Exclusive Interview with Ryan Loy, Chief Information Officer, EBSCO


If you’re more of a video person, go ahead and watch the video below to see what Ryan Loy has to say. If reading is more your thing, skip the video and hop straight to the transcript below!

If you like what you see, be sure to take a look at the event guide for Shared Services & Outsourcing Week 2020!

Q: How do you measure the value you contribute to the business?

A: I think that's great question, the measuring of value I would say any leader in IT, and specifically any CIO definitely needs to be able to really defend their own existence. Defend their budget, defend the number of personnel that they have. About a year ago, we started something very simple, a value register. It's in Excel. And what we do is, every single manager that delivers a project has to go into our value register and identify did the project reduce cost? Did it avoid some risk? Are we doing some cost-avoidance work? Did we help to accelerate a particular product launch or penetration into a new market? And then the most critical element of our value register is that besides the fact it has to be demonstrative, besides the fact that it has to be measurable, the business sponsor has to sign up for it. And so if we say we came in and we delivered $1.4 million of savings, the business sponsor says "Yes, you did" and it's defendable at that point in time. On a quarterly basis, and then bi-annually then I float that up to overall leadership to say "Here's how IT is contributing to the bottom line, we've saved x-millions of dollars, and this is how we're helping to advance our particular business units to meet some of their revenue goals." So it's been a very powerful way for us to help communicate the value that IT is bringing.

Q: What do you think is the main challenge with talent today? How are you overcoming it?

A: So I think the main challenge with talent, is talent. So we have a good and bad I would say. Because of our low unemployment, so the good side is on the country's economics, everything is very positive on the bad side as a hiring manager, one of the elements that I find is recruitment of a talent is extraordinarily difficult, and in fact, before it was "Hey, I'm going to give this person more money, I'm going to give them a better bonus and structured program with long-term incentive." Now it's all of the attritiary benefits. So, they want more. They want better flexibility. They want better professional and personal growth which is fantastic and it's raising our game and so we are aggressively pursuing talent more around the total benefits package of what it would be to come and work at EBSCO. There are a lot of times, we're located in Birmingham, Alabama, and I know you're probably thinking that's the epicenter where most people want to be. So there are times when we can't necessarily find the talent we need in Birmingham. So one of the areas that we're challenging our deployment method on is to say how can we best do staff augmentation. And so with that we are looking at staffing firms, whether they can come in on a contract basis, we're looking at consultants, and one of the new areas that were starting to look at is called crowd sourcing. And this is pretty fascinating, the best way to describe this is if you go an look at a website called Fiverr, it's F-I-V-E-R-R .com it's a great way that anybody with a significant skill set can go on there and advertise their strengths and so, I think I bought my daughter a crocheted elephant for five bucks. For somebody that can crochet very well, and they were just somewhere around the world. And what they do is they also offer a lot of IT services on there, so if I want a WordPress developer, I can go on there and for a few thousand dollars, I can source this to somebody anywhere in the world and they can come back and deliver to me a frame of what I want. And of course, it requires us to be standardized on our request and have a high level of QA, but it's been an innovative way for us to re-evaluate our work, and offload it to areas that we can't really prosecute ourselves.

Q: What’s the number one thing that your customers want from you? How are you working to deliver on that request?

A: The number one thing our customers want from me first and foremost is transparency, and so what does that mean? Since we service so many different business units, we have a different amounts of demand. And because they're in different markets and we're not really structured under individual sector, per se, their demands are not cyclical so there's no way for me to really predict "Hey I'm going to have a lot of demand in the summer months or in the non-summer months." And so for me, what the businesses want, is for us to be able to say "Here's what you get for the charges I charge you, here's our capacity, here's our demand, here's our service level agreement, and here are the things that I will not do." And about a year ago, I would say, we've been into this model by which we were taking in all work, we were afraid to say no, and so we would just ingest a whole bunch of new projects, and then we would fail on our commitments, our staff would be over worked and we'd be missing essentially all of the objectives we'd been identifying. So, transparency on what they get for what they pay for around a guaranteed level of service is a huge win for us and where we're trying to move towards.

Q: How do you benchmark your operation to find out where the opportunities are?

A: Well the benchmarking of operations, we're moving more towards a concept called ITIL, it's an IT operating model framework. And in there we look at what the market pays, what the market would justify for that particular service. So for instance, website development, so we do eCommerce for Magento Development and it costs me, let's say, $85 an hour to take a Magento Developer to sit down with the business and develop an entire website. Whereby if that business was to send it out to the market it would cost anywhere from $85 to $150 so the way for me to justify our existence and to benchmark our cost is by saying "Well, if the market would bear $150 an hour for these type of developers and I through centralization and a center of excellence am able to only charge you 75, one I've benchmarked myself, but also I can show I'm adding value because what they would have paid was $150 however they're able to leverage our home office and get it for much less.

Q: Do you work with consultants? In which areas? What value do they offer?

A: Yeah, we do work sparingly with consultants. For us, if we're going to bring someone in, I want someone that's going to articulate the vision, help draft the plan, and then put it into action. I don't want someone that's just going to give me a Power Point slide. So were very limited on who we bring in. The biggest area right now for us is transforming to a new operating model built around ServiceNow and built around ITIL. And so we very much have used a service integrator, a consultant in that form. And what they're doing is, they're helping to challenge our culture and our status quo on how things should be worked, how we should augment work, how we should prosecute work. And so they're a third party voice that we can bounce ideas off and they're helping to accelerate our ability to meet our timeline.

Q: What are your top objectives for this year?

A: My biggest objectives for this year, first and foremost moving more towards this services model. So I think these were great questions because one of the areas that we're wanting to focus on is how do we define value and then how do we become more transparent in the work we provide? One of the areas that we've uncovered is, is if we're going through something and we're not adding value, then we shouldn't be doing the work, right? And so as we are uncovering these areas where we're not adding value, you were pulling away from work and then we're taking these additional resources and we're reinvesting them back into services that are adding value. So we're doubling down on areas that are important to our business units, and so that's a long way of saying the transformation to an ITIL operating model way of thinking and a services mentality and a services catalog with a predictive cost model that's transparent with service level agreements around it, for us, that's the unicorn, that's what we're chasing, that's what we're driving towards. And our objective is to be there by the end of our fiscal year which is in just a few months.

Ryan Loy spoke at the 23rd Shared Services & Outsourcing Week and presented on "The Workforce of the Future" and "PLENARY: 1300% Increase in Cyber Attacks: Leverage Shared Services to Protect Your Operation".