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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.

"In the Middle East the technology is there, but the costs are extremely high. Africa is a key challenge for me as we are growing and we want to provide world-class IT in an emerging market. I believe in equal IT citizenship so that they will all have the same tools."

"There is a huge recognition that IT enables the business, so the penetration of IT is 100% and we are investing in collaboration at the moment to improve video and document sharing. There is no part of the business that is not investing in IT for productivity improvements.

Standard aims

GE is one of the most acquisitive organisations in the global economy and Dyke explains that he has a full-time integration team putting newly acquired organisations onto the GE shared service.

"We try to get to standard technology platforms quickly. We run a lot of councils, as we call them, to get people onto standard platforms, whether its storage, the PCs or software. We get benefits of scale; we'll never get benefits from fragmentation," says Dyke.

"Over time we have moved to a common email. Twelve years ago when I joined we had multiple email providers and installations, now the company is on a single instance and platform.

"The very first thing that the team needs to be focused on though is operational excellence. We can't have discussions about innovation unless we do what we do well. When I started in this role we were not as good as a service provider as we might have been."

You'd be forgiven for thinking that with an EMEA remit and a constant programme of integrations, Dyke has a massive staff resource to call on, but he has just 120 in his team, smaller than many local authority IT teams and dwarfed by Whitehall. This is in part because of GE strategy's of using large-scale outsourcing.

"We are a virtual organisation and there are people who have made the step up from regional roles to a global role," he says of his team that is split across 26 countries.

Matrix manager

The size and diversity of business units means GE operates a complex matrix management structure that could be daunting.

"GE is a matrix, but it is fun and it makes things interesting as I have to make sure everyone's requirements and objectives are met. I lose count of how many boards I am on -- you should see my calendar," he quips.

Dyke has 15 direct reports and the nature of GE means that he and his team can draw business people in from all over the organisation to create a virtual team to deliver a given project.


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