Home and Away

Home and Away

Nemawashi might be the perfect model for Aussie branch office CIOs wanting to build influence among their global peers, wherever head office might be

Face-to-face contact was a big part of Sukkar's year last year too, but much of that time was spent in fire-fighting mode. Forced to deal with considerable "trouble" at "the pointy end" of completion of Alcatel's deployment program of SAP across the region, Sukkar says he spent almost 40 percent of his time overseas. He also spent untold hours from his office in Australia on the telephone with counterparts in France, as well as in e-mail and other communication.

At least, Sukkar says, the French are now learning that there is a time zone difference and that Australia is on the other side of the planet. And he says he has, finally, managed to overcome the "not invented here" syndrome that used to seem as prevalent in France as in the US.

"One of my big frustrations when I first started at Alcatel was that the only good strategy came out of Paris, in that we really had to fight for our opinion, our vision, our strategies," he says. "I guess we needed to demonstrate that we were capable of coming up with a plan or a vision that was as strong as theirs."

So Sukkar started on a conscious and deliberate campaign to convince the French that the Australian arm was full of highly capable people with strong ideas about the way IS and IT should be managed and able to deliver results on a global scale. Fortunately, his efforts were helped by the fact that the regional deployment of SAP was highly successful at a time when the economic and business climate meant cost reduction was an absolute focus of the organization, and when the thinking in Europe favoured discrete implementations in each country, an approach which proved highly inefficient.

"I guess we were quite fortunate that we were able to sell our strategy based on it being not only the most economic model but a very cost-effective model," Sukkar says.

"I think we had to prove ourselves. We had to, from our point of view, stop talking and start doing. There was a period there when all we did was to have discussions -we had strategies and visions, but there was no execution. We had to take it to the next level, which was to define a program of work, and execute based on the program. We stopped talking and we started doing and we started getting results, and that is how we proved that we were capable of achieving or realizing our strategy.

"Now we have got the runs on the board and we are actually looked upon for comment and for opinion, whereas early on, four years ago, there would be no consideration of our view. They would just do things and we would need to follow," Sukkar says.

As a regional and regional-divisional CIO of the biggest division of Fresenius, and one who is basically running the IT shop for the company in Asia, Pinn has no reporting lines back to Germany, but is responsible for local implementation of global projects.

"It's really about if they want to introduce new technologies or we change the database of our systems," Pinn says. "We went from Informix to DB2, so that was a global communication process. When we set a new standard for a data warehousing solution, that was a global project. Then we had a global group looking at Internet content management, three years ago or something, but we selected an Australian product.

"So in that sense I think in most cases we are actually quite democratic in our process, and I can work with my vice president and my management team group in Asia," Pinn says.

And if Thorpe has ever been left out in the cold in decision making, it has never been on major issues. "People can sometimes just forget to put an e-mail together, but on the big issues, no, that hasn't happened. The relationships are pretty good, so if I feel that a wrong direction is being pursued I'm quite comfortable saying so and following it up."

If headquarters sometimes forgets to tell Sukkar things he needs to know, or leaves it until the last minute, he is thankful that he has been able to react reasonably quickly. "I cannot think of a time when we were not told or we were told very late and it caused some massive inconvenience so far, but perhaps that is more good fortune than anything else."

To be an effective manager, JPMorgan's Chen says, means managing 360-degree relationships at all times. Managing up is a major part of it. To have a good manager who understands and supports you plays a critical part of your success in your job.

"In my case, my managers are all located overseas. Therefore, there is a great need for me to provide them with good visibility regularly so they can help me to achieve the outcomes we are looking for," Chen says. "To a certain degree, I have been fortunate as I have very supportive managers."

He says the advantage of being in a global company is that you can leverage global capability when you need it at the country level. There are plenty of global solutions, processes and tools available to the Australian arm of JPMorgan when it provides solutions to the local business.

"We also benefit from global contracts with external vendors to achieve above-average savings. As I touched on previously, there is abundant information flow through the organization. In order to achieve a level of success for major initiatives, the firm spends a huge amount of time on communication to ensure everyone is on the same page," Chen says. "The firm's practice is to get you involved at an early stage to ensure these initiatives can be executed successfully in each local business environment."

Chen says that means he must at various times contribute, lead and follow. To be an effective leader you need to lead the team and contribute to any IT decisions made, he says. On the other hand, as part of a global organization, he also must follow the global guidelines and execute as needed. Making contributions at local and regional levels is key.

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