Being a Lean IT Group—and Continuously Improving
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Freddie Mac CIO Rob Lux discusses how, despite the constraints of a tight budget, he helped fuel IT and business innovation at the U.S. government-sponsored enterprise.
It is often said that constraints add to one's ability to innovate. Did you find that the constraints in the early years of your tenure—in terms of budget, people and the like—led to some innovative outcomes?
We have taken the approach that "crisis is an opportunity." Crisis pushes you to do innovative and creative things which would never be possible when everything is running fine. Many IT organizations without our constraints attempt to do "grand design" or "big bang" transformation projects, where they invest hundreds of millions of dollars in large, multi-year efforts. This approach carries high risks and often leads to dramatic failures.
We decided to only invest in projects that could deliver results in months, instead of years. IT delivered projects that are foundational and then quickly build upon them with follow-up releases. This also allows us to quickly identify troubled projects and take action before they fail.
I know that you have embraced the consumerization of IT. How has it applied to your IT operation and to Freddie Mac more generally?
It was my intent to make a shift and have IT provide our employees with the technology they need to do their jobs. Just like you see people being productive at your neighborhood Starbucks, IT is providing technology to allow people to work from any device, from anywhere, at any time. We now have campus wireless, support BYOD [bring your own device] and have deployed technology to allow people to be productive outside of the main campus.
What are your priorities for the year ahead?
We have spent the past three years focused on improving IT's ability to plan, deliver and operate, while also enhancing our team. Our journey is very aligned with how you describe in your book World Class IT. We became more effective at managing projects and our portfolio by improving our planning and delivery capabilities. We built, maintained and enhanced a robust IT Infrastructure. We strengthened our team by recruiting, training and attempting to retain world-class IT people. Our focus was mainly inward on improving IT.
This year we will be focusing more outward. We are going to work to enhance our relationships with our business partners and get them more engaged in Freddie Mac's technology strategy. We will also develop deeper partnerships with those external vendor partners who can assist us in enhancing our IT capabilities.
About the Author
Peter High is president of Metis Strategy, a boutique IT-strategy consultancy based in Washington, D.C. A contributor to CIO Insight, High is also the author of World Class IT: Why Businesses Succeed When IT Triumphs, and the moderator of the podcast, The Forum on World Class IT. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
To read his previous CIO Insight article, "Beck Blalock's Big Dare," click here.