"It's all about helping customers to do a better job."
Invensys has appointed Paulett Eberhart as CEO and president of Invensys Process Systems (IPS), the division which includes Foxboro, Triconex, SimSci-Esscor and Avantis. The move has wrong-footed the majority opinion within the company and among its competitors that Ken Brown, who had been holding the fort since the departure of Mike Caliel in June of 2006, was a shoe-in for the appointment.
Brown, or “KB,” as he is known throughout the company, now resumes his former position as general manager of the IPS Measurements & Instruments business unit. However, as Eberhart told Insider in a three-way telephone conversation which also included Brown, “KB and I have got off to a good start together,” and one of her first moves has been to give him additional responsibility for IPS’ global manufacturing and supply chain activities. In that role, he takes over from manufacturing and supply chain vice president Jeff Greene who has been appointed president of Eurotherm in succession to Peter Tompkins, who is to step down on March 31after 34 years with the company.
Commentators have been quick to point out that Eberhart comes not just from outside Invensys, but from outside the industry, having spent her entire career since 1978 with IT consultancy and services group EDS where, most recently, she was president of the group’s largest operating unit, EDS Americas. Her appointment has triggered a predictable reaction that by appointing a “bean counter” Invensys top brass are reverting to type.
She, however, argues that she brings skills and experience that are particularly appropriate to IPS. “I come from a similar background. Like EDS, IPS has a proud heritage and culture. EDS was about helping customers to use technology and IPS does the same thing. It’s all about helping customers to do a better job.”
As a qualified accountant, she has clearly taken a long, hard look at Invensys’ current financial position. In her view, “The restructuring is behind them. They’re making the turn. They’re poised to take off in the future,” and, most significantly, she sees one of the key questions being, “Where do we need to invest?”—not something that has concerned Invensys much recently.
So what of the suggestion in at least one quarter that she’s been recruited in order to prepare IPS for sale or indeed as part of preparations for the sale of the whole group? It’s not an idea which meets with much enthusiasm.
“I’ve been brought in to be CEO of IPS,” she says pretty sharply. “We’re going to move down this path together. I’m here to do a job, and people can speculate about what that job might be.”
Meanwhile what of Brown, who would have been less than human if he had not been hugely disappointed at being passed over, and who must now be a prime headhunter target? As far as one can tell over the phone, he and Eberhart do get on well, and at this stage, she clearly values his deep knowledge of the company and the industry. She is, she says, “a huge believer in diversity. We need a team with different backgrounds and experience.”
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Eberhart believes that one of her key strengths is her ability to manage complexity, developed and honed as EDS grew from a $200-million to a $20-billion company. It’s that ability which she believes Invensys CEO Ulf Henriksson identified as what is required as IPS transitions from a product-and-systems provider to a deliverer of services and solutions, epitomized by the launch of InFusion nearly 12 months ago. She says that in her conversations she “hit it off with Ulf,” while Henriksson is quoted, in the official announcement of her appointment, as saying that, “Paulett has been very successful in growing similar businesses within EDS …”
That doesn’t necessarily mean that the ultimate aim is to convert IPS into a pure services play. “Our customers are asking for more,” she says, so it’s a question of “How do we develop our capabilities and how do we package them together and spend more time with the customers to meet their needs.”
That, according to Brown, means that “There’s a requirement to have a base foundation in place” in terms of products and systems and that “All the elements are required.”
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