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Episode 40: “Realizing Innovation” with Mark Schlesinger, Senior Technical Fellow, and Deepak Elias, VP of Enterprise Architecture Broadridge

Matt Swain interviews Mark Schlesinger, Senior Technical Fellow, and Deepak Elias, VP of Enterprise Architecture of Broadridge on ways emerging technologies are solving business problems, how to create a learning culture, and three things that need to happen for innovation to succeed.

Matt: I'm Matt Swain, and you're listening to the "Reimagining Communications Podcast," where we discuss the opportunities and challenges facing companies on the road to optimizing their communications for the future.

Today, I'm joined by two esteemed colleagues Mark Schlesinger, Senior Technical Fellow, and Deepak Elias, VP of Enterprise Architecture. Mark, Deepak, thank you so much for joining today.

Mark: Matt, it's a real pleasure to be with you today. Looking forward to a great conversation.

Matt: Excellent.

Deepak: I'm very excited to be here, Matt. Thank you for having me.

Matt: Yeah, certainly. So, Mark, let's start with you. You held the role of CIO at Broadridge before taking on this new responsibility. Talk to me a little bit about your background, and the role you're playing at Broadridge today?

Mark: Sure, Matt. So, I spent many years since the spin-off of Broadridge back in April of 2007 as the global CIO of infrastructure. Spent several years, about three years, pulling together all of the infrastructure, associates, as well as the technology into one unified organization. And we've truly made infrastructure an absolute service to Broadridge business units and our development teams. I also had responsibility for different development teams during my tenure up through that time. So, I have a pretty vast background between application development and infrastructure.

Matt: Excellent. And what does a Senior Technical Fellow do?

Mark: So, my new role, which is very exciting, is really focused in on not only supporting the technology teams from an advisor standpoint, you know, from a strategy advisor standpoint. But most of my role is really focused on supporting our sales teams, and working with them, with our existing clients or potential new clients, in terms of explaining our architecture, our security posture, how our applications are architected, and work together to deliver a full service based on what we're proposing to the client.

Matt: Excellent. And, Deepak, you joined Broadridge from Amazon Web Services, where you were a solutions architect. What inspired you to make the move to Broadridge, and what are you working on now as VP of Enterprise Architecture?

Deepak: Thanks, Matt. Yeah. This is a fantastic question. So, I've done architecture in varying forms going back 20 years now. As part of Amazon Web Services, I had the pleasure of working with Broadridge prior to joining.

In my opinion, there are a few companies that have shown the level of innovation and delivery capabilities that I've come across that Broadridge has. And I truly believe that Broadridge is on the cusp of transforming internally and externally so that we can drive the kinds of things that our customers need. And effectively, I just wanted to be part of it, which is the reason why I wanted to join Broadridge.

Now, as part of my role, as Enterprise Architecture, I focus on the migration and modernization of our applications that migrate to the cloud. So, my team effectively delivers architectural designs, governance, reusables, best practices that is required to create more secure, performant, and resilient applications in the cloud.

Matt: Excellent. To your point talking of the cloud, Broadridge spends so much time talking about The ABCDs of Innovation®. And, you know, how we aim to simplify the complex. And when we talk about the ABCDs that's AI, and blockchain, and the cloud as you mentioned, and digital. And helping clients transform their business to get ready for what's next.

I'd love to hear from each of you a little bit about the types of challenges that clients are encountering. And how we're using these next-gen technologies to solve for them?

Mark: I think some of the main challenges our clients are seeing is talent. So, when I think of, you know, talent, I'm talking about talent like Deepak. So, thinking of architects that truly understand how the public cloud works, how to take advantage of the public cloud from an architecture scale reuse perspective. Certainly, a scarce resource. Every company is looking at increasing their digital footprint, which then increases what I would call the attack surface, which is a natural outcome of that.

And then it's really how are you dealing with scaling your security, as well as always raising the bar on your information security.

So, that's where Broadridge brings the right fit and focus, as well as the right scale to deliver the service, not just pure technology again. We're delivering services, not technology widgets at the end of the day.

