The Riverbed Blog (testing)

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CIOs provide advice on how to scale up a successful operation

Posted by riverbedtest on May 18, 2009

David Spark, reporting from CIO Boot Camp at Interop in Las Vegas.

Thornton May, moderator for CIO Boot Camp set up an unusual session where the CIOs who spoke offered advice for one of the attendees at the event.That attendee just so happened to be Neal Shelley, Deputy Expert Director for Service
Operations U.S. Army Information Technology Agency. Shelley’s a Pentagon employee who I had just interviewed on camera where he advised that the number one issue during a disaster is knowing where your people are. 

The problem

Shelley’s problem for the CIOs to solve was that he had a successful call center and all the other departments wanted to scale out his successful call center to support it. His fear was that scaling this quickly could be disastrous. His organization doesn’t have pause and reflect moments. They operate more of a firestorm. Can he satisfy the demand? How should he handle the situation?

CIOs offering advice included:

  • Moderator: Thornton May, Futurist, Executive Director and Dean, IT Leadership Academy
  • Bruce Barnes, CIO Emeritus, Nationwide Financial Services
  • Louis Gutierrez, CIO Emeritus – Commonwealth of Massachusetts and CIO Emeritus Harvard-Pilgrim Healthcare
  • Terry L. Conner, Senior Vice President and Chief Information Officer, retired – Liberty Mutual Group
  • Karlin Sue Bohnert, Chief Development Officer, VP Emeritus – Abercrombie & Fitch

The CIO posse asked a lot of follow up questions and provided the following advice:

  • If you’re worried about the scale effect, why not clone the operation? Instead of growing it, clone it. Shelley said the other divisions that wanted his call center couldn’t afford to clone the operation. They want to ride success on the cheap. If that was the case, CIOs advised the option of a virtual clone. Take advantage of the structure, but limit the management capabilities.
  • The CIOs asked about a possible incremental roll out. Shelley said it was something they looked at, but the other divisions wanted to see instantaneous success.
  • Shelley admitted that the public sector lacks measures of success. Their measure of success is number of services delivered, not profit. The CIOs responded that even in the private sector, not everything they do is profitable.
  • Gutierrez had the funniest and most cogent analogy of Shelley’s situation. He said that Shelley’s organization had a bunch of mules, and his call center is the one thoroughbred that everyone wants to pile on until they break its back.
  • Gutierrez continued and recommended that Shelley think about “What’s in it for my team?” If Shelley’s being asked to save the organization. The organization needs to make it up to his team in terms of resources and management support. Don’t just give his thoroughbred away. Use this opportunity to negotiate his terms of engagement.
  • Before he deploys this solution across the enterprise he needs to ask, “How much money are we going to save? What’s the value to the organization?”

For more, check out all of Riverbed’s Interop ’09 Las Vegas coverage.


One Response to “CIOs provide advice on how to scale up a successful operation”

  1. Nice post! Quite interesting topic. That’s a good story and experience.

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