Sounds like the start of a bad joke, but in reality, I was delighted to bring together my IT team to discuss how we can continue to improve upon collaboration, innovation, and agility. But don’t worry, I brought plenty of my own bad jokes.
Humor aside, this was an opportunity to gather my leadership team for an open conversation on how we can best succeed in the coming year. IT leaders within their respective enterprises have three jobs critical to success: Execution, innovation, and effective guidance of their teams. So what does an IT team need to do to accomplish these three items; how do you continue to inspire, scale, and win?
For my team at VMware, I offer the following.
- Do what we say we’re going to do.
IT is the nerve system of the company. We are responsible for keeping things running. This doesn’t just consist of keeping the lights on, but also delivering on promises of innovation and new ways to help employees work stronger.
- Be the voice of the customer.
Who is actually using our stuff? IT needs to think of the customer, not just the head of sales. But we won’t be able to be successful until we know what the people actually using the product (read customers) want. But also keep in mind that an obsessive reliance on “internal customers” can lead to bad behavior; when we work for the same company, we’re peers. Then we need to take those learnings and experiences and incorporate them into the products we ultimately deliver.
- Integrate what we know into product development.
Historically relegated to a back office role, IT is now proving to be so much more than merely a general and administrative budget sucker; a business without IT will not survive today. As IT increasingly becomes part of the business, we need to align much more closely with product development. Essentially, we are helping build the products the end-users really want.
- Focus on the talent.
This one is easy, although perhaps easier said than done. Hire, retain, and reward the best people, while remaining consciously broad in diversity. We also need to focus on technical talent. Let’s not forget what we’re here for – putting the Technology back in IT. We can achieve this by maintaining our energy and commitment to millennial talent, because they are the upcoming generation of leadership. But we also cannot fall into trap of ageism either. Obviously, we also need to do better in hiring women and under-represented minorities. The talent is out there. Let’s make this a business imperative so they’re encouraged and driven to work for us, instead of those other tech companies out there.
- Think about your colleagues.
Be impatient. Things should work. And this will come as no surprise as we all start to get cranky when we have to wait for items we’re expecting. Take collaboration up a notch by developing a direct line to end-users. Work directly with people instead of trying to have a third-party translating presumed needs. We’ve all played the game Telephone; it never ends well.
- Think LEAN
We need to remain agile, and I am not referring to agile software development. Toyota originally introduced LEAN for manufacturing – go directly to voice of end-user for feedback so you don’t waste cycles of productivity. We’re introducing to that in IT with our definition of agile dev/ops. Be flexible. Move faster. Challenge “standard” processes. Eliminate the mindset that some things just take us a long time.
- Stay up on macro trends.
Be aware of your surroundings. Macro trends are trends for a reason. Why are people following them? Why aren’t we? Sometimes the answer is because it’s not right. Just ensure that decisions are based on awareness, knowledge, and informed risk.
- Give back to the IT community.
History will someday document this period as the Silicon Valley gold rush. Let’s extend the legacy. Very few 49rs made their mark by striking gold. We are creating incredible wealth by developing the ecosystem, just as Levi Strauss did by creating his miner work wear. From there, let’s work on giving back to community so everyone benefits – using tech for the good of all and spreading the knowledge.
- Execute on digital transformation.
For VMware, this is delivering on SaaS. Software is now a service. We must not only enable the delivery our software products, but also continue to excel at the service we provide.
- The HOW matters.
How we execute and deliver matters. How we behave and how we show up embodies our beliefs. And at VMware we believe in EPIC2 values:
- Execution: Discuss. Get it done.
- Passion: Fuel the curiosity and pursuit of the seemingly impossible
- Integrity: Say what we do and do what we say.
- Customers: Make it possible for customers to meet their toughest challenges.
- Community: Give more.