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CIO tackles analytics to bolster business architecture

Clint Boulton | June 22, 2016
Workday’s Diana McKenzie is plotting a data management strategy that will help the company better serve its customers and get into the black.

Improving the business architecture will create awareness among individuals in the organization about "what data we have, where it is, how they get to it, and what they can and can't see," McKenzie says. Better data governance will ensure consistent definitions of terms such as "customer profitability," which can mean different thing to different line-of-business leaders. She says it’s incumbent on her to ensure that business leaders have the right information at their fingertips to make better decisions.

While McKenzie says that it's too soon in her tenure to say exactly how her team is going to complete this alignment, she says it's a strategic imperative. To help with this initiative, she aspires to create a pipeline where she rotates employees out of IT and into product engineering and vice versa. She says close collaboration between IT and R&D, in which the teams will share knowledge about open source, architecture, data center technologies and public cloud solutions, will help Workday employees better accommodate customers.

Applying lessons learned from biotech to cloud

Steering an IT department through a rapid growth period is challenging, but McKenzie can apply some valuable lessons learned from her prior role as the CIO of Amgen, where she worked from 2004 until earlier this year. During her tenure there, revenues doubled from $10 billion to $20 billion. But the growth happened relatively quickly, which caused decision-making to move away from business leaders who were closer to the customer.

"This can be very dangerous for a company's connection to the customer and can be problematic for the company's ability to continue innovating," McKenzie says. "The importance of ensuring that everyone understand the operating model and where the decision rights sit as a company grows is very important."

The life sciences industry can wear on innovative CIOs, as stringent regulations prohibit IT from moving quickly to adopt emerging technologies. And many biotechnology professionals, despite their deep domain knowledge, simply don't get IT, compounding the challenges CIOs have in making an impact on their businesses. Yet McKenzie credits her appointment to lead Amgen's "innovation workstream," which focused on R&D intended to improve patient outcomes, for raising her interest in learning how to run a software company. She says the experience will help her at Workday, where she will influence product development and interact with customers.

"If you as an IT organization are continuously linked in to the business architecture of the company and you have a great IT team that is all about business outcomes and making sure those business leaders have the data that they need to make critical decisions, you can have a powerful impact on the company," McKenzie says.

 

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