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Episode 07: Copilot Series - Regis Corporation's Director of Information Security, Bernie Rominski

Welcome to the first episode in our Copilot series, a regular feature where we invite a customer, industry leader or trusted consultant to share their journey toward digital transformation.

On this episode our Principal Consultant and resident Identity and Access Management expert, Chad Willaert, interviews Regis Corporation‘s Director of Information Security, Bernie Rominski.

Regis is the world’s largest salon chain, headquartered in Edina, Minnesota and is an OST customer working with the team in our Minneapolis office.

Regardless of the industry, IT departments are being asked to move faster and even to completely transform from supporting the business initiatives to creating them. Regis is no different and Bernie’s 19-year tenure gives him a unique perspective to observe and drive that change.

We loved talking with Bernie and hearing his story. Bernie shares his take on digital transformation, governance and the ways he’s bringing IT to the table to help solve problems and create new opportunities for Regis. He also shares the one rule you’re probably ignoring in Monopoly that will make you love the game again.

Enjoy!

 

This episode is sponsored by:

Dell EMC logo

Transcript

Lizzie Williams: On this episode of Ten Thousand Feet, the OST podcast, we talk with Bernie Rominski, the Director of Information Security at Regis. Regis is the largest salon chain in the world. Bernie talks with Chad Willaert, a principal consultant here at OST about the changing landscape of IT over his 19 years at Regis. It was great hearing his story and I think anyone having to evolve their IT department to align with a changing business will think so too. So enjoy. 

[tone] 

Chad Willaert: So I’m Chad Willaert from OST and I’m here with Bernie Rominski today, you want to introduce yourself?  

Bernie Rominski: Hi, I’m Bernie Rominski. I am the Director of Information Technology at Regis Corporation. We’re the global leader in the operation and franchising of hair salons. A lot of our brands you may be familiar with, Supercuts being a flagship brand of ours and among others. 

Chad: Perfect. So, I think what we want to do today is spend some time talking about digital transformation in hybrid IT and organization. 

Bernie: Are we on the same definition of digital transformation? Do we want to get into a little what that does– 

Chad: So give me it means give me your definition of digital transformation.  

Bernie: My definition– so I was at a group of CISOs, there’s a Gartner Evanta– 

Chad: Oh, sure. 

Bernie: –CISO Summit that we have a pretty active group here in the Twin Cities.  

Chad: Yup. 

Bernie: And our table discussion item a few weeks ago at our spring get-together was exactly that–was how was your company tangling with the risk aspects of digital transformation? And the one thing that most of the tables kind of came up with is that we know that this digital transformation is a buzz phrase. But it probably isn’t all that different from what we’ve been doing for decades, which is adapting– 

Chad: Correct. 

Bernie: –to, you know, using technology to find different ways to work faster, work smarter, eliminate barriers of time and distance, and all of those things. And now that there’s so many things that are possible with technology, companies are doing different things, different concepts like agile development. Okay, ’cause we, my company might– 

Chad: [crosstalks]

Bernie: –fall or any of the others. 

Chad: He–  

Bernie: Correct, correct. 

Chad: Sure. 

Bernie: Right. And we, my company has recently formalized our approach to product development, and we are now developing consumer and employee-facing apps. And we recently opened a technology center in Silicon Valley. And we have a group of a couple of dozen product engineers out working on this stuff. And I figured, well, this is definitely in the space of digital transformation. And what we’re basically doing there is trying to discover new ways or to identify innovations. Right, and I think innovation, generally speaking, is not synonymous with invention. They’re close cousins, but innovation is usually a very short, small shift to something from something that was already there, something adjacent. So that’s kind of, for an example, what we’re looking to do in our business is to figure out how to be in the places that our customers already are, digitally speaking.  

Chad: Sure. 

Bernie: Right. We know that our customers are using Facebook Messenger, we know how many people are using Facebook Messenger. We can use Google Analytics to find out how many times somebody has searched for one of our salons. But what’s next? How can we pop something up and say, “Hey, would you like to book an appointment?” 

