Project One – Celestica’s quest for consolidation


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“Only connect!” wrote English author E.M. Forster in his 1910 novel Howard’s End. “Live in fragments no longer. Only connect…”

It’s a philosophy electronics manufacturing services (EMS) provider Celestica Inc. is not only living by, but now actually has a name for: Project One.

The name captures the intent behind the EMS company’s multinational initiative to connect and consolidate disparate systems, processes and technologies across its worldwide operations.

“The goal is one set of processes, one platform, one common data repository, and one method of reporting,” says Charles Kirk, senior vice-president and chief information officer (CIO) at Toronto-based Celestica.

Not an easy mandate, especially for a company that owes 50 per cent of its growth over the past nine years to acquisitions, each of which caused yet another influx of systems and processes.

Battling Babel

Traditionally, Celestica has tried to accommodate the perceived need for diversity in IT systems across its worldwide operations. But Kirk noted the problem with this approach. “To the extent that we were successful in doing that, we also built this huge Tower of Babel.”

He compared pre-Project One Celestica to Winchester House – the legendary 160-room Victorian mansion built by Sarah Winchester in Santa Clara country, Calif. Construction on Winchester House started in 1884, without a master plan and never quite ended. “It was an unceasing building project,” said Kirk. “No one person had knowledge of the entire estate, and many parts had duplicate functions. Work crews worked separately and so on.”

Project One seeks to reverse the “Winchester House syndrome” at Celestica by fostering consistency and uniformity across key processes. “We place a huge premium on process consistency and standardization,” Kirk said, adding that it’s the only way his company can make big changes quickly. “This is necessary in the EMS business, where customer demand is often experienced late in the cycle.”

Before Celestica could launch into the operational part of Project One though, the company needed to get executive buy-in for the initiative. It also needed to gain widespread acceptance for the project and its goals among its thousands of stakeholders across the world. This was no easy task.

What was Celestica’s game plan to accomplish all that?

You can read all about that in Part II of the article: Town Halls turn skeptics in to supporters


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