While this culture will remain intact in Europe and the rest of Sony's worldwide operations, two years ago the corporation decided to add a quantitative element to the qualitative and financial information that it already had. It wanted the figures to back its business acumen, and information technology, in the guise of executive information systems, was chosen as the delivery vehicle. The project was planned in parallel with the corporation's move from heavily financially orientated objectives to more business and market-driven objectives. Having established 100 common critical success factors across the world, regions had to collect data to support them.
Maier and his team chose an executive information system from the UK's THORN EMI Computer Software to handle the job. In seconds it can ferret out and present crucial data from the mountain of information that is on the corporate computer or even that on external computers to which the company has access.
The first terminals went to Sony's head office and were used initially for a project in customer service. Across Europe the service sector was losing money. Maier set standards for the type of information that he wanted from each service operation. This system is now up and running and the data fed into the computer by each country's service operation now comparable. Maier and his team can analyse it and send back their findings to the relevant managers.
A similar system for marketing was commissioned recently. Sony is drawing together the market research databases to which each country had access. It will then have a pan-European databank which will be able to pinpoint not only Sony's position in the market but its competitors.
The time-critical nature of this type of intelligence information persuaded Maier to have this system online and accessible by all of the European marketing managers.
Maier is determined that information technology will not dominate or change Sony's management philosophy. He believes that it should be spread (judiciously) throughout all of Sony's European functions. "You can't restrict it to top management. What is top management? I believe it is the people who have the power to make decisions," he says. "What you can influence, you should know immediately."
(Di Palframan is a freelance journalist.)