Look beyond just IT

Date:   Wednesday , August 01, 2012

Craig Haught is the Chief Information Officer (CIO) at Hitachi Data Systems. In his role, Haught oversees worldwide IT operations at Hitachi GST, Haught brings two decades of IT and CIO experience working for a range of Fortune 1000 technology companies. Most recently, he was Vice President and CIO at Cymer, Inc., a San Diego-based semiconductor equipment manufacturer. He also served as CIO, Information Services and Technology at Terastor Corporation, a San Jose-based data storage technology company.

Haught has served in IT management roles for large-scale global companies such as Applied Materials and Sun Microsystems. At Applied Materials, he held the position of managing director, Global Information Solutions and Technology. He previously served as a senior director, IT Business and Resource Planning at Sun Microsystems.

Adopting new trends and technologies in enterprise space

Mobility and cloud is definitely the talks when it comes to emerging trends in enterprises today. But the key focus is aggregating all the different emerging technologies to form suitable solutions to combat day to day challenges of running a business. Enterprises typically are very deep in their architecture. For example, there are complexities in the areas of security, in how one provides information to people who need it and keep it away from people who do not need it. Enterprises need solutions that can help them manage change quickly and bring in flexibility to business and this happens when there is an amalgamation of various technologies.

Lookout for next big solution

One of the biggest problems that we are facing is when we try to maximize the flexibility on the client side and concentrate our efforts on the data side. The data, regardless of the entity in the business, is always maintained at an appropriate level of confidentiality. For employees, the maximum flexibility in terms of accessing information through their devices is limited and varies device to device. The challenge here is that the rate of pace of change has not allowed us the options that we need available. For example, in enterprises, a Blackberry works best because of its security model; the owner has complete control over it and need not worry even if he loses it. You can remove the device from the management and leave no footprint. The same can not be said about an Android device or an iPhone.

At Hitachi, we are following a "no footprint" policy since the last few months, where the employees are given thin client (devices) that can be used only to view data and not actually store it. But in such a model too, the challenge is that one has to stay connected round the clock. While being connected is an issue, so is performance. For example, there are many people who choose to work during transit. While on an airplane they have zero connectivity on the device. This is a challenge that we continue to face and have seen no concrete solution for.

Most enterprises continue to use the traditional methods of connectivity. Luckily, our peers in telecom are recognizing the need. But the fact is that are on the critical path so they choose to charge huge rates to stay connected. It is a cost all the businesses have to deal with. Our solution to that is because we have global infrastructure and when we are in proximity over size, we try to mitigate the cost that is being applied to access, which is a part of our solution.

Ideally, we need a solution like Blackbird that works on both Android and iPhone seamlessly. Also companies like SanDisk and some others are creating chips that can be encrypted and stored locally in the device and is safe too as it will not work on other devices.

Utilizing cloud and open source appropriately

Every company needs to keep their track linked to the future. Some of them go down the commercial application space; some companies opt for distribution. In the case of smaller companies they choose open source by which they can keep their costs down.

Probably what you need to do is to pick your strategy and stick to it by trying not to get distracted by the complications of the moment. Always make sure you are aligned to the business plans. Planning is building upon your core building blocks and trying not to be too clever. To execute is to deliver what you say. Basically, you have to keep a strong architecture which is viable and strong. We spend a lot of time in the back office more often. We see the value at the front end which is a representation of the back office.

This is a tremendously challenging time considering the slow rate of the economy worldwide. We need to figure out how to become stronger and more capable.

Innovation with in Team

I believe the term 'innovation' is a philosophical one. The thing with innovation is that it takes so long to get certain things done. It starts from striking up with an idea, translate it into a prototype, test it against the business and finally, roll it out as a value proposition because in the enterprise we usually come across such scales. We are trying to address that in a meaningful way where the architectures we have built can enable 'plug and play' capabilities in a rapid way. What we are focus on the end user experience and keeping all the things like security, confidentiality and policies in the back ground and user experience in the front end. In that regard, we are taking our core enterprise system and starting to valuate more plug-ins on the user experience side. Assuming that the core architecture that do require these complex processes are in place, we are pushing the distance between what people have to deal with and what we have to deal with on the job.

Hence, as long as enterprises can keep providing us the strong architectural backbone, we can continue our focus on innovating on improving the user experience.

It is more like a change in thought process. We could always debate the applications that are there today with the applications that were there 10 or 20 years ago. The architectures and applications are allowing us build small applications that interact more responsively to the userís command on a very inexpensive device like a tablet. The decomposition of these applications is allowing us to put a whole lot of stuff in the backend and put it in the userís finger tips in a very intuitive way to access information, shape it and present it in real time.

Advice to Peers

Every CIO must remember one thing, never look at anything as an IT project. One must always look at the task in hand as a business project. The challenge comes when you start looking at your end users as IT/technically adept people.

In any project, in my experience, if you got a matrix structure and everybody is dependent on other people being ready at a certain time then, when the structure starts to break down, everybody becomes confused, there is chaos and what youíre trying to accomplish does not happen as people start going off in a disjointed way. The leadership division needs to make sure that they need to be solid and they engage the business so that they take ownership for the end result. The partnership should converge on the milestones for commitment.

The business absolutely depends on IT. Future changes are moving so fast that any piece of whole process breaks down, they end up having chaos. All of a sudden there is a huge gap between the realities of what you need and the realities of what you get.