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Raising Your IT Staff’s Business Smarts

CIO Executive Council | March 3, 2011
Eisai Senior VP of IT Joel Dobbs says that after a consolidation, CIOs must focus everyone on strategic goals

FRAMINGHAM, 24 FEBRUARY 2011 - It is essential to focus on people in order to get value from consolidation. At Eisai, our divisions functioned as separate companies, with the mind-set to match. When we brought together all of the U.S. organizations, I quickly discovered gaps.

In particular, while my new IT infrastructure staff were all very skilled in technology and project management, there was little focus on business outcomes at any level.

I couldn’t afford to let that situation stand if the shared services organizations I created were to become a strategic-minded resource for the company, rather than just being the group keeping the systems running. I gathered the heads of the organizations and proposed a challenge: They were each to write up a contract-like document outlining what they did, how they did it and how it could be measured. The point, I emphasized to them, was that if they couldn’t define and articulate those basic aspects of their value, then there was no reason that someone else—internal or external—couldn’t do the job instead of them.

This was the kick my leaders needed. But the bigger challenge I faced was building the sense of urgency among a group of people who had very different levels experience with thinking about IT’s role in business value. While some were further along than others, there had been no emphasis on value from the top. I had to get everyone’s goals to shift from putting out fires to catching the arsonist; they were very good at being technical experts who can fix anything that breaks, but they were not as good at thinking about the root cause, or the impact on the business processes that technology enables.

I am drilling in the basic idea that downtime of systems and servers is the wrong metric, and impact on the sales force is the right one. The goal, I tell them, is for them to consider themselves employees of a global pharmaceutical company, not IT workers.

 

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