How to serve millions of customers, seamlessly

Autodesk CIO Prakash Kota on transforming a software giant

transforming customer experience

As Autodesk’s chief information officer, Prakash Kota has an impressive to-do list. Among them is managing the software company’s critical technology systems, which it relies on to support its workforce collaboration, productivity services, enterprise applications, infrastructure, and enterprise security systems.

Autodesk is known for creating software that helps architects visualize their schematics, manufacturers to prototype parts, and movie makers to produce special effects, among many other things. Kota sees his role as helping Autodesk employees help its millions of software customers make anything.

To achieve that, Kota has provided on-demand IT help through a self-service portal and further transformed the employee experience through cloud-based collaboration and productivity tools.

In an interview during ServiceNow’s Knowledge 2020 event, Kota shared some of his insights about how data insights can help optimize employee and customer experiences, and why it’s often better to buy rather than build great technology.

What were the drivers that started Autodesk’s digital transformation?

Our mission is to help people imagine, design, and make a better world, so our success depends on customers’ success. Our company is on a high-growth trajectory and has a goal to digitize the entire organization. That means enhancing the customer and employee experience by removing friction for our employees, customers, and partners.

We are as committed to providing an exceptional customer experience as we are to delivering exceptional products. Our completed business model transformation to subscription and becoming a growth company were drivers for digital transformation.

How do you measure transformation?

Streamlining and automating business and IT processes is critical to accommodating Autodesk’s rapid growth and ensuring customers and employees have a smooth, frictionless experience. We are measuring our transformation by the value we bring that enables our employees to do their best work.

How do you see the IT organization supporting the company’s overall business growth?

We use Amazon’s “working backward” approach and always first consider how tech we adopt/develop is providing business value. We’re investing in an employee experience platform that integrates information, news, and productivity tools while integrating individual and cross-divisional business solutions.

We’re also migrating to the cloud, and cloud productivity tools and SaaS make it possible to work anywhere. Our team culture allows us to collaborate in the cloud with platforms like Microsoft Teams and OneDrive, and work on and co-edit files in real time together, even when thousands of miles apart.

We are exploring and leveraging automation and artificial intelligence for both internal and external processes. For example, we are stepping away from data centers. Instead we’re moving all workloads and back office applications to the public cloud. This enables us to increase our resiliency, availability, and enterprise security as we move into the automation era.

How is your digital transformation program driving relationships with other senior executives?

The CIO role at Autodesk is one of “technology adviser.” I’m building partnerships across business divisions to enable maximum productivity and successful technology use in everything they do.

Our completed business model transformation to subscription and becoming a growth company were drivers for digital transformation.

We’re partnering very closely with business through IT via our Digital Employee Experience program. We’ve implemented an employee experience and productivity platform, Employee Hub. It offers a personalized experience, providing quick solutions based on the employee role. Employee Hub is a single place where Autodesk business services converge, making it easy for employees to find the tools and information they need to be self-sufficient and productive. Our first iteration of Employee Hub began with our partnership with HR, and quarter over quarter more business units are onboarding to the platform.

Data insights help us customize and optimize the experience for all. We have dashboards to actively monitor system health and accessibility. Data tells us if employees are active in systems and able to perform functions as anticipated. It also gives immediate insight into their usage and alerts us if action is needed to provide more licenses, address issues, etc., to ensure our workforce stays productive.

How have your transformation efforts prepared you for an unexpected crisis like COVID-19?

Autodesk was already poised to support a remote workforce with technology that allows employees to work anywhere, anytime, from any device. We needed to address availability of laptops and make adjustments to our VPN license numbers and locations to ensure good connectivity. We facilitated clear communication on applications requiring VPN as well as firmware upgrades and reboots of infrastructure equipment to provide better connection stability.

What were some mistakes you made along the way and what did you learn?

I could have pushed myself to make bolder decisions and have a bigger appetite for risk sooner by trusting that everything would turn out well. Early in my career, I was more excited about building cool technology, but I’ve since learned that it often makes more sense to buy than to build. Building requires a great deal of time and money, and it isn’t always the most logical answer.

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