Toyota Financial Services Seeks IT Agility

By Michael Vizard

Motivation for change can come in many forms, but one trend that is sweeping up organizations of all sizes is the need for increased IT agility.

In the case of Toyota Financial Services, the need to be able to compete more effectively means being able to bring new products and services to market faster than competitors, which for Toyota is any financial institution willing to make an auto or truck loan.

One of the first steps toward injecting more agility into the organization was the appointment of Raj Rajkotia as the chief engineer, whose job is to manage the company’s private cloud computing platform.

“We needed to move faster,” says Rajkotia, who reports directly to the Toyota business unit’s CTO. “There’s a lot more cost and agility pressure.”

Built on top of vCloud software from VMware running on x86 servers from Hewlett-Packard, Toyota Financial Services’ private cloud will soon start moving toward a more software-defined data center architecture, says Rajkotia. As part of that effort, Toyota Financial Services will start appointing cloud architects to develop applications and cloud integration specialists to help manage the overall environment.

That overall environment, however, is more complex to manage than most IT organizations will appreciate not just because of the complex technology issues, but because different departments have different requirements when it comes to privacy and security.

The main issue in making a similar cloud transition, says Rajkotia, is changing the culture in the IT organization. Software-defined data centers require new roles, which primarily means retraining people so they gain the appropriate levels of cloud management expertise.

Carl Olofson, an industry analyst with International Data Corp. (IDC), says that rather than seeing a reduction in IT staffing, what organizations will wind up doing is redefining IT roles in an age where applications not only scale more easily, but also don’t require as many IT people with specific skills to support them. That’s critical because not only is there a shortage of people with the right cloud computing skills, the cost of labor associated with scaling cloud applications is cost prohibitive using existing data center architectures.

Just as importantly, as IT people assume those roles, the divide between IT and the business side narrows considerably.

“IT people will become more of a natural extension of the business,” says Olofson. “Today IT isn’t incentivized to support business people; IT is incentivized to guarantee a service level.”

That compensation issue, notes Olofson, makes IT organizations generally adverse to risk.

While the pace at which this transformation will occur is debatable, Bruce Guptill, senior vice president and head of research for the IT consulting firm Saugatuck Technology, says the technological role that IT plays in an organization is diminishing.

“The role of IT used to be about consolidation, but now it’s much more about coordination,” says Guptill.

The good news, adds Guptill, is that it allows IT organizations to focus more on the business benefits of IT. Previously, he says, it was the business side that took the lead in terms of driving IT innovation.

“IT is now helping the business understand what is now possible,” says Guptill.

Ultimately, IT organizations of all sizes are being asked to not only be more agile, but also contribute innovative ideas that help make the business more competitive. In order to do that, IT organizations need to make sure all their time and resources are not consumed on maintenance tasks, but rather on tasks that add direct value to the business.

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