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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

workload we have. We've got our demand and supply equation back in balance, we believe.

What are the challenges that lie ahead? Clearly, from just a people standpoint, we're in a break-fix mode, which is down to what you'd think of as mandatory kind of work. The challenge is, how do you keep people engaged? How do you keep them challenged, and make it a place to continue and thrive in their career? That's one big challenge. Our business is fluid. We may sell more assets-I don't know.

What are your goals for IT in the next year at Williams?

What we really want to do, as an IT shop-it's important to us that we provide the value-added services that our customers need to meet their business. So, the kind of activities I see us delving into-because we really haven't, other than organizationally putting us together, we really haven't had an opportunity to work together as one, because of the turmoil. What I would like to have is the opportunity to turn our attention to performance management, best practices, and benchmarking…

Our business isn't making widgets. So I think the challenge we've got is that our businesses are going to be under immense pressure to control costs-an understatement. They view us in effect like a third-party provider. What are our core competencies-that's a key question. And how do we know we're delivering those services in the most efficient way possible. I think we're going to see in the not-too-distant future, they're going to say, why don't you just outsource it?

Outsourcing isn't much of a trend right now. Do you see that picking up?

For us, we haven't historically outsourced a lot of application development work. I think that we'll move in the direction… I do think what's important is, whether I provide it or an outsourcer provides it, you've got to have a clear articulation of all the deliverables, and you have to have a clear articulation of the performance measures.

What are the consequences of staff reductions and budget cuts?

I'd like to see us put together a fairly high-level service level agreement. [But] as we dramatically change our services and reduce our size, I think there's going to be a huge disconnect with our internal customers at the staff level, who basically are used to champagne, and we're about to shift them to a beer budget. So the question is, how do you manage those expectations? We're radically changing the character and nature of the service we're providing. The people who are the officers and head of these companies are going, "Oh yeah, we've got to cut our costs, and I don't want to pay." And yet, the rank-and-file are the ones who consume our service. I don't know if they're getting the message or not… And, we need to have measures in place … If it's totally subjective, then we're setting ourselves up for just continuously getting beat over the head… Candidly, I think our core competencies are around those unique applications that are very customized [and] require