A tech leader’s approach to innovation, productivity, and collaboration

A tech leader’s approach to innovation, productivity, and collaboration

Learn how Bryan Hope of VMware, the leading provider of multi-cloud services for all apps, evaluates and integrates new tools into the company’s tech stack.

A tech leader’s approach to innovation, productivity, and collaboration

Learn how Bryan Hope of VMware, the leading provider of multi-cloud services for all apps, evaluates and integrates new tools into the company’s tech stack.

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Written by
Abby Sinnott
Abby Sinnott
Abby Sinnott
Abby Sinnott

From cloud services to AI, new digital technology promises improved efficiency and productivity — but how do you choose the best tools for your team?

While technology has been transforming the workplace for decades, over the last four years, we’ve seen the rate of change vastly accelerate. Today, digital tools are ubiquitous in nearly every company, regardless of industry or size, and are often a key driver of a business's growth strategy.

Gartner reports that 89% of all companies have adopted a digital-first business strategy or are planning to do so, and 91% are engaged in some form of digital initiative.

Technology, when used right, can deliver a treasure trove of benefits, including enhanced efficiency, productivity, and collaboration. McKinsey data shows that companies with advanced communication technologies have experienced up to a 25% boost in productivity, and research from Deloitte reveals that businesses investing in automation have reduced operational costs and increased productivity by up to 20%.

Yet, the endless proliferation of new technology in the workplace can make it difficult to choose the right tools for modern teams, creating a lot of noise and leading to tech overload — a surefire way to squash productivity. Additionally, a recent marketer survey found that nearly half of marketers (47%) feel overwhelmed with technology, mostly due to not having the skills or training needed to use the tools.

With all of this in mind, we were excited to chat with VMware’s Director of Unified Communications and Collaboration, Bryan Hope, during a recent episode of our Boundless series. In it, he shares his firsthand experience of how to get the most out of new tools and evaluate their ROI, and why sometimes less is more when building your tech stack.

Here are his four key pieces of advice for other decision makers looking to successfully bring on new tools that drive positive organizational change and results.

Evaluate tools – with budget restrictions in mind

Today’s uncertain economy means that most teams face restricted budgets and resources and feel the pressure to do more with less. 

“My advice is to actually lean in and embrace these pressures to help you solve some problems,” Brian says. “When we’re talking about budget restrictions, we’re talking about simplifying the portfolio.”

At VMware, Brian and his team regularly take stock of the apps in their ecosystem, zooming in on any category where multiple apps are being used to do the same thing, and eliminating those that are redundant or are not driving deeper team dexterity. “This creates an opportunity to both reduce costs and also increase alignment across the organization and productivity by having people work in fewer and the same platforms,” Brian says.

He adds that when deciding whether to expand or optimize your current tech stack, it’s critical to have a strategy in place outlining your company’s objectives and how your tools can help support them. For example, at VMware, the team sought to create a unified collaboration platform designed to break down barriers and reduce the use of multiple tools to accomplish the same task. 

“First look at what the company is trying to achieve and craft your strategy to support achieving those objectives,” Brian says. “This approach is really going to help you decide which tools are right for your ecosystem.”

Don’t ‘fear the red’ when creating Objectives and Key Results (OKRs)

During the pandemic, when everyone was working remotely, Brian says he and other company leaders were trying to figure out the best way to measure their teams’ productivity.

Eventually, Brian says the company moved away from focusing on productivity and shifted to an “outcomes-obsessed mindset.”

“This is where we leaned in and adopted OKRs, where we clearly define the outcomes we're trying to achieve and then track progress to those outcomes,” says Brian, who describes the practice of creating OKRS (Objectives and Key Results) as a goal-setting methodology.

“Becoming outcomes-obsessed has also been a cultural change, affecting everything all the way down to the conversations we’re having,” Brian says. “It has also increased alignment and transparency because by default, our OKRs are visible company wide. Everyone can go into our platform and see who's working on what, who's working on the same thing, or something that's complementary.”

He emphasizes that it’s important to build experimentation and the potential for failure into your OKR methodology, or what VMware calls “not fearing the red.” 

“We have ambitious OKRs, but we never expect to hit a hundred percent,” says Brian. “We know that organizationally, if we hit over 80 percent of our OKRs, we're in the right range. So I would say, make ambitious goals, try new things, and don't fear the red.” 

Boundless series

Hear from leading voices from Atlassian, Github, and more as they explore the biggest topics in marketing, design, and development.

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Boundless series

Hear from leading voices from Atlassian, Github, and more as they explore the biggest topics in marketing, design, and development.

Watch now
Watch now

Design a framework for using AI

Like many tech companies, Brian says VMware is slowly introducing AI tools into its workflow. He’s mostly focused on using it to improve work quality, rather than quantity. 

“I’m not focused on productivity or eliminating jobs with AI,” Brian says. “I’m really asking myself, how can AI help my team produce higher-quality work and perhaps do it faster?”

When evaluating third-party AI tools for your team, Brian says it’s important to develop a framework to help you choose the right ones for your team. Here are just a few of the key considerations he recommends: 

  1. Define your purpose and objectives: First, clearly define the purpose of adopting the AI tool, ensure it aligns with your company's overall objectives, and identify specific problems or tasks the AI tool will help solve. 
  2. Understand how tools will integrate with your existing systems: Whether you’re adopting tools offered by trusted platforms you’re already working with, or evaluating net-new technology, it’s important to ensure their compatibility and seamless integration with your existing tech stack. 
  3. Evaluate the granularity of controls: Rather than rely on broad, one-size-fits-all access controls for AI tools, Brian says it’s critical to have the ability to customize specific access policies for different users or groups. This allows teams to tailor the behavior of the AI system to their unique requirements, fostering better alignment with business goals.
  4. Explore data privacy and security implications: Examine the AI tool's data handling practices and security measures to protect sensitive information. Make sure they’re compliant with relevant data protection regulations and industry standards.

Bridge the gap between marketing and IT

In order to create the best digital experience for your marketers, Brian says it’s critical to break down silos with your colleagues in IT.  

“First and foremost, marketing teams shouldn’t be afraid of IT. Proactively engage with them and help them understand your needs so they can connect them to the right solution,” says Brian. 

At VMware, the two teams often come together during informal coffee talks or attend each other’s department meetings, giving both sides an opportunity to share their roadmaps, ask questions, and provide feedback.

“Look for every opportunity to join in and be where those people are having conversations,” Brian says. “And get ready to be uncomfortable. For example, when you're choosing between different tools, people can be really married to one and they might tell you it’s the only tool that works, while the other side disagrees. The feedback might make you feel uncomfortable, but that's when you're going to learn something interesting.”

To hear more about how Brian and VMware get the most out of their digital ecosystem, and to learn more insights from other business leaders in the world of tech, check out our Boundless webinar series.

Last Updated
March 14, 2024