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CIO Speaks – Episode 8: A Conversation with Steve Comstock

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Steve speaks with Steve Comstock formally CIO of CBS about how companies grow and utilize digital strategy to promote that growth.


Under Comstock's leadership, CBS Interactive has advanced productivity and efficiency through the modernization of workforce technology, optimized infrastructure support through strategic vendor product decisions, reduced overall operating costs through improved process/structure, created and implemented incident response/remediation processes, creation of a vendor management organization and implemented a global single sign-on solution helping identify and securing over 130 applications. Prior to joining CBS Interactive in 2010, Steve's 20-year career in technology developed with Sendmail Inc., Oracle Corporation and the United States Antarctic Program (USAP) in various roles within engineering and IT. Steve earned a Bachelor's degree in Computer Information Systems from Regis University. Outside of the office, he enjoys spending time with his family, binge-watching television shows/movies and channeling his inner foodie.


Steve Ginsberg: My guest today is Steve Comstock, a CIO with deep experience and knowledge in the technologies of modern enterprise. He’s been a leader in real digital transformation and complex high demand operations. In this episode, we’ll get Steve’s take on some new technology as well as some great advice on strategy in these modern times. Well thanks for agreeing to speak with me today. I look forward to our conversation. I thought we might start by my asking you that, in your view, what are some of the best ways to create digital strategy?

Steve Comstock: Thanks, Steve. Yeah, it’s great to be here. Digital strategy, you really have to couple it with the view of the digital strategy of the organization, of the company itself. Digital has a number of meanings that sometimes are in conflict or sometimes aren’t agreed upon. But, you have a digital transformation of an organization. Then you have a digital transformation of the company. And you and I have both been through this.

Where you really – I look at it more from the digital transformation of the company. Where does the company want to go? Where do they want to be? What’s your main product? What are you trying to deliver, and are you trying to make the product from your company be digital, or the other side of digital strategy is are you trying to make your organization and the company more efficient from a digital perspective, better automation, that kind of stuff? Where are you headed as a company? And then, from there, you can really start guiding in what is your digital strategy? Because depending on that answer, it could be you’re looking at operational tools, collaboration tools, etc. which you should always be looking at to optimize your environment, or you could actually be looking at tools that are directly related to what your company produces from a digital strategy perspective. So depending on what the – really, the punchline is on that, it depends on where and how you build that strategy.

Having been through, as you have, the actual making a company digital, do you have any insights you’d want to share with the audience about either kind of major pratfalls or key underpinnings of success?

Yeah, there is a lot of both. We talked a little bit before that some of it’s just organizational. I think that your success or failure will be based on how you structure and look at the organization and have the right people in the right spot. It doesn’t mean you do a wholesale rip and replace. But it does mean that there are people who – in your organization who can make the transformation, the journey with you, and there’s some who just can’t. And you really need to really evaluate what that culture looks like, how people fit into that culture, and really don’t discount people right away. One thing I found which I thought was really interesting was that some of the people who I thought would never make the leap were the first and the best people to make the leap and were some of the best champions of the transformation where others that I thought were going to be highly effective turned out to be not as effective as I wished or expected. So I think that’s really important.

I think the other thing too that’s really important is – depending on the transformation itself, is highlighting and really articulating the level of success that you’re going to have. It’s kind of weird how I said that, but let me see if I can improve on that. If you’re building out a technology that has never existed before or are taking a technology and expanding it in a new way that could have a varied level of success, I think it’s highly important that you highlight and communicate that, and have a plan on how you’re going to measure and improve that success over time. Again, both you and I come from a streaming world where a lot of this stuff didn’t exist. And there were times when things didn’t work as well as you thought they would, and we perhaps are maybe using older techniques, or older philosophies, or older operational playbooks that you have to always be thinking and be agile and pivoting and looking at how you can improve those playbooks as you grow with the technology that you’re maturing. And I think it’s super important that you’re very open about that and have a plan that when things don’t go as expected that you recover quickly. I know that’s overused, but recover quickly and have a plan to move forward again and really build on top of your successes as well as failures to the end goal, but don’t let those small failures keep you from looking at the successes that you’ve had.

