One case – one exam (IT)

130419-alcanOn Thursday we took our penultimate exam, Value-Added Entreprise IT. Surprisingly there was only one question: “Solve the case” ;-) No, seriously there were 4 sub-questions to help us suggest a solution for the case. But the surprise was (IMHO – YMMV) that there was only one (big) case to solve: Alcan, taking on the challenge of IT management in a global business context. It’s a classical HBR case (there is also an Alcan case about environment issues for those who remember CSR/EHS). For those interested here is a presentation by Cihad Acar and some solutions from the Fox School of Business.

Since I unfortunately couldn’t attend many classes I was happy to see that readings could bring some ideas to answer the case and that I shouldn’t be too far from The Truth ;-) One thing that I was wondering is what is (or was) the general business strategy of Alcan at that time. In his class Prof. Viaene stressed that the (Corporate) Strategic Context should drive the IT/IS Strategy. I missed the global strategic context in the (part of the) case we received for the exam. I could see that some of the business division didn’t necessarily made sense (except if you need a conglomerate or a highly vertically integrated company): packaging for instance. Splitting the company would see efforts focused on core values (and the IT Strategy would follow and would have been easier to implement).

Now when you read the Wikipedia page of Alcan, you realise Rio Tinto acquired Alcan Inc. in 2007 (one year after the case) in a US$38 billion deal. But soon after it decided to sell its Engineered Products and Packaging business groups (something that was ultimately done 2 years ago, in 2011). This lead me to another question: we learned best practises for IT governance when dealing with the result of an acquisition (or a very anarchic organisation) – what about best practises for IT governance when dealing with a split? If Robert Ouellette succeeded in implementing an ERP system in the Engineerd Products division before 2011, how would the new IT organisation cope with this existing, heavyweight ERP after being sold to Apollo (sic) Global Management for instance? A quick thought tells me that they could keep the benefits of an integrated communication system offered by the ERP in place (without the sunk costs of implementation), being then a small piece in a bigger puzzle and needing to communicate with 3rd parties now outside their company.

Btw if you look at the management of Rio Tinto Alcan, the CFO is still responsible for IS&T, the person responsible for IT still holds a VP position but it’s not Robert Ouellette anymore (although he really exists but works now elsewhere) ;-)

Photo credit: Stan O’Neill (holding paddle) and Elmer Burley (guiding ingot into furnace), two firemen in the Remelt department, feed ingots to the re-melting furnace at the Aluminum Company of Canada by Library and Archives Canada (licence CC-by)

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Here comes another Vlerick FTMBA student in the press …

retirement-bag-dollarsAmong the nearly 200 participants in the BusinessBecause When I Retire competition Vlad Damian, a Vlerick FTMBA, shared his vision of his world at retirement time, how he thinks the world will have changed at that time. It starts with …

By 2060 my grandchildren will ask me to explain what an email is and how it was used.

And I let you read the full post here. The story is nicely written (the challenge said no more than 300 words) and touches on communication bio-IT, merging two promising fields: biotechnology and IT. Vlad made it to the final, great!

It reminded the Enjoy Change campaign Vlerick started at the same time as its rebranding – without gifts ;-) But more importantly I was wondering how to apply all these nice idea, from a company perspective … All these ideas are fine but is it really how to create value with IT? What would be the strategic alignment of such products? What about the required IT infrastructure? What would be the role of the CIO in such organisation, his/her role in relation with the CSO (Chief Scientific Officer Ⓡ TM)? How would this IT portfolio be presented? And even if Vlad started mentioning it already, how would IT security and potential crisis be managed? As you can see I started to revise for the Value Added Entreprise IT course ;-)

Anyway, congratulations, Vlad!

(You can also find Vlad on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, etc.)
Photo credits: Retirement by 401(K) 2013 on Flickr (licence CC-by-sa)

Some craftwork at Vlerick

Sometimes EMBA classes at Vlerick can take an unexpected turn and we end up creating something with our hands instead of tinkering with Excel, a calculator or simply our brain (it happens … sometimes). Last week Kosta Perric came as guest speaker for the course of Value-Added Entreprise IT. Kosta Perric is working at SWIFT and co-founded of Innotribe but is also a contributor to Forbes.com and an avid user of web 2.0 (Twitter, Google+, blog, etc.). As nearly all people working in and around innovation I’ve seen so far, Kosta Perric uses a Mac for his presentations ;-)

As I mentioned earlier he explained the innovation process and specificities at SWIFT/Innotribe with the castle and sandbox metaphor, something a bit similar to open innovation or Jef Staes’ red monkey (also seen previously here). If you are interested here is a very short summary of the presentation or watch the video below on the creation and purpose of Innotribe (the Innotribe channel on YouTube is also very nice to follow).

By the way, Kosta very briefly mentioned it but the metaphor is also the title of his book, The Castle and the Sandbox (sic) (but, unlike Jan Vermeiren, Kosta did not bring a free copy for each of us). Kosta’s blog has also a summary of the book.

And that’s when craftwork happened. On the second part of his talk, Kosta Peric asked us to work a little bit and, given a box of very fancy material, asked us to build what we thought was the castle and the sandbox. The message is simple, repeated several times and made ours by translating it into concrete craftwork … The methodology of knowledge transmission was also part of the learnings. Here are some pictures …

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Ok, I also have a video of somebody we discovered has storytelling talents but here I will only share the official workshop video :-)

See you soon for new adventures!

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