CIO Innovation and the Modern Data Center: Brian Lillie, CIO, Equinix

CIO's must evolve to meet the needs of sophisticated business users. In this episode, Brian Lillie, CIO of Equinix, explains how a CIO can play a strategic, customer-facing innovation role in a large technology company.


Mar 20, 2015

Brian Lillie is Chief Information Officer for Equinix. He leads the Global Information Technology function, including Global Software Development for products and the Global Solution Architecture function. Here is the discussion agenda for our conversation with Brian (prepared by Michael Krigsman):

Equinix CIO, Brian Lillie: Discussion Agenda


  • Tell us briefly about your professional background
  • Tell us briefly about Equinix?
  • Who is your target market?

Data Centers

  • Data centers seem like an arcane topic, so we need to learn more about what’s happening there
  • Why should we care about data centers?
  • What is the impact and importance of data centers?
  • What is the data center state of the art?
  • Where do you see this going?

CIO Role

  • What is the appropriate role for a CIO?
  • You have said the CIO should value by bringing technology to business strategies
    • What do you mean by the CIO has a “helicopter view” of the enterprise?
    • How can a single person do this effectively across every business function?
  • Explain the nuts and bolts of how you work with other parts of the organization?
    • What are the challenges of working across departmental or functional boundaries?
    • How do you overcome these challenges?
  • You are responsible for customer-facing portal products
    • What precisely is your role here?
    • Why does the CIO own this?
    • What were the benefits and challenges of making this happen?
  • Where does culture fit into all of this?
    • What is the role of culture?
    • How can a CIO recognize dysfunctional aspects of the culture?
    • What are examples of when culture does not work?
    • How do you change culture?
    • What are the benefits of doing so?
    • What are the attributes of an optimal culture inside IT?


  • What does innovation mean to the CIO and IT?
    • How can a CIO drive innovation?
    • What are the challenges?
    • What do you think of the concept of “two-speed IT” – when part of IT focuses on speeds and feeds and a separate part actually innovates?
    • What are the most significant challenges you face in delivering innovation rather than being just a supplier of infrastructure?
    • Do you have formal innovation programs in place?
  • What are your metrics for success?
    • (From an innovation perspective, metrics like system uptime are insufficient, for example)
  • Do you work with startups as an extension of your corporate innovation efforts?


  • What advice do you have for CIOs who want to develop greater innovation capabilities within IT?
  • Please share practical advice to help innovators who face resistance when introducing change?



(00:03) The world of CIO’s, data centers. The role of IT is all changing and today on episode 103 that’s what we’re talking about with Brian Lillie, who is the CIO of Equinix a large data center provider.           

(00:27) I’m Michael Krigsman and as always I’m here with my co-host Vala Afshar. Hey Vala, how are you?


(00:34) Michael I’m doing well and I’m super excited to learn from one of the best and brightest CIO’s in the world, so really happy to have this show today.


(00:45) Well Vala this show metaphorically speaking is in your neck of the woods, because it’s all about data centering, networking and hardware, but we are actually talking about the IT issues though and culture issues.


(00:56) Absolutely, looking forward to it and Brian thank you so much for being our 103rd guest and we would love to learn a bit briefly about your background.


(01:10)Sure, so first of all I am honored to be the 103rd and you know 2015 is going to be a big year for me because I’m going to work super hard because I want to crack that top 100. I mean that’s my goal and I’m going to reach it one day – sort of like a fortune 103rd list.

(01:30)I actually started to think about, why the 103rd? And then I realized that you guys are so smart. You’re so cutting edge, and we have 103 data centers around the world!! That was why you did it. It’s amazing. You guys are amazing.


(01:50)You know we weren’t going to say anything because we didn’t want to embarrass you, but you nailed it.


(01:57)You know it’s a marketing genius on this call. So first of all thanks for having me here. I looked at your CXO-Talk list and I do honestly feel thankful to be part of the list. You know even 103 I still feel special and so thanks for having me today.


(02:22) You’re very welcome. Can you give us a little bit of background information and certainly company information for our guests as well.


(02:29) Sure, so Equinix we’re going on about 16 years old and we are global data center platform. We have these 103 data centers around the world. But more than the data centers we actually protect connect the digital economy,I mean that’s what we’re really trying to do.

