April Issue

Welcome to the bleeding edge of IT reorgs

The IT department isn't going to disappear, but more companies are erasing the lines and boxes of their traditional org charts

Welcome to the bleeding edge of IT reorgs. Our first stop will be Zappos' technology department, renamed Unicorn after the CEO's favorite mythological creature. (I'm not making that up. Honestly, how could anyone?)

Next, we'll cruise by GameStop, which carved its IT function into four groups focused on delivery, architecture, strategy and customer experience. The final stop on our tour will be AccuWeather, which rebranded its CIO as a chief digital officer, split IT into two categories (daily work and strategic work) and moved some sales functions into IT.

These three stand out as the most radical examples detailed in our story "Some Companies Take IT Reorgs to the Extreme." The IT department isn't about to disappear, but more companies are erasing the lines and boxes of their traditional org charts and restructuring IT.

Some of these changes are defensive responses to the gale-force winds of change from the digital economy; some are offensive moves designed to spark greater innovative thinking.

Zappos, for example, spent last year breaking apart its corporate hierarchy and reassembling it into a "holacracy," a kind of corporate commune where people work in groups or circles that constantly rearrange themselves as new projects emerge.

"It's a radical approach and we're passionate about trying it," says Brent Cromley, CTO at Zappos. "We want everyone thinking about how we can improve things, not just a select few at a time or a group set aside to do innovation."

GameStop's longtime CIO, Jeff Donaldson, looked hard at the multiple roles a modern CIO must play and decided it was "really ridiculous to expect that one professional can operate effectively across all of those personas." Each of the four new IT functions has its own senior IT leader. Donaldson took on the GameStop Technology Institute, which focuses on product innovation. These days his job is all about collaborating with futurists, researchers and venture capitalists.

"This lights up neurons," he says. "There's nothing better than that."

"Done well, a dramatic overhaul can make IT responsive to the unknown. Done poorly, you fertilize staff resentment about too much change or dead-end jobs on legacy systems," writes Kim S. Nash. "There are no best practices for the bleeding edge. Just a few intrepid CIOs."

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