LAS VEGAS: Netflix is shunning traditional IT approaches in favour of a strategy that empowers employees to be self-sufficient with technology.
Ashley Sprague, director of employee technology at Netflix, explained at Service Now's Knowledge 15 event in Las Vegas how her IT department eschews the processes and stigmas attached to traditional IT.
"I think it's pretty popular for [IT departments] just to say 'no'," she said. "So what I'm always trying to do with my organisation is to be the complete opposite of traditional IT."
The result has led Netflix to rebrand its IT department as ‘employee technology', whereby workers are able to have their own IT processes and use the hardware they want.
This means employees are expected to adhere to an overarching approach to IT which involves following the company's IT guidelines to ensure technology is used effectively and safely, without the need for restrictive processes and tactics.
Sprague highlighted one example of this approach as the 'hardware vending machines' that Netflix has in its IT department, which allow employees to be self-sufficient in getting the technology they need without relying on the IT managers to give them approval.
"It was getting kind of annoying with people walking up and asking for little things that were just getting handed to them anyway. So why not put a machine where they can [access hardware] themselves?" she said.
"What we're doing here is looking for them to educate themselves, so we've put tags on [the hardware] for how much something costs. So if they decide they need an 8GB card, they can also understand how much money they are spending for the company."
However, Sprague noted that new employees coming from more traditional companies are not used to this technology freedom, requiring the IT team to nurture them in the company's culture of "freedom and responsibility".
"What my team does is try to empower them with education and knowledge so they can make the right choice, rather than acting like police and putting up blockers," she said.
Sprague explained that this freedom-oriented approach allows Netflix to be more innovative at a faster pace.
A yes culture
Netflix adopted this strategy owing to the proliferation of consumer technology, such as smartphones, among staff, leading people to expect to use the same grade of technology in and outside the workplace.
Sprague said that the Netflix culture allows the company to meet these expectations, but she was also keen to highlight that others can follow suit, despite potential concerns over security and IT asset management.
"A lot of folks ask how you can combine the factors of choice, innovation and ease of use, along with data security and insight [auditing], and I do believe you can blend these nicely. Once you have self-sufficient employees you reduce systems management requirements," she said.
Much of Netflix's ability effectively to say 'yes' to new technology and the expectations of its employees is down to a 100 percent cloud-based infrastructure, which was established from an open approach to technology.
Using cloud services supplied by Amazon Web Services, Google, Service Now, Workday and others allows Netflix to deliver all of its IT as a service rather than rely on local hardware and systems.
Sprague explained that, with everything in the cloud, the company can easily scale up services when headcount increases through the use of cloud-based subscription services.
The cloud infrastructure is also a boon for developers, as they can easily test and deploy apps in the cloud without the need to procure hardware for the task.
Netflix is not alone in seeing cloud technology as a way to empower employees. Microsoft's latest strategy is based on using cloud to empower businesses and individuals.
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