Is it Time for IT to Invade the Business?

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Tim Elkins IT Invades Business CIO

By Tim Elkins

Chief Information Officer, PrimeLending

I’ve worked in the mortgage business my entire career and in several instances I’ve recruited people from the business side to join the technology team. Whether leaving the technology side to go in the business side will happen is unclear. But what I have seen, and what we have done at Primelending is what I like to call invading the business.

This isn’t invasion in terms of takeover, of course. What we are doing is putting some of our technical professionals in different departments. The first step we take is to map out the process for that department. As large as a company as we’ve become, we still sometimes lack a detailed enough process map where we’re actually measuring every single step and every variation to see what we can improve and do better.

Securing the Rogue IT Beachhead

Where do we stage these IT invasions? We are doing it in our servicing, post closing, and secondary marketing departments. IT specialists literally work in that department. They are technically still on our technology team and their manager is still a technology manager, but they work under the guidance of that department.

And what are we finding? In some cases, we are seeing rogue IT, where the business is trying to accomplish some things but don’t want to go through the full request process for IT to get it done. They will hire someone that’s pretty technical to work for them, and they may work in Access or Excel and be able to mine some data, but their tools are often limited to that most of the time. By actually embedding IT in the department, these businesses get the full breadth of all the tools that our technology department has, as well as the insights of the full staff of the technology department. If we have someone embedded in a department that needs help, they know the ropes inside IT to get help and know who to go to. When the business is on its own they often don’t.

A New Battle Cry: Technology Is the Business

Based on these discoveries alone, we are getting more IT staff involved in the business. To recruit people to embed, I explain to them that technology is the business these days. IT can bring insight into every single department and every single system used to do everything that our company does. So there’s no excuse to not knowing how things get done at the process level, because if you’re in IT you have your hand in everything. To be able to leverage that with business knowledge makes it pretty exciting. We are all using technology, so why not work for IT yet work in the business at the same time? It’s the best blend you could ask for.
I know it would not suit me if I had to do the same job for ten years, whether that be some sort of engineering or developer job. I just want to learn something and move to the next thing. For me, working your way through an IT shop you learn how the pieces fit together when you’ve been involved in all the different areas. Once you’ve gained that knowledge and what the possibilities are, if you move up to a more senior position, you’re much more armed to engage in a strategic fashion for the business. You bring a unique knowledge if you work inside a business, because if you can explain in layman terms what we can do from a technology standpoint, than the business can understand it as well.

Tim joined Primelending in 2008 and serves today as EVP and Chief Information Officer. He is responsible for information security, IT operations, and technology initiatives. Tim has more than 20 years of experience in the mortgage industry and is chair of the Residential Technology Forum (RESTECH) for the Mortgage Bankers Association. Watch Tim Elkins explain where he thinks the role of the CIO is going in the next one to three to five years here

Tim Elkins joined PrimeLending in November 2008 as Senior Vice President, Chief Information Officer. In October 2012, Tim was promoted to executive vice president, chief information officer, and he is responsible for information security, IT operations, and technology initiatives.

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