While Airbnb's needs are somewhat different, Jennings anticipates that a more robust videoconferencing system will be one of the "bright, shiny balls" he debuts in 2015 for his new company.
A three-tier approach ensures alignment
At Booz Allen Hamilton, an international management and technology consultancy, the employees are the business — and they also happen to be experts in many IT topics. That's both a benefit and a challenge for vice president and CIO Kevin Winter, who faces the prospect of being second-guessed by 25,000 tech-savvy colleagues as he rolls out a new social intranet and digital workplace.
As part of its Vision 2020 initiative, a plan to evolve to better serve its clients and deliver improved returns to its investors, Booz Allen has made employee engagement a priority. The new digital workplace is designed to provide the firm's widely dispersed employees with a single, mobile-accessible platform that they can use to work, collaborate, connect and communicate.
Booz Allen's intranet won't work if it doesn't precisely reflect employees' workflows, which means Winter and his team have had to get very close to their customers during the development of the project. "IT is very personal now — your phone, your laptop, your mobile apps, the social media by which you collaborate," says Winter. "If the CIO is not listening to how people are working, he's going to deliver the wrong technologies."
To make sure that doesn't happen, Winter maintains a trio of IT-business partnerships, at various levels of the organization and with varying degrees of formality.
Throughout the organization, Winter has identified "Jedi" employees whom he enlisted to road-test the new platform, provide feedback and help launch it when the time comes. Typically in their late 20s and early 30s, the Jedis help Winter ensure that the new platform is delivering the kind of highly personalized, highly mobile environment that fits the way employees work now.
The core of Winter's IT alignment strategy centers around a unit called the Strategic Innovation Group (SIG), which taps the knowledge of Booz Allen's subject-matter experts, who are typically client-facing, and turns it inward to focus on where the company is headed technologically. "Nearly every technology program we implement as an IT department is done in collaboration with the SIG," Winter says.
The group partners in-house experts on the cloud, big data and cybersecurity, among other technologies, with Winter's IT staff to ensure new services and capabilities match employees' needs and expectations and keep the company at the forefront of technological innovation.
At the top of the organization, the IT Operations Group (ITOG), made up of C-suite leaders and business-line executives, provides oversight and governance for Booz Allen's IT strategy and road maps. "The ITOG ensures buy-in and alignment for IT priorities across our firm," explains Winter. Where some CIOs might balk at outside oversight of their department, he welcomes the feedback.
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