Digital, Mobility, and Consumerization in the Enterprise with Sanjay Poonen, VMware

The consumerization of technology in the enterprise and mobility are two critical elements underlying digital transformation and the evolving workplace in many companies.


Nov 20, 2015

The consumerization of technology in the enterprise and mobility are two critical elements underlying digital transformation and the evolving workplace in many companies. The challenge of issues such as mobility and security are significant however.

In this episode, we speak with Sanjay Poonen, who is Executive Vice President and General Manager, End-User Computing at VMware. Previously, he was was president and corporate officer of Platform Solutions and the Mobile Division at SAP AG.


Michael Krigsman:

(00:38) Okay finally we are starting episode number 145 of CXOTalk and you know when you rely on the internet sometimes these things happen. In any case I am thrilled to welcome Sanjay Poonen, who is the Executive Vice President and General Manager of End-User Computing with VMWare. Sanjay thank you for your patients in this delayed start, thank you for joining us how are you.

Sanjay Poonen:

(01:14) Michael it’s great, don’t worry at all. Technology has its ups and downs but the good news is people always connect and it’s a delight to be on your show.

Michael Krigsman:

(01:24) Well you’re very kind. Sanjay as a way of setting context give us a brief sense of your professional background.

Sanjay Poonen:           

(01:32) Yeah, Michael we’ve known each other for a couple of years actually dating back to my SAP days and it’s always been a pleasure to get a perspective from you on innovation.

(01:44) I started my career right out of college. I came actually to the country as an immigrant on a scholarship to Dartmouth and 50 bucks in my pocket. Finished my undergrad and then worked at Apple as my first job as an engineer and this was a project that Apple was working with IBM called Taligent.

(02:04) Four years later I did my Harvard MBA, came back and was involved with a startup that I was part of the founding team with named Alphablox that eventually sold to IBM and then was an executive at Informatica running one of their business units and also ran marketing. Went onto Veritas and Symantec and probably the most formative parts of my years was at SAP where I spent seven years built the analytic business, the big data business, the mobile business and also ran industry solutions. All in all I had a great time in what you would call building the systems of engagement are at SAP that complimented the systems of record.

(02:43) And here I am  of the last two years at VMWare, Pat Gelsinger, my boss and CEO, Joe Tucci our Chairman succeeded in convincing me that there was a big opportunity in End-User Computing and that’s what we’re doing here and it’s been a boat load of fun.

Michael Krigsman:

(02:57) Okay so Sanjay, your background incorporates both the business side and the technology side, tell us about your group at VMWare and End-User Computing.

Sanjay Poonen:

(03:11) Yeah, you know I am a product guy. I’m a a software engineer computer science person and although I’ve been more in business roles the last few years, my hard core kind of DNA is an engineer and product person. so you know what I’ve have really sought to do is in any role build innovation that’s a forcing function better than you know the alternative in the market. We at VMWare have tried being a disruptive innovator and everything we’ve done a the data center.

(03:40) What we’re trying to do in this notion of the digital workspace or mobile workspaces are also being disruptively innovative, so you know it’s just a joy to bring that innovation and along the way we’ve innovated some through organic moves; we’ve made some bold acquisitions and the combination of organic and inorganic moves have put us in a very formidable position today in the market.

Michael Krigsman:

(04:02) And so End-User Computing what does that encompass?

Sanjay Poonen:           

(04:06) Yeah so just like the word says, it’s the computing needs of end-users, so if you think about your computing need as an end-user you have a desktop, you might have a laptop, you might have a tablet, you might have a phone and you might sit in a car or you know you might have computing inside a vending machine.

(04:22) All of these are areas where in the way that applications are delivered to that device needs to be so simple or like we like to say so Sesame Street simple that you can deliver any app to any device. Applications today you know could be client server, they could be web, they could be mobile in any of those form factors, a device factor could be a desktop or a laptop running Mac or Windows or Chromebook. It could be an iPad, it could be an android tablet, it could be a Samsung android phone or it could be a vending machine.

(04:54) The ability to deliver any app to any device is something that we are uniquely you know provisioned to do and that’s my focus here in the End-User Computing team at VMWare

Michael Krigsman:

(05:05) So any app to any device, so may be drill down into that for us a little bit.

Sanjay Poonen:

(05:12) Yeah, so you know if you think about yourself in any industry, perhaps you’re in healthcare, you may have a Windows application that you want to be able to deliver on an iPad and it just so happens that yet has not been completely built for HTML 5 or mobile. You might have a web application like a salesforce that you’re trying to deliver to any type of device that might be somewhat easier but it still needs security so you can put this on your own device  tablet.

