CIO Innovation Playbook: The 2018 Outlook

What does CIO innovation mean in 2018? Two top Chief Information Officers share practical strategies and advice for CIO innovation as we enter the year 2018.


Jan 12, 2018

What does CIO innovation mean in 2018? Two top Chief Information Officers share practical strategies and advice for CIO innovation as we enter the year 2018.

Diana McKenzie is chief information officer (CIO) at Workday. She oversees the company’s security and global information technology (IT) organization, with responsibility for the internal deployment of Workday products as well as other innovative technologies and programs that create a competitive advantage for the company and serve as best practices to IT organizations globally.

Yousuf Khan is CIO of Pure Storage. As the first to hold the role, Yousuf has helped Pure Storage scale infrastructure and processes through the fastest growth of any systems company in history. In addition to his instrumental role in the expansion and management of Pure’s internal infrastructure, Yousuf serves as a technical customer advocate, working closely with prospects and partners to provide strategic insight into challenging IT environments.


Michael Krigsman: It is Orange Friday.


Michael Krigsman: And, you hear laughter in the background. What is the role of the CIO? It's a big question, and we hear a lot of discussion about this question.

Well, today on Episode #271 of CxOTalk, we are talking with two genuine CIO innovators, two people I respect a lot. We're going to explore this topic of how should we think about innovation, the role of the CIO in 2018. This is cutting edge, state of the art stuff.

I'm Michael Krigsman. I'm an industry analyst and the host of CxOTalk. I want to say a quick thank you, but a heartfelt thank you, to Livestream because they have been supporting us for the last two years, and they're great. They supply our video infrastructure. If you go to, they'll even give you a discount on their plans.

Without further -- oh, oh, wait, wait. I forgot. There's a tweet chat that's going on right now using the hashtag #CxOTalk, so please join in. You can ask questions, share your comments. The other thing is, please tell a friend, like us on Facebook, tell a friend because that will help us a lot if you would.

Now, without further ado, I want to introduce Yousuf Khan. He is CIO number one, Yousuf Khan, who is the CIO of Pure Storage. Hey, Yousuf. How are you?

Yousuf Khan: Hey, Michael. I'm very good, indeed. Thank you. Love the glasses.

Michael Krigsman: Tell us about Pure Storage.

Yousuf Khan: Well, first of all, thank you so much for having me here. I'm really honored to be here with Diana. Pure Storage is a company. We've been around for coming up to about eight years now. We are a leading provider for data platform for the cloud era.

It's been a very, very exciting ride for me as the company's first CIO. I'm really looking forward to being able to collaborate with other CIOs and see the company rise in the industry as well.

Michael Krigsman: Yousuf, you run a CIO group that's really interesting. Maybe briefly tell us about that.

Yousuf Khan: Yeah, so when I joined, this has been a very interesting ride for me as probably the third time I've done a job where I'm the first CIO for a company and helping to organize hardworking IT teams. When I took the role on, a large part of it was being able to meet with like-minded peers. One of the things to be able to do that is, as much as I enjoy going to CIO events from time-to-time, being able to probably have a more productive conversation, sometimes delving into what I term as group therapy happens when CIOs get together. I've been organizing CIO gatherings informally mainly over dinner because everybody needs to eat, but also because we're able to get into a mode where we're able to build a little bit more camaraderie and get together and talk about the industry.

Michael Krigsman: Okay. Our second CIO is Diana McKenzie, who is the CIO of Workday. Hey, Diana, this is your second time on CxOTalk, and welcome back.

Diana McKenzie: Thank you, Michael. I'm happy to be here and Happy New Year to you and everyone on the call.

Michael Krigsman: Diana, I think everybody knows the Workday name, but tell us about Workday.

Diana McKenzie: Sure. Workday is a software company. We were founded to put people at the center of cloud-based financial and human resource software. We have over 1,900 customers that range from medium size to Fortune 50 customers with over 26 million workers on contract. Last year we achieved a 98% customer satisfaction rate for our software platform. We also achieved 18th position ranking in the Fortune 100 best places to work, which is why it's such a pleasure to be here.

Michael Krigsman: Well, it's a pleasure for me that you're both here. Yousuf, maybe I'll direct the first question to you. This show is about CIO innovation. What do we mean by that?

Yousuf Khan: Well, I think where we are right now, the level of innovation that's been surrounding our companies and our industries at large. I think, for CIOs, it is a real opportunity to question the assumptions, which have been kind of traditionally help build IT organizations. I think, really, innovation is centered around the fact that you're able to not only question those assumptions, but be able to think much more broadly about not only what the business needs are, where you're able to accelerate and deliver good solutions for businesses to operate, but how to really aid the effort for it to really change the customer experience, to be able to give much deeper insights.

