Tech Journal CXO Corner: Blue Yonder Transforming to SaaS
Q&A with Dorien Weijts, Senior Vice President & Chief Information Officer at Blue Yonder
By Insight Editor / 18 Mar 2020 / Topics: Azure Software As a service
By Insight Editor / 18 Mar 2020 / Topics: Azure Software As a service
I started my career as a technology consumer in finance and accounting organizations for global companies in the hospitality, car rental and semiconductor industry. My key focuses were around automating processes, implementing new financial Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) solutions and driving business value through process optimization.
My financial background helps me assess IT spend and find cost optimizations which can drive incremental business value and results.
Several factors have shaped my career at Blue Yonder, including the opportunity to partner with our business teams and vendors, support M&A activities where associates, cultures and technologies had to be integrated, and lead both our transformation from on-premises internal applications to Software as a Service (SaaS) technologies and our internal infrastructure’s journey to Microsoft Azure.
Currently, I’m responsible for all of Blue Yonder’s information technology, including IT operations, system and application development, network, telecommunications and connected workforce solutions. The traditional back-office IT role is changing, and our teams are working closely with the business to transform the Lead to Cash (LTC) ecosystem. We help drive business outcome by leveraging technologies such as Artificial Intelligence (AI), Machine Learning (ML) and Robotic Process Automation (RPA) — and creating workspaces that will make Blue Yonder a Best Place to Work.
For instance, as technology becomes a more integrated part of the daily life of our associates, many Blue Yonder offices are being converted to smart spaces with open floor plans and the latest collaboration solutions. We recently opened a 1,300-seat workspace, 150,00- square-foot office in Hyderabad, India. It’s so fulfilling to collaborate with our global associates, stakeholders and industry peers in this way.
Now, with the rapid change in technology, our IT teams must assess and analyze the impact this change might have on the organization. Therefore, Organization Change Management (OCM) must be embedded in all our initiatives and projects. People and process readiness are as important as the technology selection and implementation. And being able to explain how new initiatives support the company objectives and add value to the organization goes a long way toward their acceptance.
What I believe is important is that organizations create a path for growth for the next generation — whether it’s women or men. Focus on recruiting and retaining the right skill sets for your organization. And support your employees by connecting them with potential mentors.
My career journey, perhaps uniquely, didn’t start in the technology field. With my background in hospitality and finance, not to mention my experiences living and working abroad, I’ve been exposed to many, diverse environments. What I’ve found is that the field of technology requires a continuous approach to new learnings, which provides the opportunity to go after many different positions, from architects and developers to business analysts, project managers and system administrators.
Blue Yonder’s strategic partnership with Microsoft Azure has accelerated Blue Yonder's vision to deliver an autonomous supply chain through an infusion of advanced, intelligent, cloud-based capabilities. Now, Blue Yonder customers can tap into Microsoft’s large global footprint and partner ecosystem while leveraging an Azure compliance portfolio, embedded security, enterprise-grade service level agreements and industry-leading support.
Blue Yonder products and solutions drive customer value by enabling them to better predict and shape demand, transform their product delivery and provide outstanding experiences. Technology is what allows us to transform our customers’ supply chains.
Blue Yonder offers supply chain and retail solutions for many industries, including manufacturing, retail, and distribution and third-party logistics. Our solutions help companies in these industries innovate, collaborate, reduce costs, improve margins, gain market share and create competitive advantages. With the Blue Yonder Luminate solutions, customers can harness cloud technologies such as SaaS, the Internet of Things (IoT), AI, advanced analytics and cross-platform integration to create smarter, more agile supply chains.
In 2020, Blue Yonder’s goal is to transform into a SaaS-first company. For us, this means not only should our supply chain solutions portfolio be SaaS-based, it also means our entire infrastructure will transform.
