TransCanada Pipelines' Russ Wells

TransCanada Pipelines' Russ Wells

Editor's Note: In July 1998 TransCanada Pipelines Ltd. merged with Nova Corp.

Wells was charged with merging the two companies' IS departments into one.

Spotlight On:

Russ Wells, CIO and vice president of IS, TransCanada Pipelines Ltd., Calgary, Alberta, Canada Line of Business: Energy products (natural gas, electricity and petroleum) and services Bio: Became CIO in July 1998 after an 18-year career in IS, design engineering And operations at energy and chemical company Nova Corp.

Challenges: Creating a single IS group from two different merged companies CIO: How were Nova's and TransCanada's IS departments different? Wells: Nova had outsourced all application development, infrastructure, operations and technology. TransCanada was the opposite. There were some vendor relationships, but mostly internal people were doing the work. Nova was decentralised and there was little central IS control. Each business unit made its own IS decisions. At TransCanada, all the IS people were in one group reporting centrally to a CIO.

CIO: How did you organise the new group? Wells: We patterned ourselves after the business, which organised itself into four business units (transmission, marketing, processing and international). So we created a central IS group with four IS director positions, each reporting to the business unit, with a dotted line back to me. I come from an operations background and I've always felt that if you get the IS people closer to the people actually doing the business, you're more likely to have some success there.

CIO: What challenges did you face in the reorganisation? Wells: The staff was anxious, and it became clear early on that we had to resolve the people issues-mostly around outsourcing. People wanted to know who was going to be working where. So last October we brought everyone together into a huge room and announced that we were going to outsource infrastructure maintenance and support, and bring application development, maintenance and support in-house. TransCanada was going to take responsibility for strategic IS vision-even on the infrastructure side. We had many rumours about what would and wouldn't be outsourced, but we moved fast enough that the rumours weren't allowed to fester. You just have to go as fast as you can with change, especially in a merger. Of course, after you announce something, you have to keep clarifying it. We set up an online Q&A forum and we made sure we posted answers as quickly as possible. At the same big meeting, we also described the timetable because I wanted people to know that this wasn't going to take forever.

CIO: Did you have layoffs?

Wells: No. Integrating different systems is taking more work than either organisation had planned and budgeted for on its own. We did decide to move about 100 people to an outsourcing vendor, however. And about 20 people from a vendor moved to TransCanada.

CIO: How did people react to those changes? Wells: We worked hard to give everyone the information they needed to make a decision in terms of pay, benefits and job roles. They had meetings with our people from IS and HR and the equivalent people from the vendor. I don't want to underplay it; it was a big change for people, there were anxieties and concerns but I think the people were fine with it. Some people see moving to a big outsourcing vendor as an opportunity and others view leaving the company as a loss, despite the fact that when you toted up everything-pay, benefits, etc.-people didn't lose anything. In general, the people side of a merger is the whole game. Those people know your systems - Christopher Koch

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