What is AMD’s new secret weapon?

I recently shared a panel with AMD’s IT team at CIO 100. After leaving the event, I realized AMD’s IT organization may very well be the company’s secret weapon.  

IT departments in tech corporations are often like a cobbler’s children who don’t own good shoes – as they tend to be budget starved and typically don’t deploy the latest technology advocated by the firm.

But at AMD (and a few other companies), IT is a strategic resource that helps the firm think through future products and vet existing offerings as it moves aggressively to support the business. Let’s explore this.

Building an “A” Team

At the core of AMD’s effort are the people who hosted the panel with me. Mike Wolf is the CIO, Tom Painter the Global Infrastructure & Services VP, and Bob Luong is the Director of Systems Services.   

In watching the interaction between these three men on stage it was quite clear they liked each other and worked as a team. To be sure, the trio seamlessly entered discussions to complete ideas and were obviously on the same page about most topics. 

Now, there are quite a number of organizations where you can’t help but find tension between key players, particularly those who are tasked overlapping responsibilities. But there was no evidence of such uneasiness with the AMD IT team. The end result? A group of folks who tended to help each other reach common goals – as opposed to getting in each other’s way.

The Cloud

AMD has a massive engineering load and the cost of distributed resources was choking them. To address this problem, the company deployed a proprietary cloud environment which uses AMD’s processors exclusively.  

The above-mentioned paradigm boasts the dual benefit of gaining cloud cost benefits (which AMD reported were significant), and offering feedback about what is required for future products to improve capability and productivity.   

This “dual-use” mode is expected to be critical to AMD’s product development moving forward, as it will focus the company’s limited R&D efforts on major IT pain points and – assuming the result is successful – create unique products designed to address them.

Consumerization of IT

Like other companies, AMD is experiencing an influx of tablets and smartphones into the workplace. Clearly, the IT department has already learned that saying “no” is little more than a going out of business strategy.  

As such, the entire corporation is shifting to provide technology for an ever growing demand of post-PC devices. Most of the non-iPad products have proven to be unsuccessful, while iPads aren’t exactly beloved by IT departments.

The end result is critical input into AMD’s plans for their own tablet processors and related products; suggesting when the next-gen APUs arrive en masse they will be favored for Windows 8 tablets – at least for business.  

This should put AMD in a much better position to compete with Intel’s Ultrabook initiative which is targeting the same potential opportunity. The goal is to create products that the consumers still love but that don’t give IT departments a heart attack.

Wrapping Up: Strategic IT

In essence, what AMD’s IT department advocated and demonstrated is the promotion of IT as a strategic part of the company, rather than just a financial drain. This translates into a unit that proactively looks for ways to increase productivity, while helping improve both existing and future product lineups.  

This model is a highly recommended one for IT organizations to follow if they are intrested in ensuring a more agile and successful company.