CHICAGO — Martin Schneider, VF Corp.’s new vice president and global chief information officer, exudes all the optimism one might expect during early days in a new job.
While “spaghetti mess” and “hairball” are often used to describe the unwieldy, tangled heap of technology systems that large companies amass, Schneider characterized VF’s challenge in a more endearing fashion: “We have a very colorful quilt,” he said in an interview. “Don’t take that [metaphor] wrong,” he cautioned. “‘Colorful’ is not necessarily bad, but too many colors can be. Sometimes, less colorful is good.”
VF’s diverse brands include Wrangler, Lee, Vanity Fair, the North Face, Nautica and Vans, among others. Historically, technologies were chosen to meet specific needs of a brand family, such as jeanswear, but that approach led to duplicate systems and added cost.
Schneider’s job is to winnow down that portfolio of software, reduce complexity and cut costs. He’ll continue to push toward a standard set of technologies to support VF’s brand acquisition plan and revenue growth targets of 6 to 8 percent annually. Before joining VF in March, Schneider was vice president of global technical and manufacturing systems for Gillette, the $10 billion subsidiary of Procter & Gamble.
“We’re really moving toward a global view of the IT organization, to enable the global supply chain — common systems on a broad base, not just domestic,” Schneider said.
While VF’s push toward common technology systems is not new, the addition of a global cio is a first for the Greensboro, N.C., apparel company. Each of VF’s business units, called “coalitions,” has its own cio. In the new framework, cio’s for the Jeanswear, Outdoor, Intimate Apparel, Imagewear and Sportswear coalitions report directly to Schneider. Previously, the cio’s reported to Boyd Rogers, who continues in his position overseeing the company’s global supply chain.
Creation of the global cio position reflects the importance of information technology’s role in supporting the $6.5 billion company’s global growth, said Schneider’s boss, George Derhofer, VF’s senior vice president, global operations. “Martin already has brought tremendous focus to our objective of aligning technology with our businesses and our goal of achieving cost savings through common systems across our global supply chain,” he said.
Schneider said VF has focused on upgrading core systems that each business division needs, such as enterprise resource planning software from SAP and supply chain planning systems from i2 Technologies.
Next, VF will look to rationalize sales order processing technology, he said. “We have a number of different systems, and the goal, on the sales order processing side, is to replace that with one or two” systems across the company. “The goal is not to replace everything that we do and come to one ‘color,'” Schneider added. “The goal is to make sure we are replacing the systems and upgrading the environment in areas that add business value supporting the growth.”