A New Formula for IT Success
CIO Straight Talk|Issue 07

To create business value, the IT function must be proficient in three main competencies. Here’s how one organization has managed to excel in all of them.

Dave Williams

PROFESSIONAL BACKGROUND

Dave Williams is Associate Vice President and CIO of Merck Animal Health — a division of Merck that develops, manufactures, and markets a broad range of veterinary medicines and services. Williams is a member of the Merck Animal Health Leadership Team and is responsible for Information Technology globally across the value chain — R&D, Manufacturing, Sales and Marketing, and enterprise processes such as Finance. He is also a member of Merck’s Executive IT Leadership Team.

Prior to his current role, Williams led Enterprise Information Management for Merck. From 2002 to 2009, he held IT leadership roles at Schering-Plough, including Divisional Information Officer (DIO) for Global Corporate Systems. The first ten years of his career included roles in health care, chemical industries, and consulting, where he worked with a variety of companies, from startups to multinational corporations.

EDUCATION

BS in Economics and Finance, University of Scranton

PERSONAL PASSIONS

Family time, exercise, and golf

Business value is the only reason we in IT exist. The skills required to deliver value in today’s dynamic environment are more wide ranging than ever, resulting in a new success formula for IT professionals. I believe that my organization, comprising talented people with the right mind-set, has validated this new formula by generating tremendous value for Merck Animal Health, a $3.4 billion business with 6,500 employees worldwide.

Success in IT was once based on a single competence: technology expertise. Today, success requires three broad competencies. Technology, and especially data, expertise remains critical, particularly given the rapid innovation in our industry. But a deep understanding of the business and its processes is also needed, in order to earn IT a seat at the table with its business partners. Finally, the ability to lead change — change related to the deployment and adoption of new technologies, processes, and even business models — has become indispensable. Only when all three come together can IT deliver real value to the business.

The Right Mind-Set

Not everyone in the IT organization is proficient in technology, business knowledge, and driving change. It simply isn’t practical to assume that every person in the IT organization is going to possess that triumvirate.

As an IT leader, it is my job to seek out individuals who possess certain aspects of those capabilitiesand bring them together. I want that hard-core tech guy who can make the best solution better, but if I don’t have someone with the consultative and relationship building skills to get the business to adopt that technology, we won’t deliver any return. We must master that formula every time.

Just having a team with complementary skills won’t lead to success in IT, though. To deploy those skills effectively, everyone on the team needs a new mind-set.

Traditionally, IT has been hierarchical. You have a job description — that’s what you do. You don’t know what’s happening to the left or right of you. This is an ineffective model that leads to inefficiencies and sub-optimal solutions. On my team, each person invests time building networks of contacts, across organizational boundaries and without regard to hierarchy. It is these networks that enable us to create value for the organization.

It’s also important for members of our team to be able to deal with intense ambiguity. With the rapid pace of change in technology and in our industry, we need IT professionals who can adapt, be flexible, and make rapid (and informed) decisions.

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