Jim Haar, BEABy Brian P. Watson | Posted 2007-06-07 Email Print
In what ways are today's innovative CIOs exploiting today's emerging information technologies?
BEA's Jim Haar: Using SOA to overhaul business processes.
Haar is responsible for BEA I.T. systems and operations worldwide. Before taking over the CIO role, Haar was responsible for a sales operations group, where he delivered substantial year over year license and maintenance revenue growth. Prior to joining BEA in 2004, he served as the director of marketing business operations at Sun Microsystems, where he played a key role in driving the company's pricing strategy, licensing models and marketing analytics, and held several senior positions with Compaq, where he spearheaded its Global Supply Chain Systems Group and led the I.T. integration effort during Compaq's acquisition of Digital Equipment Corp. Haar and Baseline's John McCormick conducted an e-mail interview.
Baseline: What new and innovative things is your I.T. department working on?
Haar: Inside BEA Systems, we are using SOA technologies and approaches to overhaul fundamental business processes. This approach is enabling us to, in effect, mash-up existing business processes and the underlying data in legacy applications and databases. The result will be a next generation of business capability, new processes that legacy applications can't deliver. The first business process innovations we deliver will be transactions based on advanced real-time analytic capability. We look across more than 10 years of transactional data in a variety of core business applications in order to present a whole picture of our customer's BEA technology consumption. This will enable us to tailor offerings specific to customers. Later, this same services infrastructure will enable us to de-customize legacy applications. This will allow us to direct a larger share of our I.T. budget to further innovation instead of maintaining static applications.
On the operational front we are piloting virtualization like everyoneas a mechanism to control physical server sprawl. Our primary data center is in Reno so we are fortunate to have relatively inexpensive power. However, the data center has limited physical space and as BEA grows we need to do more with the same floor area.
How important is I.T. innovation to your company?
As a software manufacturer, our company has to react faster to market changes than a traditional industrial corporation whose product cycles are dependant on physical constraints. Change affects us as quickly as our customers or our engineers can think of it. The essence of BEA's business is I.T. innovation, and it's critical to us both externally with our customers and internally as we drive continuous improvement in our operating models. We are growing both through new products in new markets and through acquisition; thus I.T. innovation isn't optional. We need to continually do more with relatively fixed I.T. budgets. We are no different than most companies in that respect. And innovation is one way we do that. We are innovating not only in the technologies we use and the services we deliver, but also in how we operate I.T. We are innovating in our vendor partnerships, our support and operations delivery models, and how we organize ourselves in I.T.
What are the most innovative things your I.T. department has done in the past? And How has the company been affected by those innovations?
A key innovation we've executed on recently is the shift to an agile development mechanism for our major projects. In the last year we've moved from a 100% "waterfall," or traditional development mechanism, to one where today about two-thirds of our development work is delivered through the agile method. We are finding that this is well suited to an SOA implementation effort. The key benefits of thisin addition to speed and cost controlare the quality of the output and the close partnership with the business teams we are supporting. It's bringing I.T. and the other business groups in the enterprise closer together.
How do you, or any CIO, foster innovation in a corporation/I.T. department?
In the services we deliver to the enterprise, we need to make sure the innovations we pursue are relevant to BEA. The only way to achieve relevant innovation is through relevant alignment. When I.T. and the customers I.T. serves are of common understanding of the business problems at hand, and can evaluate and prioritize needs in an organized and structured manner, then successful innovation follows. That's our experience at BEA.
Inside of I.T., we are fostering innovation by encouraging calculated risk taking, and driving an I.T.-wide shared comprehension of what the priorities we are working on are. We have [tiered our] list of projects. Tier-1 is work that must be done, and isn't optional. We have clear metrics that define how we will measure progress and support. Tier-2 projects are things to work on as long as the Tier-1 efforts are well in hand. Tier-3 items are those we know to be important, but we are consciously setting them aside in favor of Tier 1 and 2 work. The point is that innovation isn't relevant if it isn't on the right things. Focus also brings innovation, as it enables multiple minds to work together and in my experience, that's when we get the best results.