The link between digital transformation and technology is not always clear. On this episode, Industry Analyst, Michael Krigsman, explores this topic with Marcus East from the Office of the CTO at Google.

Marcus East is an international technology and product executive and CDO/CIO/CTO with over 20 years experience of working in the Information Technology, specialising in, Digital Product, Digital Transformations and Electronic Commerce.

He is part of Google's Office of the CTO, which is a team that sits at the intersection of Google technology and its largest customers' challenges. Marcus acts as a 'virtual CTO' for them to help deepen their understanding of technology, while bringing customer insight back into Google to aid product development with a particular emphasis on Google Cloud.

He has two degrees: a Bachelor’s with honors in Management & Information Technology (Modular) from London Guildhall and a Master’s in Management from the University of Cambridge. Since then, he has held senior digital leadership positions for a number of major brands, including Comic Relief, Apple, National Geographic, and now Google.

Marcus is part of Google's Office of the CTO, which is a team that sits at the intersection of Google technology and its largest customers' challenges. Marcus acts as a 'virtual CTO' for them to help deepen their understanding of technology, while bringing customer insight back into Google to aid product development with a particular emphasis on Google Cloud.

Transcript

Michael Krigsman: What's the connection between Google Cloud and digital transformation? That's our topic today on CXOTalk. Marcus East, who is with the Office of the CTO at Google Cloud, he's an interesting guy, has a very interesting background, and I'm delighted. Marcus East, welcome to CXOTalk.

Marcus East: Thank you, Michael. Thank you so much for having me on your show.

Michael Krigsman: Marcus, please tell us about your role and tell us what you do at Google Cloud.

Marcus East: Yeah, I

This transcript was edited for length and clarity.

Michael Krigsman: What's the connection between Google Cloud and digital transformation? That's our topic today on CXOTalk. Marcus East, who is with the Office of the CTO at Google Cloud, he's an interesting guy, has a very interesting background, and I'm delighted. Marcus East, welcome to CXOTalk.

Marcus East: Thank you, Michael. Thank you so much for having me on your show.

Marcus East, tell us about your role at Google Cloud and previously as CTO at National Geographic?

Marcus East: I'm Technical Director in the Office of the CTO here at Google Cloud. That means that I have three primary responsibilities.

  1. One is working very closely with Google's biggest customers around the world to help them solve difficult technical challenges. We do a lot of that through what we call co-innovation where, rather than just thinking about what it is that Google has to sell to a customer, we actually like to work with them to develop solutions and technologies that they can use. That's one aspect of the role.
  2. The other is that I work very closely with our product engineering teams to help them better build some of the products that they're working on based on the feedback and the input that we get from customers.
  3. The third component is helping to position Google Cloud in the marketplace by thought leadership. That involves writing articles and doing conversations like this.

Michael Krigsman: You have a really interesting background, Marcus. You were at National Geographic. Tell us about that. I think that's quite fascinating, actually.

Marcus East: Yes. I spent a wonderful time at National Geographic as the chief technology officer. National Geographic was very focused on a big digital transformation, wanting to move from being 130-year-old brand that had a great legacy and great heritage with consumers to one that was relevant in the digital age. There was an acknowledgment that involved investments in technology and the creation of new products and services. It was my great privilege to lead that work.

Michael Krigsman: You know it's funny. When one thinks of National Geographic, you think of faraway places, you think of photographs, but CTO, Chief Technology Officer, doesn't quickly come to mind. Just briefly, tell us about the nature of your role there.

Marcus East: I think there were three aspects to the role of being CTO at National Geographic.

  1. The first, many of your viewers will recognize as a sort of traditional tech leader in that I was responsible for building the platforms that ran the National Geographic business, so the content management systems, the data systems that supported the business, and that was an area that took up a lot of my time.
  2. But I also had the opportunity to spend a lot of my time thinking about customer experiences and building digital products and services that allow National Geographic's consumers to actually have a new relationship with the organization.
  3. Then the third aspect of my role was building technologies that were actually used out in the field by explorers and researchers.

A great example there is the work that's done by a researcher called Topher White who has built an incredible device that listens out for sounds in the jungle or in the rainforest and uses artificial intelligence in order to process those sounds. It now, for example, identifies the sound of gunshots where people are illegally poaching or chainsaws where they're illegally logging. It was a very interesting role to have, indeed.

Michael Krigsman: Why did you make the jump from National Geographic to Google? I think that's a relevant part of this story.

Marcus East: Yeah, it's a good question and one that I get asked very regularly. As you heard from what I said earlier, I had a fantastic role and really enjoyed my time at National Geographic. But I was also very conscious that there is a big change going on in the industry right now. For me, that change was driven by the cloud and the way in which the cloud was enabling digital transformations for many big organizations.

I actually first got to know Google Cloud as a customer. One of the projects that I did at National Geographic was taking the National Geographic image collection, which is its collection of the most iconic photographs, including things like the African Girl, and moving those to Google Cloud as part of a program to protect them for future generations. What I realized was that many organizations could benefit from using the cloud, and so this new role gives me an opportunity to work with many customers to help them get access to some of the solutions that have helped me in my career.

We have a question from Sal Rasa on Twitter. Do the societal benefits of digital technology come into play at Google?

Marcus East: Absolutely, yes, in two regards. One is that, by helping our customers to solve their most difficult problems, we are helping them to be more successful. We are helping them to grow. We are helping them to deliver better services to their customers. There is definitely a wider societal benefit there.

Also, on a personal basis, I'm heavily involved in some of our initiatives around trying to get technology skills increased in some underrepresented communities, for example. I do a lot of mentoring and I'm involved in lots of the Google initiatives specifically around making a positive contribution to society.

What’s happening with Google Cloud right now?

Marcus East: Yeah, a big topic. I'll give you a sort of overview and then we can dive into the areas that interest you the most. I think it's worth starting, though, with this idea that I was a customer and now I'm a Google Cloud employee, and so I am seeing the transition from the inside having experienced it from the outside.

One of the things that I have noticed since being here is that the investments that our CEO Thomas Kurian is making are very focused on supporting our customers. We are investing heavily in our sales and channel capabilities so that we have more touchpoints with customers. We're investing in customer success for the first time so that we have people who are focused on helping customers not only get onto Google Cloud but then be successful with Google Cloud.

We're also investing in customer support and service so that we can make sure that we can be responsive to the needs of those customers who have actually moved to Google Cloud. Those investments are having a really profound impact and we're winning customers all the time. We're having engagements with new potential customers on a regular basis, and so we're definitely seeing a big transition as we're acknowledged now as one of the challengers in this cloud space.

Michael Krigsman: Why now? Why did Google make the decision to invest in Google Cloud to this extent today?

Marcus East: The cloud market is one that is growing rapidly. The research suggests that, in the next few years, it will be valued at over $100 billion. Google has many advantages. Acknowledged as a challenger in this space, we're seen as a leader when it comes to building secure, scalable, intelligent cloud solutions for enterprise customers.

Many of the technologies that Google is now making available to customers started through the investments that Google itself made in its business. When it comes to things like machine learning and artificial intelligence where we were acknowledged as a technology leader, customers can now take advantage of some of the skills and capabilities that Google has used up until now for itself. I think that it's seeing customers going on these big digital transformation journeys and realizing that Google has the potential to help them by bringing some of that expertise and some of that knowledge that has been developed over many years building Google's business.

Michael Krigsman: We think of Google as being a B2C company or everybody thinks of search, of course. Now, you're talking about a very, very heavy investment in B2B, and so what are the kind of challenges do you think that Google faces in making that transition?

Marcus East: I think the big opportunity is, one, as I talked about before, to give customers an opportunity to benefit from some of the things that have previously been proprietary to Google. Google has nine different products that have over a billion users, including search. Those products clearly have helped to shape the world and have actually helped to drive digital transformation by changing the way in which consumers interact with data and consumers interact with information.

As we move towards developing a stronger B2B profile, it is making investments that allow us to support our customers but, at the same time, building new products and services specifically for the needs of our own customers. A good example there would be the co-innovation work that we do. I talked about that a little bit earlier.

I can just give you one example. One of our customers, Iron Mountain, has a great heritage, of course, in document management and managing the information for its customers. In working with Google, we identified an opportunity to help them with their migration to the public cloud using the great compute and storage capabilities of Google Cloud, but we were also then able to use our machine learning and artificial intelligence capabilities to develop with them some new offerings specifically around document intelligence. That's now an offering that we are making available with them to their customers. It really is interesting for me to see how we're able to build on that legacy of being a B2C brand that has helped to drive digital transformation in the last two decades to one that is now helping our customers to do the same.

Why did Google Cloud create the Office of the CTO?

Marcus East: Yeah, the Office of the CTO plays a really important role in our engagement with customers in that it's a safe space for our customers to explore some of their most difficult challenging problems without the pressure of sales targets or the need to sell a specific solution to them. The Office of the CTO is part of Google's engineering function. What motivates us is working with customers to help them tackle those problems in a way that generates value for them but, also, potentially creates patterns and intellectual property that we can then use in other products and services.

It's very exciting for them because they have almost a unique opportunity to work with very experienced engineers from within Google. Some of the Office of the CTO are people who have been here for many years working on Google's own products, and others are people like me who have been CTOs in other organizations bringing that customer external perspective.

Michael Krigsman: Is it kind of an advanced consulting group? Would that be an accurate way of putting it?

Marcus East: Some people think of it as a consulting group, but I would say the difference is that we're not engaging with customers in a way where we expect them to pay us to do something. We're really looking for that co-innovation. We're taking our skills and capabilities, our knowledge of all of the tools that Google has and working alongside them to find ways to develop value for both organizations.

It's very different from a traditional consulting model where somebody is paying you to come and do some work. We're actually not approaching it in the same way.

How does co-innovation with customers work at Google Cloud?

Marcus East: That's a big driver for us. Co-innovation is this idea that we take someone from the Office of the CTO to work alongside senior technology leaders in a customer to think about the problem from the perspective of the customer. We're not coming at it from the perspective of a specific product set. We're coming at it from the perspective of, "We're all technologists. How do we work together in order to actually tackle these problems?"

That allows us to tap into Google's engineering and product capabilities, though. It also allows us to tap into our partner network. By doing that, we can then develop a solution specifically for those customers' needs that just may not have existed before. I think co-innovation is one of the unique things about the Office of the CTO and one of the reasons customers are so excited to work with us.

Michael Krigsman: Marcus, how much of this co-innovation is driven by the desire to A) assist customers versus B) gain a better understanding inside Google of the kind of deeper questions and issues that your customers are facing?

Marcus East: Yeah, it's absolutely both, but I do want to go back to this topic of digital transformation. One of the things that I recognize, having been a CTO myself for many years, is that customers want solutions. They don't want technology and they don't want products.

The other way in which engaging through the Office of the CTO is a value to customers is that they know that we start by talking about the issue or the challenge that they're facing rather than talking about some specific angle to it. A lot of the interest the customers have initially is tackling their problem, but they very quickly realize that there's a lot of technology, a lot of expertise, a lot of experience within Google that can help. It's our job in the Office of the CTO to pull all of that together.

Michael Krigsman: That co-innovation is really a central part for your reason in the Office of the CTO to exist.

Marcus East: Absolutely. Co-innovation and then, building on that, this idea of a thought leadership too where we take the experiences that we have working with customers and we try to establish patterns in thinking that can be used by other organizations. Yesterday, I had an article go out about what I describe as how the cloud has helped to transform not only some of the systems that I've been responsible for but also my career. I know that resonated with other CTOs because many of them have reached out to me to say, "Yeah, I'm also experiencing similar things." Thought leadership is another important aspect of what we do.

What is digital transformation from your perspective?

Marcus East: Yeah, this is another great question, Michael. In fact, just before coming to Google, I wrote a book about digital transformation called Working with Dinosaurs. One of the points that I raised in the book was this idea that digital transformation is a very broad term that covers everything from application modernization through to building new products and services for customers.

I think that the challenge for many leaders in big enterprises is making it relevant to their organization. I think digital transformation has many, many aspects to it. I personally think there are six things that are really important.

One is having flexible technology, and that's what brings us back to the cloud. I believe that cloud technologies and cloud solutions are all a great foundation for digital transformations. We allow our customers to build, deploy, and manage applications much more quickly in the cloud than they could when they were doing it through traditional, on-premise solutions. That's, for me, one of the foundational elements of digital transformation.

Also, there's a need to truly understand your customers through experimentation. One of the other things I think is important is that, for companies to be successful at digital transformation, they need to be really embracing this idea that they have to experiment with new ideas with their own customers in order to see what it is that the market is demanding.

Next, I think they have to be able to measure and actually look at the data that they're generating from those experiments in order to make the right decisions. I think it's very hard to have good digital transformation if you don't have good data and you don't have good insight into what your consumers are doing.

Then there are three other things that I've seen consistently throughout my career. The next is this idea of collaboration across organizational boundaries where, certainly when I started my career 25 years ago, organizations could operate in a very siloed way, both within a big enterprise but also between enterprises. Today, in order to develop and to deliver digital transformation, organizations have to collaborate in a different way. They have to be able to share knowledge more quickly and to move more quickly. That's another aspect of it.

Agility is key, too. Pierre Nanterme, who until recently was the chief executive of Accenture, in 2016 shared a report that showed that, between 2000 and 2016, 50% of Fortune 500 companies had ceased to exist. One of the reasons that Accenture identified that they ceased to exist was their inability to move quickly enough into this digital age. Agility and speed are important.

The number one thing that I think really drives digital transformation is an intense focus on the customer because the companies that have been most successful have been those who have been able to deliver value to their end customers. I think all of those together drive digital transformation.

Michael Krigsman: But what is digital transformation? Is it, "Well, we have a new website," or, "Now we can sell our products on the Web. Before, you had to go to our stores"? Is there any point to even define it in this way?

Marcus East: I think it can be helpful to define it. For me personally, digital transformation is where organizations are taking advantage of new technologies in order to redesign and to redefine the relationship between the organization, its customers, its employees, and its partners. I think, when you have that broad definition, it gives you the opportunity to include things like building new websites, but it could also be building new business models and having an entirely different way of delivering services to your end customers. It all starts, I believe, with the use of technology.

Digital transformation is about culture and change. What is the role of technology?

Marcus East: I believe technology is an enabler to all of those things that I talked about: to measurement, to experimentation, to collaboration, to agility, and to customer focus. A good example would be the way in which we now, through one of the tools that we have called BigQuery, we allow our customers to take huge data sets, multi-petabyte data sets, move them into a serverless environment where they can then use our tools in order to analyze that information and to drive insights that then inform their business decisions.

Yes, what we're doing there is we're using our technology to enable better insights and more customer focus for them. I think the foundation of all digital transformation is a flexible, powerful technology.

Michael Krigsman: Let me ask you just to drill down further because I think that the distinction between the technology enablement and the business outcomes, and the connection between those two is so foundational here.