I think that opportunity right now really exists. That's what I've sort of typically seen. I think CIOs really have the opportunity right now to really think in innovative terms because we're in an ecosystem that allows us to both experiment and be thoughtful about what solutions we want to be able to deliver to our businesses.

Diana McKenzie: Yousuf, I'd build on that. I think you and I are both fortunate in that we work for companies where other CIOs are our customers.

Yousuf Khan: Yeah.

Diana McKenzie: And so, we're put in a position where not only do we have to think about how we help our customers and our peers innovate--

Yousuf Khan: Yeah.

Diana McKenzie: --but also requires us to be, within our companies, right at the heart of the innovation of the products that we're developing.

Yousuf Khan: Yeah.

Diana McKenzie: I have to compliment you on the group that you formed. I was new to the Bay Area when I took this position at Workday two years ago; again, the first CIO position Workday had. I had an opportunity to meet Yousuf at one of these dinners and just found him to be an incredible coach, mentor, confidant, and that the group of leaders that we have the privilege to get together and meet with on a monthly basis has developed a real chemistry because we are all in the Bay Area, and we are all mostly working for technology companies. It's been a really great experience, so thank you for that.

Yousuf Khan: Well, thank you for being such a good--I wouldn't call it--member, but a friend more than anything else. Just to kind of go a little bit more onto that, I think one thing we've found, and I don't know whether you would agree or not, but if you're part of the CIO of a technology company, it's a good place to be to be able to work with a number of your business partners and represent a customer viewpoint. Fundamentally, you'll find that the CIO is that end customer.

Diana McKenzie: Right.

Yousuf Khan: And so, I really found the opportunity that innovation is as much about being able to aid your business partners about how you view the product, which is something that I do. Also, I think you've really excelled by building out what I consider a WOW team, both figuratively and literally, from an acronym standpoint, by demonstrating the use of Workday within Workday. That's something, a model example that a number of our CIOs that I follow inspired me to do. I have a great job because I don't have any storage issues, so that is my effort.

Diana McKenzie: [Laughter]

Yousuf Khan: I think that's been a real model example. I think, if you're a CIO of a technology company, that really is an opportunity for you to be able to test the bounds because it's kind of expected, to a certain extent, and share those with CIOs. Yeah.

Michael Krigsman: I have a question. You mentioned customer experience. Maybe you can explore that. What does customer experience have to do with being a CIO, and how important is that, actually?

Diana McKenzie: I'll pick up on the innovation agenda.

Yousuf Khan: Yeah, go for it.

Diana McKenzie: Then I'll pick up, Michael, on how you started the talk today, which is that the priority focus for us in 2018, it may be a little old, but this notion that every company is becoming a software company is one that I think continues to be very powerful.

Yousuf Khan: Yeah.

Diana McKenzie: It doesn't matter if you are the CIO of a technology company or you're the CIO of any company that makes any sort of product or service. The consumer perspective is changing fairly dramatically to expect so much more from the people that provide them their products and services. Those products and services are expected to be more personalized for our consumers.

Yousuf Khan: Yeah.

Diana McKenzie: That, in turn, means that as CIOs within our business, understanding what that consumer is expecting from us and from our product--

Yousuf Khan: Yeah.

Diana McKenzie: --becomes a critical area of focus for us. It was in 2017, but more so in 2018.

Yousuf Khan: Yeah.

Diana McKenzie: We also find another priority being the importance of talent in our organizations and the war for talent that's going on out there. The more we can engage our employees in the workplace and make them feel like they can come to work or work from home and accomplish what they need to accomplish in a very seamless way, that's an area a CIO can have a major impact on. We were talking about some of these earlier this week.

Yousuf Khan: Yeah. I think the really important thing to think about is we're living in an experience economy. I think that's really because customer experience and satisfaction is kind of unforgiving to a large extent, right?

Diana McKenzie: Yeah.

Yousuf Khan: That applies for technology companies like ourselves. We pride ourselves on having a very, very industry leading NPS score. You yourselves have also done tremendously well from that space. That's really because, because there is so much innovation out there, because these industries are really being kind of disrupted, and there's more innovation happening in terms of product innovation, you've got to be able to sort of work with companies. That's where kind of the CIO gets involved and say, "How do we improve the customer experience by making it easy to be able to do business with, either via channel partners or being able to provide a much better support experience? How do we make sure that the transaction and being able to conduct that business becomes easier because it's kind of the entire customer journey?"

I think the role of the CIO has really evolved over time where you have to be much more attuned to understanding what the customer experience is from start to finish, even before they become a customer. How do we make sure that our messaging is being delivered and how we're taking digital insights and data that we're seeing from analytics from our website and from our social media streams to be able to put that together to say, "How should we be designing marketing campaigns which are working or not?"

