How Your Company Can Emulate a Silicon Valley Start-Up

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Mark Settle is a seven-time CIO and one of the most respected and experienced IT leaders in the industry. He is also the author of the book From the Valley: A Practical Primer on the Future of IT Management. On this episode of IT Visionaries, Mark sits down to discuss his latest book and identifies some of the key characteristics that separate Silicon Valley start-ups from their peers.

3 Key Takeaways

  • Brand management will become important from an IT recruiting point of view
  • Business leaders need to be looking for more areas the integrate in order to create a more efficient company
  • Security precautions are often overlooked in IT departments and leaders must establish security cultures

For a more in-depth look at this episode, check out the article below.


Successful Silicon Valley organizations often operate under radically different premises than their Fortune 500 peers. With innovation and business booming in the tech-crazed Valley, what makes that difference? Mark Settle, a seven-time CIO and multi-time author — his latest release is From the Valley: A Practical Primer on Future IT Management Trends  — joined IT Visionaries to discuss his new book, how Silicon Valley firms are operating on the cutting edge of innovation, and steps IT leaders need to take to keep pace with their start-up counterparts.

 The inspiration behind Settle’s latest title came three years ago while he was working for an organization in the Valley. It was then that Settle had a revolutionary experience and saw grabbed hold of an idea: that IT is managed differently in cloud-native companies than their fortune 500 contemporaries.

“The future is already here, it’s just unevenly distributed,” said novelist William Gibson. That quote quickly became the guise under which Settle wrote.

 While some IT management practices are considered commonplace and routine in Silicon Valley, many of their best practices have not been adapted and adopted by their counterparts in other cities. But what makes that variance, Settle said, is the talent pool available in Northern California. But that should change soon.

 “The breadth of the change or the differences in the way IT is managed here in the Valley and the depth is just not really encountered in other places,” Settle said. “The competition for talent [in Silicon Valley], is going to be experienced in a lot of other markets we don’t even think about today like Atlanta, Chicago, or St. Louis. And that has incredible implications for IT leaders.”

 So, what do organizational leaders need to do to close the talent gap? Settle said there are three key areas to focus on, but the first thing organizations must do is look at how they are operating today and understand what changes need to be made.

 “Every CIO or IT leader needs to look at the state of how the art of IT management has evolved here, and make a calculated bet,” Settle said. “What do I need to get good at that will really have a business impact on my company?” 

 IT leaders must become champions for their own companies, and those same IT leaders cannot rest on their laurels just because they possess brand recognition.

 “You’re going to have to compete and impress people why you’re the employer of choice,” Settle said. “If you’re resting on your laurels because you’ve got some brand recognition among the consumers in the world, because you’re a Fortune 300 retail or whatever, with the mentality that a lot of millennials have, that’s almost like a negative.”

 Settle stated IT Leaders who are used to having public exposure and telling their brand story through social media and other mediums often have an easier time recruiting and sourcing talent because they are more visible. 

 “Those are all important things to do to project a brand,” Settle said. “Not manufacturer one out of thin air, but to tell your story about why you are the employer of choice in your area or your industry going forward. I think that’s super important.”

 So how can companies act more like their Silicon Valley counterparts? According to Settle, most companies wait too long to centralize their IT departments. When companies are in their infancy, they tend to purchase multiple applications across various departments, but as the organizations grow those same applications become headaches because they do not work cohesively together. One way to fix this problem is through data mapping.

 Data mapping allows companies to observe all the touchpoints of their organization, so they can see how each part of the organization is interacting with one another and what areas are experiencing friction.

 “In the stewardship model, you don’t have to own it first to really provide some oversight,” Settle said. “I think one of the biggest levers you have is to show up with people who have qualified qualifications to be able to do some of this process mapping and data engineering.” 

 The last takeaway Settle offers is that companies must build a security culture and IT leaders need to show interest in those security concerns. He said that most modern companies fail to employ the proper amount of talent needed to keep their employees and resources safe.

 So, what are steps organizations and leaders can take to become more conscious about their security efforts? The first is you must educate them on potential breaches and how to handle various scenarios and secondly you need to set repercussions for those who do not follow protocols.

 “One of the problems I think we have with establishing a security culture is there really aren’t consequences for doing stupid things,” Settle said. “For the most part. What you really need to have are a significant, public, and a well-defined set of penalties that occur when people mishandle, sensitive, confidential and intellectual property.

 While many of these practices seem commonplace for cloud-native companies, Settle states their older and more experienced peers fail to adapt to these simple operating procedures, and he hopes his latest book helps those organizations mind the gap.

To hear the entire discussion, tune into IT Visionaries here.

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Seven-time CIO and multi-time author, Mark Settle, joined IT Visionaries to discuss his latest book, From the Valley: A Practical Primer on Future IT Management Trends.

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