Thrilling our clients with innovation and impact – it’s not just rhetoric. This belief is instrumental for our clients’ success. Earlier this year, we announced the first class of Chief Strategists, who provide vision and leadership to help our clients remain competitive. Get to know each of our strategists as they share their unique insights on their areas of expertise.
As companies undergo digital business transformation, it’s putting stress on information technology (IT) teams to become more agile, innovative, and better integrated.
With nearly 15 years at Perficient, Eric Roch, IT Modernization and Integration Chief Strategist, has worked with clients on strategy and architecture for IT transformation and application integration.
We recently spoke to him and learned more about his aspirations as a chief strategist, his perspective on IT modernization, and his interests beyond the role of chief strategist.
What does this new role as a Chief Strategist mean to you?
Eric Roch: For many years, even decades, organizations have treated IT as a cost center. Considering today’s competitive pressure for digital business, there’s an opportunity for IT to lead as an innovator within companies and serve as the go-to resource for new digital business models.
However, this transition [to digital business] proves to be difficult for many of our clients. I’m excited to serve as a Chief Strategist so I can provide thought leadership and share best practices with clients on planning for organizational and IT architecture shifts. It’s an exciting area to work within, and I enjoy seeing how our efforts make a tremendous difference for our clients.
How would you describe your domain of expertise? And, what does your role as a Chief Strategist entail?
ER: IT modernization is motivated by technology megatrends such as cloud computing, artificial intelligence (AI), and the Internet of Things (IoT). A “cloud-first” approach is a top consideration for most modernization projects as clients move from large-scale systems like CRM and ERP to similar SaaS offerings.
As a Chief Strategist, I’m helping our clients adopt these new technologies as quickly and successfully as possible. This includes not only selecting technology solutions that are the best fit, but also developing actionable strategies to launch them across the company. These plans take people, process, and technology into account for successful adoption so our clients see an immediate benefit.
What do you hope to accomplish as a Chief Strategist?
ER: Among my top priorities is to develop repeatable processes for our clients, especially for native cloud application migration and microservices architecture. I’m interested in revolutionizing the way applications are built and delivered with native cloud. We now have the tools to be extremely efficient, and yet I see companies use inefficient approaches.
Another priority is removing friction in application delivery and migrating applications to modern platforms to take advantage of advances in technology. I’ve noticed improvements in how we’re building systems, but big gaps still exist in testing, deploying, and monitoring applications.
Finally, as technology continues to rapidly evolve, our clients want faster returns and improved outcomes from new technology adoption. This requires focusing on client deliverables, their outcomes, and their ultimate success. We need to improve our delivery with each iteration, which requires thoughtful, efficient processes, solid knowledge management, and continuous improvement.
What do you see happening in IT modernization over the next few years?
ER: The pace of digital disruption continues to accelerate. To be competitive, companies need to have digital products and offerings. So, businesses have to change with a sense of urgency, and legacy systems and the business models they support must change.
A compelling digital strategy finds a balance between maintaining what you already offer while providing new, disruptive ideas that will get you to next level, hold off competition, and entice new customers. We present five digital essentials to help you rise to the challenge.
I think most companies need more of a software engineering focus. Businesses that wait to make an investment will be left behind and not have the funds for future, larger investments.
Start with an incremental IT modernization program now before it’s too late.
What excites (or scares) you about what’s happening in IT modernization?
ER: What concerns me is many organizations must fight a cultural inertia against modernization. Maintaining large software packages and outsourcing have robbed many companies of their software engineering expertise.
And I’ve already mentioned this, but companies have historically treated IT as a cost center. I’m always concerned that without rapid change, many companies will be caught in a death spiral. By that I mean, a situation where the longer an organization waits to change, the more radical the change must be to survive.
If you’re on the leadership team, why does strategy matter for your business?
ER: Leadership teams are typically skeptical of transformational IT programs. This skepticism stems from a long history of expensive IT programs with cost overruns and missed deadlines. Developing a strategy and planning for incremental benefits and rapid paybacks reassures leadership that IT is on the right track. This confidence builds momentum and secures funds for future investment.
A successful IT transformation [strategy] must also address platforms, people, and processes. Change must occur in the context of successfully executed projects to ensure benefits and payback to continue the journey. Because business drivers continue to change, this effort needs planning and organizational change management, including monitoring and adjustments.
Digital initiatives are the top priority for 2019. Read more on how to make digital transformation gains this year in our latest e-book.
What advice or tips do you have for developing a strategy?
ER: From a strategic perspective, you will want to address and remediate systems that have the greatest business impact in terms of revenue, cost, and customer experience. A migration roadmap aligns business goals and desired customer outcomes with systems plans and activities that provide incremental business value over the life of the systems transformation.
From an architecture perspective, analyze and model the as-is state of the application portfolio and categorize systems in terms of complexity, risk, dependencies, and business capabilities. The strategic and architecture views then must align to create a comprehensive transformation roadmap.
Finally, consider your audience, which may include business leaders who have to approve funding. Your roadmap for legacy systems transformation should include:
- Multiple model views of systems (easy to understand for a non-technical audience)
- Resource plans
How does your team help clients on their digital transformation journey?
ER: Computer science is a mature field, and there are plenty of smart engineers. So, the technology is not the most challenging part of the transformation.
However, all companies have unique legacy application portfolios, cultures, and relationships with the business. You can have a prescriptive approach to rolling out technology, but based on a client’s specific needs, there have to be dramatic adjustments.
We help our clients achieve success early on and build momentum towards long-term goals, like digital transformation, while implementing platforms, processes, and people skills along the way.
Tell us about a recent project you’ve tackled. How did we help the client achieve success?
ER: We recently helped a financial services client that was losing customers to more innovative competitors. The company’s systems were established on mainframes, and it had a poor set of client-facing applications.
The business wanted to rapidly implement more engaging customer-facing applications, but it lacked the platforms, people, and process to support more modern applications.
Our approach included a platform selection, best practices, IT organizational change, an innovation lab, and a series of incremental project wins. As a result, we helped the client quickly deliver a mobile application that, from the user’s perspective, seamlessly integrated with the mainframe. This engagement jumpstarted a successful three-year IT transformation.
Beyond the World of Strategy
What are your interests or hobbies when you’re not wearing the Chief Strategist hat?
ER: The nature of my work can be really consuming, so I enjoy something that stimulates the mind while also being fun. For about five years, I have studied music and learned to play the guitar. It’s something I never did as a child and am now enjoying later in life.
What five words best describe you?
ER: Responsible: I have always felt like getting things done starts and ends with me.
Experienced: I have learned a lot over the years and am willing to share my knowledge and wisdom with my clients and colleagues.
Methodical: I like repeatable processes, and if they don’t exist, then I will go and create them.
Thoughtful: Solid solutions emerge from a good understanding of clients’ technology and business problems.
Honest: IT consulting can be difficult. My mantra is: it’s best to tell it like it is, even if the truth hurts. Mistakes are inevitable, and correcting them sometimes means seeking help from others.
Follow along on this series to learn more about each of our Chief Strategists. And, take a look at recent blog posts they’ve written on trending topics for their industries.