With Covid continuing to push out return-to-office plans, IT leaders find themselves challenged to plan for what comes next. The good news, says Tony Caesar, head of IT for Ericsson’s Market Area North America, is that all organizations are in the same boat and have the same opportunities to learn from each other.
CIO.com’s Maryfran Johnson sat down with Caesar on a recent episode of CIO Leadership Live to discuss Ericsson’s new way of working and IT modernization efforts underway at the $28 billion global provider of 5G infrastructure products and services, among other topics.
Caesar joined Ericsson in 2018 and is in charge of Ericsson’s Enterprise IT environment across all of the U.S. and Canada, taking care of all the existing infrastructure and rolling out new technologies to more than 10,000 employees.
Following are edited excerpts of Caesar’s conversation with Johnson. For more insights, watch the full interview below.
On a new way of working:
Tony Caesar: We have this term “the way of working,” it talks about how we operate as an organization. Our way of working is we don’t manage people by time anymore. It’s not about, you’re supposed to work 8-5 or 9-5, whatever it is.
It’s not about clocking hours, it’s about clocking results. So, even as a new hire, you very quickly learn that, “Hey, my value is what I deliver.” So, it doesn’t matter that I’m not in the office. I’m being measured on my deliverables, and as long as I continue to deliver, I’m in good standing with everyone.
We really acknowledge that post the pandemic, we will not go back to work the same way we were pre-pandemic. Pre-pandemic, 80-90 percent of our people were in the office five days a week. We recognize that post-pandemic… there’s going to be some mix where more people are going to be doing 2-3 days at home.
On un-flipping the switch:
We, as IT leaders, have brought so much more digitization and automation to our internal operations in the last year. Not because we wanted to, but because we had to. We were forced to be super agile.
So, when you look at all that swift change, and you see where people are now comfortable, that’s the key. They’re comfortable working from home and they’re productive. It’s very difficult to think that we’re going to find a way to flip that switch back to pre-pandemic ways of working. I don’t think people are going to allow it.
But I think we don’t know yet. We don’t know, and we won’t know until the switch is flipped and we all do decide to start going back into the offices.
The upside is that you’re not alone. Your company is not the only company that’s going to be experiencing this. We’re all going to be in the same boat at the same time.
On modernizing IT:
[O]ur CIO, Mats Hultin, who is headquartered out of Sweden, has a vision of modernizing our entire IT organization, where we’re looking at all of the traditional IT services and solutions that we offer.
With our cloud migration modernization program, we’re looking at what you guys would think of as traditional legacy applications that run either in data centers or run in your respective IT shops and moving those things into the cloud and looking at more what we call consumable-based applications, where gone are the days of the big giant ERPs.
We have a lot of projects around what we call “lighthouses” that are focused on enhancing our customers’ experience. As an example, we’re adding a lot more automation and digitization to our supply chain internally.
In terms of IT services, we’ve put a lot of bots in place of humans, where we’re trying to facilitate getting people answers, but much quicker than having to go through the service desk and waiting and waiting.
A service desk tech, came up with this brilliant idea to create an app that a user can screenshot a problem and submit it through this app and have backend AI and ML figure out how to resolve the problem automatically for the user and send them back an answer.
We jumped on it, we’re funding it and we’re building it.
On attracting and retaining IT talent:
There’s talent, there is lots of it. The question is how do you get that talent to want to work for you versus one of the other big tech companies? Because there’s quite a few of those. So, there’s a lot of competition for the talent, and even keeping the talent that you have. Because, again, that’s the other side of the equation, where you’ve got to make it so competitive and culturally competitive that people want to remain where they are and not just jump ship.
So, it’s an ongoing thing. And it’s all about people. Our jobs as leaders, it’s about people. And if you forget that, then you’ve lost the battle already.