Balancing Act

Global enterprises need standard processes. Here are three approaches for creating equilibrium.

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Regional and Local Say-So

Executives at FedEx Services Inc. lead the drive toward IT standardization in 220 countries, where 18 languages are spoken. But IT representatives from each of FedEx's five regions are "equal partners at the table" when decisions are made, says Don Gibson, managing director of IT at FedEx's office in Irving, Texas. "The regions have a lot of say-so when they have to deal with local IT regulations, laws and requirements."

Many regional best practices have been adopted as global standards. The company's European operation, for instance, manages language translation with software from Trados Inc., which was acquired by British company SDL International last July. Once a word is translated into Arabic, Chinese or Spanish, it's saved in a database to be automatically recalled for future translations. "We've made that a standard at Fed-Ex - across the company and Fed-Ex.com for translations. We're already seeing some big savings," Gibson says. Software upgrades that once had to be translated into 18 languages each time at 10 cents to 20 cents per word can now be partially translated through the software. Only new words require translation.

The Hybrids

The Boeing Co. has employees worldwide, but it also has a complex web of global partners that provide services from aircraft design to construction of fuselages.

The aeronautics giant is undergoing a major transition to simplify business processes, including a plan to go from 3,100 systems to 500 common systems built around six lean business models.

"Our simplification strategy has been to make Boeing one global enterprise. That does not mean that one process fits all," says CIO Scott Griffin. Chicago-based Boeing still must work with the processes of its global partners.

"The Boeing simplification effort includes wherever employees work, but the model looks different because they rely heavily on partnering with companies around the globe. We're not asking them to change procedures," Griffin explains. But he adds that some partners have moved to Boeing's engineering design software voluntarily to make communication easier.

Dallas says that although regional governance is difficult to define, it will emerge as the dominant global model in 2006. However, "you'll see some pushback on governance initiatives because people in business units are failing to understand why it's important and why they should be involved," Dallas says. IT supports the entire organization, she adds, and "executives need to get involved because they can maximize their investment in IT or minimize the cost of IT."

Collett is a Computerworld contributing writer. Contact her at Stcollett@aol.com.

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Navigating Global IT

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Copyright © 2006 IDG Communications, Inc.

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