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Written by John Carmichael   
Tuesday, 04 November 2008

I came to Church employment late in my career. It was something I had never contemplated and it took me by surprise. I am a convert to the Church and was born and raised in the suburbs of Glasgow, Scotland. As a teenager, I joined the Royal Air Force, and spent the next four years at school studying communications. When I returned home on a recess, I found that two missionaries had moved into my parents’ home, and I was introduced to the Church.

With business trips and assignments throughout my entire working life, in all the continents of the earth, I have come to appreciate that no matter how deep or divided the fascinating cultures of this planet are, there is a predominant culture that belongs to the Church, wherever its members are to be found. The Restoration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ has truly and consistently brought about a “restitution of all things,” (Acts 3:21) and that includes a culture of its own. In the early Christian Church, Paul stated to some new converts, “Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God” (Ephesians 2:19). That cultural shift is as true and evident today as it ever was in Paul’s time. Somehow, these fellow citizens put first the kingdom of God, while still retaining their distinct national heritage and culture. One only has to participate in general conference to witness the total absence of borders and boundaries, to see and feel the veritable brotherhood and sisterhood that exists in members from across this troubled globe—and this, in these turbulent times.

Surely the growing membership of the Lord’s Church deserves the very best service and support that can be provided. Should we not expect that same miraculous intervention that unites the Church and its members across the earth to assist us in our work? Indeed we should! That intervention is not dispensed in an ad hoc manner. It requires of us study, skill, patience, much effort, and a great deal more, because the miracle that brings Church members together in a unified and global culture is not won without “a sincere heart, with real intent” (Moroni  10:4). I believe that in ICS we can see the hand of the Lord in all that we do and in all that is available to us through the wondrous revelation of ever-improving technology, when we apply that same ‘intent’ in the Lord’s  work, right across the globe.  

The words “think global” sit uncomfortably with me, as if this well-intended theory could instantly change one’s attitude to the foreign affairs in which we may have little or no experience. That we could so immediately comprehend the nature, culture, and pitfalls of doing business across the world is an erroneous concept. One might as well say ”grow up” to a two-year-old. While the success of the latter imperative will at least be fulfilled over time, it is extremely difficult for some to grasp the concepts of global thinking in an entire lifetime. It is far easier for us to comprehend those familiar things within our direct grasp and life experience.  But if we employ a sincere heart and real intent we can continue to successfully extend this work to the growing membership of the Church, now in far greater numbers without these shores than within.   

Program and Product Managers regularly approach the ICS Field Team with issues that face them on enterprise projects, and it has been wonderful to witness. These genuine and apparently spontaneous approaches are natural and stem from the desire to be better connected to a global audience. That this resource is now available within easy reach at headquarters helps remove the unseen but very real barriers and obstacles that have impeded the way to world-worthy solutions in the past.

With this perspective, and having lived internationally nearly all of my life, I have the assignment to lead the Field Team and make this resource readily accessible. Together, we can help influence the great work that is being accomplished and, hopefully, bring an understanding of field conditions to the decision makers here at headquarters. This small group of individuals has the responsibility to represent the field in three main arenas.

First and foremost, we are establishing a greater role and influence in project execution for the rollout of enterprise solutions from inception, requirements gathering, and through field implementation. We are available to assist and advise program and product managers and their teams on any field-related issues associated with their projects. As an example, we met regularly each week for over a year with the team in preparation for the major e-mail change from Novell GroupWise to Microsoft Outlook in June of this year. We were among the “early adopters” providing feedback from our locations in Australia, New Zealand, Argentina, and Germany.

Second, from within the team, we provide field program management to infrastructure, payroll, HR, and other field systems that are required for the Church to comply with international statutes and regulations.

Third, we have a role to play in relationship management as headquarters communicates with the various area offices around the world. ICS leadership has taken great pains to communicate regularly and often with executive leadership in the field, with formal meetings at least quarterly. This keeps the international areas close to IT initiatives and systems. Just as importantly, it helps cultivate an atmosphere in which feedback can be heard and acted upon. The field team follows up on some of the specifics in the interim, maintaining contact on what may affect different areas.

In conclusion, we have worked with the areas in identifying all of the cost-consuming local legacy systems in use throughout the world. Bringing visibility to these systems was the first step toward reducing widespread duplication with field applications and paved the way toward the core systems that we now see rolling out. As we present a unified message to headquarters and from headquarters, we have seen a dramatic decrease in the numbers of field applications.

This is the work in which we – a Peruvian, a Frenchman, an Australian, an Argentinean, two wonderfully field-savvy Americans, and myself, a Scot – are engaged. I believe we have a unique perspective and dedication to bring to the table. We have not only traveled extensively, but we have lived most of our working lives in the field.

Our biggest challenge is to retain solid connections with the field and its needs from headquarters; and we are determined to do so.  

John Carmichael is a lead program manager for the Church.



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