When it comes to IT shops, they don't get much bigger than Intel's. With upwards of 83,000 employees spread across 71 countries, the microprocessor manufacturing giant poses many unique challenges for its IT organisation, not the least of which is supporting the people who build the new technologies that will shape the future of computing.
Comprising 4200 staff, Intel's IT group is large enough to be a company in its own right, which is just as well, given the vast scope of Intel's operations. The IT organisation supports all aspects of Intel's business, encompassing both its sizeable R&D commitment ($US3.8 billion last year alone) and its far-flung manufacturing operations. This includes providing scientific computing applications to some 6000 engineers worldwide and overseeing the IT function at Intel's 24 fabrication plants and assembly facilities around the globe.
"It's a pretty broad, widespread operation," says co-CIO Doug Busch, who is responsible for desktop systems and infrastructure, while co-CIO Sandra Morris looks after business systems and Internet technology .
However, no matter the size of the company, or the IT organisation behind it, it seems that many of the problems that CIOs face are universal. Busch runs an operation that supports thousands of workers on several continents, but he stresses that the "fundamental issues" he faces are the same ones that preoccupy most other CIOs. "In terms of my responsibilities, my job is extremely similar to a CIO in any other large company," he says.
Busch speaks regularly to hundreds of CIOs, so he knows what he's talking about. "Because of Intel's role in the industry we have a tremendous amount of contact with other companies," he says. And what is the biggest challenge facing the CIOs to whom Busch speaks? None other than the traditional scourge of CIOs everywhere: aligning IT and the business.
"That's one I hear all the time: understanding how to get a direct linkage between what companies want to accomplish and the way they apply IT," Busch says. "It's all about getting alignment between the business function and the IT function. Everybody in a CIO role understands the criticality of it, everybody's focused on it, but it's just hard. It's a challenge that everybody has to stay working on constantly."
Right now, the business requirement that Busch is focusing most of his attention on is the extension of Intel's e-business strategy. This has been the case for close to four years now, ever since the company decided to reinvent itself along e-commerce lines.
"One hundred per cent e-corporation" is the phrase that Intel uses in all its strategic objectives, notes Busch. While the company may not have hit its goal spot-on - according to Busch, close to 90 per cent of Intel's business is now conducted over the Internet - providing IT support for that level of online activity is no mean feat.
Intel has handled its order management online since 1998. Previously, all orders were EDI-based or placed via telephone or fax. Within two months of launching the new system, however, Intel found itself handling $US1 billion a month in online orders - prompting, at least in part, the e-business transformation announced by the company soon after. "The transition actually surprised everybody," Busch says. "We thought it was going to be a year-long effort to get the business moved over, but we hit our original goal in less than two months. Our customers were very eager to move."
So far, the move certainly seems to have paid off. According to Busch, last year Intel earned $US26.4 billion in revenue, around $US24 billion of which was processed through the company's Web-based order management system.
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