Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Pieces Don't Fit Anymore

I've been having conversations with people recently about whether or not IT staff actually wants people to leave, and if their actions are encouraging them to do so. As I mentioned previously, attrition seems to be high. We're hearing that IT wants their employees to work at "hub" sites, and will be getting more restrictive about allowing people to work from home. Nobody really knows what this means yet. The impression by IT employees is that these changes will have some impact on convenience, flexibility and work/like balance. Are we being told that we need to work elsewhere if we want these perks?

Intel is unique for many reasons, and one of most unique features has been they way that many, if not most, employees approach their jobs. Intel instills sense of ownership for solving issues that most other companies do not. If there's a problem that is being caused elsewhere, you are expected to address it and to help resolve it. Everyone is expected to understand the strategic goals of their group and to help move toward them. This sense of ownership for items you don't directly control leads to a far better and more efficient solutions.

IT seems to be challenging some of these differences relative to other companies, primarily cost. Money is always and issue, and some IT managers are saying that the cost of IT at Intel is 5x that of other companies, such as Dell. It's possible that Intel spends more in IT than do other companies, but 5x is a ridiculous number. I haven't seen any evidence that shows this is an apples-to-apples comparison. This claim seems so outrageous that I've completely discounted it as propaganda. I discussed some of the pitfalls of comparing our IT spending to other IT shops here.

I have a friend who left Intel a couple of weeks ago to go work for Nike. In this short time he's already seen a dramatic difference in attitudes between the two. Practically no IT people at Nike have laptops. When he asked about it the answer was "why would you want a laptop?" The idea of working from home, or being able to connect and work flexible hours, or longer hours, is foreign to them. I'm not saying that IT people at Nike don't work hard, just that their mind-set isn't to be able to work from anywhere, anytime like it is at Intel. I believe Intel gets a large benefit by allowing people to work remotely: they will often work an extra hour in the morning or evening because they can, and because it's beneficial for their job schedule or that of others. It's a lot easier to call into a 7:00am meeting from home than from the office.

Another difference my Nike friend pointed out was that IT folks at Nike seem to be less invested. Nike appears to be more of a classic IT shop than Intel, where people tend to work with business groups in a more segregated manner. This isn't bad, it's just different, and it isn't Intel. And if you look at costs, it might even be cheaper. But it requires a service attitude rather than one of ownership. It allows people to say "not my problem" when something isn't in fact their specific problem. It allows people to literally work 8-5 and not worry about whether or not their work is helping to drive strategic goals, or if IT is going to hit their quarterly indicators.

My concern is that by moving to a more traditional, less flexible working environment, we're going to retain only the more traditional, less flexible people in IT. Do we want a group populated by people who don't take their work home with them, who don't drive as hard to solve problems, and who don't reach across other groups to solve problems? I would encourage IT staff to think hard about what the long term outcome of these changes could be.

17 comments:

Anonymous said...

The changes you referred to could be related to a recent internal Intel blog titled "A**holes at Intel". This is a very funny, yet very true, look at the toxic Intel Focal process and overall company culture.

Anonymous said...

I love the way that Intel wants it's employees to create products better than the industry average and perform better than the industry average. When they compare the various costs or systems or whatever to the industry and finds it's more than the industry average, they want to cut it back.

Anonymous said...

Intel is for nerd and Nike is not, daaa. Nerd's carry lap tops and what kind of jock carrries a lap top?

Anonymous said...

It seems like most of the internal Intel bloggers are IT folks. No offense to Intel IT Guy, but I have to say that most of these blog topics do not contribute to productivity. I have to admit, however, that many of the blogging topics are very entertaining. As a manager, I would not like my people spending so much time posting videos, posting links to non-technical sites, talking about trivial matters, etc., which do not contribute to helping the average Intel employee in his day-to-day tasks.

Anonymous said...

So? Do you feel that no one has the right to talk about anything other than that which affect productivity? Is that all there is to Intel? Something tells me that there is much more to Intel than that. As the spouse of a long time Intel employee, I think that what I am reading these days sheds a whole lot of insight into the mindset of what is really happening inside Intel. Meaning, that which is not making the news. It seems like not many happy employees these days. Is that really the way Intel wants to operate? Or wait, is this another attempt to make the current employees so miserable they leave so that Intel can give their jobs to lesser paid people from foriegn countries at a fraction of their wage? Makes one think.

Anonymous said...

It is not just happening in IT. This guy was forced to move or quit. He quit.

Anonymous said...

You IT guys kill me. Intel sells chips - not IT. The rest of us work our assess off in the fab while you guys spend all day bitching and moaning on your blogs. Suck it up.

Anonymous said...

