How to Achieve an IT Revitalization

An enterprise-wide IT upgrade can’t be taken lightly. Matson’s Peter Weis breaks down his five steps for guaranteeing success

Peter Weis  VP & CIO Company: Matson Navigation Location: Oakland, CA
Peter Weis
Company: Matson Navigation
Location: Oakland, CA

1. Listen Up

Identifying the problems may seem to be an obvious first step in any IT transformation effort; but more than just identifying problems, a CIO also needs to become aware of what’s working, what people like, what they need, and where the redundancies are. In his first 120 days, Peter Weis traveled across the Matson Navigation enterprise to take the pulse of each business unit’s satisfaction with IT. He found that while his department was providing day-to-day support well, there was an impression that the company had fallen behind technologically. “The Internet had arrived in our industry, but we weren’t leveraging it,” says Weis. “As a result, business units felt tempted to go off on their own because IT wasn’t innovating or staying abreast of the rapidly changing landscape.”

2. I.T. is a Team Sport

It’s crucial to have support from the top of the organization when embarking on a disruptive endeavor such as an IT transformation. Weis had the advantage of being hired to do just that, but he also needed to get business unit executives and operating managers into the game. “Historically, the business units weren’t involved in IT decision making,” he says. “We needed to make IT a participation sport for them.” This meant overhauling governance procedures and taking a more collaborative approach with business partners. “A study in the 1990s places IT folks on the introvert side of forest rangers,” jokes Weis, who trains his team to be financially savvy communicators.

3. Chart a Realistic Road map

Technology may be ever-changing, but because of the high cost of implementing enterprise technology solutions, their shelf life is dictated as much by the cost of replacement as by the speed of innovation. Weis stresses that CIOs and their business partners have to live with their strategic IT decisions for a while, so foresight and consensus are necessary in making these investments. He also noted that Matson has leaned toward open-source technologies, which helps mitigate costs for the inevitable upgrades.

4. Manage Costs

All members of Matson’s executive team play an important role in allocating capital to IT projects. As financial stewards for IT investments, they have a voice in achieving their goals through prudent management of their budgets. To help account for issues not addressed during the initial IT transformation, Weis allocated a “Day2” budget: money set aside for the purpose of covering the cost of changes after rollout. “These funds help to ensure a trust and belief that IT has a long-term interest in the business,” Weis says.

“There’s not enough bandwidth to convey emotion through the Internet. You earn the right to communicate via e-mail by spending time face-to-face.” —Peter Weis

5. Speak Up

When leading an IT transformation, CIOs can’t work in isolation. In times of change, says Weis, you may think you’ve effectively communicated your vision, progress, and support, only to find out that the message didn’t get through. At a company like Matson, historically stable and rich with tradition, Weis faced some deep and widespread resistance simply because many had never gone through such a major overhaul before. By reiterating the vision, developing a vernacular for the project, and treating every town hall and company-wide event as an opportunity to listen and sell the IT transformation strategy, he built the support needed for success. “There’s not enough bandwidth to convey emotion through the Internet,” says Weis. “You earn the right to communicate via e-mail by spending time face-to-face.”