(05:42) And finally you may have a mobile application, it might be a DocuSign or a Dropbox or Box that you want to deliver onto your phone, so that you can actually get the benefit of digital signature but you want the security of it. Being able to take any of those applications that I described client server, web, mobile and then say don’t worry about the type of device, we can now help to deliver to your end users. What’s the benefit for the end-users? Their productivity goes up significantly, we call that then allowing the end-users to work at the speed of light. They can work and play and you know, they can go from the office, to the park, work at home and their applications are just seamlessly served for them, just the same way that music or movies are served up to you and your consumer experience with you know Netflix or iTunes or whatever you have in the consumer world.

Michael Krigsman:

(06:30) So obviously there is a very significant technical infrastructure but I would imagine that what you’re describing relies equally as much on the human factors and the user experience to keep the simplicity.

Sanjay Poonen:           

(06:45) Absolutely, I think there are two aspects that need to happen, there’s a technology stack behind that and that’s what VM does, we’re an infrastructure company, the fastest growing infrastructure company. We have great assets in the data center and we now have great assets in the digital workspace.

(07:00) But the digital experience absolutely has to be pristine. We in fact call it the coming together of consumer simplicity but then apply security. The user experience means as such that if you move from any of these devices you don’t notice a difference. It’s just served up to you, you don’t have delays and the reason that many of the companies who focus on this type of problem and have failed in the past is the solutions have been too costly and too complex. So we come at this with a very new approach to it and a more innovative solution to one that is actually built for the mobile cloud era. You know in the mobile could you need something that’s much more optimized for a tablet or a phone or a machine as opposed to just the old desktop world. And the cloud environment needs to have something that has been built for a cloud first deployment as opposed to just on premise.

Michael Krigsman:

(07:49) So when you’re talking about bringing together consumer with enterprise you’re very much focused on the security aspects from the enterprise point of view.

Sanjay Poonen:

(08:00) Yeah, I’ll give you an example. We just acquired a beautiful company called Getboxer  that has an inbox experience that runs on your iPhone or your Samsung phone. That’s not intended to replace naturally the consumer grade email, but in many cases customers told us they were frustrated and they desired to have something that was as secure that they had in the past with Blackberry, but they didn’t like the user experience of products like good technology and they wanted a product that had a consumer grade user experience but also enterprise security. And that product, you can all download it at the app store. Download Boxer and you’ll get an example of it’s beautiful user experience.

(08:42) We use its consumer feedback that we get from 10 of millions of users who download this into the enterprise version of our enterprise role management solution inside AirWatch, and now Boxer is now going to become the face of our future inbox capabilities. That’s a good example of consumer simplicity meets enterprise security.

Michael Krigsman:

(09:04) And when you talk about the digital workspace or people use the term the digital workplace, talk about that and the connection to what you were just describing.

Sanjay Poonen:           

(09:16) Yeah you know digital is what everyone seems to be saying right now. I like it quite frankly it actually represents the movement and the way from paper to something more you know driven by an automated machine or phone and so on and that’s a good paper move into digital. It also represents the moving away from manual to automated.

(09:36) So the word digital we like that you know, Gartner and a number of analysts are using that which is great. Whether it’s the workspace or the work place, I mean it really is very simple, like as that term says the space that you work. We were the first to coin the term workspace in 2007, we made it an acquisition, and I was looking back historically how far back we used it, and began to play out the vision that a workspace could be something that was neutral to the type of device that you were working in. So it didn’t matter whether you are on a Mac, Chromebook, a Windows laptop, or a Windows desktop or then later on a tablet or phone. The space in which you work could be abstracted away from the physical applications, and that’s something we’ve now really really perfected with an innovative stack that is cloud centric, and we’ve now coined that term the digital workspace.

(10:25) So we coined the term the workspace way back in 2007. We’ve evolved that now to be very mobile centric, more software defined if you would. And we think the nice way of describing that today is a digital workspace, you’re going to hear that of being something that becomes this gravitating term for the delivery of any app to any device.

Michael Krigsman:

(10:46) Okay so Sanjay then what does this mean for how people actually work. You’re describing technical capability now talk about the impact on how people actually get their work done.

Sanjay Poonen:

(11:02) Yeah, you have to take a day in the life of any person, so you take a doctor, you know and I showed this demo at last year’s VM world. But imagine a doctor who enters a hospital and the first thing they do maybe is they go to their office and they bring up an application. It might be medical records and it’s on their Windows but it’s delivered not by physically running that ERM application in their desktop. It virtualizes running behind the scenes on a server and our data center software what’s deployed to you is a virtual desktop or virtual app. You don’t know about it, but it just seamlessly you log in, single sign on and it’s there.

(11:38) Then you pick up your iPad and you walk to the ward and maybe now with that same ERM application or some other one where you’re going to be zooming in or if you would into an x-ray could be delivered through but now it’s an iPad. You get into the ward and you now have a thin client computing terminal where you’ll actually be getting very very highly graphical digitized versions of some part of the patient’s anatomy or whatever have you or an MRI scan.

