Running IT Like a Business

By Allen Bernard

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In 1999, Bob Moore had a vision: automate the IT shop of a start-up phone company so it would run more efficiently, with fewer people, provide better service and cost half as much to run compared to its competitors.

At first, management was skeptical, said Moore, vice president of IT for New York-based CLEC (competitive local exchange carrier) PaeTec. But Moore's CEO believed in his abilities enough to at least let him try and today his biggest fan is the chief operating officer, once one of his toughest critics.

"It's a pretty amazing thing when ... you're deploying a multi-million dollar CRM system and the only thing (your COO) is really concerned about is how can he prioritize his business process stuff better," said Moore. "That's a pretty strong message for a guy that's not technical, who could give a crap about all the stuff ... on the technology side."

Moore's COO is one of his biggest supporters today because Moore's ideas worked.

By automating the channels between IT and PaeTec's 1100-strong staff as well as most of the company's other business processes using Mercury's IT Governance Center (formerly Katana until Mercury bought the company last year) IT costs PaeTec about half of the 6.6% of gross most CLECs spend.

Even on this budget Moore supports an annual growth rate of 2,500% and keeps IT head count under control. This enviable record has landed the company the No.2 spot on Deloitte & Touche's Fast 500 list.

Because of the business process, workflow automation and demand management capabilities inherent in Mercury's solution Moore's staff no longer has to answer emails and phone calls from its customers (the employees) wondering where a work order or trouble ticket is in the pipeline. Instead, employees simply click on an icon in their intranet dashboards (part of the Mercury offering) and they can see exactly where their request is in the process, who is handling it and what its status is.

If things take too long to resolve the request is automatically forwarded to a manager for review. This one feature has proved to be a great motivator. "So, that doesn't happen more than a few times before people start taking requests seriously," he said.Even though Mercury's product is billed as an IT governance package it really is more of a business process and IT portfolio manager than anything else, said Moore. This is why he was able to breath life into the company's existing HR solution by automating its processes; saving PaeTec $1.3 million in the process.

This may make the CFO particularly happy but the biggest benefit to Moore is the visibility he gets not only into his IT shop but the business as whole.

"So, when you take a look at the tool set end-to-end, you have the ability, through their demand management and project management pieces, to get a handle on what projects are actively ongoing at any given time and, from resource management tools, you are able to take a look, in real time, and get an understanding of where people are spending their time," Moore said. "From where I sit, that's the biggest plus for me."

Another plus is Moore's staff now spends the majority of its time on projects actually related to growing the business.

"The stuff is really generic enough we can automate any kind of business process," said Moore. "So, even though Mercury is selling it as IT governance, you can really use it for any governance. It's really a process governance tool more than anything else."

This ability has helped the company to become the only ISO 9002 (which is all about business process and business process documentation) certified CLEC in the business; an important designation in an industry where competition is fierce and customers are hesitant.

As nice as this is, the biggest payoff still comes from the efficiencies that automation brings to the business, Moore said. By utilizing all of Mercury's capabilities beyond its intended role in IT, Moore has been able to reap benefits that go far beyond simply saving time on trouble tickets and PC setup requests.

"If you just want to track projects inside your IT department then certainly Microsoft Project is more than capable of doing that stuff for you," he said. "But, if you're really looking for (the stuff we're doing), then that's where the (Mercury) software really pays off. But if you're not looking for that long-return vision, that long-term scalability, that long-term customer satisfaction stuff then Microsoft Project will be fine for you."