To achieve this, IT is currently migrating Blue Yonder’s internal architecture to Microsoft Azure, which integrates into all aspects of our robust and complex IT infrastructure, including GTM, support, financials, human resources and more, without disrupting our 5,000+ associate base. This multiyear initiative involves migrating our data centers to Azure, including 7,000+ servers supporting Research and Development (R&D), pre-sales, support and internal applications. It also means enhancing security to prepare for the public cloud, setting up standards for governance, designing disaster recovery and high availability for the new platform to ensure no functionality is lost as compared to the private cloud or on-premises data centers.
Our internal application landscape has already transitioned to SaaS solutions for CRM, HCM, financials and Office suite products. Throughout this effort, it became even more critical to build strong partnerships with our SaaS vendors. New releases and enhancements force a more agile SDLC approach and you want your teams to work in tandem so they can positively influence the product roadmap of the solutions in your ecosystem.
In IT, we also observed that for certain solutions, the skill set changed from a pure technical background of development to more of a techno-functional and analytical skill set. The key is to drive for adoption, consumption and continuous value optimization.
What support or partner engagement is helping your teams accomplish SaaS transformation?
The IT team is leveraging different partners to perform assessments of as-is and to-be processes from LTC, as well as Azure migrations to data center and colocation practices. We learn our partners’ best practices and have them help us assess different technologies, as well as train and educate our IT leaders and associates in how to operate in a cloud/SaaS business environment.
Most recently we had Insight provide a two-day workshop on DevOps fundamentals. Participants from IT, R&D and security attended, and are now working on putting a plan and roadmap together to adopt to this model.
The Blue Yonder Platform provides business planning, execution, delivery and workforce solutions that optimize businesses from end-to-end. These platforms leverage AI and ML to help better predict and prevent disruptions across the business. In turn, it can automate business decisions, creating a more profitable supply chain while delivering superior experiences.
We also have an increased focus on leveraging AI and ML internally to gain deeper insights that allow our associates to make smarter decisions and accelerate innovation. In 2019, our IT team created the technical foundation and in 2020, this foundation will allow for the business teams to use AI, ML and RPA in day-to-day operations.
The IT teams are embracing the new technology and learning how they can incorporate it into day-to-day operations. The focus is shifting from pure operational activities/metrics to value-add activities, including increasing associate productivity and driving business outcomes.
As our organization is growing and transforming, any changes introduced or implemented by new technologies need to be carefully planned. The impact they make both upstream and downstream is thoroughly analyzed. Our workforce is changing and with the introduction of digital technologies, the creation of a seamless end-user experience that can be accessed anytime and anywhere is becoming even more critical. We’ve also decided that a stable and secure network, audit, and compliance and operational excellence will continue to be focus areas in 2020.
We’re constantly evaluating collaboration solutions to enhance our associate experience and ability to interact in our global setting.
One of the solutions we recently implemented has seen great adoption. We identified early adopters who worked with the project team, took their learnings and applied them to the overall OCM plan. The key to the rollout was to listen to our associates and assess their behaviors, not overcomplicate things by providing continuous feedback loops and training. The organic adoption we’ve seen has surpassed our initial expectations.
We often hear that “change is constant.” This is the reality in today’s world. Becoming effective leaders in our rapidly changing environment starts with ourselves. First and foremost, we must be resilient, adaptive and have a passion for change. We must become change agents.
As I interact with many different teams at Blue Yonder, it’s important to explain why and how new initiatives support company objectives and add value to the organization. This goes a long way to leading people toward growing with and accepting the change.
As we continue our SaaS journey with the migration to Azure and implementation of innovative processes, our associates will continue to live by our company values. We believe that in order to grow, we must deliver customer value, take care of our partners, customers and associates alike, and respectfully collaborate as a united front.
This, combined with our core values — being relentless, fostering teamwork and delivering results — are the bedrock of the company. It unites all Blue Yonder associates around this "Sonoran Spirit." Embracing this spirit is what will drive success, profitability and growth for both the company and our 4,000+ customers. We’ll continue to operate with integrity and put people at the center of everything we do.
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