Many companies today are rapidly adopting new technologies and tools to improve overall efficiencies, improve customer and client experiences, and support key initiatives that are related to business transformation. However, these efforts, while necessary, bring with them growing pains for the workforce.

As our global technologies transform, so must our teams. What we have discovered in implementing emerging technology at U.S. Bank over the years is that effectively deploying and making use of new tools requires a skilled and diverse workforce and a technology team with a strong engineering culture to support it.

Banking on technology and people

The largest technology investment for U.S. Bank came in 2022 when we announced Microsoft Azure as our primary cloud service provider. This move accelerated our ongoing technology transformation, part of which includes migrating more than two-thirds of our application footprint to the cloud by 2025. Harnessing the power of cloud is just one of many ways that technology is enabling our organization to bring products and services to our clients faster, while enhancing our operations’ scalability, resiliency, stability, and security.

The technology transformation at U.S. Bank is also focused on adopting a more holistic approach to both external and internal talent pipelines. Diversity is a key component of our team building because true innovation and problem-solving comes from people with different perspectives. To attract new, diverse talent to join our team, we supplement traditional recruitment methods with proactive techniques that help build our company’s reputation as a leader in technology and to give back to our community.

For example, we’re positioning some of our top subject matter experts at relevant conferences and councils to share lessons learned from our transformation journey and we’re engaging with educational programs, like Girls Who Code, Summit Academy, and Minneapolis Community and Technical College to both develop and recruit diverse talent.

Our top workforce priority, however, is retaining our current team and equipping them with the skills they’ll need today and in the future. Because technology changes so quickly, we have adopted a continuous learning mindset where our teams embed learning into their everyday responsibilities and see it as an investment in themselves. To do that, we created a strategy that focuses on four key areas: an employee’s time, establishing a personal plan, providing effective learning tools, and offering ways to apply what is learned. 

1. Time: Establishing a flexible learning environment

We created an environment and performance goals that encourage our technology teams to regularly dedicate time to continuous learning. Each member of my leadership team operates a different type of technology team with different priorities, work schedules, and deadlines, so they are empowered to decide how to create the time and space for their employees to achieve their learning goals. Some have opted to block all employees’ calendars during certain times of the month, and others leave it to their individual manager-employee relationships to determine what works best. We’ve found that, by empowering each team to make these decisions, our teammates are more likely to complete their learning goals.

2. Plan: Growing skillsets and knowledge

Just investing the time doesn’t necessarily mean our teams will develop the right skills. So, we created a program we call “Grow Your Knowledge,” where managers and employees have ongoing skills-related discussions to better understand employees’ current skills, skill interests, and potential skill gaps. This helps them collaboratively create a personalized development plan. We’re also able to use the information to help us measure impact and provide insights on new trainings we may need to meet a common skill gap.

3. Tools: Learning paths and programs

We assembled a cross-functional team of external consultants, HR representatives, learning and development experts, and technical professionals to develop the Tech Academy — a well-curated, one-stop shop for modern tech learning at U.S. Bank. This resource designed to support our teams to learn specific technical, functional, leadership, and power skills that are needed to drive current initiatives. Employees can take advantage of persona-aligned learning paths, targeted skill development programs, and experiential learning. We even developed a Modern Technology Leadership Development Program for managers to help them better understand how to support their teams through this transformation.

4. Application: Putting experiential learning into practice

Providing experiential opportunities where employees can further build their skills by practicing them is an essential part of our strategy. Right now, we offer programs such as certification festivals, hackathons, code-a-thons, bootcamps, and other communities of practice for our teammates to hone their newly acquired skills in psychologically and technologically safe, yet productive settings.

Our certification festival, called CERT-FEST, is our most successful experiential learning program so far. We leverage our own teammates to train others in a cohort-learning environment for eight weeks. To date, our employees have obtained several thousand Microsoft Azure certifications. Hackathons and code-a-thons take that certification to the next level by allowing our technology teammates to partner with the business in a friendly, competitive environment. The winning teams at this event build solutions for new products or services that meet a real business or client need.

