Intel CIO: Making IT personal

CIO 1-1 Diane Bryant talks to ZDNet Asia about traveling thrice as much to meet with her peers globally, and plans around accommodating employee-owned devices.

Diane Bryant, Intel

CIO 1-1 Fresh out of college in 1985, Diane Bryant joined Santa Clara, Calif.-based Intel. Twenty-four years later, the journey is still in progress.

Now CIO of the chip giant, Bryant devotes her time to strategic and operational matters of the IT organization, meeting with internal customers and networking with her peers from all over the world.

In a phone interview with ZDNet Asia, the mother-of-two discusses in detail her role, what goes on in CIO conversations and the company's plans to accommodate personal devices of employees.

Q: You've led IT for about one-and-a-half years now. What has been the most memorable moment as CIO?
Bryant: Probably one of the most rewarding and surprising elements of the job was the external role. It's funny, when I became CIO I told my kids I won't travel as much because now it's an internal job...but just the opposite happened. I traveled probably three times more than I did before, because there was so much opportunity to get out and talk with other large enterprise IT organizations about the value they can extract from some technologies.

I get invited frequently to talk and meet with other CIOs, talk at CIO functions and hold CIO roundtables--it's a part of the role that I honestly just hadn't thought about. It's quite rewarding; it's quite fun.

What aspect of your job annoys you the most, and why?
Annoy is a harsh word, but what does annoy me the most is the time for our IT organization--and I think my peer CIOs would say the same--to deliver a solution to the business.

Oftentimes, at least particularly in the past--we're obviously working to improve all the time--we don't know enough as a whole organization, we aren't in touch enough with the business groups to anticipate where they are going and therefore don't have the solution in place in time when they need it. There's always a huge sense of urgency to get the solution deployed to enable the employees or business to be more productive. And so we have to continue to shorten that development cycle, as well as continue to have a tight relationship with the business group so we can be part of the strategic definition and part of the direction-setting.

Peers and chips

Name: Diane Bryant
Job title: Chief information officer, Intel
Diane's role:
Since assuming the position of CIO in May 2008, Diane has been leading an division of 6,400 employees located worldwide. Intel's IT is organized functionally into two large operations and engineering group. IT staff are also assigned to each of the business groups so that they are in tune with business processes in order to develop the right tools. In her 24-year career with Intel--her first and only employer--Diane has assumed various roles including being responsible for the architecture, design and delivery of Intel's Xeon and Itanium processor families. Prior to becoming CIO, she was the vice president and general manager of the Server Platforms Group. Having been in Intel's business groups for over two decades, Diane feels that she has a good understanding of how Intel runs and therefore able to serve her customers, who were formerly her peers.

What I've seen in the year-and-a-half that I've been on the job, is the increased dependency between Intel's business and IT. There are very few things--I can't even think of any right now--that the business groups need in order to grow their businesses, start new ones or make their businesses more productive, that don't rely on IT. We're incredibly automated and incredibly technology-driven--not just in Intel but I see it across all the vertical industries--you have to have IT in order to enable your businesses so we need to be very proactive and integrated early into that timeline.

Now 2009 was described as a year when IT budgets were made to go on a diet. What was it like for you?
2009 was a tough year--as a corporation, we were on full attrition so fortunately we never had any situations where we had employees laid off but…as an employee left the corporation, we didn't replace that person. That was true for IT as well.

My expense budget actually did not change, and the reason it didn't change…is because when you're in the situation where the economy is tough, you're on full attrition, business is down and demand is down, it's incredibly important that every one of your employees be as absolutely productive as possible, and it's important that the business you're running be incredibly productive. And both of those things are delivered by IT--we make our employees more productive by giving them newer PCs. We make them more productive by giving them business intelligence solutions so they have the data they need faster to make right decisions. We make our business more productive by optimizing supply chain, driving down inventory and getting them in the hands of our customers more rapidly--that's all information technology.

So even though 2009 was a very tough economic year for Intel and everyone worldwide, my expense budget was not impacted. Corporate-wide, we did take a cut in our capital budget relative to 2008. But really that just meant we needed to be much more disciplined in presenting the ROI to our CFO in order to get the funding for the capital projects.

Were there any compromises made due to budget constraints? What were they and how did they impact the IT organization?
I talked to my peers in the industry, and I know a lot of them suffered some pretty severe cuts. But I really have to impress that Intel recognizes that information technology is the way you increase the productivity of your business: when you need to be operating in a more lean fashion and extracting more from less, you do that through IT.

I'll give you an example. Every four years we change our servers--we don't have any servers in our environment that are older than four years based on a total cost of ownership analysis. And that TCO analysis says that a server that's four years old sitting in that environment is burning more power, taking up more floor space and delivering less compute capacity than a new server, so you are better off replacing that server.

When we came up for our capital refresh conversation, I absolutely had to go back and justify that refresh with very clear analysis and dollars and cents of the impact in order to get the budget to replace 20,000 servers this year. But it held--if we had not refreshed our servers in 2009, it would have actually cost Intel US$19 million dollars.

When you put the analysis on the table--even though we're in a tightly-constrained budget environment--when you say I can avoid the capital spend but it's going to cost us US$19 million of which 14 million of that is on infrastructure--more cooling capacity, more data center capacity, more racks, more networks--and US$5 million of it was in expense--people can manage that growing infrastructure base. When you put the data on the table and you say 'I need the capital spend or it will cost us US$19 million', it becomes a very easy decision for the CFO to make.

I told my IT organization that 2009 was our year to shine, that it was our year to prove that information technology is what drives the business, and in tough times you don't want to stop investing in information technology.

