CIO Risk Takers, Rain Makers - InformationWeek

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4/13/2011
09:29 PM
Fritz Nelson
Fritz Nelson
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CIO Risk Takers, Rain Makers

When CIOs take calculated risks, choosing emerging technologies from less established companies, the payoff can be enticing. We take you inside the journey of two established organizations for a deeper look at this success.

Social. Mobile. Cloud. Any CIO who isn't listening to the hype around those three trends, and at least exploring their very real benefits, is being negligent about the future of his business. And any CIO who jumps in head first is being negligent about the security and compliance risks.

But the risk takers earn a certain measure of admiration and envy, especially if they derive a competitive advantage from moving so quickly.

That's why I'm excited to co-host two Under The Radar conferences with my colleague David Berlind -- the spring event, on April 28, focused on cloud computing, and if Deal Maker Media CEO Debbie Landa will have me back, the fall event, on mobile. The idea behind the conferences is to expose CIOs to the innovations that will help drive transformative ideas. Edgy, even abnormal is sometimes a fun place to be, especially when it's successful.

For example, the heavily regulated pharmaceutical industry might be one of the last places you'd expect to find cloud computing taking hold, but Steve Phillpott, CIO of Amylin, sees the cloud as a fairly mature business and technology model. And rather than debate its definition, he's focusing on what value it provides. For Amylin, which makes diabetes and obesity drugs, the cloud offers a chance to be cheaper, faster, and better.

Phillpott and his team took a very methodical approach to the cloud, examining every IT service the company consumes, its costs, and whether it was appropriate for the cloud, essentially precluding anything that would require large data transfers, or real-time integration with on-site lab equipment, for example. Amylin also kept business intelligence and analytics applications in-house, as well as financial systems and research data. In other words, you won't find Amylin putting its intellectual property in a public cloud.

2011 Amylin InfoWeek Fritz 25Feb2011 FINAL pdf 1

But the company does use Workday's HR software as a service. It accesses storage and compute processing in the cloud via Amazon's S3 and EC2 services. Its website monitoring and information security monitoring and employee applications are cloud-based. It's even running a high-performance computing pilot with Amazon.

Most companies that use cloud services tend to buy in beyond a single application, and Amylin is no exception. In addition to Workday and Amazon, it uses Concur for its expenses and Salesforce.com's Force.com platform as a service for building applications that support its CRM and call center. Its Workday application was upgraded three times in one year, giving Amylin access to new functionality instantly. The same for the Salesforce.com call center app, and for its pharma-specific CRM package, Veeva (which runs on Force.com).

There's more, but you get the point. Amylin is bought in, but Phillpott insists it isn't just about the technology, but about optimizing distributed technology resources in an industry where bringing a new product to market can cost billions of dollars and take a dozen years.

Phillpott's team wondered whether their jobs would be in jeopardy. Instead, he focused his team on developing skills in business reporting, business process and data management, rather than having them in silos based on particular applications. These skills are independent from applications, and can span platforms and various projects across the company. As a result,the entire team got involved in all aspects of the cloud migrations, and Phillpott let the team learn and experiment (and play) along the way.

2011 Amylin InfoWeek Fritz 25Feb2011 FINAL pdf

How does Amylin measure success? Phillpott says Veeva, for example, did everything the founders said it would do since Amylin deployed it three years ago. The company has seen measurable reductions in its technology budget (50%), and user adoption has been painless. Phillpott says a typical application roll out might induce hundreds of support calls, but with the Workday implementation, his team got only 15 calls in the first couple of days, most of them unrelated to the application. "What started as a cost optimization exercise turned into a big business value-creation exercise," he says.

Phillpott wisely started with the cloud rollouts most likely to succeed, ensuring that the heads of HR, sales, and other departments saw the benefits and not the hard knocks. His next task? Mobilizing all of these cloud-based applications. Already, Workday, Veeva, and Concur have mobile versions, but Phillpott says he needs to ensure enterprise security control. (Concur's mobile app, he says, lets users take a picture of a receipt and enter it for proof of an expense.) Amylin is partnering with MobileIron for mobile device management and security.

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