Marcus East: Yeah, agreed. One of the other things that I think is important when it comes to this idea of digital transformation measurement is being clear about the KPIs. The most successful programs that I have seen, either as an executive driving them or as somebody supporting them externally, have been those that have had a very tight focus on very explicit business outcomes. I think the technologists benefit from having those very clear KPIs and targets because it allows them to develop solutions that work toward those.

Ultimately, there are many ways in which people are using technology to drive digital transformation. If I draw my own experience when I was at National Geographic, we were using technology to drive down the cost of creating and distributing content. That was very important to us as a media company. Many of the media companies that we work with are looking at ways in which they can just drive down the cost of their operations.

Cloud plays a very important role there. Many of them are consolidating data centers into public cloud infrastructures. That's one aspect and often the starting point for their digital transformation.

They often quickly move on to think about, what are the new products and services that we can build that can take advantage of the way in which consumers are consuming content? Recently, I was at a conference called IBC, which is a big media and entertainment conference. I had the opportunity to speak with lots of customers from the media and entertainment world.

Many of them are now thinking about how they can build that direct relationship with consumers that haven't existed for them before. Many of them have been producing content that has gone through a TV channel or gone through a cable network, but now they're looking at digital transformation as a way to build those direct relationships with consumers. We have tools and capabilities that can help them with that based on our many years of experience of building solutions and building products that have been used by consumers.

I think the third aspect to digital transformation that's important is this idea that you may have to change your business processes in order to be successful. A good example would be when I worked at a big retailer back in the U.K. We were very good at building new experiences in the digital world, but we realized that we had to also change some of our business processes.

For example, prior to investing in our digital transformation, there was no 24/7 operational support for customers because, typically, customer support was driven in stores. Through working with our technology partners, we were able to build a 24/7 capability that had to be reflected within our internal operations as well. Digital transformation affects every aspect of the business from the technology through the processes and operations through to the relationship with the customers.

What's the connection between the Google Cloud and your customers' efforts on digital transformation?

Marcus East: Yeah, one of the reasons I'm really excited to be part of Google Cloud is that I think that Google has a lot of value to bring to enterprise customers. That's partly because of the way in which we have organized our technology into solutions that make sense for them. There are five areas that we really focus on.

One is simply this idea of infrastructure modernization; helping our customers to find ways to run their technology infrastructures more cost-effectively. That could be using containers. It could be moving to a serverless computer, and it could just be taking advantage of our global network. That's one aspect of what we do.

Then data management is also very important. Many of our customers are overwhelmed by huge amounts of data that are coming from different devices, different sources, different systems. We have a whole suite of tools and capabilities that allow them to manage that data much better.

Once you have the data, getting insight from it is also important. We also have what we describe as a smart business analytics focus, which is where we're using some of the advanced technologies that Google has to give customers the ability to drive insight out of their end data.

Then moving on from that, we're also looking at how we use machine learning and artificial intelligence to drive explicit outcomes for customers. I gave the example of Iron Mountain earlier using our AI capabilities.

Then last but not least, we have a collaboration suite, including things like G Suite, that is helping organizations to break down those internal silos so that they can get working across all of their boundaries to deliver for their customers.

Google Cloud, when I think about how I see digital transformation, Google Cloud is well structured to help customers with all parts of that journey.

Michael Krigsman: You just described so many different pieces. What is Google Cloud as distinct from, say, Google G Suite and Google Docs, as an example?

Marcus East: Yeah. In Google Cloud, you can think of Google Cloud as one of the market leaders when it comes to building secure, scalable, and intelligent cloud solutions for enterprises. That really is the focus.

Our chief exec is very focused on this idea that we are building, for our enterprise customers, solutions for their businesses. That's distinct from the business-to-consumer capabilities that have driven Google historically.

What it means is that we are always looking for ways in which we can deliver explicit value to customers and that's what drives us back to this idea of co-innovation. We want to work with them to solve their difficult problems using Google technologies where they're available but then developing new technologies where we don't have those available yet.

What are the common issues, patterns, challenges, or obstacles Google enterprise customers face with digital transformation?

Marcus East: They are large enterprises, and we typically are working with Google's largest customers around the world from the Office of the CTO. I think there are three things that really stand out for me that are consistent themes in my conversations.

Cost is undoubtedly one of them. On Monday, I was in Amsterdam in a conversation with a big media customer. They were wanting to consolidate multiple data centers into a single data center and, at the same time, develop a public cloud capability. We described that together as a hybrid cloud solution where they want to be able to have some of their data and content on-premise and managed within their infrastructure, potentially for reasons of latency, but they also wanted to take advantage of the cost benefits of using the public cloud.

That's a theme that I see consistently from customers that I talk to. Cost is definitely one and one of the things we're focused on is making sure that we have cost-effective solutions for our customers.

Another aspect I touched upon earlier is this idea of data in that, increasingly, businesses understand that data is potentially a differentiator for them. If they have data about their customers and users, they can drive insight from that data in order to make better business decisions.

Many of the CTOs that I talk to are overwhelmed with vast quantities of data that are coming from all sorts of different directions. One good example of how we help would be a solution called Dataflow, which allows organizations that have batch processes generating data, but also have live stream data coming through, for example, their website or through their applications, we can bring all of those together so that there is a single data source that allows them to then start running insights and analytics against a much more structured, manageable data set. Data is definitely a big theme.

Michael Krigsman: You mentioned that your customers are starting to understand this and, clearly, the ability to recognize the kinds of data that the customer has and how to apply that data is a learned skill. Tell us about the journey that your customers go on to understand data as an asset in the way you just described.

Marcus East: Yeah, and we have, I think, in my experience, two types of customers. There are customers who do have deep data scientist skills in-house. Maybe data has been something that has been a competency for them for a long time. Typically, they're looking to take advantage of some of the Google technologies so they can build out their own solutions and their own models. I think that also applies to what we're seeing in the artificial intelligence space.

For some of our more sophisticated customers, they can take advantage of our solutions like TensorFlow in order to build their own models. They can take advantage of some of our data capabilities, our services like Dataproc to build their own Hadoop clusters to be able to process huge amounts of data.

Then there are other customers who perhaps don't have that depth of resource and who haven't had the opportunity to hire or to develop deep expertise in data science. For them, we provide things like BigQuery where all they have to worry about is getting their data into the solution and then they can use the tools that we have built-in order to actually get the insights that they want.

I think it's important that we can support both types of customer because one of the other things that I think is important for digital transformation is this idea that it's a journey. Many customers are starting their journey to the cloud now with what I describe is just lift and shift. They're looking for those cost benefits.

They're looking to take virtual machines from their existing on-premise data centers and move those into the public cloud. That is not enough to deliver digital transformation. That's just the starting point. I like to talk about them moving and improving, which is how they can start taking existing applications and systems and modernize those using cloud technology so that they can start to introduce new capabilities.

To give you a specific example, at National Geographic, I moved the image collection into Google Cloud. That was partly an infrastructure and partly a security play. We also started exploring the use of something called AutoML, which is one of Google's machine learning tools, to allow us to recognize the content of photographs and to enrich that metadata. To me, that's a really good example of move and improve where customers can not only get cost-benefit by moving into the cloud but use it as a way to unlock innovation and to start modernizing the systems that they have.

Explain “lift and shift” with migration to the cloud?

Marcus East: A lot of research out there suggests that there is still a huge opportunity to develop the cloud marketplace. One of the studies that I saw recently suggested that, for some of the biggest companies, they have moved only around 10% of their workloads into the public cloud. I think what that means is that some of the easy use cases have already migrated, but now it's the opportunity to think about, how do you deliver the more complex use cases?

That's where I believe we at Google have a real differentiator in that we're not saying to our customers, "Just move your applications and systems over to us and we'll run them more cost-effectively for you." We're saying that we can do that, but that we can also work with you to give you access to tools and capabilities to then modernize their systems and applications.

That's one of the reasons that we're winning in the marketplace and getting momentum because I think that customers want more than just moving into public cloud to get cost benefits. They want to get access to some of that Google magic to help them actually build new products and services too.

Michael Krigsman: Your strategy is quite interesting to me because, clearly—and correct me if I'm not right here—it seems that your approach is to work with these customers on a business level rooted and built upon the technology, but to really help them understand the implications for their business so that the shift is not just a platform shift but it involves a far deeper business change and everything that that implies.

Marcus East: Absolutely, which goes back to your earlier point about digital transformation. The technology may be the foundation for success, but you also need the cultural change in order to really deliver the value to the business. I believe that's one of the areas in which we're able to differentiate and that we are acknowledged as a leader when it comes to innovation through all of the work that Google has done itself for its own business in the last two decades. Now, taking that culture, exposing it to our customers, and using it as a way to inspire them to develop more innovation and to drive the cultural change necessary is as important, I think, as having great technology solutions.

Is the core of your digital transformation efforts at Google Cloud helping customers with business aspects of cloud migration?

Marcus East: I think that's one part of it. Definitely, there is, as I mentioned earlier, a huge investment right now in building out our sales teams and our customer touchpoints, our channel partnerships, our customer service capability so that we start now having things such as customer success teams who are working very closely with customers to make sure that they get the value from the technology investments that they have made with Google. I believe that that's going to just accelerate the success that we're seeing in the marketplace.

Michael Krigsman: I think of customer success teams as being more tactical and technical and supportive in nature as opposed to the work that you're doing, which is more foundational and more strategic.

Marcus East: That's fair. Certainly, one of the conversations that I have with some of my colleagues is about, where does the Office of the CTO bring the best value? I think that a lot of the customer success teams will be focused on whether there is an existing situation, an existing relationship, and wanting to extend that.

We in the Office of the CTO are mobilized against very difficult problems that might occur in an organization that is not yet a Google customer. We understand that by helping them to tackle that problem, and it may not start with technology.

Some of the conversations that I have are around culture. I met recently with the CEO of one of the big commercial real estate services companies. His challenge was not necessarily about technology. It was about changing the mindset of his employees so that they can operate successfully in a digital-first world.

A lot of the day that we spent with him and his leadership team was talking about Google's culture and how organizations that work with Google not only benefit from the technology leadership we have but also from that culture of innovation and collaboration that we have developed. It's those two things together that are really unlocking magic for our customers.

Are you helping large organizations adopt the very well-known Google culture for getting things done?

Marcus East: Or to be inspired by them. I think that I prefer to think of it as inspiration because to recreate the culture within Google would be very difficult for many of our customers, but I believe that they can learn from and be inspired by the things that they see here.

Michael Krigsman: How does it work? How do you do that? How do you get them inspired by but, somehow, on their side, they have to look at what you're doing and adopt and change? That's so difficult.

Marcus East: I think one of the ways in which we unlock that for them is through conversation. I recently sat in a customer briefing. What was really exciting for the customer was this idea that we were saying to them, "We're just here to talk. We'd love to learn about your business. We'd love to learn about the challenges, and we'd love to share any insights that are relevant from Google." They were visibly relaxed because they had said some of the other conversations that they had with other companies, other cloud providers, were very focused on a specific opportunity or a specific engagement.

They actually told me that they understood that cloud was important, but they didn't yet have a good grasp of it. We said, "That's not a problem. Spend time with us understanding what the potential is."

It really is about a conversation. We're prepared to spend the time to talk to customers to help them with those difficult problems even if there is no immediate opportunity apparent to either party.

Michael Krigsman: Just to clarify, the cloud transitions that we're talking about are very large transitions from the very largest companies on some of their most important processes, so this is not just a matter of, we're going to pay our credit card for $50 and use some app in the cloud.

Marcus East: That's right. We're talking about very large customers who are working directly with us, whether it be a Citi, an LL Bean, or a National Geographic. These are major brands who are doing things that are impacting millions of customers. I think that also means that they want to make sure that they get it right.

One of the things we haven't touched upon, but I'd love to touch on briefly, is this idea of the shared risks that there is when it comes to moving into the cloud. If I think back to the beginning of my career, you could build solutions that were running on your technology and your data centers, and you had complete control. When you move into the public cloud arena, clearly you are partly dependent on the capabilities of your service provider. For me, that's one of the reasons why it's important to make sure there's an alignment of values in that when we talk to a customer about the digital transformation that they're going through, they can also get comfort from the fact that Google really understands digital transformation and is passionate about digital transformation. They see an alignment of values in addition to the great technology that we have available to them.

Michael Krigsman: Now we come to the part where we start to run seriously out of time. You must explain to us, in sort of tweet-length size.

Why do technical decisions such as moving to the cloud demand alignment of values?

Marcus East: A great question. I'll use an example to give you a quick answer. At National Geographic, one of the reasons that we choose to move to Google Cloud was that Google Cloud has a commitment to sustainability and, in fact, matches its energy and consumption with sustainable energy purchases. That was very important to National Geographic. Increasingly, we're seeing that customers want to have a cloud provider that has values aligned with their values before making that decision.

Michael Krigsman: Because there is this shared risk and shared engagement in a very deep way.

Marcus East: You're on this journey together. When you start your digital transformation journey into the cloud, if that's the route that you go down, you are working very closely with your partner and that's why we believe in co-innovation and really helping our customers by working alongside them.

Michael Krigsman: What advice do you have for companies that are looking at this kind of cloud migration both in terms of the preparation that they need to have in place to do it well and then when they decide to actually embark on the journey?

Marcus East: Yeah, there are three things that I'm going to suggest that they should all look at.

  1. One is, they shouldn't just lift and shift, as I described earlier. They should be thinking about what are the ways in which we can take our infrastructure and modernize it using cloud capabilities. That for me is absolutely critical as a starting point.
  2. The next thing is also thinking about how customer experience can be impacted by the cloud. We work with many retailers, including Macy's, for example. Macy's is able to take advantage of the scalability within Google Cloud to make sure it can always provide consistent experiences to its customers. That's very, very important.
  3. I think the third thing is this values alignment in that if you're going to be working in a new mode which has you putting your systems and your data in somebody else's care, make sure that that organization's values align with yours so that you can work together to deliver the value that you're looking for.

Is data stewardship a crucial part of cloud migration decisions?

Marcus East: Absolutely. There are certain principles that we have established here at Google. We take security incredibly importantly. Nobody in Google Cloud has access to the data or the content of the customers who use our Google Cloud platform. We ensure that using technology. We having something called the Titan chip, which is a hardware chip that ensures that it's not possible to access servers unless you are the authorized customer of that server.

We also have incredible processes in place to make sure that that's the case. That's something that customers actually cite when coming to Google is our security profile as one of the reasons that they embrace us.

Michael Krigsman: I'm laughing here because somebody on Twitter, Jeff Nolan on Twitter, just made the comment. He says, "Lift and shift sounds like a rap group or cosmetic surgery procedure." [Laughter]

Marcus East: [Laughter] It's neither in this context.

Michael Krigsman: [Laughter] All right. With that one, I'll just ask you one last question, which is, you're doing so many interesting things. Can you identify one most fun part of your job?

Marcus East: Yeah. I think the most fun part of my job today is almost delighting those customers who are struggling with digital transformation, just want to have that conversation, and just want to get going. I enjoy that in the same way that I've enjoyed talking to you about digital transformation. That's the thing that many customers are looking for and that's what the Office of the CTO gives them a safe space to do.

