Broadcom: adapt and go

Semiconductor giant leverages data throughout the manufacturing process to improve efficiency

Broadcom is a thriving semiconductor company with its products appearing in a host of devices from smartphones and smart TVs to satellite receivers and x-ray security scanners.
Data is critical to Broadcom’s business processes and operations on a daily basis, across all its sectors. Typical of the silicon industry, Broadcom is mostly fabless. It operates in four key markets: wireless, wired, enterprise storage and industrial and automotive, using a large number of contract semiconductor manufacturing foundries and fabless plants dealing with design to testing, making for a complex global supply chain, generating huge amounts of data.
Broadcom receives data from within the manufacturing process. This is made up of inventory data, which enables Broadcom to understand lead times and work in progress to process orders. In addition to this it receives extensive testing data which is sent to Broadcom to be used in areas such as quality control and yield forecasts.  
The test data is its biggest challenge as Broadcom has a large number of different product groups and they all have their own chip designs and manufacturing processes. Gargantuan amounts of data comes in to Broadcom’s systems unstructured and in different formats and it is extremely hard to centralize it. As the processes use companies of different sizes from ‘mom and pop’ to global enterprises, the big data solutions used to upload the data to the cloud for analysis must be extremely flexible.  Broadcom is continually exploring ways to handle this volume of data as it is critical not only for yield and quality reports, but also in time to market.

The journey to transformation

Broadcom has worked on transforming its IT estate to create a lean, highly productive infrastructure built around core and non-core models that can handle its data requirements and adapt to its operating model and culture. Core are kept in-house and include service management, business processes and skills that can’t be acquired immediately outside the company. All non-core IT infrastructure is outsourced or it goes to the cloud, along with application management.  “We choose partners for whom this is their core and they will innovate for me,” explains Andy Nallappan, CIO at Broadcom. “I don’t want to spend time innovating on our non-core. I want to focus on the core.  It makes sense for our partners to innovate on what is their core and our non-core”.
Broadcom was also quick to see the value of cloud.  It was one of the first billion dollar companies to adopt Google apps, for example. “The technology was getting better and cloud was getting better, it has enabled us to reduce our spend and increase our efficiency” Andy maintains.
“We started this journey early and now we are pretty equal between outsourced and cloud,” adds Andy. “The moral is focus on the core - it makes it easy to innovate, easy to change, there is no resistance to change within the organization as people aren’t doing hands on. At the same time outsourcing makes it quick to change”.

Adapt and go

Broadcom has built its digital transformation on what it calls an “adapt and go” model, which has been key to its growth by acquisition. “Acquisitions make scaling out imperative,” says Andy. “It puts IT in the driving seat. If you don’t change right away it doesn’t happen.  When people expect change it makes it much easier”.
Andy is a great believer in integration. “We integrate everything, so there are lots of synergies,” he explains. “At the same time we have built a lean platform so we don’t have to worry about putting teams in place to scale out”.

Automate for efficiency

Broadcom’s data volumes are now sitting high. It has 15,700 employees and 10 data centers worldwide. So the next big step Andy wants to take is in automation, artificial intelligence and machine learning. He is looking to eliminate the help desk, limit tickets and promote self-healing, and believes there are tools out there that can automate at least 30-40% of operations.
At the same time Broadcom is consolidating its data centers and moving them out of its building as the first phase in its cloud transition to burst out to, connect and migrate to the cloud.  “It is about making us more efficient and maintain that efficiency” says Andy. “Automation improves quality and consistency and speeds up time fix problems – enables us proactively work our customers”.

Improving the user experience

Andy calls digital transformation ‘the experience’. He is continually looking for ways to improve the experience, empower employees and make it easier for customers to do business with its various centers by enabling big data. Cloud tools such as Google apps for example have helped with global collaboration.  
Automation and big data are now key to accelerating Broadcom’s digital transformation. In the future, for example, Andy envisions providing all employees with a personal IT help desk at their fingertips, much like Alexa. It would live with them all the time and would know exactly what applications and data they use. “Why is automation our next big focus? Simple. With automation we can reduce spend and improve the experience leading to better overall quality, consistency and productivity,” says Andy.