What has been your biggest disappointment? It took much too long to get to transformation in our outsourcing arrangement. And just when we thought we were at the point where we would be transforming, things started breaking. In an outsourced environment, if something is not standard and not easy to follow, when things start acting up, you don't know why. The former team knew what those issues were. The outsource partner didn't.
You had some system outages as well, correct? We had some outages that were frustrating for me as the IT leader, and the CEO and our executive council were very disappointed in us. Outages are going to happen. What's important is that you turn them around very quickly. We didn't.
What was the problem? It was the way we concatenated a bunch of instances of SAP processes. Every time there was a new need or demand coming in, we just stuck another instance on it. Before we knew it, we had a mess. We had multiple providers making mistakes, we had people in our own shop making mistakes, and it caused a ripple effect. The architecture we had in place was too complex, and we didn't know that until things started breaking. Our team and SAP went through the pain points and simplified the environment. In 2010, we had a number of outages. This year, 2012, we have had zero.
The recession was hard on consumer products companies.How did you and your colleagues in IT respond to that challenge at Kimberly-Clark? If we were going to get to the other side of the economic downturn, IT needed to get better at how we deploy capabilities that support the goals and objectives of the businesses.
How did you make that happen? We created these things called business capability road maps. For example, every part of [Kimberly-Clark's] consumer business does trade-promotion management, but each region and country wants to do it a different way. We laid out these road maps, and IT leaders literally [were able to change] the conversation we were having with the business leaders in understanding what we should be deploying in order for them to hit their goals and objectives. We got everyone to agree to one solution and saved tens of millions of dollars.
Everyone talks about making IT a strategic value center, but you actually did that.How? When I came on board, business leaders weren't viewing IT as strategic. The company had decided it might as well just outsource a lot of IT. My boss, the CFO, viewed IT as a game-changer, so it was important to get people to understand how strategic IT can be. It's taken a while to get there, but when people saw what we built -- the whole capability road-mapping -- they understood.