Double duty: Arrow CIO shows how role continues to grow

Combining the technology and real estate facilities teams gave us many opportunities to think differently
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Even though Arrow is a global provider of products, services, and solutions to industrial and commercial users, we understand that people are our primary asset. That, after all, is why our suppliers, partners, and customers partner with us.

About a year-and-a-half ago I expanded my responsibilities beyond the CIO role to global real estate and operations.  It may sound like a unique move for a CIO, but it was actually an opportunity to affect change. So when approached by our CEO and asked to take on those duties, I was excited by the opportunity to work on real estate and technology.  

Prioritizing people and places

Staying competitive in this digital world means reducing costs and maximizing opportunities for our employees to do their best work. Arrow has more than 500 facilities globally, so when we began to revisit and reconsider what our footprint should look like, we took a close look at how we could change to empower our employees to work more effectively. 

[ Read our related article by ServiceNow CIO Chris Bedi, How automation helped my IT team make time for innovation. ]

Part of the discussion I had with our CEO centered around managing our facilities. The real estate footprint, for example, is a very large expense for most companies with a large employee base. Many companies struggle to really understand the cost around their facilities. It’s not just your lease; it’s your power consumption, maintenance and upkeep, and local sourcing of contract resources, such as cleaning services and security. There’s a lot that goes into managing that portfolio.

It may sound like a unique move for a CIO, but it was actually an opportunity to affect change.

I would often see this left-hand-right-hand approach to planning and managing our footprint. Maybe there was a regional decision to consolidate space in Taiwan, for example – a very good decision on multiple levels, but one that drags with it an awful lot of technology and other costs to the portfolio.  

When we talked about what made sense, combining the technology infrastructure organization with the real estate facilities organization gave us a lot of opportunities to think about things a little differently. We began to change our structure so we could allow employees to work effectively, which meant deviating from the standard office-cubicle structure and to a more flexible and collaborative workspace, with technology and tools to support that. 

Focusing on collaboration

It was clear that we had significant opportunities to reduce the cost of our real estate portfolio, which was a huge benefit for the company. At the same time, we wanted to do it in a way in which employees would have a better work environment experience than they did with our previous model. This meant investing in technology and workspaces that allowed employees to be more mobile and customer-focused.

Arrow, for example, has many sales and technical people who need to spend a considerable amount of time with customers out in the field. Having them in an office is not necessarily where they add the most value to the company. But on the other hand, there are times when you need a physical space to hold a conference call or a meeting, or get together to talk about a quote or opportunity. 

Part of this solution meant investing in co-working spaces for which we don’t need to manage a lease and the added costs that come with it. Making sure that the employees feel connected to the company – and in a space that allows them efficiency – is a delicate balance.

It also meant investing in a suite of capabilities that moves with our mobile workforce regardless of device and whether they’re in the field, working from home, or in an office. We wanted to drive a model in which the employee and their capabilities are easily transportable to multiple venues, wherever they’re working, either as a team or individually with a customer, supplier, or client. 

How we interact with each other at home and in our personal lives is changing so dramatically and so quickly. These trends shift how we interact with each other in the workplace and what we need to do to facilitate these changes. Employees today have expectations when it comes to being enabled by technology instead of being inhibited by it, and part of driving these efficiencies is becoming more mobile — both in technologies and workspaces. 

Taking on the responsibilities of real estate and operations in addition to the responsibilities of my CIO role was a natural fit to develop an effective plan that encompassed our footprint and technologies.

Vincent Melvin is senior vice president and chief information officer of Arrow Electronics, Inc., with responsibility for managing the company's global information technology systems, real estate, and operations. Melvin joined Arrow in 2006 and has led many transformational projects across Arrow’s global business.