Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Who are you? (Who who, who who?)

I have a post written about some of the upcoming challenges IT is facing, but after reading the comments from the last couple of posts, it seems clear that many readers aren't really sure what most IT people do for a living at Intel. Many of my posts have have assumed this is common knowledge, which is my bias showing. PC and server support are clearly important to Intel (and any other corporation), but they are not all IT does, and account for a relatively small percentage of IT resources and budget. My goal here isn't to be defensive, but to provide a baseline so there will be some context in future posts.

As some commenters pointed out, IT is pure overhead - it's not Intel's business, and it doesn't generate revenue. But IT is nonetheless essential for Intel to conduct business. We do almost 100% of our business via eCommerce - billions of dollars worth of transactions flow through those systems. Who built those systems? Who maintains them? How do we know they're accurate and reliable? The answer is that it's mostly IT. With all those transactions and products moving around we can get our revenue numbers each quarter to a fraction of a penny. I couldn't begin to explain all the complexity here, and it doesn't begin to compare to the complexity of a processor, but it's still complex. And for the most part all these apps run reliably. The same is true for our planning tools, sales tools, and HR systems. Like any other large corporation, we have thousands of databases that all need talk to each other. Some are purchased apps/databases (SAP, Peoplesoft), some are custom, and many are hybrids.

IT has hundreds of application programmers: A lot of people who write SQL, VB and C#, a few C/C++ programmers, and ton of people who customize code for tools like SAP. There are also database design and architecture people. Practically none of our business apps know how to speak to each other natively, so we have to design the data and interfaces to make them compatible, or have them share data via some middle-ware tools. We also have a lot of database support, network support, information security, and business specific tool support people.

Each group at Intel has a set of tools they need (or want) to run their business, and it's IT who people design, develop, implement, and support them. This includes all the work done for Intel's external web sites as well. Sales and Marketing must have hundreds of tools supported by IT. In addition to developers and database people, you need project managers, some program managers, QA people, release management/integration, and application support. We also need to release regular updates of purchased tools. Enterprise upgrades aren't a matter of just slipping a DVD into a drive: when a app is highly customized and/or integrated with other tools, it can't simply be upgraded. The ripple effect may required changes to dozens of other tools, which creates a ripple effect for development, testing, release, and support.

The picture I'm trying to paint is one where there are thousands of applications and databases that run Intel's business 24x7, most of which are undergoing upgrades and changes on a regular basis. Every week there is some kind of huge application, networking, email, security, or other change/upgrade taking place. The IT environment is anything but static.

A question I hope you're all asking by now is: why? Why is the environment for Intel business so complex? Why do we have so many changes? Why do Sales and Marketing (and Finance, and HR, and the product groups require so many tools? And why can't we just buy tools off the shelf and implement them and save all this development and integration cost? I'll try to address that in my next couple of posts, but will give you a hint: it's not IT who decides how many tools the business groups need, nor when a purchased tool isn't adequate.

And btw, I don't begrudge the engineering and manufacturing their place at the top of the Intel food chain. Some brilliant, dedicated, hard working people are designing, testing, and manufacturing amazing products. But once they're doing designing and building them, they have to go out the door. How they get sold, accounted for, and supported all requires systems that IT require IT people to support them.


Anonymous said...

IT at Intel isn't completely overhead as the IT@Intel program does contribute significant revenue dollars by assisting sales and marketing. This is not common across the industry and those sales folks who regularly use IT@intel show % sales growth significantly above those who do not. And the IT@Intel discussions are not sales calls. We discuss the good and bad things we have found in doing IT at Intel with other IT professionals at potential customers.

Anonymous said...

Some interesting postings and comments regarding Itanium and cost/revenue on Circuit (internal Intel site) this week. Without going into the actual contents of the discussion, most of the comments posted seem to say that open, positive or negative employee comments about Intel's products, etc. were a good thing and that there is no downside of such frank opinions. However, most of the comments came from 4-5 employees. Don't these folks realize that the perception of numerous comments coming from the same 4-5 employees is, "Obviously, these guys aren't putting much time into their regular day job"? This is the perception, regardless of the quality of the blogs.

Anonymous said...

Pretty funny reading through the internal backlash/comments/apologies regarding the "racist" Intel ad. I wonder if somebody gets fired over this.

Anonymous said...

