From Bankrupt To Innovative In Four Years - InformationWeek

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From Bankrupt To Innovative In Four Years

Global Crossing is using presence-enabled collaboration tools in ways that many companies haven't yet dreamed of.

In a rapid dive four years ago, Global Crossing went from telecom industry highflier to bankruptcy protection. The company's downfall was $12.4 billion in debt incurred building a 100,000 mile fiber-optic network. Investors filed suits accusing Global Crossing of falsifying financial filings to hide losses, resulting in a Securities and Exchange Commission investigation that ended last year without formal charges.

What doesn't kill you makes you stronger, right? The past few years have brought tough changes to Global Crossing that have improved business processes and communication. Most of it has come from IT innovation, during a time when the company's IT department was massively downsized. And for that, Global Crossing earns the No. 4 spot on this year's InformationWeek 500 list.

"We had the imperative to be the most efficient company in telecom," says CIO Dan Wagner, who was tapped for the top IT job in March 2002, two months after the bankruptcy filing. Prior to that, he served as senior VP of global real estate and vendor management. He brought intensity to the job, a trait colleagues are reminded of with every e-mail he sends: They always end with the words, "go go go go."

CIO Wagner's simple motto: go go go go

CIO Wagner's simple motto: "go go go go"

Photo by Sacha Lecca
Global Crossing, which sells telecommunications products and services to businesses in more than 50 countries, has consolidated IT by 50%, ridding itself of many costly legacy systems. It has implemented new systems that let employees and customers track orders from beginning to end. Internally, it's using presence-enabled collaboration tools in ways that many companies haven't dreamed of. Employee desktops offer integrated instant messaging, videoconferencing, and voice, and order workflow systems feature click-to-call buttons.

The payoff? Order provisioning--the time from when a customer places an order to when it's filled--has dropped 74%; application latency has decreased 80%; and the time it takes the company to respond to customer queries is much improved. Business customer satisfaction has increased each of the last several years, according to studies by Knowledge Systems and Research that Global Crossing commissioned; and IT customer satisfaction is up, according to an internal review.

Meanwhile, Global Crossing downsized its global IT staff from 1,300 to 350 people. Combined with the IT consolidation, this has led to an 80% reduction in IT costs since 2002. Overall operating expenses at the company are down 57% since that time.

The results, Wagner says, prove that "you can reduce costs radically while at the same time improving everything you provide."

Order Insight

One of the first steps for Global Crossing was to simplify. The company has gone from 21 billing systems to two and 25 order management and inventory systems to seven. It has implemented a single system for IT trouble tickets and alarms and adopted a standard platform for application development based on Java and Microsoft .Net in another effort to reduce complexity.

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In December 2004, Global Crossing launched Intelligent Front Office, a single enterprisewide workflow application that ties into systems that handle pricing, billing, account management, sales force automation, CRM, incident management, service inquiries, and more.

Company reps enter orders for phone lines, telephony equipment, and services into Intelligent Front Office, with equipment orders going straight to the factory. The system manages the entire workflow process, from managerial approval to delivery. It's a big improvement over the spreadsheets of yesteryear, says Robyn Adel, a Global Crossing area VP who handles sales support. "Time is money, and this saves our organization a lot of time," she says.

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