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Embrace the executive blog

Martha Heller | March 20, 2014
How Michael Smith, CIO of Mylan, used a simple tool to drive a major transformation.

CIO, Mylan, Michael SmithMichael Smith became CIO of Mylan in 2012, five years after the pharmaceutical company had acquired Merck’s generic drug business. The 50 year old company had become a nearly $7B global company in only five years but still had work to do to fully integrate the acquisition, tear down silos, and establish global processes.  

With huge transformation ahead of them, Smith saw that the IT organization was lacking some basic communication tools necessary to drive change. “We were a company that needed to scale to the next level, but we did not have the technology to allow our executives to send consistent messages throughout the company,” he says.

The IT organization was also about to experience change. “I walked into an IT organization that was not in the best of shape,” says Smith. “We had no enterprise architecture, no centralized infrastructure group, no business intelligence, and no digital capabilities,” he says. What’s more, like so many CIOs inheriting an IT organization, Smith found that IT had outsourced the wrong functions. “Our resource model was backward,” says Smith. “The commodity work was done in house, and the strategic work was done outside.”

On the verge of a major global business process re-engineering effort and a comprehensive restructuring of the IT organization and sourcing model, Smith needed a better communication tool than email. So with the help of Nina Devlin, VP of Communications at Mylan, Smith started a blog. “The beauty of the blog was that I was able to be transparent about where we were going and why,” Smith says. “The blog turned out to be a fantastic change management tool.”

During most IT re-organizations, people get very nervous as the CIO pulls the IT leadership team into closed door meetings. “I decided to use the blog to hit that issue head on,” says Smith. “I knew that people were aware that the top 15 leaders were heading to an offsite, so I used the blog to let everyone know what our offsite goals were; I tried to make sure we were clear about our goals for restructuring and how we were going to get there.” Smith believes his blog strategy has paid off. “Morale has stayed high during the restructuring, and the buzz around the IT organization is good,” he says.

Not only has the blog helped quell nerves associated with the restructuring in IT, it allows Smith and his leadership team to communicate effectively with the rest of the business.  “We just posted an animated five minute video to show how our IT strategy connects to our business strategy,” says Smith. “As CIOs, we are in the unique position of communicating to the rest of the company how the IT strategy is connected to the business strategy,” he says. “The blog helps me to do that. You can’t find anyone the company who doesn’t understand our IT strategy or anyone in IT who doesn’t understand our business strategy.”


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