IT is one of those positions within Intel, as well as other high tech companies, which can easily be outsourced. For example, as an engineer in Intel SC, I have had help resolving computing issues without ever personally meeting any IT person. A few of my colleagues have had to personally visit the PC center to have their laptops fixed, but even those IT employees were all green badge contractors. So, cutting IT is not that surprising and may make Intel indeed more efficient.

Anonymous said...

So it's IT bashing time. Let's be clear. Intel manufactures products in the hope that IT managers will see some value in them and recommend their companies to buy. You might not rate Intel IT, but IT is ultimately the end-user of much of Intel's high value products. The non-IT person comments on this blog suggest that you think engineering and working in the manufacturing are all there is to making Intel successful. Without integrated IT systems I doubt if we could manufacture or ship a single chip. Unfortunately people only notice IT these days when things break. As for Mr Engineer, if you are solving IT issues you are not engineering...you are what might be called embedded IT.

Anonymous said...

Intel seems to be measuring itself these days by how much money it can save and how efficient we can be. Great news that we have 40% earnings increase projected in '07, but what about the pathetic 4% increase in revenue. This strategy is no route to long term success. Growing revenue is the only way the company can relive past successes, and I see no strategic drive or focus to achieve that. Each dollar saved, can only be saved once but you can sell a great new product millions of times over. Fighting AMD for market share is an irrelevant side show if we can't grow the overall market.

As for attrition etc. when is someone going to realize that having your job threatened constantly is not likely to build moral and commitment to the company. The best people will continue to up and leave until some sort of stability is maintained. According to the most recent update on efficiency from the man in charge that aint coming any time soon.

Anonymous said...

Makes perfect sense. The next roll out of Intel issued laptops will probably be Centrino Pros (vPro). This will allow Intel to outsource all the help desk work (due to the iAMT capabilities). Paying an American 80k a year doesn't make any sense when you can pay someone else 10k a year in another country.

Anonymous said...

My observation is that many people confuse the "best" employees as the ones who have been at Intel the longest. Employees who have been at Intel 10-15 years or more tend to relax and their contributions start to decline. Furthermore, they lack the fresh ideas which are more prevalent from the newer Intel employees. How many times have we all heard, "That's how we have always done it at Intel"? Management need not worry about these long-term Intel people leaving, since they would have left long ago if they are indeed considered "valuable".

Anonymous said...

Really? How do you think an employee gets to be an employee of longstanding with Intel? An employee who survives multiple layoffs? Is it because they are not productive, involved members of Intel? Probably not. I think that these are the employees that Intel does highly valuable both for their innovative concepts and their work ethics. Maybe the next time you think that a long term employee has nothing of value, maybe you should ask to see their IPS reports for years and years, and then compare them to yours. I would venture to bet that yours would be sorely lacking in creativity and contributions to Intel. I am amazed by the sheer number of projects, both short, and long term, that I see my husband working on, and the team that he is on is amazing and I see that they respect the members of the team with the longer experiences with Intel. They know that they can ask a question and get a straight answer, one that makes sense.

Anonymous said...

Why would a woman feel the need to speak for her Intel-employee husband? Maybe I can have my dad blog some comments about what a great Intel employee I have been :-)

Anonymous said...

Maybe I read enough bs to know when to throw up the bs flag. No I do not speak for my husband. Yes my husband knows I write here, and I do run what I have to say by him to be certain that what I am saying is accurate. I do have a brain and I do know how to engage it. I do know what I see. I speak for myself. All that I see here is a bunch of petty people who are unhappy with their lot in life, and instead of doing something to change it or make it better, you just sit and whine about it and point the finger of blame at people like long term employees for your woes in life at Intel. How incredibly sad and demoralizing is that? How about instead of all the complaining, you do something constructive, like get on Circuit, volunteer. If you are unhappy in your position, and don't think that you are getting ahead, get some more education. Maybe apply for another position? I know that Intel still does have job listings. Please, whining makes you sound more like petulant children than the grown adults you are supposed to be.

Anonymous said...

Thank you. This is precisely my point. The folks working on the core business - developing the worlds best process technologies, ramping the next generation processors, etc - are busting their butts to make this company successful (talk to a PTD engineer if you think your job is hard). It's damn annoying to keep reading complaint after complaint from those in a service organization lamenting about how hard they have it. What, not enough time to work on your level 32 Dork-Wizard on World of Warcraft? You do not define Intel - we do. You are expendable. Suck it up.

Anonymous said...

I agree our products and the people who engineer them define Intel. In that case products and engineers must also be the reason for a series of bad product decisions, missed deadlines and years of lagging AMD in performance. Now that you have fixed the basics of engineering the right products and doing it in a timely fashion, can you suggest something other than more iterations of the same old CPU arms race that might grow Intel into new and exciting markets. If you can't go get a job engineering for Ford or GM where you'll be a perfect fit.