(02:50)And you know the secret sauce of Equinix besides having highly reliable state of the art data centers is we have an interconnection fabric that is really second to none. We have close to 150,000 interconnections and those are cross connects, either physical or virtual, where companies that are our customers connect to each other to really moved forward digitally commerce and we feel blessed to be sitting in the middle of that and actually able to see what’s happening, like who’s connecting to who, where the growth is.

(03:31)You know, we started 15 years ago with this network ecosystem, we have over 1000 carriers in our facilities and that’s where it all started. Then what followed that with the content guys who said, hey – including Yahoo and others, who said, hey if I could put my content next to those carriers I could reach eyeballs all over the world at very low latency.

(03:54)So they were the first to figure it out, and then the second to figure it out were our financial services firms and they said, hey if I live within Equinix I can put my services close to these low latency links and connect to each other, which is why we have many of them matching engines and exchanges within our facility.

(04:15)And then the latest boom that we’re seeing is Cloud. Cloud, it is perfectly suited for Cloud providers to sit right next to these carriers and cross connect into the pipes that reach the people.

(04:33) So Cloud is our fastest growing vertical. We have over 500 cloud providers in our facility. And so what this all means for enterprises, which is sort of where I’m excited because yes, we’re a service provider but I’m the enterprize CIO, and I’m trying to help Equinix grow, and scale, and be efficient and successful as a company is as enterprises come in and they can actually leverage – not only the network connectivity, but they can leverage the Cloud connectivity and really create this new enterprise look which is where most of the traffic is actually going out to the Cloud versus going to some corporate data center.

(05:15)So it’s what I learned from my buddy – he’s no longer there but Bechtel (Gary Ramblett? 05:22). He said don’t bring the network to your data, bring your data to the network. And that’s really what we’ve been doing here.


(05:31) So Brian, data centers are a very specific and for many people, kind of an archaeon subject unless you’re involved in that segment of technology. So give us a little bit of background on why data centers are exciting today, because there is a lot happening in data centers because of cloud and the other things I’m talking about.


(05:59) It’s a good question because you know it’s funny, before I was here I was at VeriSign and I really hadn’t heard much of this company and I have been here almost 7 years and I learnt a lot about the inner workings of the Internet. You know, we have access to almost 99% of the Internet routes through our facilities.

(06:22)And so when I think about data centers being exciting, you know that’s just a sort of a funny sentence because in my previous experience it was the building, it was sort of segregated, sort of lights out. Maybe a handful of people there, you know a a lot of security and frankly not really exciting.

(06:45) But if you go into the sort of data centre of the future, whether it is ours that in the retail space, which means we have many many customers in one place. Or you go into a Facebook major facility they are pretty exciting. They’re technology and innovation, and they are where the bits sit and traverse and connect.

(07:11)And so it’s exciting to see you know the digital economy or the digitization of the world – not just of the enterprise but of the world happen. And a lot of it is happening in these interconnected data centers. And so to me it’s exciting, because I’m fortunate I get to have our infrastructure there and take advantage of it, but it is also exciting to see people connect to each other and use that to move their business forward.

(07:39) Examples could be Hulu or Netflix or Foursquare. Those are all customers that set within our walls and deliver their amazing services through the network pipes that we also host, as well as through each other. You know, they may be directly connected to Amazon like in the case of Netflix for its services to run its wonderful service.

(08:05) So I think that’s what makes it exciting, is to see our customers innovate and for us to be a part for making that happen.


(08:13) Sure, Brian, if you look back five years ago compared to today, you know what does a state of the art data center look like?


(08:26) Well it’s interesting there, and I can certainly describe what ours looks like and I think there are some trends that are consistent. So you know, one example would be really intelligent cable tray layout for your connectivity. Whether it’s video or audio, or a high rate data cables are separate, you’ll see that they are very intelligently laid out so you can quickly swap and connect to the service you want to swap and connect to. That’s one.

(09:02) Second one is at least in ours we have this thing and we call on the runway lights. They’re blue and the sort that makes you feel that you’re at a disco. Down the hallway it is this blue lighting and very efficient lighting. One of our goals is to be energy efficient and drive down ‘Pew-wee’, which is a measure of data centers efficiency.

(09:24)You know, so green and being eco-friendly is pretty high on our list and that is an example of that. Then in our case you know, this is borne from pragmatism, where you know, if you’ve been in IT and you’ve slogged servers around, or switches, routers, cables or whatever come you know that you spend a lot of time there. And so what we’ve done is, we’ve tried to make it feel a little bit cool, and a little bit like alone.