(12:07) That again is delivered to you on a different type of thin client computing, again none of the software is actually sitting on that but it has all of your profiles and credentials.

(12:15) Finally, you leave your office, you get in your car and you’ve collaborated around a particular you know, consultation you want with another doctor that might be in another hospital, and you’ve marked a particular x-ray diagram or MRI you know in a nice collaboration tool like Content Locker. You share this with another doctor; they annotate it back and send it back to you. That day in the life of a doctor, what’s behind the scenes powering their entire user experience is VM technologies, Horizon. AirWatch, single sign on identity, but to the user it’s a very very seamless way in which they’re just working and we’re just the plumbing of the infrastructure that make all of their applications delivered into any device.

(12:24) So we’re not an application provider. Those are companies like Epic or in the case of financials it might be SAP, or CRM it might be Salesforce or HR it might be WorkDay or document sharing it might be Dropbox or Box. We are the infrastructure company that allows any of those applications to be delivered to any device. And you can take that same use case to any other industry.

Michael Krigsman:

(12:45) So the point then is to give the user absolutely the full set of capabilities that they would have if they were I a physical office but essentially mobile where ever they happen to be.

Sanjay Poonen:           

(13:34) Michael, that’s what we describe as working at the speed of light. That means your life continues and you don’t have to lug around your desktop wherever you go because that application ran on Windows right, or it’s not even running on an iPad.

(13:47) So we take a lot of inspiration from the consumer world. In your consumer world you get in your car and you don’t lug around 300 CDs and then try to load them up in your car. That might have been what you did in the 1980s or 90s. Now you have iTunes or your iPhone or iPod and you connect it into your car and music is just streamed in. The same with movies you might be watch here on Netflix, you get on a plane, you land in London and you can start the movie exactly where it stopped. That same experience of working at the speed of light is what we’re trying to bring from the consumer world into the business world.

Michael Krigsman:

(14:26) Sanjay, we have a question from Alan Burkson who’s asking about thin client and he said, is that term is a pre-public cloud term and so I guess that maybe you can talk a little bit about thin clients versus apps.

Sanjay Poonen:

(14:44) Yeah, I’d say listen from our perspective we think that the client ends point to it, without actually getting to the (client?) it was used before can get thinner and thinner. In other words it doesn’t require fat desktop. Whether it’s Windows, whether it’s Mac, whether it’s Phonebook, each of these endpoint now are getting thinner and thinner. Now there is a term thin client computing where the term is a really thin client and the horsepower might have better graphical capability or so and so forth. So whether it’s the physical thin client that of Dell, HP or anybody else you know sort of makes or it’s the you know, the adjective as opposed of sort of the way in which you would describe the client becoming thinner and thinner.

(15:29) From our perspective we’re actually not you know focused on that. We can certainly run on thin client computing terminals like you know, some of these hardware folks make. But if your client computing strategy or endpoint strategy is to not really have a fat client but to have a thinner endpoint, we think that’s where the world is going because long-term all of these horsepower moves to the cloud. All the applications move to the cloud and what you want to be able to have is have that being delivered out irrespective of endpoints.

(15:58) If you have to install software or install identities, all of the profile, all of the software on every single endpoint that you want, it just physically is impossible to get done. You lose your mobility because you want to be able to use an enterprise application in the terminal of San Francisco airport or in many cases where it’s the new mobile endpoint; these applications haven’t been built sometimes for Android or IOS or even for the web. So that’s how I would think about the current and the future of thin client computing.

Michael Krigsman:

(16:34) So again there is this significant infrastructure that companies need to put in place to enable the capabilities that you were describing, but at the same time to get users to adopt this new way of working requires a digital mindset and cultural changes even and work and process changes to take place as well.

Sanjay Poonen:           

(17:01) Yeah and I agree. Listen, I’d say while it could be scary infrastructures. Infrastructures behind the scenes are what we do well. infrastructure problems is what VM solves really well. we’re the fastest growing infrastructure company, you know from zero to 6.5 billion in 15 years and you know we like those problems because we abstract them away, we virtualize them if you would and we make the simpler and easier.

(17:25) Now the other thing that makes that simplest today in any cases is you don’t have to start up that infrastructure yourself, we can do that in the cloud, whether it’s desktop service or running on mobile solutions. Solutions are all cloud centric.

(17:38) Now the other part that you talked about which is just as important which is the process and the people aspect and I’d advise a lot of technology leaders in life and business leaders, you have to have a very different mindset to the way in which you think about things in this mobile cloud era.

(17:51) First off you have to go digital, I mean you almost have to make a sort of a revolution to paper processes and manual processes and look at every single way by digital technologies, where phone can replace the need to capture paper receipts. You can take a copy receipt and then digitize that and expense reimbursement gets done on a much more mobile centric way. That’s what Concur and companies in that area do really well.

