Celebrated CIO Randy Mott Talks IT at the PC Giant

It’s 6:02 a.m. when Randy Mott reaches his office. He spends an hour checking e-mail and rewriting the agenda for an afternoon meeting before calling Dell Computer’s head of IT in Japan. At 8, he has a meeting with HR to coordinate a personnel shift and at 9 a call with a reporter. It’s a typical morning?except for the late start.

As CIO for Austin, Texas-based Dell, Mott supports a Fortune 50 company, manages 2,500 IT workers around the world, and keeps 20 strategic and more than 100 other major projects on track. Prior to joining Dell in March 2000, Mott spent 22 years at Wal-Mart, the last six as CIO. While the retail giant and computer maker seem to have little in common, Mott took the Dell job because of the similarities, he says.

Both companies are famous for their efficient supply chains. Dell orders parts every two hours and never keeps more than four day’s inventory on hand. Dell’s rapid rate of change and global reach fit with the IT mantra Mott developed at Wal-Mart: speed of delivery. Since the business needs and project requirements are constantly changing, he says, "the quicker you get in and get out of a project, the more likely you are to succeed."

Mott’s challenge is not so much to create systems that support Dell’s products, but to make sure that his department creates the right systems. To ensure the systems meet the company’s requirements, he needs to understand how customers and the sales force use them and communicate that to his department. Consequently, he meets with more than 100 customers and takes two trips to Europe and Asia every year.

Back in Austin, Mott meets regularly with the rest of the executive team and his eight direct reports?several of whom have been CIOs at other companies?to craft and disseminate his messages. He also holds regular "all hands" meetings with the entire IT department to discuss Dell’s product line and how it fits into the company’s overall strategic direction. The point of all the meetings, says Mott, is to make sure that the entire company has a consistent message.

Dell’s size and global reach complicate Mott’s efforts to keep his department focused, but he views it as a challenge. "There are complexities, but my job is to make it so that the complexities are not an excuse," he says.

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