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Morrison may carry a Motorola Q smart phone wherever she goes, but the busy chief information officer knows when to keep her hands off the mobile gadget.
"I'm not a slave to my e-mail," she said. "I do take time to recharge my batteries. If you don't do that, you're not a good leader, because you end up getting burnt out."
Indeed, maintaining a work-life balance seems to have had a positive impact on Morrison's career, as she has moved from top technology positions in the consumer goods business to the high-tech industry.
Before joining Motorola in 2005, Morrison served as CIO of Office Depot, where she led the transformation of the in-house IT architecture and helped the office products supplier achieve more than $100 million in efficiency improvements.
In an interview with ZDNet Asia, Morrison described the IT challenge that her team will face with Motorola's impending $4 billion acquisition of Symbol Technologies, and the risks of running prototype products within the IT department. She also shared how she separates marketing hype from reality.
Q: You worked at Procter & Gamble and Quaker Oats before joining Motorola. What similarities and differences do you see in the way the consumer goods companies approach IT, compared with Motorola?
Morrison: There really isn't a lot of difference when you move from industry to industry. We all face a lot of the common issues: How you create value out of IT investments, get business process transformation to occur, run IT as efficiently as possible, and create money for investment in new projects.
Each industry may have unique characteristics. The consumer products industry is very marketing-focused. In the high-tech industry, one of the unique responsibilities I have is using our own technology within Motorola to support the enterprise. It allows me to be a little more on the bleeding edge in terms of the technology architectures that we implement.
How would you determine the maturity of IT within an enterprise?
Morrison: How you gauge the maturity of IT is not different from how you would (approach) marketing and supply chain functions. It has to do with understanding what your plan is, where you're going to land three years later, and what the business really needs to meet the customers' needs.
In our case, it's reducing the amount of complexity in how we (handle) order management and the supply chain. I think a really mature IT organization is going to have a very good view of what they need to accomplish within a timeframe, and that's part of where you get the business alignment.
Also, a mature IT organization needs to have the right talent to engage the business with problem solving processes, versus "we've already solved the problem--go implement something." You need strong business leadership with a broad understanding of the technologies that you'll be leveraging to solve the business problems.
Just-in-time (JIT) manufacturing is key for Dell, which continues to have one of the industry's best-performing supply chains. Do you think JIT is more of a myth or reality?
Morrison: I absolutely believe in JIT. You have to understand the characteristics of the customer channel you're servicing and the characteristics of the supply chain for a given product line. And then you have to decide what supply chain model is best.
We have long-cycle technologies. In the public safety area, for example, we may do a response to an RFP (request for proposal) for a large Ministry of Defense project. So we may be responding to building a public safety network, but we don't manufacture just in time to that kind of contract.
But things are moving so quickly in a JIT supply chain that quality might sometimes take a backseat.
Morrison: I suppose that can definitely be true if you don't pay attention to quality. There are two ways you can look at quality: You can build quality into the product, and then there's also the process.
We use a lot of industry-standard tools to help us understand how repeatable our processes are in predicting an outcome. Obviously, the Six Sigma (a management method developed by Motorola) is a huge initiative in Motorola. We do a huge amount of work in that area in terms of benchmarking processes, so that as we push our supply chains harder and harder, we aren't impacting quality.
Motorola is due to acquire Symbol Technologies. When the deal goes through, what is your topmost priority in terms of IT integration?
Morrison: I've been involved with integrating major acquisitions in the past, like when Quaker Oats was acquired by PepsiCo. The most important thing that IT should focus on first is to make the organization you're acquiring a part of Motorola. This may sound basic, but that means they've got to be in the e-mail systems, address lists, and they have to have access to the intranet.
The second area is to help the business accomplish the synergies committed in the acquisition. A lot of times, that's also where the cost synergies are, because it involves removing redundancy in the back office, or facility consolidation.
The other part is sales synergy. And I think what's exciting about the Symbol acquisition is that the sales synergy is so huge. We have so much complementary capability in the WLAN (wireless local area network) and hardware device areas. The verticals that they support complement those that we support.