Mary Lynne Perushek

Vice president and CIO, Donaldson Company.
Mary Lynne Perushek

Twin Cities Business: How long have you been in your position with Donaldson?
Mary Lynne Perushek: I’ve been here about three and a half years, and I’ve been in technology over 30. I was vice president and CIO at H. B. Fuller before I came here, as well as several other companies. I’ve been a vice president and CIO for about the last 15 years.
TCB: Tell me about how IT is organized in your company.
MLP: We’re a global organization, and as it relates to information technology, we have people across the globe handling information technology and those types of business-facing activities for our business units. I think our challenge there is always to make global decisions but be able to implement them locally and make sure that they follow all the local regulations. We very much follow the way the rest of the business is organized from a location perspective as well as from a reporting structure.
TCB: How many locations do you have worldwide?
MLP: We have 39 countries in which Donaldson has a direct presence, and we’ve got, I’d say, approximately 10,500 employees. That’s our field personnel to our factory personnel to our office, so across the board.
TCB: What types of functions is your IT department supporting?
MLP: We’re a traditional IT department that I think you’d find in many manufacturing or industrial manufacturing companies. We’ve got an infrastructure component, we have an applications component, a strategy and architecture component, and a service component. The one thing that might be different is we also have an engineering applications team that falls within IT that supports all the tools that our engineers use for designing our products for our customers.
TCB: What kind of major projects has your IT organization been working on?
MLP: Coming out of the last year, I think we were like a lot of companies, focusing on taking what we had and “leaning” it out. That includes ensuring that we’re adding functionality that we’re already paying for . . . those types of things. Our projects are based around what the business requires at the time, so we have projects based around growth, utilizing Microsoft CRM (customer relationship management), and a lot of other business initiatives that need tools and processes to help them. We’re a traditional manufacturer and use tools that most manufacturers do, such as ERP.
 We were doing server virtualization and standardization, so that helps keep our costs contained or lower. I hate to use those words, because somebody will come back and want it out of my budget! But it helps us manage our resources more effectively.
From an application side, what we’re looking at is helping our global team work together better in a collaborative form and make better global decisions, so things around master data management and business intelligence and collaborative tools are really important for us right now. We are using Microsoft SharePoint technology for our collaboration, and we are building workflow applications on top of that and tying that into our other technologies as needed.
TCB: What other areas are your responsible for?
MLP: We’re responsible for all the technology components [of the Donaldson Web site]. Telecom, voicecom, data communications, Web site, all of that, we end up having in our list of things that we [are accountable for].
TCB: Do you serve as a technology translator for other executives?
MLP: Oh sure, I think there’s an expectation that you do that. You just don’t talk about the technology anymore; you talk about what it can do for the business and how it can help meet the business objectives.
A lot of what you sell, or a lot of what you support, is an underlying infrastructure very similar to what you have in a house. You know, you’ve got your electricity, you’ve got your plumbing, and in the technology world, you have to replace that on a regular basis, right? And that can be a hard sell, because you know, you come in one day and it’s working, and you come in the next day and it’s working, and you’re thinking, “Wait, I just spent all this money on that, right?” So that’s really where you spend a lot of time talking about what that means for people and why we’re doing it and the value that it will bring, and then measuring and reporting back on that success.
TCB: You mentioned lean principles?
MLP: Yes, we use lean manufacturing or lean techniques, also called continuous improvement. You’re just trying to take your processes and make them flow as consistently as possible without a lot of deviations in the steps. Because it’s not the standard flow that costs you time, it’s the deviation, right?