EP 10: How Enterprise Architecture Impacts the Business w/ Jeffry Nimeroff

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

We tend to think about EA as the guy in the Ivory Tower.

But when we dive into what that role really means for implementing tech, the enterprise architect resolves into the person who ensures that technology is available to support the business needs.

In this episode, we interview Jeffry Nimeroff, CIO at Zeta Global, about the role of the EA within the big picture of transition.

In this episode, we discussed being product-focused with an engineering framework, the role of the EA during a transitional time, the talent search in 2020, and thinking outside the product management box.


To hear this interview and many more like it, subscribe to the Unleash IT Podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or our website.

So I tend to view the enterprise architect as the most senior person who is going to be capable of ensuring that we can have technology really support the business needs. Welcome to unleash it, a podcast where we discussed the experiences and ideas behind what's working in enterprise architecture and digital transformation within the IT landscape. Unlock Your Business has digital capabilities. Transform your enterprise architecture. Unleash it. Let's get into the show. Hi and welcome to this week's edition of unleash it. Today I'm very happy to share some time with you along with our guest, Jeffrey Nimrov. Jeffrey is the CIO at Zeta Global. Jeffrey, welcome to the show. Thanks for having me. So it's why don't you first start off by telling a little bit about yourself and then maybe a little bit about Zeta? Sure, I have roughly twenty five years of experience across the computer science landscape. I started in academia and got a PhD in what back in the day was called efficient movie making and now would be roughly called, you know, ml for CGI, basically looking for patterns in data, trying to make a pretty laborious process, you know, more efficient and and it was enjoyable because I got to see the fruits of my work. Right it was in numbers in a file or it was movies on a screen or it was pictures. It was really, really exciting. I did have my curiosity peaked in the early days of Internet music and so that was my foray into the corporate world. I worked with the two early music pioneers on the Internet, CD now and Music Boulevard. So we were all things music on the Internet in the mid S and it was a good run. I ended up my tenure in computer music or Internet music at birtles men, very large private organization known for the BMG Music Club the Sony BMG Record Label, and I was the chief architect there for a while. I then moved into my CTEO career, leading tech organizations at a company called fashion five hundred, which was an early into end ECOMMERCE provider. So it was retail and call centers and fulfillment for the fashion industry and it was out of New York. And then I moved to an innovative marketing analytics startup called hot socket, which was based in city, and left there to take a job at a company outside of Philadelphia called GSI commerce, which was ultimately sold to Ebay and became the the third leg of their stool as Ebay Enterprise. Left Ebay enterprise after being their head of technology solutions and came to Zaia global in two thousand and thirteen and I've been here ever since, focusing on Zay to global. We're all my efforts are. Now we consider ourselves the leading marketing technology company that combines data. We have the third largest data set, roughly two point four billion identities, you know, track the cross the Internet, and we combine that with predictive AI and analytics with a goal of helping marketers, you know, act on customer intent, act on personalization of experiences and our goal is to drive, you know, really superior business outcomes. So I think we have a really good foothold in data, artificial intelligence technology, robust platforms and it's really been a wonderful, wonderful ride so far. So you understand my world then, very well, I do you know and all that that entails. So, yeah, you're distributed company, right, you're not just in one...

...location, you have several different locations, correct. So everything that we do is done by asaid employee. So when we talk about a global footprint and we say that we're in India and, you know, in Europe, these are all no Zada employees and we're well distributed across the US as well. We have our NYC headquarters, we have a West Coast headquarters in San Francisco, we have Boston, we have Nashville, Tennessee and then we have London and multiple locations in India. So we are very globally diversified. But again, all all's aid to people and it's really a wonderful the earth team. Yes, so how did you handle the COVID thing with somebody office is a lot of people all over the world. What were something that challenges you faced? Great question, and I don't think the challenges are unique as much as they were thrust upon us and accelerated. Right, we've really been working in manner to ensure the ability of people to, you know, have a proper work life balance be able to handle any challenge whenever it arises. So first and foremost there is having the tooling, having the connectivity, but also having the ability and the power to work from anywhere. Right. We were just thrust into a situation where that needed to be executed, you know, pretty quickly, pretty forcefully. So we had already set up the infrastructure to be able to you know, across my fingers a little bit at least what we thought. We knew that we have people working from home. We have people, you know, spending the right amount of time to, you know, enable their work life balance. We had never had everyone work at home all at the same time. So even though we had the infrastructure, it was really a a trust and verify. We in effect told everyone as of, you know, a certain date, you know, across the different offices, we want you to be safe, we want you to be with your families, we want you to work from home. Let us know if there's anything that is keeping you from being productive. And we haven't looked back. We've had, you know, everyone in the farthest reaches, you know, remote in the US, Canada, Europe. All of our diversification, our globalization, the multiple offices in India, having people, you know, move from homes in the city or residences in the city back to, know, be with their extended family and taking connectivity with them, and everything is shown that we've been able to as a workforce work really effectively, you know, against this backdrop of a pandemic where we want everyone to really be safe, did you accelerate some things that you might have been thinking about in order to make it most smoother transition? I know a lot of companies all of a sudden really accelerated their digital transformation plans, moving from, you know, on prime to the cloud as a big initiative that they turned around very, very quickly. Did you go to any of those types of major so its locations? Great question, and I think we were all ready in a hybrid cloud sort of mindset, right. We very much know leverage the cloud where it is best suited to to quick innovation, right, the zero procurement timeline, being nimble. But we also have a great appreciation for what we can do cost effectively in our data centers, where we have, you know, a very specific notion of utilization and balance that we can sort of achieve. We also know really well, because I've been very experienced team, how to get the most out of the equipment. Right. So the idea that we have a data center and we need to add capacity, we have the ability to to expand the duration, the lifespan of equipment and that really lets us find that...

