The supply chain world is an ecosystem of manufacturers, suppliers, partners and customers, all reliant on each other for operational success. And like most industries, the supply chain is being disrupted by digital capabilities, with time to market now increasingly important and competition more intense.
Within that world, Flex, a provider of design, engineering, manufacturing, and logistics services with approximately 200,000 employees in over 30 countries, sees its role as being a technology partner, with a promise to deliver real-time supply chain insight and services to demanding customers across the map of industries and end markets.
Agility, efficiency, usability, security — these are the tensions leaders like Friedrich "Fritz" Wetschnig, CISO of Flex, grapple with when surveying technology options. Finding tools that provide a superior balance of collaboration and security is Wetschnig's challenge, and why he chose cloud content management to enhance the company's evolving digital model and add more value for customers.
Building a content-centric model
In the supply chain, information is vital because it directly affects production lines. Disrupt the flow of data, and production could slow or stop. Wetschnig is a big fan of digital transformation, because digitizing processes simplifies every area of work, including how he secures data. Take contract signing. The old way: print it out, sign it, scan it, send an email. Digitally transformed, that entire process now takes place online."The biggest advantage I have?" Says Wetschnig: "I can store a contract in one place. I know where it is, and how to protect it."
"The great thing about cloud content management is that you share content with the people who need it at the right time, in the right place, with the right permissions."
Giving users — employees, partners, customers and other external stakeholders — seamless ways to use tools together, while keeping content secure, is just part of Flex's digital transformation. Content management has evolved from simply being about productivity and collaboration to encompassing a greater need to protect and centralize data. Wetschnig is building a technology stack that's integrated, keeping content in one place regardless of how it's accessed and edited by users: "I want to give everyone access to data when they need it, without having to go through IT. On the other hand, I also want to have the data centralized."
Empower employees with practical technology
When FTP was introduced in the '70s, IT jumped on it as a way to upload, store, and share big files. But users often found this cumbersome. In his mission to centralize data and simplify the experience for employees, Wetschnig looks to upgrade on-premises technology for today's digital world.
Flex needed to share more and more information with external partners, without sacrificing security. "We chose Box because it's a prudent choice in two key areas. I have the IT component, where I can control access. But I also have a simple user interface which people can use intuitively. And the mobile-first emphasis fits right in with our corporate strategy." Enabling self-service options gives users access to data easily so they can make prompt decisions on their own, and IT can focus on strategic initiatives.
The other important benefit Box provides to internal users is the ability to integrate different types of files — not to mention work habits — into one unified platform. Box's integration with Office 365 is one example of how this plays out in practice. Wetschnig points out, "I'm not just buying a solution that's a silo. I need to think about how it integrates with my whole portfolio. The ability to open and edit Office 365 files within Box means users don't have to learn something new to interact with content."
When Flex brought Box on board as a content collaboration platform to better unite employees worldwide, adoption was quick and organic, with a swift growth from 500 users to 20,000
“The real value of Box was that it was so easy to use, people didn’t need hours of training.”
Unite suppliers in one cloud-based space
Cloud content management isn't just about employees. The supply chain ecosystem has many types of users that interface with data every day, including the pivotal role of suppliers. Technologies that help centralize data extend far beyond just internal user experiences.
Many companies use a traditional inventory data model. This can complicate the on-boarding process if each supplier uses a separate portal, which means a company like Flex would have to support multiple different portals.
Flex centralized this process with one portal that all stakeholders can access, based on their permissions. Suppliers integrate the platform with their own systems to access inventory data and content easily. There’s less duplication of data, which streamlines the process while providing a single source of truth.
Access to this portal is linked to the unique credentials of partners to keep everything secure. "What we're doing now," says Wetschnig, "as an integration with partners, is putting a trust relationship between identity systems. If a person leaves their company, it removes their access to our site." The secure process reduces glitches, and emphasizes security for Flex suppliers.
“The security aspect is a major consideration for us, but also for our partners and suppliers,” confirms Wetschnig. “We use the cloud service to create one place to go. You get access to all the information you need, including invoices.” This makes it easier for Flex to transfer information to suppliers and partners in a secure way.
Building a future-proof tech stack
Wetschnig has had a lot of success shifting Flex to cloud-content management. But digital transformation is a multi-step journey. Any time a CISO evaluates new tools, he has to think across his technology stack as well as into the future.
“This is where the road needs to go: integration. That’s what will make it more efficient.”
Wetschnig says that when he researches new technology partnerships, "One of the first things I'm asking today is 'What are your integrations?'" Companies make plenty of integration claims, but assessing their reality is key. New tools must seamlessly integrate with every other technology in the stack, forging partnerships that will develop over years.
“When you create a digital partnership, you need to create efficiency. The key is to set the framework that gives the business the flexibility to do things so IT gets out of the way."
Wetschnig also thinks about emerging use cases for artificial intelligence and machine learning within the enterprise. As Flex continues to innovate the supply chain through wise technology choices, Wetschnig will focus on partnerships in the cloud to help further secure and transform processes.
The changing role of the CISO
This is a vast departure from Wetschnig's beginnings at Flex, nearly two decades ago. "When I started in security, it was very infrastructure-related. We were taking care of firewalls and anti-virus." But today, he says, cybersecurity has moved from being an IT issue to a business risk: "You're talking to the Board and taking care of the risk of cybersecurity in the enterprise — a topic for every corporation."
"Security went from being an IT issue to being a business issue or a business risk. That is the transition of the CISO."
Chief Information Security Officer is a role that has evolved for him and the industry in general. Striking a balance between security and business agility is a unique challenge for leaders like Wetschnig, who says, "Everyone thinks security is about restricting people from doing their job. But I want to provide a framework so people can make very easy decisions. If you get the foundation right, it gives the user the responsibility, but also the ability to do things. It's not always a contradiction."
With Box, he's been able to provide that framework. It's simply a more agile solution. No longer does IT say to the user 'I'm blocking you from doing this.' Instead, it's all about 'I'm helping you do more, faster.'
"As a CISO, you don't usually get thank-yous. Box was the first solution I got a thank you on."