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VMware’s CIO team recently conducted a fireside chat in which they discussed the current state of VMware IT and IT in general.

What’s changed?

IT used to be a back-office function that was buried in the corporate bureaucracy, a fact that gave engineers little say in initiatives or an ability to be creative. All that has been radically altered thanks to the cloud, mobile, and other advances—and for the better. Today, IT is judged on its contribution to the enterprise (including revenue generation) and how teams can make a real difference to every colleague.

A daring approach

Meeting these new demands meant significant & wholesale changes regarding our approach to IT, and that started with a colleague-centric focus. Our engineers are empowered to maximize the end user experience, to be aggressive in ideas/initiatives, and to have the luxury of failing and not be punished for it. We also eliminated the traditional opaque nature of IT—there are no longer middle layers of bureaucracy isolating teams from ‘the real world’ of the enterprise.

Now IT teams collaborate with business units, colleagues, and even customers during development processes. Products and services are designed to meet particular needs, rather than what we think the needs are or think is cool. We’ve banished the ‘not invented here syndrome’ thanks to an emphasis on employing VMware products unless a third-party solution proves superior (and then we explore why that is the case!). Internal staff meetings actively involve all stakeholders, including the business IT function (often referred to as shadow IT). In order to expand abilities and obtain a 360-degree perspective, team members are frequently moved into new positions in different departments. And to avoid burnout and make teams as productive as possible, primary leaders are only directly responsible for their geographical region, with local secondary leaders handling day-to-day duties in their specific time zone.

And then there’s the technology

When it comes to the actual technology, we strive to find the best solutions, not just the most cost-effective ones. We actively hire people who know technology inside and out, not non-tech people who view current trends as the bellwether. This is a crucial difference as any enterprise that waits for the latest tech wave is already three years behind. Innovation is the driving factor, and that applies to new products as well as existing ones. In fact, our teams obsess over the smallest details, such as introducing better solutions for conference room cables/connections that guarantee immediate colleague productivity. That innovation is hardly passive, by the way. Oftentimes our automated artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) efforts proactively resolve issues before a colleague even notices something is wrong.

And then there are our cloud initiatives. VMware run the largest private cloud in the world, which is why we replaced globally scattered (and siloed) IT personnel with a single team, creating a central location for requests. This shift also enables us to fix bugs immediately when discovered and add features on-the-fly. Likewise, our entire approach to security was revamped. Now the security function interacts with every business unit from the start of a project, with a special emphasis on the colleague experience. Released products & solutions are highly secure before any APIs or similar are deployed Colleagues always realize a seamless experience, without wondering if their connections are safe or having to retrofit intrusive security patches.

In summary, IT has moved out of background to become an integral player in enterprise success. But that responsibility required rethinking the entire IT function, including adapting to all-new (and ever-changing) technologies and implementing a colleague-first approach.