Michael Krigsman: Okay. That's great. Marcus East, thank you so much for taking time today to be with us on CXOTalk.

Marcus East: Thank you for having me. It's been a real pleasure, Michael.

Michael Krigsman: You have been watching CXOTalk. We've been speaking with Marcus East from the Office of the CTO at Google Cloud. Before you go, please subscribe on YouTube and hit the little subscribe button at the top of our website. We have amazing shows coming up. Check out CXOTalk.com and Google. See you again next time. Have a great day, everybody. Bye-bye.

 

m Technical Director in the Office of the CTO here at Google Cloud. That means that I have three real primary responsibilities.

  • One is working very closely with Google's biggest customers around the world to help them solve difficult technical challenges. We do a lot of that through what we call co-innovation where, rather than just thinking about what it is that Google has to sell to a customer, we actually like to work with them to develop solutions and technologies that they can use. That's one aspect of the role.
  • The other is that I work very closely with our product engineering teams to help them better build some of the products that they're working on based on the feedback and the input that we get from customers.
  • The third component is helping to position Google Cloud in the marketplace by thought leadership. That involves writing articles and doing conversations like this.

Michael Krigsman: You have a really interesting background, Marcus. You were at National Geographic. Tell us about that. I think that's quite fascinating, actually.

Marcus East: Yes. I spent a wonderful time at National Geographic as the chief technology officer. National Geographic was very focused on a big digital transformation, wanting to move from being 130-year-old brand that had a great legacy and great heritage with consumers to one that was relevant in the digital age. There was an acknowledgment that involved investments in technology and the creation of new products and services. It was my great privilege to lead that work.

Michael Krigsman: You know it's funny. When one thinks of National Geographic, you think of faraway places, you think of photographs, but CTO, Chief Technology Officer, doesn't quickly come to mind. Just briefly, tell us about the nature of your role there.

Marcus East: I think there were three aspects to the role of being CTO at National Geographic.

  • The first, many of your viewers will recognize as a sort of traditional tech leader in that I was responsible for building the platforms that ran the National Geographic business, so the content management systems, the data systems that supported the business, and that was an area that took up a lot of my time.
  • But I also had the opportunity to spend a lot of my time thinking about customer experiences and building digital products and services that allow National Geographic's consumers to actually have a new relationship with the organization.
  • Then the third aspect of my role was building technologies that were actually used out in the field by explorers and researchers.

A great example there is the work that's done by a researcher called Topher White who has built an incredible device that listens out for sounds in the jungle or in the rainforest and uses artificial intelligence in order to process those sounds. It now, for example, identifies the sound of gunshots where people are illegally poaching or chainsaws where they're illegally logging. It was a very interesting role to have, indeed.

Michael Krigsman: Why did you make the jump from National Geographic to Google? I think that's a relevant part of this story.

Marcus East: Yeah, it's a good question and one that I get asked very regularly. As you heard from what I said earlier, I had a fantastic role and really enjoyed my time at National Geographic. But I was also very conscious that there is a big change going on in the industry right now. For me, that change was driven by the cloud and the way in which the cloud was enabling digital transformations for many big organizations.

I actually first got to know Google Cloud as a customer. One of the projects that I did at National Geographic was taking the National Geographic image collection, which is its collection of the most iconic photographs, including things like the African Girl, and moving those to Google Cloud as part of a program to protect them for future generations. What I realized was that many organizations could benefit from using the cloud, and so this new role gives me an opportunity to work with many customers to help them get access to some of the solutions that have helped me in my career.

Michael Krigsman: We have a question from Twitter. Sal Rasa is asking; he says, "Given your role with National Geographic, you're obviously interested in the societal benefits from digital technology. Where does that come into play at all in what you're doing now since, obviously, that's a part of your background?"

Marcus East: Absolutely, yes, in two regards. One is that, by helping our customers to solve their most difficult problems, we are helping them to be more successful. We are helping them to grow. We are helping them to deliver better services to their customers. There is definitely a wider societal benefit there.

Also, on a personal basis, I'm heavily involved in some of our initiatives around trying to get technology skills increased in some underrepresented communities, for example. I do a lot of mentoring and I'm involved in lots of the Google initiatives specifically around making a positive contribution to society.

Michael Krigsman: Let's talk about Google Cloud. Google is growing its enterprise business. You've made a number of very high profile, splashy hires. You're investing in Google Cloud. What's cooking with Google Cloud right now?

Marcus East: Yeah, a big topic. I'll give you a sort of overview and then we can dive into the areas that interest you the most. I think it's worth starting, though, with this idea that I was a customer and now I'm a Google Cloud employee, and so I am seeing the transition from the inside having experienced it from the outside.

One of the things that I have noticed since being here is that the investments that our CEO Thomas Kurian is making are very focused on supporting our customers. We are investing heavily in our sales and channel capabilities so that we have more touchpoints with customers. We're investing in customer success for the first time so that we have people who are focused on helping customers not only get onto Google Cloud but then be successful with Google Cloud.

We're also investing in customer support and service so that we can make sure that we can be responsive to the needs of those customers who have actually moved to Google Cloud. Those investments are having a really profound impact and we're winning customers all the time. We're having engagements with new potential customers on a regular basis, and so we're definitely seeing a big transition as we're acknowledged now as one of the challengers in this cloud space.

Michael Krigsman: Why now? Why did Google make the decision to invest in Google Cloud to this extent today?

Marcus East: The cloud market is one that is growing rapidly. The research suggests that, in the next few years, it will be valued at over $100 billion. Google has many advantages. Acknowledged as a challenger in this space, we're seen as a leader when it comes to building secure, scalable, intelligent cloud solutions for enterprise customers.

Many of the technologies that Google is now making available to customers started through the investments that Google itself made in its business. When it comes to things like machine learning and artificial intelligence where we were acknowledged as a technology leader, customers can now take advantage of some of the skills and capabilities that Google has used up until now for itself. I think that it's seeing customers going on these big digital transformation journeys and realizing that Google has the potential to help them by bringing some of that expertise and some of that knowledge that has been developed over many years building Google's business.

Michael Krigsman: We think of Google as being a B2C company or everybody thinks of search, of course. Now, you're talking about a very, very heavy investment in B2B, and so what are the kind of challenges do you think that Google faces in making that transition?

Marcus East: I think the big opportunity is, one, as I talked about before, to give customers an opportunity to benefit from some of the things that have previously been proprietary to Google. Google has nine different products that have over a billion users, including search. Those products clearly have helped to shape the world and have actually helped to drive digital transformation by changing the way in which consumers interact with data and consumers interact with information.

As we move towards developing a stronger B2B profile, it is making investments that allow us to support our customers but, at the same time, building new products and services specifically for the needs of our own customers. A good example there would be the co-innovation work that we do. I talked about that a little bit earlier.

I can just give you one example. One of our customers, Iron Mountain, has a great heritage, of course, in document management and managing the information for its customers. In working with Google, we identified an opportunity to help them with their migration to the public cloud using the great compute and storage capabilities of Google Cloud, but we were also then able to use our machine learning and artificial intelligence capabilities to develop with them some new offerings specifically around document intelligence. That's now an offering that we are making available with them to their customers. It really is interesting for me to see how we're able to build on that legacy of being a B2C brand that has helped to drive digital transformation in the last two decades to one that is now helping our customers to do the same.

Michael Krigsman: Why did you create this Office of the CTO? What was the point of doing that?

Marcus East: Yeah, the Office of the CTO plays a really important role in our engagement with customers in that it's a safe space for our customers to explore some of their most difficult challenging problems without the pressure of sales targets or the need to sell a specific solution to them. The Office of the CTO is part of Google's engineering function. What motivates us is working with customers to help them tackle those problems in a way that generates value for them but, also, potentially creates patterns and intellectual property that we can then use in other products and services.

It's very exciting for them because they have almost a unique opportunity to work with very experienced engineers from within Google. Some of the Office of the CTO are people who have been here for many years working on Google's own products, and others are people like me who have been CTOs in other organizations bringing that customer external perspective.

Michael Krigsman: Is it kind of an advanced consulting group? Would that be an accurate way of putting it?

Marcus East: Some people think of it as a consulting group, but I would say the difference is that we're not engaging with customers in a way where we expect them to pay us to do something. We're really looking for that co-innovation. We're taking our skills and capabilities, our knowledge of all of the tools that Google has and working alongside them to find ways to develop value for both organizations.

It's very different from a traditional consulting model where somebody is paying you to come and do some work. We're actually not approaching it in the same way.

Michael Krigsman: You've mentioned that term, co-innovation, several times. Tell us what that looks like a little bit further.

Marcus East: Yeah, that's a big driver for us. Co-innovation is this idea that we take someone from the Office of the CTO to work alongside senior technology leaders in a customer to think about the problem from the perspective of the customer. We're not coming at it from the perspective of a specific product set. We're coming at it from the perspective of, "We're all technologists. How do we work together in order to actually tackle these problems?"

That allows us to tap into Google's engineering and product capabilities, though. It also allows us to tap into our partner network. By doing that, we can then develop a solution specifically for those customers' needs that just may not have existed before. I think co-innovation is one of the unique things about the Office of the CTO and one of the reasons customers are so excited to work with us.

Michael Krigsman: Marcus, how much of this co-innovation is driven by the desire to A) assist customers versus B) gain a better understanding inside Google of the kind of deeper questions and issues that your customers are facing?

Marcus East: Yeah, it's absolutely both, but I do want to go back to this topic of digital transformation. One of the things that I recognize, having been a CTO myself for many years, is that customers want solutions. They don't want technology and they don't want products.

The other way in which engaging through the Office of the CTO is a value to customers is that they know that we start by talking about the issue or the challenge that they're facing rather than talking about some specific angle to it. A lot of the interest the customers have initially is tackling their problem, but they very quickly realize that there's a lot of technology, a lot of expertise, a lot of experience within Google that can help. It's our job in the Office of the CTO to pull all of that together.

Michael Krigsman: That co-innovation is really a central part for your reason in the Office of the CTO to exist.

Marcus East: Absolutely. Co-innovation and then, building on that, this idea of a thought leadership too where we take the experiences that we have working with customers and we try to establish patterns in thinking that can be used by other organizations. Yesterday, I had an article go out about what I describe as how the cloud has helped to transform not only some of the systems that I've been responsible for but also my career. I know that resonated with other CTOs because many of them have reached out to me to say, "Yeah, I'm also experiencing similar things." Thought leadership is another important aspect of what we do.

Michael Krigsman: Okay. Now, on digital transformation, it's one of these terms that, three or four years ago, was big hype, sort of the way AI terminology is in hype today. Now, there is less talk about digital transformation but it seems that the amount of investment that's going on among large companies and midsized companies is so large that the term digital transformation has become so vague. It's like artificial intelligence, so vague as to be almost meaningless. Let me ask you to kind of define for us or explain what digital transformation actually is from your perspective.

Marcus East: Yeah, this is another great question, Michael. In fact, just before coming to Google, I wrote a book about digital transformation called Working with Dinosaurs. One of the points that I raised in the book was this idea that digital transformation is a very broad term that covers everything from application modernization through to building new products and services for customers.

I think that the challenge for many leaders in big enterprises is making it relevant to their organization. I think digital transformation has many, many aspects to it. I personally think there are six things that are really important.

One is having flexible technology, and that's what brings us back to the cloud. I believe that cloud technologies and cloud solutions are all a great foundation for digital transformations. We allow our customers to build, deploy, and manage applications much more quickly in the cloud than they could when they were doing it through traditional, on-premise solutions. That's, for me, one of the foundational elements of digital transformation.

Also, there's a need to truly understand your customers through experimentation. One of the other things I think is important is that, for companies to be successful at digital transformation, they need to be really embracing this idea that they have to experiment with new ideas with their own customers in order to see what it is that the market is demanding.

Next, I think they have to be able to measure and actually look at the data that they're generating from those experiments in order to make the right decisions. I think it's very hard to have good digital transformation if you don't have good data and you don't have good insight into what your consumers are doing.

Then there are three other things that I've seen consistently throughout my career. The next is this idea of collaboration across organizational boundaries where, certainly when I started my career 25 years ago, organizations could operate in a very siloed way, both within a big enterprise but also between enterprises. Today, in order to develop and to deliver digital transformation, organizations have to collaborate in a different way. They have to be able to share knowledge more quickly and to move more quickly. That's another aspect of it.

Agility is key, too. Pierre Nanterme, who until recently was the chief executive of Accenture, in 2016 shared a report that showed that, between 2000 and 2016, 50% of Fortune 500 companies had ceased to exist. One of the reasons that Accenture identified that they ceased to exist was their inability to move quickly enough into this digital age. Agility and speed are important.

The number one thing that I think really drives digital transformation is an intense focus on the customer because the companies that have been most successful have been those who have been able to deliver value to their end customers. I think all of those together drive digital transformation.

Michael Krigsman: But what is digital transformation? Is it, "Well, we have a new website," or, "Now we can sell our products on the Web. Before, you had to go to our stores"? Is there any point to even define it in this way?

Marcus East: I think it can be helpful to define it. For me personally, digital transformation is where organizations are taking advantage of new technologies in order to redesign and to redefine the relationship between the organization, its customers, its employees, and its partners. I think, when you have that broad definition, it gives you the opportunity to include things like building new websites, but it could also be building new business models and having an entirely different way of delivering services to your end customers. It all starts, I believe, with the use of technology.

Michael Krigsman: Explain that. The reason I'm asking is that the other attributes you're describing are not technology-related really at all. It's a way of doing business, a culture mindset. Explain the role of technology in this.

Marcus East: I believe technology is an enabler to all of those things that I talked about: to measurement, to experimentation, to collaboration, to agility, and to customer focus. A good example would be the way in which we now, through one of the tools that we have called BigQuery, we allow our customers to take huge data sets, multi-petabyte data sets, move them into a serverless environment where they can then use our tools in order to analyze that information and to drive insights that then inform their business decisions.

Yes, what we're doing there is we're using our technology to enable better insights and more customer focus for them. I think the foundation of all digital transformation is a flexible, powerful technology.

Michael Krigsman: Let me ask you just to drill down further because I think that the distinction between the technology enablement and the business outcomes, and the connection between those two is so foundational here.

Marcus East: Yeah, agreed. One of the other things that I think is important when it comes to this idea of digital transformation measurement is being clear about the KPIs. The most successful programs that I have seen, either as an executive driving them or as somebody supporting them externally, have been those that have had a very tight focus on very explicit business outcomes. I think the technologists benefit from having those very clear KPIs and targets because it allows them to develop solutions that work toward those.

Ultimately, there are many ways in which people are using technology to drive digital transformation. If I draw my own experience when I was at National Geographic, we were using technology to drive down the cost of creating and distributing content. That was very important to us as a media company. Many of the media companies that we work with are looking at ways in which they can just drive down the cost of their operations.

Cloud plays a very important role there. Many of them are consolidating data centers into public cloud infrastructures. That's one aspect and often the starting point for their digital transformation.