(09:52)So for example, when you walk in we’ve a big red silo, and in that red silo it’s a beautiful structure. But in that silo are you know video games, coffee bars, and you know there is Wi-Fi throughout, places you can plug in, and can configure your gear - you know, containers with nuts and bolts.

(10:13)You know, just little things that make it – again born from pragmatism. Make it a better place to work, a better place to hang out, and it’s always fun when I go in. I give tours to college kids, and you know they meet in there and engineer from Facebook, or engineer from Google or engineer from Hulu. And it’s pretty exciting for them to know that you know the cloud isn’t this sort of without shape, a Morpheus thing. It’s actually data centers that are highly connected to network.


(10:48)So is that what makes a datacenter sexy?


(10:51) Yeah, that and you know some of the people that work there. You know, it’s a little bit of both.


(10:59) What are some of the future trends that you see. Are you seeing more modular to fixed form factor in terms of the technology that powers the datacenter? Are the more energy efficient technology that your researching and investigating? Where do you see the top trends?        


(11:16) Yeah, I think that when you look at economizers – again, this is from greening you know. Also you know in certain states you get significant rebates for technologies like that. Solar is still hard because of the vast amounts of power that we need to generate. And certain states again have incentives to do that.

(11:44)Some of the technology we call it hot and cold air containment. You know, if you look at how the equipment is laid out, you’ve got a hot side and a cold side so, there are a lot of technologies on how do you minimize the hot air spill over to the cold air and vice versa, and actually vent that out and again efficiently. We’ve seen, and what is really kind of cool is that in these datacenters we try out those things all the time.

(12:17)So we try out new materials to do this, whether it’s malleable material or fixed. We see new technologies on the power generation side that we are constantly looking at. We have great partnerships with the big guys that you could imagine. We actually would like to see more innovation in that.

(12:39)Especially more innovation and more innovation again, in the retail space, because it’s a different problem you know you are trying to solve when you’re making a single purpose datacenter, for a single application, you can highly optimize it for that layout, and for that single application and that is driven by a particular customer – cloud player.

(12:58)But if you’re in a sort of a retail space where it is more like an airport, or it’s the on ramps and off ramps and you’ve got gates and all that were, not all planes are the same. So you can only optimize so much before you start to get into the custom build of the company that is using it.

(13:19)So, we have to do the balance and it is a balancing act.


(13:24) So Brian, we’ve been talking about datacenters, but you’re the CIO of Equinix, so let’s talk about the CIO role. What do you see is your role inside the company as CIO?


(13:43) Well, yeah, it’s a great role. So as I said I’ve been here about seven years, and when I came in they viewed that as this could be a potential limiter to grow. If you look at the original post when I joined, that was sort of a comment was, how do you build and scale Equinix, and that was one. The other one was, how do you connect with customers in a more meaningful way. And that’s not just through technology, it’s also through in just communicating back best practices.

(14:24)So I break it down into sort of four things. One is sustaining you know operational excellence. So you don’t get the right as the CIO to do much innovation or maybe some of the fun things like spending time with the customers, you don’t get that right until you get the operational excellence right. So, I always tell my guys and gals that sustaining operations is job one, and you know we have to do that first and foremost.

(14:58)And then second is as I said, transformational excellence. And what I mean by that is when you’re growing at the rate that we’ve been growing, you know I joined when I think there was about 900 employees – maybe 800 and we are now at 4300. So the growth in employees is somewhere in 800 or 900 million in revenue, we exited at around 2 ½ billion in revenue somewhere in there. So the growth has been significant.

(15:32)And so transformational excellence is all about how do I transform business process and business systems to support a scaling, growing global company. And you know, there is a number of initiatives in there that we’ve taken on in the past and we are still taking on to do just that.

(15:52) The third part of my role is innovation excellence. So you know the team has really focused on innovating, and you know when I think about cloud exchange which is the most recent example, that’s never been done before and writing the software and API enabling the cloud exchange, is just one example of innovation.

