IT Innovation

Invested in Growth

CIO of the Year | North America
2014 Oracle Excellence Awards

ADM counts on IT to deliver business and feed its customers.

By David A. Kelly

March/April 2015

To be competitive, a company must be efficient, but it must also invest in the business and the systems that enable that business. If you’re Archer Daniels Midland Company (ADM), one of the largest global agricultural processing companies in the world, business investment is about growing food and growing the business through better and more-efficient processes.


ADM is a food processing giant, with more than US$90 billion in annual revenues and 33,000 employees. For more than 100 years, the company has processed grains and seeds into a wide range of food, industrial, and animal feed products.

In addition to growing food and its business, over the years ADM had accumulated thousands of applications deployed on different technologies and tools. And by 2012, the company’s patchwork collection of IT systems and processes couldn’t easily support future corporate growth.

That’s when ADM brought in Marty Schoenthaler, vice president and CIO at ADM and winner of the Oracle Excellence Award for CIO of the Year—North America. Schoenthaler came in with an agenda to help drive change and to craft an information technology strategy that could support the company’s future growth. With the support of ADM’s executive leadership team, Schoenthaler and his team kicked off a transformation project called 1ADM.

“1ADM is not an IT project, but a business transformation that is enabled by technology,” says Schoenthaler. “It’s a big effort, spanning the entire company, but we think it will generate huge opportunities for us.”

When it comes to our relationship, I would describe Oracle as a very large small company. ”–Marty Schoenthaler,
Vice President and CIO, Archer Daniels Midland Company

1ADM is built with the goal of improving access to information, improving and standardizing business processes, and driving out inefficient and low-level work through automation and the deployment of a common technology platform.

After joining ADM in 2012, Schoenthaler led a team that evaluated both Oracle and SAP as possible platform providers for the company’s 1ADM initiative. In 2013, ADM announced its decision to go forward with Oracle as its global IT platform provider.

“We decided to invest deeply with Oracle, not just at the application layer, but in the full Oracle stack, including Oracle Database, Oracle Exadata Database Machine, Oracle Exalogic Elastic Cloud, Oracle Exalytics In-Memory Machine, Oracle Fusion Middleware, Oracle Business Intelligence, and Oracle Managed Cloud Services,” says Schoenthaler. “We’re making a big investment in Oracle for two reasons. First, we really like the features and capabilities of the individual Oracle products. But we also like that Oracle provides a common, integrated stack from the hardware through the database and up to the applications. We simply felt that the Oracle platform gives us the best chance to be successful.”

The deployment phase of ADM’s transformation project kicked off at the start of 2014, with the implementation of the Oracle Exadata, Oracle Exalogic, and Oracle Exalytics environments and the initial migration of one of ADM’s applications to the new Oracle platform. ADM’s goal is to have the new Oracle solutions–based common foundation built out in 2015, including deployments of Oracle E-Business Suite and Oracle’s JD Edwards applications—after which it can continue to build out its business intelligence capabilities.

For ADM, building a strong and resilient relationship with Oracle has been a key part of the transformation. “When we started having deeper discussions with Oracle back in 2012, part of what we talked about was the importance of the relationship. To make this kind of investment, to make these kinds of changes, we want to make sure we have confidence that we have relationships at all levels,” says Schoenthaler.

But after working closely with Oracle for two years on the 1ADM initiative, Schoenthaler is a bit surprised by his company’s access to Oracle resources. “When it comes to our relationship, I would describe Oracle as a very large small company,” he says. “It’s been interesting how we’ve been able to gain access to all levels of leaders within Oracle. I can definitely say that doesn’t happen at all technology companies, and I give Oracle a lot of credit for providing customers with that type of access.”

Transformational Leadership

One key to a successful business and IT transformation is creating and maintaining a close relationship between business and IT executives.

“With the amount of change we’re undertaking, it’s critical for our IT organization to have strong relationships with ADM’s leadership,” says Marty Schoenthaler, vice president and CIO at ADM. “I find myself spending a lot of time with our business leaders going through the strategy and the changes that we’re driving.”

Here are Schoenthaler’s top three characteristics of a successful transformation leadership team:

  • Curiosity. “Senior leadership is very curious about technology and wants to explore and understand the benefits that technology can bring to their businesses and environment.”
  • Challenge. “Senior leaders challenge IT. They make sure IT is focused on building solutions that will help deliver value for them.”
  • Open doors and access. “Senior leaders have an open door for the IT team. I’m lucky to be working with leadership that has really helped create an environment where our team has the ability to work closely with our business leaders.”
Next Steps

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Photography byJonas Jacobsson,Unsplash