They often quickly move on to think about, what are the new products and services that we can build that can take advantage of the way in which consumers are consuming content? Recently, I was at a conference called IBC, which is a big media and entertainment conference. I had the opportunity to speak with lots of customers from the media and entertainment world.

Many of them are now thinking about how they can build that direct relationship with consumers that haven't existed for them before. Many of them have been producing content that has gone through a TV channel or gone through a cable network, but now they're looking at digital transformation as a way to build those direct relationships with consumers. We have tools and capabilities that can help them with that based on our many years of experience of building solutions and building products that have been used by consumers.

I think the third aspect to digital transformation that's important is this idea that you may have to change your business processes in order to be successful. A good example would be when I worked at a big retailer back in the U.K. We were very good at building new experiences in the digital world, but we realized that we had to also change some of our business processes.

For example, prior to investing in our digital transformation, there was no 24/7 operational support for customers because, typically, customer support was driven in stores. Through working with our technology partners, we were able to build a 24/7 capability that had to be reflected within our internal operations as well. Digital transformation affects every aspect of the business from the technology through the processes and operations through to the relationship with the customers.

Michael Krigsman: What's the connection between the Google Cloud and your customers' efforts and programs for digital transformation?

Marcus East: Yeah, one of the reasons I'm really excited to be part of Google Cloud is that I think that Google has a lot of value to bring to enterprise customers. That's partly because of the way in which we have organized our technology into solutions that make sense for them. There are five areas that we really focus on.

One is simply this idea of infrastructure modernization; helping our customers to find ways to run their technology infrastructures more cost-effectively. That could be using containers. It could be moving to a serverless computer, and it could just be taking advantage of our global network. That's one aspect of what we do.

Then data management is also very important. Many of our customers are overwhelmed by huge amounts of data that are coming from different devices, different sources, different systems. We have a whole suite of tools and capabilities that allow them to manage that data much better.

Once you have the data, getting insight from it is also important. We also have what we describe as a smart business analytics focus, which is where we're using some of the advanced technologies that Google has to give customers the ability to drive insight out of their end data.

Then moving on from that, we're also looking at how we use machine learning and artificial intelligence to drive explicit outcomes for customers. I gave the example of Iron Mountain earlier using our AI capabilities.

Then last but not least, we have a collaboration suite, including things like G Suite, that is helping organizations to break down those internal silos so that they can get working across all of their boundaries to deliver for their customers.

Google Cloud, when I think about how I see digital transformation, Google Cloud is well structured to help customers with all parts of that journey.

Michael Krigsman: You just described so many different pieces. What is Google Cloud as distinct from, say, Google G Suite and Google Docs, as an example?

Marcus East: Yeah. In Google Cloud, you can think of Google Cloud as one of the market leaders when it comes to building secure, scalable, and intelligent cloud solutions for enterprises. That really is the focus.

Our chief exec is very focused on this idea that we are building, for our enterprise customers, solutions for their businesses. That's distinct from the business-to-consumer capabilities that have driven Google historically.

What it means is that we are always looking for ways in which we can deliver explicit value to customers and that's what drives us back to this idea of co-innovation. We want to work with them to solve their difficult problems using Google technologies where they're available but then developing new technologies where we don't have those available yet.

Michael Krigsman: Within the customers that you're working with, going back to digital transformation, what are the kinds of common issues, patterns, challenges, or obstacles that you see going across the multiple customers that you're involved with? Also, these are large companies, right?

Marcus East: They are large enterprises, and we typically are working with Google's largest customers around the world from the Office of the CTO. I think there are three things that really stand out for me that are consistent themes in my conversations.

Cost is undoubtedly one of them. On Monday, I was in Amsterdam in a conversation with a big media customer. They were wanting to consolidate multiple data centers into a single data center and, at the same time, develop a public cloud capability. We described that together as a hybrid cloud solution where they want to be able to have some of their data and content on-premise and managed within their infrastructure, potentially for reasons of latency, but they also wanted to take advantage of the cost benefits of using the public cloud.

That's a theme that I see consistently from customers that I talk to. Cost is definitely one and one of the things we're focused on is making sure that we have cost-effective solutions for our customers.

Another aspect I touched upon earlier is this idea of data in that, increasingly, businesses understand that data is potentially a differentiator for them. If they have data about their customers and users, they can drive insight from that data in order to make better business decisions.

Many of the CTOs that I talk to are overwhelmed with vast quantities of data that are coming from all sorts of different directions. One good example of how we help would be a solution called Dataflow, which allows organizations that have batch processes generating data, but also have live stream data coming through, for example, their website or through their applications, we can bring all of those together so that there is a single data source that allows them to then start running insights and analytics against a much more structured, manageable data set. Data is definitely a big theme.

Michael Krigsman: You mentioned that your customers are starting to understand this and, clearly, the ability to recognize the kinds of data that the customer has and how to apply that data is a learned skill. Tell us about the journey that your customers go on in order to understand data as an asset in the way you just described.

Marcus East: Yeah, and we have, I think, in my experience, two types of customers. There are customers who do have deep data scientist skills in-house. Maybe data has been something that has been a competency for them for a long time. Typically, they're looking to take advantage of some of the Google technologies so they can build out their own solutions and their own models. I think that also applies to what we're seeing in the artificial intelligence space.

For some of our more sophisticated customers, they can take advantage of our solutions like TensorFlow in order to build their own models. They can take advantage of some of our data capabilities, our services like Dataproc to build their own Hadoop clusters to be able to process huge amounts of data.

Then there are other customers who perhaps don't have that depth of resource and who haven't had the opportunity to hire or to develop deep expertise in data science. For them, we provide things like BigQuery where all they have to worry about is getting their data into the solution and then they can use the tools that we have built-in order to actually get the insights that they want.

I think it's important that we can support both types of customer because one of the other things that I think is important for digital transformation is this idea that it's a journey. Many customers are starting their journey to the cloud now with what I describe is just lift and shift. They're looking for those cost benefits.

They're looking to take virtual machines from their existing on-premise data centers and move those into the public cloud. That is not enough to deliver digital transformation. That's just the starting point. I like to talk about them moving and improving, which is how they can start taking existing applications and systems and modernize those using cloud technology so that they can start to introduce new capabilities.

To give you a specific example, at National Geographic, I moved the image collection into Google Cloud. That was partly an infrastructure and partly a security play. We also started exploring the use of something called AutoML, which is one of Google's machine learning tools, to allow us to recognize the content of photographs and to enrich that metadata. To me, that's a really good example of move and improve where customers can not only get cost-benefit by moving into the cloud but use it as a way to unlock innovation and to start modernizing the systems that they have.

Michael Krigsman: Then presumably these companies who are relatively early in this process, using the lift and shift approach, have been hesitantly eyeing the cloud for a long time. Presumably, these are kind of their first tentative steps. Would that be an accurate thing to say?

Marcus East: Yeah, I think that's fair. There is a lot of research out there that suggests that there is still a huge opportunity to develop the cloud marketplace. One of the studies that I saw recently suggested that, for some of the biggest companies, they have moved only around 10% of their workloads into the public cloud. I think what that means is that some of the easy use cases have already migrated, but now it's the opportunity to think about, how do you deliver the more complex use cases?

That's where I believe we at Google have a real differentiator in that we're not saying to our customers, "Just move your applications and systems over to us and we'll run them more cost-effectively for you." We're saying that we can do that, but that we can also work with you to give you access to tools and capabilities to then modernize their systems and applications.

That's one of the reasons that we're winning in the marketplace and getting momentum because I think that customers want more than just moving into public cloud to get cost benefits. They want to get access to some of that Google magic to help them actually build new products and services too.

Michael Krigsman: Your strategy is quite interesting to me because, clearly—and correct me if I'm not right here—it seems that your approach is to work with these customers on a business level rooted and built upon the technology, but to really help them understand the implications for their business so that the shift is not just a platform shift but it involves a far deeper business change and everything that that implies.

Marcus East: Absolutely, which goes back to your earlier point about digital transformation. The technology may be the foundation for success, but you also need the cultural change in order to really deliver the value to the business. I believe that's one of the areas in which we're able to differentiate and that we are acknowledged as a leader when it comes to innovation through all of the work that Google has done itself for its own business in the last two decades. Now, taking that culture, exposing it to our customers, and using it as a way to inspire them to develop more innovation and to drive the cultural change necessary is as important, I think, as having great technology solutions.

Michael Krigsman: Then is the core of the big shift being undertaken at Google Cloud now the extension of or going beyond the technology to bringing all of these other digital transformation capabilities to the table for your customers?

Marcus East: I think that's one part of it. Definitely, there is, as I mentioned earlier, a huge investment right now in building out our sales teams and our customer touchpoints, our channel partnerships, our customer service capability so that we start now having things such as customer success teams who are working very closely with customers to make sure that they get the value from the technology investments that they have made with Google. I believe that that's going to just accelerate the success that we're seeing in the marketplace.

Michael Krigsman: I think of customer success teams as being more tactical and technical and supportive in nature as opposed to the work that you're doing, which is more foundational and more strategic.

Marcus East: That's fair. Certainly, one of the conversations that I have with some of my colleagues is about, where does the Office of the CTO bring the best value? I think that a lot of the customer success teams will be focused on whether there is an existing situation, an existing relationship, and wanting to extend that.

We in the Office of the CTO are mobilized against very difficult problems that might occur in an organization that is not yet a Google customer. We understand that by helping them to tackle that problem, and it may not start with technology.

Some of the conversations that I have are around culture. I met recently with the CEO of one of the big commercial real estate services companies. His challenge was not necessarily about technology. It was about changing the mindset of his employees so that they can operate successfully in a digital-first world.

A lot of the day that we spent with him and his leadership team was talking about Google's culture and how organizations that work with Google not only benefit from the technology leadership we have but also from that culture of innovation and collaboration that we have developed. It's those two things together that are really unlocking magic for our customers.

Michael Krigsman: That point, I find quite interesting because it seems that you're trying to help these large organizations adopt aspects of the very well-known Google culture for getting things done and transplant it inside their companies as they make the digital transformation and cloud journey.

Marcus East: Or to be inspired by them. I think that I prefer to think of it as inspiration because to recreate the culture within Google would be very difficult for many of our customers, but I believe that they can learn from and be inspired by the things that they see here.

Michael Krigsman: How does it work? How do you do that? How do you get them inspired by but, somehow, on their side, they have to look at what you're doing and adopt and change? That's so difficult.

Marcus East: I think one of the ways in which we unlock that for them is through conversation. I recently sat in a customer briefing. What was really exciting for the customer was this idea that we were saying to them, "We're just here to talk. We'd love to learn about your business. We'd love to learn about the challenges, and we'd love to share any insights that are relevant from Google." They were visibly relaxed because they had said some of the other conversations that they had with other companies, other cloud providers, were very focused on a specific opportunity or a specific engagement.

They actually told me that they understood that cloud was important, but they didn't yet have a good grasp of it. We said, "That's not a problem. Spend time with us understanding what the potential is."

It really is about a conversation. We're prepared to spend the time to talk to customers to help them with those difficult problems even if there is no immediate opportunity apparent to either party.

Michael Krigsman: Just to clarify, the cloud transitions that we're talking about are very large transitions from the very largest companies on some of their most important processes, so this is not just a matter of, we're going to pay our credit card for $50 and use some app in the cloud.

Marcus East: That's right. We're talking about very large customers who are working directly with us, whether it be a Citi, an LL Bean, or a National Geographic. These are major brands who are doing things that are impacting millions of customers. I think that also means that they want to make sure that they get it right.

One of the things we haven't touched upon, but I'd love to touch on briefly, is this idea of the shared risks that there is when it comes to moving into the cloud. If I think back to the beginning of my career, you could build solutions that were running on your technology and your data centers, and you had complete control. When you move into the public cloud arena, clearly you are partly dependent on the capabilities of your service provider. For me, that's one of the reasons why it's important to make sure there's an alignment of values in that when we talk to a customer about the digital transformation that they're going through, they can also get comfort from the fact that Google really understands digital transformation and is passionate about digital transformation. They see an alignment of values in addition to the great technology that we have available to them.

Michael Krigsman: Now we come to the part where we start to run seriously out of time. You must explain to us, in sort of tweet-length size, why making a technical decision such as moving to the cloud demands alignment of values in order to be successful.

Marcus East: Yes.

Michael Krigsman: How does that work?

Marcus East: A great question. I'll use an example to give you a quick answer. At National Geographic, one of the reasons that we choose to move to Google Cloud was that Google Cloud has a commitment to sustainability and, in fact, matches its energy and consumption with sustainable energy purchases. That was very important to National Geographic. Increasingly, we're seeing that customers want to have a cloud provider that has values aligned with their values before making that decision.

Michael Krigsman: Because there is this shared risk and shared engagement in a very deep way.

Marcus East: You're on this journey together. When you start your digital transformation journey into the cloud, if that's the route that you go down, you are working very closely with your partner and that's why we believe in co-innovation and really helping our customers by working alongside them.

Michael Krigsman: What advice do you have for companies that are looking at this kind of cloud migration both in terms of the preparation that they need to have in place to do it well and then when they decide to actually embark on the journey?

Marcus East: Yeah, there are three things that I'm going to suggest that they should all look at.

  • One is, they shouldn't just lift and shift, as I described earlier. They should be thinking about what are the ways in which we can take our infrastructure and modernize it using cloud capabilities. That for me is absolutely critical as a starting point.
  • The next thing is also thinking about how customer experience can be impacted by the cloud. We work with many retailers, including Macy's, for example. Macy's is able to take advantage of the scalability within Google Cloud to make sure it can always provide consistent experiences to its customers. That's very, very important.
  • I think the third thing is this values alignment in that if you're going to be working in a new mode which has you putting your systems and your data in somebody else's care, make sure that that organization's values align with yours so that you can work together to deliver the value that you're looking for.

Michael Krigsman: This notion of stewardship of the data is crucially important when making the migration decision.

Marcus East: Absolutely. There are certain principles that we have established here at Google. We take security incredibly importantly. Nobody in Google Cloud has access to the data or the content of the customers who use our Google Cloud platform. We ensure that using technology. We having something called the Titan chip, which is a hardware chip that ensures that it's not possible to access servers unless you are the authorized customer of that server.

We also have incredible processes in place to make sure that that's the case. That's something that customers actually cite when coming to Google is our security profile as one of the reasons that they embrace us.

Michael Krigsman: I'm laughing here because somebody on Twitter, Jeff Nolan on Twitter, just made the comment. He says, "Lift and shift sounds like a rap group or cosmetic surgery procedure." [Laughter]

Marcus East: [Laughter] It's neither in this context.

Michael Krigsman: [Laughter] All right. With that one, I'll just ask you one last question, which is, you're doing so many interesting things. Can you identify one most fun part of your job?

Marcus East: Yeah. I think the most fun part of my job today is almost delighting those customers who are struggling with digital transformation, just want to have that conversation, and just want to get going. I enjoy that in the same way that I've enjoyed talking to you about digital transformation. That's the thing that many customers are looking for and that's what the Office of the CTO gives them a safe space to do.