Yeah, that sounds like a lot of great things to consider. One I want to touch on that you mentioned was about the – on the staffing piece about some folks surprised you by doing extraordinarily well in the new environment, some going the other way. Would you say that ability to learn new ways of working, or ability to learn tools, or both, are those the two main pieces, or are there other qualities that became important in that way?

I think those two qualities are very good. I think you have to be able to be adaptive in your thinking and in your skillset, and I think that, as a maturity level, you have to always consider that just because it worked in the past doesn’t mean it’s going to work in the future. So, looking at how you operate, how you organize, how you plan, and always try to mature that and improve that. And then also looking at the technology that you have been using and looking at how that’s been effective.And where are there areas that maybe weren’t as effective or that you just never really considered because you always thought as commodity, and it’s just whatever? Really looking and go, oh, but wait. Let’s rethink this. Let’s always keep an eye on the horizon of what is coming and how different technologies are maturing or how different technologies are evolving so that when – and this is important. When you are at the maturity level as an organization and when the technology’s at the maturity level, from a technology perspective, you’re both ready to really execute and really add significant value to what you’re trying to achieve.

I think it’s important to think about it from a maturity curve perspective. That’s one thing that I learned pretty quickly. That even though a tech may be really interesting and shiny object, tinfoil in the corner, it may not have – it may just be tech for tech sake. It might not have a maturity curve that is actually at a point where it’s adding significant value, and on the reverse, your organization – even let’s say that tech is already at that maturity level. Your organization might not be at that maturity level yet. They still might be in a different mindset that is slowing them down or interfering with their ability to kind of either bigger picture or connect the dots and have that aha moment of, hey, wait. This coupled with this coupled with this, that is interesting, and that is not something I expected or something I saw. But now that I see it, we really need to go in this direction.

Again, I keep making it a people thing, but it’s really just more of skillset thing. Do we have the right skill sets in place to see this, execute on it, and are my business partners ready as well for this kind of change? And are they at a maturity level that they’re willing and able to really adopt this change and take it to the next level? I think one of the things that’s super important for all of us to remember is we’re not the technology organization within a business. We are part of the business that’s helping accelerate technology and make technology work for us. I think that’s an important thing.

Yeah, absolutely. I wanted to focus within that. So, you mentioned technical maturity as one of the things that you look at. Among our peers, I know that you are very active at looking at new technology, looking at startups, and those types of things. I know from our conversations. How do you advise that CIOs and IT leaders overall kind of keep up with the breadth? And we know there are – every day, it seems like dozens of new companies coming into existence if not hundreds on some days that want to sell to the CIO suite and want to be part of a company’s digital strategy. What are your recommendations for being effective about what you look at and how you evaluate it?

Obviously, you build a good VC network that you have trusted advisors who can bring you or introduce you to tech or items that you might not have thought of. Maybe areas that are always the bright, shiny object, the blockchain, AI, or whatever but, also, the things that are really taking maybe older technologies or old commodity technology that you wouldn’t of thought of and really taking it to a different level or taking a new twist on it, right? And then looking for, I think it’s very important for us CIOs to have a healthy desire to adopt and look at new technology with a critical eye on that technical maturity. I think there’s a really interesting balance here where, when you look at the technical maturity of something, it may be new, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t adopt it. It means that you, perhaps the CIO, one of our jobs is mitigating risks. Also, our other job is to become strategic and help accelerate our companies forward, so maybe you take a more stayed approach and implement these newer technologies in a more defined way where then you become partners with those companies, right? And then you look for the areas. I mean, there’s areas that are very interesting but have really no meat to it, right?

And one that, I’ll probably get some eye rolls or high fives. I don’t know what you get on a podcast. But you talk about AI at this point, right? It’s like AI, to me, is a great concept. It’s a great concept, right? But it’s- from a practical perspective, everybody’s an AI company, and it doesn’t feel like people are dialing into the value of what AI could bring. And so back to your question, you start looking at companies. Everyone talks about AI. We could do this, we could do that.

