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GE’s $200 million bet to resurrect IT

After a near failure at GE Appliance’s Appliance Park, the company rallied itself and managed to not only survive, but flourish. This success lead to another problem, however: the constant shrinking of Appliance Park over the course of twenty years meant that the IT infrastructure was severely lacking for the remarkable turnaround. This article by Jason Hiner explains how GE was able to bring in CIO Alan Kocsi and see the rebirth of its IT, business, and success. To put the story as briefly as possible, GE’s Appliance Park employed almost 10,000 workers in the early fifties, by the seventies it was producing millions of appliances a year. However, 1980 saw the outsourcing of manufacturing and the shrinking of Appliance Park to just 5,000 workers. The global recession of 2008 then put Appliance Park against the ropes and it didn’t look as though it would be able to survive for much longer. However, it was saved, and it that saving came the unique challenge up updating the IT of a place that hadn’t had much attention paid to it since the early eighties. This is where Alan Kocsi steps in. His challenge was great and he needed to develop a team and a process to get IT to a point where it could directly influence the success of the company. His first step (once he achieved a fair understanding of where Appliance Park was currently) was use Agile deployment: What GE Appliances decided to do was break up the project into smaller chunks. Things that essentially would have been software components or features in a bigger rollout were now treated as individual products, and as they were completed, they were rolled out into production so that users and the business could start benefitting from them — and improving them — right away. This approach is based on Agile Development from the software programming world, where the focus is on a continuous set of incremental releases rather than one big software release. Next, the GE IT team created collaboration between stakeholders, employees who would be using the tools, and IT. They did this by creating a “big room” concept where all groups shared the same working space. If an employee had a question or suggestion for the application, they could simply walk a few steps and speak to a developer. Likewise, the developer could go a few steps and talk to a stakeholder about requirements or costs. GE and Kocsi were able to revolutionize what IT meant in GE, and that turnaround allowed for IT to become more than just IT: they became a competitive force that GE used to get ahead of the competition and provide better results.

About Matthew Kabik

Matthew Kabik is the former Editor of Computer Aid's Accelerating IT Success. He worked at Computer Aid, Inc. from 2008 to 2014 in the Harrisburg offices, where he was a copywriter, swordsman, social media consultant, and trainer before moving into editorial.

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