Nader Tirandazi of invenioLSI On How To Use Digital Transformation To Take Your Company To The Next Level
An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis
Data Analytics and insights: Having instant and accurate access to key information allows your organization to make intelligent, business-focused decisions on the front-end. New technology allows organizations to focus on the most valuable data that can make trend analysis and forward-planning simple, inherent, and streamlined.
As a part of our series about “How To Use Digital Transformation To Take Your Company To The Next Level,” I had the pleasure of interviewing Nader Tirandazi.
Nader joined the board of invenioLSI in September 2021 and became Chief Executive Officer in July of 2022. He is responsible for operations across the US and expanding our market worldwide. Prior to merging with Invenio, he was the Executive Vice President of LSI, responsible for expanding the business market while ensuring customer success in the transformation of their business processes with SAP technology.
He’s been involved with SAP software technology and implementation for over 20 years in his capacity as a former SAP Public Sector Executive, as well as during his time as Chief Financial Officer and Chief Information Officer for various Public Sector agencies, and while serving on several boards and commissions. He has a BS in Mathematics with emphasis in statistics as well as an MS Economics focused in Accounting and Finance from San Diego State University-California State University.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series. Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?
I began working in the public sector for the City of San Diego as an intern at the age of 22. Back then, I never thought I would stay in the public sector for my entire career. However, I went on to spend 19 years with the City of San Diego, during which time I worked my way from intern to holding several leadership positions in different disciplines including Head of Utilities, Head of Public Works, and Head of Finance and Technology.
In my 16th year with the City of San Diego, they decided they were finally ready for a digital transformation to replace our legacy systems. I was appointed Executive Sponsor on behalf of the city for the selection and implementation of SAP. After going live for both the public sector and public works side of the organization, I made the decision to leave the city and work for SAP.
During my time at SAP, what I enjoyed the most was that it allowed me to see that all government agencies, states, cities, and counties were challenged in the same ways that we were at the City of San Diego. The whole integration, access to information and decision-making always happens on the backend within these organizations, but by transforming and implementing software products, it opens the organization up to be forward-thinking.
After SAP, I joined LSI as a Managing Partner and now, 18 months after our merger with Invenio in the UK, have been appointed as CEO for invenioLSI where our 1100+ consultants work on large transformational projects for customers in North America and internationally including Air University, the States of Hawaii, Michigan & Arkansas, the City of Phoenix, San Bernadino County, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the Tax and Customs Authority of the United Arab Emirates and the Kingdom of Bahrain. Having worked on both sides of the fence, I have gained tremendous perspective for the public sector and the challenges and numerous benefits associated with digital transformations.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?
One of my first assignments with the City of San Diego was to process invoices. It was all manual; I would go through thousands of invoices, reconciling them to paper invoices to bill and I thought ‘why does the city government work this way? It’s so inefficient!’ I wanted to put our invoices into a system like Paradox, at the time, because I knew what we were doing was so outdated and there was a better way.
After 6 months of manual processing, I finally had the courage to approach my supervisor. I raised my point on how outdated this manual process was, she smiled and laughed at me and said ‘This is exactly why you’re here. We need you to think outside of the box to help make us more efficient, BUT you are going to upset about 70% of our organization as they haven’t been challenged to face transformation.”
I not only gained confidence from this experience to share my ideas, but also perspective on exactly what challenges I was going to face, especially within the public sector. Many people are scared to make a change because they are so accustomed to certain processes. If you are fearful of change, you are stuck.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“Don’t fear change, embrace it.” In my experience working in the public sector, there is always at least one department or area that is stuck; nobody talks about change, so change doesn’t happen. The most important step to adopting change is to get over your fears. In life and in business, fear and change go together; success only comes after you face your fears and embrace change.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
There are two people in my life that I consider my mentors. The first is Robert Epler, he was the Assistant Director of Environmental Services for the City of San Diego. We’ve lost touch, but his persona, understanding, organizational skills and belief in me when I was just starting out, has stuck with me. Robert was a powerhouse at the city who didn’t have to give me any of his time, but he made sure to give me opportunities to expand and grow under his guidance. He taught me the nuances of getting from point A to point B across departments and that the most important lesson is to never burn any bridges.
