Users as partners

Brian Katz

Brian Katz is a director and head of the mobility industrialization and engineering group at Sanofi. He manages mobile initiatives and enables the organization to make advance-ments in mobile services, such as mobilizing the salesforce, handling BYOD initiatives, and enabling new devices and form factors for business success. He has more than 20 years’ experience in managing and implementing IT processes at global multinational corporations.

Brian Katz of Sanofi discusses how consumerization of IT means enterprise IT should treat users as partners.

Interview conducted by Vinod Baya and Galen Gruman

PwC: Brian, you are an active blogger, and you also lead mobility engineering at Sanofi. A key impact of cloud, mobility, and social technologies on IT is what is being called consumerization of IT [CoIT]. What is the trend and why is it important?

BK: Indeed, there is a lot of talk about consumerization of IT these days. It is often equated to bringing your own device [BYOD], in that no longer are devices (phone or tablet or personal computer) only what is sanctioned by the IT function. Rather, employees can bring the device of their choice and access enterprise services on that device. When I look at the statistics, such as 87 percent of companies are doing BYOD, probably 60 percent to 70 percent of those companies are enabling e-mail on the device. I don’t think enabling e-mail on any device is enough to qualify to be doing BYOD. That device needs to access the company’s IT ecosystem and the services it represents. Until a company does that, it’s not truly doing BYOD.

On the other hand, CoIT is a big deal. A lot of employees today are savvier with IT, as they have grown up with the Internet and associated technologies and services. They want to be able to get their work done and have the capability to build or procure IT services. CoIT brings that dynamic more to the forefront.

PwC: How does that impact IT operations?

BK: The popular opinion of the last 8 to 10 years is that the goal of IT is to enable the business. Yet, there’s not a place you can turn where people aren’t talking about “IT means no,” in that when they take a request to IT, the answer is often “no.”

CoIT means it is much harder to say “no” now, because people are going to work their way around it. If IT is nonresponsive, employees today can use their know-how to find better and easier-to-use tools to perform certain aspects of their jobs. If that happens, IT organizations can have a big problem on their hands, because they will have little to no control over these tools and limited visibility into the data used and stored. So IT’s challenge becomes how not to say no, and to have a role in enabling new capabilities and services in partnership with the employees.

PwC: What changes should IT make?

“The change necessary is to treat the users as partners. Successful enterprises today are starting to embrace the fact that they have users who can assist in handling many of their own IT issues, because they have already waded through them in the home environment.”

BK: Most IT organizations spend way too much time building applications and not focusing on the user. The reason this happens and takes up a lot of IT’s time is scope creep on any project. It happens incrementally with people saying IT really should be able to do this one other piece, and then before you’re done, you have an application that has 300 features. The reality is that 80 percent of the users only use 30 features; what do you do with the other 270? Does it make sense to design an app with 270 features, where the use case occurs less than 20 percent of the time? Maybe you build another app for when you have that use case or maybe you accommodate that need a different way.

The change necessary is to treat the users as partners. Successful enterprises today are starting to embrace the fact that they have users who can assist in handling many of their own IT issues, because they have already waded through them in the home environment. This is the vital transformation that IT organizations must go through to continue to help their enterprises be successful. If they keep treating their employees as users, they will end up stuck in their legacy thinking that values process over partnership with their own internal customers. I would say such thinking has led to the exodus of IT talent from many large enterprises that don’t see the morale-boosting, efficiency-granting value in CoIT.

PwC: Companies increasingly are becoming digital, and there is the trend to use APIs [application programming interfaces] to share and co-create in a digital ecosystem. How is that impacting IT operations?

“If you think about it, information wants to be free, at least within the company. This is new for most companies; most companies lock up their information and don’t like to share it.”
“However, when enterprises build APIs to interact with the information repositories, and to read, input, or manipulate the data, they enable new services that can get someone’s job done.”
 

BK: If you think about it, information wants to be free, at least within the company. This is new for most companies; most companies lock up their information and don’t like to share it. However, when enterprises build APIs to interact with the information repositories, and to read, input, or manipulate the data, they enable new services that can get someone’s job done.

In reality, they’re building a workflow based upon modular chunks of what the user is doing. Most of the time, users want to do work in small, focused chunks. When companies do work in such a modular way, it’s much easier to be more productive in everything else.

PwC: With APIs, in some sense IT opens up its capabilities and allows employees to partner with IT to co-create new functionality. Should IT encourage this?

BK: That is what should happen in the long term. However, today it’s a big leap of faith and not everybody is ready to do that yet. For example, I recently visited a very large company that has been transforming IT to make users into partners. A member of the IT team said, “Somebody requested to put an app in our internal app store the other day. They looked at our APIs; they want to try designing something that they could use. They built this great app that a group of other people also thought was a great app, and they’re using it based upon capabilities made accessible by APIs.”

Non-IT employees created a new app using the APIs. Now IT’s role is different. Perhaps IT just puts it in the internal app store and nothing else. Or IT adds security to it, or maybe IT looks at it and says, “You know, we could help you make it even better so it scales to all employees.” IT may also get new ideas for opening up other APIs that would prompt more co-creation. This is a good partnership.

PwC: To use APIs across the enterprise, do you think IT organizations need to reorganize their assets as platforms with addressable interfaces?

BK: It depends on how they design and architect the platform. If a platform is building APIs to access data and make it available, whether on the premises or in a private or a public cloud, then yes, I agree that a platform is what they need.

On the other hand, they should avoid building a platform that becomes so unwieldy that they cannot make changes to it without much expense or disruption. I’ve lived through that. If you talk to anybody who did any IT from 1995 to 2005, they will recall platforms that people just kept adding to. They added to the point where, when they need to update a piece, they have 27 other pieces that depend on it, so they can’t update because it’s locked. The platform is complex and unwieldy.

IT organizations should build the platforms so capabilities are modular and interchangeable, and so modules can be upgraded without disturbing the system. It depends on how they architect a platform. They need to have principles that define how they’re going to build their platform to avoid becoming complex and unwieldy.