Globalization: New Management Challenges Facing IT leaders

As the globalization wave reaches emerging markets, IT leaders face new mangement challenges. Here's advice on how to balance the competing—and often conflicting—needs of established and developing business locations.

By Stephanie Overby
Thu, November 12, 2009

CIO — Wayne Shurts had no experience overseeing IT operations in emerging markets when Cadbury CEO Todd Stitzer appointed him global CIO last summer. The geographic parameters of Shurts' responsibilities at the sweets maker—with a presence everywhere from Pakistan to Palau—multiplied overnight.

The former CIO for North America now spends most of his time globe-trotting from his home base in Parsippany, N.J., to London headquarters to operations on six continents.

Shurts also had to shift his thinking. The $7.8 billion company has made a concerted effort to expand in the developing world, giving it the biggest and most dispersed emerging markets business in the confectionery industry. (In fact, Cadbury's business in rapidly developing markets was reportedly a major driver in Kraft's $16.7 billion takeover bid for the British candy maker in September.) Last year, 60 percent of the company's growth came from emerging markets.

To read more on this topic see: 6 Globalization Tips: Managing IT in Emerging Markets and Are You Qualified to Be a Global CIO?

"That means that my world as CIO does not solely revolve around big economies of North America, Europe, Australia and New Zealand," explains Shurts. "Emerging markets are not afterthoughts to me. They demand—and get—a lot of my attention." Shurts isn't alone. In industries ranging from consumer goods and agriculture to banking and electronics, multinationals are investing more in the Middle East, Asia, Eastern Europe, Africa and South America.

"Companies are going to tap those markets as mature markets stagnate or decline," says Bob Haas, a partner and vice president with A.T. Kearney who leads the consultancy's strategic IT practice for North America. "And CIOs are gaining more and more responsibility for those emerging markets since IT is one of the most globally integrated corporate functions."

The work amounts to much more than just bringing some distant locations into the IT fold. Setting up shop in Bogotá or in Bursa, Turkey, is clearly a different proposition than supporting a new office in Boise, Idaho, or Brussels. Infrastructure limitations, local talent supply, unfamiliar business and cultural norms, limited vendor support and restricted budgets require creative solutions. At the same time, there is pressure to integrate these often one-off extensions of the company into the global infrastructure.

One Size Does Not Fit All

Bobby Cameron, vice president and principal analyst with Forrester Research, got a call recently from the CIO of a U.S.-based agribusiness building a new manufacturing plant in a tiny Peruvian fishing village. "It's 250 miles away from Lima. There's no water. There's no electricity. There's nothing there," Cameron says. "What's that about?"

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