But then, the companies that are interesting – and I’ll point out one that really has kinda caught my eye, that it made me rethink of how I look at some of this stuff. But we’ll get to that in a minute. But it’s really rethinking, okay, what – AI with what, right? What that adds business value? I ran into this company. I was looking at replacing my phone systems. I mean, probably the most boring commodity, dial tone thing in the world, right? And I was just bored. It’s just boring to me, didn’t want to have anything to do with it. Just hand it off. Delegate it. Go fix it, right?

But then I came across a company that I think the phrase is going to be voice intelligence, right?And I think it’s important as we look at the industry that it’s augmented intelligence. AI is augmented intelligence, not artificial intelligence. How do you make things smarter? So this company, it’s interesting, they started – they bought an AI company and integrated it in with their systems so that when you’re having a conversation in real time it will do natural language processing and then – which makes it really interesting, right? So you do the voice transcription, etc. And then I think, as CIOs, we got to start looking beyond just the sales pitch of that. We got to look beyond – we got to look where it could go, right? So you and I both, again, have had very similar backgrounds of natural language processing. It’s huge. Data’s huge for us.

So this company, Dialpad, I ran into. They started doing this in real time where we could be having a conversation. And think about it, Steve, it’s so cool, right? It’s like, if you have AI with natural language processing and it’s doing real time transcriptions, you can start doing things like key word recognition where I could go, hey, I have an action item, and you could build a summary at the end with action items of that call so you and I – which is the number one thing you and I want to do is have a very authentic conversation and really discuss things, kind of like we are now. Unfortunately, I’m talking more than you are, but it’s have that conversation. But then take it to the next level.

And I know you’ll see this right away. Then you get into sentiment analysis, or you could get into things like sales people having conversations with their customers and understanding objections and having that data be able to be processed and analyzed in real time to determine how many times has my competitor been mentioned? How many times has a price been objected to? You put it to a customer service area where you could go, hey, I’m super angry about this product, and I’m not getting the value out of this, blah, blah, blah. You could save that customer right then.

It’s not unfortunate that you’re speaking more than I. Yeah, the sales part, kind of augmenting the sales process was where my mind went with it pretty quickly when you were saying that having, again, similar. We both supported large sales teams, and in that regard, you could imagine even materials or responses, which would, of course, work for customer service as well, being suggested of where to take the conversation next.

Absolutely, and that's the thing that's so cool about it is that it's all in real time. Again, and it's taking just that one little piece of artificial intelligence and natural language processing. And I believe, really, it's going to be voice intelligence. I think that's going to be the new keyword coming up. But exactly, you have those key things coming up in real time that go, "I'm sorry, Steve, that you had horrible experience. Let me see what I could do. Hey, I have a coupon running right now. Here, let me go ahead and apply that to your account. What else can I do?"

Or, on the sales side, which this is where it gets really exciting, right? On the sales side, they're having this conversation. They're running through the marketing message. They're getting real-time coaching on well what about this, what about this, what about this? But the beauty of it, you have all these data points. It's not just a sales thing, now. It's a marketing thing. Is the marketing message right? Are we keying in on the right marketing message? What are we hearing from our consumers and customers in real time about the marketing message? And is it resonating? Are we off target? Are we on target?

And this is the part that gets me real excited. And you can tell I get really animated at this point because guess what? It keys back into my first point. You take a commodity product, a commodity dial tone, dial tone, dial tone, dial tone. It’s like my joke is the old Brady Bunch episode, Marsha, Marsha, Marsha, right? It’s like all we talk about is dial tone. And we look at it so narrowly as a product that when something like this comes along that I think we need, as CIOs, to be open to the idea that maybe some of these products are becoming more intelligent, becoming voice intelligent, or chat intelligent, or whatever. That really can take a commodity product and make it strategic.