(18:17) Workflow processes that are very cumbersome to route this, to route that could be a much simpler workflow process on a mobile application that’s built and then the approval of you or my boss Michael could be just routed via email and that workflow process whether it be expense or you know vacation days. Then there’s number of processes; medical records, it’s a beautiful digitization for us that should not be – today it’s very point to point. You share a text message maybe your phone calls and the sharing of information and some of it for good regulatory reasons HIPPA and other has to be confined. But there’s’ a lot we can do to bring the world of document sharing, sharing of medical records or even images of x-rays and make it so easy for two doctors to collaborate.

(19:04) In many cases in doing that you’re actually probably saving a life, so we look at any of these use cases. Another one that I’ll give you, a great one that’s you know in the airline industry AirWatch is becoming almost a de facto standard. You think about these pilots lugging in you know 30 pound bags into the cockpit, you know I’ve always wondered what’s inside that bag. I assure you it’s not their toiletries. It’s a lot of paper manuals for the landing instructions of a plane or the flight instructions about you know, the plane or the airports it’s going to land in.

(19:34) That can now be digitized, United Airlines and several others are the first to do that with an iPad. Other airlines like Delta pick a Microsoft surface tablet, and whatever your device is the document have been digitized and you know it reduces weight of what you take into the cockpit.

(19:52) The next thing that happens, the flight attendants have got iPads where they’re checking out what the passengers are ordering and they’re maintaining your profile so that they can have a much better customer relationship with you. And then the third thing that happens is the people on the shop floor who are maintaining the plane have an iPad to actually help with the experience of how they’re going to do the maintenance, predictive maintenance and plant maintenance of the aircraft engines.

(20:15) So the entire aircraft industry there goes digitized, the infrastructure providing that behind the scenes is VMWare technologies. So we want to be in a place where you go industry by industry whether it’s healthcare, whether it’s education, whether it’s financial services or whether it’s airlines we’re bringing that digital infrastructure to the working experience from everybody from the flight to a fight lieutenant to a mechanic; that’s the way we think about the problem.

Michael Krigsman:

(20:40) Okay so your customers are putting in this kind of infrastructure which then has the potential to significantly change the way work, but what is then required to drive adoption and to drive the cultural changes that are necessary to convince people to collaborate, who maybe before you know didn’t; they were focused on their own silos.

Sanjay Poonen:

(21:08) Yeah and I think it’s a good question. Ultimately the people and process aspects it take a leader who is willing to drive change by saying the world is moving digital or the next generation is moving digital. It’s really important that we revolutionize in the way we think about this process and embrace the technologies of the millennials. It could be a mobile device it could be a cloud technology, so at the core of it we think and this is no disrespect of age. I mean I’ve got my grandparents – my parents that are dealing with my children now on Facetime or whatever have you.

(21:46) So irrespective of age there has to be a impetus by a visionary leader who says, the digital transformation has got to happen and we’re going to embrace cloud and embrace mobile, and throw away aspects of things that are either paper or manual and make that a mandate. And usually without that leadership you know and then they create centers of excellence to allow the delivery of that technology very quickly, whether it’s the rapid transformation of the desktop to something that can be virtual, or the rapid deployment of mobile with management security systems like AirWatch or the sharing of documents or identity management, all the type of thing that happen. Those are just technology areas behind the scenes; a visionary leader is driving that into the organization.

(22:32) And then I think usually you find line of business, the users themselves are delighted to welcome this because in many cases they’re using consumer applications like Facebook or Twitter in their consumer life, they can bring their Mac or their iPhone or their Samsung phone and they can bring their own device, bring their own phone, bring their own laptop and they can get the experience of business applications now on their personal devices improving their productivity.

(23:00) Ultimately, the gain for the end-user is significant productivity gain that allows the to work, again work at the speed of light and they get more done in less time and then they can do what they want with their self-esteem; time. Some of them might to go and spend time with their families; some of them might want to work more. I’m not here to make a judgement call on work/life balance, but I would say in general that if we could increase the productivity of end-users the company or the organization benefits at the end.

Michael Krigsman:

(23:28) So there’s a significant leadership component, it’s not just the technology but it’s the technology combined or within the context of leadership.

Sanjay Poonen:           

(23:37) I think, I mean listen it can happen without leadership too, but our studies have shown and the research of what we’ve done of best practice companies that have rolled out business mobility initiatives there’s often a visionary leader CIO, CTO, or maybe even a CEO that’s driving change and forcing this often – with of course you know a bottoms up also encouraged.

(24:00) So I think it’s a combination of  a strong leader but then maybe a group or voice of millennials that are from the bottom up, you know demanding and requiring change. That combination is a tornado that ultimately helps an organization. And there are companies after company that I could cite, that I case studied that are best practice examples of embracing that type of digital revolution.

