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CIO Interview with Allen Wuescher, VP and CIO of Toshiba International Corporation

To a certain degree, every company is now a technology company. Even the industrial manufacturing division of consumer technology giant Toshiba is viewed through the lens of an expectation of advanced technology, which VP and CIO Allen Wuescher says does affect operations.

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To a certain degree, every company is now a technology company. Even the industrial manufacturing division of consumer technology giant Toshiba is viewed through the lens of an expectation of advanced technology, which VP and CIO Allen Wuescher says does affect operations.

Toshiba is clearly a technology company. How does that affect IT operations at Toshiba and your role as the chief information officer?

The broadest U.S. audience knows of Toshiba in the consumer electronics space, so we are often looked at as a pure technology play. And that influences all the operating companies (including industrial manufacturing) in terms of customer expectations. It is expected that Toshiba has technologically advanced products in mind, so we have to be poised in that position.

What have been some of major initiatives within your IT operations recently at Toshiba?

All (divisions) of Toshiba have recently implemented Oracle EBS (E-Business Suite). That is evolving into another major initiative, which is evaluating the processes with which we identify other efficiencies, leverage the functionality of the system, and implement other modules.

Another major initiative we have under way is continuously evaluating third-party providers to leverage any outside expertise for a co-sourcing arrangement to add expertise in areas we don’t have in-house. Like most, we’re shifting outward. We’re interested in getting our IT folks integrated with the business to push business initiatives, not just IT initiatives.

In what ways are IT operations at a technology company similar and how are they different from IT at a similar-sized enterprise from another industry sector?

What Toshiba does is create, so there’s a lot of R&D investment. We are similar to most traditional IT. What it does require is more joint investment and relationships with IT, R&D and the business as the inventive component is something unique to us. The anticipation with the Toshiba name is we’re going to be in the forefront. People are always looking to us to lead the pack in terms of what we’re doing from a technological perspective.

How is your relationship with the rest of the C-level executives at Toshiba and what sort of impact does that have on your IT operations?

The relationship has greatly improved over past three years because we’ve become more transparent as an IT organization. There have been efforts to mature the IT group to be more business focused. The business now knows more than ever the value IT brings to the table. That recognition is a top-down approach. It helps to have my peers trust in what we’re doing from an IT perspective.  

With so many evolving technologies, how has Toshiba evolved to remain competitive?

Toshiba tends to support itself internally. Now we’re looking at what other third parties can potentially do somethings better than us and move in that direction when it makes sense. So we’re currently looking at a lot of hybrid approaches. We want to take advantage where we can, so what that takes is  a constant evaluation of third parties and their value to Toshiba and our customers.

What can we expect to see over the next few years from Toshiba, and how will Toshiba’s IT support that?

The expectation in the consumer and industrial markets is the products Toshiba provides should be agnostic in their ability to talk to other devices. Devices have to talk to one another. The term is “coopetition.” You have competitors, but you have to cooperate in this world in order to survive. So that’s where IT can best support the business, because our R&D and engineering teams are putting together new and best of breed products, but they have to communicate in safe and secure way.