I have always approached my role as CIO with the mindset that IT has to be more involved in the business in order to help the company. The Journey to the Future-State CIO framework from the CIO Executive Council immediately struck me as a good model with specific goals for advancing my own role and that of my staff, while demonstrating how IT serves our mission.
My management team at Ulkar Holding A.S., the parent company of Nobel Ilac, isopen to IT playing a more business-oriented role in the company — but this good will is only a base. To build on that, I looked at the leadership emphasis levels in the Journey framework — Functional, Transformational and Business Strategist — and set about mapping our current activities and future plans against them: What were we already doing? What needed improvement?
My overall focus is on meeting the needs of our entire enterprise. In order to do this, I had to advance my staff’s expertise and help them become a transformational and strategic force. While we are fully competent at the functional level, i.e., keeping the systems running, I wanted my people to be able to excel at process and to start approaching solutions from a business perspective.
A focus on business process is key to achieving the Transformational leadership level in the Future-State framework; ultimately leading to a more influential IT organization and greater enterprise value. To develop this process and business expertise on my staff, I have tried to hire people with a greater business orientation and background, and I am moving to embed others deeper into the business functions; putting them out into the field to work directly with the people who need the solutions we develop and deploy.
Real-world business impact
At the same time, my attention has begun to shift to our external customers and how to help better position NobelIlac in Turkey’s pharmaceutical market. When the government initiated new oversight allowing regulators and companies to track pharmaceuticals from warehouse to shipping to point of sale, this became a tremendous opportunity for us. Because of the work I had already done to align IT with the business , we were the only company that brought IT into the project from the start. Our CEO gave us the opportunity to demonstrate our strategic value to not only my peers in Nobel Ilac but also across the industry.
By being at the table, we were able to point out a significant flaw in the initial plan for the process. The government wanted to split the development of how to track sales of boxes at the pharmacies and how to track and manage boxes in warehouses and during shipments in the pharmaceutical supply chain. Although those business processes are separate, addressing them separately did not make any sense from a total solution development perspective. If a box is assigned tracking information as soon as it is created, it is far more rational for it to maintain that information and be treated as the same object throughout its lifecycle.
Because of our previous record of providing value, our suggestions were accepted within Nobel Ilac. The government and wholesalers also championed our approach, raising Nobel Ilac’s profile in our industry. Seeing this, and the reaction among our customers and competitors, our head of sales recently spoke up in a senior management meeting to highlight his belief that IT helped create a great marketing tool and market advantage for the company.
If your IT shop is primarily cast as a service and technology delivery organization, as is the case at the Functional leadership level of the Journey framework, it is a challenge to focus on the overall business needs rather than on the individual systems. While it is very hard to find or develop the right people that can see solutions development in this broader business sense, we have demonstrated the payoff from this effort.
A. Murat Mendi is CIO of Ulkar Holding A.S., parent company of Nobel Ilac, one of the leading pharmaceutical companies in Turkey. He is an advisory board member of the CIO Executive Council, a global peer advisory service and professional association of more than 500 CIOs.