I think that's an exciting era in terms of what we've been seeing today. The CIO is kind of at the front and center of that by partnering with the other functions to be able to help deliver that experience.

Diana McKenzie: Well, and I'm going to build on the fact that you're my customer.

Yousuf Khan: Sure. A very happy one. Thank you. Yes.

Diana McKenzie: Very happy about that.

Yousuf Khan: Yes.

Diana McKenzie: Back to your recognition of the Workday on Workday team--

Yousuf Khan: Yes.

Diana McKenzie: --which we call the WOW team. That team gives us the opportunity within Workday to work very closely with our leaders in the company and also with our product team to make sure that the product we're building and delivering to our customers, first of all, works for us. It gives us an opportunity to go first and learn, and be very involved in the product development process in terms of making that product better. Then I have the opportunity to spend time with my colleagues and my customers, such as Yousuf and a number of others. We talk about not only how are the products performing today, but how the products could be performing.

Yousuf Khan: Yeah.

Diana McKenzie: We can bring that feedback back into the system. Not only that, but you gave us some really great feedback about how we can help CIOs have better conversations with their CHROs and their CFOs--

Yousuf Khan: Yeah.

Diana McKenzie: --as they think about advancing their strategies digitally. I think it's a very nice synergy that we found in that space.

Yousuf Khan: Yeah. I've sort of found that if you're the CIO for a technology company that you are a model customer and have that opportunity. That's one of the things that we did when we were looking to build our data infrastructure internally to provide kind of analytics and machine learning, which is what we've been able to do. A large part of that is because we were able to test out our product internally and be able to work with our engineering product team to say, "Hey, look. This is the use case that I hear from like-minded peers like Diana and otherwise. This is what they need from, like, an analytic stack. This is what we need to be able to design our product for." I think that's just aided that effort. Being able to collaborate from that function has been phenomenal.

Michael Krigsman: How does a CIO make that leap from focusing on the internal infrastructure operations of an organization to being almost a customer experience coach for other parts of the business? How do you make that transition?

Diana McKenzie: CIOs have to be thoughtful about how they make that transition. It starts with where we've spent some of the time here. Understanding the paying customer and understanding the business you're in because that's table stakes for a CIO.

The second piece of that, though, is there are aspects of what the CIO is expected to deliver that are all about being brilliant at the basics. If the CIO isn't delivering on the basics just as if the CFO wasn't closing the books and the CHRO wasn't paying employees--

Yousuf Khan: Yeah.

Diana McKenzie: --the CIO is going to have a very hard time stepping into that space to influence the company around how to better interact with customers. It's a combination of knowing the business, of delivering on the basics, and developing very powerful relationships, both internally and externally, to continue to broaden that perspective and be in a position to introduce new ideas that can influence and shape the direction a company is going.

Yousuf Khan: Yeah. I think there are two key points. I think you put out a blog post about it last year, which you talked about kind of doing the basics. A lot of us kind of followed that because I think it's really important to know that the foundation of where the company is built and how it operates in a seamless fashion is important. You have to be thoughtful about being sure that that is functioning in the way that it's supporting the business's growth.

I think the second piece is knowing the context of your customer, the business, and the partnerships that you built. I think it's a really good vantage point for the CIO because canned technology is coming across every single aspect of the business. You're at this vantage point to really be able to be thoughtful and helpful.

I think there's a bigger piece about how CIOs move into this. They probably need to view more CxOTalk sessions. I will say that.

Diana McKenzie: [Laughter]

Michael Krigsman: I agree. Start there. Start there.

Yousuf Khan: There's a serious point in that we have to be intellectually curious because there's a lot of opportunity to get confused. There's also a lot of opportunity to try and take on too much, and having rigor and focus on what you can deliver, but doing the research around it. That is by looking at things like CxOTalk and, of course, working with a number of your research analyst firms to be able to help define your strategy. I think that's a big part of how CIOs are making decisions right now for them to be able to build an innovation strategy. It is a combination of peer conversations.

Diana McKenzie: Mm-hmm.

Yousuf Khan: It's about being able to look at what's happening in the external world and bring that in. I think that's really important. I think we're very lucky because we are in the Bay Area and we're at the heart of that. But, at the same time, the parallels are there across the board.

Diana McKenzie: I agree.

Michael Krigsman: Let me play devil's advocate for a second, if I might. Now you're saying that the CIO must really learn the business and, of course, that's true. Let me ask this as a question. Can the CIO ever gain the level of familiarity, knowledge of the business that people in those functional departments possess? If the CIO doesn't have that level of understanding, then is there kind of an inevitable slide back to just focusing on infrastructure and operations because you don't have that equivalent knowledge as people in the functional areas? It's a leading question, but please.

