CIO Straight Talk - Issue 9 - 75
windows wouldn't overlap. And meanwhile, the
Mac had just come out, and it was gorgeous." So
Rob told this rep from Microsoft, "You don't want
to ship this. You're good at DOS. You're good at
Basic. But you're not ready to ship this product.
You've got a lot to do before it's going to work."
And the visitor said to him, "I think you're wrong.
We're going to push this out now. We're going to
revise. We'll do a lot of revisions. But Windows
is going to be a success." Years later, Rob Lux
remembered the conversation, and realized he
had been wrong. So he wrote to the guy-who
was, of course, Bill Gates.
Nope. So Rob emailed Bill Gates and said,
"You were right, and I was wrong." And he
sent Gates the demo disk, so that Gates could
sign it, which he did. Today, the disk hangs
on Rob's office wall. Next to the disk Rob has
written. "Ship product early and often." It's not
about being perfect and having every feature in
the product in every release. If you have bugs,
communicate them. But ship software, because
if you're not getting software into users' hands,
you're failing. And this has a lot to do with Agile
Development, which uses concepts from product
development and R&D to deploy minimal
viable products. It allows customers, internal or
external, to give you feedback right away.
So how exactly does "ship early and often"
apply to the IT organization?
Rob wants his IT organization at Freddie Mac to
think like a product company-to "think product,"
which is one of the 10 capabilities I discuss in my
book. CIOs are restructuring IT so that they don't
have people working on applications, financial
systems, infrastructure, or a database. Rather,
they have product teams. The product doesn't
need to be for sale to a customer. The product
could be Citrix or SAP. But CIOs are setting up
product teams composed of representatives
from various departments-infrastructure,
database, analytics, the businesses-who are
convened as a team accountable for making sure
the product delivers what it needs to deliver to
the customers, external or internal.
As Jim Fowler, the CIO of GE, says, when you
organize by product teams, then you don't
have to get seven people from seven different
departments on the phone together to figure
out what went wrong. Everybody is a part of
the same group moving forward with that
product. That's an entirely different way of
What's one thing you would hope a CIO might
remember after reading your book?
The CIO role has traditionally been an enabling
role. CIOs have been how executives not what
executives. The CFO is a what executive, because
she knows the way the numbers need to move
to create shareholder value. The head of sales is
a what executive, because he brings the unique
perspective of what customers want. These what
executives are at the table saying, "This is what
we should do as a company." And then you've
got a bunch of how executives saying, "Great,
thanks for that. Here's how we'll get it done."
With IT moving away from enabling business
strategy to defining business strategy, CIOs
need to shift chairs. They can't let go of the how,
because they still need to execute. But they need
to bring their unique perspective to the table,
and that unique perspective, believe it or not,
is not technology. The CIO has an end to end
view across the company. The CIO is a horizontal
executive in a sea of vertical executives. So the
CIO's job is not to be the technology leader. It's
not to support business strategy. CIOs need to
be the company's critical capabilities champions.
They can use their horizontal perspective to
free their business partners from their vertical
prisons, so that they together can look up and
out at the future of the company. So, instead
of being how executives who are enabling the
business, they need to be what executives who
are defining business strategy.