Manage & Coach

Manage & Coach
Do you have a formal succession plan?

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How do you balance the desire to provide customer-centric IT with finite IT resources?

Top Answer : At Nutanix, our emphasis is on creating a delightful experience for our customers, who are our internal employees and users.  They’re located all around the globe.  Some of our main customers are engineering and sales. They constitute around 60-70% of the workforce. There are certain use cases that we have done for these employees to make their life easier. For example, a common thing that our engineers look for is VMs. So we have created an ability to quickly provision VMs to them by simply asking over Slack. Another use case is for Mac users especially. They often need Citrix VDI or the FRAME VDI option. So we have provided one easy way for them to go to our Slack bot and ask for those kinds of things. Our focus is always on how we can make our end users productive so that they in turn can do their basic job. We determine the customer experience by measuring it using NPS. Over the last three years, we implemented certain tools and technologies to improve the overall customer experience. And we have been watching it more closely on where we are going. There was a time where the growth was too much and so many users were coming and joining. It was very hectic. But just before that we implemented certain tools and technologies that helped us to overcome that additional work. We did increase some number of people but not at the same rate. The combination of these automations and some processes that we redefined really helped us in improving our customer experience. We did have some bumps in the customer experience, but we were able to quickly notice them and take corrective action.

Pulse Flash Read: Morale-as-a-Service?

There’s a lot of talk about IT leaders transitioning into business leaders, especially as the remote workforce situation gets dragged on into what’s starting to feel like forever. Classical representations of IT leaders tell us that emotional intelligence has perhaps not often been identified as their standout ability. While CIOs have been (hopefully) busy working on their emotional intelligence (by watching
TEDTalks, presumably), IT has increasingly turned to SaaS and outsourcing for many of the processes that used to be handled internally. A savvy CIO might be tempted to ask, could there be a SaaS that can help with the well-being of my remote team? It turns out that there are, and yet no one seems to have coined this obvious new marketable tool category: welcome to ‘Morale-as-a-Service’.  There’s an old adage that too often goes overlooked: customer service begins with employees. A motivated and enthusiastic team, driven by a positive mindset, translates to every customer interaction; it’s company culture personified into touch points. This feeling has recently morphed into the idea of ‘employee experience’, and, indeed, even the ‘Chief Employee Experience Officer’. But how do we know what the employee experience truly is?  We’ve become better at measuring the conversions of touch points and engagements into sales through click-throughs and open rates. Can we also measure morale? Some vendors think so. Culture Amp basically offers a continuous deployment platform for overseeing employee engagement and development, offering internal ‘Pulse’ (ahem) surveys that dive deep into employee psychology. Officevibe offers something called ‘Conversation Engine’, which saves managers time by outsourcing talking points, plus a suite of other features designed to engineer interaction into ‘actionables’—and they also offer ‘Pulse’ surveys (what is going on here?). There’s also TINYPulse (seriously?) that comes right out and promises that you’ll be able to “read employee thoughts and feedback in real time” (which we can only hope isn't actually true, but give the tech a few more years). Meanwhile, Achievers has trademarked something called ‘Culture Continuity’ as part of a three-pronged platform that assists teams to build a culture, ‘activate employee engagement in real-time’ and apply ‘data science’ to improve performance.  These vendors all promise metrics that sound desirable to team leaders, such as the ability to measure ‘happiness’ along trend lines. Who wouldn’t want that? The thing is, all the testimonials advocating for the software come from the team leads. It'd be interesting to hear more about the employee experience. Regardless, capturing employee morale should pique the CFO’s interest... When wellbeing metrics can be lined up against conversions and performance, they can be used to convince the CFO and the board to invest in measures that keep morale on the up; if there’s a demonstrable upswing on ROI, the checkbook may stay open. But there’s some murky potential here. If morale comes to be viewed solely as a metric of performance and ROI, the classic capitalist switch can be flipped to demand growth of that metric. Morale must be optimized. Morale-boosting factors must be iterated on. Those employees whose morale is lacking must be… let go? It’s logical to see a 1984 situation playing out with this. If employees can smile through physical/Zoom meetings they’d rather not be in, they can keep up that facade when they know the company wants to ‘measure’ their happiness. If morale can be accurately measured, that’s awesome. But the focus of those measurements should remain on the employees’ genuine well-being. If the business becomes obsessed with optimizing and rewarding morale for business gains, employees may learn what the stakes are and game the system—to the detriment of themselves and the organization: keep smiling through the grimace of another sleepless night hitting those KPIs until companies start wondering why morale scores are so high but the employee churn rate keeps spiralling upwards.  If metrics are what it takes to land some investment for improving employee experience, so be it. And if it actually helps identify employee pain points and improve on them, fantastic. But at the end of the day, the biggest factor that keeps morale up might be remembering that employees are humans—and humans need to feel crappy sometimes. They need to rest. They need to spend time making and eating nourishing food. That can be acknowledged in-house, at zero cost. Technology might be able to augment our understanding of morale, and even provide a framework for how leaders can manage it. But making morale-building an entirely tech-led process might end up missing the simple human requirements of what ‘employee experience’ is aiming for. Keep watching those Ted Talks. 

Have you invested in any ‘Morale-as-a-Service’ tools? Share your morale-boosting success stories, tech or otherwise, in the comments.

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Do you have a mentor within your organization?

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How can a CIO delegate business-facing activities to their team?

Top Answer : One of the roles I created was a business relationship manager to take on that lift. Another thing I did reasonably early on was a reorg, where I was really trying to figure out where the pieces fit so we could align ourselves into an agile or product-centric focus. We try to align each function to lines of business and specific products where we have that expertise. Then those managers that are in charge of those functions can carry on those business conversations. I had to sell my team on the vision, but I also took time to sell the business on that vision, and that went a long way. Everybody appreciates the fact that you have a plan. If you don't have a plan and you can't tell people where you're going or what you're trying to do, it doesn’t work.

IT certifications are overrated.

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How do you create a customer-centric IT strategy?

Top Answer : One of the things that I'm very intense about on my team is the user story. If you understand the user story and you articulate and confirm the acceptance criteria, you understand what's going to define success. Focus on the business value we're delivering. It's not just a thing we're doing simply to move items around a board. We are having an impact. So it's constantly putting yourself in the user scenario. It’s thinking about things in that user experience, in that journey. It's speaking in the ways that you hear a lot of product and design teams think today. And then speaking about and applying that, in our case, in business systems, because there is a lot of applicability there. Focusing on that user story is how we get the team aligned.

How are “next generation” CISOs approaching upskilling their team?

Top Answer : I think what I'm driving for as we look at 2021, is really well articulated training programs to advance the skillset. So our security engineers think like developers, and then they test hackers. And I think a combination of those two skillsets is the right combination, especially in relation to what the threat landscape is doing right now. We do a lot of advanced computing in the cloud and in containers. I've shifted our whole cyber focus, including our tabletop exercises. We do code resilience testing, to make sure that our products are stable. There's also a mindset shift that has to happen around the traditional way of doing security, to view it as a service. A service has to understand what that client, especially our developers and our engineers, needs. Evolving that thought process with your teams ensures the service fits what your internal customers are doing. Years ago, we were working on rightsizing the number of procedures we had, and actually making it more nimble for the developers and engineers. We've spent a lot of time automating the standards, so instead of the security policy sitting outside of the system, we've actually taken the requirements and embedded it in code.

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