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ITechnology Interview with Zinette Ezra, Chief Product Officer at Panaya

ITechnology Interview with Zinette Ezra, Chief Product Officer at Panaya

“Changes Is Your It Essence – Changes Required So Your Business Organization Will Perform Best and Your Company Will Keep Its Edge and Win the Market.”

Hi, please tell us about your role and the team / technology you handle at Panaya. How did you arrive at Panaya?

I am the Chief Product Officer leading the Panaya Product Portfolio, Company Strategy and Technology Partners management.

I’ve started at Panaya five years ago as Director of Product Management, running the ERP solutions. Previously, I worked for corporate companies, like NICE, Check Point and SAP.

Panaya is one of the best technologies and product companies in the ERP space and with my background, for me, it was a perfect fit.

How has your role evolved through the pandemic crisis? How did you stay on top of your game?

Panaya solutions are first and foremost about collaboration and running a project effectively. Within the ERP space, it is always a struggle how to manage a project with geographically dispersed teams. With the pandemic as part of the equation, this foundation helped customers to successfully deliver whilst their teams worked remotely, from home.

We took more steps in that direction and ensure the product value will keep this new reality as centric for any new capability delivered. Nevertheless, we had to think differently and rethink our go-to-market strategy. For example, due to the unexpected economy and uncertain features, many IT organizations took a step back and had to recalculate.

Digitalization was “forced” upon us and many were suddenly facing old technology stack becoming an obstacle to change faster. To accelerate such change, you need a technology edge. Imagine that you have suddenly a magic box to tell you what’s going to happen, predicting what will change, what will break and delivering a recipe of what and how to fix it and eventually how to engage with your business users to get the sign off faster. Not only that, on top of the magic box, you have a sophisticated artificial brain to handle for you the tedious and not interesting issues so your teams will actually enjoy creative tasks, working with your business users and deliver an actual innovation. You realize that to stay on top of the game, you need to keep your employees and your clients’ employees to have an actual impact on their business success.

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One lesson you learned by working with technology and people during the pandemic?

At the beginning, I’m sure we all found the “work from home” with a grain of mistrust. How can you really cope with the work from home, with kids, with very low ability to navigate between the work demand and your family demand.

We slowly learnt how to balance it and started to enjoy it. Productivity wise we became more effective. We have started to embrace collaboration tools more and more and the conversation and exchange of ideas became easy. Since we use Panaya technology to develop Panaya (yes, we drink our own champagne!), it was relatively easy to embrace our technology edge and take it up a notch, for ourselves and for our users.

One of the solutions we provide to our customers is Panaya S/4Convert. It is by far, one of the most difficult technology challenges an SAP IT organization will have to face, migrating from an old technology and applications stuck to new, modern, innovative ERP solution, SAP S/4HANA.

Tell us more about your recent announcement related to S/4Accelerate. How does it influence the SAP Cloud industry? 

Panaya S/4Accelerate solution completes a 360 Portfolio of Solutions intended for SAP Organizations journey to S/4HANA, a journey that may take years, especially for large enterprises.

With the SAP RISE program, SAP Customers and Partners are now focused more than ever to prioritize Cloud as the main foundation for company transformation. The beauty of this program is the flexibility and freedom of choice.

Choosing your Cloud provider, lowering the TCO, and having the freedom to opt for your private cloud edition is key. Panaya has been always a SaaS solution.

With the latest S/4Accelerate solution, Panaya takes out the fear out and enables SAP S/4HANA customers on Private Cloud Edition to change the state of mind from heavy customizations toward recurring innovation that SAP brings on a quarterly and yearly basis.

The old ECC state of mind of being a customization centric costly IT, in constant reactive mode, with low ability to plan ahead and budget right, is being replaced with S/4HANA innovation, where you have a steady cadence of FPS/SPS, becoming standardization-centric, introducing significant business innovation with lower TCO and most importantly, realizing and monetizing on the technology foundation that S/4HANA is meant to bring in.

How does S/4Accelerate harness the power of your Change Intelligence Analytics Engine?

Imagine that the magic box is more than magic: it’s actually an amazing DeLorean that can tell you exactly what will happen in the future and how to fix it and prevent a possible disaster.

Panaya Change Intelligence Engine is that DeLorean but powered with an AI driver that can recalculate the best course of action all the time. Not only you can skip the prepping and planning of an FPS/SPS/Version upgrade project, but you can rely on it to write the code for you and to fix customizations that are going to break your production or critical business processes. It is also serving the purpose of Continuous Project Risk Mitigation that typically relies on guessing and sometimes “prayers”. Like “Waze” is searches for best navigation path and scopes out the noise, the objects that are not used and keeps you focus on the target. Imagine that you wake up in the morning and you have an AI being opening and closing tasks for you. It doesn’t reduce your job and responsibilities; it is helping you to focus on activities where your experience and value can contribute tremendously.

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Global IT trends are evolving with the rampant adoption of virtualization and experience management. Could you tell us how Panaya influences IT Operations industry?

IT Operations industry is sometimes perceived as old and outdated, especially in the SAP space. That “old” perception is sometimes a wrong one because we have seen a lot, and we have scars to prove it.

