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While in high school, Wendy Pfeiffer won a contest and was brought on to do a research project at NASA. It was the first time she was exposed to computers and she fell in love with the technology. From there, Wendy slowly grew into a career in tech and now serves as the CIO of Nutanix. On this episode of IT Visionaries, Wendy explains what her role entails, how she works with peers in the industry to make business more efficient through the use of hybrid cloud, and the highs and lows of working with a net promoter score.
Best Advice: “Remember that you serve at the will of the business and relax about the technology and focus on the business.”
- How being the Nutanix CIO leads to close work with other CIOs
- The benefits of a hybrid cloud
- How customers become more efficient thanks to Nutanix
- Using a net promoter score to move the business forward
The job of CIO at Nutanix
Wendy’s role as CIO puts her in charge of every aspect of Nutanix’s tech from the applications that run the entire company, to the tools employees use to do their jobs. She is also responsible for customer success, especially when it comes to the product Nutanix sells to other IT departments.
One of the biggest problems she has found that CIOs need to solve is the need to be able to change technology as the world and the business changes. In order to execute those changes, Wendy relies on the hybrid cloud, which is what Nutanix specializes in.
“Nutanix makes a product that we sell to IT departments like mine, and the leaders of those departments are my peers. And so in the technology sector and the technology industry, I’m responsible for executive relationships and customer success for folks who are using and deploying our products inside of their IT organization.”
“What we want is we want to be able to execute on a mixed portfolio of technologies and tools and systems at any one time today. That mix is called a hybrid cloud. A little bit on-premise, a little bit in public cloud, some in private cloud, sort of this mix of technologies, tools, et cetera.”
The benefits of a hybrid cloud
In the corporate world and with traditional vendors, you have to choose between one platform, one tool and one application. The problem is the upcoming generation is accustomed to choice and having an ecosystem that allows switching between applications, tools, and jobs. The hybrid cloud creates that ecosystem.
“Whether it’s diversity of workforce in terms of age, whether it’s diversity of toolset, diversity of cloud, diversity of consumption models, we really, really need those things to be enabled as an ecosystem play, right? It’s beyond just a platform. It’s beyond just an organism. It’s about an ecosystem. And at the moment, the large traditional IT vendors are, dinosaurs were after mammals came. You know, the little mammals are running around, they’re going like, ‘Swat those guys away. We don’t need those guys.’ But meanwhile, they’re eating an unfair share of the resources of that ecosystem. And in the end, for any number of reasons, they die out. And what’s left are, the little mammals who then can coexist with the resources available. And the world is rapidly getting to that moment.”
The role of employee innovation
In order to innovate, employees must be given the space, time and access to process information so that they can iterate on the status quo. Hackathons are a great way to do that, but Wendy much prefers to foster an environment where employees can innovate on a day-to-day basis, rather than waiting for a specific day.
Certain types of automation can come out of innovation like this, and if done correctly, it’s not automation for the sake of automation, it’s automation that actually can make a difference.
“Invention is creating something that never before existed from things that maybe you’ve had to make from hand. Innovation is taking things that already exist and putting them together in different ways.”
Customer use cases
Many of the peers who come to Wendy are in “keep-the-lights-on mode.” Wendy estimates that 70% of their capacity — financial, mental and technological — is dedicated just to maintaining the current system and making sure things don’t break. What these customers need is to free up capacity in order to start focusing on ways to move the business forward.
“We need to create some way to buy capacity for ourselves to create more capacity for ourselves. … We have to operate inside the box if our budget and there are limited resources, so if we want to do something new or transformational, we have to find that capacity and whether it’s money or people we’re inside of that closed system. We have to get more efficient at what we’re doing. Well, a great candidate place to get more efficient is that 70%, right?”
“What I say is create this sort of virtuous cycle of creating capacity in your core and then using that capacity to focus on prioritizing tasks. So as an example, a colleague that I have been working with for the last year or so works for a cybersecurity company and they went from having a large team, a few hundred employees, focused on just the basics of delivering a laptop to a new employee when they showed up for work the first day, making sure the apps worked, security, scanning, those sorts of things. They went from that to focusing on truly impactful business-facing things — giving their employees the ability to work from home, work from anywhere securely, to use whatever mobile device they wanted, et cetera. So for them, they saved money, they saved time and capacity.”
“We’re enabling people to work, to be productive, to come together to do things that maybe haven’t been done before, to scale in ways that haven’t been scaled before. And energy makes energy and positive energy makes positive outcomes. And so there needs to be some element of that in our environments and in the way that we work and the way that our technology enables us. There needs to be just some layer of positivity, humor, enjoyment in the environments and the tools and the ways that we work.”
Using net promoter scores
Wendy explains that using net promoter scores is to prioritize services and come up with optimal descriptions and processes. You can learn a great deal from a tool like the NPS, because you might see that your execution is great, but your style is awful. Or maybe the process was good but the delivery needs work.
When you know what doesn’t work, you can move toward implementing digital transformations or newer technology to improve your score.
Nutanix uses NPS with customers and with employees who are discussing all the ways that the company has started to use its own technology to become more efficient. And through those NPS scores, Wendy and her team can see how people react to automation and new ways of doing things so that they can continue to build upon their success.