This blog post was written by Patty Hatter.
In this interview, Patty Hatter shares with Gartner Vice President Michael Leckie the story of how she lead the charge on a series of high-value, enterprise-wide initiatives to enable new business capabilities that have driven both productivity and improved digital experiences for not only employees, but McAfee’s partners and customers as well. The need to establish a collaborative working relationship with the BUs, Sales and the other business functions became a catalyst to orchestrate change across Operations and IT — reshaping these underperforming departments into a highly regarded transformation engine that benefits the entire enterprise.
After years of acquisitions, McAfee’s infrastructure was a patchwork of disparate, loosely bound legacy systems and regional processes. The result? Inefficiencies, productivity drain and a poor customer experience had severely affected both the bottom and top lines. By 2011, McAfee had reached an inflection point.
Enter Patty Hatter. Formerly VP Business Operations at Cisco, Patty was recruited to lead McAfee operations and soon after, enterprisewide IT as well, with a mission to team with the BUs to build a full Infrastructure as a Service stack for McAfee product teams, enabling a faster and higher quality time-to-market for their products as well as providing a full spectrum of enhanced business capabilities across the company.
[Note: This article speaks of a period of time leading up to McAfee’s integration with McAfee and is not the current state of McAfee IT. Patty was SVP of Operations and CIO of McAfee – but through acquisition is now McAfee – her title is now: VP and GM, McAfee and Software IT & CIO, McAfee Group]
The First Year
Out of Necessity, a Shared Vision
When there’s a general recognition that something is not working, it gives you permission to make changes.
Michael Leckie: As VP/General Manager as well as CIO, it must be challenging to wear multiple hats. How do you effectively balance the priorities of your dual roles?
Patty Hatter: Having the dual IT and operations roles has been helpful, especially given where we (McAfee) were in our development at the time that I was brought in. After years of acquisitions, there was not a lot of integration from an infrastructure perspective and a product perspective. The functions and product portfolio had become disjointed, and the architecture, processes and systems that ran the company weren’t connected, which made it hard to get anything done. To the rest of the organization, it felt as if we were walking through molasses. It was an inflection point for us.
In that first year, I pulled together my Ops Team and the leaders across all the business functions, and said, “Going forward, what is it we are trying to do? What do we think is most important? We have all these projects queued up, but in the past, we have spent a lot of money on projects that we just couldn’t get over the line.”
First, we put together a connected governance model. Here’s the money we want to spend and here are our common priorities for big projects. This allowed us to put available resources and dollars toward the most important common priorities. The good news was that out of that first year came a common roadmap in which we all agreed on the most important things to focus on from a business perspective. The bad news was that we had three to five years’ worth of work to do in one year.
Nothing like a burning platform to motivate people —and we had that.
About that same time, I took over IT, which was a blessing and a curse. We would not have been able to change the culture — not just within my own teams but across the company — if there hadn’t been a shared vision and understanding that getting it all done in one year was a business imperative that would require every business function — not just IT — to “up their game” in a huge way. Sometimes there’s nothing like a burning platform to motivate people — and we had that.
Michael: We tend to think about delineating along different departments and party lines, but you brought the party together out of necessity. Would you say that turned out to be an advantage in the end?
Patty: Absolutely. For us, having that shared vision was the way forward, and it was incredibly fortunate that there was a new connectedness between Ops and IT. In that transformative first year, we had to change out every transactional system. Luckily, the first big program that had to be completed that first year was sponsored by my Operations team. We had to change out a 12-year-old order-processing platform that was creaking at each quarter end due to business volume growth. They had tried three times before I joined the company to get a new platform that fit the business processes we wanted to go forward with but were never able to do it. We used this first program to demonstrate a new level of, “Hey, we can do this!”
Because we had no earlier proof points, no success with any large programs, this project had to work. It was the first one, everybody was watching. We were able to successfully get it over the line — and it brought value to the business. This success set the tone for all the other work we had to do with other business functions for the remainder of that year, and for subsequent years as well.
The more you can blur organizational lines, to get people to see the bigger picture — not just of their own group or function, but how the entire company needs to move, how the business model and processes need to evolve, and how we can work differently with partners — the more teams can share the a common worldview and vision, that’s what will propel our organization forward.
“You have to show your organization that you’re willing to take the tough calls and make those tough choices if you’re asking them to.”
