Articles for qsn1
Dealing with Multiple Locations and Outsourcing
Virtual organizations are often a given in outsourcing environments, especially those that are offshore. Offshore outsourcing also means that communications originate in multiple locations. The first step in dealing with multiple locations is finding ways to deal with different time zones. Project management can become more complicated when team meetings occur at obscure times for certain members of the community. Dealing with unanticipated problems can be more chal- lenging when assembling the entire team may not be feasible because of time differences. The second challenge in running organizations in multiple locations is culture. Differing cultural norms can espe- cially cause problems during off-hour virtual sessions. For example, European work culture does not often support having meetings out- side work hours. In some countries, work hours may be regulated by the government or powerful unions.
A further complication in outsourcing is that the virtual team members may be employed by different companies. For instance, part of the community may include a vendor who has assigned staff resources to the effort. Thus, these outsourced team members belong to the community of the project yet also work for another organiza- tion. The relationship between an outside consultant and the internal team is not straightforward and varies among projects. For example, some outsourced technical resources may be permanently assigned to the project, so while they actually work for another firm, they behave and take daily direction as if they were an employee of the focal busi- ness. Yet, in other relationships, outsourced resources work closely under the auspices of the outsourced “project manager,” who acts as a buffer between the firm and the vendor. Such COP formations vary. Still other outsourcing arrangements involve team members the firm does not actually know unless outsourced staff is called in to solve a problem. This situation exists when organizations outsource complete systems, so that the expectation is based more on the results than on the interaction. Notwithstanding the arrangement or level of integration, a COP must exist, and its behavior in all three of these examples varies in participation, but all are driven in a virtual relationship more by dynamic business events than by preplanned activities.
If we look closely at COP approaches to operations, it is neces- sary to create an extension of dynamism in a virtual team commu- nity. The extension reflects the reliance on dynamic transactions, which creates temporary team formations based on demographic similarity needs. This means that virtual teams will often be formed based on specific interests of people within the same departments. Table 7.4 shows the expansion of dynamism in a virtual setting of COPs.
Thus, the advent of modern-day IT outsourcing has complicated the way COPs function. IT outsourcing has simultaneously brought attention to the importance of COP and knowledge management in general. It also further supports the reality of technology dyna- mism as more of a norm in human communication in the twenty- first century.
Revisiting Social Discourse
In Chapter 4, I covered the importance of social discourse and the use of language as a distinct component of how technology changes COP. That section introduced three components that linked talk and action, according to the schema of Grant et al. (1998): Identity, skills and emotion. Figure 7.2 shows this relationship again. The expansion of virtual team communications further emphasizes the importance of discourse and the need to rethink how these three components relate to each other in a virtual context.
I spoke about the “cultures of practice” due to expansion of contacts from technology capacities. This certainly holds true with virtual teams. However, identities can be transactional—in ways such that an individual may be a member of multiple COP environments and have different identities in each. This fact emphasizes the multitask- ing aspect of the linear development modules discussed throughout this book. Ultimately, social discourse will dynamically change based on the COP to which an individual belongs, and that individual needs to be able to “inventory” these multiple roles and responsibilities. Such roles and responsibilities themselves will transform, due to the dynamic nature of technology-driven projects. Individuals will thus have multiple identities and must be able to manage those identities across different COPs and in different contexts within those COPs.
This requires individual maturities that must be able to cope with the “other” and understand the relativistic nature of multiple cultures and the way discourse transforms into action.
I mentioned the importance of persuasion as a skill to transform talk into action. Having the ability to persuade others across virtual teams is critical. Often, skills are misrepresented as technical abilities that give people a right of passage. Across multiple cultures, individuals in teams must be able to recognize norms and understand how to communicate with others to get tangible results on their projects. It is difficult to make such determinations about individuals that one has never met face to face. Furthermore, virtual meetings may not pro- vide the necessary background required to properly understand a per- son’s skill sets, both “hard” and “soft.” The soft skills analysis is more important as the individual’s technical credentials become assumed. We see such assumptions when individuals transition into manage- ment positions. Ascertaining technical knowledge at the staff level is easier—almost like an inventory analysis of technical requirements.
