Tuesday, Dec 13 2011

Armada’s Thought Leader Series – Plantronics

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Armada’s Thought Leader Series: A series of interviews with influential business leaders in Silicon Valley discussing the latest topics and trends in our market.

Last week Armada’s President and CEO, Jeff Tavangar, sat down with Tom Gill to talk about the Cloud hype, vendor choices, and challenges that CIOs face today. In addition, Tom describes in detail where Plantronics is at on the ‘Diffusion of Innovations’ curve and gives insight on how he approaches new business ideas and what resources he uses for new deployments.

Plantronics Company Overview

Plantronics is a publicly held company headquartered in Santa Cruz, California with offices in 22 countries. Plantronics introduced the first lightweight communications headset in 1962. Today they are the world’s leading designer, manufacturer and marketer of lightweight communications headset products.

plantronics-tom-gill
Tom Gill, the Vice President and CIO at Plantronics

  1. Jeff Tavangar: It is impossible not to be exposed to the Cloud and the marketing hype of it. How do you take that into account with your position and how do you use it? Tom Gill: We are very excited about the Cloud in terms of the business value gained at Plantronics; it helps us to run our services at a competitive cost with a fast time to value. We have embraced SaaS computing for a number of years running applications that include Salesforce.com, Success Factors and Taleo. Also, Savo has been an effective marketing and sales portal and a big win for us. We use a storage in the Cloud solution for client systems backup and a Cloud based Exchange high availability service for business continuity.

  2. Jeff Tavangar: We are looking to discuss the process that you go through to get new technologies and new solutions. How are you evaluating Cloud and/or new technologies and new solutions in your organization? Do you sit and talk with the company, use vendors, etc. Tom Gill: We are always evaluating and deploying new applications and IT services. We follow a project framework that starts with development of a business case which includes a description of the business problem to be solved, costs and benefits. Our evaluation and selection process includes meetings with vendors, Gartner analyst calls and customer reference calls. We also use tools that allow us to weight evaluation criteria and calculate scores. We have also been doing POCs (Proof of Concept) when practical which gives us a hands on opportunity to evaluate and measure.

  3. Jeff Tavangar: It is easy to be overwhelmed by advice and ideas with the explosion of online data. Where do you go for trusted information and whose advice do you value? Tom Gill: Gartner is a trusted source, I subscribe to an executive program. There is a lot of value in it for Plantronics, with great information and research capabilities. I am also on different advisory boards and networking groups. For example, Microsoft High Tech Advisory Board, Salesforce.com Security Advisory Committee and I recently joined a CCI CIO group of mainly Silicon Valley members. I also value peer networking and peer input. Whenever you bring a group of CIOs to a roundtable, there is rarely enough time to cover all the topics. Honestly, it’s less about me and more about my team. We are lucky to have a capable team around the world. They bring forth their findings and their research and I work with them to evaluate and decide on next steps.

  4. Jeff Tavangar: There are always a large number of pressures on a CIO. For example; New technologies, new services, economy etc. What would you say are the top 3-5 challenges facing a CIO today? Tom Gill:

    1. Consumerization of IT – Our objective is not to say “no” but to determine the business value and whether the tool or service is scalable, secure and supported. For example, I recently learned that twenty five percent of knowledge workers had iPads connected to our network. This is the type of change that keeps us on our toes and adapting.
    2. Keeping up with the demand – We only have so much budget and need to make informed project portfolio decisions. It’s not easy deferring IT investments due to lack of a strong business case.
    3. Security – The changing threat landscape and the need to manage a suite of security tools is another challenge. Targeted malware is tricky and we need to protect our intellectual property, customer and employee information.
    4. Attracting and retaining talent – We have a supportive executive staff with a willingness to invest in IT. That helps create an environment where the IT staff is constantly challenged and exposed to new technologies. Staying current is key to attracting and retaining talent.
  5. Jeff Tavangar: Changing the way you do business is a constant challenge. You always need new ideas, skills and resources to make it happen. How do you resource new projects or deployments? For example, do you consult with vendors, do you do it in house, do you use outside consulting? Tom Gill: We staff projects with a combination of in house and consulting resources. We regularly engage vendors and partners for staff augmentation and for their special skill sets. We also plan to bring in a top tier Oracle partner for our upcoming R12 upgrade which expected to transform our global business.

  6. Jeff Tavangar: The Diffusion of Innovation curve describes a number of types of organizations. Where do you think Plantronics is on the curve? Where does Plantronics stand on this graph? Innovators, Early Adopters, Early Majority, Late Majority, Laggards? Tom Gill: Historically we have been Early Majority but in recent years we have been Early Adopters and Innovators. Our global Unified Communications platform rollout is clearly an early adopter play with innovation in the area of integration with our IP PBXs. Our employees can send and receive internal and external calls from their laptops from wherever they happen to be working. This allows us to promote flexwork, working from home and consolidation of real estate. Another example is Oracle Business Intelligence where we waited to be part of the Early Majority. We needed the technology to mature before we made the move.