Global Business Requires Human NetworksBy Edward Cone
Boyd Rogers went to work in the blue jean business when that industry was synonymous with his native North Carolina. Three decades later, he manages global technology for VF Corp., the multinational apparel company built upon Wrangler and several other famous brands. The $6 billion enterprise buys textiles from countries around the globe and sells a variety of clothing brands in an even greater number of markets. Yet despite explosive growth in the sourcing operation he has supported for the last five years, Rogers finds that the technology end of the job is the relatively easy part. It's the job of long-distance management that's work.
CIO Insight: You are based in Greensboro, N.C., but your sourcing, production and customers are spread around the world. How do you organize your time and your staff to manage such a far-flung operation?
Rogers: We have sourcing offices in Hong Kong and Miami to keep us close to the companies we deal with. I go to Asia a couple of times each year, and I see Tom Glaser, our managing director of sourcing in Hong Kong, at least a half-dozen times more when he comes to the U.S. Meanwhile, I get about 100 e-mails a week from Glaser. I spend a lot of time strategizing with him, I'm more connected to him than I am to some people in this building. Greensboro is connected to Hong Kong and Miami [which handles sourcing from Latin America and the Caribbean] by technology, but I put a lot of effort into maintaining personal connections around the world. I'm on my way to Miami today to speak with the folks down there.
You have talked about the cultural issues facing a technology executive in a global marketplace, even to the point of ordering food that everyone gathered from around the world at a meeting can eat. How important is that aspect of your job?
2004present Vice President, Global Supply Chain and Technology
Member, VF Operating Committee
2000 Vice President, Process Reengineering and Shared Services, Technology and Global Sourcing
1996 Vice President, Operations, VF Jeanswear Coalition
Blue Bell, Inc. (acquired by VF Corp., 1986)
19711994 Worked in a variety of jobs in marketing, product management and operations
BS in Engineering, North Carolina State University, 1971
MBA, University of North Carolina at Greensboro, 1985
I think the cultural details are critical. You can't just come in from outside and run a company without regard for where you are. In Hong Kong, for example, we are careful to have a mix of expatriate managers and local people in place. In Europe, our businesses have a lot of European executives, and we understand that the social costs for exiting capacity is high.
You mean it's harder to close plants in Europe and fire people in order to pursue cheaper labor than it is in the U.S.?
What about the technology peopledo you keep in similar tight contact with them?
Each of the coalition CIOs [VF is divided into "coalitions," or divisions made up of companies making similar products, e.g., Jeanswear, Intimates, Outdoor Apparel, etc.] reports to one of my direct reports. I get the information I need that way, but I don't worry so much about it on a day-to-day basis. Making sure our technology strategy conforms to our business strategy is more of a regular priority for me than the systems themselves. That said, I was just in New York City to meet with our team about connecting our regional ERP platforms. I also work with the other parts of the business to make sure we're on the same page. For example, we formed a council of people from our manufacturing groups to stay on top of procurement activities.
The people and the business process: That's what I spend my time on.