Dow's Collaborative Journey

July 13, 2007
Dow's manufacturing and IT departments worked together to learn how to best utilize each other's skills.

Sometimes getting two departments within an organization to work together effectively can seem a little like an episode of "Dr. Phil." First, there's acknowledgement that a problem exists, then there's discussion, and in the end you hope the two sides can coexist harmoniously. In some respects, that's what happened at the Dow Chemical Co. about six years ago.

At the time, Margaret Walker, Dow's vice president of engineering solutions, approached company CIO David Kepler to determine how manufacturing and IT could improve their relationship because not doing so was creating wasted effort and deterring the company from reaching its ultimate goals, Walker says. Kepler and Walker met several times for six hours a day with key people from IT, manufacturing and engineering to hash out their concerns. At one point, they even used pictures to tell their stories of their current state and how they wanted things to look in the future.

"After that, we began to see that there were a lot of opportunities that we both saw, and that was a breakthrough moment where we said there's a lot more positives here that we can get out of this," Walker explains.

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Through this process, the two sides were able to identify where they needed to be flexible with each other and how they could utilize each other's skills to execute processes more smoothly. For instance, IT's accounting system for charging manufacturing for certain services was too complex. The sessions put the issue on the table and helped them work toward an improved system.

In another situation, manufacturing and IT were able to more efficiently apply security patches globally by collaborating. Previously, each department would have worked on the same project separately, which would have created redundancies and potential miscues. "We now have a much better, cohesive, unified, focused system that allows us to raise our hand, identify issues, and go deal with them better," Walker says.

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