Steve, I think you would agree, if we can augment, enhance, improve the customer experience as well as the sales experience and the marketing experience, three areas where CIOs always want to add value, but we have a limited tool set sometimes, that's pretty fricking incredible. You take that chat, right?. You take that natural language processing. What if it could automatically enter it into SalesForce for you as a sales – that's perfect. Because your salesperson can now just focus on what they do best, which is build relationships, qualify leads, close deals, that kind of thing. I think with the marketing side –

Even some of the follow-up material could probably be automatically generated based on what it sees. I should mention, also, at Gigaom we use Eva some, which I'm not sure I'll pronounce it right, hopefully, Voicea, I think, is the company. And it does what you were talking about, which is it can highlight things that sound like action items for it. And I believe you can train it, specifically, to catch key phrases, so that if you wanted to – in a call like this, you can set up a specific, "Hey, Eva, action item," and then it will record that. And it not only does the transcript, but it prepares a summary.

Yeah, right, and see, this stuff is really emerging. DialTech can do the same thing. And one of our requests at a time was, as a customer service, was look for threats, right? Because you have people calling in. "Hey, I know I have your address. I want to do blah, blah, blah, blah." It becomes a human thing at this point too. And that's the cool thing about it. Is all this stuff is maturing. And some people are doing some really interesting things, and some people are – it's vaporware, right?

But if you could add productivity – if you could improve the productivity of your workforce, if you can improve the consumer experience, if you can help close deals and optimize the sales cycle, it's amazing, right? This is the joke I've been using, is instead of handing out cables, you are now a strategic partner with your Chief Revenue Officer, and your Chief Marketing Officer, to really help push things forward and really open up the art of the possible. I think that as CIOs, this is the stuff that we have to be thinking about looking at. I heard that the other day.

And again, some of my peers might get upset with me, but that's the risk, is we're talking about chat They're like Teams, Teams, Teams. I'm like, no, Slack, Slack, Slack, right? But the reason is, and this is why, it's like you have – we'll call it chat intelligence, right? The ability to integrate in chat intelligence, or Slack intelligence, or with like a Salesforce which optimizes your sales team. The ability to do bots and build bots that could automate processes that allow you to do things like deployments, or gives you the ability to do X, Y, Z, right? I think that when we look at the digital transformation, and we look at things moving forward, we have to look outside the silos. And you can't put voice into the telecom silo, or the old Polycom Avaya-type scenario. We have to look outside of it. You can't put chat into the same buckets as you would the old instant messenger, or – I've moved so far out of it I forget what they used to be, right? But it's like it's not that –


Jabber, all of that, yeah, right, Jabber, all of those things that's not it anymore. And I'm sure there's hundreds of other examples like that that you start looking outside of that box and was like, what's interesting? And how mature are these products? Again, voice transcription, even with the product you mentioned, I mean, it's still a little rusty. But you know what? Everybody's rusty.

Yeah, it does feel like it's maturing, not mature.

It's maturing, not mature, but as the machines learn more and more, it's going to mature very quickly. I mean, you look at voice transcription, or NLP, I mean, we both have done this before, right? Even three years ago, it was so rudimentary that we wouldn't really consider it. Fast forward to last year, you could use it for subtitling. And be pretty close to it being accurate, it's going to be – you're going to get in the 70% range, 60% range, but then you have people training it to improve it. And as it gets trained, that model just improves better, and better, and better. And with the machines in the back doing all that, the maturity curve shortens very quickly. And it can be very interesting where we end up.

And it goes back to team maturity. I think you can run into a problem where – again, let's go back to the voice thing for a bit. Where the old Avaya Polycom people on your team are probably going to be pretty resistant to a dial pad, and be like, "Well, why would I want to do that? I mean I've got a good job. And I can put all these systems in place, and blah, blah, blah. And I don't need to worry about it." But they're looking at it from a very tactical, day-to-day,\ view instead of looking at some of these technologies of does it add strategic value, and trust the verify. And I think both you and I are cynics. And I know we are because we've had lunch many times. But, you trust the verify. Like I'm going to ask you. Like have you done this before? And you'll tell me it's like , "Yeah, it's good, but it's shaky in this area," or "It's almost there. I would put it in certain areas. I wouldn't put it everywhere." Or, you really got to look at it and use your network to ask around. Because we have friends who are early adopters on everything. And, we have friends who won't adopt anything until it's been in the market for 10 years. I think we've got to be somewhere in between.

