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Simultaneously The CIO And CDO Of Dell And VMware – Bask Iyer Does It All

8/6/2018

By Peter High. Published on Forbes

Bask Iyer has always had a different orientation as a chief information officer. As a divisional CIO at GlaxoSmithKline, then as the Group CIO at Honeywell, and as the Group Senior Vice President of Business Operations and the Chief Information Officer of Juniper Networks, he developed a close relationship with the businesses that he was a part of. He believes that is one of the key factors in his rise at Dell and VMare.

Iyer has the rare distinction of being both the CIO and chief digital officer of both companies in addition to being the Executive Vice President of Dell Digital. As such, he has leadership roles in two publicly traded companies. (Dell has a majority ownership stake in VMware.) He began his tenure with the companies as the CIO of VMware alone, when Michael Dell asked him to take over the same responsibilities at Dell. To Iyer’s surprise, he was not asked to relinquish responsibilities at VMware.

As such, he has led dramatic digital transformations of two very different companies: a Silicon Valley software company and a much larger and more traditional technology company. Iyer notes that the key to his success has been focusing on people and process before technology. He highlights the changes he has ushered in and the methods he has used in this interview.

Peter High: You are the Executive Vice President of Dell Digital as well as the CIO and CDO of both Dell and VMware. Could you unwind all that you do and describe what it entails?

Bask Iyer: I was the CIO of VMware for a long time and had additional digital responsibilities. Nearly two years ago, the Dell-EMC merger happened and Michael Dell and the executives in the Dell-EMC family asked me to help with the integration. They were bringing two cultures together, two different CIOs together, and two IT teams together. Little did I know that my role helping out would turn into a job.

I have a challenging and interesting job. VMware is an independent company and therefore Dell owns only 80 percent of VMware. Additionally, Dell is big partners with a great deal of their competition, and because of this, VMware has to have that independence. It is an independent company with its own audit committee among other independent entities. Because of this, I have to think of it as two separate jobs. As the CIO for VMware, the audit committee asks me questions to ensure that my job for VMware is not being compromised. Moreover, the Dell audit committee and management ask me the same questions.

At Dell, part of the role is the traditional CIO, which covers all infrastructure, all IT, all end-user applications, the program management office, and security, among other areas. Additionally, I am part of the executive team on both sides, so I can understand the strategy and translate it. An interesting part of the digital side of the job, which is a little unusual for IT, is that Dell’s E-Commerce team is supported and run by my team. All the product developer people for e-commerce, who are not necessarily IT employees but instead are product development employees, are a part of it. It is a robust e-commerce platform, it is growing, and we want to put more products for our customers on the Dell e-commerce services. That part of the job is certainly interesting and creative. Similarly, with VMware, we are going to a digital subscription model. My team at VMware works closely with [research and development] to ensure that the products and subscription models we develop can be built and have visibility to end customers. Additionally, the subscription model is a product that IT develops to go in part and parcel with the offering that VMware has. Overall, it is both digital, and it is traditional IT that people understand, but it is two separate jobs. That being said, it is a family of companies and therefore it is a friendly environment. While both executive teams always make fun of me as both believe I am not with them, they have always been supportive. I could not have done it without the support of the two CEOs, presidents, and executive teams.

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