How transparent is your IT operation? Does the rest of the company know how your budget is spent? Your performance against SLAs? Cost per terabyte of WAN traffic? And if they do, do key outside constituencies such as customers and vendors also know?
Before Sarbanes-Oxley and the corporate scandals of the late '90s, few businesses cared about transparency. But lately it has become a popular buzzword. Trouble is, transparency is usually selective -- people tell you what they want you to know, which is typically a whitewashed version of the truth. Companies talk the transparency talk, but very few walk the walk.
So imagine my shock the other day to receive a glossy, 32-page annual report in the mail from Intel. Not its corporate annual report, but its “2006 IT Performance Report”, which can also be viewed as a PDF file on Intel's web site.
The report contains more detail on every aspect of Intel's IT operations than I ever imagined a company would dare to publish. From service desk cost per contact to cost per LAN node to tape-out defect rate, this report has it all.
Intel did not spend the big bucks on this high-end brochure for the sake of its employees. The report doubles as a marketing document aimed at Intel customers, highlighting Intel's innovation prowess and its "leadership" on key enterprise IT trends.
But in the bargain, the report opens the kimono on how a large corporate IT organisation operates and thinks about itself -- making it a must-read for all top IT execs. The report lays bare Intel IT's governance structure, its key success metrics, how it deploys assets and people, and where it succeeded and failed last year.
Here's the really interesting part: Most companies trumpet their successes, but very few will voluntarily admit shortfalls as Intel has done. The report says that Intel's IT delivered less "IT Business Value" in 2006 than it did in 2005, for example -- $400m (£200m) less (page 8). More than half of the business value claimed was in the supply chain area, so it may have just been that the company had caught the low-hanging fruit the year before.
Another example: Intel managed to stop only 61% of its inbound spam in 2006, on a total volume of 42.5 million messages per month (page 17). Is that good? Who knows... but at least it's honest and transparent. Finally, on page 20, in the "Performance on Critical SLAs" section, Intel acknowledges that its goal for "performance against schedule" on programme and projects was 85%, yet it achieved just 58%.
I point out these trouble areas only to pat Intel on the back for making them transparent. Most of the report highlights successes across the board in areas such as efficiency, virtualisation, and customer satisfaction.
This report is a reflection of the state of IT. Read it closely and you'll learn that Intel struggles with "rogue IT" and is trying to rein it in. That the company has changed its view of who the chief information officer’s number one internal customer is (it used to be the business unit leaders, but it's now the chief executive). And that it's raised the bar on how it defines (internal?) customer satisfaction -- because the ratings it was getting before were too high.
It's these real-life issues, not whitewashed success stories, that make or break an IT organisation. Thank you, Intel, for giving us a look under the hood.