The Journey to Modern IT

 This is a guest post by Bob Anderson, senior director for IT Business Value Evangelism in the Global Strategic Initiatives team, Microsoft IT.

Like many of you who lead and work in IT departments, the leadership team within Microsoft IT regularly reflects on what we do and how we do IT. It’s ingrained in us, and our company for that matter, to be self-critical, accountable, willing to take on big challenges and to do so with passion and integrity.

Currently we’re in the midst of transforming how we do IT. This change is tied to the vision CIO Tony Scott established for our organization: connect the company, delight our customers, and inspire the industry. It’s also tied to the needs of the company. As Microsoft faces competitors across business and consumer segments, while pursuing the next billion customers, the company needs to be able to dynamically respond to rapidly evolving market conditions. This leads to new business strategies, new models, and executing them with more agility than in the past. One example of new models for us is the opening of Microsoft retail stores across the U.S., and plans to expand over the next few years.

Microsoft IT is in the midst of transforming the way it operates. I view it as a journey to modern IT, which is characterized by being more strategic, innovative and competitive. The destination of our journey is to build a real-time enterprise and we’re focusing on business processes and the end-user to complete this journey. Let me say more about each.

In terms of business process, we’re changing three things. First, we’re decoupling business process from technology, which should improve agility around the business processes. Second, we’re creating and managing process-oriented, composite applications to deliver highly-differentiated business capabilities, while eliminating redundancy. Third, we’re concentrating our IT organization’s efforts around activities that contribute to high business value and strategic differentiation from competitors.

In terms of end-users, we’re doing three things. First, we’re more focused on empowering employees the minute they walk through the door with productivity tools, collaboration tools and analytics. Second, we’re working to keep employees and their stakeholders connected, be it wired, mobile or social. Third, we’re working to improve innovation at the edges by enabling more people to propose and contribute IT solutions, such as app stores and social networking tools. We’re doing this because we’re hiring more people who are digital natives compared to five years ago. This trend will continue, and consistent with consumerization trends in IT, users want the same rich experiences in business as they have at home.

Another way to summarize the change in IT is to shift the balance to user empowerment with enterprise responsibility, from where IT has often been perceived as controlling and blocking. To achieve the right balance—while minimizing risks and maximizing benefits—could mean embracing certain consumer technologies into the workplace or providing enterprise alternatives that will keep both users and regulators happy.

The tipping point for this balance is innovation. How we as IT professionals conceive, build, deploy and manage IT projects relies on innovation throughout. Innovation is critical to the individual, departments and companies because it helps retain employees, inspire teams and differentiate the company in the market. As part of our change process within Microsoft IT, we have put tools and programs into place to enable and motivate innovative projects. These projects range from visualization of data to 3-D capturing and reporting. We’ve also sponsored the ‘Microsoft IT Garage’ where we encourage and enable all of Microsoft IT to experiment with cloud computing to drive innovative concepts and solutions.

We’re finding that the journey to modern IT has many positive implications for IT and the business. I’ll share a few results from a year-long pilot program with our licensing business, which is the heart of how we monetize products and services for Microsoft. The pilot was a model for our move to a real-time enterprise. Results showed that application build-time duration was reduced by 25% while the cycle time for a product launch was reduced by 60%. In the meantime, business partner satisfaction increased 44 points and channel partner satisfaction increased 83 points. This successful pilot validated much of the strategic change we are driving today within Microsoft IT.

I believe the modern IT organization is key for business success now more than ever as well as how IT will take on more of a business leadership role going forward. If you’re interested to know more about our journey you can ask questions here, or you can work through your Microsoft account team to schedule a presentation.

Bob Anderson