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BYOD program, social business tool make Dell IT a partner to employees

Dell's global CIO talks about a new BYOD program, social networks and her relationship with CEO Michael Dell.

In part one of this interview, Andi Karaboutis, Dell Inc.'s global CIO, described her role in the turnaround strategy that will move Dell from being a hardware supplier to being a provider of IT services. Here she talks about some of the internal IT programs she's spearheading, from a [bring your own device] BYOD program to enterprise social collaboration, as well as about her relationship with CEO Michael Dell.

Adriana KaraboutisAdriana "Andi" Karaboutis,
Global CIO, Dell Inc.

You've talked about the importance of giving business lines access to the tremendous amount of data Dell collects, including from its original device manufacturers and other partners. The problem wasn't collecting the data in a giant data warehouse but in helping people do the reports themselves, you said. How are you tackling that?

Karaboutis: We have a data warehouse where over the course of years -- before my time -- we have all our core data, our master data, in one giant warehouse. We're now building capability to make it more of a self-service, so the business can start developing their own reports and analytics and making what we call 'insights out of information.' We're still building a lot of that capability, but that's the focus of business intelligence for us: Let the businesses really get at that data, and slice and dice. We've taken control of not having a plethora of operational data stores around the company -- except when you set up a temporary data store that's populated from our overall data warehouse.

I have a direct report whose job -- the crux of it -- is business analytics and business intelligence. We work with some great partners: SAS; we're doing incubations and implementations with SAP HANA; and Teradata is a great partner for us. So we're encompassing a lot of the leading-edge technology companies that will help us do that internally.

I understand you have this pretty ambitious BYOD program. What are the challenges IT had to solve to allow 9,000 people to use their smartphones for doing business?

Karaboutis: We're up to 12,000 people, I'm pleased to say, and we're modifying, adding and using better and better tools. So, clearly for us the security of our data is very important -- protecting the company but also protecting the employee and being able to separate the personal information from the work information. We have set up containers on phones and are playing with a couple of different tools there, so in the event of losses, we can wipe the corporate data from the smartphone without hindering the personal data. We worked all of those things through before we started deploying. I'm proud to say that the 12,000 phones we have out there are from employees who came to us and said, 'Hey, I know I am not entitled to a corporate phone, but if you let me load email, contacts and all the rest, I'll be more productive.' One of the studies that we did with Intel shows that 83% of people believe they're more productive when they are afforded the opportunity to use their own devices.

To separate personal from corporate data, are you virtualizing the mobile device -- or using a container approach from someone like Good Technology?

Karaboutis: Currently we're using Good. If you think about our own technology from Wyse, I'd say, watch the space.

Michael Dell's got his finger on the pulse of what IT needs to do to enable. It's a great relationship.

Andi Karaboutis,
global CIO, Dell Inc.

You seem to have your hands into most everything CIOs now have to be paying attention to. How about social collaboration tools?

Karaboutis: We use Salesforce Chatter for our social interactions within the company. Everybody in the company has access to it, and I can tell you, just sitting here this morning, I've already seen posts from Michael Dell and the sales teams and on trends in the industry. We're very big on it. Many people have created groups. I have my own IT group that is kind of a subchapter within Chatter where we share information internally. It's really taken off in the company. The senior leadership is on it regularly. We have the 'Connected Workplace' group for our remote workers who stay in contact with each other. It is hugely beneficial for me. I love getting up on a Saturday morning and going to the Connected Workplace site where they're talking to each other: 'Hey, my cellphone is acting up today, something wrong with IT?' or 'Did you try out our new VPN from SonicWall; it works great!' And I actually get a live feed of how IT is doing, without having to go look at stale trouble tickets that were raised in the last 30 days. I get a good pulse-check of how IT is doing.

Oh my goodness, the global CIO of Dell with a $1 billion budget, and you're getting a live feed on what people are saying about their cell phones? I'm amazed.

Karaboutis: Totally. Absolutely. Matter of fact, I'll tell you one from a couple of weeks ago. We had changed a menu in how to download some software, and somebody hadn't gotten the memo on it. We realized we missed sending the memo to a key group. I was able to hop on and say, 'Hey, this isn't under this program anymore -- it's under this.' We quickly sent out to the missed group the update on what we were doing, and I think people got a hoot out of it. Think about times 20 or 100 or even 1,000 when other groups can do that -- how quickly we can respond to … my 'internal customers.'

In the year or so you've been there, what are you most proud of IT having accomplished?

Karaboutis: I think it is building that business acumen to be able to do the integration of all the acquisitions we've done. It is the seamless acquisition integrations. We have also standardized all our manufacturing execution systems across the board in our manufacturing facilities. We've also supported the remote worker through the Connected Workplace. We have put forth the mobility strategy, with the 12,000 devices. In each of those key areas, I think we have delivered major accomplishments.

But if you asked me for one thing, I would herald the acquisition integrations as the accomplishment I am most proud of. It supports the corporate strategy of [Dell] being the solutions services company.

What's your relationship like with Michael Dell?

Karaboutis: Excellent. Michael, very candidly, is brilliant. He pays attention to the big, strategic vision things. He's concerned with what we're doing within Dell IT. I spend considerable time with him going through and showing him our 'state of the union,' which includes everything from the state of our data centers, how virtualized we are, what we have to renew, what needs to happen, what's the strategic roadmap for IT, all the way to the integrations. I sit in the acquisition meetings where we are making decisions. He's got his finger on the pulse of what IT needs to do to enable. It's a great relationship. I couldn't ask for better, between him and our chief financial officer, Brian Gladden. IT has what I call a seat at the table.

Let us know what you think about the story; email Linda Tucci, Executive Editor.

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