theCUBE is the world’s leading live interview show covering enterprise tech, innovation and the people who imagine, create and implement the technologies that are changing our world. This year, they joined IFS in Miami for IFS Unleashed 2022. Below is the transcription of an interview with Martin Schirmer, the President of Enterprise Service Management, IFS Assyst. And Parminder Khosa, the Senior IT Manager at Parexel. Enjoy!
theCube: Hey everyone, welcome back to theCUBE live in Miami on the floor of IFS Unleashed. I’m your host, Lisa Martin. Had some great conversations. Have more great conversations coming your way. I have two guests joining me. Please welcome Martin Schirmer, the President of Enterprise Service Management, IFS Assyst. And Parminder Khosa, the Senior IT Manager at Parexel. Guys, it’s great to have you on the program.
Parminder Khosa: Lovely to be here.
Martin Schirmer: It’s good to be here.
theCube: Martin, talk to me a little bit… tell the audience a little bit about Assyst so that that get that context before we start asking questions.
Martin Schirmer: Yeah. Absolutely. So, IFS Assyst is a recent acquisition. It’s an acquisition we made about a year ago. And fundamentally, it’s a platform that takes care of IT service management, enterprise service management and IT operations management. So, think of it, of managing sort of the ERP for IT and then broadening that out into the sort of enterprise where you’re driving enterprise use cases for all lines of businesses like HR, finance, facilities, so on and so forth.
theCube: Got it. And then Parminder, give the audience just a little bit of a flavor of Parexel, who you guys are, what you do.
Parminder Khosa: Sure.
theCube: Maybe the impact that you make.
Parminder Khosa: Yeah, so Parexel is a clinical research organization. And what that means is that we manage drug trials for big pharmaceutical companies. So, we’re a big company. We’re 25,000 people. We have offices in 150 locations all the way from Japan and the east through to the West Coast of the USA.
theCube: Big company.
Parminder Khosa: Yeah, we are. We are a lot of people.
theCube: And let’s start chatting now Martin with some of the questions that you have so we get the understanding of how IFS and Parexel are working together.
Martin Schirmer: Yeah. Absolutely. I suppose… I mean the first thing is and thank you for traveling here all the way from the UK. (Lisa chuckles) Appreciate it and great energy and vibe. So, the first question I had really was, you’re a customer of ours for the last 15 years plus. Maybe just give the audience a bit of context into your journey and how you’ve evolved from the sort of early years to where you’re going into the future.
Parminder Khosa: Sure. So, our history, I was part of a company that Parexel acquired that was already using Assyst. And as Parexel acquired us, they were in the process of also buying Assyst. So, it became a kind of natural fit where I carried on with Assyst. And we started relatively small, sort of just the service desktop. And throughout the ongoing 15 years or so, we’ve just grown and expanded into kind of being a critical tool for Parexel right now.
Martin Schirmer: Okay, that’s fantastic. I mean part of that journey, I know you started in sort of the more they call a ticketing space or IT service management space. Expand a little bit how you’ve expanded out of that and really moved into the enterprise.
Parminder Khosa: Sure. So yeah. So, when we first rolled Assyst out, it was as I say, purely IT. And eventually we reached out to other business units to say asking questions like, are you managing your workload through email? Are you managing your workload through Excel spreadsheets? In which case, if you are, we’ve got a solution for you that will make it a much better experience for your customers. They’re all internal. It’ll make it much easier for you because you will have official tracking going on through our system. I’ll make it better for your management because we can drive metrics from all of the data that we’re getting. So, if you imagine finance, we’re getting, kind of 200 mails a day because of the size of our company. And they were just working through them one by one responding, and they become just a mess. So, we developed forms for them to say, “Okay, Larry raise all your requests here.
We will pick it up. We will manage it. We will communicate with you. And once the piece of work that you’ve asked for is done, we will let you know.” And as we go through that process, we’ll make it better for us because as I say we’re getting those metrics. And we’ll make it better for you because we can spot where our gaps are. If a request is taking three days, and of that three days, two days is waiting for someone on our end to respond to you or is waiting for us or waiting for a customer to respond, we can iron those out and make it a much better experience for everyone.
