The Life of a Global Delivery Center

Oct. 18, 2007
IBM's Brno-based center represents nearly 70 nationalities speaking 37 languages.

If there were a Hollywood for office buildings I'd be Brad Pitt.

Like Mr. Pitt, my vitals are very impressive. I was built in only six months in April 2001 and designed by the famed local architecture firm K4. I am named after the world famous mathematician Kurt Gdel, who was born here in Brno. In total I am currently two separate buildings, with a third currently under construction, which when completed will amass a combined 17,000 square meters of office space for a IBM population which will reach 2500 by year end.

Externally if you stare at my Silicon Valley styled-design, I'm all steel, slate and glass with a bright contrasting color scheme of cement grey, nitro green and electric orange. But my infrastructure is where all the action is and I can tell you with out blushing that I'm about as state of the art as you can get.

Under the covers I feature a fully redundant power and network infrastructure, which includes VoIP. So when it comes to electricity, each building is supported by two UPS systems and diesel generators, which provide redundancy and continuity of service. The same strategy is employed for IT. My wide area network (WAN) and land area network (LAN) are designed with two physically separate WAN links with connections provided by two separate suppliers. So in both cases if there is any kind of power failure or IT catastrophe I am backed up so my clients don't miss a nanosecond of service failure. Similarly, the VoIP system is split across two buildings to ensure redundancy, which also features an integrated voicemail system in place, which also allows for the receipt of faxes.

Scattered throughout the buildings, hundreds of fire detectors, smart eco-friendly lighting circuits, air humidity sensors and other electronic devices are connected with more than ten thousand of meters of wire -- all leading to a high-tech Star Trek-like control room, where skilled and trained personnel oversees the building operations non-stop.

Locally my parts (the other buildings) are inter-connected by two diverse dark fiber links. If you aren't familiar with dark fiber, it's incredibly reliable because it has a greater tensile strength than copper or even steel, making it is less susceptible from breaks from wind or snow loads.

What makes this all even more impressive is that it runs 24/7, 365 days a year. I don't take holidays; sick days or vacations -- I wouldn't have it any other way.

The Daily Routine

If you aren't familiar with the daily tasks of a global delivery center let me explain.

In Thomas Friedman's book, "The World is Flat" his premise is very simple. When everything is connected, work flows like water finding its level in a river. With billions of people connected, in part thanks to delivery centers like me, work can be done anywhere around the world based on the right mix of talent and skills. That's where I come in. Here in Brno, Czech Republic I am the "home away from home" for 2,500 employees that work for IBM. What makes this location particularly unique is its diversity. The youthful, employee population represents nearly 70 nationalities speaking 37 languages, this is a big part of the reason why IBM and many other companies chose Brno.

Since I was first established, the population has grown in double digits annually to support the increase in work and we currently support more than 600 clients globally such as ABB, InBev, Michelin and Visteon. For these clients and many others we handle a variety of outsourcing services including:

  • Server System Operations & Support: Server installation, support, monitoring and maintenance.
  • Network Service Delivery Operations & Support: Implementation, support and maintenance of networks and network devices (for both data and voice)
  • Client Service Center Helpdesk & Back office: Helpdesk provision, break/fix, user administration.
  • Service Management Delivery Centre: End-to-end service management, change and problem management.
  • Distributed Client Support Dispatch: On-site client support hardware and software.

A Day in the Life

Since I operate around the clock each day flows into the next, so whether its Monday or Saturday or 12PM or 12AM it's my day is pretty predictable, except for a few instances.

For example, to support our global client base we operate in three shifts, which begin and end, depending on how you look at it at 6AM, 2PM and 10PM. This was designed strategically to align with the time zones around the world and with the peak and valleys of client demand.

Security is obviously taken very seriously here and RFID badges are given to all employees, who are granted access to the various rooms and floors based on their job description. Safety is also of the utmost concern and the local security team organizes regular fire drills. I am pleased to say that thanks to my innovative design and layout all 2,500 employees were recently able to safely escape in less than three minutes during the last drill.

We, also regularly host both clients and prospective clients. Clients such as ABB go above and beyond many clients and sit down with the more than 200 employees that support them and help them understand where they were and where they are going when it comes to their IT strategy. The CIO is also known to come and hand out awards to employees based on feedback his team provides for outstanding quality of service. Prospective clients also visit to kick the tires and make sure we meet their rigorous standards, such as Sarbanes Oxley compliance or necessary ISO certifications. While the clients come from a variety of industries, they all leave with a strong impression on the talent and skills that sit under my roof. They are amazed at the language skills -- one employee can fluently speak six languages. They also typically comment about the energy of the team, which no doubt comes from my energizing color scheme and the various coffee machines located throughout.

Communication is critical with such a large group and Friedrich "Fritz" Immer, the site manager, is really good about walking the floors and shaking hands with employees. He also hosts all hands meetings on a regular basis to keep everyone aware of the direction and strategy.

During their downtime between shifts or during lunch many employees love to hang out on my roof, which overlooks downtown Brno, for some fresh air. The main building also features a coffee bar, with lots of home made goodies that fuel the team from shift to shift.

Alas, I am One of Many

While I am very impressive all on my own, the reality is I am a piece of IBM's global delivery puzzle, which spans some 80 different countries. Here in Brno we support IT outsourcing, but many of my sister sites also support business process outsourcing, such as procurement, human resources and finance and accounting.

Our intention is to make IBM's Integrated Operations division a flat, borderless ecosystem of global expertise and capabilities governed by a global management system that is all about capitalizing on this diversity. To do that we must think, act and optimize globally. Most of all, we need to understand and appreciate that sustainable competitive advantage in the future will come from a capacity to leverage each other. This means learning how to systematically share great ideas, connect what otherwise would have been isolated moments of brilliance and build on them to unlock potential and value.

Some of the ways we connect the global team is by employing the latest in Web 2.0 technologies such as blogs, wikis, podcasts and most recently virtual worlds, such as Second Life. In fact, against my better judgment, recently 40 employees from several of the IBM's global delivery sites, including Brno, Manila, Philippines, Buenos Aires, Argentina and Sao Paolo, Brazil, participated in a brainstorming discussion in Second Life. This environment offers virtual versions of real buildings and can host people, let them sit and chat all, while having a cup of "virtual joe". They used the discussion to brainstorm about what makes them special compared to the competition. Many of them focused on IBM's diversity as a critical driver, which contributes to our ability to support our clients globally. While that is all well and good, this virtual world technology obviously doesn't sit easy with me, since it could threaten my very existence. What if all business is conducted via virtual worlds? What would happen to me? What if I am turned into a supermarket? Or worse one of those loud, hip-hop clubs? Actually, a dance club, wouldn't be so bad. Forget Brad Pitt, I could host the next MTV Video Awards and be on television.

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