Leadership training is also crucial. "We're trying to build smart business people within our IT staff so that they can become a key part of the business," Finnerty says. Creating that isn't dependent on compensation, bonuses or other employee incentives specifically designed to foster alignment, he says. Instead, IT people are compensated on how well the business does, which depends in part on how well IT employees, as a whole, support Kraft's business objectives. Performance reviews for IT staff are based on specific business goals, such as delivering on time and on budget the new inventory management system. "That's a big aspect for the individual getting rewards," Finnerty says. "Because the performance of division heads is based on how well their divisions do, they're looking at technology enablers with whom to partner."
Best of all, the payoff to Finnerty's own alignment leadership is this: Senior executives now have a whole new view of IT. "In the past, you finished your business plan and then you'd ask, 'How is IT going to do this?'" says Kraft's Brewster. "Now, we look at IT as part of our core strategy for productivity, new products and global business. It enabled us to significantly accelerate the U.S. introduction of our Chips Ahoy! and Oreo Cookie Barz, which were initially developed for the Canadian market." Delissio Rising Crust Pizza, a U.S. product, was introduced in Canada in October 1999 and became the number-one frozen pizza there by January 2000.
Indeed, integrating the business processes and information systems of the companies Kraft buys each year is among Finnerty's toughest challenges. When Kraft parent Phillip Morris Companies Inc. bought Nabisco Holdings Corp. in December 2000 for $15.2 billion, Finnerty was part of the leadership team asked to help the company integrate Nabisco into the operations of Kraft. That's behind him now, but Finnerty's zeal to foster alignment and make technology pay off for the company, project by project, hasn't wavered.
Yet Finnerty refuses to put metrics on his own activism. "With very rare exceptions, you don't point to a particular technology and say that saved X or generated X," he says. "It's always the business process, a combination of technology and people, business and IT, that brings such results. And there's always more to do. Take these things like portfolio management. We're always asking how we can do it better next year. I don't think you can ever get to a high enough level of alignment."
Ann Therese Palmer is a Chicago-based freelance reporter whose work regularly appears in BusinessWeek and the Chicago Tribune business section. She has an MBA from Notre Dame and a law degree from Loyola University. Please send comments on this story to firstname.lastname@example.org.