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Finding the Right Balance
By Alison Dack, VP, Information Technology & CIO, Asia Pacific, Fedex Express
The pace of change in business and technology is accelerating. A modern business focused IT organization is imperative to business growth. The FedEx IT team in Asia Pacific has been working successfully for many years and is well respected within the organization. Staying successful in the new world required a new strategy to transform the team and accelerate modernization. In early 2015, we launched a new IT strategy entitled “IT Agility to Enable Business Agility”. The execution of the strategy required changing the way people think, the way they work and the way technology is explored and deployed, all linked by 5 guiding principles:
1. We are ‘Fit for Purpose’, exploiting technology, sweating assets and balancing ownership versus consumption models.
2. We are ‘Fit for the Future’, focused on the business goals, and equipped with the right skills and competencies needed for a modern IT team.
3. We ‘Think Big but Start Small’, understanding the big picture and the ultimate goal but delivering regular, incremental, measurable enhancements to customer value.
4. We can ‘Fail Fast’, adopting a trial approach and having the courage to stop an initiative that will not deliver.
5. IT is not the ‘Long Pole in the Tent’. As a global company, we have many core systems, but there are opportunities locally, at the ‘edge’, where IT can deliver smart solutions quickly while global solutions need more time to catch up.
Staying successful in the new world required a new strategy to transform the team and accelerate modernization
The strategy has already delivered many successful initiatives. IT team members have developed professionally, demonstrate greater ownership of business problems and solutions and enjoy their newly empowered status to drive real change. Some of the titles of the guiding principles are coming into our business vernacular. There is momentum to working collaboratively within an ecosystem of business groups in the region and beyond, inside as well as outside FedEx, to drive change and the quality of business outcome.
2. How do you strike the balance between operations and innovation among your IT staff?
There is a lot of discussion on this topic. There are models out there such as bi-modal IT, which splits IT into teams to work on ‘legacy’ versus ‘new solutions’ with innovation firmly in the latter. But my preferred approach is to make innovation part of the DNA of the IT team. Innovation is everyone’s job, part of the mental model, and all successes are recognized. It is just as important to innovate in the areas of traditional IT services as it is to innovate in the newer areas of digital transformation. All areas need to deliver with increasing speed and agility. Also, our focus is to spend more of our budget on ‘changing the business’ and less on ‘running the businesses. This means that whatever the responsibility of the team or individual, finding innovative ways to lower the cost of operations is as important as partnering with the business to bring new technologies and better services to our customers.
3. What organizational structure allows for the best relationships between IT and its business partners?
Good organizational structure makes it easy to understand the clear responsibilities of each group which in turn makes it easier to connect to the right people at the right time. The FedEx IT team in Asia Pacific is organized in alignment with the key pillars of the FedEx business strategy while balancing the technology disciplines needed in different areas of IT. The structure works well and business partners can see where their key IT partners are to be found. However, the most important ingredient is leadership that recognizes and rewards real collaboration. This drives a sense of shared ownership and accountability and ensures that IT team members demonstrate their deep knowledge of business challenges and opportunities. The secret sauce is that the relationships are peer to peer, business partner to business partner, because IT is seen as a business partner as well as the technology experts.