Yeah, you mentioned managing risk. And I think both controlling scope both initially and depending on what it is, ongoing, and then really looking at the security aspects. That's where my mind still goes for a lot of the hey, let's use a cloud service for this or that. Is- are the security underpinnings going to be appropriate for what we're moving there, for example?

Yeah, right, and even regulatory or compliance, right? Is that obviously, technology, we've all seen it, moves much faster than all the compliance regulations. And does it- can you use all this stuff, right? And how do you use it? What's the proper way? And what is the risk? And what's the overall risk? And that's our job. Our job is two-fold. And I think we always have to pay attention to it.

Are you seeing areas the company should keep out of the cloud?

That's a really good question. And, I have to preface it that I'm a really big cloud advocate. So, my opinion's going to be – my opinion's going to be a little skewed. Because I think that our job is to help accelerate our businesses moving forward. And, I think we should always think of view from a compliance security perspective. But, I've drank the Kool-Aid on the idea that an Amazon, or a Google, or a –

A Salesforce, for example.

Oh Salesforce has seen more attacks than I will ever see. And pProbably can protect better than – again, I had great security people. I love my security people.And I would put them all against the best. But, go to Salesforce and Google, they've probably seen more than I've ever seen, right? You look at the spam engine on Google Apps. It's pretty dang good. That, I could never beat that. We have to manage the risk. And if someone can manage the risk better than we can, then that frees us up to do what we really should be doing, which is accelerate our business, and accelerate our workflow and our processes, and help our business partners move at the speed of technology versus the speed of business, and help them get to their place. So honestly, Steve, to answer your question, I don't – I'm sure there's areas that we should never put stuff in the cloud, but I haven't found it yet.

You’re able to get through it, yeah.

Yeah, right, I mean, it's like – there's enough. And it's matured to the point, now, where people are always thinking about it first and fixing those things. So it's interesting. I haven't found it yet, but if I do, I'll be the first to let you know.

Sure. One of the things that we've talked about in the past, that I learned from you to some degree, was that when looking at cloud strategy, one of the advantages is moving from Capex to opex. Part of when looking at the cost of the cloud, that's one of the things that you can factor. I wonder if you could share a little bit with the audience sort of how you think about that.

Yeah, sure, and since the time we've talked, my thoughts are pretty much still the same, but they've changed just slightly. Is that when you're looking at it, the beauty of the space that we were in – and again, for clarification, we were in high volume, unpredictable volume-type scenarios where we would have a lot of traffic, and not a lot of traffic, then a lot of traffic, then not a lot of traffic. So very cyclical based on seasonality, etcetera. But when you have things like that, the opex model is really interesting. Because then with the cloud, you could scale and shrink depending on your workloads.

And so if you're making more money, you're spending more money. But you can try to keep your margins as good as possible, where when you're doing the old Capex model, and you have to buy equipment and all this other stuff, you pretty much have a fixed cost there that you have to build to peak, and that if you aren't utilizing all those servers for those systems, then you're really just leaving money on the table. And so I really like the idea of being to be flexible with that model. Now, I've changed my opinion a little bit that when you look at some of your workloads, you have to evaluate your workloads. Because if you have really really static workloads that are very consistent, then you really have a model to optimize your cloud build.

And- I don't even know if it's true the more I think about it. Because you still have – a system I would think of that would be pretty static would be your financial systems, right? Where it's going to be every day, it's pretty much used the same, but that's not necessarily true. When's the busiest time for financial systems? Month end, quarter end, year-end, right? Where your CFO probably wants those systems to be at their highest peak cranking this stuff out as quickly as possible, so she or he can get through and look through the numbers to make sure that everything's right, or figure out what deals are coming in, or what they need to close so they get the books closed quicker, so they can start doing their next financial planning, right?

