Meanwhile, the IT team worked with the business to standardize business practices. "We standardized everything from the business processes to how we look at the data," he says.
A shift to innovation
P&G took a different approach. It starting by consolidating its data centers, creating a robust global network and centralizing around a single global instance of its SAP ERP software. "You can't standardize without centralizing first," says Passerini.
The IT group then outsourced the hosting and management of that infrastructure and began focusing on optimizing and consolidating its business processes. "That changed the whole focus from 70% running the operations to 70% innovating on the operations," says Jim Fortner, vice president of IT development operations at P&G.
Employees of the P&G Global Business Services team are embedded within the business units, where they leverage that common infrastructure to create business services in the areas of data modeling, data visualization and the use of virtual reality for everything from product testing to designing production lines.
P&G now focuses on leveraging that common platform as a "strategic enabler" for more advanced global business services, some of which cross departmental boundaries. For example, Global Business Services created an employee workplace service that automates everything required to get a new employee up and running. What used to require calls to corporate facilities and employee services groups is now managed as one seamless business process. "We provision their office and their IT and deliver that as a service," Fortner says.
Model of consistency
Vanguard, a Valley Forge, Pa.-based investment management firm, began centralizing its global operations after realizing that its lineup of investment products, which are available in 80 countries, was similar in every global market. Executives saw that the business could gain efficiencies by centralizing and standardizing its data centers and applications. "If the mission is the same, the products are the same and you want consistency in the business, you should go toward a centralized model," says Carol Dow, CTO and principal of global investment systems at Vanguard. But IT wasn't the one pushing the drive toward centralization. "It was the business," she says.
Today Vanguard is in the process of consolidating its data center in Australia into its U.S. operations. The project has presented challenges because of distance and time zone issues. But bandwidth costs have declined, and technologies such as a global MPLS network, content delivery networks, WAN optimization devices and virtual desktops have evolved to the point where the technical barriers have fallen, Dow says.