The Skills to Match

By Susan Nunziata

Dell CIO: Delivering on the BYOD Promise

Adriana Karaboutis is in the IT driver's seat as Dell works to evolve from a being a hardware vendor to being a provider of end-to-end solutions for companies of all sizes. As the company's Global CIO, Karaboutis is working to transform the company's foundation, based on fulfillment of hardware orders, to one capable of handling software and Software-as-a-Service offerings.

Her goal: To create a highly mobile, efficient information environment for the company's 103,300 employees. Karaboutis joined Dell two and half years ago and was named global CIO in November 2011. Karaboutis was previously VP of IT at Dell supporting product groups, manufacturing, procurement and supply chain operations. In her experience at Dell, she has led a transformation of Dell's manufacturing operations, rolling out a new manufacturing execution system globally. She also led the roll out of Dell's consolidated product offering system, which simplified the supply chain by reducing the number of product configurations, a critical part of the company's cost-reduction efforts. In addition, she has helped Dell's newly acquired companies transition quickly and smoothly to Dell's operations.

Prior to joining Dell, Karaboutis spent 21 years in leadership roles in IT, production and supply chain in the automotive industry, working for Ford and General Motors. At GM, she oversaw a transformational move to outsource manufacturing and supply chain IT to multiple integrators, led migrations from complex legacy systems to service-oriented architectures, and defined and enabled an innovative global model of systems. At Ford, she helped achieve significant efficiency gains through the use of Six Sigma methodologies.

Karaboutis spoke with Susan Nunziata, formerly of CIO Insight, revealing her business-enabling IT perspective, which is built on what she describes as three pillars: innovation, value creation and driving efficiencies. While her position at a leading technology vendor provides access to experiment with tools and solutions that may not be so readily available to one of her counterparts in, say, a financial, government or healthcare organization, her experiences in a IT business environment, and her efforts to implement bring-your-own-device (BYOD) policies companywide, offer valuable lessons for any enterprise CIO.

CIO Insight: Let's talk about the "innovation" portion of your approach. What does that mean for you and your team?

Karaboutis: We've focused on bring-your-own-device (BYOD) for mobility. What are the end user devices that our employees want to use and how do we deliver those things to them with highest security at the best cost to company with the best protections and access to data. (See The Evolving Workforce.)

[As a technology company] we're at the forefront of an appetite. My internal customers are technologists. They know what tools exist, they look at our internal portfolio and say 'We have Wyse and SonicWall and all these things to provide a good consumerization experience.' The business side is developing these tools for external users and we're trying to work together to provide the same options for our internal customers.

For example, we rolled out the connected workplace for employees some time ago. We've gone from a facilities perspective to a mobile, work-from-home environment. Our employees want mobility devices, they want consumerization, they want to have just as good an experience in the work environment as they do at home.

The Path to Innovation


Innovation is easier said than done for many IT organizations. What were your first steps?

First, we took the pulse of the company. We asked: What are the things that we as the IT organization can do to drive efficiency, drive innovation, and drive value creation? We talked to our business partners, and said 'What is it that we can do to make people more efficient, more productive and have higher morale?'

The subject of tools kept coming up. Work is no longer nine-to-five. I call it '9 a.m. to 9 a.m.' because we're a global company. When we asked our users 'What alleviates the stress and challenge?' the answer was 'Give me the best tools I can get. When I'm in work environment I want to be able to get on YouTube, get my email, surf the Net for ideas.'

Those are all consumerization experiences. The challenge for us became: How do we satisfy the client, satisfy the organization and business, and keep our environment protected and our data secure?

Then what we did is we came in and said how do we do this and start with 'Yes.' Everybody is always very quick to tell you why you can't do something. We shifted the mindset. We said, let's start with 'yes.'

What was the effect of taking this approach? Did it succeed?

Among the successes we've seen so far is the fact that we have a BYOD policy for smartphones. To date, 10,000 employees have brought in their own devices. We support iOS, Android and Windows, We're now moving into BYOD on laptops and tablets. It all starts with asking 'what does the consumer want?' For example, inside sales people who are constantly on queues and calls have a much higher demand for network bandwidth and reliability versus the casual programmer who is working at home. We classified all our users to make sure we're satisfying mobility and bandwidth requirements based on their needs.

Once we identified the classes of users we put out policies and procedures appropriate to each group. The effort is very focused. That's all for very good reasons: The security of the company, and controls on what happens to our information. People want freedom of selection and the lines between business and IT are blurring, so how do we enable this and still protect data and security.

There was a cultural shift we had to take in IT. It wasn't hard. People in IT wanted consumerization and mobility. So we had to do the shift in how we were operating.

You have to be really savvy about tools available that enable you to provide consumerization and mobility while still providing security. Things such as mobile device management, the cloud for storing data, and integration tools like our Boomi [integration cloud solution], which allows us to protect SaaS in line with internal operations.

The Skills to Match


What did these changes mean to the skillset you needed in your IT department?

We created an incubation team. This group has all our use cases and is aware of what all our mobile and consumer users want. Right now, we have an incubation in the works around an internal cloud. We're building mobile apps for our travel and expense system. We're also looking to make our time-keeping system mobile for smartphones, tablets or PCs.

So, you need people who understand mobile apps, you need people who understand cloud, but we want to incubate those things internally for internal employees. We had to either bring in those skills or take employees who were interested in these areas and apply them to those projects.

Our IT organizations will many times focus on the business roadmap: We need apps that will enable us to go from being hardware-selling company to business solutions-selling company. But, we also have another side of the shop that we've strengthened, and that's our infrastructure. How do we take all these ideas we're incubating, and turn them into part of our infrastructure?

With all the tools we have [as a technology company], everything we do we try to use our company's products to leverage these capabilities. Our IT org is about 4,000 strong. We've taken 3,500 of those people and they are now in our Dell Services organization, which is the engine that powers Dell IT. I have about 500 people doing enterprise architecture, strategy, governance, program management and the like. We work very closely with the business to help transform Dell. This goes very much along with the blurring lines between IT and business. This approach lets our IT Services team do development, testing, provide infrastructure support and data center support. It's an internal outsourced model.

What results have you seen to date?

We just finished the final transition to that structure in the first quarter of this year, and we're already seeing a lot of efficiencies. 

The BYOD model is also bringing results.  Employees love having the choice to bring whichever smartphone device they like to work and we expect as strong a reaction when we rollout tablet and laptop options.

Ed. Note: Susan Nunziata was the editor in chief of CIO Insight until September 2012.


This article was originally published on 09-12-2012