The Main Scoop, Episode 05: Operational Excellence and the Customer Experience

On this episode of The Main Scoop, co-hosts Greg Lotko and Daniel Newman are joined by Meral Temel, Mainframe Platform Leader at JFORCE, to discuss the opportunities and risks when pursuing an operational excellence strategy to achieve the highest levels of service to customers.

They also provide insights on how operational excellence is a mindset that permeates across an organization’s technology, people and culture.

Has your organization determined what it means to be operationally excellent? Learn more about how this will improve the customer experience.

It was a great conversation and one you don’t want to miss. Like what you’ve heard? Check out Episode One of The Main Scoop, Episode Two of the Main Scoop, and Episode Three of the Main Scoop, Episode Four of the Main Scoop, and be sure to subscribe to never miss an episode of The Main Scoop series.

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Greg Lotko: Welcome back to the next episode of The Main Scoop. I’m Greg Lotko.

Daniel Newman: Daniel Newman.

Greg Lotko: Delighted to have you folks all here with us. People often look at operational excellence to drive productivity or cost reductions, but it goes way beyond that. The ability to execute processes and transactions flawlessly directly impacts the end user experience and how they view the company’s brand versus the competition. So, let’s get into the customer experience, right?

Daniel Newman: Yeah. Well we’ve talked about this a little bit. It kind of thematically finds its way and weaves its way into each of our episodes Greg. In the end, the technology has to serve that purpose. It’s usually business outcome driven and most companies that are winning and competing right now in the markets are doing so on customer experience. In fact, I remember doing a study on this and there are numerous out there, but here’s a fun fact about 80 plus percent of companies, I call it the 88 rule. 80% of companies believe that they truly differentiate themselves from the rest of the market on customer experience, but only 8% of their customers actually see it that way. So, in this world where we have all this tech, all this transformation, all this agility that we like to talk about here on The Main Scoop, the truth is that there’s a lot of tech to enable that differentiation. A lot of companies think they’re differentiating, but their customers still don’t.

Greg Lotko: And you don’t want to be just another, and also you want to really have differentiation that’s driving value.

Daniel Newman: Absolutely. Well that’s the point. Yeah. Only about 8% are seeing it. So, there’s a big opportunity out there and technology can definitely lead the way.

Greg Lotko: Huge opportunity. And it’s not only in the business to consumer, it’s also in the business to business. I mean, these are the partners that you want to continue to work with, the ones that are helping you be successful in what you’re doing.

Daniel Newman: Absolutely. So, you ready to bring our guests on?

Greg Lotko: Ready to go. So, joining us today is Meral Temell. Meral’s been in the mainframe industry for a couple of decades now and she’s seen it all. She started as a systems’ programmer. She ascended to becoming a director of systems for one of the largest private banks in Turkey. She’s now a mainframe platform leader for JFORCE. She’s passionate about technology trends and helping organizations get the most out of their IT investments and the mainframe. Come on Meral.

Meral Temel: Hi guys.

Greg Lotko: Pleasure to have you with us.

Meral Temel: Yeah, it is nice to have you here to be here also. Thank you so much.

Daniel Newman: All right. So you were backstage, you were listening to us talk about operational excellence, competition, customer experience.

Greg Lotko: Operational excellence.

Daniel Newman: You heard maybe about the 88 rule that I said. I don’t know if you heard anything like that before, but let’s start off with your broad thoughts on what do you mean, what do we mean when we talk about operational excellence?

Meral Temel: Actually, I’m really excited that we pick up this subject as we all know that operation excellence is wide scope, but actually it is really a mindset. It is not about only product, it’s not about human resources, it is not about processes but it is something, the only aim is it’s actually basic, not a complex subject. The only aim is to make whatever you do, however you do to improve the excellence of the customer experience. And if you have that in your mind, you will figure out how to implement it in IT organization. So, that’s how I see the operational excellence and also when I think about that, hey, this is something mainframe teams have been aimed and do as a policy when they’re managing big workloads, critical workflows of the financial environment. This is something that we had to do for many years and it is exciting.

Greg Lotko: So, I know you’ve been driving operational excellence across a variety of companies and now helping them in your new role, where do you see the main gaps? Is it more about technology? Is it more about skills or bit of both?

Meral Temel: Yeah, it is about both. But actually it is about there are lots of misconceptions and worries about mainframe the IT organization. One of the things that I see as a gap in all the IT organizations or the companies is that we as a human are so focused on the fancy trends that we forgot that we need to improve what we have already. It’s one of the best experts in the IT organization was mentioning that you can’t win with breakthroughs. It is too rare. You need to do both, improve what you have, in addition to work with the breakthroughs. Right now in IT organizations business and IT combine like this, the silo team stuff is over. So, the other gap is mainframe teams who they should be working together with the distributed teams, distributed teams, architect teams, software developers, business services. We need to both work together.