Michael Krigsman:

(24:21) So you have the technology infrastructure, you have leadership at the top that is driving the vision of where this is going but you also have grass-root support for that vision and for the execution of that vision.

Sanjay Poonen:

(24:37) You’ve got the right three things there and then I’d say if you’re going to add a fourth it would best be a process - -I mean it’s always people, it’s product, people and process, right. The three Ps that typically make you know anything in innovation really well. on the process front you find set-ups like centers of excellence, to make it such that the roll out of the technology or you do things like roll it out in mobile and cloud centric, these are process oriented ways by which you say, hey listen, we’re not going to do something unless it’s this. Or we’re going to have this lean mean center of excellence.

(25:08) For example one of the things we’ve done here as we’re rolled out mobile, is we’ve created an IT café, right near our real café or restaurant where people can go and have lunch and they can go downstairs to the IT café, they bring their device and say, hey listen I need help. All of a sudden we find all the helpdesk calls are going down, and all of a sudden our CIO tells me IT’s actually starting to become popular because they’re viewed as someone who can help them, and people get their you know device or phone addressed while they’re having lunch.

(25:38) These are practical ways which you change the process to actually make the end-users productivity be significantly better.

Michael Krigsman:

(25:44) So tell us a little bit about the Center of Excellence concept in this case.

Sanjay Poonen:           

(25:50) I think you know it’s always something that I’ve always been, I mean in  BI and analytics and then I worked closely with Gartner as they were rolling out the Analytics Centers of Excellence and both SAP and my prior experience at Informatica and Alphablox, we drove that. Business Object and I stood for that inside SAP. And I think it’s become now very common practice for the way in which you roll out best practice of analytics. Because this notion today of course you have scientists, big data scientists and machine learning kind of centers of excellence.

(26:21) I mean it’s not one of those skills that everybody wants to perfect, but to the extent that you can have a brain trust. Of course all of us should have an analytically you know savvy mindset, but the way in which the best use of tools or the best way to get this done is to share that best practice, having some center of excellence, having some Brain Trust if you would. And the same thing I think I would apply to mobility and to other kind of key disciplines where that center of excellence becomes something that the organization can count on.

(26:52) Listen, all of us want to have experts – I mean, who do we typically go to when we have a legal crisis? The best lawyer in town right. Who do we talk to when we have a medical crisis? The best doctor in town. I think  the same way of there’s some center of excellence or the key things you’re trying to get done that acts as a business partner to you in these areas. I think we see that becomes one of the key success criteria as these projects get rolled out.

Michael Krigsman:

(27:19) So as the company is undertaking this transformation, building the brain trust becomes a way of consolidating as you said the best practices and the strongest expertise and I’m assuming then it serves as a resource for the company and also as a center point to radiate out that expertise and share it with people inside the company.

Sanjay Poonen:

(27:47) I agree and I think that one of the things we find is that that Brain Trust doesn’t need to be big. Often people think we need to hire huge teams. I think quite frankly, lean and mean brain trusts you want to call that or that center of excellence is another synonym for it could become.

(28:02) I mean I usually in any areas I’m usually looking for the smartest people. I spend 30 to 40% of my time if it’s not meeting customers it’s recruiting. And I’m often I’m scouring LinkedIn or whatever sources of place of people either send me names and so on and I want to meet them for coffee.

(28:20) It’s really at the end of the day talent war right. I mean you’re trying to recruit people that maybe three or four or five other companies are trying to recruit. And the more that you can have your arms around that best talent in each area and feel like you’ve got a brain trust that’s the best, or a center of excellence that the best that’s particular, I think you become a much better evolving and high performance organization over time.

Michael Krigsman:

(28:42) So we’ve been talking about leadership Sanjay, and for the many years that I’ve known you, you have been presenting and talking about a concept of leadership that you call servant leadership and so maybe you would share what that is and your thinking about that.

Sanjay Poonen:

(29:03) As you can tell, I’m very passionate about leadership. In fact, on my Twitter handle for those of you who follow me @spoonen on Twitter I talk about loving music, piano, which is I play the piano and leadership. Listen, you know leadership is one of those things which is you know vastly misunderstood and in many cases abused. People think the only way you can be a leader is to be a manager.

(29:24) I think the greatest leaders to me are people like Nelson Mandela you know Mahatma Gandhi, you know I’m using examples from the 20th Century, who were examples of people who created movements.

(29:37) You know leadership to me is being able to get people to do what they don’t want to do and loving it, I think a Peter Drucker line. And if you think about the freedom movement in India or the fight against apartheid in South Africa. I mean many of these things went on whether Nelson Mandela was in jail or not. So I’m very inspired by leaders of inside and outside of technology that can actually create movements, and they can get whole organizations to work and drive a cause whether they work for them or not.

