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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

since they weren't ever using it, they couldn't help coach their employees on how to use it, plus they ended up being negative about it, because they saw the falloff in productivity because of the new technology, and they weren't really expected to use it themselves. So not only did we lose 10 people that should have been on the phones, we lost their support. Now, looking back on it, it just seems so-I mean, how could you not know? . . . The summary of that really is to look at how, even if you've just re-engineered, look at how your processes may need to change to facilitate the rollout of a technology project. Like putting everybody on the phones.

What sorts of projects are you working on now to improve efficiency?

One of the big, simple, quick success stories we had this year was automated time entry. . . So that was just an easy one, but we're also doing a lot of employee self-service. . . We're going 100 percent online recruitment by early next year.

What are your specific goals going forward?

What I did, I just adopted what-when Jeff Immelt first took over for GE, he said in an interview that he planned to digitize his back office and reduce it by some amount-I think it might have been 75 percent. And so I kind of adopted that, and said we could reduce our back office process support by 50 percent. I'm not really translating that into employee reductions, as much as I am in just a combination of not having to replace retiring employees, and improved productivity in other employees.

What other things are going to get a big part of your budget?

Next year the biggest project for us is two-way radio, the GIS outage management storage is sucking up everything, we have a big upgrade project for SAP that starts next year and we're buying a lot of the infrastructure for that next year, and we just on an ongoing basis have a lot of customer Internet and employee Web applications that we're supporting.

Experts say that outsourcing is making more sense for companies like SMUD than for the Dukes of the world. Is that true?

Yes, we're going out for an RFP to look at options around outsourcing our SAP solution, for all the hardware and the maintenance. Part of my driver there is business continuity, so if I can get a big data center, I think it could be cost effective for them to provide us not only the hardware support for our SAP application, but they would also have better backup than we have right now. I'm hoping to see if I can get that for less than having to set up my own hot site somewhere.

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