The second person is Shyam Jajodia, invenioLSI’s EVP Chief Solution Architect. I didn’t know Shyam until I first joined invenioLSI, but he has become a mentor and friend. For any transformation project, I know I can turn to Shyam. He has a calming confidence and understanding approach, making him one of my most trusted advisors. He is a leader by example, always putting the customer’s best interests first and identifying a solution that will work best for them.
In your opinion, how can companies best create a “culture of innovation” in order to create new competitive advantages?
This starts at the top. Leaders in an organization must embrace change and impose a vision to facilitate innovation. Without a coordinated desire for change and a clear and concise strategy in place, it is impossible to be forward-thinking. Many businesses falsely assume that technology will drive the business, but it is the other way around: business needs to drive the technology. If you implement new technology, but don’t have the team and leadership behind it with expertise and readiness to adopt and change, technology will sit on the sideline.
Is there a particular book, podcast, or film that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?
People First Leadership: How the Best Leaders Use Culture and Emotion to Drive Unprecedented Results by Eduardo P Braun. It resonated because of his points that you are as good as the weakest link — a team accomplishes more than an individual and that leadership teams that are on the same wavelength carry a successful organization.
Extensive research suggests that “purpose driven businesses” are more successful in many areas. When your company started, what was its vision, what was its purpose?
As I said earlier, having a coordinated vision for a company is paramount to success. At invenioLSI, we are committed to being trusted advisors to our customers. Many of us at invenioSLI come from a former career in public sector, so we uniquely understand the challenges many of our customers face and know how transformative new technology can be for the organization and their constituents. We are engaged at all levels and committed to transparency by laying out risks and challenges upfront, along with the other tools they will need to successfully transform. It comes down to succeeding together.
Based on your experience and success, what are “Five Ways a Company Can Use Digital Transformation To Take It To The Next Level”? Please share a story or an example for each.
There are myriad benefits to digital transformation, particularly in the public sector, however I think the five most important ways digital transformation can benefit an organization include:
- Data Analytics and insights: Having instant and accurate access to key information allows your organization to make intelligent, business-focused decisions on the front-end. New technology allows organizations to focus on the most valuable data that can make trend analysis and forward-planning simple, inherent, and streamlined.
- Increase customer satisfaction and enable high-quality user experience: Increasing your responsiveness and implementing streamlined processes greatly affects your customers or constituents’ interactions with your organization, making their life easier. Additionally, for the employees, digital transformation creates a high-quality end-user experience. As I mentioned in my story about manually reconciling thousands of invoices at the City of San Diego, if we would have introduced new technology sooner, I would have been much more satisfied and supported as an employee.
- Decrease human errors: By removing the manual entry element many outdated legacy systems rely on, new technology can greatly decrease the chance of human error that can be detrimental. Additionally, with data stored across multiple environments, in multiple locations, there is redundancy and inadequate data quality. A digital transformation harmonizes systems, meets key reporting needs, and achieves operational and strategic goals.
- Encourages collaboration and improve communication: Increased communication across departments is essential for a successful organization. A digital transformation allows leadership and teams to make data-driven, informed decisions across departments that add value and reduce costs.
- Enhanced security and compliance — One of the most important outcomes of a digital transformation is enhanced security. Particularly in the public sector, moving away from old datacenters to secure cloud platform technology from companies like Amazon, Google and Azure are far superior. Cloud platform technology makes it simple to comply with stringent security policies public sector organizations face, as well as creating a secure environment where all communications and transactions are encrypted.
For the benefit of our readers, can you help explain what exactly Digital Transformation means? On a practical level what does it look like to engage in a Digital Transformation?
Digital Transformation is the implementation of new technology that can make smarter, better-informed strategic decisions that efficiently deliver cost-savings. For public sector, this often means replacing outdated legacy systems with software that is smart, connected, intuitive and easy to use.
Undergoing a Digital Transformation is not easy. It requires a cohesive buy-in from all levels of the organization and partnership with trusted IT consultants that can guide you through the education and implementation of the new technology. We’ve identified a set of best practices to successfully undertake a Digital Transformation that include: a clear and concise strategy, measurable success, executive sponsorship, realistic timetables, personnel training, enough subject matter expertise, flexibility and agility, change management, testing/validation, and a non-partisan approach. While every agency or organization has its own unique challenges, following these best practices will provide optimal long-term results.
