How Intel Juggles IT Talent

After years as a top product manager at Intel–most recently as general manager of the Server Platform Group responsible for server storage and workstation product lines–Diane Bryant was tapped by the chipmaker earlier this year to be its CIO. Trained as an electrical engineer, Bryant says her experience as an internal customer, as well as the contacts she made with CIOs in Intel’s customer base, prepared her for the new assignment.

Now, she envisions an exchange program, having Intel product developers work in the IT organization and IT pros help develop new products. Bryant sees such a skills exchange as one step toward making IT a valuable strategic contributor to the company. She spoke with CIO Insight Editor Eric R. Chabrow; this is an edited and condensed version of that conversation.

CIO Insight: How does your experience developing products for Intel help you as a CIO?

Diane Bryant: A large portion of my past three years as general manager was spent talking to CIOs about their needs, the constraints and demands they faced, and how Intel technology and products could make a difference. As a supplier, I spent a lot of time looking at the role of the CIO. It’s not surprising that what I’ve heard from end users about their key challenges are the same things that the Intel IT organization looks at: the increased complexities of the IT environment. It made for a very easy transition from running the server group to CIO.

I’m very focused on creating that bridge between Intel IT and the business groups, and my business group connection will help enable Intel IT to play a more strategic role in Intel’s business. There’s a lot of learning and a wealth of knowledge that can be shared.

How would that knowledge sharing work?

Bryant: As general manager, when we met with CIOs from Fortune 500 companies, we would show them our roadmap and ask them for their input–ask them if we were delivering technology that would make a difference to them. Now, we can come inside our own walls and talk to our own IT organization and use them as a sounding board and as input into our fundamental product definition, our fundamental roadmaps, our fundamental technologies. We can have very open dialogues about plans, competitive situations and challenges without having to worry, because we’re all wearing the same Intel badge.

For instance, we’ve been working with our product groups on how to bring cloud computing into the enterprise environment, and on what those requirements would translate into in the context of Intel products and technology.

How often does Intel move its employees from product development into IT, and vice versa?

Bryant: Not as often as I would like to see happen. IT has a very clear set of capabilities and competencies, and silicon-product development is another very clear, distinct set of competencies. You don’t see the migration between the two. But I absolutely believe there’s a lot of value that an IT architect can deliver to the product architecture team, and that the product architecture team can deliver to IT. I would love to see greater rotations between the product groups and the IT organization.

Are the skills for product architecture and IT architecture similar?

Bryant: In the right position, absolutely. Our CEO has declared we’re no longer a processor company; we’re a platform company because the way you deliver value in our microprocessors is through delivering a platform solution, a complete solution.

As part of that shift–we called it a shift from Intel 2.0 to Intel 3.0–we started hiring systems architects who understood the entire server system or the network system. Those roles are very similar in capabilities to an IT architect, who is also responsible for, say, the cloud architecture inside of IT. There are situations where the skill sets are very fungible between the two, and there’s a huge value in moving those people back and forth between the groups.

As the new CIO, coming from the business, I want to make sure that Intel IT is not just optimizing around keeping the business running, but optimizing around delivering greater and greater value back to the business group. That means you have to be connected to them. You have to understand where they’re taking the business; you have to understand where they’re taking their product line; and what the strategies are. You have to make sure the IT infrastructure is there in support of that.

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