12:38 PM

IT's Rodney Dangerfield Complex

An IT department often 'gets no respect' from other business entities, says the CIO of FedEx Custom Critical.

Three months after rising to the ranks of CIO at FedEx Custom Critical, a FedEx Corp. subsidiary, Chris O'Neil says one of the biggest challenges his IT department has overcome is its Rodney Dangerfield complex: It "gets no respect" from the other departments.

Previously, O'Neil says, IT was left out of business-process or technology-related discussions. Back then, the IT department was fragmented and the organization lacked consistency in project management, processes, and production, explains O'Neil, who was promoted to his new position in January, after serving as managing director of IT engineering for FedEx Corp.'s Akron, Ohio, and Pittsburgh technology centers.

Now, IT is taking the lead on many issues, such as instituting project-management training and methodology in departments across the subsidiary. Two IT managers certified in project management work closely with the subsidiary's training department to put project-management training in place for human resources, finance, and other operations. "We have better communication with our internal customers," O'Neil says. "They have more confidence in IT's ability to deliver." And they're working hard on cross-subsidiary projects with special attention on customer satisfaction.

Ensuring customer satisfaction pays for FedEx Custom Critical employees, who survey customers each month. "Everyone at FedEx Custom Critical is compensated and graded based on customer satisfaction," O'Neil says. FedEx Custom Critical employees receive a one-time bonus payment based on company profitability and customer satisfaction.

That customer-satisfaction focus is consistent with findings in InformationWeek Research's Priorities Q1 2002 study of 300 business and technology executives. According to the study, nine out of 10 companies plan to improve customer service. And 89% of sites say they hope to better understand and meet the needs of customers.

Getting support and budgetary approval for IT projects goes a lot smoother when the CEO understands the role technology plays in the company, O'Neil says. He reports directly to John Pickard, president and CEO of FedEx Custom Critical, a CEO who "gets" technology. "Some CEOs just have no clue," O'Neil says. He wouldn't go as far as saying his boss is a tech guy, but he does say that Pickard has a broad understanding of technology and how it needs to be applied to the business. That comes in handy when O'Neil is lobbying to fund upcoming projects, such as improving the fleet-management system and integrating the individual FedEx operations' Web sites.

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