Alcoa CIO talks tech strategy
February 24, 2012
From:  Pittsburgh Business Times
By:  Malia Spencer


At Alcoa, the global aluminum maker sees its IT strategy as a way to enable its innovation and growth through collaboration and cost saving, Chief Information Officer Nancy Wolk told a soldout crowd Friday morning for a Women in Leadership breakfast hosted by the Pittsburgh Technology Council.

 

“The key to the IT story is we have stuck with a 12-year strategy with standardization and consolidation,” she said. As a commodities business cost is important so the company is all about benchmarking itself in the aluminum industry.

 

By standardizing infrastructure it allows the global workforce, which in 2011 totaled 61,000, to plug-in and work anywhere. As the company continues with its strategy this also means looking at ways to increase productivity, especially among its executives who are frequently on the road, by adopting mobile, using standard business applications and working within the cloud.

 

She noted that by having the standard business applications for financials, invoices, sales, purchase orders and cash management, the company is able to close its books globally in one day which enables it to be the first out of the gate with earnings, plus, with all the information easily accessible business segment managers can access details on day-to-day performance which can lead to better decisions.

 

As far as consolidation goes, over the last 10 years, Wolk said, Alcoa (NYSE: AA) has gone from 70 global data centers down to four; from 75 help desks down to one; and from 25 Internet gateways down to five (which, she noted, also helps them with their security strategy since there are fewer gateways to worry about).

 

With this strategy operations performance has improved as has customer satisfaction, she said, since it is all aimed at making Alcoa an easier company for people to do business with.

 

Wolk also touched on the company’s use of social media, which always fascinates me to see how non-consumer-facing companies use the technology. On a corporate level she said its project is spearheaded by the corporate communications folks, but, is being pushed to all employees for internally as a means for better communication and collaboration.

 

For instance, she said, the company had a kind of kick-off for this initiative at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland that many of the company executives attended. Those execs were able to share everything from what was being discussed in the meetings to the weather to the food. The idea is to use social media to make the global company smaller and foster discussion between leaders and employees, because, Wolk said, good ideas can come from anywhere.

 

Other interesting tidbits:

  • 75 percent of the aluminum that has ever been created is still in use today.
  • The IT staff has 35,000 laptops and desktops to keep track of.
  • There are 45,000 users on the network.
  • There are 8 million emails going through the email system everyday.
  • 20 million emails are sent to the company everyday but only 1.2 million get through.