(30:04) And I think the way in which you get that to happen is this notion of servant leadership, which is at the end of the day, you look at yourself – and there is a great line that Nelson Mandela that said listen, lead from the back and make other people feel that they’re leading from the front. It’s almost like you are leading from the back of the room and people aren’t even looking but they hear your voice, they know that your kind of there, you’re helping drive them, you’re their coach. But they in turn are driving. When you get an organization to understand that you know, their greatest power is them and you’re really the facilitator to that.

(30:38) Another good example of that is a conductor of an orchestra. I use this example in a lot of my leadership classes, which I’ll talk about in a second, but the beauty of an orchestra, he’s not the best. He or she is not the best violinist or the lead violinist, the lead trombone player or the one playing the symbols or whatever. They’re just the ones pulling together, but the moment they stop using their arms the orchestra stops. If they do the wrong thing, one side the orchestra the left side might be playing this harmony with the right side.

(31:05) So, I’m a musician, I love music and you know a lot of my great examples about how teams work together are baked in music. So we have to cultivate a group of leaders that are not you know, self-serving, that are thinking of the rest of the team above themselves.

(31:25) I use this poem a lot from a great freedom struggle fighter in India named Rabindranath Tagore, who said something like this; I went to bed and dreamt that life was joy. I woke up and realized that life was service. I acted and behold, service was joy.

(31:46) So I think when you have your life driven by the way in which you serve your teams, clearly all of us are ambitious, we want great thing. But I often find sadly, as people get more and more successful, invariably they get preoccupied with themselves. They’re occupied in their own ego. They kiss up and they kick down so to speak, and those are qualities ultimately I think – I mean there are few people in the world who are extremely arrogant and extremely wealth. But I think if you think about you know the success of a great leader, you know clearly that smart and helpful and I think hard working is very helpful. And when we combine smart with hard work and humility, I think that’s something very special and I will tell you that’s a rare combination; smart, hardworking and humility.

(32:34) So part of what I’ve done over the course of the last seven -10 years as we lead the class for leadership development; the time for leadership now and I’ve done I think probably 1000 or 2000 people through it. Practically every manager that worked for me at SAP and now at VM has been through that curriculum. It’s not something that I developed myself but I was very inspired by people like (Noel Teshi?), who wrote the HR curriculum at GE and that’s really help me inspire people to drive this type of leadership that’s a constant learning and teaching, and hopefully a few people viewing this can see how passionate I’m about it.

Michael Krigsman:

(33:15) So you know I have to say that it’s the first time ever on CXOTalk that anybody has mentioned Rabindranath Tagore, and thank you for that. I’m not an expert on his work but his poetry is simply extraordinary and I tweeted out the Wikipedia page about Tagore so people can go and read it. So this notion of servant leadership how can one cultivate that.

Sanjay Poonen:

(33:53) I think first off I talk this about everything in life being about teaching and learning, but I think first off all of us desire mentors right, I encourage every leader to seek mentors. I’ve been very fortunate to work with some incredible CEOs over the course and others, but I use because many often I was working for them. Whether it was John Thompson or John Schwartz, Shai Agassi, you know Bill McDermott, Vishal and now Pat Gelsinger, Joe Tucci our Chairman.

(34:26) These are incredible men who and in many cases I’ve also learnt from women to who have been folks who I worked for on boards or other, who have been incredible you know inspirations to me and the way in which they lead and in many cases they’re also very down to earth individuals if you get to know them that have humility at the core what they’ve done and what stories and I’ve just been very fortunate to work for them and watch.

(34:49) I’m not perfect, none of them are perfect; they’ve all got their own you know strengths and weaknesses as do all of us. But you know as one learns from inside that environment where you can learn some of that, my obligation now is to teach. People often say well I would love a great friendship, but they don’t spend enough time mentoring others.

(35:07) I find them very selfish, they don’t mentor others, so I tell everybody listen, before you think about what you can get mentored by you know, some bigshot in your company, figure out how you can mentor others. I spend a good part of my life trying to mentor other people who are in the younger generation. Folks in their 20s, 30s, and millennial’s, often people who are in school systems. Coming out of school, just last week we had folks who are from an underprivileged part of the Bay area and who are up and comers, and 17-year-olds all thinking about the future of life, and to me it was an exciting, motivating our that I could spend with 17-year-olds. You know young women and men who were thinking about their future of life and encourage them to work hard, go to college okay, be in a learning more than then teach others.

(35:56) And you know we have to do more as leaders, to ensure that we are distilling these values in the next generation. So part of what I do when I teach these leadership development classes, I teach the class myself Michael. I don’t outsource this to some HR person. I teach this myself because it’s really important that every single manager or a leader in my team see that I want them to be successful.

