Mergers and acquisitions are an everyday occurrence among today’s global businesses, and most of them present complex challenges at several levels of the enterprise. While the CEO is working to define the culture and direction of the combined company, the CFO is merging complex accounting systems. And while human resources is busy integrating new employees, the CIO is plotting strategies for consolidating everything from servers to network systems to mobile devices.
Few executives, however, have faced a merger as complex as the formation of Vivo. In 2003, after the privatization of Brazil’s telecommunications industry, six companies began offering mobile communications services under the Vivo brand name. The resulting joint venture combined the wireless business units of the six companies into a single entity with a single goal: to serve and exceed clients’ expectations.
Today, after just over five years of existence, Vivo is the largest mobile communications provider in the southern hemisphere, with a client base of more than 46 million, and one of the most recognized brands in Brazil. It has the country’s best customer satisfaction rating and leads the industry in compliance with proposed quality standards being considered by the regulatory body Agêncía Nacional de Telecomunicações (Anatel).
From public to private
Vivo’s CIO Christiane Edington built her career in the telecommunications sector at Telebahia, a government-owned telephone monopoly operating in the northeastern states of Bahia and Sergipe. Over more than 10 years, she served in a variety of roles and was leading the IT infrastructure team when the company was privatized.
“With this change, I suddenly moved from a relatively small organization to a very large one, and from the public sector to the private sector,” Edington remembers. “These changes created a totally new and challenging environment for me.”
Edington also faced the challenge of being one of the few women to serve in a senior IT role—an area traditionally dominated by men. During some of the early years, she was one of only a few female executives in the company. “Nowadays it is very positive to see the increasing number of women working in leadership roles,” she notes.
When Vivo was formed, Edington was invited to relocate to the São Paulo headquarters to help build a new, consolidated IT infrastructure. “People from several areas of the country came together here,” Edington recalls. “It was an interesting time as I came to better understand the diversity of Brazil and enjoyed the experiences we shared in those days. Of course, the six companies had different IT policies, systems, infrastructure, and processes, but we also had six different cultures.”
Edington has no doubts that the efforts to merge these cultures were worthwhile. “Brazil is a diverse country, and it was enriching to have all of us together in one place,” Edington continues. “It really helped us learn to be a single company that was born as a market leader and has kept that position.”
Consolidating systems and processes
Edington’s first role at Vivo was with the development team, where she played a key role in early consolidation efforts. Later, she was appointed head of IT Governance, where she developed a common architecture standard, implemented standardized policies and procedures, and oversaw risk management.
In 2008, Edington emerged as a natural choice for the position of CIO. Her background at Vivo went back to the beginning, and her achievements and projects in the IT group were well known. Her distinguished education included two M.B.A. degrees—one in business management and one in IT governance—and her grasp of both technical and business issues facilitated effective communication with everyone from system administrators to executives.
Security is a pressing concern everywhere, but it is a top priorityfor Vivo. “We work with strategic business information and with confidential client data at several touch points,” Edington says. “Security has become even more important as our policies place more focus on customers and their satisfaction—and Symantec has been a key partner in developing these strategies.”
Vivo relies on Symantec Endpoint Protection to protect its 16,000 desktops, laptops, and servers. For Vivo’s messaging system, Symantec Brightmail Gateway filters spam, protects the network from email-borne malware, and has decreased email storage costs by significantly reducing the amount of email on the server. “We filter 80 percent of our total incoming email volume,” Edington asserts, “which makes a huge difference.”
For reporting on compliance with regulations, standards, and policies, the Vivo team relies on Symantec Control Compliance Suite, which has been implemented on database servers that support Sarbanes-Oxley environment systems.
“We believe in our partners being connected and tuned in with our business, and when it comes to security, Symantec has become our most trusted partner,” Edington asserts.
Protecting customer data
In 2008, Edington faced the challenge of another merger—this time with Telemig Celular—and the expansion of its operations to six of Brazil’s northeastern states. This latest merger has presented an opportunity to test another Symantec solution that was in use at Telemig Celular—Symantec DataLoss Prevention.
“With the integration, we are now conducting a trial of the solution on a nationwide basis,” Edington explains. “We believe that this is the next step in keeping confidential information secure, because it can automate enforcement of policies regarding the use of our customer data.”
Optimizing the data center
Edington’s team also depends on Symantec solutions in Vivo’s data center environment. Veritas NetBackup is one of Vivo’s solutions for data protection, and the IT team is testing Veritas Backup Reporter, with the objective of automating reporting and capacity planning of their backup environment. “We want to make sure the data is ready to restore when needed,” Edington says.
The IT team standardized approximately 20 percent of their servers on Veritas Storage Foundation for volume and file system management. The solution has optimized storage management and reduced costs by enabling the conversion of some servers to a Linux platform. For high availability, Veritas Cluster Server protects Vivo’s key systems with activeactive clustering.
“The greatest benefit of these solutions is the ability to standardize,” Edington asserts. “Having a robust solution to protect data and manage storage across all platforms saves my team time and money.”
Robust systems for demanding customers
The Vivo IT team’s accomplishments to date have been impressive—so much that the Brazilian edition of InformationWeek recently named Edington a 2008 CIO of the Year. However, she refuses to rest on her laurels
“This is a very competitive market, and optimizing time-tomarket is crucial to achieve commercial success,” she observes. “Mobile users demand real mobility. We need to meet their connection needs for voice, data, SMS, and mobile broadband anytime, anywhere.”
“So, much more than in an ordinary company, IT is at the core of our business. And that is why we can never stop,” she concludes.
Mark L.S. Mullins is a managing editor of CIO Digest and manager of Symantec’s Global Customer Reference Program team.