After the governance model, the next big piece of our success was the leadership changes we made. IT had a lot of technically strong individual contributors, but we had issues at the leadership level. Within three quarters, we went from having six VPs reporting to me on the IT side, to three — and only one was the same. Even though it involved a lot of change and some difficult conversations, our individual contributors saw that I was willing to make the tough decisions to move the whole organization forward. This made potentially traumatic organizational changes a relief.
Many organizations might see that as risky. Leaders often pause in making bigger personnel decisions involving their direct reports. But I’m a huge advocate of showing your organization that you’re willing to make the tough calls. That was another key for us in being able to move as quickly as we have over the past three years.
I thought it was more risky for us to stay in the position we were in.
Michael: You did something that was symbolic of the change and the integration you wanted and you did it at the leadership level first. You said, “I’m willing to take the risk to do this and we’re going to start here.”
Patty: I looked at how I had to draw the lines for what we needed to do. The leadership team roles were fractured and didn’t give any of the leaders enough critical mass to move forward — plus we had the wrong leaders in those roles. At that level of change, you want to take the opportunity to get the right people into the right roles. Some people thought it was too risky; I thought it was more risky for us to stay in the position we were in.
Change is scary. I encourage people to take a deep breath and make the changes they’re thinking about as quickly as possible, because business requires IT to move quickly these days and it sets the tone for the organization. Of course, you always need a contingency plan in case things don’t go as expected. But do things out of the ordinary, keep reinventing yourself and be willing to take the risk and manage through it.
In the end, it comes down to the risks leaders are willing to take. People will follow that in the same measure, “Okay, this person is not just saying we want to move fast and take a risk; they’re actually doing it!”
The entire organization needs to be willing to put every issue on the table and feel like it’s okay.
Michael: What helped you go ahead with something that was seen as risky without it being stalled by others in the organization?
Patty: I had a few things in my favor. First, there was the consensus that we were in a bad situation and that something had to be done — back to that burning platform being a motivator. When there’s general recognition among your peers and the leadership of the organization that something is not working, it gives you permission to make changes. People supported us because what previously had been done wasn’t getting us where we needed to be.
Secondly, the president of McAfee was a vocal and visible supporter of the need for change and how we were going about it. That provided a lot of air cover for what we were doing and why we were doing it.
The third component was aggressive transparency at all levels. Keeping everyone on the same page was something that we talked about and instilled in our culture early on. When you’re trying to change so much so quickly, the entire organization, not just the leaders, needs to be willing to put every issue on the table — whatever they are seeing — and feel like it’s okay to do so.
We want all the news — good or bad. I would tell my team all the time, “The only thing I’ll be upset about is if you know there’s a problem and you don’t say it.” Any problem you bring to the table is good, because I know we can fix it; but if we let a problem linger (like a problem in any of the corporate apps or problems in the infrastructure of any of our products), it is only going to get worse. A problem that isn’t addressed today will only be worse tomorrow, and even worse in a week. Everybody needed to be comfortable and willing to say what had to be said.
“These people are telling us what they think; they are fixing every issue they raise. We can trust them.”
We also took that level of transparency to our stakeholders. From the beginning, folks knew that even if we were coming with bad news, we would tell them exactly what we saw and the plan to remediate. That helped to quickly build trust, not only at the leadership level, but at all levels. It’s hard to argue with that. “These people are telling us what they think; they are fixing every issue they raise. We can trust them.”
When I took over IT, my peers had questions about the budget and where the money was going. So one of the things I did to build trust, from the beginning, was to say, “If you ever want to go through all the financials, I’m here.” In every enterprise, IT has a large budget, one of the largest budgets, and I wanted people to understand that we were good stewards of the company’s money. And for services where we needed to bring down the cost base, we would take that responsibility.
Nobody ever took me up on it, but just letting people know that you’re not hiding and you’re willing to share all the information, changes the dynamic from, “I don’t trust that person; they might be hiding something,” to, ”There’s no way they can hide given the information they are putting on the table. Give them a break and let’s all just move forward.”
Creating New Stories to Tell
Build the reputation within your organization that whatever you know, you will say — even when times are challenging!
Michael: You did a really good job creating the psychological safety for people to come forward and say this is a problem, this isn’t working — to challenge leadership. Did that come fairly quickly?
