The Anatomy of Intel’s Digital Transformation

Everyone knows I’m a technology enthusiast, but I’m particularly excited about what technology can do to solve business challenges. As described in the Intel IT Annual Performance Report, “Driving the Digital Enterprise Transformation,” Intel IT is uniquely positioned to help transform our company into a digital powerhouse of economic growth and technological innovation. But what does digital transformation really look like?

I propose that digital transformation starts with identifying the top business needs, then adopting processes and technologies (tools) that address those needs, and lastly fostering an organizational culture that can rapidly adapt to technological disruption. These three things—tools, processes, and people—combine to solve critical business problems and provide substantial value to the enterprise.

Understand Where the Business Is Headed

At Intel IT, we go out of our way to understand the business quite well—what are the pain points of Intel’s customers? What does each line of business need to succeed? We have worked hard to have a “seat at the table,” where we actively partner with Intel’s many business units. With our new operating model, we can offer cross-enterprise insights and visibility to help drive the right partnerships that lead to the most effective business decisions.

Use Technology to Get There

We continually scan the industry to understand the different technologies that exist—what choices are available and what cost is involved. When we look at new technologies, we investigate what it will take to transition from legacy approaches to the new ones. We look at our affordability targets and determine which one gives us the highest return on investment. One really has to understand all of these basic principles. Now, let’s discuss a few of the technologies that we are using to drive Intel’s digital transformation.

One area of technology that is crucial to Intel’s digital transformation is hybrid cloud. It is the next step in a natural evolution that started with everyone having their own workstation and locally stored data. Eventually, virtual clients came along, with applications and data stored centrally (but on-premises). Now hyper-scale computing, or high-performance computing, is the trend, where a lot of computational jobs can be done in a very short amount of time using a significant amount of fungible computing capacity. But on-premises capacity can reach a saturated utilization, and enterprises need burst capacity. The ability to seamlessly move workloads between private and public clouds—i.e., a hybrid cloud—is the answer.

Other important areas we are working on include:

  • Intelligent automation that combines data from many systems with advanced analytics. This helps us determine whether we are focusing on the most valuable areas.
  • Application transformation, where we focus our investment on differentiating applications that are not available elsewhere, and on core competencies to the business. Other applications, that are either highly generic (such as expense reports or travel planning) or non-core-competencies, are moved to the public cloud to consume as software-as-a-service (SaaS).
  • Artificial intelligence. It is important for IT personnel to get acquainted a fundamental knowledge of AI, such as understanding what machine learning is versus deep learning. We have made some great strides with using AI to drive Intel’s digital transformation and will continue to develop new algorithms and use cases.
  • Infrastructure modernization, such as implementing containers. The right infrastructure makes it much easier and faster to go en masse to the public cloud (and back).

Beyond these, one important technology on Intel’s horizon is mesh networking. Right now, there’s a lot of hype around it, but it also offers some exciting opportunities. (Remember a decade ago, when “cloud computing” was considered “hype”?) Mesh networking is especially interesting in the areas of blockchain and edge computing/Internet of Things. Mesh could help immensely with processing a lot of data “just in time” at the data-origination point (i.e., at the edge) at a much lower cost.

Be Ready to Move Quickly

We are using Agile and DevOps methodologies to accelerate how we transform our capabilities. Historically, we have taken a traditional evolutionary way of changing—but now we are making changes in more of a disruptive fashion. Instead of bringing a new solution in small, incremental steps, we are bringing new capabilities in a big step but at the same time making sure that the end users are not disrupted.

Agile and DevOps mean faster learning, shorter times to market, higher quality and productivity, and leaner operations for our IT teams. We’ve adopted an industry-standard framework for scaling Agile to an enterprise/program level and have trained hundreds of employees on this framework.

Build the Right Teams

We believe that it is important to build a new workforce culture based on collaboration and modernization. We encourage collaboration between different divisions, as well as within our own groups, so that we can provide more information in a timely manner—people don’t have to spend a lot of time looking for information. Our vision is that data across Intel will be shared freely so that everyone can focus on purposeful, meaningful work as opposed to reinventing the wheel.

We focus on building teams that are well rounded: diverse thoughts, diverse mindset, and diverse culture. This enables us to engage in useful debate to make business and technology decisions. By marrying business and technology together, we can be the facilitator of the change, as opposed to pushing for a change that the other team members may not understand the real reason for. Our goal is not to be perceived as “pushy” but rather as a collaborator, where IT and the business develop the strategy together, focusing on the true value.

Want to Learn More?

There’s more to the story about how Intel IT is using technology to solve Intel’s business problems. Read the 2018-2019 Intel IT Annual Performance Report, “Driving the Digital Enterprise Transformation.”

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Shesha Krishnapura

About Shesha Krishnapura

Shesha Krishnapura is an Intel Fellow and chief technology officer in the Information Technology organization at Intel Corporation. He is responsible for advancing Intel data centers for energy and rack space efficiency, high-performance computing (HPC) for electronic design automation (EDA), and optimized platforms for enterprise computing. He is also responsible for fostering unified technical governance across IT, leading consolidated IT strategic research and pathfinding efforts, and advancing the talent pool within the IT technical community to help shape the future of Intel. Shesha has led the introduction and optimization of Intel® architecture compute platforms in the EDA industry since 2001. He and his team have delivered five generations of HPC clusters and four supercomputers for Intel silicon design and device physics computation. Earlier in his Intel career, as director of software in the Intel Communications Group, he delivered the driver and protocol software stack for Intel’s Ethernet switch products. As an engineering manager in the Intel® Itanium® processor validation group, he led the development of commercial validation content that produced standardized workload and e-commerce scenarios for successful product launches. He joined Intel in 1991 and spent the early years of his Intel career with the Design Technology group. A three-time recipient of the Intel Achievement Award, Shesha was appointed an Intel Fellow in 2016. His external honors include an InformationWeek Elite 100 award, an InfoWorld Green 15 award and recognition by the U.S. Department of Energy for industry leadership in energy efficiency. He has been granted several patents and has published more than 75 technical articles. Shesha holds a bachelor’s degree in electronics and communications engineering from University Visvesvaraya College of Engineering in Bangalore, India, and a master’s degree in computer science from Oregon State University. He is the founding chair of the EDA computing board of advisers that influences computer platform standards among EDA application vendors. He has also represented Intel as a voting member of the Open Compute Project incubation committee since its inception.