NetApp’s CIO Helps Drive The Company’s Transformation and Innovation By Being Customer One

December 28, 2015
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by Peter High, published on Forbes


Like the rest of NetApp, Cynthia Stoddard’s IT team has been part of a major transformation at the company in recent years. Stoddard has been the Chief Information Officer of NetApp for nearly four years, and has helped evolve the “NetApp on NetApp” program such that IT tests products, processes, and procedures before customers, providing insights to the Engineering team, and allowing the IT team to be advocates on the company’s behalf with customers. Stoddard estimates that she spends roughly 30 percent of her time with customers. The combination of these activities have primed IT to become a source of innovation for the company, as well.

The NetApp Innovation Lab includes multiple people from IT who help test new technologies and think of new wrinkles to existing solutions. The team has generated significant value in this process.

Despite going through a trying transformation, the company continues to invest mightily in its people, providing technical and leadership training for those who seek it, ensuring that the next round of leaders of the company are groomed well in advance of their promotion.

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Peter High: I thought we would begin with a discussion about NetApp itself. The company is obviously in the midst of a significant transformation. Could you let us know how things are, and IT’s role in that transformation?

Cynthia Stoddard: Within NetApp, and NetApp IT, we recognized, a few years ago, that cloud was going to be a key enabler and key building block to anything that we would do. We have built our infrastructure within IT to enable not only the flexibility and agility that the cloud brings, but also to contribute to showcasing our products. We have been a leader in the data management and storage space, but if you look at the cloud and what we have been doing within the cloud space, we have a vision for data fabric. What the data fabric does is allow you to connect your information between your on premise, cloud, and SaaS providers in a hybrid environment and maintain control and ownership of that information and that data. If you look at what we have done within NetApp, we are fully hybrid in our environment. We are able to host on premise traditional, on premise private cloud, public cloud, or hyperscaler. It is all tied together with our data fabric and with a series of orchestration tools that bring everything together. It is a unified view of data throughout all these environments that becomes powerful and helps enable the business to make the decisions and have the productivity that they need during business processes.

High: As you talk about topics that are relevant to the company, relevant to IT, and obviously relevant to your company’s customers, it brings to mind something I have heard you talk about, in the past, that you have been a proponent of NetApp on NetApp – the idea of the IT department becoming the first client of the organization. Can you describe how you have gone about that and the advantages that you have garnered as a CIO in a company that serves IT departments?

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