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Do you understand your company's personality?

Minda Zetlin | March 11, 2014
Corporate culture may matter even more to your project's success than ROI does. Here's how to work with it rather than against it.

Situated in San Francisco's South of Market district, also home to Wired and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Splunk's culture is rooted in the idea of disruptive, open-source technologies. Like some CIOs, Harr oversees facilities, so he's helped express that culture with brick-and-beam architecture, open-style seating, and furniture that can be configured for work either sitting or standing. The company further supports its free-flow culture by serving employees lunch on Mondays and breakfast on Fridays.

Harr also supports Splunk's culture by embracing a workplace where IT isn't expected to — and doesn't — exert much control over how employees use technology. "You have to check your ego at the door," Harr says. "I realized I couldn't just bring in hardware or software the way you do at a typical company, slap them down and say, 'Here's how we do things.'"

Instead, Harr and his team have embraced a growing use of cloud-based software that offers Splunk employees autonomy. "We're giving more and more control of to our sales operations folks," he says. "I could hire eight business analysts for sales operations and still not understand it as well as they do."

His department took a similar approach when the marketing team sought a new application to capture customer references. "My development guy knew he could build it, but he [approached marketing and] said, 'Go ahead and see what you find,'" Harr says. "It was fun for them to get involved."

The product selected by the marketing team wouldn't have been IT's choice, but key elements, such as multifactor authentication, were in place. "It's secure and made them happy," Harr says. "When I get my guys thinking that way, stuff goes a lot better, given the way the world is going."

And that's the right role for IT, he adds. "There's tremendous potential we have as CIOs to embrace and even influence the culture of the company. If you include facilities, we're responsible for where they sit and what they touch all day," Harr says. "Even if you're not buying the chairs or building the walls, you supply the endpoint system everyone is touching. Doing that in a way that matches the culture is important. When you have a good culture, it's also fun."

- Minda Zetlin

Before he worked at the law firm, Caddell had a job in state government, which had another culture entirely.

Each employer has different values, and that means they have different ways of communicating about IT. At kCura, "we're in a growth stage, post-startup, and we have improved technology platforms to allow us to grow forward," Caddell says. "As we go from a company of 40 people a few years ago to 360 now and probably 700 two years from now, our infrastructure needs to keep pace so it doesn't sag under the weight."


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