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Global IT: Leadership from Afar

Global IT: Leadership from Afar

Paul Martin, global CIO of Rexam, is returning to the US but keeping his job at the packaging giant

That feel for networking and knowledge-sharing has helped him adjust to the UK and Europe, he says, although he notices significant different approaches between here and the US.

"It's not as direct here," he laughs. "I find people to be extremely polite. In the US you might do a presentation and somebody will say 'That was a dumb idea'. Here you get 'Interesting... maybe we should think about that'."

He also detects a difference in attitude in terms of communications and keeping up the morale and enthusiasm of a team.

"We share our successes and we share our failures," he says. "In North America, everyone's a cheerleader and they're very vocal about it. Here, there's a more conservative approach that is about getting on with it, and there's not as much fanfare. We have meetings every three months and I try to ensure that our executive leadership team understands the successes, and if we have drawbacks I communicate that as well. Similarly, for IT staff we have what we call an 'all hands on deck' meeting where we pull together the team once a quarter and we use NetMeeting to discuss technology opportunities."

Swapping the land of opportunity for this green and pleasant land has also helped Martin's career. He now sits on the executive committee of Rexam and plays a full role in the early stages of due diligence processes regarding potential acquisitions that feed Rexam's plan to double both revenue and profit by 2012.

Looking forward, he is bullish about the CIO role, both generically and at Rexam.

"The CIO role will continue to be needed in the organisation, no matter how far outsourcing goes. We need to be very careful when we talk about outsourcing. I'm a fan but it doesn't mean you don't have to look after it anymore."

However, he also spies a likely career progression for successful CIOs.

"I've seen a number of CIOs become CEO but more of them become COO," he says. "It's a nice, logical move for a CIO who wants to be more business-oriented. Other than the CEO, you're the one who looks across the business most."

Running a business could prove attractive one day but he maintains that the job at Rexam has only just begun: "I'd like to grow the role. I'm really the first global CIO Rexam has had and we have a ways to go," he says.

With much more merger-and-acquisition activity likely at Rexam, further technology improvements planned (including looking more closely at setting up telepresence rooms for video-conferencing and at implementing RFID tags for further automating logistics) Martin has certainly got plenty to do. But (pun intended and to cite the phrase he admits he most over-uses) you do feel he has the 'can do' attitude needed.

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