Maximizing IT ROI

James Mazarakis, EVP & CTO, WSFS Bank
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James Mazarakis, EVP & CTO, WSFS Bank

James Mazarakis, EVP & CTO, WSFS Bank

What changes have you seen in ITSM?

In the last five years, enterprises have witnessed the growing need of IT service management (ITSM) to not only focus on fulfilling IT service requests as quickly as possible but also seek ways to reduce the frequency of service interruptions. With the advent of new IT service management offerings like ‘ServiceNow' and ‘Ivanti’, submitting a service request has become much simpler and more user-friendly. The built-in workflow capability of these products increases efficiency, improves problem resolution, reduces down time and increases user satisfaction. ITSM allows IT Associates to work on a new request or fix a problem in a manner that meets pre-established service levels. These ITSM applications also help in reviewing and analyzing incident reporting to understand the frequency of various incidents, lead us to better understandings of the causes of these incidents and assisting us in fixing processes or equipment that continually generates these problems. I have seen the use of ITSM grow across the industry and more companies take advantage of these tools that significantly improve the customer experience of submitting and completing a request.  

Technology with Competitive Edge

We take our product evaluation process in as scientific way as possible, typically selecting many different alternative vendors and consulting with some of our advisory partners prior to making a final selection. For example, we use Corporate Executive Board (CEB), Gartner and other technology forums where peer companies are using a similar product or service. Those sources help us gather information before selecting companies that receive a request for proposal (RFP). After receiving RFP responses we complete a detailed due diligence process. We like to talk to peers who are currently using these products and services to better understand if these products are working as expected for them. Most of this information comes from companies and other CIOs where we have existing relationships and who are open enough to share this information.

   We try to take our product evaluation in as scientific way as possible, typically selecting many different alternative vendors and consulting with some of our advisory partners prior to making a final selection.  

What are some of your current projects?

One of our recent, large scale initiatives is a new ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) system that we expect to go live in 2018. Anyone familiar with ERP applications can understand the huge impact these applications have in improving internal processes by significantly streamlining the work that the users of these applications perform. We recently also implemented a new lending platform installation for our corporate clients and our small business clients. This lending platform includes full workflow capabilities and is running on top of the Salesforce.com cloud. Another major implementation that was recently completed is a Document Management Platform. This is a repository for many different types of documents. We currently have stored about 1.5 million documents on this repository. Further, we recently introduced a new credit card product that the bank is managing end-to-end to improve the credit choices available to our customers and improve the overall customer experience in credit card services.

Enhancing Organizational Behavior

Technology is only useful when it can be understood by the user. People expect that technologists have a strong understanding of the technologies they support, this is only natural and a part of the right answer. However, with the advent of innovative technical solutions, today’s technologists need to supplement their technical skills with improved business skills. I think that is also true for the various business line Associates. Along with their strong business knowledge, those business users need to understand some of the basic tenets of technology. Today it is hard to find any product or service which any company provides that doesn’t have a substantial technological component.

Since technologists have a command over technology, I advise them to learn as much as they can about the business of their company. Technologists can be much more effective in delivering technology solutions when they understand the business dynamics of their company. The advice I would give to other technologists is that, at the beginning of your career, you have to have strength and skill in technology, but the best way to evolve and increase your overall contribution is to learn as much as you can about the business that your company provides. Only then can you solve technology problems most effectively.

To improve the communication across our team we hold weekly meetings with the Technology leadership team, mainly focusing on reviewing projects and status of existing requests from both our Operations and IT teams. We discuss short-term goals that include planning and budgeting or new product or service rollouts, and how we can continually improve our delivery. In another weekly meeting, we discuss service issues occurring in the prior week. We share all this information as frequently and as openly as possible, to help our people understand the impact of an outage to our customers and other Associates while continually striving to improve our service.

What is your management style?

Being a family-oriented person, I want to ensure that I treat my team the same way they would want to be treated by their family. I am interested in knowing about their personal as well as professional goals. My role is more of a coach assisting the team with their work. I also want Associates within my department to voice their opinion and help decide the best way to solve a challenge we face. I typically don’t agree with command and control approaches because they don’t provide good learning experiences for our more junior folks. That’s why I believe in a very collaborative and cooperative approach for working with my team and our business partners. I believe that is the best way to feel that we’re all a part of a larger corporate family.

Workforce Optimization

One of the things that our company does well is a workforce rotation that allows Associates working in one part of the company to shift to another part of the company, for a specific period. This way Associates can see how another part of the company functions and can learn about other business areas. The rotations have become a way for people to broaden their experience and also understand areas of the bank that they have not had any exposure to before. Rotations not only improve the experience for Associates but also help business outcomes by providing multiple views and experiences to be considered when making a decision.

I believe that in most organizations success depends on the people that you employ and their ability to work towards a common goal. Business is not going to be successful regardless of how smart and capable Associates are. Unless we can assemble a good team that plays well together, it is very difficult to be continually successful. So I think the success of a CIO depends on how well they foster the growth of their team as a whole, with the appropriate oversight necessary to help them develop and assist them in working together.

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