Deepak: Yeah. And I'll just add to that, Matt. I think Mark hit it right on the head. You know, this notion of services I think is a struggle for innovation for a lot of our clients. They're expecting things faster, quicker, in a more agile fashion. We have a constantly changing competitive market that we need to keep up with. And rightly so, our customers expect us to deliver things quickly and faster. And one of the biggest I would say complexities to this is to be able to transform our capabilities in order to deliver some of the things that are, I would say, relatively democratized out there. Things like blockchain, things like AI/ML.

Our customers may or may not be in a position to leverage them directly, however, they are looking for partners like Broadridge to be able to deliver those sorts of capabilities. And it's kind of up to us to take the complexity of defining those scenarios. For example, I'll give you a couple of examples for this. We're trying to create or leverage blockchain to create essentially like a transparent infrastructure to be able to share information across some of our investment capabilities that we're putting in place, right?

This is not an easy scenario to go after. Just like Mark said, there are so many different layers involved in this, all the way top-down from the technology, all the way down to the infrastructure that has to be resilient and scalable, right? But our customers expect us to do this. So, it is a challenge that I think we're rising to at Broadridge. And like Mark said, I think we have talented folks here to deliver those sorts of capabilities. But in order for us to get ahead with the ABCDs, that's what our customers expect. And I think we're rising to that challenge and delivering a lot of those capabilities.

Mark: Those are really great points. And what I would add to that is, we're also evolving from a solutions as a service delivery model where it's really the end-to-end delivery model, UI/UX through business logic and the back-end datastores, to also delivering what I would call platform services that allow our clients to actually leverage smaller business components. I'll call it microservices, which might be a little bit of an overused term.

But using microservices to further enable their ability to engage clients further continue their digital experience, so that we can create and get more product in the marketplace that really fits the way our clients and financial services really buy now. So, it's truly an evolution there.

Matt: I also feel like there's this challenge part of why clients come to Broadridge or a similar organization is they're looking at finding a partner that can help them execute on those innovation projects that they're working on.

And I thought it was really interesting. One of the recent studies that we did was with nearly 100 executives at Fortune 1000s. And 80% percent of them said that more than half of their innovation projects fail. I'd be curious your thoughts on why you think those projects fail. Are they all moonshot projects, or are there other more fundamental reasons that those would fail?

Deepak: This is a really good question. You know, when we're talking about innovation, for me fundamentally there are three things that need to happen for innovation to succeed. Number one is you must have strong executive commitment and leadership to deliver that.

Our executive leadership team at Broadridge, I believe has been instrumental in focusing the organization on the ABCDs, and the innovation that goes with it. However, this also means that you are setting up a culture of innovation, and you're maintaining a focus on innovation. So, you not only have to drive it from a leadership perspective, but also maintain the focus on it and keep it going.

Number two I believe is failing fast. Mark mentioned really like early on that everything is sort of targeted to be as a service. And now infrastructure is a service. Platforms are a service. There are services out there that sort of give you access at your fingertips to things like AI and ML. The idea behind innovation means that we can now use these services, spin them up, target them at the speed that we need. And the idea behind this is to stay ahead of, one, the market, as well as the technologies that are out there. So, you must create a talent pool that's able to experiment, innovate, and with it comes, you know, failures with experimentation, which is absolute learning steps that must be put in place, right?

And then third one is focusing on customer-led innovation, in my opinion. And what this means is essentially focusing on what the outcome of a project is. You know, today technology is around just to support our customers. It is meant to deliver or solve a problem that a customer wants us to solve for them. And focusing on that takes out the complexity of thinking about technology.

And a lot of people sometimes get hung up on the fact that they're trying to solve a technology problem. It's not really a technology problem. As long as we focus on the outcome, and we deliver the results that include how to migrate our customers to the outcome that we want, we can get past this notion of the complexities involved in the actual technology pattern.

