Deloitte CIO Says IT Should Be Cool and a Key Part of Company Culture

In an Interop keynote, the CIO of Deloitte explains how he transformed his IT organization from being a disliked group to being cool.

LAS VEGAS—Most CIOs are primarily concerned about making sure IT works and minimizes risk for the organization. Larry Quinlan, CIO of consulting firm Deloitte, also wants IT to be cool and to be a key part of every organization's culture and corporate strategy.

"I'm not talking about cloud or big data, I'm talking about passion," Quinlan said during a keynote at the Interop conference here. "I'm in the people business."

What bothers Quinlan, he said, is that most IT organizations are disliked by the employees in the companies in which they work. "People would rather have a root canal than deal with their IT organization," he said.

That should change because technology is a crucial part of any organization and needs to be at the corporate strategy table, Quinlan said. "If people don't want to deal with us, we never get to take a seat at the table."

What Quinlan wants for IT is for enterprises to embrace a technology culture. Employees should be able to fully benefit from technology, and IT organizations should be viewed as a core part of the overall corporate strategy, he said.

Developing that technology culture is not easy because some people are under the wrong impression that technology changes too fast and it is the job of the CIO and the IT organization to protect users from change, Quinlan said.

"Those same people that we're protecting from change were standing out in the rain outside a store waiting in line for a new model of a phone they already have," Quinlan said. "So people aren't afraid of change; they're just afraid of my change."

Part of creating a technology culture is about changing the hearts and minds of employees to make sure that technology is at the foundation and embedded throughout the strategy of an organization, he said.

Quinlan, who believes that creating a technology culture at Deloitte starts with mobility, tells how, a number of years ago, he bought mobile phones from a single vendor for the company and offered them to employees. He said he received hate mail from some Deloitte employees about the phones.

"I realized that people want some level of control over their own environment," he said. "BYOD [bring your own device] in some organizations is just a way to save money by making employees pay for their own phones. At Deloitte, we're still paying for the device, but people still want to choose."

In addition, Deloitte built user-friendly mobile apps that are more visually attractive and enable employees to explore new business processes in an intuitive way.

Other Ways to Create a Tech Culture

Making communications about IT topics more fun is part of creating a technology culture at Deloitte. For example, Quinlan's team created a series of humorous videos about security, titled "Don't Be That Guy," that help educate employees.

Agility and flexibility are core components of creating a technology culture within an organization, and IT organizations tend to make only one decision at a time, Quinlan said.
Over time, each of those singular decisions tends to create a technical debt that limits the organization's agility, he added.

"We need to have the ability to deliver the unpredictable things that people want, so we can appear to be cool and participate in the strategy of the organization," Quinlan said.

Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at eWEEK and Follow him on Twitter @TechJournalist.

Sean Michael Kerner

Sean Michael Kerner

Sean Michael Kerner is an Internet consultant, strategist, and contributor to several leading IT business web sites.