Work Culture

CTO Reflections Four Months In

In my first four months as Field CTO for APJ I’ve crossed the Pacific ocean 7 times and the equator 9 times — living up to the standard line that the T in CTO stands for Travel. My travels have been a mix of customer meetings and VMware events. Some of these were CIO Forums, and I also attended several of the new “Evolve” events. The Evolve events  a rather like smaller, one-day versions of vForums. Each event has a focus on a specific pillar of VMware’s new solution-based approach to addressing customer issues. Each region customized the agenda and format to meet needs for their customers, and yet there were common themes across the events. Some events focused on “Modernizing the Data Centre”, while others tackled “Transforming Security”. The image below illustrates how those pillars sit in VMware’s overall strategy to help our customers pursue digital transformation.

My first Evolve event was the Transforming Security event in Melbourne, my new base of operations. (Coincidentally, the event took place on my first day as an Australian resident since 1985.) This was a well-organized and well-attended event, with over 300 attendees for the full day of presentations. These ranged from broad keynotes to technical deep dives on all the different ways VMware is working to improve the security of our customers’ data and applications, and their end-users. I presented the “locknote” (closing keynote), channeling the message developed by Tom Corn on how the technology that underpins modern clouds can itself be used to make any cloud secure.

The Solution-based Approach

I’m finding that the solution-based approach to describing what VMware can do for our customers is very refreshing. It shifts the focus from “let me tell you about our great product” to “help me understand your business problems and let’s work together to solve them”. In many respects, this feels completely natural after five years of working to position network virtualization with our customers. We generally couldn’t lead with a discussion of product features — we had to find a customer pain point, such as agility or security, and determine how to address it. In many cases, tackling such issues requires a collection of products and technologies, some of which are not even in the VMware portfolio. Consider, for example, how many of our discussions with customers today are about empowering their developers to be more productive. Such discussions often turn to how a developer’s adoption of Pivotal Cloud Foundry, Kubernetes, etc., and their respective ecosystems fit in with VMware’s offerings.

The value of a solution-based approach is also becoming apparent in my customer interactions. During a visit to Singapore I took part in a half-day workshop with a large bank, attended by the team responsible for delivering IaaS and PaaS to developers. We organized the meeting around the strategic pillars, and the response from the customers was fantastic. They had previously only been aware of VMware as a hypervisor company, but the capabilities that we demonstrated around transforming security and cloud management (as part of a “modernize the data center” session) clearly piqued their interest.

If I was to pick one other theme that has been common across many customer meetings, it is the focus on empowering developers. OpenStack, for example, comes up more often than I expected, but not necessarily as competition to VMware — rather because it’s a known way to provide developer-friendly IaaS. Consequently, VMware Integrated Openstack (VIO) is seen as a natural developer on-ramp for a software-defined data-center. There is also plenty of interest in vSphere Integrated Containers (VIC) as customers look to provide manageable, production-ready infrastructure for modern development environments.

It’s the nature of my job that I will mostly be focusing on long-term engagements with customers as we try to adopt a more strategic role with them. That means it’s a bit too early to measure the success of my first few months of engagement in the region. But I can certainly say that basing that engagement around the strategic priorities of the customers and the solutions we can offer looks to be a promising route to deeper customer relationships.