NICE CIO Hadas Reisbaum has held a number of technology leader roles in her career and has seen what it’s like to support enterprise end users as well as tech-vendor software developers. Prior to her current job she was vice president of IT at Teva Pharmaceuticals, and a few jobs before that, she worked at Intel.
NICE, founded in Israel, has offices around the world serving customers globally. It provides analytics-based applications designed to enable organizations to improve customer experience and fight financial crime. The company’s technology incorporates advanced analytics, artificial intelligence and automation, and is powered by a cloud-native open platform. In May NICE announced the acquisition of Brand Embassy, which offers technology designed to allow organizations to communicate with their consumers through digital channels.
Reisbaum has been involved in about 20 acquisitions in her career, and in this Q&A, on the eve of her year anniversary at NICE, talks about the difference between working for a user enterprise and tech vendors, dealing with the speed of the cloud and the thorny issue of handling mergers from the IT side. An edited transcript follows.
How is being a CIO at an enterprise tech software vendor like NICE different than your role at your previous places of employment, which were not tech vendors.
Throughout my career I chose different industries — always in IT but each time in different industries. So I started from being a programmer at a semiconductor (vendor) then moved to the financial industry, and then I was part of a startup company in the homeland security domain and then indeed a pharmaceutical company and now NICE.
I think that, being part of the software industry, it’s different because it’s bringing more elements and more context to the scope of IT. If, in the classic industries or non-software development industry, the CIO role is usually focusing on the infrastructure of the company, and the information systems of the company, etc., in software companies obviously it comes with (a) more product-oriented scope and challenges. So, it’s the R&D lab and the product environments that we need to support as well — it’s adding another layer of complexity and interest. The entire R&D lab environments are managed and led by IT.
What’s currently your biggest IT challenge and how are you dealing with it?
My biggest challenge is probably that NICE is cloudifying its product portfolio. One of my main challenges is keeping up (with) the speed of cloud and ensuring that we have our infrastructure ready for cloud transformation. And cloud obviously is not just a different way of consuming computing resources. It brings with it totally new and different business models, and totally different operating models internally, and a different level of speed and agility that is needed from us as a provider of cloud services.
That means actually helping to develop the cloud product offerings that are “as a service” from the cloud?
Yes, NICE offers cloud services to external customers. Then we are developing our products in a cloud-native way to enjoy the benefits of the cloud. So we as IT are supporting those processes for the R&D domain.
I know that you offer an RPA product, but internally, what role does this technology play?
Indeed RPA is another important pillar in our portfolio for our customers and NICE has an RPA product that was developed in-house. We also adopted the product internally. At NICE we do it from two different angles.
One is to automate internal processes to benefit the value of the product and to achieve more operational efficiency. So, in the different business domains of finance and order management, etc., we implement robotic processes internally. The other aspect of it is that we as IT are acting as the beta-site for the product team. So, because we are adopting the product first, we can test the functionality first and provide feedback to the product team.
In recent years, NICE has executed several acquisitions and NICE continues to look for acquisitions. Maybe you could talk about what sort of challenges M&A poses for a CIO.
NICE has done and probably will continue to do more M&A in order to enrich our portfolio and get more innovative functionality where needed. And the challenges that it brings to us as IT is obviously constant integration. Because whenever we bring a new company on board, on the one hand, we want to keep its unique nature and its unique DNA and allow it to evolve with the benefit that it brings with it. On the other hand, on the more commodity-type services internally, we want to create a unified as possible level of services for better employee experience and smoother processes internally. So definitely, integrating those services and allowing streamlined IT processes is a key focus for us.
What are the lessons from previous acquisitions you’ve worked on that you take going forward?
There are two factors that are very important in any type of acquisition from the point of view of IT. One is that there is no one-size-fits-all. So any one integration or any acquisition is different from another. It’s not necessarily an approach, or a must, to try and integrate it all on day one. On the contrary, I think that each acquisition brings with it different aspects and different benefits to the company and different uniqueness in its business. It’s very important to identify early in the game, which domains you want to keep intact and not try to integrate as part of the entire corporate, and allow it to be agile and innovative on its own; and which are the areas and domains that you will benefit from IT integration.
How has the role of CIO changed over the last few years?
If 20 years ago we were very technology savvy and technology-focused people as managers, today, we are required to be not just very strong in technology and innovation, but also very strong business-wise. Today the CIO is required to be a business leader, just as much as they are required to be a technology leader and understand the business model, lead the transformation, and be a part of it.
Turning to yourself personally, how did you first get involved in the tech field.
I was always attracted to this field. But it was only through my university years when I studied engineering, where I first got exposure to technology and coding. And then as a student, I started working as a programmer. And that’s when I fell in love, really, with technology.
One of the things that we know today is that younger girls are not getting enough exposure to technology in a way that will really engage them and will encourage them later on to choose a career path in technology. Actually we took upon ourselves as a mission to close that gap. And one of the programs that we have just recently launched is called “Code:Coda.” It’s a program that we aim to work with girls at the age of eighth and ninth grade, here at NICE facilities, teaching them how to code in a fun and engaging way.
Do you have any advice for other women who are interested in getting into the tech world that remains so male dominated?
This goes both for men and women — I think you have to be a hungry person. You have to be hungry for change. Hungry to lead a change. The tip that I would give to any technology leader again regardless of gender is just to keep stretching your aspirations.