By Andy Nallappan, Chief Technology Officer and Head of Software Business Operations, Broadcom Software
Broadcom started out as a chip design company. In 2018, we began to pivot towards software in pursuit of expanded opportunities outside of the hardware sector.
As we were acquiring Symantec the following year, we realized that we would need to run the software business differently from the way we ran the hardware business. In hardware, you make the sale on the strength of your design; prove that once and you can keep the client for the long haul. Software is different. With software, you need to keep proving yourself again and again, especially when your service is SaaS and by subscription.
At the same time, we realized the software business demanded a different kind of technical leadership – an approach more focused on the customer, revenue growth, and operating expenses as opposed to capital expenses. It required a CTO, in other words, more so than a CIO.
Growth and revenue
A CTO’s focus requires you to think about driving growth and revenue with technology. I accepted the challenge to move from my role as CIO to that of the CTO. I was motivated to make the move for three reasons.
First, I felt that it gave me credibility with our customers. The fact that I have been a CIO means that I have been in their shoes, and I understand the kinds of challenges they face. This shared experience makes it easy for them to have a conversation with me.
Second, it was an exciting time to make the transition to a customer-facing role: digital transformation was at its peak. Technology was moving to center stage in everyone’s life. Over the past two years, technology has been valued more highly than at any time in history. These days, it’s part of every aspect of life – business, government, education, and at home as well. I thought it was the perfect time to make the switch.
Third, we were going to be improving our offering dramatically, moving all our collocated programs to containerized SaaS platforms, which would make our business much more flexible.
Our timing turned out to be even better than I had hoped: the growth of our cloud-based SaaS business paralleled the sudden need for more physical flexibility brought on by the pandemic. Demand for some of our offerings by financial institutions, telecommunications companies and many other firms grew by as much as 600 or 700 percent. Being entirely on the cloud, our programs could handle this growth easily. We can now scale up or down very quickly – within a year, a month, a week, or even a day – and make all these adjustments an operating expense rather than a capital expense.
Security, automation, and talent
More than a year and a half into my life as a CTO, I’m still spending a lot of time talking to our customers. Right now, I’m telling them that they need to focus on security and data privacy. Today, everyone is logging a lot more data because storage is cheap. It gives you more feedback, which is good. The problem is that when you are storing so much information, you have to make sure that you are storing it safely and stripping out personal data. You need to be prepared for unforeseen threats.
I’m also talking to clients about automation. As talent gets more expensive, it becomes more important to automate mundane tasks. You also need to be more strategic about where you focus your programming talent, and how you can use those people to strengthen your core business. The good news is that when you make the transition to cloud-based solutions, it becomes easier to keep people, because you have more interesting and more varied work for them. When they see that, hey, I’m now working with hundreds of products, and multiple technologies, they feel they’re in a land of opportunity. They thrive on it.
Some people find this transition challenging, however, especially if they are coming from a more task-focused role in IT. I know when I teach new employees about our culture, I warn them that we don’t need them to be task takers. Do just that minimum, you won’t add enough value. Instead, we need you to focus proactively on how to improve the customer experience.
Getting this message across is critical. You cannot drive a digital transformation if your system is being built by an inefficient organization. You need to start with the people first – the right people executing the right business model. Then you need to create an accountability culture. If you put those things in place and have people who are motivated to deliver, you can make magic happen.
For a software company CTO, the focus is on relationships and revenue.
Data security should be top of mind now.
Digital transformation means focusing even more on the customers.
Talent is key – you need the right people to execute the right business model.