W.W.C.R.M.D? (What Would CIO Randy Mott Do?)

Image Credit Randy Mott is a CIO who knows how to make big decisions…
Randy Mott is a CIO who knows how to make big decisions…

You wouldn’t think that a CIO who just got fired from his job at HP would have a lot to teach us about IT strategy, but that’s where you’d be wrong. Randy Mott is a CIO who has been around the block a few times. He’s worked for Wal-Mart, Dell, and he was CIO at HP. When HP’s CEO, Mark Hurd, got fired Randy had to go because he was too close to Mark. However, that all doesn’t mean that we can’t learn a thing or two from how Randy runs an IT department when he’s in charge…

New Beats Old Every Day

Randy Mott wanted every IT dollar to be spent on creating new and morevpowerful applications that would allow HP’s IT department to do a better job of supporting the rest of the company. What this meant is that he wanted to minimize the amount of money that the company spent on supporting existing applications.

This, of course, causes a problem. What are you going to do if you have an application that is doing exactly what it is supposed to do and just needs to be enhanced based on user feedback? It’s not a sexy new application, but it’s also not an expensive legacy application.

Randy’s heart was in the right place on this issue – IT spends way too much on support and not enough on new development. However, he never figured out quite how to do it correctly.

The goal is evaluate every application based on its value to the business. Then you need to work to automate support for every application as much as possible. For those applications that have high value to the company, adding new features should be treated as being as valuable as new application development.

More IT Employees, Fewer Contractors

What’s the biggest change that has swept though the CIO’s department in the past few years? The answer is outsourcing. Randy Mott didn’t jump on this bandwagon. In fact, he took a completely different route.

While Randy was running HP’s IT department, he shrunk the size of the department by roughly half. However, he also transformed it from being 50 / 50 employees / contractors to being almost 90% employees. The thinking is that if you’ve been able to automate the IT support functions then you need people to do the development of the new applications and those people need to be employees who know how the company operates.

No Starting An IT Project Until You Get A Green Light

When Randy was running the IT department, no IT project would get the green light to start unless several conditions had been met. These included creating a cost/benefit analysis that both the IT department and the line of business that wanted the application agreed to.

I can already see you shaking your head – wouldn’t taking the time to get this kind of agreement for every IT project slow everything down to a crawl? It turns out that if you’re not careful, then yes it could.

However, as Randy points out, in most IT departments only the top 10-20 projects are closely tracked and the rest, representing about 50% of the IT department’s budget, go untracked. Clearly this is no way to run an IT department and so getting that green light before starting any project is critical.

Don’t Do IT The HP Way – Just Do It!

Randy never thought that other CIOs should try to copy what he was doing at HP. However, he did think that he had some lessons to teach them.

What Randy really believed is that CIOs need to get use to taking risks. What he meant by this is that, yes, IT departments have been responsible for a number of pretty spectacular failures in the past. However, all of the pieces are now in place that each CIO can create their own customized game-changing solution that will propel their company into the future. CIOs need to have the courage to try new, big things.

What All Of This Means For You

Randy Mott certainly has a great deal of experience at how to do the job of being a modern CIO. He seems to have a bit of difficulty hanging on to his job, but that doesn’t mean that he can’t teach the rest of us in the IT sector a thing or two about how to be a successful CIO.

Randy points out that IT does bring in revenue for the company, we just need to find out how to measure it. He believes that it is IT’s job to deploy new technology as quickly as possible and that this should be done by working on fewer simultaneous projects, but finishing them faster. Finally, Randy does not believe that having more time makes an IT project any better and he thinks that taking too much time to make a decision on what to work on can cost the company time and money.

No, you don’t necessarily have to agree with the way that Randy chooses to see the world. However, due to the importance of information technology I do think that we should all understand why he sees it that way. He’s been on the front line of this CIO thing and so he’s got a pretty good understanding of what the job requires. Give it some thought and then keep your eyes open – Randy might be working at your company next!

– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World IT Department Leadership Skills™

Question For You: What do you think is the best way to determine how much of the IT department’s budget should be spent on support?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

If a CIO picks up the paper, it seems like hackers are everywhere and getting into every IT department. Dare I say these modern day cyber pirates seem almost unstoppable? If it turns out that there is no way to keep hackers from breaking into your company’s IT systems, then should a CIO really spend a lot of time and money trying to keep them out?