(16:16) We have a number of others, and will be contributing pretty heavily to open source here in the not too distant future. And so innovation is sort of in our blood, and I’m not a believer that you said a side and innovation team and that’s what they do is innovation. But that’s more of a mindset. And then the structural piece says, how do I create an environment where people can innovate, and not fear failure and not you know think that everything has to be 100% focused on a particular deliverable when we are trying something new.

(16:55) And you know, there is bounds to that but it’s a mindset and I am happy and proud to say that it’s alive and well here.

(17:04) And then, the fourth thing which to me underpins it all and the fourth element is organizational or people excellence. We have been able to attract real talent, and I think the reason we’ve been able to is partially because of the clear vision around transformation and innovation and that we’re serious about that. But, that we also know that we’ve got to be operationally sound.

(17:36) Because you know, is interesting, good people want to work in a place where there are surrounded by other good people, and they get to work on cool stuff and they get to innovate. And they get to feel like one person can make a difference.

(17:52) So to me, the talent and organizational excellence is critical and it’s not all here in the Valley. We have a bunch of proving people here in the Valley, but I’ve got a sizeable team in Singapore and a growing team in Brazil, where we acquired into Rio and San Palo. And you know talent is everywhere and you’ve just got to go and find it and inspire it.


(18:18)Having watched some of your other previous video and TV tube and writing, I get a sense that the fifth value might be business value excellence. You talk a lot about making sure IT and investment thesis and priorities are very well aligned with your business strategy. Can you talk a little bit about that?


(18:43) Yes you know that’s a fantastic question. I think that that tied in my four to sort of transformation. So here’s what we do, first of all absolutely we must focus on the value and the results delivered. We have a map, and it’s a Deloitte’s map I think, it’s called the enterprise value map, and the enterprise value map it’s a wonderful document. People should ask Deloitte for it, and I have it on my wall, and what it is it’s like an orb chart.

(19:26) And at the top of the orb chart is enterprise value, and then it’s broken down into its components and those components are revenue, or operating margins, or asset efficiency and I think the fourth one is like expectations.

(19:42)And underneath it it has the kinds of activities that can drive value into those buckets that drives enterprise value. And not only that, but down the left it has – and he is the kinds of things you can do.

(20:00)So when we do IT initiatives, we don’t even call them IT initiatives. Their business initiatives that are IT enabled. So I’m part of the ET and I report to the CEO and when we talk in our strategy sessions, we lay out the strategic priorities for the year or the next couple of years, and when I lay out the IT priorities, they map absolutely and are embedded in those initiatives.

(20:28)So for example, we just launched as you saw in the news, we launched a channel program. So we have a channel-based initiative in IT to support that, whether that is through systems or process re-engineering you know, or infrastructure, depending on again what it is what we are trying to accomplish.

(20:49) The second one, we just acquired NIMBO for hybrid cloud professional services that was allopathic towards professional services, and we are very interested in that space and we know we are going to do more, because our customers are asking us to do it. Well, professional services you know that’s a different operating model. So we have to make sure that whatever software solution and processes that we have, now support a professional services organisation.

(21:19) So to me we’re the enabler and a clear partner to the business in achieving the strategy that we set out, and all the way down to every engineer in my team, they get to see that mapping. And I think you would be impressed, you can talk to a software developer here in Sunnyvale, and he is a known JS developer and he’ll tell you how we are trying to drive cloud density in certain markets. And that’s an engineer, so super important.


(21:52) So Brian, you have spoken about the idea of a helicopter view of IT, that the CIO should possess this. Maybe elaborate on that.


(22:04) Yeah, that’s my military coming out on me, sorry. So what I meant is that in our role, if we sort of coin a phrase sort of lean into our role, we have a helicopter view of the enterprise. We’re very very fortunate that we get to work with and support all functions, all regions of all countries in the enterprise.

(22:40)And so it is a privilege to do that, and with that privilege comes responsibility, and responsibility is to speak up and step up. Right, it’s too when you see things that sometimes you’re a dot connector, right. You see this function over here talking about something that this function really needs to know about and what you find is that may be those functions don’t know or haven’t been talking.

(23:08)And so with this helicopter view, you get to connect the dots with functions. You also get to see what’s going on in Singapore, and maybe as a best practice, you know maybe that can really be used in Brazil, and vice versa. It would be hard for me to go back to a single function because of that view and that privilege that I have in this role, and I think it is also our responsibility and duty to do something with the information that we get.


