Battelle is seen as a leader in Central Ohio's IT community, and even globally, but perhaps lesser known is how the research giant gets its own boost from the Region.
“The fact that we have some pretty major companies here in town is definitely beneficial,” Battelle CIO David White says. “That allows us to attract a good degree of very skilled people. Columbus is a really good place to work if you're in IT.”
Battelle was implementing a new human resources system, for example, and was able to find experienced personnel who had worked on similar projects for Nationwide Insurance and L Brands, among other reputable local employers.
“Collaboration here is kind of off the charts,” says White, who earned degrees from Columbus State Community College and Franklin University before previous career stops in the Region.
Battelle is a founding member of the Columbus Collaboratory, a cohort of businesses across seven industries that share best practices related to cyber security and analytics.
“That has actually opened a lot of doors for us,” White said. “I have contacts with all other CIOs, (to say) ‘Hey, I'm thinking about this, can you put me in contact with the right person? Because your organization has already done it.'”
In many other cities, he says, that willingness to collaborate is not as prevalent. The collaborative spirit in Columbus actually goes beyond IT executives.
“It starts at the top, with CEOs,” White says.
He says that while Columbus indeed has a strong pool from which to draw IT talent, recruiting will be an emphasis for the industry, which is aging.
Battelle's IT department in just the past few years saw 29 staff members retire with a combined 700 years of experience, White says.
Fortunately, the Columbus Region is blessed to have a pipeline of talent flowing from a number of local schools including The Ohio State University.
Still, one of the challenges in an always-changing industry is making sure those graduates are equipped with the most up-to-date skills.
“Where's that next crop coming from and are we really training them for the future?” White asks.
For instance, Columbus is shaping into a hub of activity for cloud technology as data is stored at facilities run by Amazon Web Services.
“Columbus is uniquely positioned because we can actually point to the cloud in Columbus,” White says.
Automation, and its impact on workforces,are other areas White and his team are watching.
“I quite frankly think that automation is going to be a big challenge for us, in IT, moving forward,” he says. “It's changing the entire stack.”
Battelle's Columbus operations will continue to be important to the organization as a whole. From Columbus, there is connectivity to each of Battelle's 53 satellite offices, for IT security and other functions.
In a natural disaster or catastrophic situation, the Columbus IT operations must bring systems back online within four hours, White says.
“That's pretty aggressive,” he says. “We also have to support the physical security and the infrastructure across the institute.”
Battelle has researchers around the world running experiments, and they can't afford to lose years worth of important work.
“It's a pretty important function within the organization,” he says.