First Class IT: Boeing Global CIO John Hinshaw

First Class IT: Boeing Global CIO John Hinshaw

Boeing CIO John M Hinshaw talks about rationalising IT, surviving the financial crisis and the challenges of migrating 200,000 desktops to Windows 7.

Boeing's global CIO John M. Hinshaw

Boeing's global CIO John M. Hinshaw

Another big industry development this year was the release of Windows 7. Will it be adopted at Boeing?

Boeing has been testing Windows 7 for a year and will deploy it over the next 12 months. It is expected to be running on some 200,000 desktops throughout the company. A dedicated director is now accountable for Boeing's Windows 7 deployment.

Windows 7 is stable and the application support seems to work well. About half of the migration program will be in desktop refreshes.

We are also working with Dell on a "desktop as a service" package. A good monthly price will allow me to refresh the desktops more frequently.

What about aircraft IT systems, are they part of your domain?

Telemetry is in the engineering area. We assist there with testing and the security aspects of these systems. The Dreamliner has 300 computer systems and 19 million lines of code. And the pilots have full control to override these systems.

We do build unmanned planes for government. Airline systems are sourced from key suppliers like Honeywell and they are very tightly controlled. They are not commodity systems.

Of the 9000 IT employees, about 10 per cent are working on IT programs with customers. For example, an airport might need new IT systems and we can help.

We are also working with governments for IT services, including the Australian government. Boeing staff are frequently employed to work within government departments and our IT services offerings come with products and services as a bundle.

What do you think are some of the most challenging aspects of IT today?

Security causes the most challenges. Much of my time is spent ensuring we have a secure IT to work with. The threats are increasing, and so is the amount of attention we need to pay to them.

Every day about 300,000 people are logging into Boeing systems -- from employees to partners and suppliers -- so we are always improving remote access to be more secure.

What are some of the things you've learned as a CIO?

A lot of CIOs like to talk about technology, but the leadership and the leaders that you pick, that is important. It comes down to people in the end.

I've spent a lot of time building leaders from the inside and out. For example, the CIO of Boeing Australia (John Williamson) is one of my direct reports.

We have leadership attributes all leaders are measured by -- like how they inspire others, find a way through road blocks, live the core values of the company and deliver results.

It’s extremely important to communicate to your team as much as possible. I speak with employees regularly and have a monthly newsletter to all IT staff worldwide. I have a blog as well, and get a lot of great input to the IT team. That type of communication is important. A good CIO has good communications ability.

What do you think the CIO position look like in ten years?

The CIO role is one of the few roles where you get to see every part of the company -- every product and service. You have to understand the entire company and the people.

That positions the CIO very well to be a good counsellor to the other executives, and so it will become a more trusted executive role.

As more companies run their businesses on IT they will be enabled by technology, so if the roadmap is there the CIO will be more strategic. If IT is just seen as a cost centre then the CIO "career is over" moniker will be apparent. The CIO has to manage growth and productivity, and the CIO of the future will have both in their sight.

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