Conversations with Fortune 1000 Tech Leaders

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Progressing IT through Business Partnership and Citizen Configuration

“I think that it’s worth the energy and it’s worth the investment in time to listen and to hear where somebody else is coming from –  and understand what our business partners are trying to accomplish, strategically, so that then we can then help with application of technology to help our business get to where they need to go.”

Executive Vice President and CIO of Salesforce Jo-Ann Olsovsky (LinkedIn) has always been immersed in the tech world. At age 19, she worked at AT&T as a technician repairing network gear and modems. She climbed the ranks and – eventually – became an engineer. But she didn’t stop there – she progressed to project manager, and then to manager. After that, she became Director of Enterprise Network Services and Technology Support Services at GTE Verizon, before moving to Telecom where she continued to prove her record of excellence at every level – all the way to Senior Vice President.

In early 2018, Jo-Ann joined Salesforce as their current CIO. She was drawn to the contagious energy and impact Salesforce was having with both businesses and the tech industry. Jo-Ann joins us on IT Visionaries to discuss aligning business strategy with IT strategy, empowering citizen developers, and selecting new technologies for your business.


What She Loves About Salesforce

Salesforce has dominated the CRM industry as the number one provider to millions of customers. With their incredible growth over the last couple of years, the energy at Salesforce is contagious and full of positivity and optimism.

“At Salesforce everything begins with the customer. I love their fast-moving progressive and innovative culture. I love the passion and energy you feel you just walk down the halls and on each of the floors.”

The Shifting Role of a CIO

“We as CIO’s are in the mix in a very big way. It’s not uncommon that we are asked to help enable the business, innovate the business, transform the business and that’s the word that’s used a lot lately.”

It is no small task to be asked because no matter what industry you are in, all CIOs have a mix of technologies and processes that are all at different stages in the life cycle. Some of them are new, while others are legacy. We all have to deal with these types of situations and expect different outcomes. We have to be agile and get it right the first time. Otherwise, there is potential for unwanted costs that could stop an organization or company from moving forward. CIOs have to have methodologies to be able to combat this.

Her Philosophy on Partnering With Businesses

“I think in IT, we need to have great relationships with our business partners in order to excel. It all comes down to walking in somebody else’s shoes and trying to understand the challenges that they’re trying to deal with.

The number one goal for Salesforce is trust. Focusing on that trust helps them build relationships with the customer, especially when it comes to providing the functionality needed to help businesses succeed and hit their goals. Businesses need to work hard and listen to their partners and customers. It’s about efficiency. It cannot be a siloed effort amongst IT and business partners to establish a meaningful and impactful relationship. It has to be a joint effort, and an aligning of needs and wants.

The Capability for Citizen Developers on Salesforce

Jo-Ann brings up Citizen Development in regards to the Salesforce SaaS platform and stresses how vital it is for businesses to have the information needed to succeed.

“We see where our business partners have the capability to do configuration, analytics reporting and they don’t have to come to IT for everything and that speeds everybody up. I think it’s turned into a really good thing where we have the governance and control but our partners are able to configure as they need to report as they need to, analyze as they need to and get their day jobs done.”

On how she selects technologies and implements them

“I like the common sense method and the common sense method tells me that I might be an intelligent person but I don’t know everything. The first thing I try to do is to surround myself with those that do.”

Whether that’s building a talent base or leveraging external partners, a great takeaway from Jo-Ann’s answer is her emphasis on the idea that it takes a cohesive and smart team to work together, propose ideas, and then execute them well. One person does not need to solve anything. We need to listen and encourage culture within the IT department.  

“Inevitably, when you pull a cross-functional team together and you watch what’s taking place and you see the tools they’re using or you see what the customer might be complaining about, it’s amazing the ideas that surface when you pull a bunch of folks together.

What a Time for Technology!

“We’re just in such a great time in terms of Technology right now, where we have the advantage of massive amounts of compute power, communications, storage, the Internet of Things. All these great technologies have come together and we are the benefactors of being able to leverage those technologies to help deliver for our customers.

The Strategy and Role of IT in supporting rapid growth businesses like Salesforce

“As far as the hiring part and Salesforce growing, we try to automate as much as we can certainly utilizing, you know, our technology to do so. That helps my technology team to be able to support literally thousands and thousands of people joining.”

Jo-Ann’s team also has Tech Force bars in all of their major locations. These provide support for Salesforce’s new hires. Because so many devices are needing to be connected and synced, her team has to be mobile. They have also implemented a platform where users can find ways to meet their IT needs from their phones, tablets, and computers.


The Lightning Round

What mobile app you using that is the most fun?


What do you pin?

I’m a home remodeling nut and so I pin all kinds of Home Remodeling projects and use it to help organize projects. I have four kids, the job at Salesforce and always have running, running, running so anything that can help me to be more organized and have a little fun, while I am at, is what I tend to pin.

What is your favorite time-saving tool?

My husband and I tend to use Wunderlist a lot which is very helpful. But I would tell you my calendar is probably one of my best tools because I’m so calendar driven. It keeps me very organized. It keeps my family organized and anything mobile, but definitely the calendar.

Favorite team, sports, or otherwise?

I’m a baseball nut so I would say my favorite team is the Tampa Bay Rays because I lived there for a lot of years and I now become a Texas Rangers Fan as well. I also love the Houston Astros and I spend a lot of time in San Francisco and I just went to a Giants game and totally loved that. I just love baseball.

What’s something you are looking forward to this year at DreamForce?

I was amazed the first time that I went and of course this year, I’ll be there as an employee for the first time. I really love the IT Visionaries track. I think that’s well worth going to the IT Observatory. I also think just going from session to session you learn so much in each of them.

To learn more about aligning business strategy and how Joann uses mobile technology to her advantage, check out the full interview with Joann.

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