Why NEC, which is promoting DX
in system operation and construction,
entrusted @IT with planning
a webinar for internal awareness

Mr. Koichi Yoshida, Service & Platform SI Management Department, Technology Service Division, NEC Corporation

"By running the webinar in parallel with the media, it was a result that there were ideas and reactions that could not be obtained by NEC alone."

Mr. Koichi Yoshida: Joined NEC in 2006. Engaged in system architecture design, development process design, and operation process design for large-scale telecommunications carriers for over 10 years. While spending his busy days as a system engineer, he recognized that most of his work was "analog, manual, and inefficient", and started working on "digitization, automation, and efficiency" around 2015. In 2019, Exastro's first software, Exastro IT Automation, was released and continues to this day. 


NEC promotes understanding of its products at study sessions where in-house members serve as instructors.

Since the system construction / operation automation tool "Exastro" has the character of OSS (open source software) whose source is open to the public even though it originated from NEC, it was highly recognized outside NEC than inside NEC. Mr. Koichi Yoshida of NEC, who created Exastro IT Automation, the first software of ITmedia Inc., was worried about the situation and asked ITmedia for cooperation.

Then, in 2021, NEC held a panel discussion and case studies by the person in charge who experienced the actual project three times in a webinar format in order to raise the internal awareness of Exastro. Ask the media for help to raise awareness within the company. We asked Mr. Hironobu Uchino, Editor-in-Chief of ITmedia, who cooperated with NEC's Mr. Koichi Yoshida (Technology Service Division Service & Platform SI Management Department) about the effects of such unparalleled efforts.

Introduction of background and issues Gap regarding product recognition inside and outside the company
Implementation details Market research / planning cooperation / in-house webinar implementation
Effect of use Develop new areas by raising internal awareness

● Planning a webinar that changes the consciousness and method of the old-fashioned IT construction site

--- ITmedia cooperated in the planning and implementation of the in-house study session webinar on ITmedia Inc. developed by NEC in 2021. How did you decide to ask ITmedia Inc. for cooperation?

Mr. Yoshida: I think it's easier to understand the process if you first explain the reason why OSS called Exastro was born and my own sense of challenge. First of all, Exastro is an open source software suite that digitizes, automates, and saves labor in system development and operation, and I developed it. The reason for this was that after gaining SE experience for about 10 years after joining the company, I thought that system integration and efficiency were necessary for system integration.

I joined NEC in 2006, and I was happy to be involved in the latest IT development, but I was shocked for the first time here. Everything was analog, such as a large number of handwritten blueprints being distributed when entering the project. I was shocked by the inefficiency of our SE business, which is supposed to produce the latest digital technology.

Immediately after that, smartphones began to spread. Since I was a telecommunications carrier SE, I was involved in the construction of a new network system for smartphones amid the explosive increase in demand, but analog information management soon reached its limit. That's not good, so I created a prototype of a content management database (CMDB) and provided it as a tool for 2000 people involved in the project. This was a hit, and we were able to survive the development without causing bugs even with the continued increase in demand.

After that, I learned that a lot of analog remains in various industries such as finance, manufacturing, and distribution as well as communication. This was the second shock, and the policy was born: "By generalizing the CMDB and providing new development, construction, and operation methods, we will prevent barren specifications and excessive costs." Exastro was born as a means of doing so.

Exastro conceptual diagram

---What kind of issues did you aim to solve in the Exastro's in-house webinar project?

Mr. Yoshida:
Many SEs are now facing the problem of "what value can we propose and realize to our customers?" Twenty years ago, "IT engineers provide systems" might have been enough, but in the midst of rapid market changes, it is no longer such a simple story. It is at a crossroads that must change, including not only delivering the system, but also know-how for customers to operate the system comfortably, proposals, and practice of new methods. I think so.

However, SE "only" cannot easily break away from the conventional method. Therefore, in 2020, with the cooperation of ITmedia, we worked to raise the awareness of ITmedia Inc. outside the company so that customers could request that the system be delivered by such means.

Thanks to that, customers have come to say, "I want you to do it in a new way with a tool called Exastro." However, perhaps because of this, the understanding of external recognition within the company did not reach, and we fell into a situation where "the company cannot fully respond to the demands of our customers."