...balance because we have more capacity to run things, you know, in a very cost minimized way in our data center. So we've developed that particular balance. We're already going in that direction and everyone was already connected in a manner where they could work where they needed to. So we didn't to force anything, you know, sort of add of a data center into the cloud. We didn't have to force anything out of a corporate situation into the cloud to make it more available or accessible. We were all ready doing it. So I would think our strategic initiative around a digital transformation we've been doing early and often, and so what we been handling recently have been specific cases where we had one or two usage patterns or use cases that we just had an effectively handled. You know perfectly, though, someone needs a particular mode of connection to a particular small system that we hadn't done. Whatever that example means, we've been doing a lot of that sort of tactical work, more than heavy lifting and shifting the other thing that data has done, and it was just, you know, a function of timing. You know, we're a very exquisitive company. And we acquired two really valuable assets through the mid and end of last year, and so that's really part of the work we were doing to accelerate that integration. And that happened in a covid environment or a covid free environment, and we haven't changed that. We haven't had to really change our approach as much as maybe we've rolled up our sleeves put in a little extra time to do the the continued heavy lifting. But we're pretty digitally transformed organization in terms of the way in which our employee base works and we're already pretty we have a pretty good paradigm for our hybrid cloud, which is public cloud in our private virtualization. So we were fortunate to have done all that work beforehand. About that really put you very much ahead of the the the eight ball as it came pounding down towards everyone else. So a lot of our listeners are enterprise architects. Are there it folks? I didn't enterprise architecture actually come into play doing a transition time aiming throughout. You know, in some cases we think of the enterprise architect, is really that a guy in the Ivy Tower that designs this three to five year plan and now we're looking at things. Can Change it in three days. I can could change in three hours, you know. So how is EA playing a role in your organization? It's a great question. It makes me smile because there's so many ways to look at that question and when it when it came through, I was like, you know, I feel like anyway I would want to take notes for myself or think about it is about setting a contest, right, because without a context you can answer any number of ways and with each context it would kind of ground a particular answer. I'm a process person, right, so I like efficient, repeatable, measurable process. I think that's just an overarching tenant. It's not directly actionable, but if we think that way it helps me sort of view how I can get the most out of enterprise architecture, and I come from that world, right, and sometimes when you view it from a compliance and a governance perspective, it's the stick and not the carrot. Right. It's a backdrop for the way in which we want to execute because it, you know, adheres to best practices and you know in process and it works against blueprints and someone who ivory tower may or may not be a great example. But, you know, someone with the broad knowledge, deep knowledge, and then in evangelical approach, it can often feel like it's beyond the guard rails for how a technology group can execute right. It's like it's almost as if these are the edicts. I like to view it as the individual with the capability of seeing and incorporating all of the technological...

