From Project to Product—The Corporate Products & IT Platform Team Creates the Best Employee Experience Through Dialogue

What are the necessary components to supporting Mercari’s long-term growth?

While there are a multitude of indispensable components to this, there is no doubt about the importance of upgrading our IT service infrastructure and operations. As a tech company aiming for the global stage, the shift to a new enterprise architecture is crucial. The reasons behind this are explained in the conversation between our CIO Hiroaki Shintani and CISO Naohisa Ichihara published on Mercan a few months ago.

In their conversation, they talk about the Corporate Engineering Team’s mission and roadmap for the next three years. In line with the Corporate Engineering Team’s newly set mission to unleash Mercari’s potential through technology and implementation, the team is currently working to upgrade three areas: IT service infrastructure and operations, application infrastructure and corporate systems, and the organization and its operations.

Following our recent interview with Hiroyuki Tanaka, manager of the Digital Center of Excellence Team, we sat down with Tsuyoshi Koizumi (@ISSA) who leads the Corporate Products & IT Platform Team to ask about his current undertakings and future vision for upgrading and using AI/LLMs in the corporate area.

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  • Tsuyoshi Koizumi

    Corporate Engineering Team Director. Tsuyoshi worked on the development of web groupware at LINKcom Inc. as a programmer, later moving on to being in charge of IT planning and business planning at Advantage Risk Management Co., Ltd. After working at M3 Digital Communications, Inc. and TeamSpirit Inc., he joined Mercari’s Accounting Products Team in September 2020 as a product manager. After experiencing various managerial roles within the Corporate Engineering Team, he assumed his current role of Director in March 2024.

Shifting from a bottom-up culture to a professional culture

—It’s been about six months since our new CIO took the post in October 2023. What is the current situation in the Corporate Engineering Team (CET)?

Mercari’s CET has a deeply-embedded bottom-up culture, where professionals adapted to the needs of the times to build the work systems of each company.

Before, our way of working was highly dependent on the skills of select individuals. However, if Mercari is to become an organization of 5,000, or even 10,000 people in the future, we have to reconsider how we think about our team members. To that end, we have been cultivating what we call a “professional culture” for the past two years. As people handling information systems, we need to come up with an ideal, share it within the team, move things along in the right way, and make sure our solution is properly installed within the organization as the fundamental way of working, all so we can deliver a stable work infrastructure.

That is why we revised our team member training policies and the methods of sharing our team direction. In the old CET, our members worked like a team of freelancers. Now, we have a work style that emphasizes teamwork, a style drastically different than before.

Collecting and centralizing data to directly contribute to Mercari’s businesses

—It seems that “upgrading” is a key word in CET’s roadmap. The three major plans are to upgrade the IT service infrastructure and operations, the application infrastructure and corporate systems, and the organization and its operations. How do you intend to go about achieving this?

Next quarter, we intend to deliver a single source of truth (SSoT) to manage all data-related accounts from a centralized system. This SSoT will serve as a reliable source of information and form the foundation on which all other systems will be integrated. This will greatly progress our problem-solving abilities in the company’s various internal systems.

For example, we intend to automate account-related tasks. These include issuing or suspending system accounts at the time of joining or resignation, and granting or revoking roles when account holders undergo transfers or reorganization. Centralizing data and using it as a basis will make our internal systems and work smoother for sure.

This infrastructure will not only solve existing problems, but also aid upcoming integrations that are inevitable whenever we introduce a new system. It will become the hub in the hub-and-spoke model, and a valuable asset of CET. It will be our legacy (in the positive sense of the word; the gift we leave behind).

Tsuyoshi Koizumi (@ISSA)

—Can you tell us what mission the Corporate Products & IT Platform Team is working to achieve?

I believe our major mission is to create platforms that can contribute to the business.

Business matters progress quickly in Mercari Group. We are able to experience things not easily possible in other companies over and over in a short period of time. Mercari Group sees the launch of new businesses every year, a fact demonstrated by the examples of Mercari Shops, Merlogi, Mercoin, and Mercari Hallo, all born one after the other in the span of a few years. From that perspective, our role should be more than just running IT services. We have to take the initiative to actively build and deliver the right platforms upon which businesses and services can operate.

The Corporate Products & IT Platform Team comprises three teams: Accounting Products, IT Platform, and People Products. Each of these teams aims to create platforms that can contribute to the business.

The Accounting Products Team is involved in the creation of new mechanisms whenever and wherever Mercari’s internal accounting processes are necessary, which is usually during the creation of a new service, such as Mercari Hallo, Eco-Mercari Shipping, and bitcoin payment.

The IT Platform Team has been responsible for creating the technical environments necessary for launching new businesses and services, such as building highly secure virtual desktop infrastructures (VDI) for customer service, or Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) environments needed for the birth of Mercard. The contribution of these tasks toward Mercari’s businesses is clear, and we will continue to prioritize them moving forward.

Finally, the People Products Team is in charge of developing and operating internal information systems such as the OKR and evaluation management system, Teams (a product for viewing the entire Mercari organization and the details of its members), Merportal (our internal portal site), and HISASHI the AI employee.

The OKR and evaluation management system, in particular, is a major mechanism in bringing out the potential in Mercari members.

—Your team also has a new initiative of using AI/LLMs. What are some of the ways you are using them?

Since the latter half of 2023, Mercari has starting focusing on incorporating AI/LLM technology into not only our product but areas group-wide. From this January, Corporate Engineering has stepped up to become a driving force in implementing AI/LLM technologies into our systems to improve internal work process.

Currently, we are working on a mechanism for answering light questions sent to accounting or HR-related teams automatically and in natural language by using AI/LLMs. The model will pick up on the essential points of users’ questions, automatically collect past Q&A data on internal platforms such as Slack and Merportal, and generate an answer based on the information available on Merportal in natural language with the aim of fundamentally changing our internal work processes.

Moreover, we organized a hackathon with the HR division to widen our scope on what can be done with AI/LLMs. The ideas born of this event proved useful in accelerating our efforts.

When considering work processes, using IT technologies is a given in this day and age. At Mercari, we hope to integrate IT and AI at a higher level, and even hope to one day make AI one of our regular work applications, just like Google Sheets or Docs.

From project to product—creating the best employee experience through dialogue

—Going forward, how do you intend to embody CET’s mission to unleash Mercari’s potential through technology and implementation?

My ambition is to move from project to product. For example, when the teams in charge of creating IT systems build an internal system, they should be able to clearly define requirements for the relevant work and teams, and follow those requirements. They should be able to say “the deprecation period of this system is X years, so we will change the system after X years.” I also don’t want our team’s work to be finished after creating a system. We should work as experts alongside business and operation teams to change work processes and the company itself.

The reason being, as experts with technological skills, I believe we can propose new solutions for these systems beyond what is possible with only knowledge of accounting and HR. This is what I believe a team should be able to accomplish.

I feel that the culture we have at Mercari allows us to create the systems that we feel are appropriate rather than simply what we were told to build. Since we are a revenue-earning company with a high standard for salaries, we can proactively invest in our internal systems. We are not held back by budgetary constraints, and can cooperate with other Mercari members to build the best employee experience.

It’s also quite pleasant to work with people who are willing to listen and understand when you explain your point, which is a must-have for creating the best employee experience. Even if there is a knee-jerk reaction at first, like someone saying they can’t use a specific system, or that they don’t want anything new to be built, we are able to resolve most of these cases through open dialogue. I feel that working with coworkers who are able to fully understand our intentions is key and will definitely make our future endeavors even more successful!

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