Yousuf Khan: I think they have to have a strong appreciation for kind of the work that happens in a number of these, in a number of the functions. I think that's the critical piece. You have to have a foundation of being curious and intellectually curious, number one. I think the other piece is, in order for you to deliver a solution to your business partners in your different functions, whether that's finance, whether that's HR, operations, sales, or go to market, it's about understanding what their needs are, and then translating those needs into a solution which you can help accelerate their efforts. A large part of that really comes from aligning and understanding. I think the opportunity of the CIO really is the fact that they don't have a frame of reference from that standpoint. They are not deep into those specific functions, so they're coming in from a very agnostic viewpoint to say, "What is the best way I can help to alleviate this effort?" Get them away from, "Hey, they need better decision making. Well, we need to be able to retool and deliver better analytics and BI, make that faster, and do it in real time. Oh, they need to have deeper integration with a number of their applications."

I think I'm hearing a lot about how you are able to help build a better data strategy for our internal business customers, I would basically call it. I think that's why CIOs really need to be aligned and have probably appreciation without having to become a subject matter expert.

Diana McKenzie: I agree with you. I would build on that as well and say, when you think about the three asset stewards in the company.

Yousuf Khan: Yeah.

Diana McKenzie: You have the head of HR who is the steward of human resources. You have the CFO who is the steward of the financial assets. The CIO ultimately is the steward of the information assets. Everyone owns those information assets, but it really is up to the CIO and the CIO team to be working across the business to make sure the information is flowing freely. There's an important piece of those three working very well together.

Yousuf Khan: Yeah.

Diana McKenzie: It just happens to be where our product is focused.

Yousuf Khan: Right.

Diana McKenzie: That exists in every CIO space.

I think the other thing, to build on what Yousuf was saying, is while you can't necessarily be an expert in all of those different business areas, there are scarcely a few other functions in the company that touches every single employee in the company and every single business process in the company. By being right there in the center of the business process, understanding what's working and what's not working, where the white spaces between those processes, the CIOs in the organizations have a unique position to influence how the company can operate better.

Yousuf Khan: Yep.

Diana McKenzie: From that perspective, I think it's the CIO's game to lose if, ultimately, they end up being responsible only for the infrastructure and plumbing.

Yousuf Khan: Yeah.

Diana McKenzie: It's really hard to not be successful if those other aspects of the role are right there for the taking.

Yousuf Khan: I think it's a very slippery slope.

Diana McKenzie: Yes.

Yousuf Khan: Especially in this day and age where you have the ability with leading SaaS products like Workday to be able to provide agility to the business. If you lose that opportunity then, yes, you're really going to go back into deep operational mode, which again is valued and required but is not going to be able to aid the company to be much more innovative.

Michael Krigsman: It's really interesting, the point that you make, that Diana just made, that the CIO is one of the few roles in the company that touches every part of the company. That does give you this unique kind of outside in perspective where you're aggregating the knowledge and the insight of what's going on.

The question then becomes--building on what Yousuf just said--how can the CIO take advantage of this unique vantage point to provide the highest value possible to the organization?

Yousuf Khan: I was going to say, I think the real opportunity for the CIO is to be able to translate business goals; to be able to figure out and really translate those into innovative solutions that they can aid the effort. Right? I think, with that vantage point in mind, with having the depth of some of the issues in a number of those functions, having the availability of innovation outside the company, as well as innovative thinking inside the company. The CIO is really not just the guardian, but kind of the steward of being able to bring all of that together. That's the real opportunity for the CIO to be able to make that impact into the business, at least from my standpoint.

Diana McKenzie: Yeah, I agree. I wouldn't change a thing he just said. [Laughter]

Yousuf Khan: Okay. Well, that's good. [Laughter]

Michael Krigsman: Then can you kind of put your finger on or define what is that highest possible value, the best possible role that the CIO can play under optimal circumstances?

Yousuf Khan: One thing I would say is, I think if they're able to connect the data and make it faster within the company, as a general high-level perspective, be able to provide, I think there's one fundamental goal that the CIO can basically focus on is to be able to really aid the business to make better decisions. That really centers on the fact that I really think that companies are suffering from what I term as kind of data debt. There's a lot of data being generated into these businesses right now and making sense of it.  But, I think the overarching goal is not only are you able to figure out where the problems are, but you're able to aid each of those functions to be able to make better decisions.

It's about partnering up with them to be able to say, "How do you make a better decision? Let me provide you with the right infrastructure. Let me provide you with the right solutions and software to do that. Then let's see what those results are."

I think that's kind of what those functions are. I think it centers on the data and how you can provide that and accelerate that effort in businesses, from my standpoint.