However, assessing an individual’s soft skills is much more challeng- ing. Virtual teams will need to create more complex and broadened inventories of their team’s skill sets, as well as establish better criteria on how to measure soft skills. Soft skills will require individuals to have better “multicultural” abilities, so that team members can be better equipped to deal with multinational and cross-cultural issues.
Like persuasion, emotion involves an individual’s ability to motivate others and to create positive energy. Many of those who successfully use emotion are more likely to have done so in a physical context than a virtual one. Transferring positive emotion in a virtual world can be analogous to what organizations experienced in the e-commerce world, in which organizations needed to rebrand themselves across the Web in such a way that their image was reflected virtually to their customers. Marketing had to be accomplished without exposure to the buyer during purchase decisions. Virtual COPs are similar: Representation must be what the individual takes away, without see- ing the results physically. This certainly offers a new dimension for managing teams. This means that the development requirements for virtual members must include advanced abstract thinking so that the individual can better forecast virtual team reactions to what will be said, as opposed to reacting while the conversation is being conducted or thinking about what to do after virtual meetings.
In Chapter 4, I presented Marshak’s (1998) work on types of talk that lead to action: tool-talk, frame-talk, and mythopoetic-talk. Virtual teams require modification to the sequence of talk; that is, the use of talk is altered. Let us first look at Figure 7.3, represent- ingMarshak’s model. To be effective, virtual teams must follow this sequence from the outside inward. That is, the virtual team must focus on mythopoetic-talk in the center as opposed to an outer ring. This means that ideogenic issues must precede interpretation in a virtual world. Thus, tool-talk, which in the physical world lies at the center of types of tools, is now moved to the outside rectangle. In other words, instrumental actions lag those of ideology and interpretation. This is restructured in Figure 7.4.
Mythopoetic-talk is at the foundation of grounding ideas in a vir- tual COP. It would only make sense that a COP-driven talk requires ideogenic behavior before migrating to instrumental outcomes. Remember that ideogenic talk allows for concepts of intuition and ideas for concrete application especially relevant among multiple cul- tures and societies. So, we again see that virtual teams require changes in the sequence of how learning occurs. This change in sequence places more emphasis on the need for an individual to be more devel- opmentally mature—with respect to thinking, handling differences, and thinking abstractly. This new “abstract individual” must be able to reflect before action and reflect in action to be functionally compe- tent in virtual team participation.
Because ROD is relevant, it is important to determine how virtual teams affect the ROD maturity arc first presented in Figure 4.10 and redisplayed in Figure 7.5.
Figure 7.6 represents the virtual team extension to the ROD arc. The changes to the cells are shown in italics. Note that there are no changes to operational knowledge because this stage focuses solely on self-knowledge learned from authoritative sources. However, as the individual matures, there is greater need to deal with uncer- tainty. This includes the uncertainty that conditions in a COP may be temporary, and thus knowledge may need to vary from meeting to meeting. Furthermore, while operational realities may be more trans- actional, it does not necessarily mean that adopted changes are not permanent. Most important is the reality that permanence in general may no longer be a characteristic of how the organization operates; this further emphasizes ROD as a way of life. As a result of this extreme complexity in operations, there is an accelerated requirement for executives to become involved earlier in the development process. Specifically, by stage two (department/unit view of the other), execu- tives must be engaged in virtual team management considerations.
Ultimately, the virtual team ROD arc demonstrates that vir- tual teams are more complex and therefore need members who are more mature to ensure the success of outsourcing and other virtual constructs. It also explains why virtual teams have struggled, likely because their members are not ready for the complex participation necessary for adequate outcomes.
