How To Challenge The Status Quo When Tackling Big Projects

How To Challenge The Status Quo When Tackling Big Projects

If you are tackling a job that hasn’t been done before, you need a strong team.

One full of people who challenge the status quo and who aren’t afraid to ask why.

Stefanie Causey is the Senior Director of IS Solutions Delivery at Aspect Software. Aspect Software is a provider of customer engagement, workforce optimization, and self-service solutions geared towards mid-sized to large enterprises.

Stefanie has been in IT for many years and has witnessed a complete transformation in the way things are done in the tech industry. She was brought on board at Aspect when it was clear they needed a solutions architect to work on their very outdated systems and servers.

Stefanie joined us for Episode 1 of Digital Transformation Pioneers to talk about putting together a team to overcome unique challenges at Aspect, and her key lesson learned along the way.

Challenges at Aspect Software

When Stefanie started at Aspect, there was no path to updating the company’s servers; they hadn’t been restarted in 11 years and they were just too outdated for solving the company’s modern business problems.

Stefanie and her team prioritized the accounting and SFDC sides of the business as the first to migrate to new systems. They had to work on transforming the existing layout to meet the new proposed architecture. Reimplementing SFDC took seven months.

“We realized that we hadn’t done a real good job of maintaining the data in Oracle.  A lot of it was touched by manual processes.”
– Stefanie Causey

In the next phase of her process, Stefanie discovered a lot of their data was scattered and had not been stored in a uniform matter. It turned out that implementing the cloud system itself was not the difficult part: data integration was where the real challenge would come into play.

Stefanie needed to move all of Aspect Software’s historical data off of Oracle platforms. Oracle scheduled an audit for September 2017, so a deadline was looming. Her team started the evaluation of the project in November 2016, the project was started in January 2017, and their new systems were up and running by July 2017 with a total cost of less than $600,000.

Utilizing the Jitterbit Harmony platform and Microsoft Azure ended up being keys to their success in getting the engine back up and running.

AI and Machine Learning

During this time, Stefanie began to have insight into Microsoft’s Azure platform as a result of Aspect’s close relationship with Microsoft. Part of the offerings package Stefanie received from Microsoft was their Power BI service.

Stefanie knew that this service was considered best in market, and that it could perform a lot of functions, including leveraging AI. At the time, Stefanie struggled with how AI could help in the B2B environment without “big data.”

Luckily, Stefanie was currently taking a class for her Master’s degree on this exact topic: learning how AI and machine learning could better predict issues.

She was able to utilize the Power BI service and the knowledge from her class to predict problems before they even happened in her system architecture. As a result of predicting issues, the ROI on this particular project paid for itself in just 10 months.

Stefanie’s Key Lesson Learned

In her time leading these huge IT projects at Aspect, Stefanie has learned many lessons, but one stood out to her in particular: you have to be willing to challenge the way people do work.

A huge part of challenging the status quo and how people are going about their work is asking, “why?”  As Stefanie would put it, “Why is not a curse word.” She asks questions when she is genuinely trying to understand the problem others are trying to solve.

Why is not a curse word.  It’s an honest attempt to understand.”
Stefanie Causey

She encourages her team to continually seek after understanding each other. Stefanie always keeps her team focused on the end goal and she doesn’t allow them to lose the forest for the trees.

This is how she was able to lead in a way that was dynamic, creative, and innovative; her team members were able to question why a process was being done a certain way, and as a result they were often able to improve upon the original way of doing things.

Stefanie never answers a question by saying, “no” without an explanation behind her rejection.  She likes to say, “no, but…” and explain her reasoning why her decision. This fosters an environment where employees feel comfortable challenging the old ways of doing things and also feel heard if their new idea is not accepted.

This post is based on an interview with Stefanie Causey. Hear more from other Digital Transformation Pioneers.

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