At Intuit QuickBase’s recent #EMPOWER 15 conference, product marketing manager John Carione convened a panel of customer CIOs to discuss how cloud-based low-code platforms and citizen development are transforming the way IT is executed. We heard from Isaac Sacolick, CIO of financial consulting firm Greenwich Associates; Francois Tricot, CIO of veterinary medical supply company Ceva Sante Animale; and Will Weider, CIO of hospital network Ministry Healthcare.
How has the role of the CIO evolved?
Will: I have been a CIO for 20 years and it has changed for the better. My role has lessened somewhat because more people know how to leverage technology. I suppose my key question now is: how can we deliver more reliably and less expensively?
Isaac: I view myself as the technology steward for the business and I spend my time trying to grow revenue through the use of new technologies. In the last 4-5 years, I’ve asked myself: how can we make the organization more data-driven? How can we scale our effective platforms and how can we upgrade software quickly? How can we help non-IT employees develop the apps they need to grow their businesses?
Francois: The most important thing for a CIO today is to have a strong return on investment, and my strategy is: go beyond the cloud.
Why would you choose a low-code platform?
Isaac: It’s simple. Low code means we deliver faster and require less skilled labor. Once they’ve uncovered a need, business unit personnel developing an app can get 70 percent of the way on their own and then IT may step in. In particular, we assist with sandboxing, or testing out an app before it goes live to make sure the right information is encrypted and everything is backed up properly. It’s a partnership.
Francois: Self-service wins. The learning curve is short, the user interface is friendly, and you can get a live application in an hour. Everyone achieves their goals and the company saves a lot of money.
Will: There is a spectrum of CIO types that ranges from controlling to empowering. I fall somewhere in the middle. There are certain high-risk and complex apps I have to put through our onerous governance process, but for everything else, I try to get IT out of the way and let people solve their own problems. Our 3,500 QuickBase apps are largely developed by process owners, reducing the demand on my staff and allowing us to get more work done. There are low-code apps everywhere, though, and the best thing about QuickBase is that it’s secure, it won’t create infrastructure problems, and we know the company will stick around.
What do you see as the challenges and opportunities around the user of a platform like QuickBase?
Isaac: There’s nothing like helping colleagues realize that what they’re doing is clumsy and is making their life more difficult. We ask them questions and slowly show them how to do it differently with a tool they can use on their own. We mentor them on the app, assist with rollout, help them tweak it, and then suggest ways to expand usage. Platforms like QuickBase create a cycle of people wanting more, and demand for technology is actually a good thing. One challenge, though, is working with other SaaS (software as a service) solutions because you have to understand how you are going to move data in and out of those programs. Also, some QuickBase workflows need audit controls. Otherwise, it’s hard to tell who changed what.
Will: One opportunity around QuickBase is the ease of adoption. It grows organically because people use it to solve immediate business problems and make their lives easier. The challenge is that QuickBase is not appropriate for everything. Some cases are great candidates and others aren’t, and you have to understand the difference.
What keeps you up at night regarding integration?
Francois: We need a way to integrate in a way that does not remove flexibility from the IT system. We also need to keep in mind that in established organizations, not all apps are cloud-based.
Isaac: We have to know what we’re integrating with, if it’s documented properly, and if it has sensible naming conventions. Apps might have been built by different people at different times under different circumstances, and if this is the case, integration can be a formidable task.