Leroy Williams works in lockstep with the rest of the executive committee at Ball to continually invest in technology that enhances economic value add—the beacon metric for the manufacturer and its shareholders. With his year anniversary as CIO at Ball fast approaching, he must be doing something right.
Over a year career, Leroy Williams has worked in industries as varied as telecom, banking, state government, and manufacturing. Based in Broomfield, Colorado, Ball is a provider of metal packaging for beverages, foods, and household products, and of aerospace and other technologies and services to commercial and government customers. The company sold its eponymous glass jar business in Describe your engagement with others on the committee. Leroy Williams: As an executive team, we spend a lot of time discussing who we are as a company.
One of our mandates is to be good stewards of the culture we've established, to enhance that culture for the next generation of employees, and to continue promoting the things that have made Ball so successful for so many years. We talk about delivering economic value, identifying and segmenting our customers, the dynamics of our markets, and how our capabilities can drive additional cost out of the business. We talk a lot about leverage. Those conversations inform decisions about how we prioritize capital.
When leverage is used in a financial context, folks nod their heads. They understand working with banks to increase our leverage so that we can generate a higher return on investment. And in operations, we may discuss our ability to achieve scale and to produce products at a lower price point because of our manufacturing and operating leverage. But when you say IT leverage, what does that mean?
IT leverage has two components: efficiency and effectiveness. IT effectiveness, by contrast, is more complicated, and includes three levers: automation, information, and collaboration. Our business—like many others—is constantly under pressure to do more with less and deliver best cost, best value to our customers. We continue to apply all three effectiveness levers to drive continuous improvement. When done right, the value it now generates is nothing less than remarkable.
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About five years ago, we settled on our federated structure, which balances responsiveness to the business with a need to leverage economies of scale. Being responsive is being close to the customer and understanding the business at a deep level. We have line of sight IT resources in each of the strategic business units. Their job is to build credibility and relationships, partner with the business on opportunities, and manage risk.
They analyze demand for IT services, then focus on the IT investments that will generate the greatest return for that business. To achieve scale, we leverage common applications and shared infrastructure where it makes sense. We also leverage our purchasing power globally to lower our total cost of ownership for IT investments. Ball competes in some very different businesses. How does your federated structure support them?
Use of the short answers
Globally, Ball has three main product lines. The largest is beverage containers. We manufacture billions and billions of cans each year in standard and specialty sizes for carbonated soft drinks, alcoholic beverages, and so on. Next is our food and household business, which manufactures traditional food cans, aerosol cans, and packaging for household and beauty products. Even within the federated structure, there's no one size fits all.
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We may dial up or down our line of site alignment with a particular business based on its unique requirements. Bottom line: We leverage economies of scale where it makes sense while providing flexibility and agility for the operating units to move at market speed. Economic value add EVA is the beacon for all Ball business units globally. For Ball, EVA is the ultimate measure of financial performance to drive our capital and resource allocation strategy. IT is viewed as a key enabler of the business strategy. However, like so many other companies, we are challenged when recruiting software engineering talent, in particular, in some of our other locations.
Taking a step back, we are very clear on what core competencies we need to retain, build, and grow inside Ball; we partner with others for the rest. Having a balanced sourcing strategy has inoculated us to some degree from the talent shortage going on elsewhere. In addition, I spend a lot of my time and energy on employee engagement. We have a lot of technology investments underway, but if we don't have the next generation of leaders to effectively manage this business, then we won't be here for the next years.
Employee engagement is important because it drives motivation. To what do you attribute your longevity? Ball is a phenomenal company. We have great people committed to a great mission. Visit any plant or facility around the globe and you get the same Ball feeling. The company is also very successful. Of course, at the end of the day I personally have to deliver. According to the results-based leadership model , effectiveness is a product of the sum of 10 personal attributes multiplied by results. Conversely, if you're the type of leader who delivers results at all costs and leaves a trail of dead bodies in your wake, then your results will also be zero.
After 10 years in this role, I requested, and am sponsoring, an outside-in review of what we do.
No matter how good we think we are, it's good to get a fresh perspective and understand the art of the possible, in terms of the end-to-end service delivery model to gain greater IT efficiencies and leverage our critical people resources. The consumerization of information technology. Mobile devices and the ecosystem that has grown up around them have fundamentally changed the end user forever.
Now consensus seems to be building around one thing President Obama can indeed use his executive powers to do to boost hundreds of thousands of workers into the middle class: raise their wages.
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The public has long supported raising the minimum wage for all working Americans and many economists agree that a broad minimum wage hike makes economic sense. But raising the federal minimum wage would require Congress to act. And as my colleague Joe Hines noted on PolicyShop this week, Congress is not exactly rushing to cater to the interests of the poor and low-wage workers.
So an executive action by President Obama is especially appealing. And while the President cannot unilaterally increase the minimum wage for everyone, he can change federal contracting procedures to favor contractors that pay their employees enough to live and raise a family on. This week, the New York Times published a powerful editorial calling on the President to do it.
Drawing on a recent Demos study of low-wage contract employees and other federally-supported workers, as well as research from the National Employment Law Project , the Times made the case that:. Nearly 50 years after. President Johnson signed an executive order mandating nondiscrimination in employment by government contractors… [President Obama] could respond much as Mr.
Johnson did — with an executive order aimed, this time, at raising the pay of millions of poorly paid employees of government contractors.