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Roadblock: Regional Managers

By Larry Barrett  |  Posted 2006-01-14 Print this article Print

How do you get managers from around the world to buy into a global information-technology project?


Nestlé needed to overhaul its information systems to improve profitability and give its executives the ability to adjust products and marketing on the fly. But getting more than 40 regional and country-level managers to buy into its GLOBE project, a five-year effort to overhaul its procedures and systems, was no easy sell. Yet even when dealing with a massive makeover such as GLOBE, there are steps project managers can take to ensure that the leaders of various operations, who may have operated independently their entire careers, buy into an organization's single vision of how business and technology should work.


Make the chief executive the biggest evangelist.

Everyone in the organization has to be convinced that the project is supported at the highest level of executive management and will be monitored by the CEO.

Nestlé CEO Peter Brabeck was visible and vocal during the initial planning stages of GLOBE and, in subsequent planning meetings, remained involved and engaged with managers at all levels. Having the CEO advocating this change and consistently reinforcing the why's and how's gives managers little choice but to fall into line.

Get buy-in. Simply operating by executive fiat, however, is a "sure-fire recipe for disaster," says Don DePalma, an analyst and author of Business Without Borders. You want people to support the move. Soliciting everyone's input on the priorities of a project—for example, how all of the disparate business units should account for raw material orders, or how a sale is recorded in the software system—gives everyone a sense of ownership and decreases the likelihood of some resisting the project.

Give a complete and honest assessment of technology deployments, and leave room for adjustments. Nobody likes to operate in the dark. That's why it's crucial for the project manager or CIO to go over details on a new technology—in Nestlé's case, mySAP.com—and how it will impact day-to-day operations. A straightforward explanation about the time frame of the project and the costs, in both hard cash and man-hours, gives regional or departmental managers the facts they need to plan and adjust accordingly.

In addition, throughout Nestlé's massive GLOBE implementation, time lines and deadlines were adjusted based on reality and fiscal constraints.

Clearly show the corporate benefits of new technologies or procedures. Don Tapscott, an information-technology consultant and author of books including Paradigm Shift and Growing Up Digital: The Rise of the Net Generation, says it's important for project leaders to demonstrate proven early wins when embarking on such a massive project. As Tapscott puts it: "Those wins help build the case for the rest of the organization."

Story Guide:

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Senior Writer
Larry, of San Carlos, Calif., was a senior writer and editor at CNet, writing analysis, breaking news and opinion stories. He was technology reporter at the San Jose Business Journal from 1996-1997. He graduated with a B.A. from San Jose State University where he was also executive editor of the daily student newspaper.
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