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A CIO Conversation: Intel's Doug Busch

Intel CIO Doug Busch shares initiatives his IT organization is implementing to improve productivity and transform the internal business processes.

Intel Corp. is best known for delivering innovative products and services to external businesses and consumers. But what about the innovative products and services it creates and distributes internally? Doug Busch, vice president and CIO at the Santa Clara, Calif.-based chipmaker, has made productivity his No. 1 priority. Busch, who took on the role of CIO in 2002, talked to about the initiatives his IT organization is implementing to improve productivity and transform the internal business processes within Intel.

You took over the role of CIO at Intel in 2002. How has the position changed since then? What initiative or program are you most proud of so far?

Busch: Actually, I've been doing this job since 1999, but received the formal title in 2002. It's an interesting question, though. The things we've been focused on for four to five years are all about taking full advantage of the Internet and e-business. We've made tremendous steps in these areas. We've also transformed the way Intel's internal business processes work and the way individual people work. Mobility is a fundamental way people do their jobs. Through these [mobile] initiatives, we are able to keep 16,000 people up and running. The response time to get problems solved has changed dramatically. Intel was never a big voicemail culture; we rely more heavily on email and audio meetings. So keeping our people up and running and keeping response time to a minimum is important.

Is implementing wireless capabilities still a top agenda item for your IT organization?

Busch: It is, but, we're now taking it [the wireless initiative] to the next level of sophistication. We're starting to look at things differently -- as in ways to use these capabilities. An example is in our manufacturing plant. We're coming up with ways to solve their production problems. We're giving them handheld devices to access transactions and maintenance information. We're also changing the business processes in the company -- enabling people to work from home changes the way we run meetings and schedule work. We're actually doing a study now to help support this transition -- to a more virtual and distributed business. At the recent MIT Sloan CIO Symposium, you participated in a panel discussion on IT productivity.

What other initiatives, other than wireless capabilities are you working on to improve IT and worker productivity?

Busch: One of the things we've done is to look at a broad horizontal approach to the way we do business. We're looking at the way people spend their time. They typically spend time in project teams, departmental activities and in a few other horizontal business processes, like product development. We're trying to put tools together that support flexible but standardized processes, so employees can get up and run quickly and continue with what they're doing.

We've distributed a lot of work in our locations; we just don't view it as 'offshore outsourcing.'

Intel has a program called "effective meetings." It teaches you some very elementary things like knowing what the agenda is before the meeting and how to take notes and keep minutes; creating a task list for after the meeting; distributing material properly; and more. We didn't have much support for this project, so we developed a Web meeting manager. However, it now allows people who are attending a meeting to jump right in. In their electronic calendar, there are links to all the appropriate material – time, location, materials and agenda. It's changed the way we work. We're saving five-10 minutes of every hour by using this tool.

Many of your recent news releases talk about expanding your services (specifically wireless) into other countries like China. Is globalization a big push right now at Intel?

Busch: If you step back and look, there are emerging demands for technology in China and parts of Asia. We're continuing to grow in many areas. The growth rate in China, Russia, India, Southeast Asia, Eastern Europe, the Middle East and even Latin America is enormous, because many of the products are much more affordable now. Also, the level of enthusiasm around the deployment of new technology is astonishing. For instance, Internet cafes in China are a phenomenon. They also have large-scale Internet gaming centers. All of these places are busy around the clock. You can also look at the spread of cell phones in India -- it's an astonishing explosion. It's changing the way people live.

Speaking of globalization, are you doing any offshore outsourcing?

Busch: Intel has really been a global company since two years after its inception in 1968. Our general strategy has been to hire talent that matches the global distribution of our business. We haven't done a lot of outsourcing. We've distributed a lot of our work in our locations; we just don't view it as offshore outsourcing.

As you know, a lot of reports are saying that IT spending will increase 5% to 8% next year. Do you see this happening with your IT budget? If so, what will you buy?

Busch: Unfortunately, it's [the 5% to 8% increase] not happening in my budget. We're growing with the business, but we'll probably increase our spending by 1% to 2% Within the next two years, we'll continue to extend our e-business portfolio. We'll also improve capital assets in our factories with better factory planning. We'll look at programs that address the individuals, the knowledge workers. Collaboration is also a huge focus for us. As usual, we plan to make ongoing improvements for security and operational initiatives. There's also a big focus on expanding our business analytics. These same reports say that PC replacements will be one of the biggest purchases made with this new money.

Have you had to adjust your IT agenda and/or staff resources to meet the increased need to upgrade and replace PCs?

Busch: We've been on a [PC replacement] process for a long time. We try to maintain an aggressive replacement process -- we replace about one-third of our clients' systems each year. We've been maintaining that pace for five to six years. We also update the TCO for client devices regularly. One of the benefits to this process is that by keeping a steady replacement rate, my capital spending doesn't spike up and down all the time. To the event that I can level that [capital spending] out, the better off I am.

I've read you come from a research and development background. I know Intel has a large research and development arm. Are you and your IT organization very involved in that? What big initiatives or technologies are they looking at?

Busch: I am involved in this. We've tried to connect IT closely to our R&D and product planning groups. We validate our research group's ideas and originate some of them. We have a small research group in the IT organization, which is aligned to the corporate program.

In IT, we try to focus our research on how these technologies can be used in innovative ways. For Intel, overall, one interesting concept is called "Radio Free Intel." The idea is that we are developing CMOS (complementary metal-oxide semiconductor)-based radios (as opposed to today's radios which are made of other materials) that we will be able to integrate on any chips we want. So the idea is that we could have an intelligent radio built into a chipset or a future processor; and any device built with that chip would have wireless right out of the box.

If you had any advice for someone getting into IT, which skills would you recommend they focus on? DBA? Developer? Security expert?

Busch: I'd say make sure you have a career path and development approach that includes both technical and business skills and knowledge of the business you're in. In addition to technical skills, you should have general business skills like communication, leadership and project management. You also need a strong core of technical skills. You'll have more options by having the technical skills surrounded by the other general business skills.

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