So again, the Capex versus opex, I think that is the question back to kind of your first digital question, it depends on your business. If your business is a very highly Capex rich company, I'm thinking of real estate, stuff like that, where you have a lot of capital, maybe an operational spend isn't that good. And the capital is really kind of where you would want it all. But if you're not a capital business, if you don't own data centers, if you don't own real estate, operationally you have a lot more flexibility, in my mind, of how you could move those dollars, etcetera. Now it's all about the line, and if you're using an operating income model, or however you're reporting your numbers is really an important thing. And you've got to be really paired with your CFO on that to make sure that she or he understands and can advise you on what's the best model. And it took me a while to get to that point. But- I still am a huge fan of more of the operational model of the cloud, and then really dialing it in from a financial model of does it fit?

Right, and when you mention operations, one of the things that probably is clear to the listening audience at this point, is that both you and I have backgrounds in operations, which not all CIOs have. And I wonder how you think that informs your path versus some of our peers who might have come over from other disciplines?

Yeah, it's interesting. I tend to look at everything through that lens. And I look at it through high volume, high traffic, scalability, reliability, in looking for gaps in security. And how can you accelerate engineering processes, and development processes, and really looking at it from a product perspective? Because when you're in the operations seat, especially if you were coupled very closely with engineering, you are a part of the product process. And, you could affect the roll-out, the speed, the agility of the company as it tries to roll out product.

So, I look at everything from that perspective. And I look at workflows. And I look at ineffective processes, or technologies that could be automated, or what could we do from a team maturity perspective. Instead of building an army of thousands, build an army of tens that are highly highly skilled, probably highly highly expensive too, but that could write and automate all of your processes. And looking at it from that way where maybe not coming from an operational perspective, it's more of – Well I really can't speak from it, because I don't know what that view would look like, right?. Because I look at everything so much through an operational lens.

Sure. One of the pieces of experience that you have, that is somewhat rare air, is that you've been involved in premiere streaming events, huge volume, live, streaming events. I know that can be a pretty high-pressure game. How do you prepare for that? Cause I think for some of our enterprise audience will sometimes have to be involved in something like that. They may come to that work in a kind of ever media-rich world. How do you prepare for that kind of pressure both in terms of architecture to make sure things will work, that you'll pull it off, and then prepare teams to actually perform in those situations?

Oh yeah, that's a fun one.And that’s one that I matured through as each event came through. I really think the key is to start at the basics, really. And one of the things that we were really maturing into and working into is this – the SRE model that Google uses for their things, Site Reliability Engineering, going from Ops to DevOps to SRE where understand what your service level objective is, especially on these live events and on these big events. What are the number one, two, three, four goals of your company, of your business, on these events? And I think this applies to everything. So for us, it would be the stream has to be available. You cannot lose the stream, right? You have to be able to find the stream. You have to be able to log in if it's a paywall situation where you have to pay to see it. You have to be able to allow that process to get through the paywall. So if someone wants to register and pay for the event, they go through the process and understand what those objectives are. But once you've narrowed down what those objectives are, and it's a hard one because one of the things that your partners will say is, "Well, everything has to work." And that's not necessarily true. Like the thumbs up, thumbs down, for the event, does that have to work? Probably not as important as you've got to be able to watch the football game, right?

So defining those, and once you define those then you can define the service level indicators that – and go through your system. And go, okay, what are all the things that support a subscription? What are all the things that support green? What are the things that cannot fail? And then you start going through those. And then what we did is we started – we really refined our monitoring, and alerting, and tracking, and testing on those. And we put in systems that we were able to then measure, to a T, what that was.

And, one of the real big learnings that we had, or I had personally, was instead of trying to hit a number that I would get from marketing or whatever, we flipped the needle, or I 'm sorry, flipped the playbook and said, you know what? I'm going to tell you what we can do. And we're going to work with our engineering people. And we're going to load test the crap out of this stuff. And, I'm going to be able to tell you, I can go all the way to this level of green. Not a problem, got it covered. There should be no failure. Then, I can tell you where we hit yellow. And from yellow to red, what does that look like, and what we will do to put it back into green, which might be turning on or off the thumbs up, thumbs down. But, what do you need to do? And then, what is it at red?