Greg Lotko: To take advantage of what you have versus doing more with less. And actually it’s interesting, I think about one of our other episodes we were talking about open, but we were talking about with respect to technology, and what I heard you talk about was open across the organization and the collaboration, the business and the developer, with the DBAs and the other technologists. And when they all work together, you end up getting that better outcome.

Meral Temel: And I can give the recommendation mainframe this, don’t expect the process to be created in your organization that just talk with the distributed team. Just talk with the architect team, software developer teams and talk with them and learn how you are affecting the IT services that your companies are giving. Actually I’m using this mindset to motivate my team because we are computer engineers. Computer is computer. So, that is another item. It is whether it is mainframe distributed, we sometimes forget that computer is computer, CPU is CPU, I/O is I/O.

Daniel Newman: Yeah, I’ve heard a couple of interesting things in what you’ve said. And by the way, the trend of you hear a lot about low code and no code, it really reflects what she’s saying about the business maybe having the best understanding of the process and that’s why. But the truth is, typically someone with computer knowledge and coding capabilities can do it a little better. But we’ve gone to low code into code because the businesses aren’t always communicating with the technology very well. So, they say let the business do it because the business knows best.

Greg Lotko: They know the business process and they may be able to get something up and running the quick and dirty, they fail fast. But then somebody can come in and make that process more optimal and efficient.

Daniel Newman: Another thing I really like that you said was that you talked a little bit about what I like to call iteration and innovation is that sometimes innovation is iteration, meaning that you take what you have, you continue to tune it, tweak it feels like there’s a car reference in there somewhere. You tune it, you tweak it, you make it faster, you make it better, you make it more agile. This is where you tie together that human element. You tie together that technology element and you say when the humans, the technology, the culture all get behind what the technology can do, you get better outcomes.

Meral Temel: Yes. Yes, exactly.

Greg Lotko: You were also talking about the human behind it relative to the skills and I just want to make sure I heard what you’re saying the same way. So you were talking about a computer being a computer, being a computer, learning from looking at different platforms. Part of that was encapsulating the idea that, look, if you’ve got a software engineer, if you’ve got a technologist, it’s just another platform.

Meral Temel: Yes, exactly. Mainframe is a really great platform but is my side is not different than in any other platform because CPU is CPU, I/O is I/O. You can’t force people to work on a company and you will not gain success to force someone to do it.

Daniel Newman: Yeah, it absolutely is. So, one of the things we love to do on this show too is sort of be future looking, right? We are constantly talking about where this technology is heading, the hybridization of the mainframe and how it’s a part of this bigger ecosystem. Talk a little bit about some of the key trends in the future direction that you see. Where are you seeing investing being done for companies to reach that next level of experience in operational excellence?

Meral Temel: With the new 16 announcement, I mean we are doing a very great thing to. I mean there is AI, there is containers in mainframe since 2019. So, the containers are there waiting for the mainframe is it organizations to implement it. There are lots of new features and functions like AI on chip. I mean if you are, so I can see it like this. So, fancy trends are okay, but we shouldn’t be implementing it just implemented. It needs to give wallet to the end user.

Greg Lotko: Business value.

Meral Temel: The other thing is there are, I’m sadly seeing that there are lots of functions features in mainframe platform from every part, application, storage, network security, and they are not aware of I mean we need to have the IT organizations invest on the people and guide them to implement them in the future.

Greg Lotko: It’s kind of like that capability in your car if you don’t know if you flip that dial or that switch adjusting yaw control or something. You think about the software that’s out there and the platform and how powerful everything is. But if you’re not aware of the capability, you don’t get to leverage it. You don’t get to implement-

Meral Temel: And also we shouldn’t be reinventing the wheel. I’m not talking about getting back all the workload. This doesn’t make sense at all. But first we need to force a lot what we can do on mainframe. That’s why hybrid cloud is the key solution right now. So, we need to use the most modern distribution capabilities of the mainframe connectivity between distributed and a mainframe, and to get the benefit out of it.

Greg Lotko: Right. So, it’s not about a platform for a platform’s sake going here or there. If you’re going to lose performance or security or resiliency or reliability, switching any workload, you really should be using a technology for the capability that’s going to drive business value, that’s what the conversation’s about.

Meral Temel: One of my business artists while I was working for a project told me that, oh well I couldn’t get the performance that I’m getting in the distributed applications. It was a mobile application, that when I was getting them on the mainframe platform as an application. So, if we are in a very competitive environment and people are, as far as I read in one of the articles, that people lose their attention in mobile applications after two seconds. So, even one millisecond is important.

Greg Lotko: Yes, exactly.

