The CIO of Novelis, a producer of rolled aluminum used in everything from soda cans to Ford trucks, reveals how she helped revamp the company’s IT infrastructure.
Novelis is a leading producer of rolled aluminum, and a global leader in aluminum recycling. The company's aluminum is used in everything from automobiles to architecture to beverage cans to consumer electronics. Much of the company's aluminum is re-created from material already in the world today, saving natural resources and allowing for the creation of consumer products that have a lower environmental footprint. Through its recycling leadership, what would have otherwise been discarded becomes the material for new creation.
Despite attaining more than $10 billion in revenue with more than 10,000 employees, the company never had a CIO prior to the incumbent, Karen Renner, who joined nearly five years ago. Renner had been a CIO at multiple units within General Electric, and as such was used to process excellence. What she found at Novelis was an IT department in need of new, standardized processes. As she discusses with CIO Insight contributor, Peter High, the journey has been a fruitful one.
CIO Insight: You are the first CIO in the company's history. The company grew to a tremendous size before hiring a CIO. Why was that, and what led to the conclusion that one was needed?
Renner: In order to deliver on many of Novelis' transformation strategies, an overhaul of the information technology and data was required. The information infrastructure was unable to meet the aggressive expansions required to enter and provide the data streams required for the automotive market. We also needed modern technology to support our employees working across geographies and to meet growing demands for mobility and collaboration technologies. In order to develop and execute a global IT strategy taking into account the varying regional requirements, the CIO role was created.
CIO Insight: How would you describe the culture of the IT team when you joined, and what have you done to change it?
Renner: We have an excellent team of IT professionals at Novelis with a great mix of technical business process knowledge and program management skills. We act as one team and trusted advisors to deliver best-fit information technology solutions that people value and enjoy using. The biggest cultural shift was to broaden the reach of the team to think bigger and broader–how technology can influence outside of a local requirement to our regions or globally.
CIO Insight: I imagine there was a good deal of foundational investments that were necessary in the early days. How did you prioritize and what did you prioritize to do first?
Renner: We had three transformation work streams that we started simultaneously: 1. infrastructure, 2. business process automation and simplification and 3. collaboration and workforce mobility.
As many of the programs were interconnected, we built a high level, integrated plan that enabled us to understand the dependencies. The demand for new systems, processes and tools was incredible—our prioritization strategy was completely aligned to the overall Novelis strategy.
At that time, no IT processes, procedures or policies were in place globally. We were very decentralized and legacy-focused.
We began our transformation with the basic foundational changes required and have been building on these to achieve our strategic objectives. High level achievements to date include:
*Deployment of the IT Global Project Management (PMM) process, tools and reporting. Our PMM process ensures alignment to strategy; business functional engagement and steering committee oversight in addition to the traditional IT project requirements to make certain scope, budget and requirements are all attained.
*Completion of re-wiring entire WAN with improved technical capability, quality of service and single-vendor partnership.
*Complete overhaul of our infrastructure to a global data center strategy removing hardware and operations from plants and regional locations. We migrated from over 25 DC's to the end state of 4 DC's. Green IT and Corporate Sustainability Initiatives result in significant savings in power efficient facilities and a reduction in carbon credits.
*Completed implementation of tools and processes to verify security software patches to laptops and desktops are applied on a regular basis.
*Transitioned all laptops and desktops to computer lifecycle management with global vendor. This program enables us to replace desktop systems every 4 years and laptops every 3 years.
*Upgraded all 8,000+ email users to new SaaS model (Office 365).
*Deployed Mobile Device Management tools to all phones and tablets (~ 2150 devices) to allow Bring Your Own Device strategy with sufficient security processes.
*Transitioned all Instant Messaging users (~3,300) to a new IM platform that is integrated with video and telephony in one package.
*Implemented a global security program including a deployment of anti-virus software, end point protection and created a security playbook to include enhanced security of our network.
*Launched a global software provisioning tool to ensure the most up to date antivirus protection and current software standards are seamlessly deployed to our end users.
*Created a technology standard and plant technology design globally that adheres to Novelis IT standards. We leveraged this strategy to successfully budget, build out and now maintain local infrastructure at a consolidated level with global partners. We built out networks for 5 new office locations in Asia, North America, Middle East, Vietnam and China as well as supporting our capital expansion projects in Brazil and New York.
*Established a single, global service provider for all IT end user services which includes a single point of contact available 7x24x365, onsite services in all major locations, services such as email installations and support, active directory setup, and asset management for Novelis' equipment such as laptops, monitors, and projectors, and the implementation of a self-service user portal available in 7 languages. As a result, we can now monitor for issues, track service level response times and share a common knowledge base.
In addition to the IT projects listed above, IT enabled the transformation to One Novelis, by partnering with business subject matter experts to deliver new applications to harmonize and centralize business processes. These included:
Regional Payroll and Time and Attendance Simplification
Migrated employees to new, cloud-based payroll systems eliminating multiple legacy system including mainframe applications. This program also included the integration of all employee master data from our parent HR systems to the new payroll system using real-time integration technology and eliminating multiple sources of master data. We are ~ 50% complete in migrating to common cloud-based Time and Attendance technology in each region.
