Ensuring a Balanced Approach for Competitively Addressing the Industry Requirements

Todd Kackley, VP & CIO, Textron Systems
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Todd Kackley, VP & CIO, Textron Systems

Challenges and Expectations

One of the largest challenges that I see facing our industry is balancing the acceleration of innovations and internet economy driven solutions against the need to provide safe, secure and compliant solutions that protect our information assets. Users are interested in collaborative, mobile tools that can be deployed quickly. Users also have a broader awareness of the ‘art of the possible’ through their own personal use of cloud-based, self-service solutions. The marketplace is providing consumers with the opportunity to procure technology solutions through a simple online transaction, often at the risk of misunderstanding critical aspects of a technology decision such as terms of use, data location, or underlying security risks.

“The continued exploitation of data discovery and advanced analytical tools will certainly have positive impacts on our environment”

In the past, one could define the necessary compliance requirements for controlling information technology assets that were largely on-premise, stand alone business solutions. This was based on the nature of the information being stored, computed or transferred, with users relying on general access controls to restrict access. As user requirements evolve to enable cross-platform collaboration and information exchange, general access controls still play an important role, but start to require more sophisticated solutions to address additional parameters like data marking, encryption in motion, attribute based access and location based handling restrictions. Looking ahead, I would expect technology providers to continue to mature solutions that enable our industry to leverage emerging cloud services, while competitively addressing the required compliance requirements.

Including the Right Mix of Solutions

Traditional thought has largely been that in order to get an integrated view of data across the enterprise, the organization needs a robust data warehouse. While this may still hold true, there are significant challenges with this, starting with the fact that data warehouses and their underlying technologies are often complex to develop, difficult to maintain, and painfully slow to deliver ad-hoc requirements. I think it is important to include the right mix of reporting and business intelligence solutions, pushing the capability for ad-hoc dashboarding and data discovery into the hands of the data owners. IT becomes the bottleneck if the informational need of the day takes weeks to develop into a standard report. In our organization, we are spending less time supporting traditional data warehouses, and focusing more on providing the appropriate data sources to enable agile analytic reporting in the hands of our users. This requires stepping back a bit, while providing more guidance over the process of introducing changes and general administration of the solution.

The continued exploitation of data discovery and advanced analytical tools will certainly have positive impacts on our environment—not only from the aspect of driving better business decisions, but also in helping us leverage our wealth of data on the products that we manufacture and support. Providing solutions that allow us to mine the data will give us greater insight into product performance, supply chain optimization, and improve opportunities to drive cost and risk out.

Additionally, the adoption of more cloud services will continue to have an impact on the enterprise. This includes leveraging the elastic scalability of on demand, service based infrastructures to improve operations and system availability. Further opportunities exist in how we deliver software solutions, as we also look for opportunities to have scalable license models that allow for flexing when business conditions fluctuate.

The Evolving Role of IT

The Information Technology (IT) department’s role at Textron Systems is continuing to evolve from one that was largely focused on cost optimization and completing service requests, to one with an established business partnership, where IT is working with business leaders to jointly identify opportunities and shape priorities based on value based outcomes and their overall fit to strategic priorities. As the leader of the function, my role continuously evolves with the business priorities—today, I am focused on becoming an enterprise change leader, capable of transforming and delivering solutions that can achieve and sustain value for the entire enterprise.To that end, it is important that we focus on measuring our value not solely on the number of completed projects, or exclusively on metrics like IT spends per user or as a percentage of revenue, but also on indicators like contribution to profitable growth, on-time customer delivery and manufacturing efficiency.

An example of where IT has impacted process transformation efforts is in the overall shift in how we address a need for change. Traditionally, IT’s role in transformational projects or enhancements has been predominately focused on delivering technology solutions to satisfy a stated set of business requirements, with minimal focus on the broader process or people aspects of the change. A good indicator of this is the number of enhancements or support requests that come into IT well beyond the normal sustainment phase of a new systems transformation. By evolving IT dialogue to focus on people, process and technology, we increase the probability that we are addressing the right root cause, and providing sustainable solutions that are easier to support and maintain.

Developing a Deeper Understanding

As a CIO in the defense industry, there is a constant need to balance the agile, innovative and less costly solutions with the concerns of security and compliance. A new CIO starting in this industry will need to develop a deep understanding of the standards and guidelines for the industry, along with an awareness of where the marketplace is heading relative to emerging technologies like cloud, the Internet of Things and mobile. As the guidelines and standards have changed over the last few years, in support of enabling the federal government’s Cloud First policy, there have been a number of new vendors emerging in the IaaS, PaaS, and SaaS categories, with offerings that meet the required levels of industry certification. As these offerings mature and adoption increases, they provide an agile and lower cost opportunity for the function.

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