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Communication: Keep The Lines Open

Share the pain. That's what Micron Technology Inc. VP of information systems James "Ed" Mahoney says is the philosophy behind the rotating schedule for the weekly IT-governance meetings he holds with his team of 12 managers.
"Share the pain." That's what Micron Technology Inc. VP of information systems James "Ed" Mahoney says is the philosophy behind the rotating schedule for the weekly IT-governance meetings he holds with his team of 12 managers. Because the group is spread across time zones, the meetings may happen for Mahoney at 6:00 or 7:00 a.m., 3:00 in the afternoon, or 10:00 at night.

But he wouldn't have it any other way. These meetings help the managers at the semiconductor maker communicate so that "we're in lockstep" about strategy and plans, he says. His managers' job, he says, "is not to surprise me. That's why communication is so vital."

Global IT organizations must take communications seriously, if they want their organizations to stay collaborative, process-oriented, and innovative. "The most important IT skill really is a penchant for communication, in any way, shape, or form," Symantec Corp. CIO Mark Egan says. And "it's not just being able to communicate, but valuing the fact that communication must be constant, and understanding that it's encouraged and welcome, especially when it comes to feedback." Symantec says the most important tools for this in its organization are collaborative programs, such as Lotus Notes.

Effective communications require that IT organizations, no matter where their members are situated, believe they're part of the same team. Semiconductor maker Skyworks Solutions Inc. makes sure its IT staffers, regardless of where they're based, feel part of one "virtual team" through the help of technologies such as WebEx Web conferencing, E-mail, and instant messaging, VP of IT Louw Kotze says. That extends to outsourced staff, too. One or two people at a time from its Indian development team come to the United States "to learn who we are and to take that back [to India] and share that," he says.

For Yahoo Inc., the big challenge to team building is integrating IT staff from acquisitions--it has made almost two dozen both within and outside of the United States in the last eight years. "Organic growth is easier to deal with," senior VP and CIO Lars Rabbe says. To help IT members of acquired companies feel as if they're part of one IT organization from day one, the IT group follows a program from Yahoo's acquisitions office that has templated, day-by-day, minutely detailed plans, such as getting new employees network access first thing. Says Rabbe: "This helps the sense of urgency."

with Bob Violino

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