We must also remember that maturity growth is likely not parallel in its linear progression. This was previously shown in Figure 4.12.
This arc demonstrates the challenge managers face in gauging the readiness of their staff to cope with virtual team engagement. On the other hand, the model also provides an effective measure- ment schema that can be used to determine where members should be deployed and their required roles and responsibilities. Finally, the model allows management to prepare staff for the training and devel- opment they need as part of the organizational learning approach to dealing with ROD.
Articles for Qsn 2
The first case study offers a perspective from the chief informa- tion officer (CIO). The CIO of Siemens of the Americas at the time of this study was Dana Deasy, and his role was to introduce and expand the use of e-business across 20 discrete businesses. The Siemens Corporation worldwide network was composed of over 150 diverse sets of businesses, including transportation, healthcare, and telecommunications. Deasy’s mission was to create a common road map across different businesses and cultures. What makes this case so distinct from others is that each business is highly decentralized under the umbrella of the Siemens Corporation. Furthermore, each company has its own mission; the companies have never been asked to come together and discuss common issues with regard to technol- ogy. That is, each business focused on itself as opposed to the entire organization. Deasy had to deal with two sectors of scope and hence, two levels of learning: the Americas as a region and the global firm internationally.
The challenge was to introduce a new e-business strategy from the top-down in each business in the Americas and then to integrate it with the global firm. Ultimately, the mission was to review what each business was doing in e-business and to determine whether there was an opportunity to consolidate efforts into a common direction.
IT was, for the most part, viewed as a back-office operation— handling services of the company as a support function as opposed to thinking about ways to drive business strategy. In terms of IT report- ing, most CIOs reported directly to the chief financial officer (CFO). While some IT executives view this as a disadvantage because CFOs are typically too focused on financial issues, Deasy felt that a focus on cost containment was fine as long as the CIO had access to the chief executive officer (CEO) and others who ultimately drove business strategy. So, the real challenge was to ensure that CIOs had access to the various strategic boards that existed at Siemens.
What are the challenges in transforming an organization the size of Siemens? The most important issue was the need to educate CIOs on the importance of their role with respect to the business as opposed to the technology. As Deasy stated in an interview, “Business must come first and we need to remind our CIOs that all technology issues must refer back to the benefits it brings to the business.” The question then is how to implement this kind of learning.
Perhaps the best way to understand how Siemens approached this dilemma is to understand Deasy’s role as a corporate CIO. The reality is that there was no alternative but to create his position. What drove Siemens to this realization was fear that they needed someone to drive e-business, according to Deasy—fear of losing competitive edge in this area, fear that they were behind the competition and that smaller firms would begin to obtain more market share. Indeed, the growth of e-business occurred during the dot-com era, and there were huge pressures to respond to new business opportunities brought about by emerging technologies, specifically the Internet. It was, therefore, a lack of an internal capacity, such as responsive organizational dyna- mism, that stimulated the need for senior management to get involved and provide a catalyst for change.
The first aspect of Siemens’s approach can be correlated to the strategic integration component of responsive organizational dyna- mism. We see that Siemens was concerned about whether technology was properly being integrated in strategic discussions. It established the Deasy role as a catalyst to begin determining the way technol- ogy needed to be incorporated within the strategic dimension of the business. This process cannot occur without executive assistance, so evolutionary learning must first be initiated by senior management. Unfortunately, Deasy realized early on that he needed a central pro- cess to allow over 25 CIOs in the Americas to interact regularly. This was important to understand the collective needs of the community and to pave the way for the joining of technology and strategic inte- gration from a more global perspective. Deasy established an infra- structure to support open discourse by forming CIO forums, similar to communities of practice, in which CIOs came together to discuss common challenges, share strategies, and have workshops on the ways technology could help the business. Most important at these forums was the goal of consolidating their ideas and their common challenges.
