The traditional role of IT is to develop and deliver solutions. “Execution” is at the top of the CIO required skills list. But with the advent of cloud services and more sophisticated analytics tools—and the increasing demand on IT for new capabilities—many CIOs are asking their business users to take over some delivery responsibilities.
Satya Jayadev, CIO of analog semiconductor company Skyworks Solutions, is moving IT away from delivery and toward ideation by creating a new self-service IT operating model.
Martha Heller: How do you define “the democratization of IT”?
Satya Jayadev: At Skyworks, the democratization of IT is all about giving our business users access to technology—application development, analytics, and automation—with the IT organization providing oversight, but not delivery. IT provides oversight in the form of security standards and release and change management strategies, which gives our business users both the freedom to improve their own productivity and the assurance that they are not reinventing the automation wheel across multiple sites.
COVID has been a real catalyst of this new operating model. As in most companies, when COVID hit, we started to see a flurry of requests for new automation and better analytics in supply chain and demand management. Luckily for us, we had already started to put the foundation in place for our data organization, so we were able capitalize on this opportunity to move into self-service.
How are you democratizing data at Skyworks?
We are a high-tech company, so our business users have a constant thirst for information and technology. Every one of our business functions relies on data to build insights, and every leader needs analytics and automation. So, we put together a plan to democratize data but with clear boundaries.
We created a new data team, which resides inside the IT organization and is led by someone whose role is to understand all of the data that comes into the organization. I think of the data leader as the butcher—he slices and dices the meat for our business users, but they then take it home to create their own meals. Rather than give users unrestricted access to unstructured data, like PDFs, spreadsheets, and sales reports, our data group creates data sets that are structured and applicable to our users.
The data team does a lot of engineering to analyze every piece of data and make sure it is structured and applicable to operations, finance, supply chain, and R&D; and those business users can work with the data to create their own insights to inform business decisions.
But in making that data accessible, the data team does not act in a vacuum. When we selected a visualization tool, for example, we involved our business users. Since the tool would be self-service, we also made the selection process democratic.
How are you changing your IT organizational structure to allow democratization to be successful?
For IT to shift from being order-takers to enablers of a self-service culture, we created a new role: the IT business partner. We have an IT business partner for every function; these people participate in all of the meetings of their dedicated function, and rather than asking “What new tool do you need?”, they ask, “What is the problem you are trying to solve?” IT used to sit at the execution table; with our new IT business partners, we now sit at the ideation table.
Once our users started thinking of us as true partners, we were able to really move forward with IT democratization. For example, in introducing robotic process automation (RPA), we created a one-minute video about how RPA could automate purchasing. After watching the video, business partners saw how RPA could help automate their own processes, and they became the change agents for RPA.
The IT business partner has a counterpart, a business process owner, in each of our major business functions. The interaction between these two people has to be very strong. The enterprise architect is also critically important, since this person has to understand the catalog of all projects, regardless of whether the development work happens inside or outside of IT. The enterprise architect stays in touch with the IT business partners to make sure that we are working with consistent tools and not investing new technologies, when we already have what we need. The handshake between the IT business partner, business process owner, and enterprise architect must be very solid.
What did you change about your governance and architecture?
Our approach to architecture is to reduce our legacy technology debt and keep everything as simple as possible. One path to simplicity has been cloud services, which are easy to turn off quickly and allow our business partners to try new solutions with a “fail fast” approach. The cloud also takes the burden of maintenance off our IT teams so that they have more time to focus on business challenges.
We’ve also developed automation councils, which include eight people—from IT and across our business—who meet every two weeks and bring all potential projects to the table. We do not fill out forms, we just present opportunities, and we select one tool or process that will solve the most problems. The simplicity of our cloud architecture and our governance model allow us real speed to market.
What advice do you have for CIOs who would like to create a similar self-service model?
Most important is to shift from IT execution to business enablement. This can be a major transformation, since, traditionally, IT organizations have had to do so much on their own that CIOs put most of their resources in development and delivery. But especially with cloud technologies, the CIO role today can be more about governance and designing a process that allows for self-service.
Execution can happen anywhere, including in your business functions. If you are careful about architecture and oversight—and you lose your fear of “shadow IT”—you can let the business build their own solutions. It is time for IT leaders to move out of the execution role and take a seat at the ideation table. This way, they can enable business users to be agents of change.