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Challenges of Global Team Management

Challenges of Global Team Management

The global CIO’s most common associated challenge is managing global virtual teams

We seem to have reached a point in our flat-world economy where virtually every private-sector CIO is a "global CIO" - a leader whose sphere of influence (and headaches) spans multiple continents.

The global CIO's most common associated challenge, according to CIO Executive Council members, is managing global virtual teams. The Council's European members, representing Royal Dutch Shell, Galderma, Olympus and other companies, commissioned a globalization playbook that collects and codifies best practices in this and other globalization challenges. Some of the findings to emerge are presented here.

In an ideal world, HR policies across the global IT team should have consistency, fairness and responsiveness. Titles and reporting structure (if not compensation) should be equalized. But as Jay Crotts, CIO of Royal Dutch Shell Lubricants points out, "The world may be flat, but HR terms and conditions are not." Global consistency must allow for and be aligned with local laws and cultural norms. This is very difficult given the variation of work culture and organization structures and standards in each country. In addition, the cost of living varies considerably by region. So from an HR standpoint, a "one-size fits all" model is unlikely. Besides the struggle for consistency, CIOs also must find ways for remote teams to have responsive direct management and to keep their far-flung staff connected to the heart of the business.

Obtain Local HR Expertise

Companies must have a local HR person in each country staff to deal with the local laws. "It is essential to have local HR expertise and knowledge. Hiring, firing and training obligations are some actions that must be managed very differently in each location; you need someone with local expertise on the laws and processes," says Michael Pilkington, former CIO of Euroclear.

Create Job Grade Consistency Across Regions by Applying a Model

Euroclear is moving toward a job evaluation methodology from The Hay Group, an HR consulting organization. Pilkington explains that the model organizes job types into vertical categories, such as managing people/process, product development, business support and project management. This provides an objective basis for comparing and managing roles and people across locations. For instance, a manager of 100 people may appear much more important to an organization than a single contributor. But if that single contributor's horizontal grade (in terms of impact on the company) is very high because of a specialized expertise, he or she is equally valuable. Grade level is not the same thing as a title; people's titles are much more subject to local conventions.

Manage Dispersed Staff as Portfolio Teams

ON Semiconductor has IT staff that support sales residing in Slovakia, where ON has a factory; in Hong Kong, where ON has a major sales office; in Shenzhen, where a customer service centre is located; and in Kuala Lumpur at its regional development centre. ON overcomes the potential disconnect between the various locations by having a single sales IT portfolio owner, based at headquarters in Phoenix, Arizona, who sets the objectives and distributes the work to the members of that portfolio team no matter where they reside, explains CIO David Wagner. The same portfolio technique can work with IT staff dedicated to manufacturing, HR, finance and other global corporate functions.

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