Chad: Exactly. Sure. 

Bernie: Right. What’s possible next? Do you see the– and it’s always one more step. And the idea there I think, long answer your question. Digital transformation is just continuing to find a way to be more efficient in your business– 

Chad: Yep.  

Bernie: –to bring things to market quicker, and satisfy your customers better. 

Chad: Sure. Yeah. So do you–when you were having these discussions that even internally or with this group of CISOs, was there any conversation around the tools versus the business processes, the workflow, the policies and all that? Because a lot of customers that we go into, it’s what we just need to get Office 365 or getting this tool and it’s gonna digitally transform us where that’s really not the case in most instances but that’s my perspective. What’s your perspective?  

Bernie: Right. Well, I think we probably agree and most of the people in that group agree that rarely is technology the solution to a problem. 

Chad: Sure. 

Bernie: There are… people solve problems in business and people make changes in business. Technology enables people to do those things– 

Chad: Sure. 

Bernie: –is what it comes down to.  

Chad: Yeah. 

Bernie: But I think what you implied there a little bit too is there’s an increasing speed with which innovation and business change– 

Chad: Yes. 

Bernie: –is occurring– 

Chad: Yep. 

Bernie: –it seems. Next year, we’re going to change faster change more than we did this year and that trend just seems to continue snowballing. And what the CISO group that I deal with is, has definitely one anchor in the world of compliance. And so we deal a lot with our lawyers and our insurance people and others in their risk side of things.  

Chad: Sure. 

Bernie: And frankly, in those areas, things do not move as fast. So what seems to be a common challenge for us and I presume it’s a common challenge for a lot of companies is the gap getting wider between adapting to what’s possible with technology, with your policies and your approach to business and all of that kind of thing. Put another way, it’s difficult for people to wrap their heads around as much change as we can do. 

Chad: Yes. 

Bernie: Technology is allowing us to do more change than maybe our brands are even able to cope with. 

Chad: The adoption rate– 

Bernie: There you go– 

Chad: –because they’re trying to be agile, you’re trying to produce velocity for your business but the adoption of the people that are using that technology has to have some governance around it.  

Bernie: Yes. 

Chad: Is that a good word to use?  

Bernie: Governance is good word to use, yes. It’s that it’s one people tend to hold their nose at because it also comes I think it is viewed synonymously with waiting, with delays, with saying no. Governance is often viewed as saying no, here are with the things that you can’t do or we’re not allowing, and business leaders do not want to hear that kind of stuff. No.

Chad: [crosstalks] 

Bernie: They wanna hear want to know how soon we can. Give me a yes and a win. 

Chad: [laughs] 

Bernie: And I am why not already? [laughs] 

Chad: Yes, how come you’re not done yet?  

Bernie: Yes. 

Chad: [laughs] 

Bernie: Exactly right. So yeah, I think a challenge there definitely is to dress up governance a little bit or to try at least just a lot of times, it’s the words we choose. 

Chad: Sure. 

Bernie: That just to speak about these things as they’re just other business challenges, they’re not necessarily unique. There are regulations we need to comply with to mitigate risks to the companies. 

Chad: Sure.  

Bernie: There are certainly risks the company is not willing to undertake outside of governance or I mean, outside of compliance. There are certain things– 

Chad: Sure. 

Bernie: –we just don’t want to have happen so we need to tackle those and make sure that we’re putting in proper controls. But I think a lot of the way that you need to make those things fit together nicely is not to talk about governance and compliance and policies and things like that as showstoppers or what you can’t do more so how we will do things. 

Chad: Sure. 

Bernie: And how we will move faster– 

Chad: Yes.

Bernie: –how we will deliver things quicker, how we, you know, all the things the business wants to do. How will we do that in a, you know, risk mitigated fashion?  

Chad: Sure. And bridge the gap. 

Bernie: Gap. 

