By Brad Wieners  |  Posted 2004-08-23 Print this article Print

&A"> CIO Insight: Youre a bona fide Swiss banker. What motivated you to leave the world of finance for UNICEF?

Spatz: To put IT center stage of UNICEFs operational and programmatic excellence and to make IT a key enabler of the organizations competitiveness, that was—and is—a truly unique challenge. Its not often in the lifetime of a CIO that one is in a position to fundamentally transform with technology the way an organization operates on a truly global scale.

You faced a daunting IT challenge when you first arrived at UNICEF. Where did you begin?

With a combination of elements that basically included interacting with and listening to the executives and managers, talking to the users and to existing IT staff, assessing the existing technology landscape and status/usage and going out and seeing what the reality was. That was one of the first steps. At the same time, the IT globalization began by establishing a three-tier IS organization—headquarters, regional offices, and local sites—to mirror UNICEFs structure.

To suit UNICEFs new IT global orientation, the IT strategy was termed a "hypothesis," which was taken around the world as a "management road show," testing and validating it with the division and regional management teams. I needed to make people understand what an IT strategy was and show our need for an overall application and infrastructure strategy, a telecommunications strategy, and a standardized environment—as well as the operational implications. These road shows have continued, mainly to obtain feedback, adjust the implementation, and instill new management processes.

The development of a centralized IT architecture and strategy plan was obviously also done. This plan included guiding principles on how IT activities should be managed, technical criteria for making decisions and both organizational principles and business principles.

Was it difficult to reconcile the recentralization of IT and the decentralization of chain-of-command?

It was. In 1996, UNICEFs new executive director initiated the Management Excellence program to streamline the agency and decentralize decision-making and accountability to the regions and countries where the field activities took place. In order to implement this business model, a new IT strategy was required that included a re-centralized IT organization. IT previously was so fragmented, under-invested, lacking in governance, processes and infrastructure, that there was not much of an option but to bring it back under one central control.

Did presenting your strategy as a hypothetical win over those who might have resisted?

Well, that certainly brought a lot of credibility and validated the strategy and its implementation, but it was only one aspect.

And the others?

The key is that you cant just have a strategy. Underneath it, we had specific projects with clear deliverables and clear milestones. And we started delivering on those milestones and commitments even as we discussed the global strategy and principles. So it was never just a strategy on its own, but also the delivery with specific projects that validated it at the same time. You have to earn credibility by delivering on your promises, to demonstrate how your strategy is working, to get positive momentum and positive change-management processes in gear.

Was there one service in particular that gave you the greatest credibility?

No, not really a single one, but a combination of several global, flexible, adaptive and responsive IT systems and networks, such as a global IP-WAN with QoS, Voice over IP services, the enterprise management systems (24-hour-a-day global help desk and operations), a fully deployed ERP (SAP-R/3) in headquarters, one custom-developed field system deployed in more than 200 locations, global Intranets, and other elements. For about four years, we were pushing technology to the organization. But for the last two and a half years, basically [UNICEF] has been converted and sees the value and benefit of IT investments. IT has become a core and mission-critical function as well as a key enabler of the organizations competitiveness. Now the business units and functions pull from IT. They come to us with suggestions, projects, business cases, etc.

Has your role changed as a result?

It has changed in some respects, yes. In the push phase, we needed not only to deliver; we needed to coach, to educate, to create the global baseline and implement the fundamental pieces of the architecture and also to make understandable what we were doing. Today, the baseline has moved significantly: Everybody assumes we have the same platform, systems, services, processes and infrastructure everywhere. The users expectation level has gone way up. Now the emphasis is on services management, skills, governance, implementation of the investment portfolio and leveraging the IT strategy for the benefit of UNICEF.

Next Page: Enabling VOIP globally.


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