But I do see the value, as do others. The problem is that it doesn't fit nicely into any established orthodoxy.
My current title of "Global Marketing CTO" is a rather poor attempt at labeling. I'm not global, I'm not that good at marketing, and I'm certainly not a chief technology officer of any sort.
But you've got to have something on your business card, don't you?
One of the things I now find myself spending more time on is brokering meaningful connections: richer, deeper conversations between my company to yours. And, increasingly, this has less to do with technology-centric topics, and more about how businesses go about figuring out clever approaches to problems we've all had to face.
Do you have someone doing this (formally or informally) in your organization?
You might want to think about it, because we're seeing an enormous amount of value, and I fully expect much more to come.
We're All Different, We're All The Same
If you're like me, you're always on the lookout for new ideas and new perspectives: new insights that you can bring back to your own organization.
Some people think that they need to look at companies exactly like their own (industry, size, geography, culture, etc.) for innovative practices.
However, I've found the really cool and useful ideas usually come from outside your immediate and familiar world. Simply emulating your immediate competitive group doesn't seem to be a good recipe for strategic success.
Not to be tiresome, but the William Gibson quote bears repeating: the future is already here, it's just not evenly distributed yet.
You may not be a company exactly like ours, but we've got many of the same challenges that most companies have -- very often, the problems we're wrestling with have very little to do with technology, and more often figuring out a new approach to the problem.
And, more often than not, there's often someone at EMC who's doing something very cool that others find interesting.
It's those specific interest-focused brokered connections that appear to create the most value.
It's Not Just About Technology, Folks
I suppose that it would be expected that we'd have all sorts of deep connections between, say, very proficient storage users and our storage engineers. Ditto for our other technology disciplines.
The unfiltered conversations that result are almost always a win-win. Both parties get new insight and perspective that they can take back with them. That's something EMC has been doing for as long as I've been here. No surprise really.
A few years ago, we thought it would be very useful to have our EMC IT team learn to engage directly with our customers' and partners' IT functions. Not to sell products, but to share experiences and perspectives.
We're a $20B technology company in an incredibly competitive business, backed by a non-trivial global IT footprint.
Certainly, there's something to share there.
The results have been absolutely spectacular. Over a thousand conversations over the last few years -- from tactical to strategic -- around the globe. I've seen the unquestionable value for our customers -- and our IT team as well.
But, in some sense, that might seem sort of predictable -- you know, IT conversations with an IT company like EMC.
Can We Go Farther?
Draw a picture of any reasonably-sized organization, and you'll usually find the IT level function a few levels down, usually under the CFO. Step back, and you'll find dozens of business leaders, each with a set of concerns and issues that they're wrestling with.
Can we help them in some way?
It turns out -- yes -- much more than we first thought.
Looking to get your company more proficient at collaboration and social engagement? We were very early among large global companies to take the plunge on a comprehensive strategy, and it worked out pretty darn well. Yesterday, Thom Lytle and I spend three hours conducting a workshop with one of our customers who was interested in doing the same.
I don't think we talked about a single thing in the EMC pricebook :)
Does your company care about sustainability? We do. And we've got one of the most insightful, passionate and successful sustainability champions that I've ever met: Kate Winkler. She's been able to transform us from being not-so-good to among-the-best, and so in a very short period.
She, too, enjoys considerable time with our customers who are interested in doing more -- and learning from our experiences.
Want a glimpse of what a next-gen Human Resources organization might look like? You should spend some time with Jack Mollen and his team. Some of the things they're working are truly innovative -- benefits, talent management, investing in lifelong learning systems -- there's a lot there.
Does your company care about voice of customer and quality process reengineering? We certainly do -- a lot. And some of the work Jim Bampos and his team is doing is quite exciting, and really moving the needle for our business.
Want to take your marketing game to the next level? You should have a chat with our CMO Jeremy Burton or his team members. Over the last few years, they've completely re-invented how EMC does marketing.
Do you care about delivering a superior customer experience? That's us. Talk to Howard Elias, Tony Kolish and their crew if you'd really like to see what a massive organizational investment around superior customer experiences looks like up close.
Do you care about getting innovative and differentiated products to market faster than your competitors? How to manage disruptive industry shifts? I'd heartily recommend Pat Gelsinger and his leadership team.
How about the whole topic of corporate innovation? Are you serious about getting really good at creating an innovative culture? I'd recommend Steve Todd, who's doing some of the most intellectually stimulating work I've ever seen about creating self-improving innovation processes that produce quantifiable impacts.
Maybe you're motivated to become a truly globalized company. While it's still a work in progress, we can introduce you to Sanjay Mirchandani's work (prior to becoming EMC's CIO) where he established a global network of EMC's COEs (Centers of Excellence), enabling us to run key aspects of our business wher ever they need to be run.
Want to know how we're thinking about China, India, Brazil or some other place in the world? We'll share our views if you're interested.
How about getting really good at using predictive analytics to change the game? More than a few non-IT teams at EMC working on that one :) Or how we think mobile devices are going to change the way we interact with our customer?
Finance. Legal. Sales and distribution. Logistics. Etc. Etc. My apologies in advance to the dozens of you at EMC who are doing cool things that I forgot to acknowledge.
The post was getting sort of long.
The Big Picture?
Our company is becoming an open book, there for just about anyone who'd like to share and discuss. We're not always the best at what we do, but we sure want to be. And it's turning out that there's always something that can be learned on both sides.
Over time, we've learned to be very transparent indeed -- maybe a bit uncomfortable for some, but that's how real conversations start.
Heavy Thoughts Indeed
If you think about how our interpersonal relationships progress, we start with casual and/or transactional interactions, and eventually progress to knowing more about the other person. The more we engage, the more we learn, the more valuable the relationship can potentially be to both parties.
Why shouldn't relationships between companies be any different? Shouldn't we consider the potential moving beyond the transactional relationships, and consider there might be more to our interaction other than "what we sell to you" and "what we buy from you"?
I, for one, get a nice perspective of just how much of this non-product, non-technology engagement is going on across the company. Business leader to business leader, I see it everywhere, and it's increasing dramatically. The benefits are becoming both enormous and rather impossible to measure in a precise way -- for our customers and for ourselves.
Maybe you end up buying something from us. Maybe we end buying something from you. That's a possible outcome, but certainly not the goal.
We share, we learn, we apply.
I think we're getting back to the traditional meaning I've always assigned to the letters EMC: Everyone Meets Customers.
And it doesn't always have to be around technology :)