● Visualize issues and build content through “market research” unique to the media

--Since the balance of cognition inside and outside the company was upset, it was necessary to strengthen internal communication regarding Exastro.

Mr. Yoshida: Yes, that was in 2021. There was a problem that NEC engineers wanted to be able to answer with their specialized knowledge regarding not only the tool called Exastro but also the digitization, automation, and labor saving of system construction and operation.

--What kind of proposal did Mr. Uchino, who was in charge of the webinar project, make in response to this issue?

Mr. Uchino:
I was also feeling about the changes in the roles of SI companies and SEs that Mr. Yoshida talked about. As the era becomes DX, it is required not only to maintain the operation of the system but also to create what kind of value from it. We are in an era where SI operators must change their business models, not just building what they are told, but also making proposals that "this way we can make something more useful for business." increase.

However, the reality of large companies is that operations are still centered on manual work, and the overall picture is difficult to understand due to personalization. Infrastructure engineers and SEs haven't evolved much either. I thought that I had to look at the actual situation once and change it. I got the impression that this kind of awareness of issues as a medium matches Mr. Yoshida's awareness of issues.

Therefore, the idea that I thought about as a plan was to "start by determining the actual state of operation." First, NEC will conduct a questionnaire survey of readers to determine what problems are preventing companies from reforming their operations, then determine what kind of support NEC can provide and how companies can change by receiving such support, and build the results into the webinar content.

NEC Corporation (NEC) Exastro Initiative Conceptual Diagram
For the proposal from Uchino, we conducted a questionnaire targeting @IT readers.
The idea was to promote understanding of Exastro within NEC after looking at the "actual state of corporate operations."

First of all, we focused on "operation automation," which is the core of infrastructure operations, and asked what the actual situation and issues are. As a result, the fact that "how the operation is going around, that is, the entire process is not visible" emerged. In addition, issues such as the inability to take inventory of operational processes and the inability to standardize after taking an inventory have become apparent.

Mr. Yoshida: We had originally worked with ITmedia through the external enlightenment of Exastro since 2020, and we were assured that they understood the goals we were essentially trying to achieve. They also gave us a sense of issues and awareness of the issues that our team is working on, such as "what to do with the entire Japanese industry" and "what to do globally."

Mr. Uchino:I had the impression that NEC was a waterfall type organization that steadily proceeded with things, but Mr. Yoshida's team is an agile type that "proposes value while running alongside the user company on an equal footing". It was interesting for us as media to discover once again that a team with such a mindset exists in a large SI company like NEC.

● Recognizing market changes, SE awareness has changed significantly

--- You held the webinar three times, led by Mr. Uchino. How did you feel about the content?

吉田氏:ウェビナーの事前アンケートですが、私たちが業界全体を捉えるきっかけになりました 。社内の多くのメンバーがそうなのですが、目前の技術や仕事が中心となり、なかなか業界全体を捉えきれません。そこを手助けする形でウェビナーを進めたことが、企画成功のポイントだったと思います。かなり好評でしたし、「勉強会の資料を提案資料として活用していい」と話したところ、早速その資料を持ってお客様に提案する社員もいました。

As a result, even for customers who have been difficult to approach until now, it has become a good start thanks to the fact that customers and NEC can now share the concept of digitalization, automation, and labor saving of new operations and construction. I did. I think it was great that we conducted a market research as a media, which was also proposed by ITmedia Inc., and made the content convincing based on the results.

Mr. Uchino: As you said, constructing a project based on facts was the most effective way to make it persuasive. I think it was also very good that I was able to dig deeper into the contents by changing the theme little by little each time.

● The title of the webinar
Part 1: The No reduction in load, no reduction in cost, no scripts to help. What to do? -How to Rescue from the "Operational Dark Side"-
Part 2: ServiceNow x Exastro Integration -Toward Advanced Automation of IT Operations Management-
Part3: The Current State of System Construction/Operation Automation from a Case Study
-Talking from NEC's point of view! How to overcome the challenges -
Generally, these advertising-related projects are basically one-off, but if they are one-off, they often end up with "I'm glad I did it."

