Silos and Server Huggers. Are They Holding Your IT Organization Back?

As I started my transition into a new job within Intel IT a few months ago, I discovered that one our internal IT strategic imperatives was “Partnership”.  I have to admit that at first I dismissed this a simply one of many standard business leadership terms that any organization could choose to operate on (I hope Diane Bryant, Intel CIO, is not reading this ).  However, I’m learning how critical partnerships are for a high functioning and value driven IT organization, both within the IT organization and between IT and the business groups they support.

With much of the focus these days on the lack of capital budgets limiting IT investment and innovation, I’m learning that a larger underlying barrier for IT organizations to enhance and maximize value inside their businesses, centers around the themes of trust, alignment and ultimately, partnership.  Organizational Silos inside any business create natural barriers to innovation.  Some silos exist naturally and others are self imposed.

Let’s look inside a typical IT organization where you are likely to find three functional areas: Architecture, Engineering, Operations.  These functions exist naturally inside most IT organizations.  Recently, I had an opportunity to talk about the inner workings of these functions inside an IT organization with Gregg Wyant, Intel IT CTO and Chief Architect.  These groups are designed to fulfill very unique roles in the IT organization and designed to create an expertise in these functional areas to maximize effectiveness within their chartered goals (chart below). However, if partnership (or at least an understanding of these different roles and goals) doesn’t exist across these groups the credibility of the IT organization can be at risk and the value IT delivers to the business undermined.


Imagine if the architecture group creates a vision that can not be implemented by engineering or was is cost prohibitive in the manpower or solutions needed to implement it operationally.  IT’s costs would rise dramatically and/or the architecture design efforts would simply be wasted.  Or imagine if IT never challenged the status quo operational processes and just continued to operate “the way it has always been done”.  If this happens, we would never improve business processes.  Obviously there is a balance required here and partnership across these disciplines can help an organization operate at a higher level of delivered business value and IT efficiency.  After completing a recent job coverage rotation himself, Gregg articulated to me the importance of IT to IT partnership across these disciplines and cross functional job rotations within IT.  The benefits help an IT organization maximize operational cost savings and service levels, react quickly to changing business and technical conditions while balancing and prioritizing investments for the good of the overall business - versus optimizing any one individual discipline or organization.

If we look outside the walls of the IT organization, we can also see how silos can negatively affect the business – this brings me to the subject of Server Huggers. 

A Server Hugger is someone who currently has or is demanding to IT that they have a physical server (or many servers) dedicated to their business function or department --> they want to touch it, know it is theirs and know that they don’t have to share it with anyone else (either in IT or another business unit).  Server Huggers can be individuals or business groups.  And in a world where most servers still run an average of 5-10% utilization, it is easy to see how these silo-oriented “server huggers” can create inefficiency in the business. To deploy virtualization (or accelerate the rate of virtualization adoption) inside any business, the business teams and IT often need to breakdown this silo’d approach and find ways to delivered required or higher service levels while running on shared, virtualized hardware resources. 

This was at the heart of a discussion I recently had around Intel IT’s strategy to accelerate virtualization inside our Office and Enterprise computing environments.  The first step in executing this strategy is to identify the target servers, document who owns them (if IT doesn’t – in many cases we don’t), size the new environment and convince the business owners that virtualizing is OK.  With demonstrated proof of concept virtualization ratios at up to 20:1 using the latest Intel Xeon 5500 based servers, our opportunity for savings is dramatic if we can rid our organization of server hugger behavior.  With tops down support from IT management and an environment of partnership already established with our business customers, I believe we have a clear path to success.

Partnerships inside Intel IT can be seen in how we create and measure business value with our business partners, how our own IT organization encourages IT rotation and how we strategically align our IT planning efforts with our business plans. 

It is clear to me that our Intel IT Strategic Imperative of Partnership is much more than management lip-service … it is at the heart of our IT operational philosophy … and for good reason.

Good bye Silos!  Good bye Server Huggers!  … we have no use for you any more.

Chris Peters, Intel IT

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