Michael Krigsman: Okay. That's great. Marcus East, thank you so much for taking time today to be with us on CXOTalk.

Marcus East: Thank you for having me. It's been a real pleasure, Michael.

Michael Krigsman: You have been watching CXOTalk. We've been speaking with Marcus East from the Office of the CTO at Google Cloud. Before you go, please subscribe on YouTube and hit the little subscribe button at the top of our website. We have amazing shows coming up. Check out CXOTalk.com and Google. See you again next time. Have a great day, everybody. Bye-bye.

Michael Krigsman: What's the connection between Google Cloud and digital transformation? That's our topic today on CXOTalk. Marcus East, who is with the Office of the CTO at Google Cloud, he's an interesting guy, has a very interesting background, and I'm delighted. Marcus East, welcome to CXOTalk.

Marcus East: Thank you, Michael. Thank you so much for having me on your show.

Michael Krigsman: Marcus, please tell us about your role and tell us what you do at Google Cloud.

Marcus East: Yeah, I

This transcript was edited for length and clarity.

Michael Krigsman: What's the connection between Google Cloud and digital transformation? That's our topic today on CXOTalk. Marcus East, who is with the Office of the CTO at Google Cloud, he's an interesting guy, has a very interesting background, and I'm delighted. Marcus East, welcome to CXOTalk.

Marcus East: Thank you, Michael. Thank you so much for having me on your show.

Marcus East, tell us about your role at Google Cloud and previously as CTO at National Geographic?

Marcus East: I'm Technical Director in the Office of the CTO here at Google Cloud. That means that I have three primary responsibilities.

  1. One is working very closely with Google's biggest customers around the world to help them solve difficult technical challenges. We do a lot of that through what we call co-innovation where, rather than just thinking about what it is that Google has to sell to a customer, we actually like to work with them to develop solutions and technologies that they can use. That's one aspect of the role.
  2. The other is that I work very closely with our product engineering teams to help them better build some of the products that they're working on based on the feedback and the input that we get from customers.
  3. The third component is helping to position Google Cloud in the marketplace by thought leadership. That involves writing articles and doing conversations like this.

Michael Krigsman: You have a really interesting background, Marcus. You were at National Geographic. Tell us about that. I think that's quite fascinating, actually.

Marcus East: Yes. I spent a wonderful time at National Geographic as the chief technology officer. National Geographic was very focused on a big digital transformation, wanting to move from being 130-year-old brand that had a great legacy and great heritage with consumers to one that was relevant in the digital age. There was an acknowledgment that involved investments in technology and the creation of new products and services. It was my great privilege to lead that work.

Michael Krigsman: You know it's funny. When one thinks of National Geographic, you think of faraway places, you think of photographs, but CTO, Chief Technology Officer, doesn't quickly come to mind. Just briefly, tell us about the nature of your role there.

Marcus East: I think there were three aspects to the role of being CTO at National Geographic.

  1. The first, many of your viewers will recognize as a sort of traditional tech leader in that I was responsible for building the platforms that ran the National Geographic business, so the content management systems, the data systems that supported the business, and that was an area that took up a lot of my time.
  2. But I also had the opportunity to spend a lot of my time thinking about customer experiences and building digital products and services that allow National Geographic's consumers to actually have a new relationship with the organization.
  3. Then the third aspect of my role was building technologies that were actually used out in the field by explorers and researchers.

A great example there is the work that's done by a researcher called Topher White who has built an incredible device that listens out for sounds in the jungle or in the rainforest and uses artificial intelligence in order to process those sounds. It now, for example, identifies the sound of gunshots where people are illegally poaching or chainsaws where they're illegally logging. It was a very interesting role to have, indeed.

Michael Krigsman: Why did you make the jump from National Geographic to Google? I think that's a relevant part of this story.

Marcus East: Yeah, it's a good question and one that I get asked very regularly. As you heard from what I said earlier, I had a fantastic role and really enjoyed my time at National Geographic. But I was also very conscious that there is a big change going on in the industry right now. For me, that change was driven by the cloud and the way in which the cloud was enabling digital transformations for many big organizations.

I actually first got to know Google Cloud as a customer. One of the projects that I did at National Geographic was taking the National Geographic image collection, which is its collection of the most iconic photographs, including things like the African Girl, and moving those to Google Cloud as part of a program to protect them for future generations. What I realized was that many organizations could benefit from using the cloud, and so this new role gives me an opportunity to work with many customers to help them get access to some of the solutions that have helped me in my career.

We have a question from Sal Rasa on Twitter. Do the societal benefits of digital technology come into play at Google?

Marcus East: Absolutely, yes, in two regards. One is that, by helping our customers to solve their most difficult problems, we are helping them to be more successful. We are helping them to grow. We are helping them to deliver better services to their customers. There is definitely a wider societal benefit there.

Also, on a personal basis, I'm heavily involved in some of our initiatives around trying to get technology skills increased in some underrepresented communities, for example. I do a lot of mentoring and I'm involved in lots of the Google initiatives specifically around making a positive contribution to society.

What’s happening with Google Cloud right now?

Marcus East: Yeah, a big topic. I'll give you a sort of overview and then we can dive into the areas that interest you the most. I think it's worth starting, though, with this idea that I was a customer and now I'm a Google Cloud employee, and so I am seeing the transition from the inside having experienced it from the outside.

One of the things that I have noticed since being here is that the investments that our CEO Thomas Kurian is making are very focused on supporting our customers. We are investing heavily in our sales and channel capabilities so that we have more touchpoints with customers. We're investing in customer success for the first time so that we have people who are focused on helping customers not only get onto Google Cloud but then be successful with Google Cloud.

We're also investing in customer support and service so that we can make sure that we can be responsive to the needs of those customers who have actually moved to Google Cloud. Those investments are having a really profound impact and we're winning customers all the time. We're having engagements with new potential customers on a regular basis, and so we're definitely seeing a big transition as we're acknowledged now as one of the challengers in this cloud space.

Michael Krigsman: Why now? Why did Google make the decision to invest in Google Cloud to this extent today?

Marcus East: The cloud market is one that is growing rapidly. The research suggests that, in the next few years, it will be valued at over $100 billion. Google has many advantages. Acknowledged as a challenger in this space, we're seen as a leader when it comes to building secure, scalable, intelligent cloud solutions for enterprise customers.

Many of the technologies that Google is now making available to customers started through the investments that Google itself made in its business. When it comes to things like machine learning and artificial intelligence where we were acknowledged as a technology leader, customers can now take advantage of some of the skills and capabilities that Google has used up until now for itself. I think that it's seeing customers going on these big digital transformation journeys and realizing that Google has the potential to help them by bringing some of that expertise and some of that knowledge that has been developed over many years building Google's business.

Michael Krigsman: We think of Google as being a B2C company or everybody thinks of search, of course. Now, you're talking about a very, very heavy investment in B2B, and so what are the kind of challenges do you think that Google faces in making that transition?

Marcus East: I think the big opportunity is, one, as I talked about before, to give customers an opportunity to benefit from some of the things that have previously been proprietary to Google. Google has nine different products that have over a billion users, including search. Those products clearly have helped to shape the world and have actually helped to drive digital transformation by changing the way in which consumers interact with data and consumers interact with information.

As we move towards developing a stronger B2B profile, it is making investments that allow us to support our customers but, at the same time, building new products and services specifically for the needs of our own customers. A good example there would be the co-innovation work that we do. I talked about that a little bit earlier.

I can just give you one example. One of our customers, Iron Mountain, has a great heritage, of course, in document management and managing the information for its customers. In working with Google, we identified an opportunity to help them with their migration to the public cloud using the great compute and storage capabilities of Google Cloud, but we were also then able to use our machine learning and artificial intelligence capabilities to develop with them some new offerings specifically around document intelligence. That's now an offering that we are making available with them to their customers. It really is interesting for me to see how we're able to build on that legacy of being a B2C brand that has helped to drive digital transformation in the last two decades to one that is now helping our customers to do the same.

Why did Google Cloud create the Office of the CTO?

Marcus East: Yeah, the Office of the CTO plays a really important role in our engagement with customers in that it's a safe space for our customers to explore some of their most difficult challenging problems without the pressure of sales targets or the need to sell a specific solution to them. The Office of the CTO is part of Google's engineering function. What motivates us is working with customers to help them tackle those problems in a way that generates value for them but, also, potentially creates patterns and intellectual property that we can then use in other products and services.

It's very exciting for them because they have almost a unique opportunity to work with very experienced engineers from within Google. Some of the Office of the CTO are people who have been here for many years working on Google's own products, and others are people like me who have been CTOs in other organizations bringing that customer external perspective.

Michael Krigsman: Is it kind of an advanced consulting group? Would that be an accurate way of putting it?

Marcus East: Some people think of it as a consulting group, but I would say the difference is that we're not engaging with customers in a way where we expect them to pay us to do something. We're really looking for that co-innovation. We're taking our skills and capabilities, our knowledge of all of the tools that Google has and working alongside them to find ways to develop value for both organizations.

It's very different from a traditional consulting model where somebody is paying you to come and do some work. We're actually not approaching it in the same way.

How does co-innovation with customers work at Google Cloud?

Marcus East: That's a big driver for us. Co-innovation is this idea that we take someone from the Office of the CTO to work alongside senior technology leaders in a customer to think about the problem from the perspective of the customer. We're not coming at it from the perspective of a specific product set. We're coming at it from the perspective of, "We're all technologists. How do we work together in order to actually tackle these problems?"

That allows us to tap into Google's engineering and product capabilities, though. It also allows us to tap into our partner network. By doing that, we can then develop a solution specifically for those customers' needs that just may not have existed before. I think co-innovation is one of the unique things about the Office of the CTO and one of the reasons customers are so excited to work with us.

Michael Krigsman: Marcus, how much of this co-innovation is driven by the desire to A) assist customers versus B) gain a better understanding inside Google of the kind of deeper questions and issues that your customers are facing?

Marcus East: Yeah, it's absolutely both, but I do want to go back to this topic of digital transformation. One of the things that I recognize, having been a CTO myself for many years, is that customers want solutions. They don't want technology and they don't want products.

The other way in which engaging through the Office of the CTO is a value to customers is that they know that we start by talking about the issue or the challenge that they're facing rather than talking about some specific angle to it. A lot of the interest the customers have initially is tackling their problem, but they very quickly realize that there's a lot of technology, a lot of expertise, a lot of experience within Google that can help. It's our job in the Office of the CTO to pull all of that together.

Michael Krigsman: That co-innovation is really a central part for your reason in the Office of the CTO to exist.

Marcus East: Absolutely. Co-innovation and then, building on that, this idea of a thought leadership too where we take the experiences that we have working with customers and we try to establish patterns in thinking that can be used by other organizations. Yesterday, I had an article go out about what I describe as how the cloud has helped to transform not only some of the systems that I've been responsible for but also my career. I know that resonated with other CTOs because many of them have reached out to me to say, "Yeah, I'm also experiencing similar things." Thought leadership is another important aspect of what we do.

What is digital transformation from your perspective?

Marcus East: Yeah, this is another great question, Michael. In fact, just before coming to Google, I wrote a book about digital transformation called Working with Dinosaurs. One of the points that I raised in the book was this idea that digital transformation is a very broad term that covers everything from application modernization through to building new products and services for customers.

I think that the challenge for many leaders in big enterprises is making it relevant to their organization. I think digital transformation has many, many aspects to it. I personally think there are six things that are really important.

One is having flexible technology, and that's what brings us back to the cloud. I believe that cloud technologies and cloud solutions are all a great foundation for digital transformations. We allow our customers to build, deploy, and manage applications much more quickly in the cloud than they could when they were doing it through traditional, on-premise solutions. That's, for me, one of the foundational elements of digital transformation.

Also, there's a need to truly understand your customers through experimentation. One of the other things I think is important is that, for companies to be successful at digital transformation, they need to be really embracing this idea that they have to experiment with new ideas with their own customers in order to see what it is that the market is demanding.

Next, I think they have to be able to measure and actually look at the data that they're generating from those experiments in order to make the right decisions. I think it's very hard to have good digital transformation if you don't have good data and you don't have good insight into what your consumers are doing.

Then there are three other things that I've seen consistently throughout my career. The next is this idea of collaboration across organizational boundaries where, certainly when I started my career 25 years ago, organizations could operate in a very siloed way, both within a big enterprise but also between enterprises. Today, in order to develop and to deliver digital transformation, organizations have to collaborate in a different way. They have to be able to share knowledge more quickly and to move more quickly. That's another aspect of it.

Agility is key, too. Pierre Nanterme, who until recently was the chief executive of Accenture, in 2016 shared a report that showed that, between 2000 and 2016, 50% of Fortune 500 companies had ceased to exist. One of the reasons that Accenture identified that they ceased to exist was their inability to move quickly enough into this digital age. Agility and speed are important.

The number one thing that I think really drives digital transformation is an intense focus on the customer because the companies that have been most successful have been those who have been able to deliver value to their end customers. I think all of those together drive digital transformation.

Michael Krigsman: But what is digital transformation? Is it, "Well, we have a new website," or, "Now we can sell our products on the Web. Before, you had to go to our stores"? Is there any point to even define it in this way?

Marcus East: I think it can be helpful to define it. For me personally, digital transformation is where organizations are taking advantage of new technologies in order to redesign and to redefine the relationship between the organization, its customers, its employees, and its partners. I think, when you have that broad definition, it gives you the opportunity to include things like building new websites, but it could also be building new business models and having an entirely different way of delivering services to your end customers. It all starts, I believe, with the use of technology.

Digital transformation is about culture and change. What is the role of technology?

Marcus East: I believe technology is an enabler to all of those things that I talked about: to measurement, to experimentation, to collaboration, to agility, and to customer focus. A good example would be the way in which we now, through one of the tools that we have called BigQuery, we allow our customers to take huge data sets, multi-petabyte data sets, move them into a serverless environment where they can then use our tools in order to analyze that information and to drive insights that then inform their business decisions.

Yes, what we're doing there is we're using our technology to enable better insights and more customer focus for them. I think the foundation of all digital transformation is a flexible, powerful technology.

Michael Krigsman: Let me ask you just to drill down further because I think that the distinction between the technology enablement and the business outcomes, and the connection between those two is so foundational here.

Marcus East: Yeah, agreed. One of the other things that I think is important when it comes to this idea of digital transformation measurement is being clear about the KPIs. The most successful programs that I have seen, either as an executive driving them or as somebody supporting them externally, have been those that have had a very tight focus on very explicit business outcomes. I think the technologists benefit from having those very clear KPIs and targets because it allows them to develop solutions that work toward those.

Ultimately, there are many ways in which people are using technology to drive digital transformation. If I draw my own experience when I was at National Geographic, we were using technology to drive down the cost of creating and distributing content. That was very important to us as a media company. Many of the media companies that we work with are looking at ways in which they can just drive down the cost of their operations.