Martin Schirmer: That’s fantastic. It’s really music to my ears because we are always pushing the industry to say move away from just the IT side and really get into the enterprise. And it sounds like you’ve really gotten a lot of sorts of productivity and efficiency gains out of that.
Parminder Khosa: Definitely, definitely. And it becomes kind of a happy circle. So, the finance guys will work with the procurement guys. And they also look… Well, we’re doing all of our work through Assyst now. So, procurement’s a little turnaround. So, well we’re using this big spreadsheet to manage all of ours. Can we do the same? And they’ll reach out to us, and we’ll say, “Of course we can. What is your process?” For example, they will say, okay, if someone asks for a new laptop, we need to get the approval from their line manager, from the supplier. We need to do our own internal work and then we will send it out. So, imagine if you’re doing that in an email chain. It just becomes chaos.
Martin Schirmer: Yeah.
Parminder Khosa: So, we will build all of that out for them. And then procurement will talk to HR, and it just becomes a snowball. And before you know it, we are doing about 4,000 tickets per day in our Assyst system. And of those, 50% perhaps maybe more than 50% now will be non-IT related.
Martin Schirmer: Oh, that’s fantastic. Really music to my ears. And it really breaking down the boundaries or silos within an organization. It’s really good. Let the teams work together. Right?
Parminder Khosa: Definitely. And that’s one of the key things that we’ve learned is that we have to engage completely with our business partners. And our business partners are becoming more and more IT literate as well. So, for example, we had a recent big HR solution provided to us. And as part of that, we know there are going to be questions, and queries and perhaps even issues to do with our HR system. So, we have to work with us guys, the Assyst front end, the IT HR guys who look after the databases, all of the technology in the background. Then there’ll be IT HR who are Workday experts. And then kind of not necessarily at the bottom of the chain will be the HR people themselves who are in their own way, experts in their area, experts in IT in a certain way. So, all of those people have to work together. We become the front end, but we have to work with all of those parts of the business.
Martin Schirmer: That’s really great. It’s basically what you just said is taking business, IT processes and underpinning solutions. Effectively digital transformation, right?
Parminder Khosa: Exactly. Yeah. So, HR is a great example. They used to have paper flying around with leave request, with sickness requests, with all of those kinds of issues. And you said, well if you have an issue with your HR system, you can’t raise a leave request, or you can’t raise a sickness request, tell us. We will take care of it. We will fix it for you. We will give you the instructions. And we will get rid of all of that paper.
Martin Schirmer: That’s brilliant. Just sort of turning the attention. And all of that, how do you drive the sort of, we’ll talk about the autonomous enterprise. How do you drive automation in that process?
Parminder Khosa: Yeah. Of course, we have to map all of those processes out. Because we’re not the experts in HR or procurement or whatever the business area may be. We have to really dig into their work methods, their working areas. What is necessary for them? What is a must have? What is a like to have? What is we don’t really need? So, we really drive into those processes. Once we’ve got those, we will automate them. We will build them out in Assyst with the process designer. It’s very intuitive now. The latest version is really good to work with. We will do some pretty clever stuff in there. We’ll say, okay the manager approval. If the manager is not there, then escalate it to the next person. Then we go to HR and say, okay HR have taken two days to do this. We’re not particularly okay with that. So, we will escalate it to the next person. And all of that process is completely automated, completely in Assyst.
Martin Schirmer: Brilliant. I mean obviously, we have a codeless workflow engine with a designer. And if you look at one of the trends from post covid is a war in talent in particular developers. The IDC says there’s going to be around 4 million shortages of developers. What is your view on, how easy… Do I need developers? Is it easy, is it difficult to do these workflow extensions and automations?
Parminder Khosa: Definitely not, no. So, the two key areas that you mentioned that with the customizer to develop the forms to make them available to our end users, drag and drop. Really easy to do. You can put some nice filters in there. You can put some nice variables in there. You can drive intelligent, drive the forms from there as well. So, if option A is correct, then don’t show me option B, show me option C. And all of that is codeless, entirely codeless. I don’t need to type any code. And when we move on to a process designer that hooks in nicely with the form customizer because we can say, “Okay, if option B on that form is selected, then runs this process.” And all of that process is entirely codeless as well. Drag and drop. Creates some tasks. Create some decisions.
Martin Schirmer: Fantastic.
