CIO Straight Talk - Issue 3 - 39
Using IT to Achieve
A robust IT function that intelligently outsources and invests in new
technology can lead the transformation to a centralized business model.
Barry Libenson, CIO, Land O’Lakes
When I became the CIO of Land O’Lakes, in 2010, with
a mandate to shift from a holding company model to a
centralized one, everything seemed to be in place for me
to succeed. The CEO was driving the change. The
senior executive team was on board. The technology
had been chosen.
The move to centralize IT and business processes at
Land O’Lakes began as a revolution not just in technology but in mind-set — in IT as well as in marketing and
sales, supply chain, and operations. The goal is to get as
much efficiency as possible across our three lines of
business: dairy, animal feed, and seed and crop protection.
Each is a huge business in its own right. We produce a
million pounds of butter a day during the holiday season
and four million tons of feed a year. But there is
reciprocity in our customer base. A dairy farmer we buy
milk from may buy seed and crop protection from us as
well as feed. There’s an incredible opportunity to
harness those synergies.
The Benefits of an IT Partnership
We run a fairly lean technology organization, yet we
have a complex systems footprint that’s growing
significantly each year: more and more mobile apps,
more supply-chain technology, new financial systems, a
new Oracle footprint. With those come increased
Everyone still associates the use of an offshore partner
with reduced head count. But that is not the case here.
We are growing and need all our internal resources to
focus on new projects.
Like any partnership, it takes two to make the relationship work. It doesn’t matter how many times you’ve
done it or how ironclad your contract is — it takes work.
It takes time to figure out how best to work together and
get the relationship operating at maximum efficiency.
Today, we’re expanding our partnership in ways we
never would have expected. The business units work
directly with HCL. For example, our farm seed business
has hired HCL to monitor electronic data interchange
transactions. Being able to outsource tasks such as these
to a trusted partner — HCL, which initially was
supporting just a handful of applications but now
supports more than 200 — frees up my resources to
work on new projects that transform the business.
Like any partnership, it takes two to
make the relationship work. It doesn’t
matter how many times you’ve done
it or how ironclad your contract is —
it takes work. It takes time to ﬁgure out
how best to work together and get the
relationship operating at maximum
CIO Straight Talk
But never underestimate the challenges of major organizational change. I knew from experience how difficult it
can be. As the CIO of Ingersoll Rand, I oversaw the
shift from a highly decentralized model to a federated
one, implementing an international shared-services
organization. We were done by the time I left the
company — eight years after we’d started.
We made a conscious decision that our internal
resources — people with a high degree of subject matter
expertise — would not spend a lot of time on support.
Instead, we launched a large-scale procurement project
to find the best partner to support our legacy systems as
well as our new systems after they go live. That search
led us to HCL.