Diana McKenzie: I agree. I agree with your points on the data. I also, and I've often talked to my teams about this in the past, think the role of the CIO can be almost analogous to your personal financial broker, stockbroker, which is, we often receive questions from our business partners who will say, "We've got all of this opportunity, all this demand for technology spend and technology investment. We all know we'd like to do more than we can possibly afford as a company."

Yousuf Khan: Yeah.

Diana McKenzie: The challenge is, how do we make decisions about where we want to invest our resources? If we think about that as a CIO, we now take a step back and look at all of the places we could possibly make those investments. We can decide, from a portfolio point of view, what percentage of our investment do we want to direct towards driving incremental revenue and how heavy do we want to weight that in the overall prioritization? What percent of the investment is about scale?

Yousuf Khan: Yeah.

Diana McKenzie: Depending on where your company is in its lifecycle, possibly driving efficiencies and cost reduction.

Yousuf Khan: Yeah.

Diana McKenzie: What percent of your portfolio was all around the employee engagement experience or just maintaining the base of operations?

Yousuf Khan: Yeah.

Diana McKenzie: Oftentimes what I find is the request is, come in as the CIO and help us make sense of all of these opportunities we have for investment, some of which require trying out innovative new technologies, pushing the digital strategy of the company. Others are about making the company run better. If we can shed some light on how to make those decisions and help to manage that process, it requires us to be really good listeners.

Yousuf Khan: Yeah.

Diana McKenzie: And, to make sure we're bringing everybody together in a transparent way. I think there's a really important role CIOs can play there.

Michael Krigsman: All right. I want to remind everybody that you are watching CxOTalk. This is Orange Friday. Now, why is it Orange Friday? Because both of our guests, their company logos are orange, and so, of course, how could it not be Orange Friday?

I'm speaking on Episode #271 of CxOTalk with Diana McKenzie, who is the chief information officer of Workday, and also Yousuf Khan, who is the chief information officer of Pure Storage. Right now there is a tweet chat going on using the hashtag #CxOTalk. Please, jump in with your questions.

We have a question from Zachary Jeans. He says, "As a CIO, how do you create a culture that avoids politics and infighting but, rather, builds a positive and innovative culture and experience?" How do you create a positive culture rather than one that is political and has infighting, which, as we all know, happens in almost every organization all the time? How do you fight that and do it well?

Yousuf Khan: It probably boils down to having a culture of transparency. I fundamentally believe that that aids the ability for organizations to function better. Again, you can't get 100% transparency in some cases, but I think if you have that as a foundation in your culture, that definitely aids the effort for people to get aligned and, also, for them to be able to know that they are valued, and they're being listened to, but also being able to understand where things are going and taking the mystery out of things and avoiding politics.

I think the second thing is you've got to be very, very collaborative. I pride ourselves on the fact that I think both of our companies are companies which are admired for culture. I know that that's one of the main reasons I joined Pure Storage because of the culture of the organization. It is very collaborative, it is very transparent, and it's one that you have a deep sense of ownership that you want to be able to protect.

I think those are sort of fundamentals that we have in our culture and that, I think, work really, really well.

Diana McKenzie: I agree. I think transparency, I think collaboration, I also think being clear on the mission. When we can help a team understand that we're all aligned towards delivering an outcome, everyone can see themselves in delivering the outcome, and we can set a team up to understand how each individual unit plays a role in delivering that outcome. In IT we call that end-to-end service delivery.

Yousuf Khan: Yeah.

Diana McKenzie: In reality, if we structure our teams such that they each understand what they're consuming from another group and what other groups are consuming from them, and that's measurable, then it makes it easy for us to transparently talk about how we're doing and what we can do to improve.  I think the reality is politics exist in every environment because we are human beings. Because of that, there's never going to be an opportunity to get away from politics.

What we have to do within IT to be effective is, we have to be really good at listening, and we have to be really good at storytelling--

Yousuf Khan: Yeah.

Diana McKenzie: --because we are in the business of change. Anytime we touch any system, any technology, again any person in the company, we're sort of messing with their world. For us to be able to do that in a way where we can explain the "why" the change is happening, that to some extent can help get away from the negative ramifications, if you will, of what might be perceived as politics.

Yousuf Khan: Yeah. Honestly, I think a large part of it is definitely in the CIO organization. You've got to be able to really empower your leadership team to be able to have the conversations. I think it's not really focused on enough, but I think it's really, really important that you're able to build a team that aligns with the culture and is able to represent it and drives it further down into the organization. That really requires a combination of both training, but also, as you like to say, tone at the top.

Diana McKenzie: Yeah.

Yousuf Khan: I've heard that. You mentioned that about the leadership and the executive team at Workday. That's something that I think is really important that, as CIOs, should take that to say, "What signal are you sending to members in your organization of the type of leader that you are and the type of organization that you want to be able to build?" It will be about the tone, that tone that you set at the top.

