Staying on Course for the Next Great Idea

Sam Schoelen, Chief Information Technology Officer, Continental Resources
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Sam Schoelen, Chief Information Technology Officer, Continental Resources

Do you remember VMware and it was the hottest product on the market? I may be exaggerating a bit but VMware and its line of products are already obsolete. VMware held the largest market share in virtualization and did it with ease, it’s amazing what the product could do and the rapid growth the company experienced. If your company wasn’t deploying VMware in your environment then someone questioned “why not”! VMware absolutely monopolized the market and what limited competition they had proved to be insignificant in the field.

So, what happened to VMware? Why is it they are no longer on every IT decision makers lips? Maybe because the majority of corporate’s needs are in the on premise data center and people are moving to the cloud as an environment? Or is it because VMware has not kept up with the industry and newer technology such as hyper converged systems has surpassed them? It could be a combination of both. I will not go as far as to say VMware was not a great product and I admit, I still use it, but VMware has become a commodity product that will be temporarily used until I move my entire data center to the cloud. It will go away at some point, when that will that happen is hard to predict for sure, but the end is in sight.

Perhaps VMware become the next Blackberry who was the next Sun who was the next DEC. All great technology companies seem to have an end of life expectancy. When you become a tech giant in the industry, it is often hard to see around the blinders as you wallow in your own greatness. As companies grow it becomes increasingly difficult to think outside the box and to continue to produce the next great idea. It becomes very easy to get wrapped up into what “once was” and not “what is “or even “what is going to be”. Few companies are able to do this, but most just lose focus.

 Companies need to have their ear to the future by listening to what the customers are saying, what they need and what they are willing to spend 

I really thought it would be a natural progression for VMware to have a cloud or a hyper converged offering; it seemed like something that would be a natural progression. They were late to the cloud game and their strategy went nowhere continues to be a non-factor in the industry. The cloud providers that exist today are making new strides every day and every minute with their tool sets and functions. Everyone wants to be a part of either AWS, Azure or Google, but yet I have never heard once the accolades of a VMware cloud. It becomes apparent—what will happen to VMware when everyone is in the cloud and there are only a very select systems left in a data center. Can you say Blackberry?

So, what could have stopped this from happening? Well I don’t know what exactly happened behind the scenes at VMware or any other of the other aforementioned companies that have gone this route, but I can certainly offer some suggestions. When it comes to technology no one is ever the best for very long, as soon as you hit the top, you are inevitably destined to decline. There is always someone out there striving to be better, faster and cheaper that is determined to displace you at the top, and if you think otherwise you have already lost the battle. Technology companies need to stay hungry; being complacent is the enemy, to stay on top you need to continually produce the next great idea. Companies need to have their ear to the future by listening to what the customers are saying, what they need and what they are willing to spend. Technology executives who are sitting in their corner offices reading tech-reports on where the industry is going and what to do next will rarely be on the cutting edge in today’s world. Just spend a few hours in a data center with some smart engineers and it becomes obvious what is actually needed and not wasting time reading reports from rags that often regurgitate what they “think” they hear. No one can ever expect to know what is going on when you are so far removed from the client. To understand the industry, you need to be immersed in the technology, or at the very least, have someone that is. People who spend the day touching technologies can tell what is going on more effectively than any industry report ever could.

So, where does VMware go from here since they are already well behind the curve? There are some companies that have bounced back and they have done so through substantial change. VMware needs to find the people that know what the industry is really doing, take their advice, and make those changes. Reading reports about what others tell you is going on is not going to cut it, put your ear to the ground and find out yourself. Once they do that they can make the changes and investments in the organization to keep moving into the future. 

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