Chad: –that the risk– Yes. 

Bernie: That gap definitely exists and I think it’s a– you slide around in that gap, I think.  

Chad: Yes. 

Bernie: But the compulsion is absolutely there to keep rushing towards the far end of that curve where the technology is. Because we know already that people are using the technology, we know that customers that we wanna get to are holding these devices in their hands and they are living their lives largely through that screen.  

Chad: Yes. 

Bernie: And we know that we need to be on that screen. So it’s you know, it gets to take on a flavor where every day that goes by that we’re not on all the right screens, we’re missing opportunities.  

Chad: Sure. 

Bernie: And the more things change again, you know, next year, it’s going to be something different. So I think, kind of circle back all the way to the original question is digital transformation is not really a process with a beginning and an end that you go through but it’s sort of now– 

Chad: Life cycle. 

Bernie: –a way of life- 

Chad: Life cycle. 

Bernie: –in business. A life cycle, right? 

Chad: Yes. 

Bernie: It’s something that doesn’t ever stop. 

Chad: Yes. 

Bernie: It’s how do you integrate and learn from and benefit from the rapid rate of change of technology to help your business out? 

Chad: Sure. So segue way in off of that life cycle and the governance stuff, there are the identities that need to get access to this information and how they access it from their mobile phone or whatever device that they’re using or whatever. 

Bernie: Yep. 

Chad: So how does your world look with the identity and access, and then the governance behind all of that stuff with what you do as a CISO for Regis?  

Bernie: It looks interesting. It looks interesting. There are a number of constituent groups that we have, a lot of groups of people that we’re interested in. I think we– It is generally agreed in the security community these days that identity is not just a component of all of this, well, of good security. A lot of the security practice was we talk about access controls and data loss prevention and auditing. And a lot of that stuff really boils down to it. It is meaningless without understanding, the who in the equation because that’s what establishes everything. It’s what are people supposed to be able to do, who are they, what are they using, all that kind of stuff. The identities have been a component of the overall security picture. But certainly, there has been a transformation change in good example of how technology forced us to change how we’re looking at security, right?  

Chad: Sure. 

Bernie: We used to secure networks. Now, the network, we’re beginning to think about the network as sort of a ubiquitous thing.  

Chad: Got it. 

Bernie: It doesn’t really– I’m not going to have a network or I may have a network but I’ve got a cloud and I’ve got this piece of a network. And I’ve got this private cloud, I get this hybrid cloud, I get this– 

Chad: Our cloud. 

Bernie: –public cloud. 

Chad: Yeah. [laughs] 

Bernie: Yeah, on from, off from. 

Chad: Yep.  

Bernie: It’s really just some flashing lights in some data center somewhere but, for the most part, companies are looking to simplify and so they’re using more of those things. But the idea that you can build a network like a castle or a bastion against the attackers, hackers, and people who would like to get a hold of your information is antiquated. Because on one hand, we are very compelled to make sure that people have access to anything that they need to do business on whatever device they might want to get to it and as quickly and with as few you know, interruptions or snags as possible. 

Chad: User experience. 

Bernie: Correct. So, it puts the user into or the consumer the– what is part and parcel of the identity that is: who are you? What do you do? And implied there, what do you need access to how– what level of privilege do you require? All that kind of stuff is what really a firewall used to get you 20 years ago, you would allow some things and disallow other things but now sort of everything in the network is sort of allowed. It’s basically wide open and where we have to attach our controls. And our analysis is at the identity, the catchphrases identity is the new perimeter– 

Chad: Sure.

Bernie: –or people are the new perimeter.  

Chad: Sure. 

Bernie: That’s really the endpoint of your network and that’s where we know most of the information security into incidents that we have, and the ones that potentially get to be the most severe are the result of mainly social engineering and fishing and things like that are aimed right at people.  

Chad: Sure.  

Bernie: So it’s yeah, it’s absolutely I think, in this digitally constantly transforming world, the challenge is going to be how do you keep aware of who’s in your organization? What do they do? What do they need to be able to perform the roles– 

Chad: This privilege. 

