VOIP Globally

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

What are you doing to exploit that infrastructure? I noticed, for instance, that youre an early adopter of Voice over IP.

Our WAN is IP only, managed with two service providers globally, as one integrated network, which is the backbone of our whole organization. Voice over IP has allowed us to save a lot of money and enable major improvement of phone communications in parts of the world which have challenging telephone infrastructures. This is now deployed in over 90 countries.

But you make a distinction between VoIP and IP telephony.

Well, the distinction is that we dont have an IP telephone handset. [With IP telephony], you dont replace the PBX with an IP system. We integrate the existing systems to our network. Voice goes over our data networks, where its legally permitted. From a cost/benefit perspective and also a skills/maintenance point of view, we do not have a clear and favorable business case for IP telephony today.

What else are you doing thats new?

We are leveraging some of our platforms such as SAP with new business projects like grants management and SAP-HR; both are being co-developed with SAP. Also in the area of IT services management, we are expanding UNICEFs usage of the existing 24x7 global help desk platforms for business process support. People think of the global help desk primarily for IT support. We have moved beyond that and are using the help-desk software and personnel for business processes support—not just IT. We are continuing to deploy a very innovative Web content management system that allows decentralized content creation without IT support, with electronic workflow and approval and subsequent automatic updating of the main UNICEF Web site.

A favorite catchphrase is to "run IT like a business." Do you?

I would say yes. I manage IT like a global business entity as much as I can. But I think its an evolution. It develops as both the business and IT organizations mature in the usage and understanding of the role of technology. For example, the governance process. To achieve a good level of IT governance sophistication, there were three main stages of evolution at UNICEF. First was project-level governance. Second was adoption of a global IT strategy and infrastructure. Third was implementation of a global-level IT portfolio management process. And educating management about recurring IT costs, operating costs and mandatory system upgrades has been a challenge through all three stages.

Lets say a hypothetical CIO is coming to grips with the problem of global leadership. How can he or she prepare?

Several elements come to mind. One is multicultural. Unless you have an appreciation of what it takes to bring people of different cultures together, I do not believe you can ever achieve globalization. Globalization is not one culture. It is a conglomerate of different cultures. You have to make sure that you have one line and one framework, but you have to adapt to local environments.

Second, you have to have a mosaic view of the world, in terms of IT, business and processes. As a global CIO, you have to know which piece will fit where. When one piece changes, it resonates somewhere else because it is part of an integrated global picture. Unless you get that picture, you will not succeed in a global organization IT perspective. I think that is, and will remain, a challenge for CIOs.

Another piece of advice is that you have to be credible to the top management, and in a multicultural environment this is not easy. The credibility is not granted; its earned. As the saying goes, credibility does not come from putting strategy on paper, but by executing it, showing results and delivering. You have to demonstrate short-term results and balance them with the long-term investments, because change will not happen overnight, but in a more radically paced evolution.

No Average Technocrat: Prior to becoming CIO at UNICEF in 1997, André Spatz served as CIO and managing director for the Domestic/Swiss Division of Swiss Bank Corp. (SBC). A citizen of Switzerland, Spatz holds a masters degree in electronics and electrical engineering from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne. He has also studied IT management at the Harvard Business School.


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