How to modernize an IT shared service by the book

When two organizations merge, their respective IT departments can either protect their own interests or look for the best possible synergy to grow into an even stronger support organization. And combining their strengths is exactly what imec and iMinds, two of Belgium’s best-known research and development organizations, did when they joined forces in 2016. Michael Hindriks’ team at INNOCOM analysed the potential impact of their merger, defined a target architecture and drew up a plan for imec’s ICT future.

imec’s ICT had always grown with the business, primarily focusing on hardware development projects, whereas iMinds was more software-driven. Should they just have integrated everything, or started from scratch and changed everything? Or perhaps just modified things here and there? The crucial question you need to ask is: where is the ICT headed?

“As a CIO, you don’t just want to keep the lights on and solely focus on your mail software, computers and networks. We also wanted to better position the ICT organization, facilitate hardware as well as software development and provide services to support future projects. To achieve this, we needed to change our organization,” says Pascal Kieboom, Vice-President for ICT at imec.

“We onboarded INNOCOM to map our ICT against their enterprise architecture and subsequently define targets for the future.”

INNOCOM developed a 3-year plan for imec’s ICT, which is reviewed and updated every year according to the business strategy of the Board of Directors. The new IT strategy consists of providing general IT support services, technology support for R&D projects, and innovation. The strategy also advises the organization on strategic technology choices and investments to help maintain its position as a global leader in R&D.

Greenfield approach towards hybrid infrastructure

“To implement this plan, we needed additional knowledge and a new organizational structure – both for the IT and the business,” explains programme manager Michaël Hindriks. “We drew up a new organizational chart and filled the gaps, created new functions. The new IT business partners now play a key role in imec’s organization.”

Secondly, imec and INNOCOM audited the existing application portfolio and IT infrastructure of imec and iMinds. This was organized in silos, which was becoming restrictive. imec chose not to add new technologies on top of the silos but to build a new infrastructure from the ground up. The greenfield approach integrates cloud, public cloud and on-premises IT.

Buy, make or keep

INNOCOM defined a target architecture that serves as the basis for all future investments. Michaël Hindriks: “Every suggestion by the IT business partners is weighed against it, in a buy-or-make-or-keep mode. The decision to purchase, develop or retain is guided by the 80/20 rule.”

About 90% of all standard processes, such as human resources and marketing, are supported by existing and off-the-shelf software and hardware. imec’s value adding departments have more freedom. For example, imec kept parts of its IT infrastructure but decided to introduce a new ERP and CRM.

The task of defining such a target architecture and 3-year strategy for a more agile organization requires considerable time and effort, but it’s very important to get it right. Pascal Kieboom: “This strategic exercise requires thorough preparation: you are transforming your business to realize your future ambitions. IT at imec – and iMinds – is a challenge because research and development has to take place here and now. We have to be ready with new technology as the demand arises. So we need to look up to 15 years ahead with INNOCOM! My advice is to take your time, don’t plan a big bang but plan a migration in waves. This allows you to guarantee continuity and plan change. There’s a maximum amount that an organization can absorb in a short period.”