Bernie: –Yep, we and because of course, all of those policies and things still have to be there.  

Chad: Yes. 

Bernie: We want them to be given access to the things that they do need and not given access to the things that they do not need in a manner that is essentially transparent to them.  

Chad: Sure. 

Bernie: Right? 

Chad: Yeah. 

Bernie: They don’t need to be thinking about a lot of that. 

Chad: Yeah. 

Bernie: We want to utilize advanced techniques in order to help identify misuse, but we don’t want, for the most part, the individual users to have to be the ones to be thinking about that all the time.  

Chad: Sure.  

Bernie: It’s another challenge.  

Chad: Yep. Yep. So that it’s kind of wrapped up and you want the things or the people to have the right access to the right resources at the right time for the right reasons. 

Bernie: Yes, yeah. 

Chad: That sums it up? 

Bernie: Yeah, I think that sums it up pretty well. I think the reasons are generally prescribed, but can also be– that’s an interesting little angle because I think behavior has a lot to do with– 

Chad: Correct. 

Bernie: –security analysis. Now, one of the shifts that I see, I think I’m seeing and I’m feeling it is the traditional way, much like we had all the, you know, 20 years ago, we would set up a firewall and we’d do certain things and we’d have certain devices that are meant to detect activities. Then we drag all the logs from all these devices in together and we put them through this big you know, SEM. 

Chad: Yeah. 

Bernie: And it’s SEM– 

Chad: Yes. 

 Bernie: –Security Event Management. And correlate those– [crosstalks] 

Chad: And look for anomalies.  

Bernie: And look for anomalies but, generally speaking, we had to know what we were looking for in order to find it.  

Chad: Yes. 

Bernie: Great example of where a lot of what we do in business is turning towards leaving it to the machines to figure out. 

Chad: Yes. 

Bernie: What better use for machine learning, than to identify behavior that is anomalous from a user-interaction standpoint. 

Chad: Sure. 

Bernie: And again, so the old world you had to know what the event was before it happened in order to create the rule in your SEM that would generate the alarm. 

Chad: Yes.

Bernie: But by the time something happens if you don’t expect that thing to happen, you haven’t really set up that alert or that alarm. So it’s going to get by you the first time, hopefully, it’s not too bad, right? 

Chad: So the react reverse is proactive. 

Bernie: Yes. Yeah. And reacting in kind of real-time– 

Chad: Yes. 

Bernie: –that identify something that’s wrong, even though you didn’t know that it was wrong. At the time that it happens and not after it happened after the exposure has already taken place, or at least as quickly as possible after that event happens.  

Chad: Sure. 

Bernie: I think that’s a real good example of how security where we will continue to stay on the front edge of technology and especially in the area of machine learning to make security more intelligent and quicker at identifying those anomalies.  

Chad: Sure, and track it back like you originally said to who?

Bernie: Yes. Well, who– You don’t know if something is wrong a lot of times unless you know who’s doing it.  

Chad: Yes. 

Bernie: And you have to presume, of course, that this is why identity management is so important is that we can only automate controls and make automatic decisions if we, if the individual that we think is at the end of that device is really the one that’s at the end of that device–

Chad: Sure. 

Bernie: –or in some cases, be able to make a guess as to whether it’s not the individual at the end of that device. 

Chad: Yes. 

Bernie: Example like the impossible traveler scenario, where, you know, a lot of disconnected cloud applications can get you into a little bit of a fit. That’s why companies are turning towards a definitely identity-based and identity-focused CASB solutions where your CEO is logged into office 365 from New Jersey but just simultaneously logged into the expense management system from Taiwan, two minutes later, not likely. 

Chad: Correct. 

Bernie: So we’re gonna guess that one of those two activities is not really your CEO’s. 

Chad: Yes. 

Bernie: Right? 

