How CIOs Unravel IT Systems After a Business Divestiture

With divestitures on the rise, CIOs at Hess, DuPont and other companies that are selling off pieces of the business must rip apart deeply integrated systems.

IT organizations devote decades of sweat to integrating corporate technology systems, wringing out every efficiency, leveraging every ounce of scale and seeking every bit of synergy their technology can offer.

Until, one day, they must do the exact opposite.

Corporate divestitures are on the rise. Nearly three-quarters of 148 executives surveyed recently by Deloitte said they expected to attempt divestitures between 2013 and 2015. When a company sells part of the business, IT is charged with systems de-integration.

Untangling those complex systems is every bit as critical as the years of integration were. But that technology parsing has to happen in a fraction of the time and amid great uncertainty.

Last March, oil company Hess announced it would divest all downstream businesses to focus on exploration and production. Then-CIO Jeff Steinhorn had to unravel the corresponding IT. "Over the past 25 years, IT has tried to tie things together," Steinhorn says. "What we had to do is take that all apart."

Making matters trickier, Hess didn't plan to peddle the downstream business as a single unit; it would be broken up and sold as separate units. IT had to begin systems separation not knowing what might be sold to a private equity firm, for example, and what might be sold to a competitor, and each scenario carried different technology implications.

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