Q&A with Quick Base's Newest Board Member Paul von Autenried, CIO of Bristol Myers Squibb

Quick Base News
Jun 12, 2020
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8 Min Read

We are excited to announce that Paul von Autenried, executive vice president and chief information officer (CIO), of Bristol Myers Squibb, has joined the Quick Base Board of Directors.

He is the second Fortune 500 CIO to join Quick Base’s Board of Directors since the beginning of the year.

Von Autenried has been at the global biopharmaceutical company for almost 24 years, and has been CIO for the last 12 years. He previously held positions at Kraft General Foods and Hewlett-Packard.

Von Autenried’s brings a valuable perspective to the board. As the IT leader at Bristol Myers Squibb, his point of view is especially valuable as companies around the world continue to respond to and adjust their workflows due to the outbreak of COVID-19.

We recently spoke with von Autenried about his interest in joining the Quick Base board, how the role of IT will evolve in the coming years, and the role low-code platforms and citizen development will play in enterprises moving forward.

You’ve talked about the increasingly blurred lines between business and IT and IT now being ‘stewards of the digital enterprise’. What do you see as the role of low-code technology, and specifically citizen development, in facilitating that new reality?

Whenever I hear the phrase “business and IT”, I always want to ask “at what point did IT stop being part of the business.”  The phrase is built on a mountain of binary assumptions:  you are either in IT or you are not … you are either a developer or you are not.  My advice to CIOs is to take a more nuanced approach to enabling your company to be successful in this digital era.

Leading CIOs should aspire to take full accountability for the digital capabilities of their company, and recognize that there is a wide range of needs to leverage and amplify the value of those capabilities — from very simple forms of automation akin to Excel macros of the past to more sophisticated forms of digitalization such as machine learning.  A full range of capabilities, from Python/R/Java type development to low-code to no code, all play a role in fulfilling that aspiration.

With thousands of processes in a business, where do you see low-code adding the most value for enterprises today — and how do you see that evolving over the next few years?

Many companies have decided to rely on “standard enterprise platforms” for the enabling functions:  SAP for Finance and Procurement, Workday for HR, and so on.  These functions are subject to high volumes of transactions – repeatable processes – under constant pressure to do more with less, to work as efficiently and effectively as possible.  IT tends to minimize the customizations of the standard enterprise platforms to make it easier to adopt new versions.

As a consequence of this situation, it is not uncommon for these enabling functions to need automation of highly repeatable tasks which bridge the standard functionality of the platform to the unique business processes.  It seems to me that these types of situations would be fertile ground for low-code automation solutions.

What will the role of IT look like in 10 years – and what will be most different from today?

While many would say that we are living in a period of unparalleled change driven significantly by the pace of digital innovation, I still believe there is value in learning from the past.

As just one of several examples, consider the evolution of the CFO leading the Finance function in companies.  They have a fiduciary responsibility to ensure the company’s financial assets are appropriately managed in a way that ensures they are safe and secure but also accessible to the needs of the company and its business development agenda.  But employees do not have to be in Finance to access funds for legitimate business needs.  CFOs fulfill their responsibility by establishing policies, practices, and systems to ensure every employee has access to financial assets appropriate to their role.

In a parallel way, every head of the Information Technology function, has certain undelegatable — fiduciary — accountabilities, and one of them is to ensure that the company’s digital assets and capabilities are reliable, accessible, and secure. 

I would expect, 10 years from now, that many IT functions will evolve similarly, and leading IT functions will be particularly good at enabling their entire company to leverage digital capabilities and pursue digital innovation — in a safe and appropriate way.

As a person who sees a lot of technology vendors, what is it about Quick Base that made you want to invest your valuable time?

Several things attracted me to Quick Base:  First, the product – cloud-native data-centric architecture, web and mobile user interface– seemed to me to be a strong foundation.  Second, the service model – consumption-based pricing, low barrier to entry, excellent on-line self-help courses.  Third, the management – I was impressed by their market penetration largely with non-IT sales, and with their vision of positioning Quick Base as an enabler of innovation at the edge of enterprises.

In reflecting five years from now on your appointment to the Quick Base board, what impact are you hoping to have made on the company and on the market?

The low-code marketplace seems crowded with many different solutions.  I think a dominant market-share leader — effectively becoming the defacto “standard of care” – will emerge in the next five years.  A key enabler is becoming relevant to CIOs.  I hope to help with that.

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