My recent wide-ranging discussion with General Electric Intelligent Platforms (GEIP) CIO and "Lean Leader" Vince Campisi touched on a dramatic application modernization, which calls for reducing the number of ERP and general ledger systems to essentially, one each. GEIP is a $1B industrial controls concern - embedded technology and automation - that heavily focuses on software. It also serves other GE units, thus deriving substantial internal business. The interview was by phone on Nov. 2. Part II of II. Part I explored Campisi's organization and views on the cloud, BYOD, big data and collaboration.
ECF: Explain your role and who do you report to?
Campisi: I report to the CEO of business (GE IP President and CEO Jody Markopoulos) who focuses on how to leverage technologies to align with business strategy -- things like driving commercial excellence and implementing sales force automation and CRM tools. My team and I are also driving ERP simplification strategies in a business built up through a series of acquisitions…that's a big focus around GE -- reducing the number of ERPs and general ledgers that we have.
ECF: Explain the rationale behind your application modernization effort.
Campisi: I would say [it is] the key piece when we look at trying to drive cost decisions for the business, [that being] our footprint as an organization and our systems and the complexity related to them. [We ask] how do we drive improvements in working capital. Modernization is a big piece of what we look at in our application portfolio. The more we drive commonality in platforms, the more integrated we become as a company. That is a big push at GE and has visibility at the board level and is driven by our global CIO.
ECF: Can you give me the details about how you have reduced your ERP and general ledger systems?
Campisi: Like I said, we are a business built on acquisitions (about 12-15 since 1987). At our highest, we had about 20-22 ERP systems. We are on a path to get to two instances of ERP systems across the division (GEIP has standardized on SAP). They'll be basically one instance that covers two different sets of regulations…going to 20 from 2 that we will achieve by next year. We started the plan three years back.
ECF: That sounds dramatic. How difficult was it doing this?
Campisi: It’s a lot of work. Every location that has its own ERP is its own business to some extent. Each has its own culture and language. It’s about business process and variations and trying to get agreement how things can and should work. That’s generally the hardest part in getting the buy in and clarity...and ultimately simplifying.
ECF: Is it the same with general ledger systems?
Campisi: You have the same count and volume with general ledger systems. We are looking at it pretty much through the same lens…20 down to 2. In my view, it’s really one, but I want to be accurate by saying two. We have a special one to meet international trade regulations and export control laws.
ECF: How much resistance did you encounter? How do you win over each unit?
Campisi: One critical thing is having a business leader who really appreciates the power of leveraging technology and simplifying your business as well a [divisional] CFO who [asks] `what are the benefits?' Having those two appreciate what [simplifying] can do sets the tone. We have different levels of challenge and different folks with different levels of integration into the supply chain. Some are tracking well right now and are green on every metric. Others have challenges that make them tougher, but everyone is ultimately driving toward the same goal.
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