And this is especially evident with legacy systems. Legacy systems are looked at as, you know, don't fix what's not broken so to speak, right? But the idea isn't necessarily to fix it. The idea is to make it better and get to an end state. And there's different ways of doing this. But a lot of companies don't necessarily look at it that way, and they probably should. So, customer-led innovation I think is probably the way to focus on it, especially when it comes to legacy systems.

Mark: Yeah, great points. And it also comes back to, you know, what's the definition of failure, right?

Deepak: Sure.

Mark: You know, and how does an organization perceive failure, and how do they accept failure. You know, I kind of also look at it as, do we have the right product leaders and the right business leaders that are identifying opportunities in the market, as well as getting the right client feedback, you know, to Deepak's later comments, from our clients and prospective clients.

So, I think having a reasonable business idea of what we need to develop, and what innovation we need to put out in the marketplace is obviously a good start. And having that vision, and then leveraging what cloud enables you in terms of quick innovation, quick to succeed, or quick to fail I think are very key components in delivering a minimal viable product, so that we can really start testing the marketplace and testing the water. And getting real feedback.

So, starting with a good business plan that has, you know, reasonable views on it, and a reasonable idea of what needs to be delivered, followed up by some quick, innovative, and agile development I think are really key. And then, you know, when you look at failure in terms of delivering MVPs and technology, you know, it could be that, did we maybe not select the right database technology, as an example, to deliver it?

But that could be a phase one where now we learned a little bit more about how the business process works, how the end-user is using the product. And then you could quickly morph into something different to deliver the product, I wouldn't call that piece a failure. It's more an evolution of the product.

Deepak: Yeah. And I'll just add to that. I think what Mark said hit home with the way we're trying to operate here, right? Because cloud makes things so, I would say, democratized because you get access to so many services so quickly, the idea of evolving innovation I think is key. A lot of people think innovation is a big bang approach and sort of end state. When while yes it is an end state, there are plenty of mechanics that you can put in place such as what Mark is talking about with experimenting and trying things. And that's what we try to encourage with a lot of our development teams and architecture teams is there isn't a one size fits all. There may never be a one size fits all.

It's a case of making sure what is fit for purpose, trying it, and the more you fail, the more you learn, and the more everybody else as a company learns and grows as well. So, innovation is a set of steps that have to be taken. The biggest mistake folks can make is just [00:18:00.00] target an end state, and not actually plan how to get there.

Matt: Right. Deepak, on that note, how do you use the new technologies we've been talking about to solve for what's next – what our clients might not even be thinking about yet, or haven't figured out how to solve for?

Deepak: Yeah. This is I think a very interesting question, Matt. So, what we... You know, Mark made the point about this earlier about everything being driven from the customer's perspective, right? So, essentially, we're trying to do two things. We're trying to, one, understand what the customer wants and deliver those sort of capabilities. So, technically, if you were to draw a line in the sand, we shouldn't necessarily be using a technology for the sake of using a technology, right? It needs to solve a problem.

However, when we're thinking about customers and where they want to go, we need to start planning for what’s coming in the future. And that's one thing you can do even for, you know, when you're not solving for something that's when you're solving for what's not out there yet, you know, like your question is saying. There are a couple of things that you can do to think that way and still sort of move the needle, even though you may not have a customer request at the moment.

One of them is actually cultural. And this goes back to the points that Mark and I were making earlier. In order to be successful and solve for what's not out there, you have to build a culture of learning. So, you first of all have to build a capability from a talent pool that basically says, we're going to continuously learn and evolve. And that'll keep you ahead of the market a little bit.

The next thing that we can focus on is on the more foundational aspects of things. There will always be a requirement for more security, more resiliency, more automation, quicker speed of delivery, right? These are all foundational services and components that from an architectural or a development team perspective we can continue to improve and focus on.

How do we make things more scalable? How do we test more security? How do we put more secure guard rails in the platforms that we're building? These are actually all the things that you can continue to work on. And these are all the things that cloud, and the latest innovations actually let you deliver, and what we do on a continual basis. So, we do have, as part of our software delivery lifecycle, a continuous improvement plan. So, we take projects through their life cycle, we architect them, we test them. And once they go out, version one or minimal viable product into the market, we come back and reassess, and say, how do we now continuously improve it?

