Premier 100 IT Leaders: The Rewards of Risk-taking

IT leadership can be a high-wire act of managing game-changing projects at high speed. Here's how the Premier 100 make it work.

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An added business reward: The Latin America IT migration created efficiencies for Lenovo's Idea product group and deployed strategic sales tools globally. Plus, it created a better cost forecast and pricing solution, Wang says.

It's also worth noting that the Latin America migration was just one of three major system releases in the past two years, all of which were delivered on schedule and within budget. And despite the cost of the large-scale transformation project, Wang says Lenovo's overall IT spending as a percentage of revenue had dropped from 2.8% in 2008 to less than 1.5% in 2010.

Kraft Foods CIO Mark Dajani also relies heavily on disciplined planning as one of his key risk management and mitigation strategies.

"Big changes require more upfront planning, contingency planning and rehearsals," he says. For example, throughout the integration of Cadbury, which Kraft acquired in 2010, Dajani and his team have had layers and layers of contingency plans in place to address potential glitches.

"The big projects can be very expensive, and delay will cost a lot of money and business disruption. When you think about what could go wrong, planning for it is much easier ahead of time than at go-live time, especially in the areas that impact customers," he says.

One example: During a system cutover in Europe last summer, one of the data feeds didn't make it to a central warehouse. The negative impact was minimal, however, thanks to an in-place contingency plan to automatically ship 30% more product to that warehouse in the event of a problem.

Dajani says he also relies on a finite group of carefully chosen vendor partners, which he has incorporated into centers of expertise.

One of his riskiest business decisions was where and how to build and staff Kraft's shared service centers, which house the services that are common across all Kraft business units worldwide.

"The technology, the business processes harmonization and the ever-consolidating world are really changing how we can deliver services to our company," Dajani says. "My biggest learning was that there is no perfect decision and that timing in this changing world is not on your side. So, go ahead and make a quality decision with an appropriate time frame, and be prepared to adjust and change as you go," he advises.

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