Motorola: Patricia Morrison, CIO

Motorola CIO Patricia Morrison is focused on improving visibility of the supply chain as the company expands. In this CIO Vision Series interview, Morrison discusses the IT challenges of acquiring large companies, such as Good Technology and Symbol Technologies.
Written by Dan Farber, Inactive on

Q: You've had a long career in IT, with stints at Proctor and Gamble, at Office Depot, and now you're in Motorola, you've been there since July 2005. What are some of the big projects you're working on to effect change?
Morrison: A couple of areas. Supply chain is a great example, we're doing a lot to consolidate our supply chain just to keep up with our growth, the number of units we're producing on the mobile device side, changes in consolidation in our networks and enterprise business, and a lot of our time and attention is focused on enabling the supply chain activities.

When you talk about enabling supply chain activities, how much of that is a technology problem, how much is it a business process issue?
Morrison: Well every IT problem starts with the process business, but just as an example, we use a lot of EMS and 3PLs on the supply side as part of our manufacturing process and in the past if we wanted to bring in a new supplier, it could take us, sometimes, up to three or four months to get them integrated in and have visibility into our supply chain. We've been able to use service oriented architectures and Web services to reduce that to two to three weeks to bring on a new supplier. And that's just an example of how technology can help you grow very rapidly and add that kind of capability into your process.

Would you identify some of the core technologies that you're using to enable you to be more competitive, and to, let's say, out-innovate your competitors?
Morrison: We use a lot of different technologies. We have an ERP suite of applications that we work with.

Which ERP flavour are you using?
Morrison: We happen to be an Oracle shop and we have a very close strategic relationship with Oracle. And part of what we do is work with them on mobility applications. It's not about taking an existing application and making it fit a smaller screen to fit a mobile device for example; it's about thinking how business processes and transactions happen in a mobile world, and making the processes more effective and the software to support those processes more effective.

And given the massive supply chain and manufacturing operations you have around the world, is RFID much of a factor at this point?
Morrison: I think RFID is still a little bit less mature as a factor, in terms of how we're actually applying it to the product. In the supply chain area, in terms of tracking through your supply chain, we use extensive barcoding in our warehouses and RF and scanning devices, whether it's the HC700, which is a product that we use extensively in transportation and distribution with customers like FedEx and UPS and Deutsche Post, and the US Postal Service, we use those same technologies internally. And now with the acquisition of Symbol Technologies, which we're very excited about in IT at Motorola, because they have a lot of technology that has a great application in that space for us, within the enterprise as well.

You mentioned Symbol, which you acquired for four billion dollars, and you recently just acquired Good Technology. Seems like you have some integration challenges ahead of you, and do you have any guidelines that you apply to various integrations, given you've been at Office Depot and Quaker Oats, where you did the transition into PepsiCo?
Morrison: I think it's very important for the IT function to focus in an acquisition on what the business needs to accomplish within the first 90 days, within the first year of the acquisition being integrated. A lot of times that has to do with organisational integration, has to do with being able to close the books quickly, it has to do with developing the synergies, not only the cost synergies, but the sales synergies as well.

And so we focus our M&A and integration work in IT very much on those four areas. Day one, you want the new organisation to feel a part of Motorola, do they have common e-mail access? Do they have access to the intranet? Are their organisations integrated into our HR processes and systems? Typically that's followed by the closing of the books. And a lot of times you have integration challenges just in how the accounting processes actually occur from company to company. We're getting pretty good at this, we've done a lot of acquisitions in 2006, of course Symbol is our largest one, Good the most recent one, Netopia we just announced in our connected home business, and we have a very dedicated team that repeats these processes over and over again and we learn from them each time.

Do you have a group that looks at new technologies, whether it's from large companies or small companies that could give you an edge, or could provide some capability that is unique to what you need to do?
Morrison: Absolutely. And I invest in that, and I protect it. When you're fighting over every budget dollar, it's important to protect it. They do have a dedicated organisation that focuses on architecture, integration, data, and new technologies. My lab's even used for Motorola engineers who want to put new technology that could be used in an enterprise into a production environment so we can test that and give them feedback. And we're very, very aggressive around that.

One of the things that's great about working at a company like Motorola is IT can be bleeding-edge, we're not always just a fast follower, we're really pushing the envelope on new technology all the time. And we do a lot with our new ventures group, we actually invest in start-up companies, and we spend a lot of time with those companies. We have a part of our labs organisation that does early stage accelerator type of work that we collaborate with. And then we reach out within the venture capital community, the start up community all the time to find the best ideas. And we make that a part of our process all the time.

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