Chad: Yeah, exactly. Yep. And so to level set on a CASB, that’s a Cloud Access Security Broker. 

Bernie: Right. 

Chad: Right, for the listeners.  

Bernie: Yes.  

Chad: Yeah, exactly.  

Bernie: One of the tougher nuts to crack in my experience, I’m not going to profess to be any kind of expert on it. It’s a little bit like black magic to me, but I know–

Chad: Yes. 

Bernie: –that we, I know it’s a problem we need to solve. 

Chad: Yes. Yeah, exactly. 

Bernie: And we’re still in the early stages of figuring out what are the best– 

Chad: Yes. 

Bernie: –ways to solve. 

Chad: Watch for the anomalies risk base– 

Bernie: Yeah. 

Chad: –and conditional access.

Bernie: Yes 

Chad: Right. So– 

Bernie: And yeah. 

Chad: –and seeks step up and multifactor authentication if you know, we see someone coming in from China from an application that normally would be authenticated inside of an environment in your own data center, we’re going to step up the authentication and ask him for another form that really validated. Is this really who we think it is?  

Bernie: Right, right. 

Chad: Sure.  

Bernie: Yeah. As opposed to the days when you know that which was very tough for adoption, when you’d say, okay, you need to jump through all these hoops and carry this RSA token around an everything, just to get to your email.  

Chad: Yes. 

Bernie: Okay, that’s no longer acceptable. Obviously, there is tiers kind of– 

Chad: Yes. 

Bernie: –bands of access where there should be less speed bumps and people gonna need to get in their email. Not that an email can’t get hacked.  

Chad: Yes.  

Bernie: But, again, you’re going to create bands of access that are going to be more and more troublesome for the user to have to get through, but only if they really need to get through them.  

Chad: Yes. 

Bernie: If somebody requires a really simple level of access and is really just viewing a lot of company content on the internet or something like that, a user ID number password might be just fine.  

Chad: Correct. Yeah, the privileged access and that if they’re just getting an email and you have a policy set where you’re not storing intellectual property in your email, don’t require a second form of authentication to it. If they’re going into your back end systems that might be different. 

Bernie: Right. Yeah. So you’ve got different if you throw one thing into the mix, maybe you have to take something else out. And it’s a balancing act.  

Chad: Sure.  

Bernie: Yep. 

Chad: Yeah. So what challenges have you been running into as a CISO for Regis for your consumers or even internal employees trying to get your business to be more agile and have the velocity move at the rate of what your leadership would want you to do?  

Bernie: Good question. There are multiple, I think, and it all comes down to speed. I think we can do the right thing if we take enough time, we can always make the right decision or do the right thing. But frankly, that pace is not acceptable to business, it’s not acceptable to our business. So we go and we automate. Chad, you would be familiar with what we did in terms of identity automation at Regis because we have a large number of employees and we do have a healthy amount of turnover in our salons. Sometimes we’ll hire somebody, and we’ll want that person to, you know, if their license is up to date and they’re ready to start working, we might like them to start cutting hair that very day. 

Chad: Correct.

Bernie: Which may require that they yes, have access to do transactions in our system because they may have to then or will have to ring up a sale for the customer that they cut the hair for. So how do we get all the information we need about that person into our system such that we can get them paid. And oh, by the way, provision their access to whatever systems it is that they need to interact with i.e. the POS system or where they’re gonna do their transactions. 

Chad: Sure. 

Bernie: Or their time clock system where they have to go and report their hours and things like that. So you’ve got a pretty lively amount of turnover going on, you know people coming in going out. And they are very disconnected from traditional network or company boundaries standpoint. Our footprint is probably a bit unique in that we have a lot of locations and there’re quite a few people in each of them.  

Chad: Okay. 

Bernie: Right. A typical salon is going to have a manager working there and you know, at any given time, there may be one, two, five stylists in a salon but then that’s really it. So, and there are thousands of locations. So the cost of having integration from all those things, we needed to be able to build that so that it was pretty cookie-cutter, pretty disconnected. Connected. Lightweight, I guess you could say right? 

