Strategic CIO // IT Strategy
01:49 AM

Worldwide Campus

A tangle of distributed, decentralized and multishore operations requires CIOs to develop a global vision that includes global standards and metrics. Issues such as where to locate and protect data become that much more challenging in a global enterprise

Once upon a time, companies boasted of having offices in Manhattan, Munich, Madrid, Mumbai and Manila. Each office managed its set of customers and suppliers, with a lot of “good advice” coming in from the head office. There was precious little governance or standardization. Paradoxically, the use of third-party service providers has catalyzed better governance and standards in captive or shared-services centers scattered in distant parts of the world.

There are multiple ways to implement the concept of a worldwide campus. Regardless of the company having globally dispersed teams working on disparate pieces of work, what binds these offices together is a defined, common architecture and a shared-enterprise objective.

Boston-based Fidelity, the world’s largest mutual-fund company, for example, has subsidiary offices in most countries, which service local markets; has captive centers in India to service its global operations; has outsourced to almost half a dozen third-party IT service providers and itself functions as a human resources and benefits administration provider to companies such as General Motors and Novartis.

Fidelity is one of the many hundreds of multinational companies that have such complex setups. With services on their way to becoming commoditized (See Driving Down Prices, Global Services, April 2006), the global playing field is no longer open only to companies with deep pockets. Increasingly, smaller companies are also acquiring capabilities offshore, largely through outsourcing relationships, including managed services. In the area of product development, for instance, it is not uncommon to find tech startups developing their software products in Bangalore. So much so, that a significant number of venture capitalists demand that startups build an offshore angle to their business plans.

Such complexity in operations is nothing new; it has been happening in other industries for decades. In manufacturing, for instance, components may get produced in China and Taiwan, assembled in Malaysia and packaged in and shipped from China. All these activities may be coordinated from the U.S.A.

“The services industry, and BPO in general, is just starting to catch up with its manufacturing brethren,” says Brian Maloney, recently appointed as President of the newly formed Unisys Global Industries. Maloney has been CEO of AT&T Solutions and COO of Perot Systems.

Making the Right Connections

Of course, placing the right tech investments is the lifeblood of the ever-growing worldwide campuses. There is no denying that it is the enormous amount of fiber-optic cables — the fat bandwidth pipes — spread under the oceans and telecom connections that form the backbone on which global operations rest. But, how technology is deployed across various locations and what it means for different users — parent company, subsidiaries and provider companies — determines the flow of information in this complex network.

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