Solving Tech Problems Without IT

Susan Nunziata, Director of Editorial | 8/9/2013 | 76 comments

Susan Nunziata
If you're doubting that the relationship between the business and IT sides of the enterprise has changed forever, a recent technology deployment at McAfee is likely to put to rest any lingering uncertainty.

We all know McAfee as a major vendor of security solutions. The company has almost 7,000 employees and operations in 130 countries. Brian Bayless, VP GTM Finance, is responsible for financial oversight of McAfee's enterprise business division, which accounts for about half the company's revenues, according to a prepared statement. He had to find a solution that would get the division's 1,500 sales people off spreadsheets and separate databases and onto a single, worldwide model for managing quotas and sales compensation.

"We were spread across 10s of spreadsheets and more than 40 databases," Bayless told Enterprise Efficiency in an interview. "We're calculating payments across 70 different roles, in five theaters, with a million-plus line items. You blow up traditional database and spreadsheet capabilities pretty quickly with that."

For example, Bayless said, "We'd have a database for rep attainments in North America for Q1. If I wanted to look at every quarter for the past three years, that's 12 databases."

In addition to the sales reps, he said there were anywhere from 30 to 50 people in finance at any given time who were working with the existing spreadsheets and databases. Added Bayless:

    It was impossible to turn around analytics. It was impossible to turn around reporting in any reasonable period of time. People were doing a really good job ensuring we were paying accurately, I just wasn't sure we had analytics in place to make sure we were paying the right amounts to the right people based on right-sizing that region.

Bayless said that what he was looking to accomplish fell into what might be considered "soft" metrics. "I was trying to improve sales rep productivity. Having each rep spend five hours a month with a spreadsheet isn't productive. These were softer measurements, it's not a true revenue-generating, topline-building project."

Yet, after nine months of searching for a solution, Bayless said that all he could find were three or four vendors offering big implementations that would involve millions of dollars in capital expenditures and nearly millions of dollars in ongoing maintenance.

When Bayless finally found Anaplan, a cloud-based platform, his finance team worked with an Anaplan Solutions Architect to design, build, and test the new solution within a few weeks with no IT support.

That's right: No IT support.

"I was able to put the development and building in the users hands The business users know how to use it. It's not something I'm translating IT and then having them build for us," said Bayless.

Bayless noted that the business side's relationship with IT has changed over the past few years:

A couple of years ago, our relationship with IT was challenging. We would search for a solution for something, and we would go to IT with expectations that they would deliver a solution. But IT operates in same budget-constrained environment that we do. They're under as many, or more, budget constraints than we have. It was unfair to expect them to be able to find the budget to deliver everything that the business needs, when the business needs it.

The relationship with IT quickly went from 'We need this' to 'Here's a tool that, as long as it fits into your architecture vision and you are good from a security standpoint, we will actually develop what we need to use as long as you enable us to use the tool when we can.' It's become much more of a partnership.

The Anaplan solution itself has proven itself out, according to Baylesss:

We are doing territory planning, quarter modeling, commission calculation. We're able to do future forecasting and capacity planning, which use that same type of data. We're now able to build those things out using same tools and the same data source. Reports that used to be impossible to get across DBs and spreadsheets are possible. Calculations that used to take 24 hours or more to run now take less than a couple of hours. Instead of doing commissions on a weekly or monthly basis, I can now do it on a daily basis. I can analyze it at quarter end on a multiple-times-per-day basis. What we've basically gotten to is a real-time commission visibility model.

For Bayless, though, the biggest soft ROI gain is reducing the time that reps spend working with commissions data or order data. "The amount of time they spend crawling through spreadsheets or crawling through order data is three- to four-times reduced. It doesn't go to zero, but it's down from 10s of hours per quarter to single digit hours per quarter."

Another bonus is that sales teams have now started coming to Bayless with ideas on how to use the exact same data to do forward-looking forecasting and planning. "If we're successful in that, we've got a lot more potential inside of McAfee to unlock a lot of value," said Bayless.

