Mergers could benefit IT leaders, says AMR

IT professionals in two UK manufacturing firms recently acquired by foreign rivals could get a career boost from managing the IT transformation necessitated by the mergers, according to analyst group AMR Research.

IT professionals in two UK manufacturing firms recently acquired by foreign rivals could get a career boost from managing the IT transformation necessitated by the mergers, according to analyst group AMR Research.

Earlier this month industrial gases firm BOC was bought by German company Linde for £8bn, and last month Japanese glass manufacturer NSG bought Pilkington for £2bn.

Pilkington has become a leading example of SAP best practice in UK manufacturing, according to Derek Prior, research director at AMR Research.

In 2003, Steven Pownall, Pilkington's group IS director, said, "Everyone is under pressure to cut costs in infrastructure and maintenance, but here IT investment is recognised by the business as not specifically an IT cost but as making a contribution like any other investment."

The company ran a £40m project to bring common business processes to 50 separate IT groups across the world and put much of its business online.

Although NSG is not running the same ERP systems as the UK manufacturer, the sound Pilkington roll-out would put IT management in a good position during the merger and beyond, Prior said.

"It definitely can benefit their careers. To put on your CV that you have been through a merger makes you very valuable, and demand for these skills will not go away," he said.

BOC's SAP roll-out was more troubled. In 2003, the company wrote off £5m after problems with the implementation in the US, but it was now well-regarded, Prior said.

Integration could be easier for BOC than Pilkington, since Linde also runs SAP. In this case the most valued IT professionals will be those who have had a role in developing business processes as well as software expertise. "Somebody who has got a track record with business users, a knowledge of the business and underlying software - those people are like gold dust," said Prior.

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