(36:19) And you know, my job and there’s is kind of like almost a parent figure, you know helping be the coach to make sure that the children in your team which are the people employees are doing. It’s not being pedantic talking that they are children, but it’s almost like a parent. You know an employee management relationship often is like a parent and child relationship, you really have to make sure you’re looking out for the best for them.

(36:40) One other example I share is I often find that employees and managers, managers are threatened by hiring employers better than then. And they feel intimidated by that, or they tell them listen, I don’t want you to go and talk to my boss unless I’m in the room – all of these sort of insecurity complexes that sort of develop around a person, that to me we’ve got to destroy in the way in which we drive our corporate culture.

(37:04) Because ultimately it’s a sign of insecurity. Imagine, I’ve got a nine-year-old girl and twin five-year-old boys and you know I love running in the back garden with my nine-year-old and you can imagine that I could probably beat her in a race, but very soon she will try and beat me. But imagine if I was threatened by that. In fact, every time she greets me I’m more excited than ever. But often I find that same relationship does not exist between an employee and manager. The manager finds that the employee is getting too strong, they want to put them down under their thumb.

(37:31) So these are the types of things that we teach and develop with an obsession on people and talent, and I think it’s made a great difference in creating a corporate culture with the companies that I’ve been involved with whether it SAP or VMWare, that brings the best talent and the best energy out of our people to help them you know to reach the highest potential in their careers.

Michael Krigsman:

(37:54) So Sanjay the notion on being focused on mentoring and teaching others, in general would you say that helps being an antidote towards the kind of arrogance that is epithetical to servant leadership that you’ve been describing.

Sanjay Poonen:

(38:16) I think you know certainly when you teach you have to certainly know what you’re talking about and it allows you to explain and cultivate team work, so it’s certainly one. But there are other things to, I think you really have to surround yourself; I mean you are like the company that you keep. If you surround yourself with arrogant people, you’re probably going to be arrogant.

(38:38) But if you can you know make sure that a key part of your life is also surrounding yourself with folks who are humble and can teach you humility you’re probably going to learn from that and of course teach that to other people.

(38:53) Now listen, want to be very clear, servant leadership doesn’t mean that you’re like a doormat that everybody you know walks all over you. People know that I’m one of the most competitive people, you just have to watch my tweets I’m you know, I want to win against my competition and the score needs to be 100-0.

Michael Krigsman:

(39:09) Yes I know, that is absolutely true about you.

Sanjay Poonen:

(39:12) And I want to negotiate and I want it to be a strong position but it really is like, okay when I was at SAP I competed pretty hard against Oracle. Here I compete with companies like Citrix and MobileIron and Good [Technology] and others. My point there is like listen, when we’re done we’ll get back to the you know into having a drink or a coffee and we’re friends; it’s not personal at all.

(39:35) So you have to be in a place where just because you are a humble person doesn’t mean that you’re not competitive, you’re not ambitious. I mean all those are important but you don’t do it where you’re being a shark. I mean your ambition should not be one where you’re having to eat other people to rise up the corporate ladder. That type of ambition is a selfish ambition, ultimately I think it can work for some in time but is the undoing. When you have a person that rises up because the organization sees in that person, hey listen I want to follow that person not because that person has been a shark. I want to follow that person because there’s leadership attributes that I think I just admire about the way that their unselfish, the way in which they build out of people, that’s the best type of people; that’s a Nelson Mandela, that’s Mahatma Gandhi, that’s a leader that ultimately creates a following wherever they go right.

(40:25) So I think ultimately we look at ways like this where we can continue to cultivate in our best people and this is not just managers. Anybody who has a desire to do more and leadership potential that’s always thinking about other people, I mean there is no "I" in team right, so we’re constantly looking to see how the team wins, and when the team wins it’s clearly going to be often a Michael Jordan or a Scotty Pippin or you know whoever have you that’s going to shine and that’s okay. And we use a lot of sport analogies to map this out but ultimately the team benefitting is what we really really focus and obsess about. 

Michael Krigsman:

(41:06) So this kind of leadership which is flexible and adaptable and strong let’s apply it now to a different context which is IT. this is a big context shift here but IT is undergoing this tremendous change and so from the servant leadership perspective what advice would you have to CIOs who are just faced with this significant change in the technology and their role and technology budgets are shifting outside IT, what should a great CIO leader do?

Sanjay Poonen:

(41:51) You know I think honestly much of what I’ve described it’s awesome Michael that we’ve been speaking the last 15-20 minutes really about the soft topics, right. I mean I went to business school at Harvard and I remember sitting through organization behavior and somewhat was felt like soft topics and thought, man this is boring, get me to corporate finance and you  know technology and operations and things like that kind.

(42:12) I will tell you my experience in life is the hard stuff is the soft stuff, and the soft stuff is the hard stuff. I spend a significant part of my time coaching, grooming, hiring people, that’s all the organizational parts of my life that I feel like often a psychology major.