Patty: People believe you when they see your actions are consistent with what you’re saying. There are always those first few brave people who will try out acting in accordance with your statements. There’s nothing like supportive chatter within an organization when somebody tries their hand at what leadership is saying. Those first few people who reached out and put me to the test went back into their teams and shared the positive results of what happened. That filtered throughout the organization quickly, and greatly helped start turning the tide.
Additionally, we built in a lot of touch points. We had small groups of people together in more intimate settings where they could feel more comfortable saying what’s on their minds. And then we had larger group settings where we focused more on strategy and where the organization was going. We also used those large settings to recognize teams and managers and individual contributors for specific work they’ve done.
It’s important to have a reliable framework for how things are communicated —and couple that with frequent communication. That’s how you build the reputation that whatever you know, you will say — even when times are challenging. You need the goodwill of the organization that you built during an up cycle to help you manage through a down cycle. We needed a new dialogue and I think we’ve done a great job at it, but we spent a lot of time building it.
The Core Set of Strategies
Pick a set of strategies you wouldn’t change out every year. Consider these your multiyear journey.
Michael: What would you advise your peers in a similar situation?
Patty: You need to balance being busy with a thousand projects, big and small, with giving the team a connection to where you are headed strategically — what you are trying to build, what capabilities you need to build a better organization, and how that connects with the broader mission of the company. We were able to put that in place and it helped us move forward quickly.
You need to balance getting good at executing projects and programs — that is, table stakes — with building a thriving IT organization that has the core capabilities to accelerate transformational opportunities for the company.Choose a set of strategies that will form the core of your multiyear journey. We have five core strategies. Talent is first and always the most important; we apply a lot of energy around talent. The other four are: service orientation, strategic engagement, product enablement and user experience. For each of these strategies we have a number of deliverables. Each deliverable lasts two or three quarters. These core strategies are the foundational work you need to put in place to enable the projects and programs that you’re doing for the business. In this way, you have a consistent strategy that drives the work you are doing. This balance between being an execution engine and being strategic definitely helped us.
Good ideas all have a shelf life; they’re not good ideas forever.
Patty: Another thing I would point out, is the willingness of leaders, and not just in IT, to keep reinventing. It’s easy to not want to change if you see something working. You want to just keep riding it forever. This is true in IT even more than in other parts of the organization. CIOs especially need to be willing to stop programs that may have worked well when they were put in place but that now need to be jettisoned to keep moving forward. Good ideas all have a shelf life; they’re not good ideas forever.
Likewise, leaders need to be on a regular pace of meaningful evolution. Evolution doesn’t mean more of the same but with different technology. The organization itself has to keep evolving. We’ve been internalizing that over the past few quarters. I see pieces we’ve put in place that have been successful, and now we’re undoing them to come up with something better — even great programs aren’t going to have the same impact after two or three years.
Michael: You have got to keep reinventing yourself. Your Madonna moments. You need to ask, “Is this past its prime and what’s next — to make that cyclical and a discipline of how you lead an organization.
Patty Hatter: That’s probably part of why the lifespan of CIOs is what it is at most companies. You get to the point where it’s not just the projects and technology, but how the organization operates that needs to be refreshed. That’s hard to do when you’re the one who put it all in place. As the CIO have to be okay with this level of change or your organization isn’t going to be okay with it.
It set a tone, not just for IT, but for the company as a whole … that was a watershed moment.
Michael: Let me go back to when you first moved into the IT role. You mentioned that the credibility of IT wasn’t where it needed to be. How did you assess that, and what was the first thing you did to address it?
Patty: In my operations role, I had been a customer of IT; so I had the luxury of having observed the IT organization for a year in advance. One of the first things we did was to make the leadership and structural changes I mentioned earlier — moving from six VPs to three with only one being the same. In hindsight, I would do that even faster. Getting the right leaders in place is the only way to go forward. You can’t limp along knowing it isn’t the right person or the right role. The sooner you address the situation, the better it is for the organization.
Each of the past three years has been so different from that first year where we changed out all the transactional systems and reduced our data center footprint by half. I wouldn’t love to do that every year, but it was great because it was so fast paced and involved every organization across McAfee. It set a tone for the company as a whole — that we were capable and we proved it. We set higher expectations for ourselves. That was a watershed moment. It happened fast, but it changed the culture within the entire company. After that, we were able to turn our sights toward fundamentally restructuring our relationship with the product teams.