Cloud plays a very important role there. Many of them are consolidating data centers into public cloud infrastructures. That's one aspect and often the starting point for their digital transformation.

They often quickly move on to think about, what are the new products and services that we can build that can take advantage of the way in which consumers are consuming content? Recently, I was at a conference called IBC, which is a big media and entertainment conference. I had the opportunity to speak with lots of customers from the media and entertainment world.

Many of them are now thinking about how they can build that direct relationship with consumers that haven't existed for them before. Many of them have been producing content that has gone through a TV channel or gone through a cable network, but now they're looking at digital transformation as a way to build those direct relationships with consumers. We have tools and capabilities that can help them with that based on our many years of experience of building solutions and building products that have been used by consumers.

I think the third aspect to digital transformation that's important is this idea that you may have to change your business processes in order to be successful. A good example would be when I worked at a big retailer back in the U.K. We were very good at building new experiences in the digital world, but we realized that we had to also change some of our business processes.

For example, prior to investing in our digital transformation, there was no 24/7 operational support for customers because, typically, customer support was driven in stores. Through working with our technology partners, we were able to build a 24/7 capability that had to be reflected within our internal operations as well. Digital transformation affects every aspect of the business from the technology through the processes and operations through to the relationship with the customers.

What's the connection between the Google Cloud and your customers' efforts on digital transformation?

Marcus East: Yeah, one of the reasons I'm really excited to be part of Google Cloud is that I think that Google has a lot of value to bring to enterprise customers. That's partly because of the way in which we have organized our technology into solutions that make sense for them. There are five areas that we really focus on.

One is simply this idea of infrastructure modernization; helping our customers to find ways to run their technology infrastructures more cost-effectively. That could be using containers. It could be moving to a serverless computer, and it could just be taking advantage of our global network. That's one aspect of what we do.

Then data management is also very important. Many of our customers are overwhelmed by huge amounts of data that are coming from different devices, different sources, different systems. We have a whole suite of tools and capabilities that allow them to manage that data much better.

Once you have the data, getting insight from it is also important. We also have what we describe as a smart business analytics focus, which is where we're using some of the advanced technologies that Google has to give customers the ability to drive insight out of their end data.

Then moving on from that, we're also looking at how we use machine learning and artificial intelligence to drive explicit outcomes for customers. I gave the example of Iron Mountain earlier using our AI capabilities.

Then last but not least, we have a collaboration suite, including things like G Suite, that is helping organizations to break down those internal silos so that they can get working across all of their boundaries to deliver for their customers.

Google Cloud, when I think about how I see digital transformation, Google Cloud is well structured to help customers with all parts of that journey.

Michael Krigsman: You just described so many different pieces. What is Google Cloud as distinct from, say, Google G Suite and Google Docs, as an example?

Marcus East: Yeah. In Google Cloud, you can think of Google Cloud as one of the market leaders when it comes to building secure, scalable, and intelligent cloud solutions for enterprises. That really is the focus.

Our chief exec is very focused on this idea that we are building, for our enterprise customers, solutions for their businesses. That's distinct from the business-to-consumer capabilities that have driven Google historically.

What it means is that we are always looking for ways in which we can deliver explicit value to customers and that's what drives us back to this idea of co-innovation. We want to work with them to solve their difficult problems using Google technologies where they're available but then developing new technologies where we don't have those available yet.

What are the common issues, patterns, challenges, or obstacles Google enterprise customers face with digital transformation?

Marcus East: They are large enterprises, and we typically are working with Google's largest customers around the world from the Office of the CTO. I think there are three things that really stand out for me that are consistent themes in my conversations.

Cost is undoubtedly one of them. On Monday, I was in Amsterdam in a conversation with a big media customer. They were wanting to consolidate multiple data centers into a single data center and, at the same time, develop a public cloud capability. We described that together as a hybrid cloud solution where they want to be able to have some of their data and content on-premise and managed within their infrastructure, potentially for reasons of latency, but they also wanted to take advantage of the cost benefits of using the public cloud.

That's a theme that I see consistently from customers that I talk to. Cost is definitely one and one of the things we're focused on is making sure that we have cost-effective solutions for our customers.

Another aspect I touched upon earlier is this idea of data in that, increasingly, businesses understand that data is potentially a differentiator for them. If they have data about their customers and users, they can drive insight from that data in order to make better business decisions.

Many of the CTOs that I talk to are overwhelmed with vast quantities of data that are coming from all sorts of different directions. One good example of how we help would be a solution called Dataflow, which allows organizations that have batch processes generating data, but also have live stream data coming through, for example, their website or through their applications, we can bring all of those together so that there is a single data source that allows them to then start running insights and analytics against a much more structured, manageable data set. Data is definitely a big theme.

Michael Krigsman: You mentioned that your customers are starting to understand this and, clearly, the ability to recognize the kinds of data that the customer has and how to apply that data is a learned skill. Tell us about the journey that your customers go on to understand data as an asset in the way you just described.

Marcus East: Yeah, and we have, I think, in my experience, two types of customers. There are customers who do have deep data scientist skills in-house. Maybe data has been something that has been a competency for them for a long time. Typically, they're looking to take advantage of some of the Google technologies so they can build out their own solutions and their own models. I think that also applies to what we're seeing in the artificial intelligence space.

For some of our more sophisticated customers, they can take advantage of our solutions like TensorFlow in order to build their own models. They can take advantage of some of our data capabilities, our services like Dataproc to build their own Hadoop clusters to be able to process huge amounts of data.

Then there are other customers who perhaps don't have that depth of resource and who haven't had the opportunity to hire or to develop deep expertise in data science. For them, we provide things like BigQuery where all they have to worry about is getting their data into the solution and then they can use the tools that we have built-in order to actually get the insights that they want.

I think it's important that we can support both types of customer because one of the other things that I think is important for digital transformation is this idea that it's a journey. Many customers are starting their journey to the cloud now with what I describe is just lift and shift. They're looking for those cost benefits.

They're looking to take virtual machines from their existing on-premise data centers and move those into the public cloud. That is not enough to deliver digital transformation. That's just the starting point. I like to talk about them moving and improving, which is how they can start taking existing applications and systems and modernize those using cloud technology so that they can start to introduce new capabilities.

To give you a specific example, at National Geographic, I moved the image collection into Google Cloud. That was partly an infrastructure and partly a security play. We also started exploring the use of something called AutoML, which is one of Google's machine learning tools, to allow us to recognize the content of photographs and to enrich that metadata. To me, that's a really good example of move and improve where customers can not only get cost-benefit by moving into the cloud but use it as a way to unlock innovation and to start modernizing the systems that they have.

Explain “lift and shift” with migration to the cloud?

Marcus East: A lot of research out there suggests that there is still a huge opportunity to develop the cloud marketplace. One of the studies that I saw recently suggested that, for some of the biggest companies, they have moved only around 10% of their workloads into the public cloud. I think what that means is that some of the easy use cases have already migrated, but now it's the opportunity to think about, how do you deliver the more complex use cases?

That's where I believe we at Google have a real differentiator in that we're not saying to our customers, "Just move your applications and systems over to us and we'll run them more cost-effectively for you." We're saying that we can do that, but that we can also work with you to give you access to tools and capabilities to then modernize their systems and applications.

That's one of the reasons that we're winning in the marketplace and getting momentum because I think that customers want more than just moving into public cloud to get cost benefits. They want to get access to some of that Google magic to help them actually build new products and services too.

Michael Krigsman: Your strategy is quite interesting to me because, clearly—and correct me if I'm not right here—it seems that your approach is to work with these customers on a business level rooted and built upon the technology, but to really help them understand the implications for their business so that the shift is not just a platform shift but it involves a far deeper business change and everything that that implies.

Marcus East: Absolutely, which goes back to your earlier point about digital transformation. The technology may be the foundation for success, but you also need the cultural change in order to really deliver the value to the business. I believe that's one of the areas in which we're able to differentiate and that we are acknowledged as a leader when it comes to innovation through all of the work that Google has done itself for its own business in the last two decades. Now, taking that culture, exposing it to our customers, and using it as a way to inspire them to develop more innovation and to drive the cultural change necessary is as important, I think, as having great technology solutions.

Is the core of your digital transformation efforts at Google Cloud helping customers with business aspects of cloud migration?

Marcus East: I think that's one part of it. Definitely, there is, as I mentioned earlier, a huge investment right now in building out our sales teams and our customer touchpoints, our channel partnerships, our customer service capability so that we start now having things such as customer success teams who are working very closely with customers to make sure that they get the value from the technology investments that they have made with Google. I believe that that's going to just accelerate the success that we're seeing in the marketplace.

Michael Krigsman: I think of customer success teams as being more tactical and technical and supportive in nature as opposed to the work that you're doing, which is more foundational and more strategic.

Marcus East: That's fair. Certainly, one of the conversations that I have with some of my colleagues is about, where does the Office of the CTO bring the best value? I think that a lot of the customer success teams will be focused on whether there is an existing situation, an existing relationship, and wanting to extend that.

We in the Office of the CTO are mobilized against very difficult problems that might occur in an organization that is not yet a Google customer. We understand that by helping them to tackle that problem, and it may not start with technology.

Some of the conversations that I have are around culture. I met recently with the CEO of one of the big commercial real estate services companies. His challenge was not necessarily about technology. It was about changing the mindset of his employees so that they can operate successfully in a digital-first world.

A lot of the day that we spent with him and his leadership team was talking about Google's culture and how organizations that work with Google not only benefit from the technology leadership we have but also from that culture of innovation and collaboration that we have developed. It's those two things together that are really unlocking magic for our customers.

Are you helping large organizations adopt the very well-known Google culture for getting things done?

Marcus East: Or to be inspired by them. I think that I prefer to think of it as inspiration because to recreate the culture within Google would be very difficult for many of our customers, but I believe that they can learn from and be inspired by the things that they see here.

Michael Krigsman: How does it work? How do you do that? How do you get them inspired by but, somehow, on their side, they have to look at what you're doing and adopt and change? That's so difficult.

Marcus East: I think one of the ways in which we unlock that for them is through conversation. I recently sat in a customer briefing. What was really exciting for the customer was this idea that we were saying to them, "We're just here to talk. We'd love to learn about your business. We'd love to learn about the challenges, and we'd love to share any insights that are relevant from Google." They were visibly relaxed because they had said some of the other conversations that they had with other companies, other cloud providers, were very focused on a specific opportunity or a specific engagement.

They actually told me that they understood that cloud was important, but they didn't yet have a good grasp of it. We said, "That's not a problem. Spend time with us understanding what the potential is."

It really is about a conversation. We're prepared to spend the time to talk to customers to help them with those difficult problems even if there is no immediate opportunity apparent to either party.

Michael Krigsman: Just to clarify, the cloud transitions that we're talking about are very large transitions from the very largest companies on some of their most important processes, so this is not just a matter of, we're going to pay our credit card for $50 and use some app in the cloud.

Marcus East: That's right. We're talking about very large customers who are working directly with us, whether it be a Citi, an LL Bean, or a National Geographic. These are major brands who are doing things that are impacting millions of customers. I think that also means that they want to make sure that they get it right.

One of the things we haven't touched upon, but I'd love to touch on briefly, is this idea of the shared risks that there is when it comes to moving into the cloud. If I think back to the beginning of my career, you could build solutions that were running on your technology and your data centers, and you had complete control. When you move into the public cloud arena, clearly you are partly dependent on the capabilities of your service provider. For me, that's one of the reasons why it's important to make sure there's an alignment of values in that when we talk to a customer about the digital transformation that they're going through, they can also get comfort from the fact that Google really understands digital transformation and is passionate about digital transformation. They see an alignment of values in addition to the great technology that we have available to them.

Michael Krigsman: Now we come to the part where we start to run seriously out of time. You must explain to us, in sort of tweet-length size.

Why do technical decisions such as moving to the cloud demand alignment of values?

Marcus East: A great question. I'll use an example to give you a quick answer. At National Geographic, one of the reasons that we choose to move to Google Cloud was that Google Cloud has a commitment to sustainability and, in fact, matches its energy and consumption with sustainable energy purchases. That was very important to National Geographic. Increasingly, we're seeing that customers want to have a cloud provider that has values aligned with their values before making that decision.

Michael Krigsman: Because there is this shared risk and shared engagement in a very deep way.

Marcus East: You're on this journey together. When you start your digital transformation journey into the cloud, if that's the route that you go down, you are working very closely with your partner and that's why we believe in co-innovation and really helping our customers by working alongside them.

Michael Krigsman: What advice do you have for companies that are looking at this kind of cloud migration both in terms of the preparation that they need to have in place to do it well and then when they decide to actually embark on the journey?

Marcus East: Yeah, there are three things that I'm going to suggest that they should all look at.

  1. One is, they shouldn't just lift and shift, as I described earlier. They should be thinking about what are the ways in which we can take our infrastructure and modernize it using cloud capabilities. That for me is absolutely critical as a starting point.
  2. The next thing is also thinking about how customer experience can be impacted by the cloud. We work with many retailers, including Macy's, for example. Macy's is able to take advantage of the scalability within Google Cloud to make sure it can always provide consistent experiences to its customers. That's very, very important.
  3. I think the third thing is this values alignment in that if you're going to be working in a new mode which has you putting your systems and your data in somebody else's care, make sure that that organization's values align with yours so that you can work together to deliver the value that you're looking for.

Is data stewardship a crucial part of cloud migration decisions?

Marcus East: Absolutely. There are certain principles that we have established here at Google. We take security incredibly importantly. Nobody in Google Cloud has access to the data or the content of the customers who use our Google Cloud platform. We ensure that using technology. We having something called the Titan chip, which is a hardware chip that ensures that it's not possible to access servers unless you are the authorized customer of that server.

We also have incredible processes in place to make sure that that's the case. That's something that customers actually cite when coming to Google is our security profile as one of the reasons that they embrace us.

Michael Krigsman: I'm laughing here because somebody on Twitter, Jeff Nolan on Twitter, just made the comment. He says, "Lift and shift sounds like a rap group or cosmetic surgery procedure." [Laughter]

Marcus East: [Laughter] It's neither in this context.

Michael Krigsman: [Laughter] All right. With that one, I'll just ask you one last question, which is, you're doing so many interesting things. Can you identify one most fun part of your job?

Marcus East: Yeah. I think the most fun part of my job today is almost delighting those customers who are struggling with digital transformation, just want to have that conversation, and just want to get going. I enjoy that in the same way that I've enjoyed talking to you about digital transformation. That's the thing that many customers are looking for and that's what the Office of the CTO gives them a safe space to do.

Michael Krigsman: Okay. That's great. Marcus East, thank you so much for taking time today to be with us on CXOTalk.

Marcus East: Thank you for having me. It's been a real pleasure, Michael.

Michael Krigsman: You have been watching CXOTalk. We've been speaking with Marcus East from the Office of the CTO at Google Cloud. Before you go, please subscribe on YouTube and hit the little subscribe button at the top of our website. We have amazing shows coming up. Check out CXOTalk.com and Google. See you again next time. Have a great day, everybody. Bye-bye.