Chad: Sure. 

Bernie: Both from a cost management standpoint and facilitate the speed that we need, but yeah, I think to answer your question long and short of it is we need to be accurate. But we also need to be very fast and that is a challenge. Because, well in that world, I mean, the way I understood it, for instance, if we don’t provide what feels like a solid experience for that new stylist, they’re pretty likely to quit early on us, I’m sure– 

Chad: Just move on. 

Bernie: –you know, move on, there’s a lot of opportunity for them. So it’s, I mean, I think a lot of these things where they don’t maybe seem like showstoppers are more important than they seem– 

Chad: Sure. 

Bernie: — in terms of that experience being good for those people too. But so we have to provide risk management, we have to provide a good experience for the employee and thus the customer. So I mean, a stylist funneling around because they can’t ring a sale and then having a customer waiting that the impact of customers experience they may not come back again. So all of that has to happen and it has to be smooth, and it has to be fast. 

Chad: Sure. 

Bernie: But it also has to obey and cater to all those darn policies and compliance matters that we– 

Chad: Sure. 

Bernie: –talked about before. 

Chad: Sure.

Bernie: So I think the speed, the demands of speed is one of the bigger challenges.  

Chad: Okay. Sure. And then so you kind of touched on some of the plumbing that’s in the background, that you’re trying to help those stylists get access to the resources that they need. 

Bernie: Yep.  

Chad: Do you feel that the communication to them and the learning management and knowledge transfer of how they could go about using those systems as a challenge as well?  

Bernie: Yes. 100% yes. First off, there are employment laws wage and hour statutes in various states and we operate a lot in the United States and that’s where we primarily operate, and I think could be considered– Many of them have not been revised since the 1970s or early 80s, they could be considered antiquated in certain ways. 

Chad: Sure. 

Bernie: Example being if we require our employee to access some resource electronically, I look at a video on a website or something like that. Legally speaking, depending on where that employee is working, we need to be able to supply the means for them to do that we can’t presume that they’re going to have the device that they need in order to do that, etc.  

Chad: Sure. 

Bernie: Meanwhile, businesses are presuming they see they know darn well that 99% of them absolutely do have a smartphone and it has a browser and they probably have an internet connection.  

Chad: Sure.

Bernie:  And they could probably watch that video on their own device, and they’re already watching videos on their device. But this archaic employment law gets in the way– 

Chad: Sure. 

Bernie: –because it creates a little challenge that if they do watch that video, well, they might need to get paid for that. 

Chad: Yes.

Bernie: So how do we you know, it’s– 

Chad: Were they clock in during that time?

Bernie: So that’s exactly the problem, I think you are actually intimately familiar with that problem of ours. 

Chad: [laughs] 

Bernie: [chuckles]– Hourly employees versus what the– our classified– the job codes– 

Chad: Yes. 

Bernie: –that the states recognize that in business we refer to generically as knowledge workers and not meant to be an insult to the people who are paid hourly by any means, because– 

Chad: Sure. 

Bernie: –they’re the ones who make all the money in our company. But and they absolutely possess critical knowledge, but they are subject to these laws.  

Chad: These– 

Bernie: Right, wage and hour lives to make it more difficult for us to deliver– 

Chad: Sure. 

Bernie: –those solutions you’re talking about– 

Chad: Sure. 

Bernie: –great, question though. I mean, that is something that we struggle with every day. I mean, we, the services we provide do change a lot that may be a little different than say, I don’t know, let’s compare us to Jiffy Lube.  

Chad: Okay. 

Bernie: Sure, they make advances in technology, etc. But the kind of the basics of putting oil in the car and taking out the old oil and putting in the new oil, it’s pretty much the same from one year to the next. Hairstyle gets kind of weird, I mean, there are things that are different, that somebody really comes up with a way to do this cut. And every people might like the way that it looks but they actually have to be taught how to do that thing, and those things change with the seasons. 