Is it me or is the current culture in IT one of complete foulness after JJ's 'update' ?

I presume the full-time telecommutes are going to be purged with the site-consolidation plan?

Boy, I sure am glad i worked double-time for 10 years just to be purged with a new plan! go company!

Anonymous said...

Does anyone know about site-consolidation? i am a full-time telecommuter and understand my job is about to be axed (even though i've been rated as outstanding for 5 years in a row and have dedicated my life to intel for 10+ years).

Anonymous said...

I can tell you TMG policy (where I work). Fe wmonths back they cocame up with the "remote worker policy", which effectively axed full time tele-commuters (some used to drive to work once a week). From my understanding many of them were outstanding performers with long Intel service. They were told they have until Nov or Dec to relocate to a major Intel "TMG" site or leave. Many chose to leave. Some are still hanging around, not sure if they plan to relocate or find a job by the end of the year. Apprently they were offered full relocation if the wanted to move. Lot of uproars from employees and many demanded a "grandfather" exception aluse to the policy for people who already are remote, but management didn't relent.

Anonymous said...

So, I'm not a telecommuter, but I'll watch this with great interest.
- Is this simply a way to cut US-based head count and not pay any severance?
- How will they define "telecommuter"? I know of director-level employees who rarely come into the office even once a week. They have cubicles, but are rarely seen in an Intel building. Will they be cut too? (Not likely) If they are not, will this cause lawsuits? (Very likely.) Who will monitor all of the managers who don't come in to a site but pretend not to be a telecommuter? "Oh, I've been on the road so much lately!", they say. Then why is there IP address always the same? Who will monitor that anyone is being consistent about this new policy? In the past, rules were made, and promptly broken by upper management with no repercussions to those who break the new rules. As asked earlier, is this simply a cheap way to get rid of US-based employees?

Anonymous said...

Yeah, I know a couple of telecommuter folks who have been given until the end of the year to redeploy to an Intel site. Another SET objective often discussed was the elimination of multi-site design projects. However, I personally know of a number of new projects with engineers working in multi-sites. I can definitely say that these are the most inefficiently run design projects at Intel.

Anonymous said...

I've heard some recent rumors that the site consolidation plan won't be ratified - perhaps for the reason you suggest regarding the managers themselves. Beyond this, i know at least several of the telecommuters who are considered experts in their field. Purging this intellectual capital seems unlikely. What seems a reasonable approach (to me) would be for management to reduce fixed costs through either IR's or - if necessary - a reasonably deep cut based on the 'skills assessment.' They could then backfill as necessary with variable cost contractors. If forced with a mandate, the best telecommuters will leave and find jobs local to them (because they can). The bad ones can be skills-assessed.

If history is indicative of the future, rational business sense will take a backseat to the personal agendas of ambitious middle management.

Senior staff gets snowed every time.

Anonymous said...

The problem with trying to use IRs and "Skills Assessments" is that they are not really objective tools to measure anything. They are legal tools to show that the company made a "good faith" effort to be objective. In reality, the entire focal process only measures the network the employee is in and how well he or she is liked. The last "Skills Assessment" for managers was about six questions long and decisions were made by the upper managers without input from others. So, all you'll get from that is more of the same. The upper and upper-middle managers will protect their loyal followers regardless of their abilities. If the Intel Board of Directors wasn't a rubber stamp, they'd see some obvious steps to take.

Intel IT Guy said...

In reply to the comment about there being an environment of "foulness" after JJ's announcement of more layoffs, I haven't seen this. Most people seem to be taking the news in stride, and most people I've spoken to are philosophical about it. One woman who is 5 years from retirement said to me "maybe be getting laid off would be a good thing. Maybe I should go get a job somewhere else."

I'm not suggesting that this is good for anyone, just that the reaction to this seems to be more positive than I would have expected. Are people getting accustomed to an environment where significant reductions will take place every year?

Anonymous said...

I'd very much like to drop more scathing comments in this blog and a few expletives to boot. But I fear "the man" would track me down and, well there might be repurcussions. Then I think, isn't that exactly the problem with this corporation. There is truly no human factor in decisions. Noone really speaks up because of the same fear. I'd like to think this will come back to haunt the company one day, but in reality treating people as disposables will more than likely make it to the pages of the Harvard Business Journal as some strategic corporate success story. Thank you to all the victims for making it possible.