 

m Technical Director in the Office of the CTO here at Google Cloud. That means that I have three real primary responsibilities.

  • One is working very closely with Google's biggest customers around the world to help them solve difficult technical challenges. We do a lot of that through what we call co-innovation where, rather than just thinking about what it is that Google has to sell to a customer, we actually like to work with them to develop solutions and technologies that they can use. That's one aspect of the role.
  • The other is that I work very closely with our product engineering teams to help them better build some of the products that they're working on based on the feedback and the input that we get from customers.
  • The third component is helping to position Google Cloud in the marketplace by thought leadership. That involves writing articles and doing conversations like this.

Michael Krigsman: You have a really interesting background, Marcus. You were at National Geographic. Tell us about that. I think that's quite fascinating, actually.

Marcus East: Yes. I spent a wonderful time at National Geographic as the chief technology officer. National Geographic was very focused on a big digital transformation, wanting to move from being 130-year-old brand that had a great legacy and great heritage with consumers to one that was relevant in the digital age. There was an acknowledgment that involved investments in technology and the creation of new products and services. It was my great privilege to lead that work.

Michael Krigsman: You know it's funny. When one thinks of National Geographic, you think of faraway places, you think of photographs, but CTO, Chief Technology Officer, doesn't quickly come to mind. Just briefly, tell us about the nature of your role there.

Marcus East: I think there were three aspects to the role of being CTO at National Geographic.

  • The first, many of your viewers will recognize as a sort of traditional tech leader in that I was responsible for building the platforms that ran the National Geographic business, so the content management systems, the data systems that supported the business, and that was an area that took up a lot of my time.
  • But I also had the opportunity to spend a lot of my time thinking about customer experiences and building digital products and services that allow National Geographic's consumers to actually have a new relationship with the organization.
  • Then the third aspect of my role was building technologies that were actually used out in the field by explorers and researchers.

A great example there is the work that's done by a researcher called Topher White who has built an incredible device that listens out for sounds in the jungle or in the rainforest and uses artificial intelligence in order to process those sounds. It now, for example, identifies the sound of gunshots where people are illegally poaching or chainsaws where they're illegally logging. It was a very interesting role to have, indeed.

Michael Krigsman: Why did you make the jump from National Geographic to Google? I think that's a relevant part of this story.

Marcus East: Yeah, it's a good question and one that I get asked very regularly. As you heard from what I said earlier, I had a fantastic role and really enjoyed my time at National Geographic. But I was also very conscious that there is a big change going on in the industry right now. For me, that change was driven by the cloud and the way in which the cloud was enabling digital transformations for many big organizations.

I actually first got to know Google Cloud as a customer. One of the projects that I did at National Geographic was taking the National Geographic image collection, which is its collection of the most iconic photographs, including things like the African Girl, and moving those to Google Cloud as part of a program to protect them for future generations. What I realized was that many organizations could benefit from using the cloud, and so this new role gives me an opportunity to work with many customers to help them get access to some of the solutions that have helped me in my career.

Michael Krigsman: We have a question from Twitter. Sal Rasa is asking; he says, "Given your role with National Geographic, you're obviously interested in the societal benefits from digital technology. Where does that come into play at all in what you're doing now since, obviously, that's a part of your background?"

Marcus East: Absolutely, yes, in two regards. One is that, by helping our customers to solve their most difficult problems, we are helping them to be more successful. We are helping them to grow. We are helping them to deliver better services to their customers. There is definitely a wider societal benefit there.

Also, on a personal basis, I'm heavily involved in some of our initiatives around trying to get technology skills increased in some underrepresented communities, for example. I do a lot of mentoring and I'm involved in lots of the Google initiatives specifically around making a positive contribution to society.

Michael Krigsman: Let's talk about Google Cloud. Google is growing its enterprise business. You've made a number of very high profile, splashy hires. You're investing in Google Cloud. What's cooking with Google Cloud right now?

Marcus East: Yeah, a big topic. I'll give you a sort of overview and then we can dive into the areas that interest you the most. I think it's worth starting, though, with this idea that I was a customer and now I'm a Google Cloud employee, and so I am seeing the transition from the inside having experienced it from the outside.

One of the things that I have noticed since being here is that the investments that our CEO Thomas Kurian is making are very focused on supporting our customers. We are investing heavily in our sales and channel capabilities so that we have more touchpoints with customers. We're investing in customer success for the first time so that we have people who are focused on helping customers not only get onto Google Cloud but then be successful with Google Cloud.

We're also investing in customer support and service so that we can make sure that we can be responsive to the needs of those customers who have actually moved to Google Cloud. Those investments are having a really profound impact and we're winning customers all the time. We're having engagements with new potential customers on a regular basis, and so we're definitely seeing a big transition as we're acknowledged now as one of the challengers in this cloud space.

Michael Krigsman: Why now? Why did Google make the decision to invest in Google Cloud to this extent today?

Marcus East: The cloud market is one that is growing rapidly. The research suggests that, in the next few years, it will be valued at over $100 billion. Google has many advantages. Acknowledged as a challenger in this space, we're seen as a leader when it comes to building secure, scalable, intelligent cloud solutions for enterprise customers.

Many of the technologies that Google is now making available to customers started through the investments that Google itself made in its business. When it comes to things like machine learning and artificial intelligence where we were acknowledged as a technology leader, customers can now take advantage of some of the skills and capabilities that Google has used up until now for itself. I think that it's seeing customers going on these big digital transformation journeys and realizing that Google has the potential to help them by bringing some of that expertise and some of that knowledge that has been developed over many years building Google's business.

Michael Krigsman: We think of Google as being a B2C company or everybody thinks of search, of course. Now, you're talking about a very, very heavy investment in B2B, and so what are the kind of challenges do you think that Google faces in making that transition?

Marcus East: I think the big opportunity is, one, as I talked about before, to give customers an opportunity to benefit from some of the things that have previously been proprietary to Google. Google has nine different products that have over a billion users, including search. Those products clearly have helped to shape the world and have actually helped to drive digital transformation by changing the way in which consumers interact with data and consumers interact with information.

As we move towards developing a stronger B2B profile, it is making investments that allow us to support our customers but, at the same time, building new products and services specifically for the needs of our own customers. A good example there would be the co-innovation work that we do. I talked about that a little bit earlier.

I can just give you one example. One of our customers, Iron Mountain, has a great heritage, of course, in document management and managing the information for its customers. In working with Google, we identified an opportunity to help them with their migration to the public cloud using the great compute and storage capabilities of Google Cloud, but we were also then able to use our machine learning and artificial intelligence capabilities to develop with them some new offerings specifically around document intelligence. That's now an offering that we are making available with them to their customers. It really is interesting for me to see how we're able to build on that legacy of being a B2C brand that has helped to drive digital transformation in the last two decades to one that is now helping our customers to do the same.

Michael Krigsman: Why did you create this Office of the CTO? What was the point of doing that?

Marcus East: Yeah, the Office of the CTO plays a really important role in our engagement with customers in that it's a safe space for our customers to explore some of their most difficult challenging problems without the pressure of sales targets or the need to sell a specific solution to them. The Office of the CTO is part of Google's engineering function. What motivates us is working with customers to help them tackle those problems in a way that generates value for them but, also, potentially creates patterns and intellectual property that we can then use in other products and services.

It's very exciting for them because they have almost a unique opportunity to work with very experienced engineers from within Google. Some of the Office of the CTO are people who have been here for many years working on Google's own products, and others are people like me who have been CTOs in other organizations bringing that customer external perspective.

Michael Krigsman: Is it kind of an advanced consulting group? Would that be an accurate way of putting it?

Marcus East: Some people think of it as a consulting group, but I would say the difference is that we're not engaging with customers in a way where we expect them to pay us to do something. We're really looking for that co-innovation. We're taking our skills and capabilities, our knowledge of all of the tools that Google has and working alongside them to find ways to develop value for both organizations.

It's very different from a traditional consulting model where somebody is paying you to come and do some work. We're actually not approaching it in the same way.

Michael Krigsman: You've mentioned that term, co-innovation, several times. Tell us what that looks like a little bit further.

Marcus East: Yeah, that's a big driver for us. Co-innovation is this idea that we take someone from the Office of the CTO to work alongside senior technology leaders in a customer to think about the problem from the perspective of the customer. We're not coming at it from the perspective of a specific product set. We're coming at it from the perspective of, "We're all technologists. How do we work together in order to actually tackle these problems?"

That allows us to tap into Google's engineering and product capabilities, though. It also allows us to tap into our partner network. By doing that, we can then develop a solution specifically for those customers' needs that just may not have existed before. I think co-innovation is one of the unique things about the Office of the CTO and one of the reasons customers are so excited to work with us.

Michael Krigsman: Marcus, how much of this co-innovation is driven by the desire to A) assist customers versus B) gain a better understanding inside Google of the kind of deeper questions and issues that your customers are facing?

Marcus East: Yeah, it's absolutely both, but I do want to go back to this topic of digital transformation. One of the things that I recognize, having been a CTO myself for many years, is that customers want solutions. They don't want technology and they don't want products.

The other way in which engaging through the Office of the CTO is a value to customers is that they know that we start by talking about the issue or the challenge that they're facing rather than talking about some specific angle to it. A lot of the interest the customers have initially is tackling their problem, but they very quickly realize that there's a lot of technology, a lot of expertise, a lot of experience within Google that can help. It's our job in the Office of the CTO to pull all of that together.

Michael Krigsman: That co-innovation is really a central part for your reason in the Office of the CTO to exist.

Marcus East: Absolutely. Co-innovation and then, building on that, this idea of a thought leadership too where we take the experiences that we have working with customers and we try to establish patterns in thinking that can be used by other organizations. Yesterday, I had an article go out about what I describe as how the cloud has helped to transform not only some of the systems that I've been responsible for but also my career. I know that resonated with other CTOs because many of them have reached out to me to say, "Yeah, I'm also experiencing similar things." Thought leadership is another important aspect of what we do.

Michael Krigsman: Okay. Now, on digital transformation, it's one of these terms that, three or four years ago, was big hype, sort of the way AI terminology is in hype today. Now, there is less talk about digital transformation but it seems that the amount of investment that's going on among large companies and midsized companies is so large that the term digital transformation has become so vague. It's like artificial intelligence, so vague as to be almost meaningless. Let me ask you to kind of define for us or explain what digital transformation actually is from your perspective.

Marcus East: Yeah, this is another great question, Michael. In fact, just before coming to Google, I wrote a book about digital transformation called Working with Dinosaurs. One of the points that I raised in the book was this idea that digital transformation is a very broad term that covers everything from application modernization through to building new products and services for customers.

I think that the challenge for many leaders in big enterprises is making it relevant to their organization. I think digital transformation has many, many aspects to it. I personally think there are six things that are really important.

One is having flexible technology, and that's what brings us back to the cloud. I believe that cloud technologies and cloud solutions are all a great foundation for digital transformations. We allow our customers to build, deploy, and manage applications much more quickly in the cloud than they could when they were doing it through traditional, on-premise solutions. That's, for me, one of the foundational elements of digital transformation.

Also, there's a need to truly understand your customers through experimentation. One of the other things I think is important is that, for companies to be successful at digital transformation, they need to be really embracing this idea that they have to experiment with new ideas with their own customers in order to see what it is that the market is demanding.

Next, I think they have to be able to measure and actually look at the data that they're generating from those experiments in order to make the right decisions. I think it's very hard to have good digital transformation if you don't have good data and you don't have good insight into what your consumers are doing.

Then there are three other things that I've seen consistently throughout my career. The next is this idea of collaboration across organizational boundaries where, certainly when I started my career 25 years ago, organizations could operate in a very siloed way, both within a big enterprise but also between enterprises. Today, in order to develop and to deliver digital transformation, organizations have to collaborate in a different way. They have to be able to share knowledge more quickly and to move more quickly. That's another aspect of it.

Agility is key, too. Pierre Nanterme, who until recently was the chief executive of Accenture, in 2016 shared a report that showed that, between 2000 and 2016, 50% of Fortune 500 companies had ceased to exist. One of the reasons that Accenture identified that they ceased to exist was their inability to move quickly enough into this digital age. Agility and speed are important.

The number one thing that I think really drives digital transformation is an intense focus on the customer because the companies that have been most successful have been those who have been able to deliver value to their end customers. I think all of those together drive digital transformation.

Michael Krigsman: But what is digital transformation? Is it, "Well, we have a new website," or, "Now we can sell our products on the Web. Before, you had to go to our stores"? Is there any point to even define it in this way?

Marcus East: I think it can be helpful to define it. For me personally, digital transformation is where organizations are taking advantage of new technologies in order to redesign and to redefine the relationship between the organization, its customers, its employees, and its partners. I think, when you have that broad definition, it gives you the opportunity to include things like building new websites, but it could also be building new business models and having an entirely different way of delivering services to your end customers. It all starts, I believe, with the use of technology.

Michael Krigsman: Explain that. The reason I'm asking is that the other attributes you're describing are not technology-related really at all. It's a way of doing business, a culture mindset. Explain the role of technology in this.

Marcus East: I believe technology is an enabler to all of those things that I talked about: to measurement, to experimentation, to collaboration, to agility, and to customer focus. A good example would be the way in which we now, through one of the tools that we have called BigQuery, we allow our customers to take huge data sets, multi-petabyte data sets, move them into a serverless environment where they can then use our tools in order to analyze that information and to drive insights that then inform their business decisions.

Yes, what we're doing there is we're using our technology to enable better insights and more customer focus for them. I think the foundation of all digital transformation is a flexible, powerful technology.

Michael Krigsman: Let me ask you just to drill down further because I think that the distinction between the technology enablement and the business outcomes, and the connection between those two is so foundational here.

Marcus East: Yeah, agreed. One of the other things that I think is important when it comes to this idea of digital transformation measurement is being clear about the KPIs. The most successful programs that I have seen, either as an executive driving them or as somebody supporting them externally, have been those that have had a very tight focus on very explicit business outcomes. I think the technologists benefit from having those very clear KPIs and targets because it allows them to develop solutions that work toward those.

Ultimately, there are many ways in which people are using technology to drive digital transformation. If I draw my own experience when I was at National Geographic, we were using technology to drive down the cost of creating and distributing content. That was very important to us as a media company. Many of the media companies that we work with are looking at ways in which they can just drive down the cost of their operations.

Cloud plays a very important role there. Many of them are consolidating data centers into public cloud infrastructures. That's one aspect and often the starting point for their digital transformation.

They often quickly move on to think about, what are the new products and services that we can build that can take advantage of the way in which consumers are consuming content? Recently, I was at a conference called IBC, which is a big media and entertainment conference. I had the opportunity to speak with lots of customers from the media and entertainment world.

Many of them are now thinking about how they can build that direct relationship with consumers that haven't existed for them before. Many of them have been producing content that has gone through a TV channel or gone through a cable network, but now they're looking at digital transformation as a way to build those direct relationships with consumers. We have tools and capabilities that can help them with that based on our many years of experience of building solutions and building products that have been used by consumers.

