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Inside the social network

Divina Paredes | Aug. 21, 2012
Tim Campos may be CIO of Facebook -- a company whose user numbers rival and even top the population of some countries -- but he faces the same quandary as his colleagues across the globe, across industries and organisation size.

Tim Campos may be CIO of Facebook -- a company whose user numbers rival and even top the population of some countries -- but he faces the same quandary as his colleagues across the globe, across industries and organisation size.

This is, "How do you handle the urgent, separate it from the needs that are important?"

"They are definitely challenges IT leaders face everyday," says the 39-year-old Campos, who joined Facebook two years ago.

He outlines a strategy he implemented at KLA-Tencor, where he was CIO prior to joining Facebook, which is to "strip" the organisation into "run" and "build" teams.

The 'run' function's sole purpose is to keep existing services up and running while making sure the business is not investing disproportionately in services that don't provide a lot of value, he says. "At the end of the day, they are not encumbered with figuring out new stuff to do, they are encumbered with keeping existing stuff up and running, relevant and efficient."

The 'build' side of the organisation has the exact opposite challenge, he says. "It is about, 'how do we build systems that are going to help our staff meet our growth targets more effectively, maximise our revenue potential for the company?'"

But this is not to say innovation is stacked in this side of the IT organisation.

The innovation in the 'run' team is of a "different kind", he says, "It is more operational and less disruptive innovation."

Routes to innovation

The culture of innovation is fostered further by the regular "hackathons" at Facebook. These are held every few weeks or so where staff are free to work on ideas, guided on the organisational principle of "Move fast and break things".

These sessions "empower employees to make bold decisions", says Campos.

"How effective those decisions are is judged from the basis of either producing results or learning something, but employees will never be punished because something did not go as expected."

Campos says Facebook also follows another route of innovation which he says is unique to the organisation -- innovative partnership with external companies.

"We have got a pretty good track record now with innovating with our IT partners," he says. "Those experiments have paid off wonderfully for both Facebook and the companies that have chosen to engage with us."

One such partnership led to the creation of a vending machine -- which dispenses computer accessories instead of snacks -- and is now a regular fixture in Facebook's offices. "We now have great operational efficiency through our help desk because we do not have to provide support for people who need a new keyboard or new power supply," he says.

 

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