Parminder Khosa: Brilliant.
Martin Schirmer: Sounds really good. Switching gears, a little bit. You spoke about experience, and that’s also obviously very topical post, well, Covid becoming a remote workforce. Clearly, we need to be digitally connected to our business and organization because the hybrid workforce, as we all know, is here to stay. And that employee experience is fundamental because it is their sort of channel to the engagement of the organization. Of course, that has retention impacts and productivity impacts. So just from your perspective, how was Covid, from your perspective, and how easy or difficult was it to get your employees engaged and productive and working?
Parminder Khosa: Yeah. And for us, it’s a double-edged sword Covid was. Because of the nature of our business. We do covid stuff. We do drug stuff. So, we may have issues with some trials that are related to that. So, we need to escalate those. We need to be aware of them and move them to the top of the chain as soon as possible. And then Assyst becomes a source of truth. Everybody knows that if I’ve got an issue with the current environment that we’re living in, I can raise it in Assyst. And everybody knows that’s where that information is. There’s no need to have huge conference calls or huge email chains to try and follow those around. So with our Assyst platform, with our employees as well, everybody knew that this is where the source of truth was. We didn’t have any dropouts. We didn’t have any concerns with our system or performance.
We knew it was there. We had to do some work like, as I say, around covid issues just to make sure they get pushed up to the top of the chain. But otherwise, we were fine. And great credit to our IT operations team as well, who managed that pretty much seamlessly.
Martin Schirmer: That’s brilliant. That’s good news.
Parminder Khosa: Yeah.
Martin Schirmer: It really is. Just taking a little bit further and talking a little bit about what next. My team has been, I know, talking to your team about the whole area of asset management. Maybe talk to us a little bit about that journey.
Parminder Khosa: Sure, sure. So, we’re an ITOM customer as well. So, all of our hardware data is stored within the ITOM platform. So, we’ve pushed out the agents to all of our end user machines, so 25,000 agents. And we’re in the process of integrating that into our Assyst platform to make that the single source of truth. And as part of that we’re working on the software asset management side as well. So, we’ve got a really good idea of where our software assets are. It comes to all license auditing; we know exactly how much we’ve got there. And the more complex side of it is of course server. So, software management as well. So, we’re in the process of getting all of that data as well. So, once we’ve done all that, there is other all as the next step. The next step will be to perhaps do monitoring or pushing out software using the ITOM platform and getting rid of some of the disparate systems that we have right now.
Martin Schirmer: Well, that’s good news. And I think I saw a study. I think, every single person as an employee carries around 15 or 20 assets with him at any one time. Be it from a PC, phone, physical software licenses, so on and so forth. In that context, I can imagine the business case around it.
Parminder Khosa: Definitely. Yeah. And every, again, we map every user to their assets and (indistinct) their assets. And again, Assyst as a source of truth for that. So, if you want to look at my record, so, all right. Pam’s got a laptop. He’s got a mobile phone. We’re thinking about giving him a tablet, but we’ll find out. That he’s in the process of getting a tablet as well. So, I can have a look at my user record and know exactly what I’ve got with all of the asset tags and the various links that it has to the software pieces, so it becomes a big tree of my assets.
Martin Schirmer: That’s wonderful. Just a question I had was, we spoke about breaking down silos and the enterprise use cases and the effect that has. Do you envisage that Assyst can really get to being enterprise wide as, when I say enterprise wide, everybody in the organization effectively using this tool as their sort of source of experience, and level of automation of process?
Parminder Khosa: Definitely, definitely. As I say, we’re getting… We’re really pushing to get to that. As I say, 4,000 tickets a day with a user base of 25,000 kind of means that everybody will interact with the system perhaps every two weeks or so. So, we’re getting to that point and with the new functionality that’s coming out with the Assyst product, with the team’s integration, and the bot and everything that will bring to us because we are big. We use teams. We use bots. We use that kind of technology. It will just fit in seamlessly. And trying to break down the silos, as I say finance, procurement, all of the big beasts within our company already are using the Assyst tool. And we want to bring in more and more of those processes as we mature.
Martin Schirmer: Brilliant. I think Omnichannel’s critical. We want to connect from any device from anywhere. It’s just the way we work. So, I think that’s critical. Teams is of course a a tool that most of us have become too familiar with.
theCube: Yup. (chuckles)
Martin Schirmer: To be fair. (chuckles) It’s better to be here in person finally, right?
