CIO Profile: Thomson Reuters' Jane Moran on application rationalisation

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Thomson Reuters has spent the last few years going through a merger. This is a process that is just as dependent on the people involved as the IT that supports it.

Although she is highly focussed on her internal team, Thomson Reuters CIO Jane Moran does point out that IBM and Deloitte have been key partners in the programme.

“We standardised finance on SAP. The company used to have three SAP development centres,” she explains, adding that with a single platform and central IT culture they can manage staff workloads through peaks and valleys to level out demands across the entire organisation. Moran says her career with Thomson, which included stints in market information and professional divisions, has given her a cross-organisational view of where the peak demands come from.

Standard issues
Prior to the standardisation programme Thomson Reuters had 900 different applications which will be reduced to 300 over the next three years. Moran felt this was holding back the workforce and therefore restricting the company. A move to Salesforce has retired a good few systems, she says.

“A lot of the old stuff was bespoke. As we move towards standardisation we have aligned the organisation. The sales team now has one view of prospects. This helps the senior teams.

“Different parts of the group think they are different, but an invoice is an invoice, they are very standard. It’s my job to make them understand that they need to standardise and the benefits it offers to the business and the customer. You get people who say they are complex and I go back and ask why they have complex business processes,” she says of the need to remove IT customisation.

“It’s a three-year journey. You have to create the roadmap and stick to the objectives. You need to eliminate the ‘boiling the ocean’ syndrome,” she says of the SAP project which has already seen many bespoke systems retired.

Moran is moving HR systems across the organisation over to Workday’s cloud service in a project she says epitomises the ambition of the new central set up, as the team neither sees the project of work as part of HR nor IT, just the business.

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“I don’t believe in custom, I believe in off-the-shelf applications. The vendor should bear the costs of the upgrades,” she says of the move to cloud-based HR.

“When in doubt move to a cloud provider,” she says, adding a note of caution. “We have a huge SAP footprint and own all the servers it sits on, and there is a high degree of security from that. With Salesforce and Workday it is very cost-efficient to move to the cloud and it has been more effective and has taken a lot of cost out. Forty per cent of a project’s cost is moving to a different platform. We are moving to the cloud and have taken that cost out.”

High-level ties
Whether systems are cloud-based or internally operated, Moran puts a lot of store into the quality of the relationship the CIO has with the vendors being used.

“We have really good relationships with our vendors and we work with them at a senior level so our relationships with SAP, Oracle, Salesforce and Workday are about influencing what they are doing with their product platform,” she says, emphasising the high-level ties by adding that not long after our meeting, she will be off to have lunch with Salesforce chairman and CEO Marc Benioff.

“I had a couple of our team in India go over to Salesforce to help with a new release. Other companies will benefit from that, but so will Thomson Reuters.”

Putting an organisation the size of Thomson Reuters onto a cloud-based HR system was not a massive cultural shift for the company, says Moran.

The information services provided by the Thomson Reuters companies are browser-based, real-time finance feeds of digital libraries. The latter has replaced the need for libraries and information managers in many leading legal, scientific and financial organisations.

So, as effectively a cloud provider itself, the senior leaders at Thomson Reuters found the conversation about the move to cloud easy to discuss and understand.