Developing a Strategic Partnership Between the Business and IT: How Zimmer Biomet Enabled Rapid-Cycle Innovation in Their Business

Written By: Julie Fancher
October 13, 2020
4 min read

As a large corporation, Zimmer Biomet has intricate systems that make innovation more complicated. This in turn causes many individuals to settle with the status quo in terms of their workflows and/or business processes.

Therefore, to manage business processes like project management and workflows, teams often relied on Microsoft Excel.

“We weren’t even sophisticated with the spreadsheets,” said Zach Frank, Development Engineering Manager at Zimmer Biomet. “We would print it off and then everyone would write notes on the spreadsheet, so as the new guy I had to compile all the notes.”

Frank’s team shifted from Excel to a different online database to better manage their processes. However, that tool was sunsetted, he needed to find something else.

That was when Frank found Quickbase.

The Agility Layer

“We used it to lay on top of our system of record,” he said. “We have a lot of applications that are critical for quality and not very nimble, so we just lay it on top as another UI to help with business process management, project management, reporting, where those entrenched systems are more difficult to adapt.”

In order to bring Quickbase into the organization, Frank needed to get approval from various departments. He went to IT early on to make sure they were a strategic partner in this process.

Zimmer Biomet’s IT department functions as a matrix organization. There are global solutions and transformation efforts done at the corporate level, and then business relationship managers within each business unit. Greg Bedenis, one such IT manager, helps manage what applications are used, how they are managed, if they are unique to Zimmer Biomet, and how they will be supported.

The Business and IT Partnership

This collaboration between IT and the business has helped implement dual track transformation: where IT could focus on large scale digital transformation, while the business can move forward with rapid–cycle innovation.

“It was collaborative right out of the gate,” Frank said. “They did a one-way integration with our system of record, so we weren’t interfering with that system.”

While IT helped to build some of the Quickbase applications, it was important to IT that someone from the line of business owns the application since they are closest to the business and know the work best.

“They have the expertise, they know the process, they know what they want to reproduce,” Bedenis said.

This strategic partnership also helped relieve some of the burden on the IT department by enabling citizen development within the organization.

“The citizen developers are the first line of defense if there is a bug or something that needs to be tweaked,” Frank said. “We will try to take it first and if we can’t handle it, we will work with IT.”

Quickbase has helped Frank’s team quickly become more efficient, while also allowing them to scale without adding more personnel. Other departments at Zimmer Biomet began to take notice.

Since launching their first set of applications in 2014, there are now about 60 to 70 applications in production across Zimmer Biomet.

Frank said since implementing Quickbase they have seen increased efficiency, reduced costs, and improved processes.

Governances and Security

According to a recent study by Harvard Business Review, the number one concern IT has about low-code, or rapid-cycle innovation, is governance and security.

In addition to their strategic partnership with IT, Frank and his team also instituted a Center of Excellence for their Quickbase applications to help create a well-governed and secure practice.

“With a [Center of Excellence] you have all the security controls in place to keep individuals in bounds,” Frank said. “Everyone can build what they need without getting themselves into trouble.”

With IT and the business working in concert with one another, it has allowed IT to continue focusing on large-scale digital transformation efforts, while also moving forward with rapid-cycle innovation to improve other business processes.

“The idea that technology has changed, and users’ capabilities have changed, it’s kind of fed this idea that not all development has to occur within IT, it can be expanded,” Bedenis said.

Written By: Julie Fancher

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