"If you’re the IT department and you’re not helping your product development team with time to market you’ve lost," Schulze says. "They’re going to go off and do it themselves. Very talented people are trying to get something innovative out to market. Let them innovate."
Since becoming Micron’s first CIO in 2015, Schulze has built machine learning solutions that create new insights into product availability, demand forecasts, and improved the way raw materials are calculated. He says data scientists and IT engineers partnered closely with the business to make this happen.
At Sysco Systems, CTO Wayne Shurts has reorganized his IT organization from order takers in individual systems groups to teams that support product development through agile and DevOps. Sysco, a leading food distributor, is putting the customer at the center of the product development process.
Shurts says Sysco would fall behind if it continued building software in the waterfall method. “I don’t believe in the bimodal crap either," he says. "The whole thing is about responding to the marketplace and the demands for our customers and I just believe [agile and DevOps] is a better mousetrap for how to do software... we’re going agile everywhere."
Working from the customer backward is just as important for cloud software vendors, for whom tweaking and shipping code is a constant. As the CIO of Workday, Diana McKenzie shepherds a program to vet SaaS human resource and financial applications created by product development teams. She says IT is the "first and best customer of our products" before they are released commercially. "IT needs to set itself up to look like the customer and reflect the organizations we're selling into," McKenzie says.
Most recently, McKenzie has tackled the challenge of generating analytics to help customers gain better insights into their Workday deployments. McKenzie has a system in Amazon Web Services to test the product. The result was Workday Prism, which makes it possible for companies to pull in information from sales, marketing and other data systems to answer questions about profitability, as well as high-performing sales groups.
The challenge with new operating models
The CIOs say there were some bumps along the way, but nothing unexpected, while trying to cajole IT workers to unlearn years of learned processes. Management buy-in is also essential for success.
"We have people who understand our business and secret sauce but they’ve been doing things a different way for 20 years," Shurts says. "They get excited about agile, they see that it’s better but then we do a pilot and it’s a lot harder than they think. They really want to do it but they have to unlearn habits learned over 20 years… The good news is we’re getting through that and we’re starting to see innovation and really good results."
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