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Formula for Efficiency

Formula for Efficiency

Low-margin industries — such as chemicals — usually don't invest heavily in IT. But Dow does. Its CEO tells us why

SIDEBAR: Dave Kepler's Take

by Ben Worthen

Dow Chemical's CIO talks about . . .

Service-oriented architecture: Before we can even begin to address the IT infrastructure, we need to understand the strategic plan for the company. We're going to have lots of different business models, and at the same time we want to promote the concept of one Dow. So, on the front end, near the customer, we have to design an architecture that allows us to be flexible; on the back end we want to be highly standardized. So by the time we arrive at SOA and start talking about consuming software ­services, it's already well grounded in a business plan.

Alignment: It starts with a vision for IT, and that vision has to be relevant to the corporate strategy. You also have to be honest with yourself about what your IT department's strengths and weaknesses are and how good a job you are doing. Once you've done that, you have to be willing to commit to what you're going to change, what risks you're going to take, and what things you can do early on to demonstrate that you are making a difference. I think people have a tendency to try to sell technology, but really the CIO needs to listen for the business problems. If I had to sum it up in one sentence, I would say that it's the will to understand where you need to go and the willingness to take the risk to get there, all the while doing it in a transparent way.

The CEO/CIO relationship: Andrew [Liveris] clearly understands that technology is an enabler, and he also understands the complexity of running an organization like ours that has a variety of business models. He doesn't worry about what version of software we are running on but is more concerned with the processes the technology relates to and the change management that goes along with it. At its heart, the job of the IT department is to deliver value to the company, and our CEO sees that. Our relationship is about making the company successful. I'm one of the corporate leaders helping him do that, and I happen to be the CIO.

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