Halliburton CIO Ken Braud on strategy and innovation

CIO Ken Braud talked to delegates at the Orange Business Live customer event in Rome, and it was clear he has plenty on his plate.

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In an IT industry obsessed with the "next big thing", questions about how IT leaders are changing their strategies to cope with global economic turbulence are common. But if you ask something along those lines to the CIO of oil services giant Halliburton, it's likely to be dismissed as totally inappropriate.

IT executive and senior vice president at the company Ken Braud talked to delegates at the Orange Business Live customer event in Rome this week, and as the numbers about his IT operation came up on the screen, it was clear that he has plenty on his plate. 

Braud and his 1,050-strong department and 550 offshore contractors run an IT estate with 60,000 PCs, 30,000 mobile phones and smartphones, one unified global SAP ERP system, 5,000 servers with 2.65PB of storage, 367 million emails sent and received daily and 842 million firewall denies per week.

Braud said he is always “amused” when people ask him about the changes in his strategy for the months ahead.

“That question implies that there is something magical at the stroke of midnight on 31December and a brand new strategy will be in place by 1 January. That is very ridiculous thinking, as strategies are always evolving and mutating,” he said.

“So, don’t expect a new set of strategies – instead, let’s reflect on challenges and keep doing things that have been successful."

Braud said that his department has a “very robust” system to measure the return on the IT projects that it runs. Even in times of uncertainty, he says he has managed to invest in new initiatives with a strong innovation component.

One example is a product called Insite Anywhere, a mobile real-time remote monitoring service that allows insight into everything from the company’s log plots to pressure tests and samples. The application drives productivity as it cuts response time between field operations and reduces the need for high-end computing to access data.

When asked whether every new release of new functionality felt like a major risk in these uncertain times, Braud said there is always pressure, but also there is always efficiency to be found.

“I may make compromises in an area today in order to invest on that mobility platform. And a good idea today may not work immediately, but it could be a good thing tomorrow, so it is also a question of timing,” he said.

“For some things there is the advantage of being the first mover, whereas others have to stumble into once or twice before taking it on. There are lots of technology choices out there, [but] you have to set very stringent goals, have to pick the right waves to ride.”

Discussing the need for an ever-evolving strategy, Braud said that innovating in times of ambiguity is always a gamble, but the key is to not confuse tactics with strategy.

“A few months back, I would have hoped that the [economic] uncertainties would be over and done with, but clearly that is not the case now. The fundamentals of our strategy are still sound, we have had to make some adjustments, [but] those were tactical moves based on the longer-term strategy.”

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I guess that it looks clear from Mr. Braud answers that there is no strategy (besides let's keep doing what we have) and probably little innovation in his organization. Insite, mentioned in the article as an example, was developed by the drilling department at the start of the last decade. The move of its support and development to IT only made the app bloated and buggier. Hopefully, the PSLs will learn from this experience and keep the IT innovation and strategy within operations.

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These are the kind of Dinosaurs that cause operational and PROFIT MAKING groups within organizations to go around their antiquated IT Organizations to find and implement solutions that help the business. Its no wonder that the rest of the O&G industry in Houston gets its talent from Halliburton.

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