(23:43) So you as the CIO and the helicopter pilot but it must require a culture of open-minded, collaborative IT organisation in order to connect all the dots. I’m assuming you empower your team to make sure that when you do have that upper view, you also have the opportunity to exchange ideas and welcome suggestions, and go from what some traditional CIOs may be blamed as CI Knows, which is something I’ve heard you say to CIOs in organizations that may not default to yes, but are certainly open to you know making sure that they are listening and collaborating. Is that a fair few of how you have to achieve success if you are going to connect the dots?


(24:29) Yeah, you know it’s funny, I have a phenomenal team starting from this handful of vice presidents all the way down and I would say probably one of the most open and collaborative environments that I have ever worked in. I think it comes from a basis of trust, you know it’s the whole five dysfunctions of the team and what’s the bottom slayers trust. And I think if you have trust it’s amazing what can get done. You know, trust equals speed, trust equals sharing. Trust equals the ability to connect the dots and yes, be open to ideas.

(25:27)You know, sometimes I sit back and I watch you know my team with the business, because they are mapped in the business and it’s really quite fun to watch. You know, this morning we were in our data 10 of a big UAT cycle. We have a probably 150 people around the world testing this transformation project. And, we have kick-off here at nine in the morning here, and we put up a couple of slides and one of the slides that we put up was International Happiness Day to day by the way.

(26:02)My buddy, and he came and spoke to us, Sean Acker of the Happiness Advantage. I put up that slide and said yeah, you know he reminded me that when he tweeted out today, and this whole notion of we’re on one team, and I’d rather work together – even if it’s their idea or not mine and let’s just be clear on that. I’d rather works together to solve a customer problem or you know compete with a company that we are competing with. Compete well and fairly and hard, then compete with each other.

(26:44) I think this sort of openness and dot connecting goes so much further than the other. And I’ve got on my wall, I think it was Lincoln who said, “it’s easier to catch a fly with a drop of honey versus a gallon of than a gallon of gall.” It’s just so much easier and better to be kind.


(27:12) So Brian, you are responsible for customer facing portal products, this is pretty unusual for a CIO to be facing outward in such a direct way. So maybe talk about that a little bit.


(27:29) Well that and it is interesting, it’s lovely actually. You know, I think there is a little bit of a blend of CIO/CTO role sometimes in certain companies. And I also think there is this notion of center of excellence. So when I came here, the real center of excellence that we built was in software. Whereas the CTO role was much more in network technology and switching fabrics and datacenter technologies and really in IT we had a centre of excellence around software.

(28:12)And as we built that we were able to attract some of these really talented software engineers. It became clear and made sense that me and this team should should own also software and that included customer facing because we treat our internal clients like customers and so it is a very similar mindset to engage our customers, to talk to them about what would make their lives better, what would make it easier. How do you get them to you know become more sticky customers so that they actually integrate your platform with there is. And we are sort of experts at integration.

(29:04)And so when you think about SaaS apps, you know we have about 40 SaaS apps that we use here to run Equinix. And then we’ve got probably you know 20 or 30 and I don’t even know how many on prem, and we have to integrate with SaaS with on prem. Well it’s sort of similar with integrating outside the walls of the enterprise with your customers to your on-prem and you could do that through portals where you have a person sitting in front of it, and your engaging them in the user experience and doing all those things.

(29:35) Or you can do it programmatically via API’s, but it’s the same notion and if you do follow those principles of you know user/customer engagement, getting them involved in the design, getting them working with you and listening to them. Having direct links – we have for example a mail alias called portal feedback.

(30:02)Every single comment from a customer comes in and I read every one of them. They come in and there is a bunch of people on that and a bunch of action that gets taken, but it keeps my finger on the pulse of what’s going on with our customers. And I think that is an exciting part of my job, and I think we feel absolutely part of the product strategy and the company strategy. And I really think it’s a really nice mesh with the enterprise systems side of IT.


(30:37) So you know, you talk about collaboration and internal coordination, and you certainly sound like you absolutely believe that thought leadership exists in the field, and the fact that you read all the emails and you proactively seek feedback. Talk to us a little bit about the role of culture, company culture in not only enabling your four pillars of excellence, but helping Equinix become a successful company and certainly you, a successful CIO.


(31:12)You know, the success of my team I’ve had is because of the company that we are a part of. You know, I love this company and the time I’ve spent here has been fantastic. And when I think of the role of culture, you know there was two founders J Adelson who I also think founded The Dig and Al Labrie has passed away, but it really started with these two guys.