Global Account Reconciliation
We completed the implementation of a global account reconciliation tool that receives financial close information from all region financial systems each month, confirming proper and timely reconciliation at the local level that can then be integrated at a global level reducing time to close and report financial data.
Global Extranet - Novelis.com
This initiative migrated and sunset over 26 extranet sites into a common, global Novelis.com site providing consistent branding and user experience. Novelis.com is now the single entrance portal to Novelis careers, corporate information, product information, markets we serve and customer e-commerce.
Global Treasury Workstation
Last year, we launched a worldwide initiative to manage our treasury functions including cash positioning, cash forecasting, electronic bank account management and banking communications. We implemented a treasury workstation application in Europe and North America to have near real-time views on cash positions at the corporate level.
Global Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul (MRO) parts standardization
Through the implementation of a parts cataloguing and consolidation tool and process, Novelis catalogued and standardized over 25,000 spare parts used in the MRO of our plant floor equipment.
To achieve our One Novelis vision, talent recruiting and talent management became critical success factors. Our internal global talent team is small and manual systems made recruiting very expensive and time intensive. We knew that creating the right team was a competitive advantage. The HR and IT teams worked together to launch a cloud-based recruiting service that provided an easy access for candidates to review and apply for Novelis roles. In addition, the intelligence found during the hiring process has been highly leveraged.
Our first go-live in October 2012 included the roll out of our standard end-to-end business processes and SAP in the Oswego, New York, and Kingston, Ontario (Canada) manufacturing plants, and the Atlanta Corporate and North America headquarters. Subsequent implementations have been launched in our Zurich headquarters and Nachsterstedt casting centers. Our ERP includes Finance, Human Capital Management, Materials Management, Production Planning, Quality Management, Sales & Distribution and Order Management. We also deployed Supply Chain Management which includes Demand Planning and Global ATP. In addition, other technologies were implemented to support the deployment. These included 200+ integrations using TIBCO middleware as an enterprise service bus. Federated Identity Management was launched to ensure the users had proper access to the system. SAP Solution Manager was configured to enable seamless integration with incident ticketing and a support team. HP Application Life Cycle management was implemented to support the testing processes and Uperform was deployed to facilitate training. The Sabrix tax engine was also implemented for North America's indirect tax calculations and reporting.
Global Sales and Operations Planning (S&OP)
Deployed a consistent aggregated planning process across all regions that provides a global view of demand/forecasts & supply for all regions and plants using a common tool set to support these processes. As a result each region now has:
*Constrained Production Plan
*Constrained Sales Plan
*Transportation Plan - Movement between Plants / Regions
Implemented a new Global Intranet solution to replace failing legacy environments as well as provide a single common platform for the Novelis intranet. This eliminated the legacy intranet sites and replaced them with a fresh design that is consistent with the Novelis branding, has intuitive navigation and structure, and is multi-lingual.
CIO Insight: You are member of the Talent Committee of the company. Can you describe your role on that committee?
Renner: The role of the talent committee is to provide governance of director level roles and above, international assignees and organizational structure. My role, as well as other members of the committee is to provide input and guidance on succession planning for N-2 roles and critical roles, diversity of leadership, high potential talent identification, employee engagement/retention and critical role pipeline.
CIO Insight: One of the biggest initiatives in the past couple of years has been Novelis' involvement in the Ford F150. Please describe the project and how you have gotten involved.
Renner: We are proud to be a lead supplier of aluminum sheet for the 2015 Ford F-150. This launch represents the highest volume aluminum application in automotive to date. We are supplying the material from our brand-new, state-of-the-art expansion at our plant in Oswego, NY. We also supported Ford in the planning and design of the new F-150 by providing our expertise in metallurgy and aluminum automotive technology. We have established a closed-loop recycling arrangement with Ford, whereby we take back aluminum scrap from the F-150 stamping plants, return it to our facilities, and recycle it back into new automotive sheet. This is made possible by our world leadership in recycling technology and capabilities, and it provides both economic and environmental benefits to Ford and Novelis.
IT was engaged throughout the program including 1) infrastructure for plant expansion 2) building out EDI in our ERP system to provide automated integration to our external processors (subcontractors) and Ford from order processing to payment processing and 3) enabling Fords' scheduling agreements in ERP.
CIO Insight: What trends particularly excite you as you look to the future?
Renner: As a global manufacturing company, Novelis collects enormous volumes of data from our machine centers on the shop floor. We believe we can combine data from these systems with historian and ERP system data to provide exceptional insight to help us improve operational efficiencies and develop more robust preventative maintenance programs. So, the advancements in data analytics on unstructured data is particularly exciting.
Peter High is President of Metis Strategy, a business and IT advisory firm. His latest book, Implementing World Class IT Strategy, has just been released by Wiley Press/Jossey-Bass. He is also the author of World Class IT: Why Businesses Succeed When IT Triumphs. Peter moderates the Forum on World Class IT podcast series. Follow him on Twitter @WorldClassIT.
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