Chad: Sure. 

Bernie: So that’s one of the big challenges that yeah, we definitely have is getting that it’s the tech, we call it technical education was basically if somebody comes in and says, I wanna fun girl, you know, or I wanna 

Chad: Or a reverse bob.  

Bernie: Yeah, exactly. 

Chad: Yes. 

Bernie: They have to know what that is and they have to know which tools they’re gonna need to do it, which products they need to make it stick the way they want to and you know how to do it so that it is what the customer expected. 

Chad: Sure.  

Bernie: And the video is the best way to do that, and it’s not a simple thing.  

Chad: Sure. I think it’s that– 

Bernie: How do you know what’s most important to know– 

Chad: –not only. 

Bernie: –that business changes?  

Chad: Yeah, the bridge we were talking about before you’ve got the business and you have IT. And traditionally it was IT ended up getting the budget right, for doing enablement for the business with their applications and tools and processes and all that stuff to help them.  

Bernie: Yep. 

Chad: There’s more in concert things that have to happen for that speed and agility to help the business get where they need to go because– 

Bernie: Yeah. 

Chad: –they’ve been asking for stuff for a long time. 

Bernie: Yes. 

Chad: Used to have shadow IT, happened quite a bit. They’d go buy a shrink-wrap application off the shelf and say, “Here IT, I need you to implement this and get it integrated with all the other stuff you have going on in the background.” You’re like, “oh, wait a minute.” 

Bernie: Yeah. 

Chad: Did you think about– 

Bernie: Thank you.

Chad: –making sure it would, you know, the governance around that to make sure it meets the criteria what we were doing in IT. And then IT felt like they were the stopgap and you weren’t enabling the business. So the business felt like IT is just a roadblock. We can never get anything done because they’ve got all these controls around stuff. We just want to get going and move forward, right?  

Bernie: Yeah. 

Chad: So have you seen that mesh together with this whole hybrid IT and business transformation that there are the liaisons from the business that are understanding what IT is trying to do and the IT people are getting more understanding of what the business is trying to do? 

Bernie: Yes. Yes, I think so. And I think that gets to the question of how– what’s different about being a technologist now? How do you know what’s important for you to know? Right? I think that there’s probably a lot of struggle in getting to this point where digital transformation is sort of the new normal that we live in, where technologists would wait almost for the business to have to compel them to do something or tell them this is what we need. I think the big shift there is that technologists can absolutely not just be technologists.  

There’s, I think an absolute expectation now, as there probably should be that the technologist understands what the company is doing for a living, what you do, how you make your money, and how your customers interact with the business, what opportunities the business wants to provide for the customers, and to bring these solutions to the business as opposed to, you know, sort of waiting for the business to pull them into something especially not to the point where they bought a shrink-wrap application, right? No, we, I think are doing it in a way that other organizations are turning towards doing, and that is developing products, digital products, for the way that we know our customers are living.  

Chad: Sure. 

Bernie: Presuming that this is a general direction the business needs to go and then iterated.  

Chad: Sure. 

Bernie: Right? 

Chad: Yep. 

Bernie: It’s– [crosstalks] 

Chad: There’s no longer failing fast. 

Bernie: –failing fast.  

Chad: Yes. 

Bernie: The whole bit about Agile is absolutely legit and effective, I think on the product development side. That is, you know, sometimes you can have all the theories in the world about whether something’s a good idea, and it may just not be. But if you go ahead and put something into production, a pilot, some little piece of functionality, even if it’s only a piece of what you originally envisioned, you can get a lot of information from how that lands that will help you better craft the other pieces of it.  

Chad: Sure. 

Bernie: Or it might help you prove or maybe disprove some assumption that you made, you know, nobody’s clicking this button, nobody wants this. 

Chad: Feedback loop. 

Bernie: What is it? Yeah.

Chad: Feedback loop. 

Bernie: It keeps that you need that feedback loop and to keep it small– 

Chad: Sure. 

