The Cultural Shift to a SaaS Technology to Drive the Change Within IT

Mike Gioja, SVP of IT and Product Development, Paychex, Inc.
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Mike Gioja, SVP of IT and Product Development, Paychex, Inc.

How can CIOs make their business counterparts think differently about the importance of IT?

Recognize that you’ve reached the role of CIO for a reason. You’ve already proven yourself as a leader and should therefore approach your interactions with other business units with confidence in your abilities and those of your team. From there, a demonstrated, proven record that you can handle the fundamental aspects of the CIO role with transparency and credibility is critical to engendering positive partnerships with other business units. The ability to deliver on your commitments on schedule and with availability, reliability, and clarity will help in demonstrating value to business counterparts. Doing so will also give you the credibility to establish strong partnerships and bring value-add through an openness and willingness to innovate, doing so in partnership with other teams within the organization.

It boils down to leading with integrity and transparency, recognizing when problems arise and communicating clearly when addressing them, and making sure your organization is committed to doing the same. Integrity is one of the most important company values here at Paychex, and it’s something that I apply to everything, from reporting to maintaining our roadmap to managing the budget to how I interact with others.

It’s also important to work hand-in-hand with your product team to enable technologies that can further the capabilities of clients and service providers alike. This will continue to build credibility and support for your team to do more, enabling other business units such as service to be more efficient.

  The ability to deliver on your commitments on schedule and with availability, reliability, and clarity will help in demonstrating value to business counterparts 

Ultimately, positioning your IT team as a vital component to the overall organization reaching its business goals will result in respect and investment from both a budgetary and human resources standpoint.

What changes have you seen in the IT operating model of your organization during the last five years?

Over the last several years, we’ve experienced a few changes in our operating model that have resulted in positive, impactful business results, including:

1. About five years ago, we moved to a company-wide portfolio management approach rather than each product line operating somewhat independently and in a bit of a silo. We’ve now brought everything together under one portfolio of strategies and priorities, allowing us to pull from a shared resource pool to meet the business needs of sales and operations. By moving to a portfolio, we can now prioritize at the company level across all business units and measure goals and results against company goals.
2. One of the most important shifts for us has been moving from waterfall to a full agile approach. This has allowed us to not only drive innovation, but better, more consistent interactions between operations and the business units that participate in the agile sessions and demos. Since beginning the transformation to agile in 2014, Paychex has stood up 80 agile teams across the organization, resulting in improved efficiencies and employee engagement. The shift has also allowed us to bring new products and updates to market faster and more effectively than in the past.
3. We are currently building out continuous delivery principles and implementing capabilities within Dev Ops in order to drive changes to production more swiftly, which ultimately leads to the ability to bring new products and enhancements to  market faster and more efficiently.

Moving from traditional IT to a service offering model requires a major mindset shift in IT.  How did you make that happen in software testing?

At Paychex, it’s all about the combination of technology and service; giving our customers what they want, how they want, and when they want. This drove a shift within IT to a powerful software-as-a-service (SaaS) model–and that presented many challenges from focusing on the creation of the SaaS to the availability and reliability of our operations. For example, our customers now have 24/7/365 support, should they need it, and we needed to be able to stand that up.

Despite the shift to a SaaS model, we still strongly believe that service is a critical component to our offering and the level of that service should be driven by the client. Along with SaaS platform, we established multiple service models that range from one end of the spectrum to the other–from do-it-yourself all the way to full outsourcing.

This cultural shift to a SaaS technology required intense focus on architectural, process, and infrastructure changes. Multiple tracks were established to drive the change within IT to a new system and new approach, which included a focus on software testing automation. All of this was accomplished with technology and service in mind, giving Paychex customers the ability to choose the level and type of service they want to receive through the SaaS offering.

How are you getting IT to deliver faster at Paychex?

The key to faster delivery for us is the agile methodology. We are now more quickly able to adapt to changing market needs by adjusting what’s in our agile backlogs. This has allowed us to pivot based on user feedback and needs more than with any previous software approaches.

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