(42:29) So I think a great CIO first off has to understand that their greatest asset is not just the products or technology that they have, but the people and the process they set up. I think honestly anything in technology you’re focused on three things, product, people and processes, but the people and processes are the soft stuff that often are the reasons IT projects go wrong. And I find the greatest CIOs that I know, that I have gotten to know and inspired by they are just leaders that have a way which they’ve hired the best people, they’re grooming the best people, they’re always looking for process innovations and being innovative about it, and of course they have a discipline to pick the best products in the way in which they roll out technology.

(43:11) But you look at their teams and when they leave and maybe do something else. They’ve got a great team underneath them that step up. They’re very good at communicating their goals crisply. They’re always doing Town Halls and those skills map across any organization where the CIO, the CFO, or me, a General Manager in charge of a business or you know a CEO of a company. Any of those are essential, but beyond that I think an IT leader in their teaching and learning are trying to surround themselves either on their team or in the community of people they learn from, from people who are smarter than them that they’re learning from.

(43:47) And I find often, I find that these CIOs are trying to hang out with other CIOs that are doing best practice, they’re trying to emulate them have them kind of you know, teach their teams what to do and then they learn from those best practices. And I find my greatest learning out with CIOs or CSOs or CTOs, folks who are technology savvy is to constantly ask them, okay, you know you’re spending this much on IT as a percentage revenue, how do you compare that to what other CIOs are spending, is that best practice or is that not. You’re think about these projects now moving to the cloud, you’ve got it, is that best practice or not. You’re thinking about this spend on applications versus infrastructure, how does that compare to others, is that best practice or not. They’re constantly learning and challenging others to you know, with that sort of thinking they’ve got it all figured out.

(44:36) So there’s a lot and we can go on and on and I’m not the best, I mean my job has never to be a CIO, but I’m very fortunate to work with you know Bask Iyer here at VMWare. The former CIO before that was Tony Scott who is now Barak Obama’s federal CIO. So I’ve had the chance to work with some world class CIOs, the CIO at SAP was Oliver Bussman, who I think is now UBS so I any of these CIOs that I’ve had the fortune and privilege of working with I’ve learned a ton from them and then of course their network of many many other CIOs in the industry that I deal with and is part of my rolodex.

Michael Krigsman:

(45:12) Yes Oliver Bussman he is at UBS, he was a guest on CXOTalk and of course he’s amazing. Sanjay, we just have a few minutes left so what advice do you have to organizations that want to roll out this kind of digital workspace that you were describing earlier.

Sanjay Poonen:

(45:33) Hey except number one call us we’ll be happy to help! No I wanted to give the self-selling commercial and get that out of the way.

(45:38) I think you should really look at the way in which mobile and cloud are changing everything. If you’re bound to the old world of looking at things, you’ll probably be stuck at a fat desktop in the past, but mobile and cloud are changing everything. That means that in many cases you can take paper processes and digitize them, manual processes to automate them and then figure a way by which you can abstract a way all of your applications on one side, all of your devices on the other side and say, okay good, how do I bring them together. So make a list of all the applications you have.

(46:10) We have probably 3 or 400 hundred apps at VMWare in IT here and then all of the types of devices that people want. From a Windows laptop, we have a lot of people who know want Macs, some people want Chromebooks, to the tablets people want, to the phones people want. Then ask yourself, how do you map all of the applications to any of those devices in a way that allows end users to use them any place, anywhere in time.

(46:37) Then of course, if you need help with the technology we’d be delighted to help you, we have many customers who are gaining a lot of market share in the space so we have a lot of expertise in this area. I’ve tried to make my dialog here not vendor specific, but one that inspires a little bit of what we’re trying to get done, both in the technology world but also more importantly.

(46:56) And I would say my final piece of advice is say listen, hire smart people. Listen, it’s a talent war, talent game. I spend you know my time divided. I’m probably working 200% of a normal 40 hours, you know 50, 60, 70 hours but if you take 100% and divide it, I probably spend 40% of my time talking to customers and partners, 40% of my time recruiting, and 20 or 30% in probably meaningless meetings that I would like to get out of. But that time where I’m recruiting or retaining, it could be recruiting or retaining talent to get them motivated is just time that’s incredibly precious

Michael Krigsman:

(47:37) Okay, we have been talking with Sanjay Poonen on episode number 145 of CXOTalk. Sanjay, thank you so much for joining us and everybody, we appreciate that you stopped in and we will see you again not next week which is Thanksgiving but the week after. Thanks so much bye bye.

Companies mentioned in today’s show:





Content Locker: 


Delta Airlines:   


















United Airlines: 




Rabindranath Tagore:

Published Date: Nov 20, 2015

Author: Michael Krigsman

Episode ID: 304