By Drew Ianni
September 30, 2020
CDX sat down with the CEO of BMC Software, Ayman Sayed, to discuss the rise of the Autonomous Digital Enterprise, the future of computing and more. Below are excerpts. The full video interview can be viewed at bottom.
Drew Ianni (CDX): Welcome, Ayman. Talk a bit about the last six months and how you and the company have responded to the COVID crisis.
Ayman Sayed: I was very pleased with how we were able to transition fairly smoothly and seamlessly to working remotely and with the resilience of our workforce. I was also very impressed by our customers and our partners and their ability to move into this digital model of engagement. I also think the six months have taught us that no matter how much you plan, you cannot anticipate and expect everything. So being agile, the ability to react and quickly turn on a dime, becomes extremely important.
CDX: Has the crisis helped you evolve your leadership style? What have you learned?
Sayed: I have a renewed belief in human strength and resiliency and the ability of people to innovate and persevere against whatever nature throws at them. We started the discussion talking about getting back to normal, and I am excited about carrying a lot of best practices we’ve developed in the last six months into the new normal.
CDX: In looking ahead to the new normal, how do you see things evolving from a culture and operations point of view?
Sayed: It all starts with communication. In a way, we’re communicating more effectively now. That’s not to say that this change is permanent and that we’ll never get back to working from the office. At the end of the day, we are social beings and we draw energy from having people around us. And there is something to be said for collaboration, team spirit and co-creation. So, I think the ‘new normal’ will combine the best of both worlds and we can take these new ‘hybrid strengths’ and build on them.
CDX: In regard to digital transformation, you believe in three core tenets for any transformation strategy? What are they?
Sayed: Yes. The core tenets are people, product and process.
CDX: Great. Let’s start with people.
Sayed: We’re in the knowledge business and our most important asset is our people and their ability to innovate and create new value for our customers. That’s why this ‘first P’ is so important and we spend a lot of time thinking and prioritizing this. It’s about communicating a vision and strategy and it’s about listening, as well as communicating. And in addition to having people who are aligned and excited about where we’re going, investing in their career via technical training or leadership training is critically important.
Second, it’s also about product – and technology. At BMC, we have introduced our Enterprise 2025 vision which is where our technology and product strategy are rooted. It reflects a deep belief in the role that technology is going to play for enterprises large and small. It reflects and translates into heavy investments in technologies like AI machine learning, predictive analytics and robotic process automation. And innovation, by the way, is not just the sole domain of product – it’s innovation of product, in our processes and in the operating model.
Finally, it’s about process. I know sometimes process gets a bad rap. It’s considered bureaucratic. But I think process is a sign of competence. It’s the ability to articulate clearly how you do something and why you do it. Well, then you pick it from doing it. To have to optimize it, to speed it up, so you can do it with your eyes blindfolded. And the more you can automate and optimize process, the more you free people to be creative and unleash their potential.
CDX: Innovation is a what all organizations are striving for. How do you manage innovation at BMC?
Sayed: The good news is there is a science and a system to it. It starts with making sure we have the right environment that’s conducive to innovation and that our employees have a deep understanding and empathy for our customers’ unmet needs. Our Enterprise 2025 vision is designed to understand not only how our customers use technology today, but how they will use it three years from now and five years from now. This, along with being able to employ automation tools and technologies such as AI and machine learning, opens up the space to be creative and to create and innovate.
CDX: Do you have thoughts on leveraging open innovation to fuel digital transformation?
Sayed: Absolutely. One example is the BMC Innovation Lab, which was launched seven or eight months ago. Think of it as an incubator of internal startups, where anybody can submit an idea for innovation. An internal team reviews the ideas and we fund a select number of ideas with seed funding and then progress it like a startup, with the hope that out of 10 or 12 of these we get one or two new products that are exported to the customer. We also have internal hack-a-thons which help us be sure we don’t miss a good idea.
We also ran an Innovation Challenge last February. We received over 500 submissions and sifted through them and picked 80 or 90. Now we’re funding a number of them and some are progressing through different business units. Some are going through the BMC Innovation Lab. We’re very excited about the potential of this and what’s going to come out of it.
CDX: How do you decide when a new idea isn’t working and that it’s time to no longer invest in it?
Sayed: With all these new ideas and internal start-ups, we do regular check-ins where we’re validating a business case of technology and customer use-case feedback to test the proof of concept. And we’re constantly stopping and asking: Should we persist? Should we pause? Should we pivot? We’re pretty disciplined around it. It’s all part of the new product introduction and innovation framework we have. We’re also fairly structured in how we look at our portfolio end-to-end to ensure we’re investing the right level of resources. This is how you ensure that you don’t fall to the tyranny of the here and now.
CDX: Talent and leadership are critical in regard to executing on a transformation strategy. Can you share your thoughts on that?
Sayed: We’re constantly stopping to reflect and review our current talent strategy and mapping it to our technology and business strategy. This doesn’t always translate so we need to hire different people. It means that we train and invest in the current workforce we have so they have clarity, vision and direction, via a clear North Star. We value intellectual curiosity and an ongoing thirst for knowledge and learning. For our senior managers it’s about the ability to not just be excited about what the future holds, but being able to articulate that vision and excite people around it. And it’s about telling them how great things will be and the role they can make by being innovative and driving technology transformation.
CDX: What excites you about the future?
Sayed: I’ve been fortunate over the years to participate in a couple of fundamental shifts that enabled a lot of value and change to be created. In the 90s and early 2000s it was through the network and evolution of networking, the shift from circuit to packet, and from voice to data. That was such an exciting time. We called it the Third Industrial Revolution. John Chambers and the leadership team at Cisco used to say, “Our mission is to change the way the world lives, works, lives, learns and plays.” And I feel very fortunate and lucky now to be at the center of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Software automation and AI are going to enable us to rewrite the playbook about how businesses operate and run. Something we often overlook, but that is key and fundamental at the center of that Fourth Industrial Revolution, is that it’s not just about technology. The future is about people, and how socio-economic and generational shifts set different expectations. The customers of the future will have different expectation about the customer interface and engagement process– how frictionless, straightforward and streamlined that should be. They won’t accept the barriers of yesterday.