Diana McKenzie: Absolutely.

Michael Krigsman: Now, one of the things that you just mentioned was communication. Maybe talk about that. The role of storytelling was, I think, the term one of you just used. Why - why - why-why-why storytelling?

Diana McKenzie: Why? Yeah.

Yousuf Khan: [Laughter]

Diana McKenzie: Simon Sinek, getting to why; starting with why. It's one of the challenges we battle. I don't know if every functional leader battles this. But, within IT specifically, historically, the equation would say, "I delivered X." Right? "I delivered project X because I wanted to do whatever outcome, Y."

Yousuf Khan: Yeah.

Diana McKenzie: A big part of that is, let's flip the equation. Let's say, "In order to deliver outcome Y, we did project X." By working with the team to help them flip the equation and think about the outcome first, it drives a completely different level of engagement conversation, listening, collaboration to ensure that whatever is happening on the other side, as cool and sexy as it might be technologically, is going to deliver the outcome you know our business partners are looking to see. Starting with the "why," I think, is an important aspect of communication.

Yousuf Khan: Look. I think the other thing is communication skills are much more heavily focused on in a hiring environment, definitely over the last couple of years, and it's something which I look for when we look to hire. I think the aspect of storytelling is important because, as a CIO, as you're delivering solutions, a large part of it is solving problems. One of the other aspects of the culture really is about empathy. Right? It's about being able to be empathetic about kind of people struggles or problems that people are having within the actual organization as they grow. That happens from a process and a technology standpoint about a collaborative aspect to it.

Being able to tell the story and being able to bring people around, I think that's the important piece. We just live in a much more collaborative environment that I would say, improving your communication skills and being able to have storytelling at the heart of it gets much more emotive and allows people to be able to connect better rather than looking at it in a very programmatic, systematic viewpoint. Right?

It's always difficult because you're a CIO, and you're talking about technology, software, and solutions. But, I think it's about the impact, and that's the real story. Being able to tell that story gets people excited because they see things which are being automated, being able to make better decisions, improving customer experience. Relaying that back, I think that's where people get excited. I think that's where storytelling and kind of getting the communication skills right are really important.

Diana McKenzie: Can I pull on the empathy thread for just a second here?

Yousuf Khan: Totally. Totally.

Diana McKenzie: There is also this element where we get to work with really, really smart people.

Yousuf Khan: Far smarter than me, for sure. I will take that, yeah, 100%.

Diana McKenzie: [Laughter] It's easy, I think, as technologists to believe that because we're working with really, really smart people, all of the things that we're rolling out, they're just going to know how to use them [and] what they mean.

Yousuf Khan: Yeah.

Diana McKenzie: It's going to make complete sense to them. In reality, that isn't always the case because the really, really smart people have a job to do, and their focus is on getting their job done, not necessarily the technology that's enabling their job.

Yousuf Khan: Yeah.

Diana McKenzie: The other aspect of this empathy and storytelling piece is to understand that the world our folks live in and we live in may look a little different than the world than the world the people we're trying to help live in.

Yousuf Khan: Yeah.

Diana McKenzie: How do we cross that chasm from that empathy perspective to understand? How do we help them understand why we're making the change and what the impact the change is going to have on them?

Yousuf Khan: I think you've touched on a major issue, which is enablement. Right?

Diana McKenzie: Yeah.

Yousuf Khan: When we've been rolling out solutions in place or trying to improve the business and provide business changes, you come in with a lot of positive energy about being able to solve problems and get excited about it. Actually, you need to bring people around, right?

Diana McKenzie: Yeah.

Yousuf Khan: You need to be able to enable them to not just say, "Oh, you're putting this in front of me for me to use," but let's talk about what the genesis of this is and why we're doing it. That requires good communication but also being able to enable people along a journey for them to get the best use out of it. Then closing the feedback loop to be able to figure out what else can we do better and make it incremental.

Diana McKenzie: How to make it better. Right.

Yousuf Khan: Yeah.

Michael Krigsman: I have a question. What does this have to do with technology? Information technology, IT, what does this have to do with technology?

Yousuf Khan: I think it has everything to do with technology because it's at the heart of it. I think that the notion -- fundamentally, look; we can talk about every company becoming a technology company. The reality is that every single industry, in some way, shape, or form, is being impacted by a tremendous amount of software being built because the level of innovation and the tooling available for you to be able to build software and disrupt these industries is very, very real.

Fundamentally, what that means is for you to be able to innovate, and forget about innovation. If you want to be able to really build your company and your organization, irrespective of what sector it is, you've got to build more software, and you've got to make better decisions through data. That's where, irrespective of which function that is, that's going to come down to an IT organization which is able to provide that as a service, if we just boil it down to sort of core basics.

