What makes digital transformation efforts successful? Scalability, says Claus Moldt, executive vice president and chief technology officer at FICO, the San Jose, California-based provider of credit scores.
Moldt spoke with StrategicCIO360 about how to achieve scalability, fostering innovation and why FICO created an internal version of “Shark Tank.”
As digital transformation continues to be at the top of companies’ agendas, what role does scalability play both from an overarching business and a technical perspective?
Put simply, scalability is what defines the “winners” of digital transformation. As much as every organization wants to digitally transform, technology cannot solve broken processes within an organization, meaning that scale is not just something that “happens.”
From an organizational sense, executives need to supply a mandate and continued support to move forward with digital transformation initiatives. Once secured, the mandate serves as the foundation for creating a shared understanding among key stakeholders, specifically an organization’s change agents—those within an organization who will lead efforts and get others onboard. Once processes or gaps within an organization are defined, then the implementation of technology can be mapped into these processes.
For example, seeing scale at work in an organization can mean the DevOps team is working to bring code to production, but instead of just making small tweaks, they make updates as necessary to build proper integration environments through the bigger picture of the company’s digital transformation. In this instance, delivering quality code under a digital transformation mandate can include automatically checking the performance of code and monitoring for security threats among other processes that are automated from end-to-end.
Related, but at a more technical level, scalability is also about providing a foundation for activity. Certain capabilities like artificial intelligence processes need to have a good foundation to be scaled to different projects, workflows, etc. As AI decisions can have profound impact on end users or customers, it is imperative that AI processes are scalable.
From a business standpoint, how can organizations employ scale for seamless and successful transformation efforts, breaking down silos?
Successfully employing transformation at scale starts with business goals. At the heart of many organizations is the question, how can we accomplish as many of our goals with the fewest complexities?
Most people doing the day-to-day work at organizations know where the skeletons are buried and could easily identify the gaps that prevent them from reaching their business goals. With executive go-ahead provided, those who are moving digital transformation forward in an organization can drive the efficiencies they already knew could exist.
One way to do so is by documenting, integrating and automating effective processes from end-to-end, such as through digital decisioning platforms. This level of integration, from data input to making a decision, allows for the continuous monitoring of a business decision. If we check a few months from now and this process is not providing us with what we need, we can go back and adjust the process in hopes of validating the decision. Ideally, having the process documented in the tooling itself leads to an easier way to not only document but also adjust the processes as businesses may require it.
This process can sound siloed, as many departments roll out processes and technologies to solve their siloed problems. However, with an executive mandate, teams working through their unique problems may realize that the data being used for their use case is beneficial for another within an organization. When teams identify common data needs across areas of an organization, continuous integration and continuous pipelines go from being an end goal to a reality. Identifying business gaps is the first step to a seamless transformation. Technology should come second as the solving agent where applicable.
Specific to breaking down silos, why does deploying consistent business logic for digital decisioning across an enterprise matter?
When looking at older generation technology versus modern applications, there are some differences as to be expected. However, all include fundamental components, such as data modeling, business logic, workflow models, rule sets, analytic or optimizations models, etc., many of which are either integrated into a system or use APIs to bring them to full decisioning functionality.
If the system is built on a platform, there is an opportunity to put all the components listed above among many others together, creating a comprehensive solution to help solve business problems. By having all these components in the same place, organizations have flexibility to make a variety of different vertical-specific solutions. They can apply relevant vertical workflows to the same core of consistent business logic, i.e., offering consistency where needed but customization also where needed.
Every organization is different, so while some need micro-servicing on the front-end to access APIs for integrations, others prefer to drag and drop, low-code or no-
code as it makes sense for their organization. Overall, rolling out digital decisioning should be customized to whatever is unique to a certain business, but should also have the same set of components on the backend to offer flexible solutions and decisions where needed.
Can you discuss FICO Transformers? How does it inspire a culture of continuous innovation at the organization?
Through continuous innovation, organizations are better able to problem-solve quickly and at-scale. Resulting from the pandemic, we launched the FICO Transformers program, which is essentially “Shark Tank” for problem solving within the organization. Anyone within our organization is encouraged to submit a problem they or their team is facing, big or small, working with the Transformers team to come to a solution.
The goal of the team is to identify how we can help people do their jobs more effectively. It provides the chance for employees across the company to engage each other, feel that they have a say in the company’s functions and make a difference. For every meeting of the Transformers group, about two to five
problems are solved or progressed. Some problems solved to date include developing a more strategic process for measuring engagement on internal email newsletters and preventing developers from getting kicked out of their coding platform after an hour as the system would typically do.
These are just a few examples of how the FICO team has come together to collectively solve problems that in some way impact everyone, employees and customers alike.