(31:47) And it’s a great story about you know a facility and a tech guy in digital had this idea and it started in Palo Alto in the Palo Alto Internet exchange, and it’s a great story. And one of the early people that they hired was a man named Peter Van Campe. PVC as we affectionately call him is our chairman of the board is still actively involved. He sits right across the hall away from our CEO, and you know, they share an executive assistant. And we talk about everything.

(32:28) And it really all started with PVC. He is such a graceful and genuine human being and really gets sort of the potential of people. And the people that he hired, you know those original people here are people like Keith Taylor our CFO, Brandi Galvin Morandi, our general counsel. Pete Ferris our chief customer officer. These people you know, really do embody sort of the spirit of openness, collaboration, friendship, kindness. Hard work – there’s no question, but just a lot of good things.

(33:15) And then what happened is it’s interesting, because as they brought people in its harder to keep that sort of culture that you have as a start-up, but you have to nurture it. I call it you know, what I’m the keeper of is the cultural flame for IT, that it needs to be you know a part, a team member of this Equinix family. And you know culture to me is everything, it’s everything and it can really really be a competitive advantage or it can be a cancer. And for others I think it’s a competitive advantage.


(33:55) So Brian, in a nuts and bolts way how do you implement, execute this view of culture, what are the steps that you actually take?


(34:15) I think one thing you have to be is consciously competent, right you have to be aware and awake and take it seriously. But I also think you know Michael friend, Ralph Loura, who’s the CIO over at HP. You know, Ralph said I found this really cool culture deck and I liked it and it was from LinkedIn and I floated it out on LinkedIn and I shared it. You know, what Ralph said, it’s not about slide ware or slogans on the wall, it’s about how our people behave.

(34:56) And so when you talk about putting in a process around culture, I think the first thing you want to do is make it top of mind and also write it down. You know it’s this whole thing of about norms and what’s okay and what’s not okay. You know our CEO is an ex West Pointer, Steve Smith he says you know leaders get the behaviour they tolerate. And you know, there is just behaviour that is not acceptable, and then there is behaviour that is just what we want to see. Like you know we have this concept of a loyalist framework, and imagine the words if you mean them like this:

(35:43) I am as invested in your success as my own. That’s a pretty massive statement right? If I truly believe and I am invested in your success as I am my own, think about how selfless that becomes. We have operating norms, things like Grant Trust. I assume positive intent. These are all things that I’ll talk to you and not about you. You know, these are all small statements that really mean a lot and I think if you really live by them and then call people out when they don’t, I think it starts to build a culture that is both reinforcing.

(36:37) It can be somewhat aspirational because it’s hard and nobody is perfect, but it creates a place where again that trust is and where you have trust you have speed and sharing and openness, and collaborations.

(36:52)So I don’t know if there is a recipe Michael, but it’s a super important topic.


(37:02) Brian you said you come into the company where you said from 900 to 4500 employees in the six or seven years you have been there. When you look to hire a IT professional, whether there VP directly reports to you, or dev-ops or single contributor or single experts, what are some of the attributes that you look for when you bring in and welcome a candidate to your family?


(37:28) Well that’s another great question. I think well clearly they need to have the competence in the field that you need. You know, you can’t just have a you know a team of nice guys and gals that aren’t competent, right. There’s teams out there like that and while it sure seems like a happy place, and they never missed birthday cake, they may not get much done.

(37:57)So I think there’s a two by two – I’m not doing the Janet Jackson, I’m just saying there is a two by two. And the two by two is sort of ability or result or whatever, and then it’s what you did and the other is the how. And so if you break that two by two, you know it doesn’t get results and it does maintain the value as you fire them, right. And then if you are up in the other one, they get results and they do it where people flocked to there’s team. Those are your stars and you motivate, and it’s the other two that are sort of top in terms of coaching, because they get the results but they’re not living to the values.

You either have to do culture them over into that other quadrant, or likely they are going to be gone. Because you are not going to value your results over leaving dead bodies in your wake.

(38:47) And then the other one is you know, they really do embody the culture but they’re not getting the results. Well maybe they’re in the wrong job, maybe you can coach them into a new role etc. So that’s how we sort of maintain it for existing employees.

