In a wide-ranging interview, General Electric Intelligent Platforms (GEIP) CIO and "Lean Leader" ("Lean" grew out Six Sigma to squeeze out defects except it focuses more on efficiency) Vince Campisi describes what life is like in a huge industrial giant like GE. How does the unit collaborate with other units when substantial business is generated internally? He also describe views on BYOD, big data, cloud and social media. GEIP is the industrial controls and automation arm of General Electric. Part I of II explores the unit's application modernization efforts in detail.
ECF: Describe your unit's IT organization.
Campisi: Our business (about $1 billion in revenues) is pretty globally dispersed so the IT team is across the globe. I lead "lean" as well as IT. We are about a 70 person organization.
ECF: What is lean? Or a lean leader?
Campisi: As a Lean Leader, I oversee the company’s efforts to improve the quality of process outputs by identifying and removing the causes of defects (errors) and minimizing variability in manufacturing and business processes.
ECF: Seventy is not many IT people. Does that include developers?
Campisi: Developers would generally be someone we'd partner with to do pure development.
ECF: So what are the 70 people doing?
Campisi: A large portion is program management, leading business process domains whether it be in the IT space, inquiry to order which is your commercial front end, order to remittance, which usually your supply chain or finance. It is by key process area. Program managers are the most dominant profile on our staff.
ECF: So not data admins and that sort of traditional IT role?
Campisi: That’s one of the benefits of being part of the broader GE company where we have a lot of shared services we can lean on – infrastructure, hosting and support is something we lean from our corporate structure. I have a CTO and we have a lean infrastructure team, but we have the benefit of leaning on shared services to run the data center and those sorts of things.
ECF: How much do you meet with customers? How much of your job is internal IT and how much is customers focused?
Campisi: My focus is 99% internal and when I say internal, that includes helping internal customers, but over time, the expectation is I will bring the CIO point of view and do what I can to help the business succeed. I only just joined [GEIP] a couple of months back.
ECF: What about this notion that IT should be a line of business and generate revenue?
Campisi: That resonates with my last job as CIO for our water division where we ran a series of fee-based software products that were hosted for customers. You see kind of a mixed bag right now looking around the company. You’ll see examples where CIOs are doing that kind of stuff or doing more traditional things. It’s up to the profile of the CIO and their relationship with the business leader.
ECF: What are the hot IT skills? What are the jobs you can’t fill?
Campisi: I would not say "can’t fill," but I had a session yesterday about talent needs. I will give two examples as ongoing themes: enterprise architecture folks who can assess technology and understand the pros and cons and help select the right tools and platforms as well as folks who help with a clear integration strategy. That's especially as you leverage cloud-based solutions when you still run in-house on-premise solutions. Enterprise architecture has never been as important as it is right now.
ECF: Do you have a hybrid approach?
Campisi: Yes. Having the right integration strategy, techniques and methods to do that effectively is super critical because there’s so many different cloud products out there. You need to provide a seamless process and experience to the business and it’s a lot harder to do today than it was five years ago. That’s going to be an ongoing theme.
ECF: Why is it harder than it was five years ago?
Campisi: Cloud-based solutions are often a complement to adding to things to what you do today. So now you’re starting to go outside the firewall, but you still need to let people see, feel and experience an integrated approach. You’re going backward if you have a bunch of different [non-integrated] tools. Being able to orchestrate that and drive integration across [the enterprise] gets even more challenging because there is more popping up…and [apps] are not all within your control and within your own walls. How you pass data back and forth is one of the biggest [challenges].
ECF: Describe your cloud efforts. How many apps do you have in the cloud?
Campisi: Generally, a lot of front end activities like CRM, lead generation and marketing sorts of tools are in the cloud. Probably 20% if not more of our portfolio are coming in through the cloud.
ECF: Where will that number be in a couple of years?
Campisi: The question is what won’t it be? I think ERPs are going to be a longer path [and not] and not in the cloud in the next five years. Manufacturing systems are proximity-based and really need to be close to the plant level. Everything is fair game, but [ERP and manufacturing systems] are ones with the longest path to go to the cloud.
ECF: Is the BYOD policy GE wide or is it something you think about?
Campisi: It is a GE wide policy. We have a global CIO (Charlene Begley) who’s come in over the past couple of years and set a tone in line with where the world is going - that is not to police workforce and tell people what they can’t do, but understand what people need and what to make available. BYOD fits right into that mindset and is something we are actively supporting. If folks have a personal phone or tablet, we’ll connect them to the GE network so they can get access to their mail and calendars. We view [BYOD] as a good thing and are always conscious how you do that safely and securely [with] respect for people’s privacy. BYOD is something we recognize as part of the way we have to do business.
ECF: Tell me how you're handling the big data opportunity.
Campisi: The way we’re [exploiting] unstructured data is through better search mechanisms when you are trying to locate docs. We’ve started to explore and test different techniques on ETO (engineer-to-order) and business intelligence where techniques have been the same for the past 10-15 years. People will tell you every time you do an interface, it’s hard and a lot of work. We’ve been doing a lot of work around open source columnar databases which changes how you sort through information and other techniques about how you feed a database that allows you to pick up changes fast, not through a nightly batch process.
ECF: How important is social media at GEIP?
Campisi: Collaboration is one of four GE wide themes from the global CIO. There’s a platform called Collab, which has been in place since the beginning of the year, replacing an older system. We have 100,000 employees of a 300,000 person company using it actively, passing documents around and collaborating.
ECF: What about public social media platforms such as Twitter, FB and LinkedIn?
Campisi: You see good examples of manufacturing groups using LinkedIn, comparing notes in an open forum. We're trying to leverage Twitter and FB to connect with customers, but I don't think we've mastered them.
ECF: Are you on Twitter?
Campisi: I use Facebook for personal stuff. I don’t do a lot of posting, but I’ll read things. I am on Twitter, but I spend more time on Collab which is more relevant to what I am doing every day.
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