Pitney Bowes: Stamp of ApprovalBy Hailey Lynne McKeefry | Posted 2008-09-29 Email Print
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When it comes to innovation and cooperation, Pitney Bowes set the bar early. Arthur Pitney patented his first postage-stamping machine in 1902, and Walter Bowes brought his stamp-canceling machine to the Post Office Department (now the U.S. Postal Service) six years later. Working together, Pitney and Bowes created the first Post Office-approved postage meter. Out of this collaboration, Pitney Bowes was born in 1920, when Pitney’s American Postage Meter Co. merged with Bowes’ Universal Stamping Machine Co.
That tradition of innovation and collaboration continues, as Pitney Bowes, which holds approximately 3,500 active patents, focuses on enhancing its products and services, while simultaneously changing the strategic vision of the IT organization.
The changes started when Gregory Buoncontri, executive vice president and CIO, joined the Stamford, Conn.-based company in 2000. Before that, he says, “Our IT organization was good on execution, but probably not as good as we should have been on innovation. It would have been premature [to make changes] at that time, because adoption of technology is not something that should come solely as a result of the IT organization. There has to be at least a receptive, if not a proactive, agent on the business side of the equation.”
Since then, Pitney Bowes has brought its information technology infrastructure to the next level, according to Buoncontri. It began by setting a course to transform the IT operation by bringing all its disparate parts into a single global organization.
“When we first put this single global organization together, our internal customers wanted reliable, efficient delivery of services,” says Buoncontri. “When we got that right, we moved to the next stage, which was largely about trying to find ways to solve more problems. Now, in the third phase, we are on the cusp of figuring out how to use IT to transform our business models to offer even more value to our external customers.”
In every IT project today, the IT department makes a strong business case to show that the new technology, in a measurable way, will reduce costs or provide the ability to scale to more transactions, or handle a greater volume, without a corresponding increase in costs.
Worldwide IT Oversight
Buoncontri has oversight of all information technology for Pitney Bowes worldwide, with responsibility for the standard array of IT activities, including systems deployment, infrastructure, technology assessments, partnerships and approval of expenditures. Under him are the leaders of the various technology areas (including infrastructure, enterprise systems, customer relationship management, governance and planning, sourcing and quality), along with the IT heads for each of the geographic areas.
The centralized IT organization supports all the business units. “We run IT as a shared service, rather than having a distributed IT organization,” Buoncontri explains.
Pitney Bowes has 36,000 employees in 130 countries, with major pockets of employees in the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom. The IT department that supports them has 200 employees, plus an additional 427 people working on IT through Wipro Technologies, a services partner based in Bangalore, India, and East Brunswick, N.J.
To get a comprehensive picture of the needs of the business, the IT department does a monthly operations review with its internal customers, including business units and field service technician teams around the globe. In addition, project review meetings ensure that projects continue to adhere to corporate goals, and investment priority meetings decide the order in which important IT projects should be deployed.
“We constantly look at what we [in IT] are doing in the context of whether it is what the business wants and needs,” says Buoncontri. “We need to know that each project is supporting either a current or an emerging need.”
Pitney Bowes is vigilant in measuring its success and making sure that its IT practices are evolving in ways that match the evolution of the company as a whole. “The IT organization is very open to benchmarking against other companies and adopting best practices,” says Buoncontri.
To achieve these goals, the IT department avoids the trap of “doing things the way they’ve always been done” in favor of constantly looking at improving itself, Buoncontri says. IT does that by, among other things, providing continuous staff training in both business and technical skills, by ensuring that outcomes are measurable, and by defining what a successful outcome looks like prior to beginning an IT project.