There are numerous discussions regarding the common problems that organizations face regarding IT expenditures, specifically the approach to its valuation and return on investment (ROI). While there are a number of paper-related formulas that financial executives use (e.g., percentage of gross revenues within an industry), Deasyuti- lized learning theories, specifically, communities of practice, to foster more thinking and learning about what was valuable to Siemens, as opposed to using formulas that might not address important indi- rect benefits from technology. In effect, Deasy promoted learning among a relatively small but important group of CIOs who needed to better understand the importance of strategic innovation and the value it could bring to the overall business mission. Furthermore, these forums provided a place where CIOs could develop their own community—a community that allowed its members to openly par- ticipate in strategic discourse that could help transform the organiza- tion. It was also a place to understand the tacit knowledge of the CIO organization and to use the knowledge of the CIOs to summarize common practices and share them among the other members of the community.
Most of the CIOs at Siemens found it challenging to understand how their jobs were to be integrated into business strategy. Indeed, this is not a surprise. In Chapter 1, I discuss the feedback from my research on CEO evaluation of technology; I found that there were few IT executives who were actually involved in business strategy. Thus, the organization sought to create an advocate in terms of a central- ized corporate headquarter that could provide assistance as opposed to forcing compliance. That is, it sought a structure with which to foster organizational learning concepts and develop an approach to create a more collective effort that would result in global direction for IT strategic integration.
To establish credibility among the CIO community, Deasy needed to ensure that the CIOs of each individual company were able to inter- act with board-level executives. In the case of Siemens, this board is called the president’s council. The president’s council has regularly held meetings in which each president attends and receives presentations on ideas about the regional businesses. Furthermore, there are quarterly CFO meetings as well, where CIOs can participate in understand- ing the financial implications of their IT investments. At the same time, these meetings provided the very exposure to the executive team that CIOs needed. Finally, Deasy established a CIO advisory board comprised of CIOs who actually vote on the common strategic issues and thus manage the overall direction of technology at Siemens. Each of these groups established different types of communities of practice that focused on a specific aspect of technology. The groups were geared to create better discourse and working relationships among these com- munities to, ultimately, improve Siemens’s competitive advantage. The three communities of practice at work in the Siemens model— executive, finance, and technology—suggest that having only one gen- eral community of practice to address technology issues may be too limiting. Thus, theories related to communities of practice may need to be expanded to create discourse among multiple communities. This might be somewhat unique for IT, not in that there is a need for mul- tiple communities, but that the same individuals must have an identity in each community. This shows the complexity of the CIO role today in the ability to articulate technology to different types and tiers of management. Figure 8.1 shows the interrelationships among the CIO communities of practice at Siemens.
Another way to represent these communities of practice is to view them as part of a process composed of three operating levels. Each level represents a different strategic role of management that is responsible for a unique component of discourse and on the authorization for uses of technology. Therefore, if the three different communities of prac- tice are viewed strategically, each component could be constructed as a process leading to overall organizational cooperation, learning, and strategic integration as follows:
Tier 1: CIO Advisory Board: This community discusses issues of technology standards, operations, communications, and ini- tiatives that reflect technology-specific areas. Such issues are seen as CIO specific and only need this community’s agree- ment and justification. However, issues or initiatives that require financial approval, such as those that may not yet be budgeted or approved, need to be discussed with group CFOs. Proposals to executive management—that is, the President’s Council—also need prior approval from the CFOs.
Tier 2: CFO Quarterly: CFOs discuss new emerging technolo- gies and ascertain their related costs and benefits (ROI). Those technologies that are already budgeted can be approved based on agreed ROI scenarios. Proposals for new technology projects are approved in terms of their financial viability and are prepared for further discussion at the President’s Council.
Tier 3: President’s Council: Proposals for new technology projects and initiatives are discussed with a focus on their strategic implications on the business and their expected outcome.
Deasy realized that he needed to create a common connection among these three communities. While he depended on the initia- tives of others, he coordinated where these CIO initiatives needed to be presented, based on their area of responsibility.
