Involving IT in Business Planning Helps Steer IT Out of a Jam

A year ago, CIO Larry Rencken's IT department was getting squeezed.

At Welch Foods Inc., the Concord, Mass.-based company known best for its juices and jellies, the IT department was holding on to a "Just say yes" mentality that made it ripe for trouble. Without a system for prioritizing projects, Rencken says, the IT department was overworked and, worse, widely viewed as a "pure cost center" rather than a valued business process partner.

"At the root of our problem was that IT was not intimately involved in the business planning cycle of the company," says Rencken, who took over IT operations at Welch's last year. "As a result, most requests came as short turnarounds -- and all as high priority."

Today the 137-year-old company is trying out some of the newest IT strategies: replacing legacy systems with Oracle Corp.'s E-Business Suite and forming an IT governing body, which is basically a project management office pioneered by Rencken. It has 39 members, seven of whom sit on a steering committee that includes Welch's CFO as well as the VP of sales and marketing. And several IT employees have been assigned full time to business units responsible for processes such as order-to-cash. IT requests come to the steering committee via business process owners; limited time is set aside for ad hoc requests.

So far, it's working, but Rencken sets a high standard for customer satisfaction. "We'll know we've been successful when we deliver the projects on time and on budget and our people regain a sense of work/life balance."

Problem solved.

Linda Tucci is senior news writer for SearchCIO.com. Write to her at ltucci@techtarget.com.

This was first published in June 2006

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