Daniel Newman: And that’s why we’ve seen this, the rise of the snaps and the TikToks is because people’s attention, it’s these Reels. It’s like, hey, what can we do in 10 seconds or 20 seconds? And so, when we’re telling stories in tech, you’ve got to really stay committed. And it’s the same thing across the board. But you tie this all together since we started the show with a theme. I want to end it with a theme.

Meral Temel: Okay.

Daniel Newman: How does all this tech, because we’ve kind of gone on a path of tech, we’ve gone on a path of people, human skills, but tie it back to CX. So, all this capability, all this work in the organization to make teams more fluid, how does the customer benefit?

Meral Temel: So first of all, if are forcing hard what you have as an architecture infrastructure, you will limit the risk of new infrastructures because it contains a lot of risk. If you have an outage while changing something, your customers don’t let me say this way, customers don’t care whether you have AI, don’t care which infrastructure you are using. They don’t care whether you have containers or not, microservice, they only care what they get. So, that includes the response time of the services. But first of all, availability. So, I recommend companies to don’t remember availability because if you have outages while doing something, I mean they can stop using your services. So, I would be saying be careful-

Greg Lotko: They want what they want when they want it and they want it reliability.

Daniel Newman: So, a super short summation is of course you can use the next generation of technology to make the experience cooler or more mobile or more automated. But what you’re kind of saying is that that’s great, but if you undo something like the highest level of availability in that process, you’re still creating greater risk. You’d have something very cool, but if it doesn’t work all the time, customer experience falls hard and customers could be lost.

Greg Lotko: It should be additive, it should be an evolution, it should be an enhancement.

Daniel Newman: But it’s the whole end of the mainframe and why a lot of companies that are doing the hybridize need to keep the workloads there. And because like I said, the second you go from seven, nine nines to three nines, that’s a massive difference. When you hear about some of the migration stories, you’re like, Ooh, what a risk. You might think of what you can do. But man, the first big outage, it’s going to be front page news and we hear about it all the time.

Greg Lotko: And the reality is, I mean, we are The Main Scoop, so we do bring mainframe into this, but the reality is what we’re talking about, the approach of how you should be going at iterative development, how you should be driven by the business process, that it should be an and of the technologies that are really bringing value to what you’re going to drive to your customers and to your business, that applies across the IT landscape. Of course, we bring it back to talking about the mainframe as an integral part of that because there’s so much value there that a lot of our customers have from the years. But all of this applies to everything in IT.

Daniel Newman: Absolutely. Well, great conversation Meral, thank you so much for joining us here.

Greg Lotko: Fabulous to have as a guest.

Meral Temel: Okay, thank you. Thank you, thank you so much.

Daniel Newman: Well, I’m glad that we were able to pull all those threads and tie everything back together because I think as you’re sort of trying to unpack the customer experience, sometimes we do it and some of the shows will get very high level and we’ll be talking about what that customer experience looks like in a very secular non-technological way. This time we of got into the bones and we got into how actually, whether that’s development, code, the application of next generation technologies like AI and automation-

Greg Lotko: Bringing teams together and people, making sure they’re educated in the skills, and they know what’s going on.

Daniel Newman: Yeah, and how it actually finally drives a better customer experience. And I’m glad that that kind of last thing tied to something as practical as availability. Because in the end, like I said, you can have the coolest technology on the planet, but if it doesn’t work all the time, the risk is really high. And there’s such an opportunity that technology exists that can take and de-risk that, and companies that aren’t thinking about that part of a customer experience or only thinking about the innovation and disruption are missing the fact that it’s an and proposition, not an or proposition.

Greg Lotko: Totally agree. Totally agree.

Daniel Newman: So, another great episode, Greg.

Greg Lotko: Lot of fun.

Daniel Newman: Thank you everybody for joining this episode of The Main Scoop. I’m Daniel Newman.

Greg Lotko: And I’m Greg Lotko. See you next time.

Daniel Newman: We’ll see you all later. Do we do that together?

Greg Lotko: Yeah, kind of.

Daniel Newman: All right. Bye everyone.


Author Information

Daniel is the CEO of The Futurum Group. Living his life at the intersection of people and technology, Daniel works with the world’s largest technology brands exploring Digital Transformation and how it is influencing the enterprise.

From the leading edge of AI to global technology policy, Daniel makes the connections between business, people and tech that are required for companies to benefit most from their technology investments. Daniel is a top 5 globally ranked industry analyst and his ideas are regularly cited or shared in television appearances by CNBC, Bloomberg, Wall Street Journal and hundreds of other sites around the world.

A 7x Best-Selling Author including his most recent book “Human/Machine.” Daniel is also a Forbes and MarketWatch (Dow Jones) contributor.

An MBA and Former Graduate Adjunct Faculty, Daniel is an Austin Texas transplant after 40 years in Chicago. His speaking takes him around the world each year as he shares his vision of the role technology will play in our future.


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