Leaders Employ Governance
At Arizona Tile, Barnes implemented an IT service delivery model, which measured the department's capability and shortcomings. She charted 25 areas of IT responsibilities and color-coded each segment: Red for weak or nonexistent, yellow for needs improvement, green for adequate. There was a lot of red and not much green on the chart.
"Before Shelly joined our team at Arizona Tile, we were struggling to manage several individual and somewhat unconnected IT projects," recalls President Bob Traxler. "The company itself was just entering a very intense period of growth, necessitating a more forward-thinking approach to our technology effort. Shelly came to us with a very solid business background, and she understood that the technology was there to support and help grow the business, not the other way around."
Part of the problem lay in service-level agreements (SLAs) --or the lack thereof. "SLAs were automatic in the bigger companies I had worked for," Barnes says. "No one here knew what an SLA was."
For Barnes, part of governance means educating the company's executives about IT best practices. Her chart gave company executives a way to see what sort of shape the department was in and where investments should be made. Once weaknesses were assessed and prioritized, Barnes used project management methodologies to set goals and timelines for improvements.
Meeting those targets won support from users and executives. Outsourcing billing, for example, resulted in a 25% reduction in costs. "We've probably improved to 75% in the green," she says. "It was close to the reverse before."
Showing what companies are doing in other industries, such as what percentage of revenue they spend on IT, helps. "You have to tell a story," she says. "There's a family way of doing business. A lot of these people have never worked for any other company. They don't know what they don't know."
"Technology and process are now and forever married in our company," agrees Traxler. "They used to just date whenever it suited them. Shelly saw early on that some of our business processes, even some of those within our core distribution activities, had been engineered around our technology. She and her team now look at each challenge not from the perspective of 'What technology can I use to solve this?' but from the perspective of 'How can we become better as a company at serving our customer?' It is really simple, but I believe it is pretty profound."
This was first published in July 2006