Late in 2011, I had the fortuitous opportunity to meet Mike Wilkinson, Ph.D., EVP and CIO of PPD Inc., a leading biopharmaceutical industry contract research organization providing drug discovery, development and lifecycle management services. Mike, a business professional, was appointed CIO by the CEO. PPD’s story is interesting because it shows that having a business leader in charge of IT and closely managing IT and business and process development works and can improve the business and make IT recognized as a significant asset.
What follows is a paraphrase of a discussion I held with Mike to discuss his and PPD’s experiences as a broad hint to businesses that close alignment between IT and business operations can bring significant benefits – if well communicated and designed as overall business improvement, not as a punishment to IT or the business units.
PPD’s CEO appointed Mike, who had been a significant business leader within PPD, as the CIO in 2010. As an already respected business leader, the transition may have been easier had an outsider been given the role.
Mike indicated that this realignment was consistent with the broad macro-trend/desire to better align business objectives and technical strategy – to align dollars and provide value to the company, its personnel and, most importantly, its customers. PPD wanted to align technology spends better with the business needs as expressed by customers. Ultimately, the goal was to improve PPD’s value proposition and quality of delivery to customers – by having better alignment of technology deployments along with the needed process improvement, change management, training development and data analytics accomplished simultaneously, across the business.
Mike concluded that PPD has achieved significant improvement in IT ROI because it is no longer a siloed/separate operation, but instead is well integrated with the business, its processes and objectives. In fact, the IT and business leads work together (shoulder to shoulder) on projects with joint responsibilities for success. IT now operates in a virtual matrix organization, but without dual reporting.
When asked how both the business and IT folks reacted to his initial appointment and the overall realignment/change, Mike indicated that it was very positive as the vision was communicated very well as an overall focus on business improvement with both the business and IT people being well respected and treated well throughout the transition.
Over a little more than a year now, the overall benefit has been holistic improvement across the business – IT projects are not considered as a standalone, but, rather, are cross-functional programs implemented across the business. Among the specific benefits have been shorter lifecycle improvements because the required process changes are done holistically with all relevant functions included – IT, business, process, training and analytics taking responsibility and developing their portion as part of an integrated solution.
While the details of PPD’s actions are specific to its business, the idea of aligning the IT and business organizations around projects/initiatives can be readily translatable to all businesses. Again, the keys are having all functions included and respected in the re-alignments, having the ideas/objectives well communicated, realizing holistic management of initiatives across all involved functions and, most importantly, a focus on business improvements for customers.
Thank you Mike, and PPD, for providing a strong case for making IT and its leadership part of the overall management of key business process transformations, not a standalone silo of technology specialists disconnected and often under appreciated.