Learn today for the needs of tomorrow

Since we’ve started this continuous learning journey with our teams, we’re seeing higher employee engagement, an increase in our team’s reported skills and certifications, and a stronger technology-to-business connection across U.S. Bank. These efforts have also shifted our employee culture to acknowledge that working in technology means you will always be learning and growing.

Finding new, more effective ways to address the ever-shifting needs of our customers will always be a priority. But in a continuous learning environment the question we now always ask is, “What do I need to know today, to learn today, to do my job better tomorrow?” This has been the driving force behind our success in growing, retaining, and motivating our technology workforce.

Financial Services Industry, IT Training 

A CIO has to understand the focus of the overall business, of course, but there are usually many segments or different dimensions to consider. In Martin Bernier’s case, as CIO of the University of Ottawa, managing the hyper-dynamic environment of 50,000 students, faculties and research groups is a discipline that requires both a holistic and granular approach across many departments in order to bring everything together in relative harmony. It’s an ongoing learning process that he’s honed over many years and positions.

“My career hasn’t been a straight line,” he says. “I started in the public sector, switched to the private sector, started my own consulting business, went back to private and public sectors, and now I’m in education. One thing that helped is to be a rebel. Sometimes, that’s not something positive, but in the beginning, my self-confidence was quite high. Everywhere I was I pushed the limit and I was confident I could manage things. I think every leader needs to develop that rebel side as well. You need to do the right thing for the right reason and prepare to fight for your team. If I need to lose my job by doing the right thing, I’ll do it and be okay with what happens. When I was younger, it was just taking the risk, but now it’s more calculated.”

Leading by such an example, Bernier knows that when building teams, certain skills stand out beyond technology. Considering the ongoing talent shortage in tech, he understands that broader abilities and strengths are becoming greater assets.

“A leader has to define what the motivator is,” he says. “With some people, it’s to grow their careers and move on. I never had that interest. I wasn’t looking to become a CIO; I was just interested to transform and improve the organization. So people need to develop that. They need to focus on people and the relationship they want to build, and the organization they want to be part of. If I am looking at the last 20 years as CIO, I think the reality is quite different. At that time, the focus was more technology, people did not want to talk with IT. Now everybody has IT tools. Everybody has mobile. So before, I focused on expertise and experience. Now I’m more about bringing the right people and embracing diversity. The role of CIO is getting more complex. It used to focus on the internal technology, and now our focus is everywhere, but that’s why I love the job.” editor Lee Rennick recently spoke with Martin Bernier, CIO at the University of Ottawa, about continuous learning, building diverse and equitable teams, and allyship to support diversity in technology. Here are some edited excerpts of that conversation. Watch the full video below for more insights.

On complexity: I’ve been in the field of IT for almost 30 years—20 specifically as CIO. I love change. Speaking as a leader, we need to get more involved and embrace diversity more. Every IT organization serves very diverse communities, so I’m involved in D&I and I’m active in my community, being part of many boards. My role at the university is simple and complex at the same time. On one hand, I need to shape the technology direction and oversee all the IT initiatives. That’s what is expected of me. Everything is for the business, the organization. I’m in charge of a large, centralized team, which includes the strategy, governance, architectures, policy, and so on. But on the other hand, the university is really decentralized with 10 different faculties and 42 services, so it’s a complex ecosystem with a really diverse reality. We have close to 50,000 students so this is a small city, and every city has its challenges. There’s a lot of diversity of expertise and point of view.

On collaboration: You need to understand your organization. And everything I learned throughout my career—from CRA and Brookfield, to my own business as well—I am able to use all that knowledge now because of having pushed myself outside my comfort zone. I’ve been at the university almost five years and I’ve been able to leverage that in light of the ecosystem’s complexity. But collaboration is essential. We all need to work together. We still debate, but building relationships and trust in every sector is vital because when you build trust, everything is possible. If not, you can’t move forward. I also promote inclusiveness and transparency. Everything in IT is a service so for me, everything is open. If somebody at the university is asking questions about the budget or capacity or anything like that, it’s open book. I want to lead by example and that is what I am trying to do.

