CIO Update Q&A with Cingular Wireless

What technologies/methodologies do you employ that provide the most benefit to your efforts?

As we go to build a new service it’s really around an SOA (service-orientated architecture). So, rather than me build it for each of the front-end systems, it makes a lot more sense for me to build it in the core and you handle only presentation in the front-end system.

We (build) the core functionality in the center, in our SOA, and then extending it to the Web, extending it to handset really becomes then just building the different presentations to the same functions. Then it can talk on the back-end to different core systems.

How is IT viewed by the business side of the house?

  • a) Necessary evil.
  • b) Nice to have.
  • c) Essential to the company’s future.
  • d) All of the above.
  • e) None of the above.
  • It’s all of the above, but I’d prioritize it as follows: No.1 is “essential to the company’s future;” No. 2 is “necessary evil;” and No. 3 is “nice to have.”

    I think the “necessary evil” (comes into play) because of the complexity of business we support today. We couldn’t provision one customer without IT.

    In the old days, there were a lot of manual ways to go and service our customer and provision them but if you look at the modern network there are so many network elements now that have to be provisioned and have to be mediated and have to be supported that IT has become the basic glue that holds that together.

    Where are you finding your biggest cost-savings these days, assuming it’s not just cutting staff?

    Having just gone through a large merger (AT&T Wireless), our single largest IT driver of cost savings is rationalizing our application portfolio. We will reduce our application portfolio by 50 percent over a 24 month period.

    What this means is … If I can turn off an application and get users on consolidated applications, that will always be the best economic model.

    If you could change anything(s) about IT today, what would it be?

    I think I can sum it up in one phrase: Making sure that we have IT professionals, at all levels, who understand the ‘art of possibility’.

    Can you define that?

    The art of possibility is … rather than simply waiting for someone to come to you with a set of requirements, it’s understanding enough about the problem they’re trying to solve and then having a good understanding of information technology to know about what’s going to be possible in helping them solve that problem.

    This can be done, for the industry as a whole, by positioning IT as a thought-center, rather than just a cost-center. IT pros must have the skills to understand the problems they are asked to solve, and not just the technical requirements of an assignment.

    To do this, our IT pros must be fully immersed in the business initiatives so that they can engage in a good dialogue around what is best for the business.

    So, is Nicholas Carr right? “IT Doesn’t Matter.”

    Good IT does matter. And there are many examples of IT failures that have impacted business across many industries. Those failures prove that IT also matters when it doesn’t work.

    We’re in a fast moving industry that relies heavily on the sale and use of technology products. At Cingular, IT is at the core of our business and our reliance on IT is greater now than it’s ever been.