...change and being able to marshal it in a proactive way to really align to the business challenges in a unifying, holistic, solid, you know, manner. So I tend to view, you know, the enterprise architect as the most senior person who is going to be capable of ensuring that we can have technology really support the business needs, like you say, whether it's for a three to five year plan or it's just navigating the things that change every three to five just that approach of ensuring that they always ground, you know, any particular solution that's being designed or architected against a common thought process, common standards. You know, we're probably bigger now in most of the ways in which we developed and to say a single platform, but that idea of an ecosystem that is harmonious, that embeds many technologies, but all has sort of a single perspective. That's where solid enterprise architecture can get you. So did I answer your question? They're sort of do some know it was great, but it also beings that another question is that what we're seeing, and I don't know if it's true for you tell me, but there's almost two parts of it today. There's a traditional corporate it and then there's this product it. So what we're seeing is a lot of what we used to be all around projects. Like I stand up as CRM system, I stand up in earpiece system now, because you're working so much closer to the business, the solutions that you're providing to these business problems to help drive the business. It's almost as if the IT departments are turning into software development companies to some extent. Yeah, or you know, I guess depending on your perspective, you can use a different sort of vernacular and move it into the world of the consultancy. So, you know, I'm not sure how I like to me a project based approach feels reactive and probably feels disconnected and probably feels driven by some negative KPI, just some local notion of negative that you need to respond to and product base feels proactive. It feels, you know, like it can be more tied to again, that singular notion of the business. Right, we're solving problems proactively in our business and you have a suite of products that can help us do that. and to me some of that is just almost a mental trigger for me to try to ensure. I guess I'll come at it from the other side as well. I try to get us out of project mindset, right. I try to always view it through the lens of a proper understanding of the business success criteria, which begets the notion of what we need to build, which then begets a process whereby a proper overarching enterprise architecture is brought to bear to solve the problem or build the product. So when I think about it that way, that gives me the approach, the framework or the blueprint for the team, you know, at an individual level, to think about themselves as being a problem solver or participating in this enterprise architecture or product based process. Yeah, to me, sure, we do projects, we do project management, we have, you know, PMO and associated rigor, but everything we do now we try to fit into a product paradigm. Sometimes it's, for the reason, not anymore complex than we...

...want to ensure reuse and when individual projects get built their kind of done and there. If someone remembers the leverage of them going forward, then now that's great, but it doesn't often happen, whereas if we build against a product portfolio, that's all is, or repository, you know, a lineage back to and say yeah, I'm going to reuse that right or I'm going to extend that, and it just I think it perpetuates when you do it that way. So we are product focused. We have a tools engineering group and client facing product Engineering Group of Product Management Facility to ensure that the competitive nature of our industry is understood, prospect and client and needs are understood. Like you know, get that when you have that sort of product mindset where, if it's a project, we probably throw business analysts at it right away and get a specific set of requirements may be out of context for something else you might have done and you focus on, you know, just that one short term development. It says your organization changed. Is it going to continue to change? And where do you get the talent today, you know, to telled get you to which where you want to go? It's a great question. So the general notion of acquiring talent is, I think it starts from the organization as a whole coming up with the desired qualifications, independent of where we're going to find individuals. Right, we are willing to look anywhere for an individual who is who meets our needs against the particular requirement. I really don't care where they're from if they can meet my database needs when I'm looking for a database person. So we're really good in figuring out what we need from a qualified candidate. Then we're also, you know, blessed with such an acquisitive nature that we often garner great resources that way, right, and if they're also the best experts on any technology, we acquire as well. So it's not inherently aquahier, right, it really is acquisition. And then you have the specialization that comes along with it. So if you were to look at the way in which the product development teams exist, they are very much aligned with the specific, you know, product component of the platform and they were, you know, since the inception of that particular component, you know, either developed a Zay to gotten the acquisition. They were founders co founders, original architects of that technology, and so we've just again been blessed with a team that's made up of, you know, that level of expertise, and then we add to it in a very thoughtful way, independent of independent of geography. Put in the hard work. You know, it takes more work up front, but you get candidates that just they're awesome. Yeah, payth when you are doing the acquisitions that she said with your company, what was some of the challenges there specific that you ran into? Lost those challenging things, you know, because there's so many different item landscapes and trying to combine them into one. I can imagine that big challenge. I mean it's a huge challenge and I can pick a hundred range examples. But let you know, the generic idea of a conversation amongst senior tech people, my friends, you and I, we would talk about, you know, a worst case scenario that someone had to implement and you'd say wow, you know, in a folklore context that's sounds terrible, but no one's ever really had to do that from a tech perspective. Those are some things that we've seen recently. Right, you get you get scenarios where Hey, one of our one of our data centers is closing, right, so we need to do a lift in a shift. Okay, when it's like, you know, this weekend. That's never the answer for that question. But yeah, you...