In your interaction with fellow CIOs, what kind of technology topics keep popping up?
All the standards! Cloud environments we talk about a lot. We also talk a lot about consumerization--the notion that as the population as a whole becomes more technical and people have more and more personal technology devices and use technology solutions like Facebook and Twitter, they expect to have those capabilities inside of the enterprise. The whole notion of consumerization is a big one that I'm dealing with as well as all of my CIO partners.

2009 was our year to was our year to prove that information technology is what drives the business, and in tough times you don't want to stop investing in information technology.

We're all going down the path of greater levels of videoconferencing to enable greater collaboration. Everyone is looking to cut their travel costs especially in times like these, so how can we enable our employees to still be productive, but without having to get on a plane to be [effective].

Everyone's looking at data-center efficiency; in tough times you have to be running your environment as absolutely efficiently as you possibly can--things like server refresh, virtualization and all the things that go into making your data center more efficient come into play.

What is Intel doing to cater to "consumerization"?
We're just about to launch a program where IT will support an employee personal handheld device. Many have iPhones--they are extremely popular these days--and yet they are employees that Intel will not see a business need to actually purchase a handheld or smartphone device for. So we're saying, if you have a device of your own, IT will push contact, calendar and e-mail onto your personal device. So you get all the productivity benefits on your own personal device. We did a pilot and it's extremely popular. The employees see a very big productivity boost when they can rapidly check to see which conference room they're supposed to be in if they're walking down the hall--they don't have to boot up their notebooks--or quickly contact an employee they are looking for with the contacts on their phone.

The other thing we've done is we launched a social computing platform inside the firewall. We call it Planet Blue, it's basically a social networking solution like Facebook or MySpace. We have a social networking solution with all the social media technologies like blogs and wikis and other types of social media elements integrated in with employees' work spaces.

We're also working on 'bring your own computer' or BYOC, which is another hot topic when I talk to the CIOs. Intel is working on a BYOC program using client virtualization, to have a virtual partition that will hold corporate IT data, with another partition for your personal info. So I'll manage the IT-built virtual partition and employees can manage their own personal information. The benefit to the employee is also a cost benefit for IT.

What cost savings are you projecting from the BYOC program?
We just kicked off the pilot in the fourth quarter, back in October. We're starting with contract employees--today when we hire a consulting firm, like Patni Systems or Infosys, we give them an Intel notebook with the Intel IT build on it. What we're doing through the BYOC pilot is instead of giving them an Intel notebook, we're using their company notebook and putting the IT build onto it via a virtual partition. We have at any one point in time probably 10,000 contract employees working for us. So you take 10,000 employees times US$1,200 notebooks--do the math… it's pretty substantial savings for us.

We're starting with contract workers, and we'll see how that goes. It is all new technology and new capability…if it works well, we'll extend it to other employees inside of Intel who perhaps don't have an Intel notebook today. We have a large technician population--we have so many factories around the world--the technicians do not get a personal notebook issued to them from Intel. So it's an opportunity for them to have access on their own personal device.

And will that extend eventually to cover all Intel employees?
Actually, I have that debate with my CIO partners a lot. It's interesting to see how many of my CIO friends are rapidly going down the BYOC path and believe that it can be a solution for all employees some day. Others think there's just no way it will ever work. I honestly don't see a day when all employees have a 'bring your own computer' solution, just because we're so incredibly dependent on compute capability and compute technology to deliver our products. The complexity of a microprocessor design is tremendous, and we need to make sure that our internal employees always have the latest and greatest, highest-performing client solutions as possible--that's core to their productivity.

There are some employees who don't have that higher dependency, and maybe their own personal device is just fine. But I don't see Intel ever getting to the point where the majority of our population is using the BYOC program.

Is it more complex to manage such an IT environment, where there's a mix of BYOC and other traditionally-supported clients?
My architecture team tells me actually it gets easier, because now they are managing a build, and they're pushing that build onto your device inside of a virtual machine, and that build is independent of the device that it's sitting on. So they believe that it actually makes things simpler--they maintain that build, they validate that build and then push it onto a variety of devices. So we'll see; we'll obviously be tracking the total cost of ownership returns.

What are your current priorities?
As an IT organization, we do three things. The first is, we enable Intel's businesses to grow, so we enable new business capability; the second is we improve productivity, and that's both employee productivity as well as the productivity of our existing businesses. The last thing we do is we make ourselves more efficient. So I have priorities within each of the three buckets.

If I can get Windows 7 and new PCs rolled out to the employees, I think the employees will love IT.

You may have heard or seen: Intel announced that we're going to be launching online app stores for the Atom processor, so we will be going into production on that. That's an example of a new Intel business and that is all IT.

In terms of improving productivity, our focus is on business intelligence solutions--how can I get data into the hands of the employees in order to allow them to make better, faster decisions.

Also part of my productivity bucket is making Intel employees more productive, so we have a PC refresh program tied to the Windows 7 launch that is a priority for me for next year. We've completed a pilot of Windows 7 running on the new Core PCs and of the 700 Intel employees that participated in the pilot, 97 percent said they would recommend the solution to their peers. It was extremely positive feedback--an improved performance, improved usability, improved stability. So my priority is to roll out Windows 7 on new PCs, starting in the first quarter of next year. It's a huge program for me in order to improve employee productivity.

On improving efficiencies of our own IT operations--the third bucket--we have our own cloud strategy. It's a very popular topic in the industry these days. So we're building an internal cloud--we have a 100,000 servers inside of Intel, and we have an architecture to create a pooled infrastructure that will grow utilization and also allow us to more rapidly deploy new services for Intel.

What project or implementation are you most looking forward to for 2010?
It's hands down the Windows 7 deployment. Anytime I can touch all 83,000 employees within Intel is a big win. If I can get Windows 7 and new PCs rolled out to the employees, I think the employees will love IT. We will have a real meaningful impact on their productivity.