Considering that we will steadily raise awareness within the company or continuously increase loyalty to external customers like this time, we will continue to implement one theme and build relationships. I think the deepening approach is very effective. Even if it is the same product, for example, the method of appealing is different for management, business division manager, and on-site, so it will be easier to make a very effective appeal when it comes to continuous planning like this time. I think it could be one of the showcases.


● Significance of media entering the in-house study session webinar

--- You held the webinar three times, led by Mr. Uchino. How did you feel about the content?

Mr. Yoshida: It's a personal story, but I appreciate that Mr. Uchino's presentation ability is very high and he has been a high-level facilitator. In addition, the inclusion of the media was a positive result in that there were ideas and reactions that did not occur with NEC alone. Even if the same theme was planned within NEC, I don't think it would have responded as it does now.

Mr. Uchino: I was also talking to Mr. Yoshida, and I feel that I made new discoveries and learned a lot. After all, we had a high awareness of the market and the actual situation of the user companies, so we also seriously proposed a plan that would lead to the solution of that problem. In that sense, I think that the idea could be sublimated because of Mr. Yoshida's existence.

--What kind of changes have you made to the people who attended the webinar three times?

Mr. Yoshida: As a result of repeating the questionnaire three times, we were able to grasp the market with certainty, such as the percentage of the automation level of system operation gradually increasing, and the awareness of the participants changed. Until then, the perception that the market would be changing was able to quantitatively visualize the signs, so I think that the consciousness that "we have to tell our customers about this change" has sprung up. I feel that the changes are now bearing fruit.

--- You mentioned earlier that you can now approach companies that you couldn't approach before, but please tell us more about the spillover effect.

Mr. Yoshida: NEC has a track record of development, construction, and operation in all industries and industries. We believe that by raising the internal recognition of Exastro and the accompanying digitization, automation, and labor saving, it will spread to all industries at once.

Mr. Uchino: It's been more than five years since ITmedia launched DX, but even if you look at the questionnaire, it seems that DX has hardly progressed. It's not that it hasn't progressed at all, but it hasn't spread throughout the company, and it hasn't led to results.

In that respect, I think this Exastro was an opportunity to broaden the base of automation efforts. Therefore, if the company-wide expansion or the activity spreads to related companies, I feel that it will be a kind of detonator to advance DX.

● I want to continue contributing to increasing the value of the IT industry and engineers

--Finally, please tell us about NEC and the outlook for Exastro.

Mr. Yoshida: When I get lost, I use the word "Sampo Yoshi" as a checklist, and I really want to promote this "Sampo Yoshi".

NEC Corporation (NEC) building image

One is SE, which delivers cutting-edge technology. I myself am included, but SE, which delivers cutting-edge technology, is cool, and I am proud that it is a wonderful job, and work comfortably.

The other is companies and customers who need the system, or those who want to provide services using IT. I want to contribute to the improvement of their business value through the work of SE, and they will be satisfied with the value and will be able to utilize IT in the true sense of the word. In the words of Mr. Uchino, DX can be promoted, which is another good point.

The last one is the world. The point is how the world sees it. When there are SEs who provide cutting-edge technology and people who are increasing their business value with DX, I think the public has the impression that being involved in systems and IT is cool and longing. If that perspective changes, the value of engineers in society will increase, which may lead to economic results and improve social status. I hope that Exastro will lead to such a society.

Mr. Uchino: Until the 1990s, IT might have been thought of as something that would make work a little easier or help reduce costs, but today, an equation like IT = business model holds. increase. Along with this, I think that the role of engineers has changed from developers to "people who think about profits and business models."

Therefore, as you know, many American engineers are treated like major league players, but in Japan they have not reached that level yet. However, in some cases, the value of engineers is evaluated correctly, and the momentum for those people to aim, develop their creativity and play an active role is increasing, so we will spread new methods by Exastro and further improve the value of engineers. If it can be realized, I think that Japan as a whole will change significantly.

■ About NEC Corporation
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Social public works, social infrastructure business, enterprise business, network service business, global business
■ About Exastro

Exastro is an open source software suite aimed at digitizing, automating, and labor-saving the system life cycle (design, development, configuration, and operation).
It streamlines SE work, which is often done manually, and supports your DX.

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