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Telefonica CIO Phil Jordan - UK leader with global vision

Mark Chillingworth | April 12, 2013
"I think this is the opening up of a digital economy, and every business is wrestling with that," says Phil Jordan, Group CIO for Telefonica, the worldwide telecommunications company. On a cold and misty day in Madrid, the Spanish company's British CIO describes how technological, social and economic events are reshaping one of the foremost communications companies in the world.

Jordan has two roles at Telefonica: as well as being Group CIO he's CEO of the shared service business Telefonica Global Technology. This company's role is to centralise all commodity areas of IT, and rationalise and improve services to the entire group. Telefonica Global Technology already services over 20 countries with infrastructure, applications and security services.

"It is very much defined by things that we can do once. We will move more things into the shared service if it is efficient to do so," Jordan explains.

"A lot of our front office should be local as the customers are local but, as parts of our business mature, we will identify the bits that are commodity and move to the shared service for efficiency. That reduces the run costs so we can invest in growing the business with new digital services," he says.

Jordan has a real strength for understanding the needs of individuals and organisations within the group, and leads by understanding what can be done, rather than imposing his will.

"The nature of the local businesses is changing, so it's the role of IT to empower the local business to be part their transformation to a digital business. That means local business IT can move away from being an IT provider to being one focused on customer information, digitised services and business change.

"What we are trying to do is get the operating model consistent so that the commodity model is common. But I'm not a slave to a model. Standards and standardisation are vital as the key that defines reusable IT but you must always think global and act local, because what is true of Panama is not true for the UK, Brazil or Spain.

But as Telefonica's Global CIO, Jordan has to balance local needs with global standardisation that benefits the business.

"Standards are not difficult to create and implement and I do believe they are the number one tool we have for common ways of working," he says. A common ERP and email is already in existence in most Telefonica businesses.

"In the corporate back office, I have zero tolerance for localisation: when we make decisions we make them as one company."

Shared services and the challenges of Spain's economy mean Jordan's team are at the forefront of driving efficiency and transformation.

"We are optimising the way we invest and to reduce the run cost. We spend too much on the day-to-day because we have too much business and process complexity and therefore IT legacy. So the role of IT is trying to simplify the business and therefore the IT we have," he explains.

"Calling it cost-cutting is too one-dimensional. Your IT is the DNA of the business, so we have to be careful that it's not negatively affecting the customer, so you spend on growing the business."


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