On the human element: Technology is always the easy part and I have the feeling so many IT groups or organizations are working just on the technology side. Yes, that is our job. We need to focus on technology but it’s really simple. For me, what I like to focus on is the human aspect. Every human is different, and each human can be different from one day to the next. Someone could say, “I agree with you.” And the next morning they’ll call and say, “Oh, by the way, I was talking with my brother and now I disagree.” That’s why I love the people inside an organization. If I don’t feel connected, I’m not going to join that organization. So you need to have the passion for your organization and your industry. How could you transform something you don’t have passion for?

On male allies: When I joined the university, I asked about their women in IT initiative but they didn’t have a specific initiative in IT. So my goal was to provide support and help, like a male ally to be available where needed, but I was not looking to be visible. But one thing I quickly learned was to lead by my own example. That was not my goal at that time, but was the start of my journey and learning something new. We realized a lot of women wanted to participate but we had the wrong name, so we came up with Women in Innovation, which is more inclusive. That was four years ago and since then, I’ve done event panels and started another initiative that was similar to Women in Innovation but more like a male ally event. We are trying to be more strategic about the kind of event we wanted to do. I like to support my people but more backstage. But for this, I learned I needed to be up front and visible to be a good male ally. So my advice is ask people what you can do for them. I’m trying to promote diversity and concrete action. We really have the power to change things.

CIO, Diversity and Inclusion, IT Leadership, Relationship Building, Women in IT

Companies today face disruptions and business risks the likes of which haven’t been seen in decades. The enterprises that ultimately succeed are the ones that have built up resilience.

To be truly resilient, an organization must be able to continuously gather data from diverse sources, correlate it, draw accurate conclusions, and in near-real time trigger appropriate actions. This requires continuous monitoring of events both within and outside an enterprise to detect, diagnose, and resolve issues before they can cause any damage.  

This is especially true when it comes to enterprise procurement. Upwards of 70% of an organization’s revenue can flow through procurement. This highlights the critical need to detect potential business disruptions, spend leakages (purchases made at sub-optimal prices by deviating from established contracts, catalogs, or procurement policies), non-compliance, and fraud. Large organizations can have a dizzying array of data related to thousands of suppliers and accompanying contracts.

Yet amassing and extracting value from these large amounts of data is difficult for humans to keep up with, as the number of data sources and volume of data only continues to grow exponentially. Current data monitoring and analysis methods are no longer sufficient.

“While periodic spend analysis was okay up until a few years ago, today it’s essential that you do this kind of data analysis continuously, on a daily basis, to spot issues and address them quicker,” says Shouvik Banerjee, product owner for ignio Cognitive Procurement at Digitate.

Enterprises need a tool that continuously monitors data so they can use their funds more effectively. Companies across industries have found success with ignio Cognitive Procurement, an AI-based analytics solution for procure-to-pay. The solution screens purchase transactions to detect and predict anomalies that increase risk, spend leakage, cycle time, and non-compliance.

For example, the product flags purchase requests with suppliers who have a poor track record of compliance with local labor laws. Likewise, it flags urgent purchases whose fulfillment is likely to be delayed based on patterns observed in similar transactions in the past.  It also flags invoices that need to be prioritized to take advantage of early payment discounts.

“It’s a system of intelligence versus other products in the market, which are systems of record,” says Banerjee. Not only does ignio Cognitive Procurement analyze an organization’s array of transactions, it also takes into account relevant market data on suppliers and categories on a daily basis.

ignio Cognitive Procurement is unique for its ability to correlate what’s currently happening in the market with what’s going on inside an organization, and it makes specific recommendations to stakeholders. For example, the solution can simplify category managers’ work, helping them source the best deals for their company, or make decisions such as whether to place an order now or hold off for a month.