With the growth from acquisition, MacAfee was behaving like a normal software company — every product team made every technology decision on its own and was running a lot of its own infrastructure. That model is not cost-effective and it’s not effective from a service management and SLA point of view either. With the credibility we built that first year with the business applications, we were able to transform the relationship with each of the product teams.
If you’re an engineering team and you feel like you can’t rely on IT, you’ll do what you have to do.
The single best thing we did to launch that relationship in a different direction was to put in place a cross-IT, cross-BU, cross-engineering architectural team. We said, “Let’s get this team together and look at the technology stacks each product is using. Let’s make decisions together. Let’s put all of our use cases on the table, and where we can use the same thing, let’s use the same thing. Let’s try to get beyond the 80:20 rule; let’s see if we can reach 95:5, so we’re not all starting from a blank sheet of paper.”
Suddenly, the engineering teams from each of the BUs were saying, “This is speeding things up because I’m not having to reinvent the wheel every time.” They were able to leverage what people were thinking and doing across the whole company. Getting that process started enabled more consistent adoption of IT as the infrastructure service provider for all of our products. Before then, every product team was doing its own thing. That’s very costly. But, if you’re an engineering team and you feel like you can’t rely on IT, you’ll do what you have to do. I would do the same if I were in their shoes. You have to get to a certain level of credibility and reliability of services. As our service levels went up and our ability to influence architectural decisions across the organization increased, the conversation changed to, “Okay, let’s agree on the stack of services you’ll supply across all of the products and that will let us all scale faster.”
There aren’t many times when you can get the personalities, the credibility and the timing right to make such a big a move so quickly. It was a huge step forward for us as an IT organization and as a company. Our whole lot in life is to help the company move forward faster with the business capabilities and infrastructure we are able to provide to the product teams. We want every one of their engineers to be able to focus on value-add, on speeding up the product development and time-to-market for our products.
If IT can take on more of the burden of the infrastructure, and it’s reliable, scalable, performs better and has a better cost base, then that’s what we need to be doing. Enabling engineering to focus on the product, not the infrastructure, has been a huge step forward for our relationship with the product teams.
Michael: You went from deep vertical expertise to a more collaborative, broader business needs focus. You really reset the organization.
Patty: Exactly. There was no misunderstanding what we were doing.
We had to make a dramatic point by changing quickly.
Patty: The IT organization under the prior CIO was so fragmented that a customer of IT had to negotiate with multiple VPs in IT to get a service or business capability. You had to go to one person to try to get one agreement and then go to another person to try to get another agreement and so on. It was simply too hard to do business — just for the sake of some artificial silos within IT. Within the IT organization itself, the redundancies caused too many issues. And from customer model point of view, it did not work. It had to end quickly.
Michael: You visibly broke down those silos and said to your business partners, “Look, we are now easier to do business with. That’s what we are here for.” What might you advise others if they were making a similar change?
Patty: We had to make a dramatic point by changing quickly. It’s a sign within IT and a sign across the business: “I hear you. I know what we need to fix, and we are quickly getting on it.” Visible change buys you time. Change is a journey. It’s not going to happen overnight, but you want to let your stakeholders, peers and organization know you’re serious. Demonstrable and dramatic change buys you the time you need to keep going with the rest of the transformation. There are multiple benefits from the visible destruction.
Michael: Were there others that you drew in, counted on, relied upon or were coached by? What was your support network during this time?
Patty: I’m a big believer in developing as many relationships as you can across the organization, within your team, with your stakeholders and with your boss. You want people to understand what you’re doing so that they can feel comfortable with what to expect from you and your organization. People expect that consistency — in your strategy, in your execution and in how you behave. That gives them the ability to tie what they see you doing to the strategy. It helps pave the road for change.
It feels more like a family than an organizational structure.
I mentioned this before, but I don’t think it can be emphasized enough — you have to invest in spending time with your own organization. That will pay dividends down the road. My classic example: Traditionally, I do six all-hands meetings a quarter. One might ask how that is possible. We do a day and an evening so we can redo a live all-hands for our teams in Asia. We do an AM/PM all hands for our operations team and AM/PM all hands for our IT team and then we do a joint AM/PM all hands for not just Ops and IT, but also Finance. We have always partnered closely with Finance.
