April 03, 2011, 3:25 PM — This article originally appeared on CIO.com.
Scenario from Sheryl Fikse, CIO, Southwire
Southwire is a big company with a small-town history—advanced technology products are developed, built and sold by 4,200 employees across the Western Hemisphere, many of whom spend their life at the family-owned wire and cable manufacturer. The technology infrastructure that supports them is well past its expected lifespan, but it is familiar to staff and there has been little pressure to upgrade. CIO Sheryl Fikse joined the company in 2010 and immediately started examining how to refresh that infrastructure with the mobile technology available today.
IT's mission is to help improve the company's decision-making and value to customers by providing each employee with the optimized mix of technology under a common architecture. Sheryl serves on the four person steering committee making the investment and policy decisions, which also includes the CFO and executive vice president of operations. She is currently evaluating the new wide range of end-user devices—including desktops, laptops, tablets and smartphones—to determine the right mix for employees in the field and the back office.
The Business Goals
- IT must establish hardware profiles that will provide the most value for the three major user groups: 1) headquarters support staff, who work mostly with forms and databases; 2) shop floor managers and engineers at nine plants in the U.S., Canada and Mexico, who are working on the fly with checklists and blueprints; and 3) sales management.
- Improved mobility is expected to greatly improve customer service, whether from engineering or sales. The intent is for discussions and decisions to occur on site, with the ability to call up and manipulate information in front of everyone on the mobile device(s), rather than bringing data and comments back to the office in order to create new versions that are evaluated at a later date.
- Moving to a new, common hardware and software profile will allow IT to exert more coordinated management and control. This should improve security, ease rollouts of updates and upgrades, and improve service on end-user technical issues.
Major Decisions Made
- Southwire has historically been a BlackBerry shop, but Sheryl has decided to move the mobile devices to Apple due to the graphics-intensive applications the staff use. This will include both iPhones and iPads.
- The company is also in process of moving applications off of the legacy mainframe and into an SAP environment, with Citrix enabling mobile access to the back-end applications.
- To ease the transition for manual and paper processes, Southwire has adopted Adobe (ADBE) forms paired with the new SAP applications. This provides users with the same visual input as they have been using for more than 30 years, but enables improved use and analysis of the data collected in the forms.
The CIO's Challenges
- Getting buy-in is a slow process. Members of the leadership team have had iPads since the end of last year, and only now are they beginning to carry them everywhere. One engineer has been testing an iPad in the field and now swears he never wants to give it up, and more than 30 are now out in the environment as test cases.
- Establishing role-based needs profiles requires cooperation from the other company executives who better understand what each type of user does on a daily basis. But the company's executive team is not very technology-savvy.
- The company handles a great deal of highly sensitive data, between the work it does with the U.S. government and the competitive value of its own R&D arm. Multiple mobile devices and user profiles will require an adaptive set of security policies.
How do you educate yourself and your staff on all of the different end-user devices now available in the market? How have you measured the value of different hardware mixes for different user needs?
- Establish business goals and make sure folks remain focused on those goals during their evaluation of technology. Make sure use cases match your evaluation criteria.
- Look at the specific environment within your company and your competitive landscape. Make it one person's primary responsibility to see what is happening in the field, gain some real world examples and evaluate how this can benefit your company.
- Engage external experts to do an assessment.
- See what customers are doing and how change in your environment can help them.
- Look at different cost options, initial costs, lifecycle management and secondary costs to determine true costs.
- Make sure you have realistic goals for implementation—timeline and capabilities.
- Identify potential risks—including what change management will be necessary—and have plans for security.
- Focus on building infrastructure that will work with any "endpoint" (user system or device).
Translating needs into solutions:
What advice do you have for marrying business leaders' process knowledge with IT's understanding of how each type of technology can improve those processes?
- Create a steering committee with different parts of the business. Overcommunicate, make them feel like they are part of the decision, and show them real-world examples in their language.
- Make it someone's key job function to create incentives for business leaders.
- C-level needs a clear understanding of how you work, how you want to work and how you should work.
- Educate all senior leadership and other opinion leaders on strategy.
- Use an outside consultant to evaluate needs.
- Go to full Office suite, Office 2007 or 2010—2010 is an easier transition.
- Take bite-size chunks if possible to show impact. Measure the change/impact.
- Make sure help desk meets requirements to manage new system.
- Must have excellent relations with the C-level team to support your initiatives. Develop a roadmap with priorities, define the overarching strategy for replatforming their business and outline the business case. Create a dashboard for them of progress and successes.
- Create a business needs assessment with a facilitator who understanding both the technology and the business.
- Get tech in the hands of influencers. Create communities of interest with early adopters at all levels.
- Share some use cases and early win stories. A day-in-the-life story, improvement highlights. Much like a marketing effort.
- Set up the IT staff to educate. Identify people to lead lunch & learns or similar demo/sessions.
- Must have clear communication strategy within organization to explain how this process is going to help achieve business goals, where the initiative stands, etc.
- Develop some "quick wins"—ex: establish business update/newsletter on iPad.
- Balance the supply/support needs with the demand you build.
- Integrate use new technologies/devices in to existing routines to have senior management see value.
- Ensure that infrastructure can support new technologies.
- Hire people specifically to serve as a security team.
- Perform a risk analysis on specific devices that you know will be in your environment. What are you willing to support?
- Develop an action plan on what will be done with lost and stolen devices. Look at options for remote wipe, data encryption, etc.
- Determine policies on how you will handle personal devices, the support, the security.
What tactics have you used to share success stories and encourage use among employees who are not pushing for new technology?
Moving to a mobile environment creates a new set of security concerns. What risks have you encountered for laptops, smartphones and tablets? What technology measures have you taken to mitigate these risks? What policies have you implemented to govern use of devices and data?