Being CIO At IBM Means You Are IT
October 28, 2013 Dan Burger
Being the CIO at IBM must be like being the top tailor at Ralph Lauren or the number one test driver at Ferrari. It’s a great job, but you have more eyes watching you than a Siamese cat at a German Shepherd police dog academy. Jeanette Horan doesn’t seem to notice, even though there are 470,000 IBMers in 140 countries depending on her to deliver IT services like it was a box of doughnuts.
Expectations? Yeah, you might say there are a few.
Horan’s job is essentially to put into practice what IBM preaches. Ideas are only worth the paper they’re printed on. And, I guess, that makes them worth even less if they only exist digitally. Value comes with successful implementation. And success is dependent on giving the users what they need to do their jobs quickly and efficiently.
This sounds like a job for mobile computing, and I’d be surprised if you haven’t had your own Horan-like experience. Of those 470,000 worldwide employees, Horan says 40 percent rarely, if ever, come into an IBM office. They work on-site with clients or they work from home.
“The nature of the workforce is substantially changing everything that we do,” Horan says while describing the situation at IBM. “There’s been growth in the number of employees I support and more than half of the employees have five years or less with IBM. The new workforce comes with their own set of expectations around how they want to work and what they want to do. I have more than 100,000 BYOD employees on my network,” she says. “They all come to IBM knowing how to work in social ways. While email is still the platform for business, many of our new employees prefer to work in social media. They have expectations about what IBM is going to provide for them to do their jobs.”
Their user experiences as a consumer are expected to be repeatable in the business applications they use. They want their work applications to be tailored to their specific work experience. Applications designed for a general audience of users are viewed as inadequate. It’s hard to argue with that when the app was developed 20 years ago, or maybe it was developed one year ago with 20-year-old techniques.
“How we design apps and present information is changing,” Horan says.
And just as surely as Horan is considering this demographic change within IBM, she is also realizing IBM’s customers and business partners are experiencing the same shift.
“Our customers are changing, too. In dealing with companies we need to be thinking about dealing with individuals,” Horan says. “What the CIO from an IBM customer expects from IBM is different from what the CMO expects. What kind of information is expected and how it should be delivered factors in the way I think about presenting information.”
So where do expectations collide with reality? Businesses are built on policies and procedures. There has to be a balance between the new way of working and the management of stable, reliable infrastructure that companies expect. Horan says it takes focus and an investment in infrastructure to deliver the modern IT experience.
“The back-end systems of record are engineered better and they consume the majority of effort to keep them running. The new systems of engagement front-end applications allow employees to work in a way that is more simple for them to use,” she says. “It’s an application view in as opposed to an application view out. It looks at what does a person in a particular role needs and how are they going to get access to that information.”
“Our traditional paradigm is very application centric–use this app for this business process and that app for that process,” Horan continues. “It is rarely seen from the view of the individual end users. We should be able to provide more seamless, integrated experiences at the presentation layer. Those experiences should guide users through the backend processes. And the presentation layer is mobile first. Because that is the way our employees want to work.”