Can a 5-Year Plan Transform your enterprise IT from a Cost Center to a Revenue Driver?

August 25, 2013 by Diana Nolting

Bluelock is a proud sponsor of VMworld 2013. Stop by Bluelock Booth #634 on the Solutions Exchange Floor and find out how Recovery-as-a-Service can help you protect your data and recover your applications. 

When you think of Goodwill the image of your neighborhood store may come to mind. You may think of cleaning out your closets and hand-me-downs.  But the reality of the high-tech, cutting edge Goodwill Industries of Central Indiana is much different than you’re picturing now.

When Jeff Ton came on board to Goodwill as SVP of Corporate Connectivity and CIO, cloud wasn’t on his agenda. What was on the agenda was crafting a 5-year plan that would help drive the enterprise IT department forward, toward a direction the entire business could buy into.  He knew it wasn’t going to be a plan to implement a particular tactic, rather, it needed to be a plan that would build a foundation for the future and take the organization as a whole to the next level.

Goodwill Industries of Central Indiana is a $100 million organization that employs more than 3,100 individuals. The organization manages more than 50 stores which were responsible for 5.6 million sales transactions and 1.9 million donation transactions last year. It’s one of the largest Goodwill organizations in the U.S. and in addition to its commerce platform it also manages 10 high schools that serve an area of 3,300 students. That’s a far cry from the initial image of neighborhood box store and cleaning out your closets.

Those numbers also represent a complex, extensive IT infrastructure. The commerce business comes with programs like Goodwill Rewards, a loyalty card program for shoppers and donors that allows customers to track donation, redeem rewards and rack up points on a key tag.  The educational component includes a back-end administration program that leverages a student information system data warehouse. The system includes performance analysis software that tracks students, their progress and gives the schools data to help each student develop, grow and improve.

When Ton joined Goodwill the department was just beginning to implement processes. He attacked his new role similarly to the role of a consultant and helped to pinpoint where the team was in terms of maturity.

Using a 5-step maturity model continuum, Ton interviewed the rest of the executive staff to understand where they wanted the department to be located on that scale, and better understand where the department was at the beginning. On the continuum (see left), they started out just a notch above the first step. 

“You can only grow as far on the scale as the business wants you to, and will let you,” explains Ton.  “You can’t become a trusted partner if the business doesn’t want you to be one.”

The first 5-year plan took shape, and the biggest initiative Ton decided to implement wasn’t a product they could go out and buy, but rather, a paradigm shift in how the department classified projects. Ton implemented an idea he picked up when he was at an MIT conference. The idea classified IT projects on an “A-C/C-F” scale, explaining there are two types of projects for enterprise IT. 

“A-C” projects are projects that collaborate with the business and/or have buy-in from the business. They are classified as “A-C” projects because if they succeed and are a home run, the entire business understands that success. The project is given the grade of an “A.” If the project fails, however, the worst grade it can get is a “C,” because the entire business understands and is a part of that project.

On the opposite side, however, other IT projects can be classified as “C-F” projects.  These are important, necessary projects like networking, patching and disaster recovery that are important to be successful while keeping the train running smoothly, but that the rest of the business doesn’t have the insight to understand. The rest of the business sees these projects as necessary, however because they don’t fully understand the project, the best “grade” they can get is a “C”.  It was adequate, and the job was done. If it fails however that’s when the rest of the business takes notice. The worst grade these projects can receive is an “F”.

By constantly classifying IT projects into these two buckets the team was able to look at the projects and understand where they needed to be focusing their resources, and where they could outsource to other service providers.

This freeing way of thinking is what allowed the Goodwill Industries of Central Indiana Team to find ways to safely and securely offload these “C-F” projects while still ensuring their success.  Cloud was the tactic employed for many of those projects.

By offloading several of the “C-F” projects, including disaster recovery, the team can focus on projects like the Goodwill Rewards and the Goodwill schools’ student information system.  

“Bluelock's Recovery-as-a-Service solution will allow our team to move the work, time and resources we've previously dedicated to disaster recovery planning to a trusted partner's tested solution,” said Ton.

“Our team will no longer need to spend weeks running DR tests and maintaining two sets of hardware; we can focus on business-critical and mission-critical application success with that time." 

And, the re-focus worked. By focusing on the core business projects and freeing up the resources internally to do so, Goodwill Rewards loyalty card program was a resounding success, besting nearly every goal set and selling the in-house designed software to other Goodwills. The student information system has also been implemented at other charter schools mirroring the same successful approach.

To find out more about the Goodwill Industries of Central Indiana story and how you can implement the system in your own organization, attend VMworld session, “OPT5569 – Leveraging Hybrid Cloud to Transform Enterprise IT from a Cost Center to a Revenue Driver” on Wednesday, August 28th from 4 p.m. – 5 p.m. in Moscone West, Room 2011.


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