These are trying times for the newly configured Honeywell Inc., the global giant that formed last December when the old Honeywell merged with Allied Signal. The new company, with annual sales of nearly $24 billion, has 120,000 employees and sells everything from aerospace components to factory-control systems to automotive antifreeze. But such size and complexity can be a burden. Last June, when the company announced that its profits would grow slower than expected, Wall Street hammered its stock — which prompted Honeywell to announce a big layoff and other cost-cutting moves.
When it comes to e-commerce, size can be an advantage — if it's combined with speed. Over the past year, Honeywell has staked an aggressive claim on the Web with its three "megahubs": MyAircraft, myFacilities.com, and MyPlant Inc. How did this big company do so much so fast? Credit e-Business for Honeywell, an internal venture-capital outfit with a guerrilla work ethic. Blink, and you might miss the team's six globe-trotting Internet and finance experts, who are catalyzing Honeywell's move to the Web. As Russ McMeekin, 35, president of the e-Business team, says, "We help our businesses reinvent themselves for digital commerce — and that's not going to happen with a large, monolithic, centralized function."
The group's first challenge was to identify the most promising e-commerce opportunities from among Honeywell's many vertical markets. Explains McMeekin: "We focused on the markets in which we have the dominant position and in which we could confidently be the first to move into the e-commerce space."
Then Honeywell looked for outside help. MyPlant recruited a group of Web-savvy newcomers to join some of the Honeywell industrial-control unit's most progressive veterans. To form MyAircraft, an e-marketplace for aerospace products and services, Honeywell teamed up with competitor United Technologies. McMeekin says that such partnerships are new for Honeywell: "We're reinventing a lot of things here."
Ultimately, says McMeekin, the best gauge of Honeywell's transformation will be the extent to which its businesses are able to achieve digital self-sufficiency. That's why the e-Business for Honeywell staff members are serving as Internet evangelists, helping to create a company-wide digital mind-set and, when time permits, consulting with Honeywell's many business units. "It's important that the businesses find their own ways to leverage the Internet," says McMeekin. "You want them to reinvent themselves from within. If we do our jobs right, our team won't be around this time next year — because e-commerce will be a part of the company's fabric."
Cathy Olofson (email@example.com) is a writer and editor based in Belmont, Massachusetts. Contact Russ McMeekin by email (firstname.lastname@example.org).
A version of this article appeared in the October 2000 issue of Fast Company magazine.