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HP Software's community for IT leaders // October 2013

Harnessing change: Dan Spurling of T-Mobile

The man behind the telecom’s infrastructure, engineering, and ops has a surprisingly non-techie perspective on IT excellence.

In September, the HP Power to Change virtual event discussed the rapid change in enterprise IT with analysts and tech leaders. Dan Spurling, who leads IT for T-Mobile, talked about how his company’s focus is changing to respond rapidly to customer preferences.

Spurling likes the mantra “Be agile, and think like a customer.” As director of infrastructure, engineering, and operations, he manages the overall IT engine that serves T-Mobile’s 43 million customers—everything from servers, storage, data centers, and desktops to cloud delivery and mobility.

Below are highlights from his interview with HP vice president Matt Morgan.

Spurling  says major changes in the wireless space are rewriting how IT operates: “At T-Mobile, we’re excited to be on the forefront of pushing change for customers. For example, people now want anytime upgrades, no phone subsidies, no customer lock-in. That radical shift in the wireless industry has meant that IT has had to shift just as radically. At the risk of using buzzwords, we’re more agile, nimble, and responsive. We’re enabling this through consolidation, rationalization, and things like managing Big Data and cloud delivery.”

The consumerization of IT—particularly the huge array of technology choices available to business users—is forcing a change in the way we look at traditional IT: “The availability of technology today is staggering. There are simply more and more choices today for any consumer. And that’s driving the CEO, COO, CIO, and even CMO to say: ‘What do I need to do to deliver on my business, and is my IT team best-suited to help me enable that?’”

IT is no longer a sole-source provider, he says, and many organizations are looking beyond their internal teams for what the business needs. This means IT needs to change its relationship with the user—becoming a participant in how to enable technology to serve business needs: “We’re a service provider, and sometimes a broker of an external service. We’re no longer supplying IT for IT’s sake. Instead we’re delivering a set of key services and facilitating service enablement. That’s the view we’re taking with our cloud platform as well as other offerings to the business.”

Spurling offers three points of advice to IT leaders in an era of radical transformation:

  • “First, you need to lead, not be led. Stop and realize that the entire ecosystem of IT is changing dramatically. As an IT leader, you need to lead your team to help technology meet specific business needs.”
  • “Second, IT teams are nothing without their people. The reality is that no single technology solves our problems—it’s people who do. Technology is just an enabler.”
  • “And third, once you understand the business drivers, you need to plot a clear path that’s proactive and not reactive.”

Those, he said, are the top three points, and he noted that each is about people and relating to business goals, rather than the specific new flavor of IT. “It’s not about the technology,” he said.

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