What do you think about business users taking tech matters like this into their own hands? Are they doing IT a favor by solving a departmental problem without demanding your time and budget? Or are you worried that they're becoming so empowered that they'll be tempted to cut IT out of the mix altogether?

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Susan Nunziata   Solving Tech Problems Without IT   8/28/2013 10:22:28 PM
Re: elegant solution
@kstaron: in this case, it did indeed have a good result for all involved. Not all users know what they want until they have it, so it can sometimes be a challenge finding the right solution. In this case, the users were very clear on what they needed to accomplish (and what they didn't need) and that kept them very focused.

It's a good lesson, actually, for both business users and the IT side as they evaluate new solutions. 
kstaron   Solving Tech Problems Without IT   8/28/2013 4:20:06 PM
elegant solution
It seems they found an elegant solution. While IT will always be needed, sometimes the people that use the tools are the best ones to figure out how to make them.
Susan Nunziata   Solving Tech Problems Without IT   8/26/2013 3:45:58 PM
Re: IT Department as a tool
@SunitaT: All excellent points and all too often overlooked when the business side gets enamoured by a new technology.

How do you advise that IT professionals should respond in circumstances where the business side goes out and finds a solution? 
SunitaT   Solving Tech Problems Without IT   8/23/2013 12:32:46 AM
Re: IT Department as a tool
The new development is quite fascinating but I don't think it is time yet to tell the IT department to pack up and leave, this reasons as to why they are referred to as professionals is that they rectify where the systems go wrong not developing the system solely. Technology is known to have some percentage of faultiness thus the more reason to have the IT department by your side. You will be surprised that the system can only do too much beyond that it's just another program to stack up in the shelf.
Susan Nunziata   Solving Tech Problems Without IT   8/20/2013 3:15:50 PM
Re: IT Department as a tool
@Joe: You would think. In my experience, some folks on both the biz and IT sides of the house get territorial about such things, and when that happens it's less often about compliance or any real issues and more about ego. 

In general, when everyone seems to have the goals of efficiency and cooperation and mutual respect in mind then this user-driven appraoch can work well for the whole company.
Qasim Bajwa   Solving Tech Problems Without IT   8/16/2013 5:00:15 AM
Re: Re : Solving Tech Problems Without IT
there should be qualities at every single level

Exactly Salik, Everyone from officers to Directors, C-level executive to VP has a solid, effective role to play in the success of their organization. If your'e armed with the skill set to lead, and you have a dignified position in the company that should reflect in your work as well.  Back to brian, i think he missed on the last step. Though the solution he opted has benefit his company's prouctivity or atleast his departments for the time being. But in a long run if his decisions will prefer 3rd party solutions more than initiating in-house development projects that will result in a massive failure in the long run. Though my very best for their team
Salik   Solving Tech Problems Without IT   8/16/2013 4:04:03 AM
Re: Re : Solving Tech Problems Without IT
That is a great observation Qasim. I look to see such changes being implemented.
Salik   Solving Tech Problems Without IT   8/16/2013 3:58:56 AM
Re: Re : Solving Tech Problems Without IT
Moreover, the sooner you accept the challenge, the better it is. The challenges are fruitful in the long run and will reap greater rewards. As you mentioned about the E2 chat and the qualities in a CIO, I believe that there should be qualities at every single level. From Officer to Executive to Managers and then to Director, so on and so forth, every step should possess valid differences in experience, skills and ability to take decisions.
Qasim Bajwa   Solving Tech Problems Without IT   8/16/2013 3:47:31 AM
Re: Re : Solving Tech Problems Without IT
Often we see in the description section of advertised jobs that the candidate must be willing to learn new technologies.

I think it should once and for all be changed to ' new technologies and basic working knowledge for smooth flow of  ... '.

[...] can be anything from basic education to mastering higher technological skill set
Qasim Bajwa   Solving Tech Problems Without IT   8/16/2013 3:44:25 AM
Re: IT Department as a tool
@Salik,precisely. And i hope people from a variety of background agree to this as well. 


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