Globalized IT operations pay off

By interlocking business services, companies gain customer knowledge, efficiency and speed. The payoffs are huge, but laying the groundwork for IT standardization is no easy task.

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At Equifax, Webb's team carefully considered which roles would move to headquarters and which needed to stay local. "The relationship management piece, project management, business analysts and requirements analysis need to stay in-country," he says. "All of the rest can be questioned and analyzed for globalization."

IT's Sales Job

The process of globalizing is as much about management as it is about technology, IT executives say. And no IT globalization effort will succeed unless IT can show an immediate benefit to the business. "You cannot force standardization now with the promise that five years from now the world will be better," Passerini says. "The business must understand the immediate return as well as the good that comes later. Always start with business-relevant, concrete benefits that your business partners can see, feel and touch."

P&G built up its shared services business by clearly articulating the business benefits that line up with the company's strategic business goals, he says.

Kamath agrees that globalization initiatives can't just be dictated to business unit leaders. At IDEX, every operation moved into the private cloud infrastructure -- a step that was transparent to the business -- but Kamath took a more measured approach to transitioning each business unit onto the new application platforms. The platforms delivered clearly understandable business benefits, but each unit came aboard "when they were ready," he says.

Evangelizing is critical, Webb notes. "You need to spend a lot of time socializing why the change is a good thing. And even when people understand it, they will be resistant if it affects their business," he says. Change is disruptive, and having multiple initiatives happening in parallel compounded the problem at Equifax.

Any successful globalization initiative must have the CEO's unwavering support, but it is important to understand that the CEO also has made a commitment to help each business unit meet its goals. "They're focused on top-line growth, and many of these solutions have the potential to get in the way of meeting their goals. You get a lot of pushback," Webb says.

CIOs have to be patient and realize that they must strike a balance between accomplishing their goals with globalization and being sensitive to the fact that business unit leaders need to meet those P&L targets. "You have to have the flexibility to slow down and work with the business when things happen," Webb says. "We've gone through multiple iterations of thinking we know where we want to go, and then something comes along and derails it."

To maintain support once shared services have been established, and to avoid having business units go rogue, a global IT shared services organization must be highly responsive, Fortner advises. "How do you govern standardization to prevent a creep-back to everyone wanting their own things? You need to run like a business and be so good that they won't want to go elsewhere," he says. At P&G, the business units rate the Global Business Services group's performance every year. When the rating system was first adopted 10 years ago, Global Business Services got a score of 6 on a scale of 1 to 10. "We're over a 9.0 now," Fortner says. "Running as a business has forced us to be competitive."

Getting started means overcoming corporate inertia. "The thing that holds people back is the lack of a bold, compelling need to change," Fortner says. "You get stuck in the old business model, and country managers will want to do it their own way. They have to trust that your organization can come in and do it better, faster and cheaper."

This version of this story was originally published in Computerworld's print edition. It was adapted from an article that appeared earlier on

Copyright © 2012 IDG Communications, Inc.

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