Graphically, this can be shown as a linear progression of commu- nity-based discussions and approvals, as in Figure 8.2.
The common thread to all three tiers is the corporate CIO. Deasy was active in each community; however, his specific activities within each community of practice were different. CIOs needed to estab- lish peer relationships with other CIOs share their tacit knowledge and contribute ideas that could be useful to other Siemens companies. Thus, CIOs needed to transform their personal views of technology and expand them to a group-level perspective. Their challenge was to learn how to share concepts and how to understand new ones that emanated at the CIO advisory board level. From this perspective, they could create the link between the local strategic issues and those discussed at the regional and global levels, as shown in Figure 8.3.
Using this infrastructure, Siemens’s organizational learning in technology, occurred at two levels of knowledge management. The first is represented by Deasy’s position, which effectively represents a top-down structure to initiate the learning process. Second, are the tiers of communities of practice when viewed hierarchically. This view reflects a more bottom-up learning strategy, with technological oppor- tunities initiated by a community of regional, company CIOs, each representing the specific interests of their companies or specific lines of business. This view can also be structured as an evolutionary cycle in which top-down management is used to initiate organizational learning from the bottom-up, the bottom, in this case, represented by
local operating company CIOs. This means that the CIO is seen rela- tively, in this case, as the lower of the senior management population. Figure 8.4 depicts the CIO as this “senior lower level.”
From this frame of reference, the CIO represents the bottom-up approach to the support of organizational learning by addressing the technology dilemma created by technological dynamism—specifically, in this case, e-business strategy.
The role of IT in marketing and e-business was another important factor in Siemens’s model of organizational learning. The technology strategy at Siemens was consistent with the overall objectives of the organization: to create a shared environment that complements each
business by creating the opportunity to utilize resources. This shared environment became an opportunity for IT to lead the process and become the main catalyst for change. I discuss this kind of support in Chapter 5, in which I note that workers see technology as an accept- able agent of change. Essentially, the CIOs were challenged with the responsibility of rebranding their assets into clusters based on their generic business areas, such as hospitals, medical interests, and com- munications. The essence of this strategic driver was to use e-business strategy to provide multiple offerings to the same customer base.
As with the Ravell case discussed in Chapter 1, the Siemens case represents an organization that was attempting to identify the driver component of IT. To create the driver component, it became necessary for executive management to establish a corporate position (embodied by Deasy) to lay out a plan for transformation, through learning and through the use of many of the organizational learning theories pre- sented in Chapter 4.
The Siemens challenge, then, was to transform its CIOs from being back-office professionals to proactive technologists focused primarily on learning to drive business strategy. That is not to say that back-office issues became less important; they became, instead, responsibilities left to the internal organizations of the local CIOs. However, back-office issues can often become strategic problems, such as with the use of e-mail. This is an example of a driver situation even though it still per- tains to a support concern. That is, back-office technologies can indeed be drivers, especially when new or emerging technologies are available. As with any transition, the transformation of the CIO role was not accomplished without difficulty. The ultimate message from executive management to the CIO community was that it should fuse the vital goals of the business with its technology initiatives. Siemens asked its CIOs to think of new ways that technology could be used to drive strategic innovations. It also required CIOs to change their behavior by asking them to think more about business strategy.
The first decision that Deasy confronted was whether to change the reporting structure of the CIO. Most CIOs at Siemens reported directly to the CFO as opposed to the CEO. After careful thought, Deasy felt that to whom the CIO reported was less important than giving access and exposure to the President’s Council meetings. It was Deasy’s perspective that only through exposure and experience could
CIOs be able to transform from back-office managers to strategic planners. As such, CIO training was necessary to prepare them for participation in communities of practice. Eventually, Siemens recog- nized this need and, as a result, sponsored programs, usually lasting one week, in which CIOs would be introduced to new thinking and learning by using individual-based reflective practices. Thus, we see an evolutionary approach, similar to that of the responsive organiza- tional dynamism arc, presented in Chapter 4; that is, one that uses both individual and organizational learning techniques.
