From the interview: Google’s CIO on How to Make Your IT Department Great

6 November, 2013

Recently I found this interesting interview but before reading it I thought of doing it myself. My last job position at a company was as CIO at WRS and I would like to share my experience as Ben Fried (Google’s CIO) did.

  • Tell me about your role at WRS, and what your purview as CIO includes.

As a CIO I was responsible of all IT operations in company offices and stores. I coordinated my team into giving support and tools for company employees, keeping it simple and at a low cost. To our partners, I was in charge of deplyoing them with all of our IT structure to connect to our central systems and keep record of all transactions, trouble tickets, … treating them as end-users: support and maintenance included. An important goal of my position was to plan and study all requests and needs to give proper answers and solutions.

  • So what do you do at WRS that is different than most IT departments?

Each IT department is different from another, as people and services are different. I managed to reduce over 124.000€/year on my first month at the position. I studied the company processes in present and future scope. I realised that services contracted by the last CIO were overrated or not needed at all. I believe that everything should be scalable and grow/shrink as needed, not as requested. Studing and questioning everything is a good way of framing problems.
As with my team, I believe it is important to involve in the department and work of others. This way everyone is considered during the 8 hours of a working day and knowledge is shared. We spend most of our time with our company collegues, communication is important. Daily meetings like in agile frameworks or weekly lessons learned lectures are good tools for managing teams.

  • If that’s the case, why isn’t everyone doing it that way already?

Every request must be studied by the body of knowledge. A common mistake is mixing job decitions. For example, a lawyer cannot decide what is the best computer to use as a store POS. Another common mistake is not involving teams into tasks. It is necessary to have an structured chain of command in the company, but this doesn’t mean not listening to others opinions. This opinion can be experience, knowledge or something else that helps the company to reach its target. Communication is basic!

  • Tell me a bit about how IT has changed since you came to WRS, and how you see it evolving going forward.

Cloud computing and mobile devices are changing our present. I quickly moved our dedicated servers structure into cloud computing. Our previous structure was costly and not effective; support was remote and slow but the more important was the high economic costs of having those servers up and running 24/7. With cloud computing, companies only pay for the use of the resources and support is easy to manage and deploy. We are focused at software and contents level. We will forget about hardware problems with cloud services.
There are new mobile devices everyday. Not only mobile but projectors, sensors, NFC… Interaction is the key. We must be ready to adjust our company to all possible devices plus those still to come. Tablets for our warehouses, interactive floors and NFC for our stores, spreadsheets into our management body mobile terminals, … These are a solutions for our present time.

After my writing I read Ben Fried interview and I would like to add:

People is the key for a company success. It is not worth making IT tools difficult to users because it can lead to over demand of IT support. These will not help IT department neither requester to finish their duties on time.
When giving support to users, allow them to find the solution by themselves. Many times, when a problem occurs, users rise their hand immediately. Be patient and give them some time to realise if it was their problem or a real IT problem. A 80% or more of cases is a user mistake. If they know your are there immediately, they will rely on you immediatelly. Don’t do this for real IT problems! Use proper IT tools to monitor your systems and network.
Just remember that big projects take long time. So the longer, the older technologies are used. For example; a big ecommerce platform developed since 1999 and now stable, may not support CSS3.
Invest time reading IT news. Be present but be ready for the future. Know what technologies are available and the ones that are coming.

I hope you enjoyed this reading. See you next time. Regards.

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