I like to say that we've got to be able to make sure that you're providing the solutions, which is kind of what CIOs really are providing now. It's more about business technology and impact technology, and being able to provide business insight. That's just required across the board.

Diana McKenzie: It's table stakes.

Yousuf Khan: Yeah, I will speak that on behalf of the IT brethren. [Laughter]

Diana McKenzie: [Laughter]

Michael Krigsman: [Laughter] Let's actually talk about technology and business for a second. Does the CIO today need to be, should the CIO today be a technologist or be a business person?

Diana McKenzie: Everything that Yousuf just said about, "What about technology?"

Yousuf Khan: Yeah.

Diana McKenzie: Again, it's table stakes because there's no reason to have a CIO if, ultimately, we're not figuring out ways to leverage and harness all the technology that's there.

Yousuf Khan: Yeah.

Diana McKenzie: To get at the data and to help our business partners run the business better and make better-informed business decisions. On the other hand, we have no way of positioning how the technology can be used or taken advantage of if we don't understand the business opportunity that exists.

Yousuf Khan: Yeah.

Diana McKenzie: It does require us to be focused in both avenues, equally, in order to be successful in the role that we're in.

Yousuf Khan: I think there's the healthy balance, right?

Diana McKenzie: Mm-hmm.

Yousuf Khan: Otherwise, it's a very begrudging hire of an organization to basically bring in who is going to be focused too much on the operational side.

Diana McKenzie: Right.

Yousuf Khan: Understanding the business, translating that into a technology solution, and being able to have that and build in innovation around it is probably the way I view it. Yes. [Laughter]

Michael Krigsman: Okay. All right. No, it makes sense. We have just under ten minutes left, and I have a whole bunch of questions. We're not going to spend an extra couple of hours doing this, so let me ask you some questions and then just give your very quick kind of gut feel reactions, like sort of tweet-sized almost. Okay?

Number one, what are the most interesting technologies that you use today, coming back to technology?

Yousuf Khan: I definitively believe that the time has come to really talk about AI, and machine learning specifically, because I think that the ecosystem to be able to help build that from infrastructure software and use cases has matured tremendously. I do think that CIOs need to be able to look at where they can provide that impact. Whilst I think it's been early, it has grown, and I've seen where it's actually been impactful. I think that should be definitely a focus. That's definitely focusing towards a buzzword.

I think the second piece is the second iteration of figuring out how you're able to provide better data to your company, simply because the level of data being ingested by businesses right now and the data producers has grown exponentially. That's one of the things. That's my core goal is to be able to make sure that we're able to sort of take this. I mean if you just think about, we now have got everything from IoT, drones, sensors, whether it's from motorbikes, cars, or shoes. It's is being brought in; telemetry data is being brought into these businesses. To be able to make sense of that, you need to be able to [get] ahead of it. That's how I look at it. I look at the fact that we've got to be very thoughtful and focused on these two core, big areas. I think that's plenty just from that standpoint.

Diana McKenzie: What he said around AI and ML, I would add to that blockchain. I think the potential blockchain has to disrupt more than just the financial services industry is very real. It may be far out into the future, but when I think about healthcare and I think about identity management and what's possible with a model like that, I'm very excited to see what can happen with that basic design of blockchain in other industries.

Michael Krigsman: Then another question for you, and I'm just looking at the clock. We have five minutes left. How do you learn? Yourselves, each of you personally, how do you learn about new technologies and what's coming up with startups? How do you go about doing that?

Yousuf Khan: One is, I do collaborate with startups and companies that want to be able to align, which are building solutions which align with the problems that I [encounter]. That really happens by connecting with VCs and investors in the space.

I think the second thing is, yes, there's a conversation that I have with peer groups like Diana who I'm able to learn tremendous amounts from. I think that's a big piece.

I think the third thing is really being able to listen and understand what's happening, signaling from a market perspective in terms of where people are making investments, but also in terms of some of the things that are being focused on in terms of inquiries that are coming in. Yes, you use the research available to you, but I think a large part of it is being able to triangulate those three kinds of vectors, at least from my standpoint, that aid my decision making and build a strategy around.

Diana McKenzie: I would add, watch all previous 270 episodes of CxOTalk. [Laughter] Then also, in addition to everything Yousuf said, listen to what really smart people I know read. When they tell me they've read something or they're following a certain author, I subscribe to it and do my best to try to keep up with a lot of reading. But, it helps to continuously keep my perspective changing.

Yousuf Khan: Yeah. It also aids you what not to do.