Bernie: –to keep it very short. And that’s, I think, one of the big benefits there.  

Chad: Sure. 

Bernie: And to just generally speaking, though, it’s about, you know, yeah, technologists need to know about the technology. So you need to keep up on all the bread and butter, nuts and bolts stuff that you do to make these things. 

Chad: Sure.

Bernie: But even more so we need– it is important for us to keep up on what is happening to business in general. And then the companies that we work for specifically, what their mission is, where are they going next? So that we can anticipate the needs of our customers, not just the customer, but I’m talking about our business customers. We in the Agile world, we think of them as the product owners.  

Chad: Sure. 

Bernie: We need to develop products that will help them do their job without them asking for those things. The way that companies like Apple have shown us that we couldn’t live without this thing. And we didn’t know that we couldn’t live without it until they made it and put it out there. And by golly, now we know we can’t live without it. That’s what technologists need to do inside of their own companies too. 

Chad: Sure. 

Bernie: So you need to be learning about business and particularly what sectors you’re in, what your business does for a living, what your customers, how they consume, whatever your product or your service is, and figure those things out and make proposals, make bets. 

Chad: Yep. 

Bernie: make– right? 

Chad: Sure. 

Bernie: Offer things to your customers and let them say yes or no as opposed to waiting for them to ask for anything.  

Chad: Sure. Yeah, that’s the personas that you’re working with, its behavior, its people interaction, and you use the word technologists quite a bit. 

Bernie: I did. 

Chad: So. 

Bernie: Yeah. 

Chad: I actually coined a term, I don’t know if it’s been used before in several meetings with customers we had, but I say that we’re psychologists way before we’re technologists.  

Bernie: [laughs]– I get what you mean by that.  

Chad: So. 

Bernie: Yeah.  

Chad: That’s something that we kinda live by here as we got to figure out the people and the behavior before we can make technology help them do what they’re trying to do.  

Bernie: Yeah, that’s a good point. I think that’s little business psychology goes right into the technology side. 

Chad: Okay. So, one question for Bernie here at the end is our company headquarters in Grand Rapids, Michigan is inside of a building that used to be a game manufacturing factory. So a question for you is: what was your favorite board game?  

Bernie: Board game? I’m gonna think about that only for a second because an answer jumped right into my head and it’s probably the right one. Yep, I think it’s the right one. It’ll be Monopoly.  

Chad: Perfect.   

Bernie: Yep, Monopoly. I have some, you know, very specific memories of playing Monopoly with family over the holidays. It’s one that I introduced to my kids when they were growing up and they actually– Now, when we get together, still, I will play Monopoly on PlayStation four– a PlayStation four version of Monopoly with my son who lives in Aspens, Upper Peninsula, Michigan, and– 

Chad: Interesting. 

Bernie: –his fiancée. They like to play it. Yeah. So it probably, be Monopoly. Little– I have a feeling that a lot of people play Monopoly don’t or have tried to play it, don’t like it for one really specific reason, and that is that they’re not observing the rules correctly.  

Chad: Yes. 

Bernie: People, when you land on a property and you don’t want to buy the property, and you declined to buy the property, the property instantly automatically goes up for auction. And all the other players in the game get to bid on that property before your turn is over, so another person can you know, end up buying it. If you implement that simple rule which is in the basic rules, you’ll find the game goes much quicker. 

Chad: Yes. 

Bernie: And you will be frustrated much less– [laughs] 

Chad: [laughs] 

Bernie: I roll the dice seven times and I can’t get what I want.  

Chad: Exactly. [laughs] 

Bernie: Just make sure that they’re not cut out the auction rule and your game will go much faster. 

Chad: Much quicker. Awesome.  

Bernie: [chuckles] 

Chad: Well, thanks for your time, Bernie.  

Bernie: I’m happy to be here. 

Lizzie: OST changing how the world connects together. For more information go to OSTusa.com/podcasts.