Executing a Global Strategy

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An interview with Kathy Lane CIO of National Grid

From the BTM Institute's Leadership Insights series of articles, Baseline showcases the article "Executing a Global Strategy," which features a one-on-one interview with the CIO of the National Grid, Kathy Lane.

Most large electric and gas utility companies in the United States operate regionally. However, one $16.6 billion utility plans to be a global powerhouse. Founded in 1990, National Grid plc, a U.K.-based utility company, has grown by acquiring local and regional power companies in the United States, primarily in the Northeast. Companies such as New England Power Co. and Massachusetts Electric Company comprise the $8.2 billion National Grid USA, a subsidiary of the U.K. parent. In 2007, National Grid plc made its most aggressive U.S. acquisition by paying $7 billion for KeySpan, a major U.S. gas and electric producer.

When Steve Holliday became the newly appointed chief executive of National Grid plc, he and his team developed a strategy for becoming a global organization and laid the foundation for the changes that needed to be made during this transformation. Holliday saw the opportunities for really driving the scale of the company and for getting the company to operate more efficiently, not just for his functions. A third-party consulting firm made a number of recommendations to help the company drive more value. One included making IT more global.

In 2006, Holliday hired Kathy Lane, the former corporate CIO for Gillette, as National Grid's first corporate CIO. Reporting directly to Holliday, Lane, along with her staff of 1,200 employees and hundreds of third-party supplementary consultants, has undertaken the challenge of changing IT from a regional structure based on the business units to one that can support the company's international growth through acquisitions.

Recently, the BTM Institute sat down with Kathy Lane to discuss the key tasks required to lay a new IT foundation. Here's what she had to say:

Q. Where does National Grid have a strong competitive edge?

We have a unique corporate strategy for the utility industry. We've taken a page out of the playbook of other industries and other companies. Some of these things have been in place for some time. After we complete the transformation of National Grid, we'll have global scale, efficient processes and a nice platform for growth.

Q. What were some of the first tasks you had to accomplish?

My initial task included looking at what things we could manage the same way. For example, we needed to leverage most of our infrastructure globally, as well as to manage it globally. We started to lay the foundation for a standard global architecture team, a computing team and a networking team. We also wanted to have standard core applications. For example, we devised a single team to run one version of e-mail for the enterprise. We set up a production support team to carry out the economic and best practices for how we support our applications globally.

Next, we looked at how we wanted to drive some functional enterprise capabilities around program management, vendor management and resource management. We put in a central structure. We lined up to support our business units. As the business units become more global, the IT teams that support those business units will mirror that structure.

Q. What has been the biggest challenge that you've faced at National Grid?

We're a young, ambitious company. Our CEO is a visionary and very dynamic leader who wants to make this an excellent enterprise. We're going through some growing pains. Having been a CIO for several large organizations, I constantly have to make sure we're doing things at the right pace. That has been an interesting challenge.

This article was originally published on 2008-07-02
The BTM Institute (www.btminstitute.org) brings together the academic, corporate, government and thought-leadership communities as a multi-disciplinary research think tank to address the need to integrate business and technology.
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