By Sramana Mitra and guest authors Shaloo Shalini and Bhavana Sharma
SM: Let’s talk about impact of cloud computing on the IT organization. How do you perceive the impact of cloud computing with reference to your technology strategic planning, its relationship with the rest of the organization and how is the relationship with technology vendors changing? Is the role of your IT team changing in the cloud environment?
DH: Let me begin with a couple of background comments. We are lucky in our relationship with the business in the sense that our business leaders do not have opinions about IT services and where they come from. What I am saying here is there are a lot of companies with a decentralized IT model at one point where a business unit has a favorite provider of service; for example, it may be IBM or HP or somebody like that. There is Delphi, which we spun out from was always a very centralized IT organization. So, the businesses had no voice in who provided the service. So we got generation of leadership here that didn’t grow up with the expectations that they would be deciding which vendor is used. This has made my life easier. I come in here and say all that you care about is you get your e-mail and that tomorrow, even if there’s a new system, you get your e-mail just like you get it today.
We in-sourced our email. No one knew the difference except that all of a sudden we allowed their quotas to go up so that users could have larger inbox. That’s all they knew happened. We didn’t ask them, we saved some money on it, and we were able to roll a little integration capability that we weren’t able to do with the provider we had. As far as that went we have been able to keep the business relationship strong even as we make changes.
Now, I think the impact on the organization has been profound. There is always this goal [of alignment with business]. I have been in IT, between IT and finance, for the past twenty-five years and for a long period of those twenty-five years, alignment with the business has been the key rallying cry for IT. I have been in very few companies where it really happened. Usually, IT gets so involved in managing the infrastructure, managing the technical side of business systems that they forget they need to be an analyst and work with the business to move business forward and not care so much about technology. So my team, the non infrastructure team, is really all business analysts.
SM: So, you have business analysts for all your divisions working in IT interfacing with the other divisions?
DH: Exactly. Whether it is engineering, manufacturing, commercial manufacturing, engineering support, and infrastructure and network – those are they key areas – I call it a five-pointed star. Those are definitely at the bottom of everything IT does and builds on top of that. IT very infrequently deals with the infrastructure at lower level.
SM: How does IT support for the rest of the organization’s work? Say if at some level there is something going wrong or there are some service-level problems or something fails, who are the people in these organizations calling?
DH: We do have a help desk, but what we found was very interesting. Because of this analyst relationship, they tend to go to the analyst instead.
SM: They go to the analyst?
DH: They tend to go to the analyst because they have developed a good working relationship.
SM: Well, that is a problem, right?
DH: Yes. If it is just as simple as “something is wrong with your PC” we tell people just turn in a help-desk ticket, and really that has been working well. It has been an interesting conundrum that we develop such good relationships that they go to these people for everything. But you can wean them off gradually. That is a real change from what I have seen in the past where the working relationship between the IT and the business was just not that strong.
SM: Are you running the IT help desk on the cloud?
DH: It is outsourced.
SM: Do you foresee that at some point you are going to bring in a cloud solution for your IT resource planning? Today you are rolling out ERP. Say tomorrow you are going to roll out analytics, you know in the next five years probably you are going to roll out another ten or fifteen different workloads in the cloud. Do you see some sort of resource planning system on the cloud in the future?
DH: With acquisition and growth there will be resource planning. I really have not thought of that whether it would be in the cloud or internal.
SM: From what I have heard so far, you are not doing anything with private clouds, right?
DH: No private clouds yet.
SM: Do you plan to do something with private clouds, or is this not part of your IT game plan?
DH: I guess it is how you define a private cloud. We run a big virtual server environment here. So we are able to turn on services for a particular function very easily. I am not a big proponent of labeling things, so if you want to call that as private cloud – we use storage area networks and virtual servers, and if somebody needs a service, we can turn it on very quickly without having entire infrastructure, buying new servers, or buying new hardware. We are able to do that fairly easily and we don’t have a charge-back system as far as that goes. So, as far as private could is concerned I think it depends on your terminology.
SM: Yes. Recently, I was talking to IBM; they are part of this series as well. I am sure the same thing is going on with other companies such as HP, though I haven’t talked to them yet. At least at IBM I know that they are trying to create the full private cloud infrastructure that they can drop in to their clients, including charge-back capabilities. So, if somebody like a team in your organization is looking to use ten computers for some sort of simulation they can drop that in and provision it in the private cloud along with charge-back capabilities. Would you consider such a solution from a vendor that comes up with the full architecture design and a deployable private cloud with charge-back?