When I walked into the boardroom of a large UK CPG company to talk about the need for change I expected a fairly non committal fight for mind share. I expected for members of the board to be impatient, polite and most importantly ignorant of technology beyond Networks (most CXOs have a home network between their kids PlayStation 3, PCs, Laptops, Printer and Network storage), Systems (order tracking, HR, Finance, Manufacturing, Shipping, Tracking, Reporting and so on). What I didn’t expect was all out war with flying pieces of spreadsheet like shrapnel, underhanded attacks and me sitting there wondering how this is shareholder value.
You might wonder how I came to be there and the answer is quite simple, the CIO wanted back-up when wondering into the lion’s den. The business had gone through an aggressive growth strategy including acquisitions, one painful merger and IT was trying to keep up by aligning processes, create relevant reports so managers could make decisions and trying to keep the Costs under control with very little luck. In answer to this crisis the CIO decided to stop running after a train that was travelling faster than she could travel. Instead she was advocating a step change providing a Service oriented architecture, outsourced and a cut over of the business to the new architecture. It would mean lower costs over 5 years, more flexibility, true integration because of shared information definitions (so everyone speaks the same language or at least understand each other) plus an open integration framework which would allow her to offer embedded services to customers, partners and suppliers. The strategy business case was strong, the shareholder value was strong, the proof of concept proved the concept working and generated savings of just under 1 million and had been delivered on time and to budget, even though there had been a large surge of reporting requirements at the last minute drawing resources from the project. Pitches to the members individually had gone very well and everyone was up for it. So what could possibly go wrong?