Skip navigation

What keeps Nortel's CIO up at night?

His team's low morale, for one thing. Steven Bandrowczak on where the battered former giant is headed

Globe and Mail Update

WHO Steven Bandrowczak joined Nortel Networks as chief information officer in July, 2007. Before landing at the troubled tech company, he was CIO at PC manufacturer Lenovo and global courier company DHL Worldwide. The U.S. trade publication Computerworld named Bandrowczak one of its Top 100 CIOs in 2004.

WHAT From the company's New York office, Bandrowczak heads a worldwide IT staff of around 1,100 people and is responsible for the network infrastructure, business applications and data security. He took over the role as Nortel was still reeling from financial scandals, losses and a restructuring that cut its worldwide payroll from about 90,000 people to approximately 30,000.

tq Nortel has had some difficulties over the last few years. What made you decide to take this job?
Steven Bandrowczak When I look at Nortel's technology and capabilities, I see a company that has an absolutely great untapped story that is just waiting to be told. What it really needs is some good business leaders to get the right engine going. If you take a look at our technology and where trends are going, we are in a perfect position. And, when you get a chance to work with leading GE executives who have built successful companies and worked with the likes of Jack Welch—I came here to learn.

tq Has Nortel been distracted from the technology side?
SB Well, I think certainly it's hurt us, and it's set us back. But as I spend time with customers—and I probably spend 40% of my time with large customers—we have a tremendous opportunity with where we're positioning our products to dramatically meet the next wave. Where we're going to win is the next frontier.

tq What has been your biggest priority since coming to Nortel?
SB Probably the biggest thing is that you've got to drive out costs and make investments in the key areas that are customer-impacting. You try to squeeze the back-office infrastructure and internally focused processes and dollars, and put them toward customer-facing apps. That change has been really difficult.

tq Do you have a morale problem in IT after all the things that
have happened at Nortel?
SB Yeah we do, we do. I mean, our IT employees are extremely proud of the brand, the heritage and the legacy. But like any company that's gone from 90,000 employees to 30,000 employees…that's tough for anybody to swallow. So they are very eager to see the fruits of all the changes and start to see this thing turn around.

tq Is there one thing that keeps you awake at night?
SB Two things. One is security. You're always nervous that there are security challenges somewhere—a lost laptop or something that's non-traditional. You read the press, you see what it does to the PR and the brand of the company when something happens. And unfortunately it's not even in the control of the CIO—it's in the control of a partner or maybe even another organization. The second thing is, you've got to be able to drive business value, and I stay awake at night thinking about the things that we can do to make sure the sales are rising, efficiencies are happening and the stock price is moving. So I am constantly challenging the team: What is the innovation, what is the processes, what are we doing to transform Nortel daily?

tq Nortel is a global company. How do you use technology to manage a distributed operation?
SB Our videoconferencing and unified messaging capability is tremendous. We've got people working in different time zones, working at home, working at different times of the day. It's so nice when I get up at 6:00 a.m., open my laptop and see somebody's available to me in India. That helps tremendously.

tq What do you like most about this job so far?
SB It's going to be a strange answer, but there is no shortage of challenges. There is so much opportunity to make this company better, whether it's streamlining our supply chain, improving the customer experience or building global processes.

tq How long do you think that's going to take?
SB We're going to drive significant transformation from an IT perspective. I've got a path laid out for the next 18 months. From a customer experience and from an external side you'll start to see that over the next two quarters. But when you look at the end vision, it's probably going to take me a good six quarters to implement what I want to do.

Steven Bandrowczak spoke to freelance writer Grant Buckler

Recommend this article? 12 votes

Back to top