
15130 Concord Circle
Morgan Hill, CA 95037
Phone Number: 408.607.9042
Homepage Link: https://www.specialized.com/