Intel: 'Four big buckets' of self-service
"It's intriguing to stand back and think about end-users," says Diane Bryant, CIO and vice president of Intel. "When you look at tech trends, you see that IT has been delivering greater and greater capabilities into the hands of employees over the years."
At Intel, self-service initiatives can be roughly categorized into "four big buckets" -- traditional help-desk capabilities, BI, Web publishing and infrastructure as a service.
Some initiatives, like self-service tech support, are designed for all of Intel's 93,000 employees, who, even at a high-tech company, encompass a wide range of skills. "We roll things out and some will dabble, some will be far more curious and more aggressive in pushing the limits of the tool, and others will shy away," says Bryant.
"We have a workforce that has a long tenure," she elaborates. "People coming into Intel tend to be more comfortable with these new ways of operating, but there's always a base of employees that isn't comfortable." As the solutions mature and more and more rank-and-file employees adopt them, "the rest of the users eventually get swept in," Bryant observes.
Self-service systems that are targeted toward specific groups of employees, on the other hand, tend not to face that kind of adoption lag, Bryant says. The company's new Web publishing system, for example, allows its approximately 2,000 corporate marketing employees to create and self-publish content for Intel.com.
Likewise, self-service BI solutions give salespeople access to analytics on customer leads and allow senior financial analysts to run what-if scenarios to determine where the company's financials are going to land for the quarter.
Those types of self-service systems typically take off much more quickly than others, for two reasons, Bryant says. First, the user community is largely made up of high-level, highly skilled employees. And second, the tools themselves have evolved to the point where they can accommodate users' expectations without sacrificing quality.
"BI tools have matured to the level where you don't have to have a master's degree in computer science [to use them]," she says. "They respond to the employee request. You get better access to the data, converted into formats that users are familiar with."
In her experience, Bryant says, the biggest question around self-service isn't whether users can handle a new system; it's whether business-unit managers can sell the merits of the system effectively enough that users will adopt it willingly.
"When you tell people you're going from a single point of control to a self-serve model, you are changing an existing business process," Bryant says. "Senior leaders often underestimate how hard that is. IT can't tell the sales force to start doing things differently. The business side needs to educate them on how this change will make them more productive."
Mitre: Early adopters, demanding users
When asked about the technical skill level of his typical employee, Mitre Vice President and CIO Joel Jacobs deadpans, "Are you familiar with Mitre?"
Indeed, the not-for-profit research lab, originally founded by people who worked at MIT's Lincoln Labs, employs some 7,000 scientists, engineers and support specialists, of whom 65% hold a master's or doctoral degree.
"There's a high probability of the [end-user] being technically oriented in computer science or engineering," Jacobs says. "Their ability to cope is pretty high."
Mitre was among the earliest organizations to embrace the Internet and the Web. "We had those funny characters" -- meaning email addresses -- "on the bottom of our business cards 20 years ago," Jacobs recalls. Launched in the early 1990s, the organization's intranet, Mitre Information Infrastructure (MII), is well integrated into the corporate culture.