Charged with finding the best suppliers and monitoring their success within the context of the market, category managers work better and smarter when they can tap into ignio Cognitive Procurement.

ignio Cognitive Procurement also identifies other opportunities to save money and improve the effectiveness of procurement. For instance, the solution proactively makes business recommendations that seamlessly take into account not only price, but also a variety of key factors like timeliness, popularity, external market indicators, suppliers’ market reputation, and their legal, compliance, and sustainability records.

“Companies also use the software to analyze that part of spend that’s not happening through contracts,” says Banerjee, “and they’ve been able to identify items which have significant price variance.”

To avoid irreversible damage or missed opportunities and to keep a competitive advantage, organizations across industries urgently need an AI-based analytics solution for procure-to-pay that can augment their human capabilities.

To learn more about Digitate’signio Cognitive Procurement, click here.

Analytics, IT Leadership

If you have a dev-centric background, you must have heard about the term DevOps. Before DevOps was called DevOps, the two disciplines (“Dev” and “Ops”) were growing further apart. Developers (the “Dev” part of the story) have had a desire for agility since the turn of the century, following the publication of the famous Manifesto for Agile Development. Meanwhile, Operations (the “Ops” part) formalized good practices into frameworks such as ITIL, which were implemented by most large companies in the mid-2000s.

Those two approaches seemed to oppose. While Agile advocates the acceleration and multiplication of changes, ITIL tends to limit and control them. However, DevOps flourished as a combination of both methodologies and concepts, while organizations strived to accelerate the launch of innovative services and applications. Moreover, DevOps has led to increased proactivity through systematic automation and continuous monitoring which enables faster issue detection and resolution.

Now that a third player is entering the mix with NetDevOps, what can we expect from it? Network operations manage what many perceive to be a complex, fragile environment. Network teams are fearful of delivering the level of agility required by new digital initiatives, because of potential network disruptions. As a result, the risk arises of another “wall of confusion” caused by a conflicting combination of motivations, processes, and tools.

NetDevOps aims to extend agility

However, “Net,” “Dev,” and “Ops” are likely to converge on many aspects. Networking technology trends have followed the same path as data center trends. Programmable, software-defined, and cloud-based network environments have made NetDevOps a reality through the use of infrastructure-as-code and automation.

According to industry analysts, NetDevOps is among the most hyped innovations in networking. Successful NetDevOps initiatives would look like fully automated environments that can deploy and test configuration changes across networks, ready to be consumed in a DevOps approach all along the CI/CD pipeline.

There’s a catch though. NetDevOps remains an emerging transformational process. Most adopters still lack adequate tooling, such as continuous monitoring. This makes it difficult to understand how the software-defined infrastructure is performing in test, staging, and production conditions. NetDevOps teams are then faced with significant challenges in getting continuous feedback for validating or improving their delivery processes. The challenges include:

Understanding the user experience before and after infrastructure changes are pushed and pinpointing issues early before they have an impact.Diving back into the history of changes, and determining the impact on the infrastructure throughput and the digital experience.Forecasting possible bottlenecks owing to configuration changes and variations in the traffic patterns.

Most modern software-defined network platforms provide a reasonable level of integrated monitoring features. However, network operations are running short of options when seeking the root cause of user experience degradation, especially when multiple ISPs and network device vendors are involved. In order to continuously validate the user experience delivered by their software-defined networks, organizations need real-time analytics capabilities to gain insights into the end-to-end digital experience, traffic management complexities, and device configuration.

As organizations are pressured to increase the agility of network operations processes, traditional monitoring practices can be a roadblock to successful NetDevOps adoption. Without pre- and post-change validation of the end-user experience, risk-averse network teams will be wary of managing a larger volume of changes more quickly with the potential risk to production infrastructure.

In the very near future, approaches such as NetDevOps will become mainstream; agile network teams will have to guarantee reliable connections and consistent digital experience on a continuous basis. Now is therefore the time to review your network monitoring strategies, and evolve traditional NetOps into Experience-Driven NetOps.

You can learn more about how to tackle the challenges of agile networks in this new white paper, Continuous, End-to-End Validation of SD-WAN Performance from the End User Perspective. Read now and discover how organizations can deliver reliable connections that are experience-proven.