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GE CIO Neil Dyke - Achieving singularity from disparate arms

Mark Chillingworth | April 29, 2013
It may not be a British company, but the General Electric Company -- better known as GE -- is critical to the British economy. The UK is the second largest employee base for GE after the US. In the Mayfair office of corporate CIO Neil Dyke is a pair of maps that show the scope of his role -- one is of Africa and the other of the UK, the latter showing GE's sites in places such as Truro in Cornwall, the Midlands, Wales, Scotland and of course the London HQ.

Drilling down

But increasingly, GE isn't just a provider of impressive machinery but also a technology company developing and supplying software for gathering rich data from these machines and offering that data as a service to the users -- in this case the oil firms.

"We see ourselves as a technology company rather than engineers, for example our healthcare operation is very high-tech with the scanners it produces," Dyke explains.

Yet although the company has 25 manufacturing facilities in the UK, it is its banking business, GE Capital that has the largest presence here, constituting 40% of GE UK.

Dyke manages a shared service operation across EMEA, but illuminating just why there is "no one GE", he explains that the lighting and appliances operations have short product cycles and very fast turnaround, while the oil and gas sectors are "very long cycles from order to win, often with a year of negotiation".

"The challenge is in the types of IT you can provide across these. For our MoD and aviation clients I can't outsource for example. That's what makes my role interesting and I will go through five or six different businesses in a day and all their different needs and requirements. There are big differences, but they rarely conflict.

"My primary responsibility is to provide shared services across all the EMEA businesses, sometimes as a provider and sometimes as the negotiator with a vendor. It depends on whatever makes sense.

"Shared services include the data centres, fixed line and mobile telecommunications, providing our private cloud, financial applications, payroll and properties," he explains. Dyke has 100,000 end users depending on his operation, which has a budget of about 2.5% of GE's turnover.

"Of the 13 growth regions that GE has identified, five are in my region: Russia, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Africa and Turkey, but also Algeria and Germany is a growth region because we are not getting a big enough share of the market.

"In Europe of course Greece is struggling, but the UK is not that bad," Dyke says. GE chief executive Jeffrey Immelt explained in a recent interview with The Guardian that GE was in a unique position of providing the infrastructure and finance the emerging economies need to become competitive while also supporting the developed western world in its challenge to cope with excessive energy usage, an ageing population and the rising costs of healthcare. For Dyke, it is meeting the technology needs of emerging markets that provides the greatest challenge.

"The big challenge is how we keep up with the emerging markets. In Africa the challenge is the use and availability of technology. Their use of mobility is far more innovative so we have to think very different about how we do things.


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