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The CIO Forum: IT Weathers the Storm

In the rough-and-tumble energy biz, IT departments are paddling hard to stay afloat.
Fortnightly Magazine - November 1 2002

toughest of times for both managers and staff. Many of your staff who are in their 20s and 30s have never been through times like this.

What are you planning to do to keep up the motivation?

Well basically, it's management 101-manage by walking around, manage by being present, it's like where we are right now-from a budgetary standpoint we'll be flat on a year-by-year basis. But, what is important in that is that we are still supporting a good number of critical applications, most of which, or many of which, were already underway, as the economy has gotten worse and worse. The large message is to say to your staff, "We're still investing in those projects that are important to us on a going-forward basis, that are important to our baseload infrastructure," and those kinds of things. Call it re-emphasizing the basics, call it just being there. Sounds pretty elementary and pretty trite, but I would tell you it's probably as strong a tool as we can do at the moment.

Setting Sail: PJM Has Eye on Growth

An interview with Nora Swimm, executive director of information services, PJM

How long have you been with PJM?

About one and a half years. . . I'm still learning a lot about the [energy] industry itself. The technology challenges and issues seem to be consistent from organization to organization, though.

What are some of those consistent challenges?

I would say a lot of times, it's people. It starts with making sure you have the right staff, in the right positions. . . Also, making sure as an organization, that you are tightly aligned with the business areas you are supporting. Again, that's been a consistent challenge that I've seen in all the organizations where I've worked, that really I think IS [information services] organizations provide the most value when they understand the business, and then can bring the technology solutions to bear. . . One of the things, when I first came to PJM, I looked at how we were organized in our IS department. Our departments were more aligned around technical/functional organization. I had the developers in one department, the database administrators in another, the network folks in another-I took a look at that, and working with the management team, talked about where we were, and where we wanted to get to, and business alignment was clearly one of those areas that we thought there was an opportunity to get better aligned with the business clients, the markets, and the operations. We reorganized ourselves, so that instead of having those technical departments, we now have departments aligned with the business areas that we supported. So we then became a single point of contact for those business areas, and the staff is now focused on understanding both functionally, the business areas they support, as well as the technology to support that business.

Would you say that realignment was the biggest accomplishment of your last year?

From a personal perspective, yes. As an organization, we have supported business initiatives, which included our PJM West