Downing Tomorrow's Data Devils

Downing Tomorrow's Data Devils

Devil's Advocate

Fortunately, says Gupta, the IT department at Fidelity is well respected "unlike some other companies where it is a beaten down group. For us, IT is an enabler and partners in making things happen for the business. We are considered key for business success. We are seen as enablers and catalysts, not just suppliers," says Gupta.

Given that the no downtime imperative must have seemed impossible, Gupta could have made a promise he knew he could not keep and barter on his credibility. What was important after all was to achieve the benefits of the project. But Gupta wasn't willing to trade on the trust he had built. He needed a more concrete plan to get new structure to lift-off without taking down business.

He used the organization's reporting structure to his benefit. Once an obstacle, the multiple number of business users IT had to convince, became a crutch. Since they had to come to him, he whetted their appetite and created a groundswell of support. "It was not as if IT was trying to do something," says Gupta.

To do that, he met with individual business leaders, following his CEO's advice. Getting their buy-in before presenting the solution to a larger group also ensured that stakeholders were "very collaborative" and that they offered to make presentations themselves to their teams. "People had skin in the game and that ensured project success," says Gupta. Their participation also shared risk, "Normally I have seen business has no idea of IT's plans which lead to failures. In our case the project was as transparent as any other business case. It was a 'much-partnered' project so any failure would mean that business had equal share in it."

Groups from other business divisions were quickly formulated to play a role in the project. But soon there were as many as eight groups working on the project. "We had participation and the only complication was that because we had so many groups we had to spend a lot of time in meetings and documentation but I think it was worth it," says Gupta.

In the meanwhile, the IT team bent over backwards to come up with a plan to ensure zero downtime and data consistency. In the end, the only way was to use the very short late-night windows when business wasn't taking place. They would have to convince their vendors to work throughout the night.

The no-downtime mandate required a lot of planning and testing offline with sample data. Gupta's plan ensured that there was equal involvement from business groups where testing was concerned. Their demand for participation bore results: the IT department witnessed 100 percent commitment from business groups -- rather than completing the project on their own and facing complaints after the fact. On their part, business made sure that IT did not have access to business data. They were given access to data only at a raw data level instead of an application level. "There was no reason for anyone to complain as everyone was aware of the plan and was part of the approval process," says Gupta.

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