|Harriet Edelman, recently retired CIO, Avon Products Inc.|
"Over time we built the desire of people to work together and figure out where the value-add comes from corporate IT," she said. "Two years ago, when we fully centralized IT, it wasn't an event anymore ... because by then we had built good relationships and respected each other."
Technology comes down to user adoption; it is personal, Edelman said. For technologists, this might be the "unsexy part of the system, data management," but it is critical if IT is to play an effective role in an organization.
"You're asking people to do work in a certain way and not skip steps upfront," she said. " Whatever the upstream process did is what carries through the life of the product -- it's DNA markers, if you will -- and if there is a mess-up upstream, everyone is going to pay for it down there."
Edelman formed an IT advisory committee that meets every eight weeks, for half a day, to discuss the pros and cons of the company's IT strategy. But the CIO can be a lonely position, said Edelman, who began her long career at Avon in the marketing division when she was still a college student. "It is not like marketing," where anyone in the company "can have a voice in the products, because everyone understands those products. Business people are not going to help you a lot," she said, stressing the importance of finding peers through organizations like Women in Technology International.