Enterprise systems – the new IT specialists for the digital enterprise
There is an invisible revolution in the way organizations buy, run, and maintain application software. A new generation of IT specialists is developing whose role is to manage applications for the company. This is not a phantom IT system: they usually still fall under the IT function. But they’re built into business functions and responsible for helping them adapt technology to meet their goals.
Called business systems professionals, they are mostly found in fast-growing digital startups, but their numbers are also increasing in more established organizations that want to operate in a more connected and digital way. All share the same challenge. The company wants to be more agile and responsive, while the available tools are constantly increasing and evolving.
One of the big differences with traditional IT is the focus on business results. People in enterprise systems keep the lights on and manage costs, but that’s not their primary focus. Speaking at a recent meeting, Brian Flood, head of enterprise systems at cloud provider Edge Fastly, explained how his team defines their role:
We want to make sure that everyone is performing at their best within our organization. Our vision is for everyone to be successful, productive and happy at work because it is easy to do their jobs. We do this by providing the capabilities and information necessary for Fastly teams to run the business in the most efficient and effective manner possible.
Flood has three teams in its organization. One deals with go-to-market systems including marketing, sales and customer support, another deals with HR and finance, and the other deals with business intelligence and warehousing. data. That’s a pretty typical breakdown, but these teams also work very closely as part of their role is to oversee decisions in one function that may impact others. For example, they will see how a marketing campaign spikes customer support workloads, or understand why data collected in marketing and sales results in discrepancies in reference records in the financial system.
These dependencies are typically overlooked when businesses look to traditional IT vendors and consultants to upgrade systems in one function or another, he says:
The consultants we used built some great tools for us … but no one had a holistic view of the big picture? [Since joining Fastly] that’s what I spent a lot of time doing.
The mindset is also very much in tune with agile ways of working, although most of the work of enterprise systems is configuring and integrating SaaS applications and cloud services rather than coding brand new ones. features. Sridevi Pasumarthi, senior director of enterprise applications at home digital security provider Arlo Technologies, explains:
You need to understand how it’s used, what value do you bring, how do you make sure you bring more value, incremental improvement? My organization operates like an engineering organization. We have sprints, we do Scrum, we publish plans, it’s no different from any product organization in my opinion.
This emerging breed is quite real, but often works in isolation. Workflow automation vendor Workato noticed there was no community to bring them together when customers started asking to connect with others, said Bhaskar Roy, head of growth:
We saw the need to build this community about nine months ago. We would see clients come and tell us that we are looking to do this, can you put us in touch with someone who has already done that.
There are all these different vendor-centric communities, but there was nothing that was through and above other companies.
Workato therefore began to organize meetings in the San Francisco area, during which Flood and Pasumarthi made the comments quoted above. Meetings have since taken place in the New York and Boston areas, and an online group has drawn participants from other regions and around the world.
Now there will be a one-day conference, to be held in San Francisco in two weeks, where business systems professionals will share their experiences. Workato is running the event and also funded my trip to attend on behalf of diginomica to be able to hear more of their stories from the face of coal. Workato CEO Vijay Tella said:
IT has traditionally focused on technicians who do the tough jobs, who keep the lights on. Big projects that only they can achieve. There is this group in between which is related to IT governance but at the same time closer to understanding business needs and close to the urgency that business functions have … …
There was no community [for them] like developers or CIOs. We exploited this because we realized that this was our core target … These are the groups that were created in these companies to solve these problems. These are the people who make this happen.
It doesn’t surprise me to learn that the latest generation of digital tools is starting to create a need for a new generation of IT specialists. To some extent, the need to bring together many different solutions has always been present in the SaaS environment, but larger factors are now converging to make it a more common trend.
Most important is the frictionless business trend, which I have discussed elsewhere. This trend towards more integrated, real-time, agile, and results-driven automation necessarily requires a smoother IT infrastructure. This cannot be delivered and maintained without more out-of-the-box components, which in turn requires this new generation of business systems professionals to operate them effectively.
The comments made to my colleague Derek Du Preez by the CEO of Unqork on the supposed failures of agility are a symptom of the same trend. While his critiques of agile development have some merit in terms of highlighting the scale of unnecessary technical debt, it may be a false equivalence to say that moving to a more component approach means leaving Agile aside. . As Pasumarthi notes, there is still a need for agile disciplines at this level as well.
Earlier this week, Steven Sinosfky wrote about Steve Jobs’ notion that the personal computer is a bicycle for the mind, that is, a tool that dramatically increases human efficiency. In an era when everyone wanted to make PCs faster so they could process more data, Jobs had another goal which, as Sinofsky rightly points out, turned out to be much more influential. Jobs said:
We’re going to start chewing on power specifically to help this one-on-one interaction go more smoothly and specifically not to actually do the number math, database management, and word processing.
What I think we are seeing today is an equivalent process when it comes to cloud and business automation – diverting some of the power of IT to help teams of people work. faster and better. Think of today’s cloud services as a set of bicycles for the business, increasing the efficiency of its employees. Enterprise Systems Professionals are the specialists who will tune these bikes to help their riders deliver peak team performance.