A recognized industry leader, Rob has over twenty-five years’ experience as an enterprise software executive with demonstrated leadership success at startup companies to large companies, including Symantec and Axent Technologies. An internet security pioneer and innovator, he is credited with the creation of the first commercial intrusion detection system, and led the business unit that developed and brought to market the first security compliance product. As CTO at Symantec, Rob defined Symantec’s technology strategy and was a key part of the management team that drove the company to grow from slightly under $1B in revenue to over $5B in five years. He also serves as a member of the board of directors for Telligent and PasswordBank.
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Interview Time Index (MM:SS) and Topic
Rob, thank you for sharing your deep experiences with our audience.
“….Thank you. It’s my pleasure. I’m delighted to be here….”
Rob profiles his work history and shares some defining and usable lessons from the major events and roles in his history.
“….Lessons:….Innovation is great, but you also have to be in a hot market….It’s absolutely essential to have innovation to keep up with the ever advancing security threats. I definitely learned that the people trying to break into systems could be as innovative as the ones who trying to keep them from breaking in….It’s people that power the success of a software company and it’s probably the people that power the success of any company….”
What are private clouds and why would an organization want one?
“….A private cloud is a fancy term that we use for the next generation of data center automation….What they do is they turn that organization’s existing infrastructure into a service that users can consume on demand….”
How should organizations think about implementing a private cloud?
“….Anytime IT invokes a huge project with not much ROI until the end of that huge project it’s usually destined for failure. You have to find a way to chop it up and do the implementation in a way that you’re getting ROI right from the first phase….”
What are the risks and rewards in a private cloud deployment?
“….Risks:….I’d be very leery of a so-called phased implementation of the cloud that phases in the stack as opposed to getting phased across the company….One of the issues you have to look at are issues like security; it’s much easier in a private cloud because the organization already controls the data center. On the self-service side, you have to have some kind of accounting mechanism so we quickly see the environment that gets out of control….Licensing can be one of the issues so it’s important to make sure that you have the licensing in place….Rewards:….The cost savings are huge both in terms of the hardware (less power), and far less staff time in order to do the standup of services and application….”
Rob, you were a featured speaker at the ISACA World Congress on CTO/CIO insights. You shared many valuable insights at the World Congress. The next series of questions are from the lessons you shared at the World Congress.
Which emerging technologies or movements do you find exciting, scary, or that promise to alter our lives?
“….Cloud computing is one of them….Social media….An increasing mobile workforce that is hardly new but continues to affect us….Consumerization of IT with movements like Bring Your Own Device…..”
We’ve all heard the promises of these emerging technologies. What are some of the risks of mistakes here?
“….Whether that’s cloud or any other kind of emerging technology, it’s important to show some type of return so there’s a reason why we’re doing it and it’s easy to articulate that kind of return….There are security issues with every single one of these emerging technologies, whether that be with cloud — particularly if you go to hybrid cloud….”
The role of CIO or CTO is itself changing. How do you differentiate these and what new twists do you see impacting the roles?
“….Both of them require an external focus, but CIOs tend to be more internally focused. Both are tremendously challenging and are absolutely critical to the success of the company, because without them being done well the company is likely to run out of gas both on the innovation front and the IT service front as it goes forward through the years….”
Much is said about ‘aligning IT with the business.’ What does this mean to you and your business?
“….Another way of saying it is: what does IT have to do to avoid becoming irrelevant?….So when you think about ‘aligning IT with the business’ it means you’ve got to be tight with the business part of the company and get out of the reactionary role….”
How should companies be leveraging technology to improve top-line revenue, not just to cut costs?
“….If you are going to take advantage of new business opportunities a lot of organizations need to be agile….Any reasonably large organization has to find a way to leverage private cloud. I think smaller organizations probably are going to leverage part of the public cloud….”
To what extent is the business driving technology choices? How and why? How is this impacting people?
“….Businesses need to be able to set things up in a way that they can leverage technology with as little effort as possible. That’s very different from the kind of organizations that we’ve had and it’s a different kind of model and is definitely impacting some technology choices to put that type of technology model in place….”
We hear a lot about Big Data these days. What does that mean to you and why should we care about it?
“….Big Data is a great term and it’s usually applied to large amounts of data that’s not in a structured database-type form….If you think about it, there are fantastic things you can do with that data — you can find connections that weren’t there before and you can create value that wasn’t there before….If you look at any large organization that has been in business for awhile, chances are they’ve amassed a lot of information about the market and about customers and they are all trying to figure out how they can use that to become more competitive and increase revenues….”
Gamification is central to many of the social media platforms as a means to fuel participation with reputation rewards. How do you see such mechanisms playing out in your environment or with your clients?
“….At Adaptive Computing, we don’t get directly involved in gamification, but we definitely have customers that can use our private cloud technology to enable their own gamification efforts. What you have to do is make the IT part of this easier for users so that it allows them to focus on other things such as gamification. Social media I think is a big piece of this as well….”
What changes do you foresee to the skills needed for this future? How can we prepare the workforce for this new reality?
“….In modern days we really need to use data to drive our decision-making. I would suggest that the best employees now and in the future know how to collect and analyze data and then use that data to make optimized decisions….”
Do you feel computing should be a recognized profession on par with accounting, medicine and law with demonstrated professional development, adherence to a code of ethics, personal responsibility, public accountability, quality assurance and recognized credentials?
[See http://www.ipthree.org and the Global Industry Council, http://www.ipthree.org/about-ip3/global-advisory-council]
“….I think it needs to move in that direction; on the other hand I’m not sure it needs to go all the way….I think it is important to continue to move forward with guidelines and best practices for most areas of computing, but we also need to balance it. I think we need to be sure that such efforts do not stifle innovation and progress….”
Rob, from your extensive speaking, travels, and work, please share three stories (examples: amusing, surprising, unexpected, amazing).
“….I’m old enough that I have quite a few….The fact is in IT and in security, we generally find a way to say no to emerging megatrends and I would suggest that it generally ends up being futile in the end. You can’t resist megatrends that are of that size because they are like waves and are going to wash over you and being the guy that resisted it the entire time could end up jeopardizing your career….”
Rob, if you were conducting this interview, what three questions would you ask and then what would be your answers?
“….How will IT be different in 10 years?….Which will be bigger, public clouds or private clouds?….How can someone learn about private cloud implementation?….”
Music by Sunny Smith Productions and Shaun O’Leary