Because now, if you know that, and you walk into that event, you're not worried about, oh my God, what if we hit four million, five million, six million concurrent streams? We know that if we get four or five million concurrent streams, we're fine because that's in the green. And we already have all those tools in place to measure all that, so we already know when we're getting close to that limit. And, what happens is as you're putting that all together, you're maturing your team with that. Because you're going through all these exercises of load testing, and executions, and failure scenarios where your team is maturing and learning as you're getting to that event. So when you're at that event, you've already done this 15, 20, 30, 100 times just getting to the point where we know what our load level could be.

That-you're still going to be nervous as hell, because you, usually on these really big events, have a lot riding on it, especially in my world, and I know in Steve, in your world too. But a confidence level that you can report back to your executive staff, who might be onsite at the event, and go, "We're doing fine. We're in the green still. We have plenty of space. And we haven't had to execute any procedures yet because we're either good, or hey, we're not." And we start to do these things to continue moving forward and get it back to that place. And so it’s a lot of execution – a lot of the execution comes in. A lot of the operational maturity, and planning, and identifying where do you have those gaps. Identifying those SLOs, those SLIs because one thing we ran into –it was a maturity thing-was we were measuring everything.

And what would happen is something would pop up that had nothing to do with anything, and everyone's chasing that while the ship's on fire. And it's like, no no no, wait, just because we can't raise or lower the flag at the front of the boat, that doesn't matter. We're seeing smoke come out of the engine. Let's go back and fix that, right? So knowing what those things are are critical to the success.

That's some great advice. You're advising start-ups and larger organizations today. What trends are you seeing, currently?

I think one of the big trends that I think we hit on earlier is really taking this vague notion of big technologies and really refining them down to really business value add technologies. Again, the AI, the artificial intelligence to voice intelligence, right? The artificial intelligence to chat intelligence I think is really interesting. And I think that you're going to see more of that where instead of really taking a very broad concept, and really applying it very specifically to a core issue. I think one thing we'll probably see come up is security intelligence. I think it's already starting to happen, right? Which is great. And I think that's a big trend. And I think it's an area to pay attention to.

I know that we're all overloaded on the idea of artificial intelligence, and AI, and ML, and block chain, and BPA, blah, blah, blah, right?. I mean it's – your eyes glass over and you're like, not this again. But I think pay attention to the things like voice intelligence type stuff, like where you're going to see people are discovering that these older technologies really need to come out of the commodity stage and go into the strategy stage, and really help optimize environments. I think – I don't think cloud is dead, or cloud is going to start migrating in the other direction. I don't believe that.

One of the things I'm seeing is that the use of Kubernetes with like a terraform and a dock are becoming very interesting. And I think you're going to start seeing multi cloud strategies emerge where as those three technologies mature, the ability to move back and forth between clouds becomes easier. I think the hybrid cloud thing is kind of – I was really poo-pooing it and thinking it was kind of a fad, but again, back with those three technologies, I think that the idea of being able to cross that bridge between a data center and a cloud is going to be interesting. That's interesting.

And a lot of people are still very focused on kind of the digital strategy of what does that mean for us as companies. Because I just don't do startups. I do growth companies as well. And some of them are figuring out, am I a digital company from a brand perspective, or am I a digital company from an operational perspective? And really trying to figure out what that means. And I think we have a very big role in helping define that and helping guide companies.

If you're growing food, your product is food. But the way you process and deliver that food, and deliver it at the most optimal way, could be your digital strategy and your digital brand, improving the food that you're delivering, right? Which gives you a leg up over your competition. It's fascinating to me. And I see a lot of that right now, people trying to figure out where they are in that curve. And how can they move quicker? And are they missing out on something?

And I think that's just, again, to kind of answer another question you asked earlier, I think we've got to be very careful of the FOMO problem, the fear of missing out. We'll always have our friends who will be the first to adopt anything, which is great. And you should always buy those friends a drink because they are taking risks that we probably can't take. But only take the risks that you think are going to help accelerate your business. Don't take a risk just to take a risk.

Yeah, that's great. Thanks very much, Steve. I really appreciate your coming and sharing some deep and wide advice for the listeners, here. So thanks for speaking with me.

Anytime, Steve, it's always a pleasure.

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