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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

initiative. The CIS was driven by the traditional things that drive you to replace legacy systems-obsolescence, and lack of functionality.

When you work with other managers at PG&E, how do IT priorities get set?

We have a variety of things that we use to drive IT spending, initiatives, and priorities. It ranges from very tactical, where people focus on specific technologies and their appropriate selection, to strategic, which is the management committee of the company and officer IT council that basically sets the high-level policies. That's where, for example, the IT council would say, do we have a strategic goal to get ourselves off legacy systems or not? The details of specific projects would be handled at information technology committees that are much more tactically focused. It's really the relationship of all the things working together that's the important part, I think.

Do you use the council to align IT goals with the company's overall business goals?

Yes. This is a very strong philosophy that I have, that you start first with the business goals and business strategy, then you develop an information technology strategy to support it, and finally you look at the information technology choices, products, and services to support that. What was oftentimes happening was that a vendor would come in and show some technology, and people would get wowed by it-the wow factor-and we would then work from the technology toward the business process strategy. So [now] it's the business strategy, the business process, then the information strategy, then the technical tactics that we follow with. That's the order we try and stay with.

If the bankruptcy reorganization plan is successful, how are you going to divide your IT department?

The plan of reorganization only applies to Pacific Gas and Electric Co., and that is to take what is a highly integrated, coupled IT function, which would be required to be split to support what will become two corporations, and within one corporation will be three or four different companies. We will have to split the IT function, which means the resources and infrastructure, and the people as well. Both companies will need IT personnel. I have not figured out yet if breaking IT up is harder than merging IT, but it's not easy.

All Hands on Deck: SMUD Doing More With Less

An interview with Linda Hensley, director of business technology and change management, Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD)

What have your challenges and goals been the past year, and what are you planning for the future?

I'm not actually from the technology area. I manage technology projects in the customer area. . . So the first year we focused on getting the bigger re-engineering initiatives done. We're still doing more of them this year. This year we've been working on implementing more of those. As part of that we had been working with the district at the corporate and executive level on alignment between business and technology, and generally between the business units themselves. We put into place-this was both technology change management and executive alignment-executive