Boeing exec details 6 steps that transformed its business

As the director of Information Technology for CDG, a Boeing subsidiary in the Digital Aviation business unit, I have responsibility to enable thousands of professionals with technology on a global basis. After eight years on the job, I've learned my share of hard lessons about managing people and technology.--

To stay organized, I've settled on a purpose-driven model to inspire my group and keep everyone moving in the same direction. Our IT unit supports many custom-developed internal applications and even more consumer products that require multiple petabytes of big data storage, including commercial and military contracts with revenue in the billions per year. Managing such a vast, globally-dispersed team presents many challenges and opportunities, so I've settled on a useful framework.

Creating purpose to drive IT value and build staff cohesion

First of all, a business should be guided by three simple directives -- to grow the business by expanding topline revenue; to grow bottom-line profits by cutting operational and sales costs; and to mitigate liabilities by reducing business risks to the brand. These are the cornerstones.

I believe the starting point for any business manager is to establish the group's identity by defining its essential purpose and how it will drive the three cornerstones. This process may seem obvious, but it's actually quite subtle. For instance, one's job should involve more than just earning a paycheck -- it should reflect a sense of belonging to something larger than one's self.

This kind of shared purpose is crucial for creating buy-in from team members. Our IT team defines our central mission as "business technology enablement." To us, this is why IT exists -- business technology enablement is our core function, or even our calling if you will. Everything we do ties back to this specialized purpose of enabling business technology across our company.

To increase our effectiveness, we've adopted several management goals which I call the Six Levers of Business Transformation. These levers serve as shorthand tools to guide the actions of our team:

  • Increase productivity. The key is streamlining processes, automating manual functions, or collapsing multiple processes to be managed by fewer people: reducing waste. Greater efficiency results in higher productivity, and has the additional effect of freeing talent to focus on higher-value services.
  • Increase simplification. Think in terms of designing intuitive user experiences. This is removing the clutter, focusing on the meaningful functions and capabilities that really matter... and dropping the rest. Can things be done simpler, or in fewer steps? Is it worth the time, money, effort? Each business process should be analyzed to qualify and quantify its relative value for the business. Find the balance between highly useful vs. other functions/capabilities that can divert a worker down a rabbit hole pretty quickly. Then, implement any useful shortcuts accordingly and hide or eliminate the rest.
  • Increase convenience. Think mobility, Single Sign-On (SSO) from anywhere with any device. For instance, decentralizing by adopting globally hosted cloud services can allow team members to complete their work more productively from various mobile devices, around the clock and around the world, rather than being constrained by location, network latency and hours of operations.
  • Increase collaboration. Employee engagement depends on workers being able to easily and securely share information. Enabling multiple paths for effective collaboration such as enterprise video conferencing, chat, wikis, blogs, portals and other two-way communication platforms can facilitate greater frequency of cooperation opportunities.
  • Implement checks and balances to mitigate unforeseen business risks. Each business unit should develop ironclad systems to manage service-level agreements and data recovery backups. Only in this way can managers be sure to protect the organization's proprietary data.
  • Ensure ongoing protections for the company's brand. Think of the many major brands negatively impacted by breaches and all the recent announcements of security vulnerabilities. Protections should be a holistic goal across the whole company, because certain business units may find incentives to take risks to achieve their business goals. For instance, a sales team may jeopardize engineering deadlines to meet commitments to certain partners, creating undue hazards for the company's larger reputation or competitive standing.

Sometimes the little things make a big difference in IT, just as in life. For example, Digital Aviation consists of four separate, wholly owned, but non-integrated subsidiaries and a small portion of Boeing employees assigned through Commercial Aviation Services. Each has their own security, their own firewalls and their own RAA (Responsibility, Accountability and Authority) to protect their entities' personally identifiable information, even from each other. Providing access by each group using their own security models and yet having a common capability was a major challenge for IT.

We successfully implemented a new security identity management platform that allowed each entity's users to leverage their existing single sign-on for authorization, thus securing access for any employee from any device. It was a relatively easy fix, but it provided a big lift for our staff morale and satisfaction.

In addition, we are exploring a new security clearance technology that uses an employee's mobile phone for a second authentication method, an alternative to security badges and other cumbersome entry systems. This basic step will allow us to take full advantage of the mobile smartphone experience, which is highly embraced by our employees.

Information technology has become an essential business enabler, but when deployed strategically, it can also create a big competitive advantage. That's why IT managers need to continually assess how well their team is pulling on the Six Levers of Business Transformation, and what they can do differently to become more efficient.

Paul Duchouquette is Director of Information Technology for CDG, a Boeing company and part of the Digital Aviation business unit within Boeing Commercial Aviation Services (CAS). Duchouquette is responsible for optimizing and transforming IT across four Boeing subsidiaries, including CDG, Jeppesen, ILS and AeroInfo. He is one of seven members of the senior leadership team at CDG.

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