Jun 25 2020

HPE Discover 2020: How to Get Tech Teams Aligned with Business Objectives

When the business and IT work together, great things can happen — but it takes a shift in thinking.

It’s no secret IT organizations are not always as aligned as they should be with high-value business initiatives, and are more focused on day-to-day activities. This was the case initially for Frank Caratozzolo, vice president of IT engineering and architecture at Dublin-based pharmaceutical company Allergan.

Speaking at the HPE Discover 2020 virtual conference, Caratozzolo said, “We used to do just order taking when we engaged with the business.” The common phrases he heard were, “‘Build me this server. Build me this storage. I need this backup,’” he said. But that type of conversation doesn’t allow for the richer dialogue or the high-level business activities to be performed. “We had to earn that seat at the table with the business,” he noted.

As a global pharmaceutical company, Allergan specializes in medical aesthetics and products for the central nervous system and for eye care. One of its well-known brands is Botox. Over the past 10 years, Caratozzolo’s teams have endured more than 59 mergers and acquisitions, 10 of which were two equally sized companies coming together. “The change rate happens constantly around here,” he said. “Every Monday morning, I could be facing a new acquisition that has to be accommodated as part of the infrastructure work.”

From Information Technology to Business Technology

Caratozzolo wanted to shift his team’s orientation from that of an IT organization to one of a business technology organization, meaning that “we have to ensure that we understand the business much better so we can align the services that we focus on to fuel the growth of the business,” he said.

The team started this shift in 2018 as the company moved to a hybrid cloud infrastructure. “Every company is going to be different with their starting point, their maturity levels, the skills within the organization and their structure,” said Caratozzolo. “All of that has to be understood before you embark on a cloud transformation journey. If you don’t understand that, you don’t know if you’re addressing the right set of problems.” Having that data up front helps create a more prescriptive approach that can be measured so you can demonstrate the value to the business, he added.

When they started this process, team members were very siloed, with separate groups for server, storage and backup. All the groups needed to work together to deliver the services for the business, so they created a cross-functional team dedicated to deliver cloud transformation. From there, they made decisions as a team, measured improvements and continuously added capabilities that the business demanded. “A lot of companies that don’t do this up front learn some hard lessons that need to be addressed,” said Caratozzolo. “We avoided a lot of the pain points because we addressed it up front.”

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How to Start the Business-IT Alignment Process

Moving to this structure increased the pace at which the team was able to respond to the business’s needs. But the real benefit was that it allowed the team to have more time to be engaged with the business’s high-value projects. “We never had that time when we were always order taking and putting out fires, and now we are getting ahead of that in a much more proactive way,” said Caratozzolo.   

This new structure allows the IT organization to better adapt to change as well. Whether it’s a merger, a change in business climate or a new business capability, the team is more prepared to respond.

For Caratozzolo’s team, a key success factor was that it had built a great foundation for the cloud, consisting of security, network controls, automation for provisioning capabilities, detect and correct, log management and monitoring capabilities. “All of that has has to be embedded in that first stack of the building block,” stressed Caratozzolo. “If that’s done right, what that allows you to do is face change, address new capabilities faster and scale if needed, because all of the underlying components are there.”

Caratozzolo recommended businesses do three things when looking to begin a transformation like this. First, they should pick a technology partner carefully and lean on its expertise. Allergan’s work with HPE helped it accelerate the overall program and caused it to realize value sooner.

The second recommendation was to measure where the business is at the start — the gaps, deficiencies, and the skills that have to be built up before beginning. Finally, Caratozzolo said, invest the time in doing cost management up front. “Because if you face cost overruns you may not get a second chance to actually start the program up again,” he said.

To keep up with our coverage of HPE Discover 2020, bookmark this page, follow us on Twitter at @BizTechMagazine or the official conference Twitter account, @HPE_Discover, and join the conversation using the hashtag #HPEDiscover.

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