During my recent keynote presentation at the Association of Information Technology Professionals, I spoke about how to develop a strategy around virtualization and application delivery. I said, "I'm sure we can all agree that we work in a new world of business and IT. Things are changing so fast that the old, decrepit business models that most companies still have in place are struggling to adapt. The folks in IT that work in the technologies like virtualization (and I use that term very broadly) and application delivery are the people that are the seers of the future, but yet we sometimes feel isolated and impotent." To expound upon that statement I can safely say that most of the folks I spoke to don't know where to begin in building a movement to bring what we know to be solid technology and a true enabler of business agility to a wider audience. I'm going to share some thoughts and insight from my experiences of being a revolutionary and a visionary.
I stated that "virtualization" technologies are a radical departure from the way things were done in the past and a very disruptive set of technologies. Change is something that most fear, for many diverse reasons. We've all heard many every senior executives claim to "embrace change" and every CEO has preached that "change is the only constant". So why is it so hard for us to get the attention needed to make virtualization and application delivery the de facto standards and the leading strategies to accomplish the business's goals?
The first step here is to have a "point of view" or POV. By having a very well articulated POV you can argue against any precedent. During my days at HP I created the POV that Citrix was the technology that could be used to centralize application delivery and control runaway costs. My point of view was considered "rogue" at times, but it was a beacon of sorts, something that gained support and allegiance from the highest levels of management.
I learned early on from my mentor that a POV needs to meet four criteria: it must be credible, coherent, compelling and commercial. To be credible it must be based upon hard and fast data. I had very high aspirations for my viewpoint, but it needed a true foundation in fact. My ‘flag waving and strong rhetoric wasn't enough. I had to dig deep and wade into an ocean of data. I spent six months with Citrix Customer Care gathering data on licensing costs and just as much time analyzing the environments around the world that were setup for 10, 20, or 30 users. I was building a strong understanding of what was going on inside the company that no one else had paid attention to.
Your POV must be "coherent". The pieces of your point must fit together and be mutually reinforcing. As I stated in the previous paragraph, I was considered rogue for a while, and this is where my point of view was being dissected from the management perspective. They were looking for any and every inconsistency in my story. Here is where my mentor told me, "logic lapses are not allowed Michael, you don't need to have perfect clarity, but there is no place for muddied thinking." That has stood out in my head for the past 4 years. I can tell you that you will not get a second chance to make that impression to management and passion is no substitute for a coherent point of view.
As much as I would like to stick to "just the facts ma'am", I had to also garner more support from my peers and superiors, to do that I had to speak to their hearts as well as their intellect. I was ready to share with anyone why my cause would make a difference in the way the company would conduct business, make application rollouts more efficient, and save a large amount of money over time. I made my point into a story of what happens if we don't alter the way that we deliver applications, build out infrastructures and license these environments.
So I pose to you this question, "what makes your POV truly worthwhile?" If you want your company to do something, your POV must be commercial as well as compelling. If you can't describe how it will save costs, increase productivity, etc you won't get far.
I can tell you from experience that you will lose many battles in the process of winning the war. Don't get discouraged or lose faith. Your POV will sustain you and provide a sense of courage from which to draw upon. My mentor told me that, "if you are going to fish, use a big hook. Setbacks are inevitable. Just know that you have a good cause - one that is in tune with what is going on in the industry and is inherently worthwhile, and more importantly will help your company stay relevant in the "age of revolution."
In my next post, I'll cover the next step which is to write your own manifesto. I'm not talking anything like Lenin, but something that will infect others with your ideas. I'm a history buff and one person that comes to mind that personifies what I'm trying to say here is Thomas Paine. Paine's most famous work, Common Sense was the manifesto for the American Revolution. You need to be like Thomas Paine and write your own manifesto. It doesn't have to be long, but it has to be contagious. Stay tuned for the next post in this series.