Interview with: Håkan Nilsson, Chief Information Officer, Geodis Wilson
The change from a local to a global setting means that Information Technology (IT) processes need to be re-designed, advises Håkan Nilsson, Chief Information Officer at Geodis Wilson. They need to be harmonised across physical and cultural borders, with the ability to communicate with everyone bringing real value to the organisation. The Chairman of the marcus evans Nordic CIO Summit 2010, taking place in Stockholm, Sweden, 25 - 27 October, shares his thoughts on the new interconnected marketplace, and the strategies that Chief Information Officers (CIOs) might want to consider.
What are some of the upcoming changes that CIOs need to prepare for?
Håkan Nilsson: “Globalisation is making the world much more interconnected, and customer requirements are irrespective of industry, becoming more global. IT has become an enabler, delivering services on a global scale, which had not been possible before due to network and infrastructure costs.
This change from local to global means that IT processes need to be re-designed. Companies used to operate with various local systems and processes, but now there is a need for a global approach. The need to compete on a global scale is driving consolidation, with many acquisitions taking place to gain global skills and size.
To pay off this investment and achieve strategic targets, CIOs need to uniform their IT strategies. Most are finding themselves on the buy side, driving global efficiencies whilst weeding out local systems and replacing them with a global portfolio. CIOs need to put their expertise and skills forward to ensure that when the new global system is rolled out, the local strengths are not lost. Processes must be harmonised across countries and cultural boundaries, therefore the CIO needs a new set of skills to be able to interact with everyone. Technical skills are a prerequisite for the job, but the ability to communicate with different cultures and functions is what will bring real value in the future.”
What is the best way of standardising IT?
Håkan Nilsson: “Even if you are moving into unknown territory, it is likely to be known to somebody else already. Others have gone through it before. Do not limit yourself to just looking within your own industry. You can learn from other people’s mistakes and successes in industries which were less protected from global change and consolidation than yours, thus they went through similar challenges before you.”
How can CIOs ensure they get the most out of their IT investments?
Håkan Nilsson: “IT has a bad name for delivering return on investment. A common mistake that IT directors make is escaping and abandoning a project too early. They jump to the next project without reaping the rewards. More time must be spent on the realisation and execution phases to ensure there is a proper handover. A system alone is never the solution; a system is only a solution in combination with two things, the process and the people. If you do not invest sufficient time on establishing the best possible process and ensuring that everyone has sufficient knowledge to operate efficiently, you will not get a return on investment.
CIOs need to make sure that they have commitment on results by those who ultimately will be held responsible. If they are planning a project where they expect productivity improvements, and the managing directors in say Chile and the UK have to reduce staff, the CIO needs to get commitment from those directors. Otherwise, the potential of improvement will never turn into a reality. Often the problem is that the CIO might have a central plan but those that will execute are not on board.”