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Intel CIO: Business Executives Need to Have Higher Expectations of IT

Stevenson is amongst some of the most active social executives with dynamic content including video blogs, use of public social networks like Twitter, and conference speaking engagements.
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In 2013, I researched the most social CIOs in the world. I was delighted to find some of the biggest companies -- Fortune 100 -- had social CIOs who were connected and sharing their thought leadership on Twitter and other public social networks. One of the big companies was Intel and their brilliant and social CIO Kim Stevenson. Stevenson is amongst some of the most active social executives with dynamic content including video blogs, use of public social networks like Twitter, and conference speaking engagements. I was honored to have the opportunity to speak to Ms. Stevenson on my weekly video series with Michael Krigsman, where we discuss important technology and business market trends, challenges, and opportunities facing business executives today.

Here are some of the key takeaways from our discussion with Intel's CIO Kim Stevenson:

What is the role and responsibility of CIO at Intel? Job #1 is operational excellence but that's table stakes according to Stevenson. In addition to operational excellence, it is expected that IT adds value to the business. "Most of Intel is about creating technology, IT at Intel is about applying that technology to its full potential. It makes for a very good relationship with IT and the creators of the technology because we are able to provide real enterprise use cases," said Stevenson.

What are some technology focus areas at Intel? Ultra mobile devices and the user experience is a focus area -- touch enabled technology and application touch enabled technology is a focus area. Big data and analytics is another great opportunity for revenue growth and operational efficiency. Stevenson said that Intel is fairly advanced in this area but also just scratching the surface. Stevenson talked about the importance of consumer experience and IT's cultural value of putting 'customers at the center.' Historically speaking, IT has evolved from a back-office organization, focusing on IT productivity and being treated as a cost center, to a business transformation function. Today, successful IT organizations are a catalyst for business growth. "There are no IT projects, there are only business projects," said Stevenson.

In early 2012 Stevenson and her 6,500-person IT organization at Intel added collaboration and social computing as a major organization initiative. Social collaboration was added because of the work diversification changes within Intel -- a 100,000 person company -- aimed at finding the right people and the right information to improve execution velocity. "We have been on this journey to transform our Intel culture into a more a collaborative culture of open and sharing," said Stevenson. Ultimately, the biggest benefit of social collaboration is reducing the time to market. Stevenson shared a wonderful story of a new college employee at Intel collaborating with the CIO via Twitter and receiving a response from Stevenson in real-time. "Wasn't that cool, that I was able to provide direct feedback to one of my employees... it made me feel good," said Stevenson.

For many CIOs, it is difficult to set the tone for being open and collaborative. So how do you build a collaborative mindset with the customer at the center?
"We went on this IT service management journey, to lean out our process, and minimize outages, to get employees to believe that it was worth the investment to systematically fix things so we can shift to a proactive service delivery," said Stevenson. Today, 20 percent of service tickets generated by Intel's IT department are proactively created, creating an environment of operational excellence, building a track record of reliability, and most importantly creating a culture of trust with other lines of business. At Intel, IT personnel spend time with the business units to better understand and define opportunities for innovation and solutions to increase employee satisfaction and accelerate business execution velocity. Stevenson also talked about how IT extensively uses the technology that Intel produces throughout the business, but only if the technology can provide value to the business. "We do find that Intel architecture performers better," said Stevenson.

What are the benefits that you see in being a highly accessible, social CIO? Stevenson shared a story about access unpublished, highly quality report regarding big data, from the other side of the world (Australia), using Twitter. Stevenson found great insights in the report and used the material for a corporate strategic discussion. It was highly unlikely that this type of access to rich data would be possible in a non-social world. "The wisdom of the crowd -- people want to be helpful," said Stevenson. Stevenson suggested that connecting to your news sources, and influential people in your industry, is a great opportunity to start social networking. "I believe as the CIO that I need to be current on world events and trends, and so I choose to fulfill that job responsibility via social channels. I find that I am far more efficient on staying on top of events that impact our company and industry via social channels," said Stevenson. I agree that social networks are a far more efficient way to consume technology and business news.

How do we encourage more female professionals to pursue technology and become future CIOs? Intel did a study to better understand why female students opt out of math and science studies. A lot of times, the students did not understand that technical professions can enable, and the income potential of technology professionals. Stevenson suggested that we need to do a better job of communicating that these careers provide an ability to provide a huge difference in the world and have a great income. Beyond that, there are opportunities that we need to increase. Intel runs an annual science fair. Kim Stevenson personally devotes her time to communities to promote girls in technology including Girls Who Code, Girl Geeks,. The Girls Scouts are doing great work, and there is a startup firm in San Francisco that mentor girls to create toys.

What advice do you have for vendors who are trying to position their solutions to Intel? Stevenson said that vendors must help us solve the hardest problems. To collaborate and push the agenda forward, vendors must know their customers. Do your homework. Do not show up to the first meeting as for the organization's priorities.

What advice can you offer to the business side to get the best out of IT? Stevenson tells the business unit customers to raise the expectations for IT. Keeping the business running is not enough. "Your expectations of IT should be, help me transform the business," said Stevenson. Innovative CIOs like Stevenson are raising the bar, knowing that the biggest benefit of being more demanding is improving the quality of products and solutions for Intel's customers. You must have a track record of service delivery and operational excellence before engaging in these demanding conversations. Stevenson's approach begins with asking the following questions: "imagine if ..." Stevenson also said that shadow IT is IT's problem. If the business units are deciding to choose services outside of your IT organization it is because they are fulfilling a need that IT cannot provide internally. Company acceleration is more important than keeping services in-house.

We also discussed the most demanding customers of IT and if there is a need for a digital or data champion in business. Intel does not have a chief digital officer and Stevenson does not believe that there is a need for a digital or data officer in business if the information technology team can provide the necessary services to help enable business growth and improve productivity. I believe Stevenson's success is due to her cultural beliefs and ethos of "customer at the center." For example, collaboration responsibilities for Intel reside within IT, responsible for ensuring cross-functional collaboration within Intel. The team also includes HR, IT, marketing and other functions.

Kim Stevenson is a brilliant CIO and has a tremendous amount of useful insights that she shared with us during our 45 minute Google hangout video. I am very excited to join Ms. Stevenson, presenting at MIT Sloan CIO Symposium on May 22nd, where we will discuss the benefits of designing a social enterprise. I strongly recommend all CIOs to watch this video and learn from one of the top CIOs in the world.

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