Germans adopt UK gas firm's IT model

BOC's global managed system replaces Linde's regional set-up

The globally managed IT model pioneered at UK gas firm BOC is being adopted by parent company Linde.

The German industrial conglomerate, which took over BOC last September in a deal worth £8.2bn, will abandon its regional IT structure in favour of a best practice global model that was implemented by BOC six years ago.

Analysts said the decision highlighted the increasingly important role played by IT in mergers, and showed that taking smart IT decisons could set firms apart.

"This is really good news for the IT staff. It shows the merger took IT into consideration," said Neil Ward-Dutton, research director at analyst firm Macehiter Ward-Dutton.

"Since IT is sometimes regarded as a cost centre, IT staff at an acquired company can often be at risk of losing their job, but in this case BOC's IT is a key differentiator."

Jon Fundrey, BOC's finance director of global functions, said that, before the merger, Linde's business model had been regional, but it was now adopting a hybrid model that retained some regional aspects but had a global IT function.

The value of BOC's global IT operation was benchmarked by analyst company Gartner and, more recently, by UK IT performance measurement company H2Index. This measurement highlighted the performance of BOC's UK-based datacentre, which supports SAP applications in more than 30 countries.

"When we set it up about six years ago, the business case was based on cost and efficiency, compared with the number of datacentres we were then supporting around the world," Fundrey said.

"Several times over the years we have had to undertake a restructuring of IT based on centralised support and selective outsourcing."

BOC said it performed a "deep dive" analysis of its datacentre performance using Gartner's benchmarking services, which praised its performance.

To assess whether there was further room for improvement, BOC used H2Index's more flexible measures of IT performance and compared them with a large, consumer goods multinational about twice the size of BOC.

"Despite the economies of scale enjoyed by the larger firm, we found we measured up," said Fundrey.

"We have been global for a number of years, but Linde is at the start of a learning curve in terms of how to manage a global IT operation. We will be sharing best practice."

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