‘Prepare for transparency’
- 10 October, 2009 22:00
As chief information officer of BMC Software, Mark Settle says two things make his role “unusual”. The first is providing ICT support for 6000 employees across the globe, of which half are in research and development. The latter involves supporting servers and storage devices in the R and D laboratories in different parts of the world — four in the US, and one each in Israel and India. The second is that his team is also an internal showcase for BMC products, meaning they use all versions of BMC products internally, and meet with end customers. “This gives us a unique ability to provide feedback to the R and D people about the actual practical issues that we run into,” Settles says during a recent visit in Auckland.
The software is also used across the BMC businesses, which leads to “a lot of interesting discoveries”. As he explains, “typically the kind of processes that occur in IT organisations require the use of multiple tools and the development teams are all trying to take their individual products and make them as best as they can. They don’t worry about the end to end process that would go on in an IT organisation. So that is where we can provide some unique insights.”
Settle is based in Houston, Texas, and says he now spends up to a third of his time talking about BMC products and supporting the sales team. In the past, he would interact with the CIO of another company, a supplier or a customer, on ways to collaborate like exchanging information electronically.
The BMC role is his fifth as CIO, having been CIO of four Fortune 300 companies. Settle was an Air Force officer and NASA scientist, with a PhD from Brown University in the US, and he says his background has helped in his current role. Previously he was a buyer of technology and a BMC customer, while also having built an extensive network of professional acquaintances with other CIOs.
He cautions CIOs not to become “captive in their own organisations”, meaning they spend most of their time talking to their own staff, with minimal interaction with internal clients or customers of the business. CIOs could be doing a lot more in the organisation by dealing with external clients or end users of the company products, he says.
“It can be pretty humbling sometimes, because when you are in IT you think all problems can be solved by IT. But in some cases there are much bigger business problems,” he says. “You have got to understand that perspective if you want to engage with the business folks.”
He says there are three key technologies CIOs should be looking at. These are virtualisation, cloud computing and automation. Currently eight out of 10 conversations he has with CIOs end up focusing on cloud computing, with both internal and external cloud environments up for discussion. “It all boils down to getting more utilisation out of existing assets, whether it is server or storage assets.”
A perennial issue for ICT management, he says, is “transparency in the IT division”.
“I don’t think I have ever worked in an organisation where some internal executive didn’t challenge me about why does IT cost so much? Why does it take so many people to use these systems?”
He says it is important to have management tools to be able to clarify the demand and cost to support the different businesses across the enterprise. “Executives and the business are becoming more sophisticated as well. The questions asked 10 to 15 years ago are different from today,” he says. “CIOs [need to] prepare to answer these questions.”