Intel CIO on the Business Value of IT: One on One with Kim Stevenson, the Leader of Intel's Information Technology Organisation
As CIO, Kim Stevenson leads an IT organization of more than 6,500 employees located across 54 different sites. What's Stevenson's No. 1 job? Keeping Intel, and its more than 75,000 servers, almost 30,000 handhelds and over 100,000 PCs online and running.
Stevenson succeeded Diane Bryant as Intel's CIO in January, and like Bryant before her is one of only 24 women CIOs at Fortune 100 companies. Before taking on the role, Stevenson was vice president and general manager of Intel's global IT operations and services. Prior to joining the company in 2009, she spent 7 years at the former EDS, now HP enterprise services, and 18 years at IBM.
Recently, Stevenson discussed her role at Intel, including common misconceptions about IT, if employees should be permitted to stream content, the potential for voice-activated content services and the "unruly productivity" of the Intel culture.
As CIO, Kim Stevenson leads Intel's IT organization of more than 6,500 employees located across 54 different sites that is tasked with keeping more than 75,000 servers, almost 30,000 handhelds and over 100,000 PCs online and running. (Flickr photo)
What do you think is the biggest misperception about IT at Intel?
A lot of people think we just do PC refreshes. The reality is that IT is involved in every business process that gets executed at Intel. Employees wouldn't get their paychecks deposited electronically if it weren't for IT being able to develop and run those systems. We're in the backend making sure the factory automation systems run all the time, making sure intel.com is up for the world to see, making sure AppUp is available when customers want to download Angry Birds. We're here to support the entire business.
What do employees see in their daily lives that IT has the most impact on?
One of the most interesting things that many employees take advantage of is that we in IT allow you to stream in content. The No. 1 thing streamed in from the outside is Pandora.
A lot of companies block things like Facebook and Pandora. But we believe that if you need to listen to music to focus and do your job, you're probably going to be more productive. So we say bring it in, stream it in, listen to Pandora, do a better job for Intel.
At Intel, there's a goal for each IT employee to spend at least a day shadowing an Intel employee. How does that support better user experiences and boost productivity?
It ranges from calling the TAC [Technical Assistance Center, the primary support group within IT] to see what it's like to deal with a PC issue to shadowing one of our main users. I had this discussion recently with our iPass team. iPass is a network aggregator; people use it when they need to get a wireless connection at the airport or at a hotel. I had my people go out and actually use iPass in the real world -- the current version is slow and doesn't work so well -- and they got to experience that. Now we're going to implement a much more seamless new version.
It's intended to be a cultural change in the way IT delivers services -- that we have to walk in the shoes of the customer.
The world increasingly relies on social media to stay in touch and communicate. How is Intel staying ahead of the curve?
There are two types of social media. There's the type Intel uses to market Intel --what the Corporate Marketing Group is using -- and that has just taken off and is doing fantastic.
And then there's the internal side of social media -- what are we using within Intel to make ourselves more productive? Our platform is Planet Blue. When we launched that three years ago, I would say we were way ahead of the industry. But this industry is moving really quickly, so now some of the things we have on Planet Blue are not as good as what's out there now.
We're also looking at Siri-like services for the enterprise. Today, you can go on Circuit [the internal Intel employee site] and you can see your sabbatical and the weather in Santa Clara or find a campus. There's no reason why we can't take that content and make it voice activated. It's all available content. We'll probably pilot a couple instances this year -- I'm pushing the team to do that in India and China on the Intel Medfield phones.
Prior to joining Intel in 2009, CIO Kim Stevenson was at the former EDS, now HP enterprise services, for 7 years. Before that, she spent 18 years at IBM. (Flickr photo)
You worked at IBM and EDS for more than 20 years before joining Intel. Why Intel?
I knew a lot of Intel execs because I worked with Intel -- I was the executive sponsor for Intel at EDS. We had been very effective working together as two companies to launch and deploy vPro where EDS was the deployment engine.
