It’s been more than a year since the Office of the CTO was first formed and later announced at Extreme Networks. Tasked with looking to the inflection points of the future, the department is led on a daily basis by Markus Nispel. In the second of a two-part series, Markus, VP of International Markets at the Office of the CTO, sat down to discuss his thoughts on the past year and the future.
The department focuses on the future, both when it comes to incubation and thought leadership. When you look at what’s been done in thought leadership for the Office of the CTO over the past year, what stands out?
If you look at our thought leadership, the biggest success that we had, right out of the start, was how we created our podcast, Inflection Points, which explains the company’s concept of the Infinite Enterprise and where not only the market but also where Extreme is heading. And for us, that’s really a guiding light to look at technologies and markets that address needs and scenarios that the Infinite Enterprise creates. So specifically, around enterprise distribution, consumer experience: How do you do that at scale? How do you scale it back to one? How do you scale from one to two, all the way to an infinitely distributed environment? And what technologies and solutions are required to accomplish this? So that’s certainly our guiding light. The Infinite Enterprise for us is a concept we use to drive our market development and a change in the market overall that is going to stay.
We also need to make sure that we develop technologies and solutions that align with that. And right now, we don’t have everything in place. So obviously, we do need to focus more. And that includes the incubation. Incubation is usually a build approach, but that’s the other part of the charter. We are also heavily involved in the decisions around our partners to address the needs of the Infinite Enterprise. This means we also engaged in those activities around them to make sure that we create a portfolio that addresses the needs of the Infinite Enterprise, either by ourselves by building new solutions or by partnering. Obviously, we know that not every vendor can address the needs of the Infinite Enterprise in its entirety. Also, if we feel that we need a key building block, that we don’t have time or money or expertise to develop, and we don’t want to partner because it’s too strategic for us, then obviously acquisition comes into play as an option. And we’ve done that too recently.
On the incubation side, like, do you look at the last year as a success? Do you have individual successes?
Absolutely! I mean, the last year was primarily driven by us establishing the Office of the CTO as an organization and creating processes. The team had to come together in less than a year. We have produced visible results already. One of those visible results is the launch of Extreme Intuitive Insights.
On one hand, our initial goal was to grow the software-as-as-service (SaaS) and subscription revenue. On the other hand, the plan was to also grow the number of connected devices in the cloud beyond our installed base. And so that was basically the charter that we had at the beginning.
We have also identified technology partners and vendors for integration. Together, we can provide customers with additional insights to optimize their infrastructure and IT operations by pulling in devices and data from these other vendors. These partnerships allow us to grow the number of devices in our cloud, while, at the same time, also providing an opportunity to increase the subscription revenue that comes along with it.
That, in turn, becomes a platform that we’re going to grow. We can build a platform that we can also innovate and develop and provide additional solutions. Those solutions will cut across several of these vendors, which again, further allows us to monetize the data that we collect from their devices. Which is probably also next in where we go in terms of incubating new initiatives — a lot of them will be centered around data and creating value out of the data that we collect in our cloud platform.
Extreme has a vision for the future it calls the Infinite Enterprise. Since the person who came up with it is Nabil Burkhari, the CTO of Extreme, it makes sense that it has a big impact on the Office of the CTO.
It’s certainly big. You can tie everything that we do back to the Infinite Enterprise and the tenants of the Infinite Enterprise. It applies everywhere. That’s distributed connectivity and the scale that comes along with it! That’s the consumer experience! Any of these three core pillars are always somehow tied to the activities of the Office of the CTO.
We work from an outside view, then in perspective. So, we look at the experience we want to create for the consumer, for our customer first, before anybody starts developing anything else. That’s also something that addresses one of the pillars of the Infinite Enterprise, but it’s also a way on how we innovate on how you should innovate. So, to speak from a process perspective, I think that that’s definitely important.
A lot of the initiatives also tie into this are centered around data. And because if you want to engage and provide a quality experience for your customers and their customers, data is imperative. And that’s why we, a support many initiatives in that space.
Certainly, everything that we do around initiatives comes at scale, and will scale back to one, but scale also operationally, which then means that all enterprises become tied to the cloud infrastructure.
That’s where the market is going: We’re becoming people who deliver a service.
And last but not least, anything that we are looking at is through the lens of distributed connectivity: Obviously, this is also essential for the Infinite Enterprise.
You talk about data a lot. Do you consider the Office of the CTO a completely data-driven department?
Not yet. But that’s certainly what we aspire to. And handling data is easier said than done. Extreme needs to recognize the value and importance of data. We need to recognize how to create data, treat data, clean data, secure data ownership, and then ultimately provide data insights. And it’s much more, it’s really a cultural change that needs to happen.
We are trying to incubate that as well: We have seen that in parts of the organization already starting as well. If you look at what the team that built CoPilot on the ExtremeCloud IQ side, it is beginning. But Extreme as an entire organization, we are certainly not there yet. But that’s going to be important because that’s going to be key to differentiation long-term.
So, what do you see happening now? What do you look to in the future? What’s next for the Office of the CTO?
What is next is certainly more initiatives have centered around data. So that’s key for us. What’s also vital for us for the next year is initiatives that we have started in the area of security, which is critically important for the Infinite Enterprise. So, we have a couple of initiatives that we started this year that we’ll likely see daylight next year in a product context.
In terms of creating the pipeline: We want to reach out more to customers and partners and go through formal design-thinking workshops to generate more ideas, then use this to ultimately create new initiatives that may or may not lead to a product realization.
But managing that pipeline and increasing our output is going to be crucial for us next year. And we don’t want to do that in a vacuum. And we want to engage more with customers and partners, and that helps us to produce faster. And we want to increase our validation steps to reduce the risk of innovation. But that comes with basically every new initiative that we are starting. The key areas for next year, where you will likely see results are in the security, distributed connectivity, and data spaces.
This interview was conducted by Jon Filson, Senior Content Producer, Office of the CTO.