Parminder Khosa: Yeah.
Martin Schirmer: So, I think, that’s all exciting news. And it’s really fantastic.
Parminder Khosa: Great.
Martin Schirmer: So, I suppose maybe in the time that we have left, what’s next?
Parminder Khosa: What’s next for us is that we’re in the process of migrating our solution to the cloud, to the IFS cloud. That will open up a huge new user base for us. If we think all of our customers, all of our people who work on studies will have the ability to connect to Assyst and ask questions. That’s a lot of it is just ask a question or raise an issue or ask for something. So, we’re talking, it could be expanded by hundreds of thousands of new users that will meet more people on the backend to manage those requests as well. So yeah. It’s just going to get bigger and bigger. And as you say, with the CMDB work that we’re doing as well, that’s another big ongoing stream for us.
Martin Schirmer: It’s great because as you know, with Assyst we have a disruptive licensing model.
Parminder Khosa: Yeah.
Martin Schirmer: We have a t-shirt size pricing. All you can eat based on the number of employees. So, there’s no barriers to entry for you.
Parminder Khosa: There really is. And that really helps us because as I said initially, particularly when finance came on board and now, they’re expanding, there is no cost implication for it. The more that we use it, the better it is for. The more bang for buck that we get.
Martin Schirmer: Yep. That’s our mantra. Enterprise users, right? For the price of a cup of coffee, for the price of a user. That’s our mantra.
theCube: I love it. You guys have done such a great job of articulating the synergies in the relationship that IFS Assyst has with Paraxel. You talked about the great outcomes that you’re achieving. And it’s all about Martin, I know, from IFS Assyst perspective, it’s all about helping customers achieve those outcomes and those moments of service that are so critical to your customers on the other end staying with you, doing more business. Whether it’s the end user customer, whether it’s the actual employee. You talked a lot about the customer experience, the employee experience, and what you guys are doing together to enable that. And I always think that the employee experience and the customer experience are like this. They’re inextricably linked. You can’t, you shouldn’t. Otherwise, you’re going to have problems.
Martin Schirmer: Yeah, no, absolutely. And there’s actually a study on that saying that 70% of customers generally don’t feel they get what they want from organizations.
theCube: 70. Wow!
Martin Schirmer: And if you take that one step further to what you said, the interconnectivity between customer employee, employee shops on Amazon, right? It’s on those websites. So, you can’t be rolling out and digitally connect to the employee with something that is clunky and has the wrong experience. Like I said, it really affects that level of engagement the employee has with the company which happens to be largely these days remote.
theCube: It does. Last question Martin is for you. Talk to us about what’s next for IFS Assyst. Obviously, we’re back in person. There’s a lot of momentum about the company. I was talking with Darren, the growth and first half was great. He kind of gave us some teasers about second half, but what’s next from your perspective?
Martin Schirmer: Yeah. So, what’s next for us is achieving our goal. We are here to disrupt the industry. It’s an industry that’s dominated by one player and a fair amount of legacy players. We’ve disrupted the business model as I’ve told you. We here to do more because it’s a simple thing. And that’s the word simple. We want to keep things simple. We’re going to keep engineering and driving our product forward, right? We’ve made sure that our platform is up there with the best. Yeah. We’ve just been certified by pink. Pink is a verification of ITIL four they call it. So, it’s a body. And the top level is you can get 20 out of 20. We got 17 out of 20. There’s only one other vendor that has more than us and it’s only by little.
And after it’s a big white space, the next one is 14. So, we are on the right track. We are going to of course drive and capture the market. So, watch this space. We here to grow.
theCube: We will watch this space. Congratulations on being that disrupter.
Martin Schirmer: Thank you.
theCube: Parminder great work with what you guys are doing. You did a great job of articulating, as I said, the customers tour here. We appreciate your insights, your time.
Martin Schirmer: Thank you very much.
Parminder Khosa: Pleasure.
theCube: All right, my pleasure.
theCube: Thank you. For my guests, I’m Lisa Martin. You’re watching The Cube live from Miami on the show floor of IFS Unleashed. We’ll be back after a short break.
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