Who said techies can't play well with others? Here's how to get IT types to collaborate effectively and efficiently.
SAS Institute: Bringing subsidiaries into the fold
Fostering global collaboration can be especially difficult when your international IT staff doesn't report to headquarters.
That's the situation at business analytics vendor SAS Institute. The $2bn company has 550 IT employees - about 350 at its headquarters and another 200 spread among subsidiaries worldwide. Each subsidiary is a separate legal entity with its own management and its own IT staff that's free to set up systems in whatever way supports their local workforce the best. That can mean a lot of IT people reinventing the same wheel, says Mark Filipowski, a senior IT project manager.
So in 2007 SAS launched a worldwide IT collaboration program to foster open, consistent communication among these scattered IT employees, and to identify and reduce duplication of effort and increase efficiency, says Filipowski, who also serves as worldwide IT liaison for the program.
The program consists of a series of meetings - usually via a conference call or a WebEx videoconference - among IT employees who share common interests. There's a leadership meeting of about 15 IT managers every six weeks, as well as quarterly meetings of various technical specialists, such as those involved with networking, virtualisation or storage.
The groups use Microsoft SharePoint to plan meeting agendas - each individual participant is asked to post information on current projects and their status - and to publish reports about the meeting on the corporate intranet. "Those meeting reports are probably one of the most important resources in the IT department," says Filipowski, because they serve as common repositories of information about all current projects and their statuses.
The meetings aren't mandatory, since IT staffers at subsidiaries report to managers at their local offices, not to central IT. But most IT employees are eager to participate, says Filipowski. "They are yearning to understand where they fit in the organisation," he says.
Indeed, Koen Vyverman, manager of technical support and IT/MIS in SAS's Netherlands office, says participating in the meetings helps him feel less isolated.
More important, however, is the fact that the collaboration makes Vyverman's job easier. He and his staff of two support 130 people and 200 systems in the Netherlands office. "The only reason our small staff can handle that is because we collaborate [with other offices in Europe] and with headquarters in Cary," says Vyverman, who once won one of the two Worldwide IT Collaboration awards that SAS gives annually.
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