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A VP-Ops’ perspective on executive relationships


Laurie Jacobson Jones.jpgBy Brian McDonough, Discover Performance managing editor


The new issue of Discover Performance includes an interview with Laurie Jacobson Jones, a consultant who has been a VP of Operations with Salesforce and PeopleSoft. In that article, she talks about alignment with the business, the power of metrics, and the Ops perspective on agility. Also during our interview, she discussed the importance of key relationships within the IT organization. 


“My lens is one of those transformation ops people,” she said, “so you hire me because you want change.” That makes strong relationships with peers and business leaders all the more critical. We talked about how she approached that in her VP-Ops roles.


Q:  What should the VP-Ops seek in his or her relationship with the CIO?

A:  You have to have a good rapport, and also have them be a partner in the planning. CIOs are smart—they know how businesses work. Help them understand your business case and the ROI, and to be a partner in the prioritization process. 


Really big companies may have many VPs of Ops, probably eight or ten in different functional areas.  The ones that get further have that good relationship—they’re sitting down and talking about the roadmap, why they’ve chosen to prioritize this over that, and what the business needs are. 


Q:  What about Ops and Security? Their responsibilities are different, but they have a concern with the overall integrity of enterprise IT.

A: Information Security has a duty to protect the data assets of the company. If the company is a cloud vendor itself, the integrity of the company can be lost if security vulnerabilities are exposed. Every company will set its own bar based on its risk tolerance. Ops and Security should collaborate when acquisition of a new application is considered.  Understanding expectations of information security, negotiating SLAs for collaboration on new product evaluations and getting them involved as a partner early in the consideration process will help Ops navigate vendor negotiations in a more informed way and mitigate the impact to project timelines.


Q: You’ve talked about Ops supporting innovation and agility. What are you looking for in your relationship with your VP-Apps?

A: The Ops VP can be the dam or the channel. If good functionality is coming from Dev and customers are finding value that the company is missing out on, that new product or service will make it into production. A strong partnership between Dev and Ops can influence what is built, give the Ops VP time to plan implementation into the systems roadmap and become partners with Dev to successfully deliver the new tool into production. There will always be prioritization and limited resources. A creative collaboration with Dev often results in additional capacity to make things happen. There is nothing but goodness that comes from these partners being united to showcase the company's best work. 


Q:  Are there other key relationships that help the VP-Ops perform better?

A:  You definitely need relationships with all your key counterparts, and all the operational leaders in the company.  Join forces to find the “win-win” and the economies of scale, that’s part of the relationship building. Sharing, “this is what I want to,” and “hey, why don’t we work on that together?” really pays off.  Knowing the company’s priorities and knowing what your peers and colleagues are doing across the business, you can better know where you want to move your part of the business, based on where your metrics are today.


Read the full Q&A at Discover Performance. Find out more about Laurie at the Customer Zen website.


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