I had been selling and delivering infrastructure services for customers and the job title for almost every customer that I had was the VP of IT operations. So for me it was an opportunity to come in and be the customer that I was selling to for the last seven years and live on the other side for awhile.
I liked the company, I liked the culture and I liked the opportunity to be the customer that I had been selling to.
What do you like most about Intel's culture?
There are two things to me that differentiate Intel's culture. One is the embedded notion that we're here to make employees productive. And we see it in IT all the time. Intel has a very employee-friendly culture and inherent in that is a respect for what people do.
The other side is the results orientation. Within my first month, I went to a strategic discussion on corporate security with various management committee members and I had this list of things that we were trying to get accomplished in the meeting.
It was the most unruly meeting I've ever seen. It was lots of ideas chiming in, lots of debate over the point and questioning what you mean by that. And very lively, very active, very high energy.
I left that meeting and I thought that was unruly. And then I went through my list of points that we were supposed to get accomplished and I said "Oh, we got that one done, we got that one done, we got that one done." And so I coined it "unruly productivity." There are a lot of meetings like that at Intel -- unruly, but productive.
Intel hasn't been known for bringing in many senior people from outside the company, so what's been the key to your success?
I think it's partly that I did know a bit about the company before I came in and had worked with some [Intel] people. But I also had a boss, Diane Bryant, who actively cloaked me with her credibility. She made a big effort to introduce me to different people in the company and give me the opportunity to attend meetings where I really didn't add a lot of value.
We often hire smart people and then we say "You're a smart person, go off and do your smart things." But I think it's really important that the hiring manager cloaks them with their personal credibility and help them get interjected into parts of the company.
Intel CIO Kim Stevenson, like her predecessor Diane Bryant, is one of only 24 women CIOs at Fortune 100 companies. (Flickr photo)
What are you most proud of accomplishing in your previous role as GM of global IT operations and services?
When I joined we didn't have a lot of baseline metrics and we didn't have a lot of standard process. So everybody was overworked and trying really, really hard to do a great job but had no insight. And one of the things people told me was we want a seat at the table, that we want our voice to be heard when new engineering capabilities are landing on us.
I thought that made complete sense. And I said in order to do that we have to look at why are we so busy and see if we could standardize some process and track our performance in a standardized way. For example, if you want to land a new server in Chandler, Ariz., we now land it the same way in [there] as we do in at the Israel Development Center in Haifa.
Over that 2-year period our performance improved significantly. The number of major incidents where data centers are down or networks are down went down by 75 percent. We were a lot more stable and reliable and we also took in almost twice the volume -- this was a period of time when Intel grew from 80,000 employees to almost 100,000 employees and we acquired 23 companies.
How would you describe your management style and how has it changed over the years?
The one thing that has not changed over the years is that I tend to be the pacesetter for the organization. I have a fairly large appetite for change and evolving and pushing the envelope. And so I'll be the pacesetter to the point that people might have to tell me to slow down on some things. What has changed over the years is I have become a lot more in tune to the dynamics in large groups and the individual aspect of every employee and how to really focus on getting the best out of the employees.
What do you think is the biggest mistake you've made in your career and what did you learn from it?
I've made a lot of mistakes. I would say missed opportunities are probably the biggest mistake. About 5 years ago I was with EDS and a couple of fellows came in to talk to me about cloud computing. I knew what our service delivery model was and I couldn't see the benefit of cloud computing.
We laughed when Amazon Web Services came out. We thought Amazon was in this business because they were financially strapped. We just didn't realize how important that inflection point was.
The reality is non-IT service providers invented the market then and that's the lesson. You can do it even if it's hard or you can wait and someone else will invent your market. We missed the whole market and EDS was bought [by HP]. It wasn't the entire reason we were bought, but it certainly would have helped to have a growth business.
SOURCE: INTEL FREE PRESS