There'll be some capabilities that go into the roadmap of the product. There might be some capabilities that go into the foundational components of the platform. But there are so many things, and it's so easy now to get to the different layers of how software is developed and delivered that we can continuously improve this even if we're not sort of solving for what's out there.

Matt: Excellent. Mark, thoughts on that?

Mark: Yeah. So, when I think about, you know, what's next and how do we stay ahead of innovation, it's also, you know, how are we aligning with our technology partners in the marketplace? So, how do we align with our cloud services providers? How do we align with our technology service providers in the marketplace to meet with them on a regular basis, understand their strategies, and where they think the market is going? Because they obviously have a very broad client base on how they're delivering services, whether it's within financial services, or any other market segment.

So, A, we certainly have the shortlist of our partners, our technology service partners. And, B, we have that constant communication and understanding their strategy, as well as having them understand our strategy, so that we do know what's coming up next. We are aligned, and we can then continue innovating on these various technology components to deliver unique solutions in the marketplace.

Matt: So, Mark, we started by talking about the ABCDs of innovation. And I'd love to hear your thoughts on how these technologies and others will continue to evolve in the next few years? Are there other technologies or capabilities that we're watching closely?

Mark: So, in terms of the ABCDs, we're at the point where we're just past that curve of exuberance in terms of these newer, interesting, cool technologies. And now we have either found or continue to search for business problems that can be solved and will be solved with these technologies. So, I think at this point, and when I look at the remainder of 2020 and certainly well into 2021, there's a fair number of business problems that will be solved with these technologies. So, whether it's AI, blockchain, the hybrid cloud, which really all creates a new digital experience. There's a lot of work to be done and solutions to be delivered on those technologies. My view is, let's focus on this, let's really create value in the marketplace, and let's really make a difference from a business standpoint.

Matt: Excellent.  Deepak, your thoughts?

Deepak: Yeah. To me, I think there are two primary areas. I echo Mark's comments here. I'd like to dig in on two primary areas that I believe will be areas of focus to closely watch in the next few years. One of them is in the world of AI and ML and delivering AI/ML capabilities using automation mechanisms, something called MLOps. AI/ML today while everybody wants to use it, they don't quite understand how to secure it. It's kind of a black box. You know, it's like a magic that people don't quite understand how to do. But the harder part with it is auditing and understanding what goes on within those worlds.

So, this notion of MLOps is meant to like surface that up, so that we can actually control what gets deployed, when, how in a more secure and a fast fashion. And that should ideally make AI and ML ubiquitous across the board. I know we at Broadridge are trying to use more and more of that. We're trying to put in place, and we will be successful with this, MLOps capabilities for a lot of our products. So, that's one area that I think will be very interesting to watch.

The second one is blockchain. We're already putting in place at least two projects that use blockchain today. And blockchain is one of those everybody speaks about it, nobody really knows how to use it sort of scenarios, right? It's very expensive to implement because you have to create a peer network, and you got to bring more people to the table. And as I think, companies like Broadridge and others sort of create more use cases, I think we'll start seeing more of an economy or a partnership of capabilities that's coming together on these blockchain platforms. And I think that's going to be another big area to watch out for.

Matt: Excellent. Well, Deepak, Mark, thank you so much for participating today.

Mark: Certainly. It was a pleasure.

Deepak: Thank you, Matt. And I'm excited that I was able to share my small view of enterprise architecture at Broadridge. So, thank you for the opportunity.

Matt: I'm Matt Swain and you've been listening to the "Reimagining Communications Podcast." If you like this episode and think someone else would, too, please share it, leave a review, and don't forget to subscribe. If you're ready to reimagine customer experiences, consider The Broadridge Communications Cloud, an end-to-end platform for creating, delivering, and managing omnichannel communications and customer engagement. To learn more about Broadridge, our insights, and our innovations, visit broadridge.com, or find us on Twitter and LinkedIn.