CIO Automation Series: The Art of Automation with Autodesk & Nutanix

For Wendy M. Pfeiffer, CIO at Nutanix, it’s clear that it is time for IT to evolve. She points to consumer technology as the new standard: with any app or technology she uses at home, she could just install and go. There is no adoption process, lengthy training, or change management. Why couldn’t enterprise technology be like this as well?

“By 2025, about 70% of the workforce is going to be millennial or Gen Z,” Pfeiffer said, “meaning the at-home consumer-like experience is essential for them. [I’ve been] advocating to enterprise IT vendors to provide the process of making that consumer-like experience for our employees — as well as internally to my team, saying ‘Don’t ever deliver anything from IT that is subpar to the most basic consumer experience that we’d have in our homes or on our mobile devices.”

“That challenge,” she continued, “requires us to think about employee experience in a detailed way, to think about interactive design and adoption and availability across devices. If [what] a tool or a product or a vendor is offering doesn’t meet those criteria, then we’re not going to deploy it.”

For Prakash Kota, CIO at Autodesk, his desire was balance. “Primarily, we wanted to remove friction for our customers, and if we wanted to create that experience for our customers, it was very essential for our employees to have very similar experience,” he said. 

He started to look at the different personas within his team and what they needed. IT would offer them different products or solutions, but they often weren’t being adopted. 

Kota ultimately boiled it down to the company not giving its teams the experiences they wanted. After sitting down with new team members across business, he wanted to figure out how long it takes for them to become productive. What forms should they fill out to get access to certain apps? Who should they talk to if they have questions? 

After investigating, he learned it takes 3-4 months on average for an employee to get setup and understand the necessary apps before efficiently starting their work. This inspired Kota to invest in simplifying the onboarding process and any tools needed to do so. From “day zero,” he said, he wanted to know everything that employee needed to be successful faster.

“Let’s tell them what they need, how to activate it, and then let automation take care of behind the scenes,” he said. “When you have an [automation] platform approach…and start getting metrics on what tools are being consumed, how are they being consumed and what do people do when they come into those tools…then you [start to] see more and more adoption.”  

Autodesk: using automation to increase adoption and give employees control over their app stack

For both Kota and Pfeiffer, automation plays a big role in solving their employee experience needs. They spoke about this at the latest installment of the CIO Automation Series, an exclusive gathering of progressive CIOs for networking and a discussion about transformation through automation – all over a Michelin starred dinner. At this ‘Art of Automation’-themed dinner, they spoke about the consumerization of these processes and how it has impacted business as a whole. 

At Autodesk, the company recently launched Help Hub, a portal where users can submit any employee-related requests, including HR, IT or procurement. Kota also thought it key that users’ personas were factored into the system. “It also recommends — because we have more than 150 different service offerings [available] to our employees — what options work best for them [based on their needs].’”

“They can also add whatever [apps] they choose and use as their favorites,” Kota added, noting that employees will receive an updated feed with those suggestions. “If adoption is not seen, we will also give them recommendations, like: ‘Hey, we see that other finance users are using this application and you have not logged in for the last 30 days.’” Help Hub uses Machine Learning to continuously approve based on the queries and feedback it receives.

With the plethora of applications available, Kota wants to ensure that adoption is high. For this, and every concept, he measures total addressable market versus total serviceable market. “I’m not expecting every service to be used by every single employee in Autodesk,” he said, “but we will need to know when we’re investing in a particular area, what is our addressable market and what is our serviceable market, and how are we really bridging those and growing adoption.” 

He continued, “If…whatever we are providing is not providing value and [employees] have figured out what the other tools are, then let’s let them use those products.” The goal is to increase productivity, Kota said, and if other apps meet his team’s preferences and allow them to do the work just as well, if not better, then Autodesk will consider investing in those apps. This creates less friction for the employee, which creates less friction for the customers they serve. 

Nutanix: optimizing and automating the provisioning of virtual machines with Slack as the interface

Nutanix uses automation to provision virtual machines (VMs), amongst other processes. As an IT platform that can provision VMs to perform work, Nutanix naturally uses them to run their business. Previously, they had a large team building their own VMs but the manual process was, as Pfeiffer explains, “insecure, non-performant, etc, etc.” 

To remedy this, Nutanix was looking to not only expedite the process, but also bring the work into Slack, the workforce’s most commonly used app. By allowing Slack to act as the interface and Workato to orchestrate with Nutanix for provisioning, the company was able to create a completely self-service VM creator.

Pfeiffer elaborates:

“We thought originally we couldn’t do it because … we make an operating system so you can imagine the special needs for every VM on Earth and to run every workload, etc. We thought it’s too specialized. Well, nothing is too specialized or complex for … machine learning, and so we just created a front end that said, “Tell us exactly in detail what you need?” 

“Now, we are every single time seemingly building these incredibly custom VMs for 2,500 developers in less than 10 minutes a pop. We log a ticket, we update the inventory, we do all of those things. We manage performance, we add resources if we need to.”

With this project, as with all automation projects created at Nutanix, the next step is always to measure NPS and see if the people using the automations find it useful. The results are astounding.

Within a year of adopting automations based in Machine Learning and other tools, Nutanix saw an increase in capacity by 30%.

“And although the company has grown 4x in employee count, our team has remained steady state and actually shrunk in some areas,” Pfeiffer said. “So, we’ve made headroom in our budgets and in our capacity to do higher-level tasks and…that is through the use of these modern technologies and that approach.” 

Hear straight from Wendy and Prakash in the full recording. They talk security, other automations they are using, and CIO philosophies >

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