No one's going to complain about winning new business, but a recent deal to do contract unit repair work from more than 2,000 locations across North America posed a huge challenge for Flextronics' IT team. The customer was in a hurry to get started, and Flextronics had to first set up its IT systems that track products as they move through the product-repair process.
The old model would have meant setting up a server in each of those locations, making sure the software ran properly from each, and training the on-site people to maintain it. "Speed was the challenge," says Flextronics CIO David Smoley. That's a common CIO concern: 57% of the 203 IT leaders--all VP or C-level executives--who responded to our InformationWeek Global CIO Survey cite "can't implement fast enough" as a top concern. It's their single biggest concern.
So instead of using the old approach, Flextronics' IT team deployed the software, which is custom-built on a Microsoft stack, using Microsoft's Azure cloud service. The software runs in Microsoft's data center; the only software needed at the client's factories is a Web browser for workers to access that code. Now, getting that software into the Azure cloud wasn't a simple lift-and-drop maneuver--the Flextronics team had to rewrite 10% to 15% of its custom code. But it took less time and cost less than deploying the software the old way.
The technology's important here, since two or three years ago cloud computing wasn't mature enough for such an implementation. But more important is the attitude of Smoley and the Flextronics IT team: Faced with a business need for speed and large-scale execution, they mapped a new approach.
Amid increasing pressure in areas such as time to market, global competition, and fickle customers, IT organizations must throw out the old rulebook. That sounds like a hoot--except that a new rulebook to replace it doesn't exist, so IT teams are learning as new cloud, mobile, analytics, social, and collaboration technologies evolve quickly.
Here's our start to that new IT rulebook, one that begs to be rewritten many times over. We welcome your own revisions and additions in the comments section of this article.
No. 15 | Treat tablets as workhorses, not show ponies
IT must be open minded about where iPads and Android tablets could make employees more productive. Replacing paper processes is a start--where are employees shuffling paper forms that could be handled more efficiently on tablets? Warehouses, hospitals, and cockpits are just a few of the places we've seen. Tablets aren't for what a laptop does really well, like typing proposals. But their form factor makes them ideal for one-on-one engagement. Salespeople, for instance, are much more comfortable showing a video demo of a product using an iPad, which they can easily hand to the customer to see, than a clumsy laptop.
In the first year of the iPad's life, IT pros were hugely skeptical that tablets would matter much. In late 2010, half of the IT pros in our Outlook Survey strongly disagreed that they'd give even 10% of their workforces a tablet. A year later, after 32 million iPads had been sold in 2011, the percentage of skeptics dropped to 35%.
Tablets speak to a broader need: for IT organizations to think of the "desktop" platform differently. The desktop is now a combination of at least three platforms--smartphone, tablet, and PC--and the lines among them are blurring.