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A CIO's tough-love approach to IT transformation

For Boston Scientific CIO Rich Adduci, the first step in IT transformation and making IT into a business partner was to tell his managers they weren't as good as they thought they were.

Four years into taking the IT reins at Boston Scientific Corp., CIO Rich Adduci clearly is proud of the IT transformation...

he effected at the $8 billion Natick, Mass.-based medical device maker. But this teddy bear of a guy, with his broad smile and self-deprecating manner, admits he would have done one thing differently.

Rich Adduci
Rich Adduci

"I would have gone faster," Adduci said, referring to the four months or so he took to flatten his organization from 20 to 10 direct reports. He had an organizational structure in mind. And he kept hearing the words of "Neutron Jack" Welch, the legendary General Electric chief who fired the bottom 10% of his managers every year. But he hoped to "gain alignment" with his 20 direct reports before he restructured the organization.

"I had the picture [of how to reorganize IT management] drawn in five days … At the end of the day, they weren't happy anyway. I should have pushed harder," Adduci said.

A former partner and 18-year veteran of consulting firm Accenture PLC, Adduci, for all his easy manner, is a tough character. When he arrived at Boston Scientific, the 730-person IT organization had more senior managers than junior managers and in some cases more junior managers than staff, and two-thirds of those managers were ranked "above average," according to their annual reviews, he said.

"And yet the business wasn't pleased, so [the rankings] couldn't be true" Adduci said. "We started telling people the truth. We had to tell people they were not really up in that level. And some people voted with their feet, which was helpful."

Tough love was one of the components that helped turn Boston Scientific's IT department from a "geek squad" to a vested business partner that could help change the company. Adduci spoke about the company's IT transformation at the recent Society for Information Management, or SIM, annual meeting in Boston, sponsored by IT executive event organizer HMG Strategy LLC. Here are the five big steps that took the Boston Scientific IT organization from a crawl to a walk, to a run.

  • Resetting the mission role: When Adduci showed up at Boston Scientific, he found an IT organization grossly out of whack with the mission at the company, makes medical devices for people with serious and life-threatening physical ailments. "We make things that matter," Adduci said.

    Reactive, inflexible and aloof, the IT department, on the other hand, "was regarded as a necessary evil" by the business, Adduci said. "I wanted our IT shop to be impactful," he said. He used the company mission to inspire the ranks to participate in an IT transformation: IT systems were there to help the business's mission of saving lives. Employees who were not interested in doing that were strongly encouraged to leave.

  • Focusing on people: The word on the street was that with a new CIO, one recruited from a consulting firm, heads were going to roll. So, before Adduci reorganized, he took to the road, talking and listening to people at the 42 locations where Boston Scientific operates to ascertain where things stood. He also told employees where the IT organization was headed and how the perception of IT was going to change. "I told them, we are not going to be in the spotlight just because we screwed up," he said.

    Adduci shook up his bloated managerial ranks. "I had vice presidents who had three people reporting to them. I had senior managers who had 100 people reporting to them. It was crazy," he said. The pyramid model was dumped, and replaced by a pentagon model. "If you're a manager you have to manage. If you're not managing people, you're not a manager," he added.

IT made decisions on its own, we spent whatever we wanted and the business had no idea how to impact what we worked on.

Rich Adduci, CIO, Boston Scientific Corp.

Before Adduci arrived, Boston Scientific did not have a formal campus recruiting program. He started one, both to take advantage of the area's plethora of excellent schools and to reshuffle the employee mix. "If you hire all experienced people, there is nowhere for [others] to move up. You've got horrible gridlock," he said. In two years, the IT department went from having no interns to having 30, and converted "every one of them we wanted" into an employee, he added.

  • Cleaning up your own backyard: Before the IT department could think about helping the business, it had to clean up its own mess. Many of the basics were lacking: The SAP system, for example, ran on 12-year-old database technology. The organization had no roadmap, no global IT methodology, no processes. Adduci streamlined and eliminated redundant IT systems. The first year he was there, the major IT project was a database overhaul so that SAP could work properly. Three years later, in 2009, IT staff completed 23 major projects for the business.

  • Banishing shadow IT: Four years ago the IT organization at Boston Scientific was highly decentralized. Only 20% of the IT workforce reported to Adduci. "I thought, 'Where are all the people?'" he said. The majority were reporting into the business. "The dreaded shadows were all over the place," he added. "I have a very strong opinion on this. I think the shadows are the enemy. They're the enemy because they are taking resources and doing things with very little control or guidance, and oftentimes they get us into trouble." Adduci went after the shadows and today oversees all 730 IT people.

  • Fixing IT governance: Putting control in the hands of the business: While he was going after shadow IT, Adduci established an IT governance board of business leaders. "Four years ago, the business didn't know how to get my attention," he said. "The business wanted IT in the game, but they felt like they had no vote. IT made decisions on its own, we spent whatever we wanted and the business had no idea how to impact what we worked on," he added. In fact, business leaders would go to his predecessor, money in hand, and offer up their own people to get projects done, only to get no response, Adduci recounted. The new IT board meets once a month, looks at all IT needs and sets the agenda. "It is no longer just my problem" to prioritize projects, he said. In fact, the business "is more than willing to do whatever is needed to make IT a partner," he added.

Let us know what you think about the story; email Linda Tucci, Senior News Writer.

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