Deasy also understood the importance of his relationship and role with each of the three communities of practice. With respect to the CEOs of each company, Deasy certainly had the freedom to pick up the phone and speak with them directly. However, this was rarely a realistic option as Deasy knew early on that he needed the trust and cooperation of the local CIO to be successful. The community with CEOs was then broadened to include CIOs and other senior manag- ers. This was another way in which Deasy facilitated the interaction and exposure of his CIOs to the executives at Siemens.
Disagreement among the communities can and does occur. Deasy believed in the “pushing-back” approach. This means that, inevitably, not everyone will agree to agree, and, at times, senior executives may need to press on important strategic issues even though they are not mutually in agreement with the community. However, while this type of decision appears to be contrary to the process of learning embed- ded in communities of practice learning, it can be a productive and acceptable part of the process. Therefore, while a democratic process of learning is supported and preferred, someone in the CIO posi- tion ultimately may need to make a decision when a community is deadlocked.
The most important component of executive decision making is that trust exists within the community. In an organizational learning infrastructure, it is vital that senior management share in the value proposition of learning with members of the community. In this way, members feel that they are involved, and are a part of decision mak- ing as opposed to feeling that they are a part of a token effort that allows some level of participation. As Deasy stated, “I was not try- ing to create a corporate bureaucracy, but rather always representing myself as an ambassador for their interest, however, this does not
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guarantee that I will always agree with them.” Disagreements, when managed properly, require patience, which can result in iterative dis- cussions with members of the community before a consensus posi- tion may be reached, if it is at all. Only after this iterative process is exhausted does a senior overarching decision need to be made. Deasy attributed his success to his experience in field operations, similar to those of his constituents. As a prior business-line CIO, he understood the dilemma that many members of the community were facing. Interestingly, because of his background, Deasy was able to “qual- ify” as a true member of the CIO community of practice. This truth establishes an important part of knowledge management and change management—senior managers who attempt to create communities of practice will be more effective when they share a similar back- ground and history with the community that they hope to manage. Furthermore, leaders of such communities must allow members to act independently and not confuse that independence with autonomy. Finally, managers of communities of practice are really champions of their group and as such must ensure that the trust among mem- bers remains strong. This suggests that CIO communities must first undergo their own cultural assimilation to be prepared to integrate with larger communities within the organization.
Another important part of Deasy’s role was managing the technol- ogy itself. This part of his job required strategic integration in that his focus was more about uses of technology, as opposed to commu- nity behavior or cultural assimilation. Another way of looking at this issue is to consider the ways in which communities of practice actually transform tacit knowledge and present it to senior management as explicit knowledge. This explicit knowledge about uses of technology must be presented in a strategic way and show the benefits for the organization. The ways that technology can benefit a business often reside within IT as tacit knowledge. Indeed, many senior manag- ers often criticize IT managers for their inability to articulate what they know and to describe it so that managers can understand what it means to the business. Thus, IT managers need to practice transform- ing their tacit knowledge about technology and presenting it effec- tively, as it relates to business strategy.
Attempting to keep up with technology can be a daunting, if not impossible, task. In some cases, Siemens allows outside consultants
to provide help on specific applications if there is not enough expertise within the organization. The biggest challenge, however, is not necessarily in keeping up with new technologies but rather, in testing technologies to determine exactly the benefit they have on the business. To address this dilemma, Deasy established the con- cept of “revalidation.” Specifically, approved technology projects are reviewed every 90 days to determine whether they are indeed providing the planned outcomes, whether new outcomes need to be established, or whether the technology is no longer useful. The concept of revalidation can be associated with my discussion in Chapter 3, which introduced the concept of “driver” aspects of technology. This required that IT be given the ability to invest and experiment with technology to fully maximize the evaluation of IT in strategic integration. This was particularly useful to Deasy, who needed to transform the culture at Siemens to one that rec- ognized that not all approved technologies succeed. In addition, he needed to dramatically alter the application development life cycle and reengineer the process of how technology was evaluated by IT and senior management. This challenge was significant in that it had to be accepted by over 25 autonomous presidents, who were more focused on short and precise outcomes from technology investments.
