Alcan Inc. is a market leader in production of fabricated aluminum, primary aluminum, and specialty packaging. The company operates globally with over 50,000 workers with annual revenues of approximately $23 billion (Dube, Bernier & Roy, 2009). As a market leader, Alcan has contributed to the design of fuel-efficient technologies in engineering sophisticated and novel concepts in aluminum production. The company’s Information Technology (IT) department is considered the motivation towards efficiency and innovation, through the setting of new principles for information sharing, exchange, and delivery (Dube et al., 2009). The following paper aims at describing and assessing Alcan Inc., in relation to its IT infrastructure. The topics discussed include: description of the current IT operating technology, technology deployment, effectiveness, and contribution to the company and customers; It tactics and strategies; technology barriers; and applications and systems for business continuity.
Organization and Operating Technology
Alcan’s organization and operating technology has four main goals: developing a low-cost growth strategy, eliminating waste, meeting customer expectations, and positioning the company for future growth. The IT department is expected to bring $16 million in annual savings (Baum, 2003). This can only be achieved by integrating technology focused at delivering well-timed information and creating e-business practices to users. Alcan has over the time developed an efficient information system supporting supply chain, manufacturing, human resources, logistics, and financial operations globally. The key element is staying connected, which allows the company to meet its IT goals (Dube et al., 2009). IT operations focus on guaranteeing better practices and generating better information. For instance, the IT department is developing self-service applications for customers, vendors, and employees, with a highlighting on business intelligence to increase productivity (Dube et al., 2009).
Choosing the right software enables better information delivery and effective practices for use. Alcan IT operations involve integrating unique innovative applications developed for web-based self-service into numerous transactions systems, ERP applications, and back-end databases (Baum, 2003). Alcan has chosen iWay as their preferred software in meeting its IT operations (Baum, 2003). Their choice is based on the software’s ease of use, service-oriented design, and comprehensive business solutions. iWay allows Alcan’s IT department use Web Service, XML, and other usual interface applications to connect users to information (Baum, 2003). Moreover, the software was easily integrated into Alcan’s multiple data sources enabling access of information without separate interfaces between the applications and the data sources (Baum, 2003). For instance, the IT department is currently working on using Microsoft SharePoint portal server and Microsoft Commerce Server to enable customers’ book orders online (Baum, 2003). Alcan has focused mainly on the use of Web Services for both its employees and Customers.
Technological Contributions to the Organization
Technology operations have evidently contributed a lot to the organization's success. Through an approximately $ 600,000 of investment in IT, the company delivers $12 million in yearly savings (Baum, 2003). Alcan has efficiently deployed technology through reliable incorporation platforms, which enable recycling of IT assets through diverse business systems. For instance, employees depend on the retirement portal in predicting future incomes and system-to-system applications to check annuity balances. Moreover, with Microsoft SharePoint portal server and Microsoft Commerce Serve technologies, customers can book orders online (Baum, 2003). This eases the workload on employees and meets customer expectations in efficient service delivery. The use of iWay software has enabled timely provision of information to transportation and manufactures organizations on shipments and loads, ensuring simplified operations for both customers and organization.
The main contribution that technology has brought is solving business problems at a low cost, which were earlier considered too expensive to solve. For instance, customers, employees, and partners are able to control information that was not easily accessible in the past, through the design of data warehouses. Also, through Web Services, Alcan can develop software linking Alcan Website to back-office structures for logistics, finance, procurement, and order entry (Baum, 2003). For example, supply-chain associates can check the status of due invoices, shipments, account balances, and pricing information through the application of Access Alcan Website report hub via extranet links (Baum, 2003). Moreover, logistics and shipping companies rely on Alcan’s Logistics Portal so as to track invoices, load summaries, and confirm provisions online. IT operations have significantly contributed to the remarkable achievements that made Alcan recognized and awarded a prominent eVolution in Manufacturing Award (Baum, 2003). The success has thrived from the main goals of designing low-cost incorporation strategy and meeting the customer expectations.
Dominant IT Strategies and Practices
According to Dube et al., (2009), Alcan had never reviewed IT strategies and governance until early in 2006. This led to the hiring of Robert Ouellette as vice president of IT operations (Dube et al., 2009). He was tasked to assess and develop new IT practices and strategies that have dominated the company over the years. The first dominant strategy was the development of an IT steering committee based on a new IT governance model (Evans, 2006). The committee was developed to examine and prioritize IT plans submissions from all functional business systems. It ensured strategic and efficient resource planning and project management implementation. For instance, Alcan was undertaking 3 key SAP operation plans simultaneously in numerous business sets, which posed enormous challenges on project, resource, and team management (Evans, 2006). However, with the new committee strategy, it would be easier to manage and prioritize on project, teams, and resources.
Commitments and Cooperate leadership motivation are other dominant practices (Acar, 2005). These practices are relevant in providing communication through the business systems regarding business value and IT governance. This ensures the organizations work together as a team through the life cycle of a project. Another notable strategy applied by Alcan is the centralization and consolidation of IT operations. Consolidation and centralization involves the standardization of IT process and compliance to state regulations.
Technological Barriers or Success
Developing successful technology operations requires appropriate practices and strategies bound to face challenges in the development period. Lack of proper communication and leadership can be a barrier in developing efficient IT infrastructure (Acar, 2005). For instance, with inefficient communication between the IT department and the Finance department may delay project completion due to underfunding. Rainey also asserts that underfunding may be as a result of undervaluation. Moreover, inefficient project tracking may lead to increased costs and late delivering consequently affecting involved business groups like customers, suppliers, and employees. Another serious barrier is in choosing the correct applications in IT operations (Acar, 2005). Alcan has purchased various software applications that could not meet their needs adequately. By choosing the right software, Alcan was able to integrate and design appropriate systems that were of immense contribution to customers and organizations.
As the newly appointed CIO at Alcan, my main focus will be in reviewing the IT management model to suit the company’s objectives and meet customer expectations. The main change I would encourage is the proper tracking of business worth of IT investments by increasing IT investment consciousness and measuring of cost and benefit. This will help effective decision making in the future for the success of the organization.
Alcan Business Continuity Plan
Alcan is expected to grow even bigger in terms of operations and revenue in future. Business continuity plans are essential in ensuring it retains its market leadership (Evans, 2006). Investing in IT research and development is a relevant continuity plan in ensuring Alcan continues to operate effectively as a market leader (Evans, 2006). Being an international company, Alcan has to develop new ways of integrating IT to ease the flow of information needed in business growth. The plan should include the best personnel with the talent and ambition to achieve more efficient IT technologies that support all the business systems or departments. To oversee this critical plan, a Senior Business Continuity director should be appointed. The director should be responsible for research and development of new IT applications and introduce them to the CIO effectively as a recommendation for implementation.
In conclusion, Alcan has remarkably benefited from its investments in IT. Moreover, customers, partners, and employees have gained extensively from the application of IT infrastructure. They are able to deliver, share, and access information efficiently through an inter-connection powered by its IT infrastructure. Although there are still some barriers in IT operations, efficient IT management models ensure IT projects are developed and implemented in time and at a low cost. Through an approximately $ 600,000 in investments in IT, the company delivers $12 million in yearly savings.
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