Diana McKenzie: That's right. [Laughter]

Yousuf Khan: That's the other thing, right? [Laughter]

Diana McKenzie: Yeah, a lot of learning.

Yousuf Khan: It's like, wow, there's a lot of learning, so it's about success and failure. I've definitely learned from both of those.

Michael Krigsman: Okay. As we go into the last four minutes or so of the show, what advice do each of you have for CIOs who want to become CIOs of absolutely the first order? What does that mean to be a CIO of the first order and, again, how do you get there? We kind of talked about this, but now what I'm asking you to do--and I'm chewing up your time here--if you can distill down the pure essence of what you know, what does it mean to be a CIO of the first order and how can CIOs out there achieve that exalted position? A great place.

Diana McKenzie: I'll start with two points, and then you can build on those.

Yousuf Khan: Yeah, absolutely.

Diana McKenzie: I'll go back to, be a student of your business and be a student of your industry first. Then building on what Yousuf said earlier, build your team because it's only when you have a team capable of taking on the work that you delegate and empower them to do that you have the time and the bandwidth to spend time with your business partners and externally, bringing the perspective in that you'll need to shape the direction of the company you work for.

Yousuf Khan: I think I would boil it down to two things. Yes, think about what type of leader you want to be. That's really important. I think that's a critical piece.

I think the second piece is, listening is a skill in itself, but listening to what's worked and what hasn't worked is probably going to be able to aid your effort. Be rigorous in terms of what you want to be able to get done. Articulating output is actually a really hard thing because projects take a long time. Being able to provide rigorous focus and being able to articulate that in the form of a vision is really, really important.

Michael Krigsman: Any final, final thoughts as we end this Episode 271 of CxOTalk?

Yousuf Khan: I have one piece of advice, in all seriousness. I think there's a tremendous amount of opportunity as a CIO to get a lot of stuff done, but it's about being overwhelmed. I think it's very easy to be overwhelmed.

If you're in a CIO role or trying to go into a CIO role, I think one of the things I found, and maybe you agree or disagree, is helping find the common denominator to be able to get a decision made around a company is really important. I think one of the things I've seen done well is we have a phenomenal CHRO at Pure [Storage] named Johanna Jackman. She was able to bring people around as the first CHRO at Pure Storage to be able to talk in a collective fashion about what the problems were and be able to drive decisions from that standpoint. I learned a tremendous amount from her.

My one advice is, find the common denominator and drive people around it. Help them make a decision and the solution for it.

Diana McKenzie: I would say technology is table stakes.

Yousuf Khan: Yep.

Diana McKenzie: But, we are in a people business. Businesses are run by people, and so focus on understanding people and knowing what it takes to influence people and you're going to be successful.

Yousuf Khan: I wouldn't be afraid to take risks as well.

Diana McKenzie: Yeah. Take risks. That's a good one.

Yousuf Khan: Like I said, it's the age of being able to test and figure out whether things work, build, and integrate. I would definitely advise towards that for sure.

Michael Krigsman: All right. Okay. We're over time, but that begs the question very quickly. How do you know when to take the risk? You brought it up.

Yousuf Khan: Well, that's totally fine. Look, I think that it's about, honestly, just correlating lots of opinions and being able to get an assessment. I think really having instincts about whether it's aligned, whether it's the right time to be able to make that. Timing is everything, and so I think finding the right opportunity to be able to figure out that risk is probably the most important piece.

Diana McKenzie: Yeah. It's judgment and experience.

Yousuf Khan: Yeah.

Michael Krigsman: Okay. On that note, I want to thank everybody for watching Episode 271 of CxOTalk. We have been speaking with two of the most innovative CIOs that I know, and what an honor for them to be together here, for me to have them together on CxOTalk.

Yousuf Khan: It was an honor for us.

Michael Krigsman: [Laughter] It's an honor for me. I love that. Fist, sort of cupped fist bump. My wife refuses to do fist bumps with me because she says that I don't know how to do a fist bump.

Yousuf Khan: I wear a sweater vest. I can't go any cooler.

Diana McKenzie: [Laughter]

Michael Krigsman: [Laughter]

Yousuf Khan: That's about as cool as I get. I'm sorry, Michael.

Michael Krigsman: All right. We've been speaking with Diana McKenzie, who is the CIO of Workday, and Yousuf Khan, who is the CIO of Pure Storage. Everybody, thank you so much for joining us.

Next Friday, we're talking with Adriana Karaboutis, who is the CIO and Chief Digital Officer of National Grid. It's one of the largest energy distribution companies in the world. She'll be talking about digital transformation in the energy business.

Thanks so much, everybody. Have a great day. Hey, you've got to have a great day and be cool. Be cool. This is as cool as I get.

Published Date: Jan 12, 2018

Author: Michael Krigsman

Episode ID: 495