Deasy was able to address the challenges that many presidents had in understanding IT jargon, specifically as it related to ben- efits of using technology. He engaged in an initiative to communi- cate with non-IT executives by using a process called storyboarding. Storyboarding is the process of creating prototypes that allow users to actually see examples of technology and how it will look and operate. Storyboarding tells a story and can quickly educate executives without being intimidating. Deasy’s process of revaluation had its own unique life cycle at Siemens:
1. Create excitement through animation. What would Siemens be like if … ?
2. Evaluate the way the technology would be supported.
3. Recognize implementation considerations about how the technology as a business driver is consistent with what the
organization is doing and experiencing.
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1. Technology is reviewed every 90 days by the CIO advisory board after experimental use with customers and presented to the president’s council on an as-needed basis.
2. Establish responsive organizational dynamism with cultural assimilation; that is, recognize the instability of technol- ogy and that there are no guarantees to planned outcomes. Instead, promote business units to understand the concept of “forever prototyping.”
Thus, Siemens was faced with the challenge of cultural assimi- lation, which required dramatic changes in thinking and business life cycles. This process resembles Bradley and Nolan’s (1998) Sense and Respond—the ongoing sensing of technology opportunities and responding to them dynamically. This process disturbs traditional and existing organizational value chains and therefore represents the need for a cultural shift in thinking and doing. Deasy, using technology as the change variable, began the process of reinventing the operation of many traditional value chains.
Siemens provides us with an interesting case study for responsive organizational dynamism because it had so many diverse companies (in over 190 countries) and over 425,000 employees. As such, Siemens represents an excellent structure to examine the importance of cul- tural assimilation. Deasy, as a corporate CIO, had a counterpart in Asia/Australia. Both corporate CIOs reported to a global CIO in Germany, the home office of Siemens. There was also a topic-centered CIO responsible for global security and application-specific planning software. This position also reported directly to the global CIO. There were regional and local CIOs who focused on specific geographical areas and vertical lines of business and operating company CIOs. This organization is shown in Figure 8.5.
Deasy’s operation represents one portion (although the most quickly changing and growing) of Siemens worldwide. Thus, the issue of globalization is critical for technologies that are scalable beyond regional operating domains. Standardization and evaluations of tech- nology often need to be ascertained at the global level and as a result introduce new complexities relating to cultural differences in business methods and general thinking processes. Specifically, what works in one country may not work the same way in another. Some of these
matters can be legally based (e.g., licensing of software or assumptions about whether a technology is legally justified). To a large extent, solv- ing legal matters relating to technology is easier than cultural ones.
Cultural assimilation matters about technology typically occur in global organizations with respect to acceptability of operational norms from one country to another. This becomes a particularly dif- ficult situation when international firms attempt to justify standards. At Siemens, Deasy introduced three “standards” of technology that defined how it could be used across cultures, and communities of practice:
1. Corporate services: These are technologies that are required to be used by the business units. There are central service charges for their use as well.
2. Mandatory services: Everyone must comply with using a par- ticular type of application; that is, mandatory software based on a specific type of application. For example, if you use a Web browser, it must be Internet Explorer.
3. Optional: These are technologies related to a specific business and used only within a local domain. There may be a preferred solution, but IT is not required to use it.
