The slow economy over the past few years has resulted in an avalanche of mergers and acquisitions as companies take advantage of cheap stock prices. For the CIO, that creates a headache for establishing standards across newly acquired companies. For global corporations, that headache becomes a full-blown migraine as CIOs try to manage a worldwide operation.
Mike Webb, CIO for Flextronics —which makes the stuff found in everything from printers to cell phones to video game boxes — has a set of rules he follows when establishing global standards for the 120 manufacturing facilities Flextronics operates in 32 countries.
- Have a reason for doing it. Cost effectiveness, widespread facilities, a need to aggregate purchases are just a few reasons that support standards. But some systems, such as HR, Webb said, do not lend themselves to standardization because different facilities require a different set of skills.
- Make clear decisions.
- Communicate well. Nos. 2 and 3 go together, Webb said. People deviate from standards frequently, not because they want to, but because they haven’t been given clear and consistent messages about the standards and the need for standards. “Let people know what to do and what not to do,” Webb said.
- Respect inputs. Get everyone involved in setting standards and respect cultural differences.
- Organize and budget well. This is key to making the process work, Webb said.
- Have top management on your side. “My executive staff makes it easy,” Webb said. As an example, Webb closed his presentation today by reading from a companywide e-mail recently sent out by Flextronics CEO Michael E. Marks regarding an IT policy. The e-mail ended: “Please understand, this is a serious directive, not a gentle request. Best regards, Michael.”