Which companies can most benefit from a Digital Transformation?
All companies can benefit from a digital transformation; however, I believe public sector can realize the most benefits from a digital transformation. Public sector faces the biggest challenges as almost all are still utilizing systems that are over 30 years old, they don’t have the programmers to maintain those legacy systems, and laws and policies in government organizations are constantly changing.
Adopting and adapting to the new technology that is available to them is especially valuable and transformative; we are just at the tip of the iceberg for the public sector as far as embracing and adopting new technologies. The impact of digital transformation on a government entity expands far beyond employees as it impacts and improves the lives of every person living in that city, county, state, etc.
We’d love to hear about your experiences helping others with Digital Transformation. In your experience, how has Digital Transformation helped improve operations, processes and customer experiences? We’d love to hear some stories if possible.
When our clients succeed, we succeed. We have helped countless organizations in both the public and private sector with their digital transformations, resulting in increased efficiencies, reduced costs, and improved end-user experiences.
Pennsylvania State, one of the nation’s top-ranking universities, is the first U.S. based higher education greenfield implementation of the latest ERP technology, SAP S/4HANA, and is a prime example of achieving operational and strategic goals through the platform. They struggled to support their burgeoning campus with a 30-year-old legacy financial and accounting system. Data was stored across multiple environments and platforms, leading to higher costs, islands of data, duplicate systems, and processes.
Through our SAP implementation expertise and guidance, Penn State adopted SAP S/4HANA template with SIMBA (the System for Integrated Management, Budgeting and Accounting). They are now 25% faster than their old system, delivering meaningful, real-time analytics. They also have one central system that has reduced hardware footprint and increased speed and processing and have seen a 30% reduction in the number of days to close annual books.
A great example of digital transformation in the private sector is the Globe and Mail, Canada’s foremost news media company that delivers news to more than 6 million readers each week. To serve its subscriber/customer base, they were using up to five different systems and maintaining a complex landscape, with point-to-point integrations. Without an integrated landscape, the company was struggling to consolidate customer data and gain a 360° customer view.
They needed to simplify their current landscape into one platform, without all the complex custom code. We worked with them to implement Salesforce Service Cloud that would integrate with their existing SAP ECC system and Digital entitlement systems that performed subscription management, billings, logistics and delivery.
With the completed integration, The Globe is benefitting from improved productivity and faster rollout of enhancements due to the reusable APIs, which drastically reduces the development lifecycle across projects. The integration has created a cohesive customer experience, capturing all data in real-time, and enabling a faster response to customers.
Has integrating Digital Transformation been a challenging process for some companies? What are the challenges? How do you help resolve them?
The biggest challenge, and one of the most underappreciated aspects considered during digital transformation, is proper change management. As I mentioned earlier, facing fears associated with change is the only way to successfully transform. One of the most effective ways in which we help customers get over these fears is by connecting them with their peers who have successfully undergone a digital transformation. Allowing them to hear success stories form similar organizations eases a lot of the initial fear with introducing new technology. Importantly, leaders must also lay the groundwork to determine the right cultural approach to getting their entire team onboard regarding how this digital transformation will benefit them and their constituents.
How can our readers further follow your work?
I post regularly on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/nader-tirandazi-35494240/
Are you working on any new, exciting projects now? How do you think that might help people?
We are excited about a lot of new technology that can help our customers. SAP has made a big push into cloud and cloud first; we recently secured two customers who will be utilizing RISE with SAP, EPRI (Electric Power Research Group) and Port of San Diego. Both organizations will undergo a massive digital transformation that will keep their business moving forward and directly benefit their constituents. Additionally, a lot of companies that are using legacy SAP systems will be moving to the latest ERP technology, SAP S/4HANA.
We are focused on advising our customers on the latest and most appropriate digital technology to enhance their business. The key component for company leadership to understand is that as business gets more complicated and decision-making becomes more complex, enabling new technology and transforming processes will make you successful now, and in the future.
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!