How do you get your IT footprint from a confusing 262 systems down to a few overarching applications—while increasing security, gaining functionality, and pressing forward with innovation?
As with many things, less really can get you more, sometimes. Paul Wright, chief information officer (CIO) of vehicle components-maker Accuride Corp., recently took the time to explain how he rationalized the company’s IT ecosystem, why some smaller but vital business needs don’t always require a whole new system, and how to get buy-in from the business on digital transformation initiatives.
The conversation has been lightly edited for length and clarity.
Can you tell us about your role and your vision as CIO at Accuride?
I’ve been leading IT at Accuride since February 2016. When we started with our digital transformation journey, it was about becoming more agile in terms of what we were doing and getting to a point where we could have one source of the truth as much of the time as possible. We knew from experience that if we wanted to have a cost-effective option but remain world-class in our ability to make decisions, what we were doing wasn’t going to work.
And, I think you get to a point of 262-plus applications outside the system when you’re not servicing the needs of people as they’re coming to you. You get to that number of applications when people go around you, or everyone works with their favorite IT person on developing something, and that’s how you get shadow IT. And, the IT team, if you’re not careful, also breeds their own sense of job security with that because they’re the only ones who can maintain this, that, or the other application. So, you have this cyclical effect, this echo chamber, and that inhibits innovation.
So, how do you address this challenge?
It’s much easier to innovate around one platform and one set of data than it is trying to harness all those different sets of data from all those different applications. We knew we wanted to do something radically different. That was really about: “OK. If we don’t like what our world looks like right now, let’s construct a strategy for what we want it to look like in the future.”
That isn’t just an IT project. That’s a business project. We brought in change agents from the various business functions who talked about what they were doing, the challenges that they had, and where they wanted to go. And, we partnered them with IT. That’s how we started doing a lot of process mapping around the three core areas for our manufacturing operations, which were our procure-to-pay process, our plan-to-produce process, and our order-to-cash process.
This being my first IT leadership position was both helpful and detrimental because sometimes I had no idea what people were talking about. But, I did know from running operations how difficult it was when you asked a question and people ran off to their offices and worked on Excel spreadsheets for about a week. And, then when they would come back a week later with answers, you forgot why you asked the question in the first place.
How did you integrate with other platforms at Accuride?
We found a platform called Plex for our manufacturing plants that we felt was going to augment what we were trying to do. We felt it would very nicely meet our needs from “shop floor to top floor,” as we put it. But, there were also a lot of processes that didn’t necessarily fit with what Plex was doing, but we still hadn’t gone away from the philosophy that we wanted a few primary systems versus having a lot of individual applications.
Finance and HR were priority areas where we needed to improve what we were doing, and we needed to figure out a complementary solution. And, obviously, for us, that became Workday. It became pretty clear to me that Plex and Workday had a really good synergy for us on a go-forward basis.
We’re down to fewer than 10 applications that we manage in North America, which is pretty good. And, our IT resource load is down 50%. If we look at our customer satisfaction metrics, I think internally, our peer groups like working with us. We’ve developed our skills in terms of understanding the business requirements better. As a result of that, we’ve tried to meet people where they are. We’re not trying to bombard people with a technical solution; we’re trying to provide people with a business solution that we’re enabling through technology.
How does Workday Extend fit into that digital transformation journey?
We’ve tried to harmonize around certain platforms and give people a single place to get the information they need, but some people absolutely need to do certain work inside a transactional system. We don’t want them to have to log in to 20 different systems, and then try to grab what they need from all of those systems to do their job.
At the same time, we don’t expect either of our two major platforms to solve every nuanced problem the “Accuride” way. That’s where Workday Extend allows us to connect these two dots. Or, if I’ve got this small subprocess that’s really important to us but wouldn’t necessarily be important to a lot of Workday customers. Then how do we achieve that in a holistic way, keep the security tight, and keep the data integrated? Workday Extend becomes the answer to that problem for us in a lot of cases.