This matrix of standards allows for a culture to utilize technologies that are specific to its business needs, when justified. Standards at Siemens are determined by a series of steering committees, starting
at the regional level, that meet two to three times annually. Without question, implementing standards across cultures is, as Deasy phrased it, “a constant wrestling match which might need to change by the time a standard is actually reached.” This is why strategic integra- tion is so important, given the reality that technology cannot always be controlled or determined at senior levels. Organizations must be able to dynamically integrate technology changes parallel to business changes.
Deasy’s longer-term mission was to provide a community of CIOs who could combine the business and technology challenges. It was his initial vision that the CIO of the future would be more involved than before with marketing and value chain creation. He felt that “the CIO community needed to be detached from its technology- specific issues or they would never be a credible business partner.” It was his intent to establish organizational learning initiatives that helped CIOs “seize and succeed,” to essentially help senior manage- ment by creating vision and excitement, by establishing best practices, and by learning better ways to communicate through open discourse in communities of practice.
Three years after his initial work, I reviewed the progress that Deasy had made at Siemens. Interestingly, most of his initiatives had been implemented and were maturing—except for the role of e-business strategy. I discovered, after this period, that the orga- nization thought that e-business was an IT responsibility. As such, they expected that the CIOs had not been able to determine the best business strategy. This was a mistake; the CIO could not estab- lish strategy but rather needed to react to the strategies set forth by senior management. This means that the CIO was not able to really establish stand-alone strategies as drivers based on technology alone. CIOs needed, as Deasy stated, “to be a participant with the business strategist and to replace this was inappropriate.” This raises a number of questions:
1. Did this occur because CIOs at Siemens do not have the edu- cation and skills to drive aspects of business strategy?
2. Did the change in economy and the downfall of the dot-coms create a negative feeling toward technology as a business driver?
3. Are CEOs not cognizant enough about uses of technology, and do they need better education and skills to better under- stand the role of technology?
4. Is the number of communities of practice across the organi- zation integrated enough so that IT can effectively commu- nicate and form new cultures that can adapt to the changes brought about by emerging technologies?
5. Is there too much impatience with the evolution of tech- nology? Does its assimilation in an organization the size of Siemens simply take too long to appreciate and realize the returns from investments in technology?
I believe that all of these questions apply, to some extent, and are part of the challenges that lie ahead at Siemens. The company has now initiated a series of educational seminars designed to provide more business training for CIOs, which further emphasizes the importance of focusing on business strategy as opposed to just technology. It could also mean the eventual establishment of a new “breed” of CIOs who are better educated in business strategy. However, it is inappropriate for non-IT managers to expect that the CIOs will be able to handle strategy by themselves; they must disconnect e-business as solely being about technology. The results at Siemens only serve to strengthen the concept that responsive organizational dynamism requires that cul- tural assimilation occur within all the entities of a company.
Dana Deasy left Siemens a few years after this case study was com- pleted. During that time, the executive team at Siemens realized that the CIO alone could not provide business strategy or react quickly enough to market needs. Rather, such strategy required the integra- tion of all aspects of the organization, with the CIO only one part of the team to determine strategic shifts that lead or use components of technology. Thus, the executives realized that they needed to become much better versed in technology so that they also could engage in strategic conversations. This does not suggest that executives needed technology training per se, but that they do need training that allows them to comment intelligently on technology issues. What is the best
way to accomplish this goal? The answer is through short seminars that can provide executives with terminology and familiarize them with the processes their decisions will affect. The case also raised the question of whether a new wave of executives would inevitably be required to move the organization forward to compete more effec- tively. While these initiatives appear to make sense, they still need to address the fundamental challenges posed by technology dynamism and the need to develop an organization that is positioned to respond (i.e., responsive organizational dynamism). We know from the results of the Ravell case that executives cannot be excluded. However, the case also showed that all levels of the organization need to be involved. Therefore, the move to responsive organizational dynamism requires a reinvention of the way individuals work, think, and operate across multiple tiers of management and organizational business units. This challenge will continue to be a difficult but achievable objective of large multinational companies.
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