Most CIOs focus on buying technology and making it work in the enterprise. Although technology is the foundation of IT buying tools, delivering projects, and preventing system downtime do not create CIO greatness.
More important than "feeds and speeds" is the CIO's ability to drive strategic business goals such as increasing revenue, enabling innovation, and helping the company enter new markets more quickly.
Against this backdrop, I was delighted to welcome Intel's chief information officer, Kim Stevenson, to the latest episode of CxO Talk. With co-host, Vala Afshar, we had a fascinating conversation about a range of subjects including IT strategy, driving relationships with lines of business, social media, importance of encouraging girls to enter technology, employee development, trust and credibility, shadow IT, and even baseball.
Throughout the discussion, which you can watch in the video below, the primary emphasis reflects how IT at Intel contributes to crucial business objectives. Based on a term coined by CIO Phil Komarny, I call this approach #Rockstar IT, because it gets to the heart of how IT can increase value in the business.
Here is the entire 45-minute conversation — although I outline a few highlights below, the recording presents a rich and inspiring wealth of information:
As CIO of Intel, with 6500 people in her IT organization, the lessons Kim presents in the video are best practice examples based on having sufficient resources to solve difficult management and strategy challenges. Although most CIOs operate on a smaller scale, the lessons and goals she describes are ultimately relevant to companies of all sizes.
Kim describes achieving operational excellence as "table stakes:"
The CEO and board of directors really want IT to add value to the company. Intel is diversifying, we're adding new businesses, in software and services and foundry models, and all of that requires a different IT model. The single most important thing is all of that is happening very fast and IT has to enable the velocity of these business changes, so that Intel can transform and accelerate our position in the markets in which we aren't the leader today. IT is a critical component in that, to help the company be successful in those new markets.
Regarding the practical role of IT in a technology company, she discusses how IT is a testing ground for Intel's own products:
Most of intel is about creating technology; IT is about applying that technology to its fullest potential. IT are the "appliers."
It makes to have a very good relationship with the creators of technology because are able to give them real enterprise use cases, we are able to help debug, and see real operational experience with their products
The conversation highlighted the evolution of enterprise IT, from a back-office technology provider to customer-centric business partner:
The next decade is about business transformation and business efficiency; how does IT help the business grow? You can't do it alone, it's always in partnership with the business, but IT can be a catalyst to that business growth. There are no IT projects; they are all business projects today. There isn't a project today that doesn't require IT and if you are not using IT to make your business better, than you are shortchanging the real opportunity.
During a segment about shadow IT, Kim made clear that IT is responsible for meeting business unit needs. Personally, I believe this view is precisely correct:
The business units make those decisions because they are trying to accomplish their objectives in the way that they think is the most efficient. If they are not choosing you, there is a reason.
I never bash shadow IT because they are fulfilling a need that ultimately IT could not fulfill. Once you get your head around that principle, then you can start working to figure out how we can best fulfill it for the company.
Kim's perspective reflects a highly business-oriented approach to IT standing in stark contrast to IT shops that see their primary mission as delivering technology projects on-time and within budget. Although operational and delivery capabilities are essential, they are not a substitute for contributing revenue, innovation, process improvement, and efficiency.
CIOs who want to learn from Intel's experience should take the following steps; this is a mini tutorial on building #Rockstar IT:
- Watch the video embedded above closely, paying careful attention to Kim's core perspective on IT's role, responsibilities, and relationship to the business.
- Conduct a realistic self-assessment to determine the capabilities of IT in your own organization; discovering areas for improvement creates the foundation and opportunity for achieving goals.
- Create credibility and influence by ensuring that IT delivers operational excellence, to use Kim's term.
- Build on that credibility by engaging with the business, listening to their needs, and establishing relationships based on trust.
- Finally, identify ways to help the business innovate, make money, and be more efficient.
- Rinse and repeat. Improvement is a continuous process not a one-time event.
When IT takes its rightful place as an equal participant with other line of business and administrative functions, then the real magic of #Rockstar IT can emerge and flourish. Making this happen is the CIO's job.