(39:05) For new, it’s a combination of the competency access, and then there is a set of I don’t know if you call them attributes, but it also might just simply be your responses to questions around – let’s talk about this scenario. And the scenario might be that you have a deliverable that must get done. Your teammate has a deliverable that they have to get done and they are in deep do do, you know what do you do?

(39:35)And then say what do you do in that hypothetical and then say give me an example of this in your past. It really will assure their tendency to help, their tendency to be a good teammate. You can ask them questions about what about your previous culture, did you like and what didn’t you like? And the kinds of answers that you get in those questions are pretty interesting, because you know, it can sort of be revealing of the character.

(40:13)So I think it’s more that then attributes, clearly the attributes of teamwork and collaboration and this openness notion that you mentioned. Also the passion to drive, because we can’t miss the market so we have to drive and you know, you can’t be afraid of working hard. But those are the kinds of things that we do, and it’s a really important question in how you hire.


(40:43) Brian we have just a couple of minutes left, so can you share a advice, talking about culture. Can you share advice to other CIOs that are in organizations that may not be as receptive or open to the CIO driving innovation? So in other words, how can a CIO drive innovation in the most effective and efficient manner with the results that are desired.


(41:18)Well I think and this is probably not the case for all CIOs, but most CIOs have a budget that has some room in it. And what I mean by that is – and why I said this might not be the case for all CIOs is some you know, manufacturing where you have penny margins and they live in a different world. But if you are in one what actually has some room there is a couple of things I think you can do.

(42:00)One is set aside some money for ideas. Set aside some time for some of your people to work in areas that there is not necessarily a application fit for it today, but there could be some relevance to where you’re going.

(42:26)The other thing is set aside some of your time, because I have four kids, and just like parenting you know vote with your feet. You know, it’s not what you say is what you do. So if you say you are really really really important to me, and yet you have never attended a school play, or you’ve never gone and seen them sing, or you’ve never coached team, you know you are saying one thing and may be doing another. So it’s the same thing with the CIOs time.

(43:00) If your calendar is jam-packed with meetings only up, or are meetings that are with vendor’s, or are meetings that have nothing to do with innovation then you are sending a message that is not important to you. So vote with your feet. Carve out some time, whether it is brown bag lunches or it shop on time – like I just spent 90 minutes this morning, because my team has a contribution to open source that they want to make, and I’m so glad I went. Frankly, it blew me away, and you know I spent 90 minutes of my time but it was so worth it and it didn’t cost me a penny, and a lot of it they did on their own. And, they said look at these five apps that you didn’t even know that we build on this framework and they built on it.

(43:54)So I think you’ll be surprised at what you can do that does not take a lot of money, it does not take a lot of people, and it doesn’t take a lot of time. It just takes attention, you just need to care about it, you know it just matters. And it got to the point now, here where the individual contributor engineers created a process called Spark-a-thon, and this spark-a-thon is an innovation process where ideas are like sparks. And they are sparking ideas all the time, and they are getting Raspberry Pi development kits where there are doing for 50 bucks or 100 bucks, they are saying hey, we can do a IOT collector, or hey we can do this that and the other. They’re coming up with ideas, some will go nowhere but some will very much go somewhere, and some will be potentially game changing and you have just got to care, but that’s what I would say.


(44:55) Michael, guess what? We made a massive mistake waiting for 103 to have Brian on the show. I’m telling you, I’m super inspired and I learned a ton from you in 45 minutes. Incredible insights and I hope you come back on the show.


(45:13) I will come back when you are at 203.


(45:19) Well at the rate you guys are going you’re going to have 200 data centers and I wouldn’t be surprised.


(45:27)You said it here.


(45:29) So Brian, you’re a pretty cool CIO so let’s see you with the cool sunglasses.


(45:34) okay, well let me see, how do these look?


(45:39) All right, very cool!


(45:41)Let’s go innovate.


(45:44) Vote with your feet, I love that.


(45:47) All right, so let’s innovate, and with that, we have been talking with Brian Lillie who is the CIO at Equinix on episode 103 of CXO-Talk. I’m Michael Krigsman, my co-host Vala Afshar. Vala, high five and everybody tune in next time because we are going to be back. Brian, thank you so much. Have a great weekend, bye bye.















Published Date: Mar 20, 2015

Author: Michael Krigsman

Episode ID: 103