How one corporate CIO persuades rather than commands.
Stories by Alice Dragoon
Cirque du Soleil is more than aerial acrobatics and gymnastic symmetry. Behind the scenes, an information technology tour de force keeps the show running smoothly.
Change is hard. Even when the benefits are obvious, it takes a lot of determination to get an organization to do things differently. But Fran Dramis is a determined sort of guy; he's developed a detailed blueprint for guiding corporations through the challenging process of technology transformation.
Dramis spearheaded major technology makeovers as a consultant to Bankers' Trust, Citibank, Coopers & Lybrand, National Association of Securities Dealers (NASD) and Xerox, and in the process he served as acting CIO for divisions of all those companies but Xerox. Now he is entering the final phase of a so-called technology transformation at BellSouth in Atlanta. As executive vice-president and chief information, e-commerce and security officer, he's helping the Baby Bell morph from what he calls a "transport company" optimised around voice circuit switching to an information services company that adds value to its voice and data transport business. (For example, customers might pay extra for prioritized routing or to have BellSouth store a backup copy of the information being transported.)
Two years ago, reps at AMF Bowling Products had good reason to shudder at the very mention of sales-force automation (SFA). It is notoriously hard to get right, and the company's first attempt failed miserably.
AMF reps sell everything from shoe spray to the back-office software that runs a bowling center. They need a way to track their customers -- owners and managers of some 6000 U.S. bowling centers -- and the equipment they already own. Knowing which customers have ancient ball return machines or out-of-date automatic scoring systems helps them zero in on the best sales targets. The company's first major SFA effort -- a series of homegrown Lotus Software Group Notes databases of customer information -- didn't take long to earn the sales reps' ire. Reps couldn't take their laptop into bowling centers and enter customer data without looking like spies to the alley owners with whom they were trying to establish trusting relationships. So instead, they'd scribble notes on paper. But after schlepping through four to six bowling centers, the last thing reps wanted to do when they got to their hotel at night was fire up their laptop and spend up to an hour logging their sales calls into one database and entering data on what kind of equipment each center had into another. Because it usually took another 30 to 45 minutes and sometimes as much as two hours to replicate their notes, most reps gave up in frustration.