John Ellis-Braithwaite is well placed to discuss business aligning with IT, he has just overseen the implementation of SAP across the UK and Irish division of ABB, the electrical components and robotics manufacturer.

As Ellis-Braithwaite describes in a full CIO UK interview, ABB undertook a group wide project to standardise its enterprise resource planning (ERP) on to SAP. In the UK and for Ellis-Braithwaite, this meant consolidating the data of eight different ERP applications onto SAP, and to make things more difficult, not one of them was SAP.

ABB is a manufacturing company that is responsible for a bewildering variety of products. In the UK ABB manufacturers low-voltage switch-gear and instrumentation. "Our factories are what we call global feeder factories," Ellis-Braithwaite says of the global reach of the company. ABB in the UK is therefore both a manufacturer and responsible for selling and servicing its products in the local market. ABB robots are used to build Land Rovers and Jaguars, its power systems were used for the recent west coast rail upgrade that passes close to Ellis-Braithwaite's Warrington office. ABB has 12 major operations throughout the UK and employs over two thousand people.

View the CIO slide show of how ABB simplified their business using SAP here

ABB is split into five divisions: power systems; power products, automation products, process automation and robotics. Each national division is split into the same five areas and then globally it is split into regions.

Ellis Braithwaite shared his views on the CIO UK debate on business and IT alignment.

"There are two ways to look at it, a configuration point, which you have to do as a CIO, and customising it fully."
"It tends to be more of a challenge on the organisational change of the business side. Changing the way people do their work, but with our project we achieved a standard way of working," he reveals of the One ABB project a business simplification and SAP adoption across the ABB group. Ellis-Braithwaite and his team are responsible for changing the working methods of sales, manufacturing, procurement, distribution finance and human resources.

Luckily for Ellis-Braithwaite, the senior management bought into the idea of keeping customisation to a minimum.
"Customisation can add so much complexity, especially at go live. The management in this business, they subscribe to their being standard ways of working and we should stick to those principals. Then you are more likely as an organisation to have a more successful outcome."

Response Summary

The CIO Debate: Business must align with IT

Part 1: IT-business alignment is still on the CIO Agenda

Part 2: Business must align with IT, says Vodafone Qatar CIO

Full Response

About this article

This Debate article draws in part on a round-table discussion between UK-based analyst firm MWD Advisors and members of the CIO UK community. If you'd like to participate in the research for our next article, please contact register with CIO UK or join our LinkedIn community.