...guys have but then it's a little humors because there will be you know, can you fall back on your methodology for Data Center Migration? It's like, I mean, we have the playbook, but it usually requires, you know, least a couple of weeks and so things like that. That are really the outliers. We've had some interesting situations recently around that. But we've gotten good at like these mitigation strategies. We can virtualize a physical location. We have capacity in our current data center foot print, so we can virtualize, move, reconnect, like. We've done that far too many times in general. Right. It's just it's part of what you need to do to manage risk. You don't want something to falter, so you lift it and you shift. We've done that, just in an extraordinary way many, many, many times. We've move certain subsets in and out of the cloud. We've set up interconnections, you know, between data centers that we know we want to consolidate into our footprint long term, leaving what's running there running and knowing that we're actually going to sort of move things, you know, around all of that, like real low level infrastructure stuff. We do a lot of. We've converted technologies to align right, you know. Sometimes you just acquire we have very rigorous documentation around, you know, for due diligence purposes, but we also have a one page or that we call the tech alignment and it's kind of the first thing we ask for and it's roughly fifty system areas and if we get that, you know, minute one, we can pretty well gage how hard something is going to be. Right it's it's everything from who do you use for your office email, if you have a phone system, to what type of continuous integration and automation backbone you have. And you get varying degrees of alignment and you swallow hard and you know and you figure out your past. So we do that a lot, you know, just with our quisitive nature. That's probably the thing. We have the proactive playbooks, but it's still a reaction to a particular, you know, sort of state that you're given. So finally, one question that I like to ask what are some of the technologies that are coming about that gets you most excited but that you can't wait to implement at Zata? What are some of those texts that are trending up? It's a great question. I have a lot of bias sort of individually the effect things that were you know that will impact us. Quantum computing is interesting because of its potential to be such an abrupt impact on security. Right. It's interesting in the way in which they're now finally getting to scale to solve interesting problems. But that, you know, original sort of challenge that was out there around encryption and breaking the inherent sort of security backbone of the Internet is one that I'm just keeping my eye on as we try to be more and more transparent in the way in which we do what we do Zeta with data and transactions. You know, the idea of blockchain write, the idea of transparency in a distributed ledger construct that lets us really show what we're doing is really interesting to me. Every tech chnology that's out there that in some way challenges us with data. Right, maybe it was called the Internet of things before, but it's just all these sources of temporal data point in time data, signal data, how all of that just plays across the fabric of the Internet is really interesting. So what is...

...five g do to open that up? What are some of the new technologies that are at the network, Inner Connection Level? Right, we recently saw, you know, a network connection that was fast enough to roughly download all of Netflix's content in a second. You know, that was sort of the that was sort of how it was posed. So when you think about that, you know again that's going to be so impactful to the fabric of the way in which were connected, that all these things that supply data now become much more feasible and being able to govern that data, secure that data, leverage that data is really interesting. It's funny because if, like me, you built technology in the S, we had sort of client server. We had sort of think, yeah, it clients and thinner servers. Then the Internet is to the really thin client and everything was on the server, and now the pendulum swings back and it feels like there's this delegation of responsibility that starting to be re under stood. So edge computing, I think, pulling, pulling the intelligence to do things at a point in which it's most appropriate to do it. Right. It's not sort of thick here, thin there, thick your thin there, but at the edge, what do I need to do to process an appropriate amount of data right here in order to remain highly performant? That's really cool. And then I'm really big into sort of the intersection of AI and automation. People think of it in terms of autonomous vehicles, right, and the amount of data that has to be processed so quickly and every decision needs to be correct. I actually participated in some of the very early research and it's pretty scary when that stuff goes wrong. Yeah, Oh, yeah, hurdling in a vehicle. What could possibly happen? So it's still thirty five years later and we're still really trying to figure all that out. So the the ability to do all of this stuff in the modern world with more automation and the intelligence to do it, processing of data, you know, that's really cool as well. I've participated in virtual reality for thirty years as well and it's always been something that's so close to being here. Augmented reality, I think is is interesting. You know, it's that next level of human computer interaction, but it's also, I think it's become tempered right. It's augmented. It's not supposed to do encapsulate my world, Yo, and it's supposed to be things that work in addition to the natural environment. So I really I like that push and the technology there as well. I play around with technology. So you know a lot of it. We've come a long way from doss we have. We not everywhere, though, right we do say. We do see the horror stories of the you know, the need for people who know a particular will say older technology happens to be running a very important subsystem somewhere that no one thought about. Yeah, it's just amazing to see that, with all of the modernization, that we still have such tried and true, you know, technology embedded where it is. That's great. Well, Jeffrey, thanks so much for being a guest on our show. We've I really enjoyed our conversation. I think our listeners did too, so thanks again for taking the time. Thank you. It was wonderful. You've been listening to unleash. I T to ensure that you never miss an episode. Subscribe to the show in your favorite podcast player. If you'd like to learn more about enterprise architecture and tools to help unleash your businesses digital capabilities. Visit Lean ix dotnet. Thank you so much for listening. UNTIL NEXT TIME.

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