IT Operational Excellence is Key to Innovation Excellence

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to meet Jim Sutorka, the new Director of IT Innovation & Process Excellence at Intel.  A long time member of the Intel IT Strategy Architecture and Innovation (SAI) team at Intel, Jim explained the recent re-organization of his team that involved Intel IT merging two very different but critical functions together.

The first team, Process Excellence, is a group of Intel IT subject matter experts focused on building and making Intel’s business run more efficiently and effectively. This group of business process experts develop expertise in industry methodologies (i.e. Lean Six Sigma, Kaizen…) and are chartered with the deployment of business process engineering excellence practices to more efficiently serve IT’s customers.

The second team, Innovation Excellence, is a group of IT subject matter experts focused on enabling systemic innovation practice (tools, methodologies, Innovation Centers, training, etc.) across IT and Intel, with the goal of increasing idea-to-business-value return. This team represents a group of innovators conducting research and path finding which actively evaluates, explores and determines business usages for emergent and disruptive technology solutions. This team actively collaborates with Intel product groups, Intel Labs and industry peers conducting hands-on IT testing with an eye towards what we should and could be doing differently inside Intel and Intel IT. 

Both groups are charted to identify both business and IT best practices and lead the integration of these practices inside IT and throughout Intel’s business.

Here is the question though … Why put them together?  The skills and focus areas of these two teams couldn't be more different.  That was what I thought until after I attended this year’s CIO 100 Symposium and Award Ceremony and had to opportunity to engage and participate in some great peer to peer dialogue around the theme of “Innovation for Business Growth”.

In addition to the obvious subject of IT innovation, topics of IT operational excellence, the importance of Business-IT partnership and how these factors affected the role and perception of IT continued to surface regularly.  One working session on the last day had us divide into groups and discuss the steps it takes to migrate IT up the business value chain.  We explored the challenges and actions required to move IT’s role through this continuum:

IT as cost center --> IT as a service provider --> IT as a business partner --> IT as a business peer --> IT as a business change agent

During this workshop and echoed throughout keynotes, breakout sessions, and informal meetings it was clear that both OpEx and Innovation were required for successful IT migration up this value chain – at every stage.  Many stories were told identifying cases when IT operational excellence was lacking, business trust of IT was undermined and IT innovation was either not possible, not cultivated or under-whelming.

Another aspect of the relationship between innovation and operations was presented by Chris Trimble, Professor at the Tuck School of Management.  In his keynote “the other side of innovation”, Chris articulated that coming up with the idea is not necessarily the hardest part of innovation – the hardest part is integrating new ideas into the existing business – effectively identifying the operational challenge of innovation.

With this new insight in mind, I find Jim’s new team a very logical IT organizational change inside Intel IT and one that I’m excited to see unfold as these individual teams have had long successful legacies of driving operational excellence and innovation inside of Intel. I invite you to explore our 2010-2011 Annual IT Performance Report to learn more about our organization’s best practices for creating business value and delivering a competitive advantage through IT.

Chris Peters, IT@Intelsme