Selling Soap, Razors--And Collaboration

Procter & Gamble recasts its strategy--and image--with new PC apps, predictive business intelligence, and virtualized processes
The idea behind real-time collaboration in the workplace isn't new, but many big businesses are still catching up to it. "There's already a lot of collaboration going on," IDC analyst Robert Mahowald says. "What these products aim to do is allow you to structure the collaboration, do it smarter." Mahowald estimates it could be another five years before instant-messaging, presence-awareness, and Web-conferencing technologies are widely adopted in the business world.

One area where P&G is still experimenting is in the use of videoconferencing. It's possible that video will be used at P&G more for personal interaction where eye-to-eye contact is important-job interviews and performance appraisals-than for meeting presentations. "I'm beginning to feel video may have a use that's very different from what we originally envisioned," Heltsley says. "It's not for meetings."

Filippo Passerini's Philosophy
TECH BACKGROUND Passerini started at Procter & Gamble as a systems analyst in 1981. He served as VP of IT in several business units and was promoted to global services officer in 2003. He added the CIO title in July 2004.
MANAGEMENT STYLE Thinks IT departments must create value by offering something "distinctive."
MOVES Outsourced infrastructure management and application development to Hewlett-Packard in 2003. Centralized remaining 2,400 IT staffers within P&G's Global Business Services shared-services unit.
QUOTE "I may be wrong, but I'm very consistent."
FUN Enjoys watching his 11-year-old son, born in Venezuela, play competitive ice hockey in Cincinnati.
Collaboration tools also promise increased flexibility for mobile workers, what Heltsley calls "location-free work," and a blurring of time zones. "That gets into quality of life and the structure of your business day," she says.

Building On Experience
That's the kind of talk Passerini likes to hear. The P&G veteran has made the rounds since starting with the company 24 years ago as a systems analyst. A native of Rome, he's done stints in England, Greece, Italy, Latin America, Turkey, and the Cincinnati headquarters, gaining experience in marketing and business-process management along the way. As global services officer in 2003, Passerini helped design the company's outsourcing strategy; following the HP deal, P&G contracted out payroll, benefits, and travel services to IBM, and facilities management to real-estate services company Jones Lang LaSalle.

When the CIO title was added to Passerini's business card in 2004, he centralized what remained of the company's IT staff, many of whom were embedded in its business units. He also changed the group's name from Information Technology to Information Decision Solutions to reflect the change in mandate and folded it into Global Business Services. The shared-services unit employs 5,800-about 2,400 of whom are IT staffers.

Passerini acknowledges that some aspects of the grand plan are unproven. What if it turns out that company units really benefited from having IT people sitting alongside line-of-business counterparts? "Then we will undo immediately what we have done," Passerini says.

Of course, P&G's CIO doesn't expect that to happen, and it's full speed ahead on the desktop upgrades and other IT projects that are part of his plan. The company estimates that 3 billion times a day, a customer reaches for one of its products. That's a lot of hair dye and razor blades-and one-to-one opportunities.

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