Speed Doesn't Come at the Cost of Quality

Trevor O Brien, CTO, Deutsch
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How has your IT operating model changed during the last five years in Enterprise Web Application industry?

A lot of the work we do on behalf of our clients is now running on servers that live in the cloud and connect to a variety of APIs for data and content–sometimes we manage these servers but, more often than not, we work with IT teams at our clients to deploy onto their distributed networks. As a creative agency that believes in making the ideas we dream up we have had to invest in talent and resources like a software development organization would.  We have close to 100 fulltime in-house engineers that are specialists in everything from large enterprise web apps, configuring complex hosting and streaming environments to data architecture and API development. Having the in-house expertise embedded into the creative team, allows Deutsch to deliver global business solutions for clients efficiently, effectively, and creatively for an array of clients including Johnson & Johnson, Volkswagen, and Taco Bell.

Our internal IT focus has adapted as well. We now host key applications that need to be always on in the cloud–the days of having email servers or file sharing servers in our offices are over and as such we are a much more ‘on’ organization because of that.

What do you think are the biggest challenges that Enterprise Web Application (EWA) technologists face in working in a more agile and outcomes based model?

We always say when you launch something it’s the start line, not the finishing line. The wonderful thing about developing for the web is you can change your code base, push it to your continuous deployment software, run tests automatically and have it live in minutes. It requires developers who I think are a different breed than we had say 20 years ago. The pace of improvements and updates has increased exponentially. When I went to school you specialized in a particular language–VB, Java, C++. But today, web technologies change so quickly you can’t afford to stick–you need to continually be investing time in learning new approaches and frameworks so that you are always at the cutting edge of what is possible. 

  ‚ÄčWe embrace a very agile approach to development and lean heavily on tools that help automate tasks like testing and deployment 

We are also seeing talent that started as designers who now code, and vice versa and when you find someone that is good at both then you can do really wonderful things.

Moving from traditional IT to a service offering model requires a major mindset shift in IT.  How did you make that happen?

As an advertising agency, we were never in the business of offering traditional IT services or support–the closest thing was providing hosting on behalf of clients. So, that transition was not one we had to make.

However–we plug in with many of our client’s IT organizations so have seen the transition from that point of view. Again, it’s a very different model in terms of the roles and responsibilities within enterprise IT teams.

What set of skills do you think is required for the technology leaders to be successful in the new Enterprise Web Application landscape?

This is a big discussion point in the industry currently. For a long time, leaders in large enterprise IT departments have been seen as a cost center, keep the lights on and don’t take any risks. But more and more we are seeing that CIO’s and their leaders are being asked to help transform more established businesses that are currently being disrupted or fear that they will be soon.

This puts a whole new perspective on the role of Enterprise IT. We need to be visionary, be open to changing everything we know and look for new opportunities to create new products and even new business models powered by technology. Look at Amazon’s growth in the past six years compared to the top six or seven big box retailers. Look at what online travel agents have done to the travel industry, and how player’s like Spotify and iTunes have disrupted the music industry. What’s next? Every industry is susceptible to disruption, it’s an exciting time.

The new IT leaders of the future will need to be creative in their thinking, be bold in offering up new ways of doing things, and look for talent that can help them change the game. All of this while also ensuring that the lights are on and burning bright in the current business.

Which growing or future technology innovation are you personally excited about for Enterprise Web Application?

I’m most excited about technology that is here to connect the IoT to digital tools at scale.  Imagine a future where a global business has all the machines in all their factories connected to their supply chain which in turn is connected to their stores and ecommerce.  All this data is then fed back to product designers, supply chain management, the sales organization in a way that makes it intelligent and easy for teams to make decisions on.

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