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The Grill: Raytheon CIO Rebecca Rhoads takes on new role with global reach

Robert L. Mitchell | June 18, 2013
Raytheon CIO Rebecca Rhoads was tapped earlier this year to lead the defense contractor's newly formed Global Business Services unit, whose goal is to improve operations and services by optimizing resources.

Rebecca Rhoads rose up from Raytheon's engineering ranks to become CIO, and earlier this year, her duties were expanded to include leading the defense contractor's newly formed Global Business Services unit. Here, Rhoads explains why she left the world of rocket science for IT, the importance of taking a long-term view, and how Raytheon, one of Computerworld's 100 Best Places to Work in IT for 2013, is finally reaping the benefits of a multiyear business process standardization and ERP consolidation project.

Rebecca Rhoads
The one I just started in January, which is leading our Global Business Services, and IT.What do you like to do when you're not working? Anything near or on the water.What's your favorite vice? Hot sauce... on everything.Your first job was... making tacos at Taco Bell.What are you reading right now? What's the Future of Business: Changing the Way Businesses Create Experiences, by Brian SolisWhat's your favorite movie? Tombstone

Why did you move from engineering to IT? In the '90s, everyone was looking at Y2K and as a systems engineer I saw some methodical ways to mitigate the risk. I found myself as intrigued and challenged by the science of running the company as I was by being involved in rocket science. I've never looked back.

What are your goals for the coming year? This year, the company [started] Raytheon Global Business Services, which I lead in addition to my IT organization. One of its aims is to improve operations and services by optimizing resources, including software and software services. In addition, we have several other initiatives underway: Outsourcing IT frameworks, [setting] up an on-premises infrastructure as a service and exploring software as a service.

You have been working to move six business units to a single SAP financials and manufacturing software platform.How is that going? Back in the late '90s when we merged five major aerospace and defense entities together, we had six major legacy portfolios. It was a multiyear strategy, and we started with processes and then put a platform in place. We're about 85% of the way there.

We started with finance, and that was a great lesson. If you start with finance, you've got your financial community as your ally and partner from day one. It's huge, because the first few go-lives are going to be a challenge. We've now had 33 successful go-lives.

What benefits have you seen? Our working capital for the last seven years or so has improved tenfold. The metrics are there when you have everyone on the same system. The other benefit is agility: how quickly we can adjust and incorporate process improvements. Typically if you apply improvements you go from left to right, business unit by business unit, site by site, and you slowly accumulate what that business case would have promised. When you're all on the same platform, you essentially kick everyone over on the same day.

 

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