Facebook CIO on self-service IT

It should surprise no one that Facebook has a very progressive attitude to the way it runs its IT. In an interview with CIO UK, Facebook CIO Tim Campos explained how the company's strategy of moving as much of its systems into the cloud as possible is being managed by including its employees into the buying process.

According to Campos, the way Facebook runs its IT is the way every company will run their IT in ten years' time. 70 per cent of Facebook's enterprise systems are run over cloud services.

He says: "The only systems that are not on the cloud are applications like Oracle or our business intelligence, where the technology is just not there yet."

This means he runs a tight ship on the IT team, with a staff of 60 people — less than 2 per cent of the total workforce.

The team is more focused on the application, alignment and management of IT, than procurement and maintenance.

On the user end, Facebook's IT estate is a little different than most companies, with 65 per cent of the company using Macs and 90 per cent issued with company mobile phones. Campos says these are the company's biggest spend areas in terms of IT.

There is a very relaxed approach to the way these devices and the associated peripherals and attachments are distributed. Often it's a case of employees taking what they want from a cupboard in the office. This means keeping tabs on IT assets isn't so straightforward.

Campos has brought in IT asset management specialist Apptio to help manage this estate. The application this vendor provides to report on billing is cloud-based.

He says: "We don't want to put constraints on how staff use IT. We are able to give them a bill to show them how much they are drawing on and let them make their own decisions."

With the consumerisation of IT on the increase, it is expected that many other organisations are going to have to find ways of making employees aware of how their own IT usage impacts on the overall IT spend. Campos believes Facebook is leading the way here in a way that doesn't scare or dictate to staff.

He started to develop the system in November 2010 and deployed it in March 2011. The lead time is because there was some usage data clean-up involved, but Campos notes it gave the company an opportunity to get a better idea about its handset portfolio and gave it a much better stewardship of its IT estate.

He says: "Immediately we saw an 8 per cent saving in our communications bill and I expect a further 10 per cent saving as the service beds in."

On a higher level, Campos is pleased that everyone in the company is aware of the day-to-day spend on IT within the company and it's not something he has to spend time explaining to business-line heads in strategic discussions.

So far Campos has concentrated on the mobile handset estate, but he is about to move to desktop devices, where he hopes to set up a virtual vending machine operation, allowing staff to take what they require without a lot of red tape.

There is a limit to where this self-service approach to IT will lead though. Campos reserves procurement decisions on enterprise systems to stay in the domain of the IT team.

He says: "It stops at the point when the employee can't decide on the spend. For instance, the question of whether we use ERP is not an employee decision."

Overall though, Facebook staff have warmed to this open approach to IT procurement.

"It's been very well received," says Campos "We made it clear why we were going to roll it out. It wasn't about micro-managing or constraining what they spent. We made it plain that there is no correct spend."

Copyright © 2011 IDG Communications, Inc.

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