Being a CIO focused on customer experience

Byron Connolly

VMware's Tony Scott

While many CIOs are grappling with the need to move beyond IT operations and contribute more to improving customer service, it's a concept that VMware's global CIO, Tony Scott, understands very well.

Being a CIO at the $5.5 billion virtualization software giant extends the typical role of a tech chief in two directions -- one towards customers and the other towards product development, Scott tells CIO.

He describes product development and customer engagement as "added dimensions" to the job on top of managing the organisation's business applications and systems, which is still 50 per cent of his IT group's workload.

Unlike many non-IT firms, Scott and his IT group assist in the customer engagement process.

"The role of a CIO in a technology company -- particularly one that's trying to advance the state of the art as we are, is one of being customer number one in terms of "dog fooding" our own products before we ship them to our customers," he says.

"When our customers come out for briefings or when our salespeople are out on the road [clients] always ask: Which [solutions] does your own IT organisation use?

"While we [vendor CIOs] are not salespeople per se, we assist in the customer engagement process in a peer-to-peer way and say to customers, 'here's what we've learned, these are our experiences, and these are the kind of use cases'" he says.

Scott says people often think his role focuses squarely on quality assurance for the product teams.

"We don't actually find that many bugs anymore -- occasionally some product features and bugs need fixing, and that's a unique and specific role that comes with the territory of being a CIO in a technology company.

"What we do work on, in conjunction with our product teams, is every day [product usability]. How easy is a product to install, upgrade and patch if necessary? How easily does a product integrate with other products that we and other IT teams use?"

Scott has 35 years' experience in IT management. Prior to joining VMware in 2013, he was CIO at Microsoft, overseeing its IT organisation and digital supply chain.

He served as CIO at The Walt Disney Company between 2005 and 2008, taking the organisation through a major SAP upgrade, moving functions to outsourced partners, and delivering a multi-year strategy plan for IT.

Between 2000 and 2005, he was CTO of information systems and services at General Motors Corporation at a time when the company was developing telematics and connected vehicle technology.

"We were really changing out the product development process for the automotive [industry] -- it was a very interesting time in the automotive space."

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