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The Internet of Things figures into this IT leader's five-year plan

Mary K. Pratt | June 24, 2014
Chris LeBeau of ATS acknowledges that delivering a broad vision takes a multipronged strategy that addresses specific needs. To do so, he's drawing on past experience and his expectations of future capabilities of IT tools.

When Chris LeBeau stepped into the top IT position at Peoria, Ill.-based Advanced Technology Services (ATS) nearly two years ago, he formulated a clear objective for the IT division: putting the right technology tools and capabilities into the hands of the company's 3,000 employees to help them be more efficient and effective.

LeBeau, who joined ATS in early 2010 as director of shared services, acknowledges that delivering on such a broad vision takes a multipronged strategy that addresses specific needs. To meet that objective, he's drawing on his past experience and his expectations of the future capabilities of IT tools. Here, ATS's IT director shares his ideas on how to achieve success in IT.

What's the biggest pain point in your IT operations right now? Like most companies, you buy systems and live with them for a long time. There are a couple of things we'd like to move away from. [For example,] we have an older work-order system that we use for key parts of the business. It's on a mainframe, and we want to move away from that system and move it into other systems we have that are more modern. It's a lot of business architecture work so we can migrate people and train them and shut those old tools down.

Systems were only meant to be used for so long, and the longer that goes on for any system, the more nervous you get. I don't think that's uncommon.

What's the next big project you plan to tackle? To improve, you have to continually look at what you're doing and ask if you're doing enough or if you can do more. My job is to listen to the folks who are supporting the customers and to help them. So [deploying] easier tools is one thing. You take what you have and make them simpler. But then you have to ask: What else can you bring in to improve? You hear about the Internet of Things -- things all communicating back to some central network to give you visibility. That's really where we're looking.

What would the Internet of Things mean for your IT department? It changes the network aspect: What are the networking considerations, like bandwidth and security? The data coming off these [networks] would be significant, so how would you process and store that? You need to think about categorizing, correlating, giving it context and meaning so it's not just data but information you can make decisions from.

How close are you to capitalizing on the Internet of Things? It's definitely in our five-year window. We're doing the initial work to understand the benefit, what the level of effort would be to implement and operate it, and how we will prove that benefit out.


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