At the time we were both starting out here at McAfee, the head of Finance and I found out from our employee engagement survey that we had similar challenges. We decided to pool our resources and have our teams work closely together. We would do joint calls every quarter. That consistency in messaging meant that people knew they could ask any question and that we’d answer every question we knew how to answer — and if we didn’t know, we’d get back to them later.
We used it as an opportunity to pull in the leaders across the organization to speak with the rest of the team. That provided a personal connection between our leaders and the whole global team, and it kept our leadership team glued together. Any one of us could talk about any of the others’ organization. This is powerful, because it says that you don’t just have a strategy on paper; you have it operationalized across your leadership team, and it’s visible to the whole organization.
This built assurance that all the leaders were rowing in the same direction, and that if you asked one of them a question in one forum and asked another somewhere else, you’d get the same answer. That kind of consistency threads your organization together and builds cultural connectedness at every level. People mention that it feels more like a family than an organizational structure.
Michael: You are developing trust by doing what you say and saying what you’re going to do — then saying it consistently so that people can actually see that you do what you say. There’s interesting research on the neuroscience behind leadership. One of the positive triggers for people is certainty.
Patty: I very much believe in that. During a phase when the business environment is undergoing a lot of change, people want to be able to hold on to something. They can hold onto the culture of an organization even when the technology and business strategies might be changing. There’s got to be something fundamental that they know is consistent and certain.
There’s a shared history and a common view of how we need to move forward, but with high expectations
Michael: Another trigger was “relatedness” among different members of the organization. You spoke about a sense of family. Some people may think, “Oh, that’s nice, but really not important.” Did the fact that you knew each other well, were able to share values and purpose and create a feeling of “family,” help things to fall into place and drive the cultural change in your organization?
Patty: When they hear, “family,” some people may think, “They must be coddling or not trying hard.” Anybody who came to our staff meetings or to our all-hands meetings would see that we’re blunt with our expectations of high quality and we’re business focused. When I say, “family,” I mean shared history and a common view of how we need to move forward with high expectations.
This environment takes time to establish. It takes investment in setting it up and moving it across your organization. But it’s an important investment that leaders have to make because it will pay dividends in the end.
Michael: As we conclude, do you have guidance to someone embarking on this level of change or for taking on multiple roles?
Patty: I think it’s a great time for CIOs to seek opportunities on the business side. In my case, it helped that I also had the operations side. We were able to pull operations along, and that pulled the other business functions along. My advice would be to seek opportunities as a rotation or different career opportunity. There is so much technology out there — and that’s a great thing — but how does it apply to the business? How does the organization get business benefit? That’s the question that organizations have.
The more a CIO is able to understand the go-to-market strategy, how a company works with its supply chain, its partners across the business units and into the product team, and the more the CIO has personal experience in those areas, the more valuable they’re going to be. I would encourage CIOs to at least team with peers in other parts of the organization or take on rotational roles — anything that provides operational responsibility in different areas.
It may feel a bit scary at first, but having that broader experience of putting yourself in the shoes of your peers is invaluable in being able to best contribute to the company.
Michael: Thank you Patty for sharing McAfee’s transformative journey in preparation for a smooth integration with McAfee this coming July 1.
Patty Hatter is now VP and GM, McAfee and Software IT & CIO, McAfee Group for McAfee Corporation, an American multinational corporation headquartered in Santa Clara, California. A dual-role leader, Ms. Hatter has led an aggressive, transformational effort that drives enhanced IT and information and software security effectiveness and scalability across a global organization.
Ms. Hatter applies dynamic innovation while establishing strategic solutions to support world-class business operations and infrastructure. Her responsibilities are to drive and empower cross-functional partnerships that align to achieve real, bottom-line profitability and IT security. A key to Patty’s success is vigorous employee engagement and global collaboration.
Michael Leckie is a Vice President of Service Delivery, managing the Northeast U.S. for Gartner Executive Programs. Mr. Leckie leads a team of highly experienced former CIOs and IT executives. He is responsible for service delivery excellence and strategic business development across the region.
Before joining Gartner, Mr. Leckie worked in consulting, focusing on change enablement, strategy and business transformation (including IPO and M&A). He also held global executive HR and OD roles in Gartner and industry-leading organizations.
Mr. Leckie has an extensive background in talent management and professional development, as well as coaching skills. He speaks regularly on the art and science of leadership, change and influence, in addition to the changing role of the technology leader.