Dmitry Moscovich, CIO at Gazprom Transgaz Saint-Petersburg, on Introducing IT Systems at Enterprises
In 10-12 years, there will be a great demand for specialists who can develop IT systems for business processes, believes Dmitry Moscovich, CIO at Gazprom Transgaz Saint-Petersburg. During a guest lecture at the Department of Information Systems and Technologies in High-Tech Business, he gave advice to novice specialists in this field, and expanded on the internships that the company offers to students.
Tip #1: Study the field you’ll be working for
Nowadays, most specialists who introduce IT systems at enterprises have no clear understanding of the particular fields of business they are dealing with, which is unfortunate. Most modern information systems used at enterprises are seen as means for sustaining their standard business processes; few perceive them as an opportunity to gain competitive advantage. When you are improving the system and developing new algorithms, you should already be looking for ways to reorganize business processes so that they would become more effective.
What’s more, many customers can’t properly explain what they want from the new business processes. And it will be hard to get this information from them if you don’t know the peculiarities of the field they work in.
Tip #2: Work out the setbacks of existing information systems in advance.
Most executive officers whose companies don’t work in the field of IT don’t agree to a global reorganization of business processes easily. That is understandable: as long as the existing system works, why risk changing it? Still, the work of business analysts is to know when the refusal to introduce a new system threatens facing even greater risks in the near future. For instance, in 2014 the first sanctions were imposed on Russia. At that time, our company used systems by Oracle and Microsoft, so we analyzed the risks and decided to develop a domestic platform so as to not depend on foreign companies.
Time proved us right. Gradually, Oracle stopped providing services for several Russian companies, Gazprom included. This is detrimental to the company, but they are doing what they are told. For that reason, many Russian companies that failed to cross over to different software are now at a great disadvantage, as they have to hastily change their business processes.
Tip #3: Define the reasons for switching to new systems
No IT specialist can steamroll a project on reorganizing the IT infrastructure of an establishment all by themselves; neither can some higher authority. Such a project can only become successful if the management understands its importance. For instance, Gazprom Transgaz switched to different software due to evident reasons: termination of foreign software’s servicing, imports phase-out, and reduction of expenses for servicing of IT platforms.
In our case, we changed the system for the financial and manufacturing sectors. Naturally, this undertaking was met with some resistance from the accountants, who feared that important data can be lost or damaged while being transferred to a new system. This is why it was most important for us to get the financial director involved, as well as the CEO, as the development of the new platform took about a year. We transferred the data in just 10 days; employees of the financial sector didn’t work at that time - they just came after everything had been done, turned on their computers and saw a slightly different interface.
Tip #4: Spend more time on testing the system
An enterprise’s resources are usually limited. This is why it often happens that you don’t have enough servers to test how the new system will work with, say, 3,000 users. So you test it on 100-200 virtual users, it seems to work, and you introduce it. But soon it turns out that it doesn’t work with 3,000 users. This is a real blunder. So, it is important to come up with ways to test the system portion-wise, for instance. And be sure to not give the platform to the users unless you are sure that all of its basic parts function perfectly.
Of course, it’s impossible to create a system that would be ideal right from the start. But small faults like fonts that are too big, or buttons that are placed poorly, are easy to notice and mend. Still, there shouldn’t be any major slips like when a system suddenly fails in the end of the accounting month.
Tip #5: Systems shall remain comprehensible to any IT specialists in the company, and new employees as well
When you are introducing a new system at an enterprise, you have to think over such matters as who will maintain it. Employees come and go; so it is most important to document the system’s operating principles, as well as always have a slight excess of competent specialists against the possibility of some of them leaving. It is also important for these specialists to be able to service different kinds of systems: for instance, a single specialist should be able to maintain platforms for both financial and manufacturing processes. This also gives them a better understanding of the business processes of an enterprise.
Also, one has to be most careful about introducing exotic software, i.e. software that few understand how to work with. This has to do with different kinds of open source software, as well. If you introduce such software, you have to make sure that you and your employees really know how to work with and maintain it.
Tip #6: Get an internship at Gazprom Transgaz Saint-Petersburg
You can come and get an internship at our company anytime. This will be beneficial to both you and us. You will get to understand how things work in the real industry, and what’s there to do after you graduate. Our benefit is that interns often come back to work with us, and there are few capable young specialists in any field. This is why we are ready to spend a couple of years training them. If an intern proves capable and wants to work with us, we offer them a position.
When a student comes to us for an internship, we hold an interview in order to understand what they want and what their strong points are. And it is these strong points that we plan to develop. For instance, if they have analytical abilities, we send them to the analytics department. Oftentimes, the interns want to learn a bit of everything - this is also good, as the more a specialist knows, the more they can offer. In any case, we develop an individual training plan for every student, and assign a curator. We consider the students’ requests when deciding on the internship’s duration and schedule, as we understand that they also have to continue with their studies at their universities; in any case, we aim to give the interns as many opportunities to learn as it is possible.
Guest lectures and the affiliated department
At the end of his lecture, Mr. Moscovich answered the students’ questions. Close collaboration with industrial partners is amongst the key activities of the Department of Information Systems and Technologies in High-Tech Business. The department cooperates with Gazprom’s entities, Rostech, IBM, EMC, Siemens and other companies of the Cluster that unites high-tech and engineering companies in St. Petersburg. Alexey Korablev, the department’s head, underlined that students can get internships at each of these companies.
“We often invite specialists from these companies who offer services that have to do with automation and introduction of information technologies, so they can acquaint the students with the current trends in these fields, especially with the peculiarities of operation processes at particular enterprises, as well as internships and job opportunities. Following the results of internships, the students write practice-oriented term papers and conduct research activities,” he comments.