I think the third aspect to digital transformation that's important is this idea that you may have to change your business processes in order to be successful. A good example would be when I worked at a big retailer back in the U.K. We were very good at building new experiences in the digital world, but we realized that we had to also change some of our business processes.

For example, prior to investing in our digital transformation, there was no 24/7 operational support for customers because, typically, customer support was driven in stores. Through working with our technology partners, we were able to build a 24/7 capability that had to be reflected within our internal operations as well. Digital transformation affects every aspect of the business from the technology through the processes and operations through to the relationship with the customers.

Michael Krigsman: What's the connection between the Google Cloud and your customers' efforts and programs for digital transformation?

Marcus East: Yeah, one of the reasons I'm really excited to be part of Google Cloud is that I think that Google has a lot of value to bring to enterprise customers. That's partly because of the way in which we have organized our technology into solutions that make sense for them. There are five areas that we really focus on.

One is simply this idea of infrastructure modernization; helping our customers to find ways to run their technology infrastructures more cost-effectively. That could be using containers. It could be moving to a serverless computer, and it could just be taking advantage of our global network. That's one aspect of what we do.

Then data management is also very important. Many of our customers are overwhelmed by huge amounts of data that are coming from different devices, different sources, different systems. We have a whole suite of tools and capabilities that allow them to manage that data much better.

Once you have the data, getting insight from it is also important. We also have what we describe as a smart business analytics focus, which is where we're using some of the advanced technologies that Google has to give customers the ability to drive insight out of their end data.

Then moving on from that, we're also looking at how we use machine learning and artificial intelligence to drive explicit outcomes for customers. I gave the example of Iron Mountain earlier using our AI capabilities.

Then last but not least, we have a collaboration suite, including things like G Suite, that is helping organizations to break down those internal silos so that they can get working across all of their boundaries to deliver for their customers.

Google Cloud, when I think about how I see digital transformation, Google Cloud is well structured to help customers with all parts of that journey.

Michael Krigsman: You just described so many different pieces. What is Google Cloud as distinct from, say, Google G Suite and Google Docs, as an example?

Marcus East: Yeah. In Google Cloud, you can think of Google Cloud as one of the market leaders when it comes to building secure, scalable, and intelligent cloud solutions for enterprises. That really is the focus.

Our chief exec is very focused on this idea that we are building, for our enterprise customers, solutions for their businesses. That's distinct from the business-to-consumer capabilities that have driven Google historically.

What it means is that we are always looking for ways in which we can deliver explicit value to customers and that's what drives us back to this idea of co-innovation. We want to work with them to solve their difficult problems using Google technologies where they're available but then developing new technologies where we don't have those available yet.

Michael Krigsman: Within the customers that you're working with, going back to digital transformation, what are the kinds of common issues, patterns, challenges, or obstacles that you see going across the multiple customers that you're involved with? Also, these are large companies, right?

Marcus East: They are large enterprises, and we typically are working with Google's largest customers around the world from the Office of the CTO. I think there are three things that really stand out for me that are consistent themes in my conversations.

Cost is undoubtedly one of them. On Monday, I was in Amsterdam in a conversation with a big media customer. They were wanting to consolidate multiple data centers into a single data center and, at the same time, develop a public cloud capability. We described that together as a hybrid cloud solution where they want to be able to have some of their data and content on-premise and managed within their infrastructure, potentially for reasons of latency, but they also wanted to take advantage of the cost benefits of using the public cloud.

That's a theme that I see consistently from customers that I talk to. Cost is definitely one and one of the things we're focused on is making sure that we have cost-effective solutions for our customers.

Another aspect I touched upon earlier is this idea of data in that, increasingly, businesses understand that data is potentially a differentiator for them. If they have data about their customers and users, they can drive insight from that data in order to make better business decisions.

Many of the CTOs that I talk to are overwhelmed with vast quantities of data that are coming from all sorts of different directions. One good example of how we help would be a solution called Dataflow, which allows organizations that have batch processes generating data, but also have live stream data coming through, for example, their website or through their applications, we can bring all of those together so that there is a single data source that allows them to then start running insights and analytics against a much more structured, manageable data set. Data is definitely a big theme.

Michael Krigsman: You mentioned that your customers are starting to understand this and, clearly, the ability to recognize the kinds of data that the customer has and how to apply that data is a learned skill. Tell us about the journey that your customers go on in order to understand data as an asset in the way you just described.

Marcus East: Yeah, and we have, I think, in my experience, two types of customers. There are customers who do have deep data scientist skills in-house. Maybe data has been something that has been a competency for them for a long time. Typically, they're looking to take advantage of some of the Google technologies so they can build out their own solutions and their own models. I think that also applies to what we're seeing in the artificial intelligence space.

For some of our more sophisticated customers, they can take advantage of our solutions like TensorFlow in order to build their own models. They can take advantage of some of our data capabilities, our services like Dataproc to build their own Hadoop clusters to be able to process huge amounts of data.

Then there are other customers who perhaps don't have that depth of resource and who haven't had the opportunity to hire or to develop deep expertise in data science. For them, we provide things like BigQuery where all they have to worry about is getting their data into the solution and then they can use the tools that we have built-in order to actually get the insights that they want.

I think it's important that we can support both types of customer because one of the other things that I think is important for digital transformation is this idea that it's a journey. Many customers are starting their journey to the cloud now with what I describe is just lift and shift. They're looking for those cost benefits.

They're looking to take virtual machines from their existing on-premise data centers and move those into the public cloud. That is not enough to deliver digital transformation. That's just the starting point. I like to talk about them moving and improving, which is how they can start taking existing applications and systems and modernize those using cloud technology so that they can start to introduce new capabilities.

To give you a specific example, at National Geographic, I moved the image collection into Google Cloud. That was partly an infrastructure and partly a security play. We also started exploring the use of something called AutoML, which is one of Google's machine learning tools, to allow us to recognize the content of photographs and to enrich that metadata. To me, that's a really good example of move and improve where customers can not only get cost-benefit by moving into the cloud but use it as a way to unlock innovation and to start modernizing the systems that they have.

Michael Krigsman: Then presumably these companies who are relatively early in this process, using the lift and shift approach, have been hesitantly eyeing the cloud for a long time. Presumably, these are kind of their first tentative steps. Would that be an accurate thing to say?

Marcus East: Yeah, I think that's fair. There is a lot of research out there that suggests that there is still a huge opportunity to develop the cloud marketplace. One of the studies that I saw recently suggested that, for some of the biggest companies, they have moved only around 10% of their workloads into the public cloud. I think what that means is that some of the easy use cases have already migrated, but now it's the opportunity to think about, how do you deliver the more complex use cases?

That's where I believe we at Google have a real differentiator in that we're not saying to our customers, "Just move your applications and systems over to us and we'll run them more cost-effectively for you." We're saying that we can do that, but that we can also work with you to give you access to tools and capabilities to then modernize their systems and applications.

That's one of the reasons that we're winning in the marketplace and getting momentum because I think that customers want more than just moving into public cloud to get cost benefits. They want to get access to some of that Google magic to help them actually build new products and services too.

Michael Krigsman: Your strategy is quite interesting to me because, clearly—and correct me if I'm not right here—it seems that your approach is to work with these customers on a business level rooted and built upon the technology, but to really help them understand the implications for their business so that the shift is not just a platform shift but it involves a far deeper business change and everything that that implies.

Marcus East: Absolutely, which goes back to your earlier point about digital transformation. The technology may be the foundation for success, but you also need the cultural change in order to really deliver the value to the business. I believe that's one of the areas in which we're able to differentiate and that we are acknowledged as a leader when it comes to innovation through all of the work that Google has done itself for its own business in the last two decades. Now, taking that culture, exposing it to our customers, and using it as a way to inspire them to develop more innovation and to drive the cultural change necessary is as important, I think, as having great technology solutions.

Michael Krigsman: Then is the core of the big shift being undertaken at Google Cloud now the extension of or going beyond the technology to bringing all of these other digital transformation capabilities to the table for your customers?

Marcus East: I think that's one part of it. Definitely, there is, as I mentioned earlier, a huge investment right now in building out our sales teams and our customer touchpoints, our channel partnerships, our customer service capability so that we start now having things such as customer success teams who are working very closely with customers to make sure that they get the value from the technology investments that they have made with Google. I believe that that's going to just accelerate the success that we're seeing in the marketplace.

Michael Krigsman: I think of customer success teams as being more tactical and technical and supportive in nature as opposed to the work that you're doing, which is more foundational and more strategic.

Marcus East: That's fair. Certainly, one of the conversations that I have with some of my colleagues is about, where does the Office of the CTO bring the best value? I think that a lot of the customer success teams will be focused on whether there is an existing situation, an existing relationship, and wanting to extend that.

We in the Office of the CTO are mobilized against very difficult problems that might occur in an organization that is not yet a Google customer. We understand that by helping them to tackle that problem, and it may not start with technology.

Some of the conversations that I have are around culture. I met recently with the CEO of one of the big commercial real estate services companies. His challenge was not necessarily about technology. It was about changing the mindset of his employees so that they can operate successfully in a digital-first world.

A lot of the day that we spent with him and his leadership team was talking about Google's culture and how organizations that work with Google not only benefit from the technology leadership we have but also from that culture of innovation and collaboration that we have developed. It's those two things together that are really unlocking magic for our customers.

Michael Krigsman: That point, I find quite interesting because it seems that you're trying to help these large organizations adopt aspects of the very well-known Google culture for getting things done and transplant it inside their companies as they make the digital transformation and cloud journey.

Marcus East: Or to be inspired by them. I think that I prefer to think of it as inspiration because to recreate the culture within Google would be very difficult for many of our customers, but I believe that they can learn from and be inspired by the things that they see here.

Michael Krigsman: How does it work? How do you do that? How do you get them inspired by but, somehow, on their side, they have to look at what you're doing and adopt and change? That's so difficult.

Marcus East: I think one of the ways in which we unlock that for them is through conversation. I recently sat in a customer briefing. What was really exciting for the customer was this idea that we were saying to them, "We're just here to talk. We'd love to learn about your business. We'd love to learn about the challenges, and we'd love to share any insights that are relevant from Google." They were visibly relaxed because they had said some of the other conversations that they had with other companies, other cloud providers, were very focused on a specific opportunity or a specific engagement.

They actually told me that they understood that cloud was important, but they didn't yet have a good grasp of it. We said, "That's not a problem. Spend time with us understanding what the potential is."

It really is about a conversation. We're prepared to spend the time to talk to customers to help them with those difficult problems even if there is no immediate opportunity apparent to either party.

Michael Krigsman: Just to clarify, the cloud transitions that we're talking about are very large transitions from the very largest companies on some of their most important processes, so this is not just a matter of, we're going to pay our credit card for $50 and use some app in the cloud.

Marcus East: That's right. We're talking about very large customers who are working directly with us, whether it be a Citi, an LL Bean, or a National Geographic. These are major brands who are doing things that are impacting millions of customers. I think that also means that they want to make sure that they get it right.

One of the things we haven't touched upon, but I'd love to touch on briefly, is this idea of the shared risks that there is when it comes to moving into the cloud. If I think back to the beginning of my career, you could build solutions that were running on your technology and your data centers, and you had complete control. When you move into the public cloud arena, clearly you are partly dependent on the capabilities of your service provider. For me, that's one of the reasons why it's important to make sure there's an alignment of values in that when we talk to a customer about the digital transformation that they're going through, they can also get comfort from the fact that Google really understands digital transformation and is passionate about digital transformation. They see an alignment of values in addition to the great technology that we have available to them.

Michael Krigsman: Now we come to the part where we start to run seriously out of time. You must explain to us, in sort of tweet-length size, why making a technical decision such as moving to the cloud demands alignment of values in order to be successful.

Marcus East: Yes.

Michael Krigsman: How does that work?

Marcus East: A great question. I'll use an example to give you a quick answer. At National Geographic, one of the reasons that we choose to move to Google Cloud was that Google Cloud has a commitment to sustainability and, in fact, matches its energy and consumption with sustainable energy purchases. That was very important to National Geographic. Increasingly, we're seeing that customers want to have a cloud provider that has values aligned with their values before making that decision.

Michael Krigsman: Because there is this shared risk and shared engagement in a very deep way.

Marcus East: You're on this journey together. When you start your digital transformation journey into the cloud, if that's the route that you go down, you are working very closely with your partner and that's why we believe in co-innovation and really helping our customers by working alongside them.

Michael Krigsman: What advice do you have for companies that are looking at this kind of cloud migration both in terms of the preparation that they need to have in place to do it well and then when they decide to actually embark on the journey?

Marcus East: Yeah, there are three things that I'm going to suggest that they should all look at.

  • One is, they shouldn't just lift and shift, as I described earlier. They should be thinking about what are the ways in which we can take our infrastructure and modernize it using cloud capabilities. That for me is absolutely critical as a starting point.
  • The next thing is also thinking about how customer experience can be impacted by the cloud. We work with many retailers, including Macy's, for example. Macy's is able to take advantage of the scalability within Google Cloud to make sure it can always provide consistent experiences to its customers. That's very, very important.
  • I think the third thing is this values alignment in that if you're going to be working in a new mode which has you putting your systems and your data in somebody else's care, make sure that that organization's values align with yours so that you can work together to deliver the value that you're looking for.

Michael Krigsman: This notion of stewardship of the data is crucially important when making the migration decision.

Marcus East: Absolutely. There are certain principles that we have established here at Google. We take security incredibly importantly. Nobody in Google Cloud has access to the data or the content of the customers who use our Google Cloud platform. We ensure that using technology. We having something called the Titan chip, which is a hardware chip that ensures that it's not possible to access servers unless you are the authorized customer of that server.

We also have incredible processes in place to make sure that that's the case. That's something that customers actually cite when coming to Google is our security profile as one of the reasons that they embrace us.

Michael Krigsman: I'm laughing here because somebody on Twitter, Jeff Nolan on Twitter, just made the comment. He says, "Lift and shift sounds like a rap group or cosmetic surgery procedure." [Laughter]

Marcus East: [Laughter] It's neither in this context.

Michael Krigsman: [Laughter] All right. With that one, I'll just ask you one last question, which is, you're doing so many interesting things. Can you identify one most fun part of your job?

Marcus East: Yeah. I think the most fun part of my job today is almost delighting those customers who are struggling with digital transformation, just want to have that conversation, and just want to get going. I enjoy that in the same way that I've enjoyed talking to you about digital transformation. That's the thing that many customers are looking for and that's what the Office of the CTO gives them a safe space to do.

Michael Krigsman: Okay. That's great. Marcus East, thank you so much for taking time today to be with us on CXOTalk.

Marcus East: Thank you for having me. It's been a real pleasure, Michael.

Michael Krigsman: You have been watching CXOTalk. We've been speaking with Marcus East from the Office of the CTO at Google Cloud. Before you go, please subscribe on YouTube and hit the little subscribe button at the top of our website. We have amazing shows coming up. Check out CXOTalk.com and Google. See you again next time. Have a great day, everybody. Bye-bye.