We are also easy to please because we could do our job with our eyes closed, right? On the other hand, as private consumers of technology all around us that things could be different for us at work. We want it there as well. Faster and intuitive has to be part of our work life as well. IT operations have been joined (finally!) the strategy of “fast and furious” and we seek the same: faster, collaborative, streamed processes, where I as a Tech Lead, QA and Operations, operate as one oiled machine to deliver better experience and usability for our business users. Guess what? We also embrace it when we run with our IT operations: DevOps and Automation is not a trend anymore but a strategy.

If Automation was a term typically related to Testing, Panaya took to the core and essence of the entire IT operation chain. Imagine that with Panaya, your S/4 Version 2020 Upgrade project scope can be created automatically, and you can rely on Panaya to help you to automatically fix some custom broken code and deploy it to your QA environments. Imagine that your teams can work on the project from anywhere and they see all activities as a team, as a 360 view on the project, without being in one room or without the need to be in a “war-room or task-force” experience mode. It’s all about your IT teams experience and moving faster to provide better experience and value to their business users and eventually to their company clients.

What are the biggest trends we could expect in the SaaS-based change intelligence analytics market?

I strongly believe that the mindset has shifted from the fear factor that once was the biggest excuse to stay the same and do nothing to the necessity of staying on top of your game.

You cannot afford anymore to be reactive. The Pandemic has changed us. It changed our economics for sure: we are more calculated and planning for the short term, however, it clearly has shown that leading organization took it as an opportunity to jump and differentiate themselves by embracing digitalization and transformation not as buzz-words but as “way-of-life”. It cannot be a huge program initiative with 10 years budget but a clear strategy with pinpointed delivery milestones.

You cannot afford anymore to keep the lights on. We see more and more CIOs choosing AI and ML as the fundamental engine running throughout every IT aspect. DevOps orchestration is not enough: do you deliver the right changes?

Do you plan right?

Can you run faster?

Predicting what will change, what will break, what to fix, and what to test is not science fiction but a reality I would seek from any SAP IT solution and Panaya does that exactly: it brings intelligence and sophistication into the delivery process, in a seamless way. I was thrilled to hear just lately that one of our customers has compared Panaya to the iPhone for Change Management solutions.

How could companies better use AI ML for an ethical use?

As much as the technology for AI/ML has advanced in the last decade, and we can see the wonders of progress, in a way, it can be threatening, especially when you realize that the data needed to create a perfect prediction model or the best decision path, it’s sometimes data you wouldn’t leave behind for anyone else to trace it.

I believe that IT organizations AI/ML applications should focus on process improvements: the ones that reduce the technical debt, streaming an operation and reduces waste, and most importantly, have a gated way to apply it, meaning a human factor to take the ultimate decision and responsibility.

How would you define ‘responsible AI’ through the lens of a business intelligence executive? Who is accountable for the ethical use of AI applications?

Business Executives are typically about the bottom line.

They are less involved in the actual decision process and details.

BI executives have a serious responsibility today to support the management and take the right decisions around data points. We have seen many times that the CEO and C-level roles are ultimately the ones that are hold responsible of not just taking the decisions but be informed about it: what is the data being used, how it produced, did we take the necessary steps to ensure data privacy measures, do we have the right processes in place to ensure visibility to all data stakeholders?

It’s not about being “legally covered” anymore but being responsible and therefore I believe that the entire management team and their supporting roles should be aware and accountable of which AI tools are used and for which purpose. It’s a tricky statement but the essence of it is not to have layers and layers of procedures and legal processes but clear policies, like checklists of what it allowed and what is not in our organization.

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Hear it from the pro: Why businesses should invest in CIPWhat are the pitfalls of not staying adept with the industry benchmarks?

Skilled employees are a critical resource for an IT organization’s success.

Today’s generation is about impact and moving faster with the pace of technology innovation. Your IT employees work and user experience is not a nice-to-have factor anymore but it could dictate if that skilled employee will stay in your company and not seek for the next start-up. It all boils down to stay current not just with your business support but with your internal IT management tools. Changes is your IT essence – changes required so your business organization will perform best and your company will keep its edge and win the market. Panaya Change Intelligence Analytics will ensure your IT skilled resources will keep their eyers on the ball to serve the business faster, on quality and on-budget.

Thank you, Zinette! That was fun and we hope to see you back on itechnologyseries.com soon.

[To participate in our interview series, please write to us at sghosh@martechseries.com]

Zinette brings to Panaya over 15 years of management experience in product management, technology and business strategy. As VP Product she is responsible for all product management activities including: product strategy and direction, roadmaps, product release planning and leading the global Product Management, UX and Sales Enablement teams.

She has previously served as Director of Product Management for Panaya’s Release Dynamix ERP Portfolio.

Before joining Panaya, Zinette held various senior positions at NICE and SAP, including Manager of WFO Advanced Performance Cloud and Speech and Text mining Products and various product management, business architect and technology leadership positions at SAP.

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Panaya is the market leader in ERP and CRM change intelligence. Panaya SaaS solutions for change intelligence reduce the time, cost, and risk involved in the delivery of change to business applications like SAP, Oracle EBS, and Salesforce.com.

Powered by cutting-edge data aggregation and machine learning algorithms, Panaya delivers deep insights that help organizations determine dependencies, accelerate testing, and ensure business continuity.

Panaya shows you the full impact of application changes, removing risk, and reducing cost and complexity. With Panaya, your organization can have the peace of mind it needs to freely and rapidly evolve.

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