CTO Sessions: Bernd Greifeneder, Dynatrace

What makes an effective tech strategy? "...I think an effective tech strategy is built around innovating for a solution, not just taking the latest technology and shoehorning it into your solution."

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What was your first job? I've been coding since I was at school. I suppose you could say my first job was back when I was a technical college student. I was creating software to manage the free schoolbook distribution process, as well as software for real estate brokers. Then, when I joined university, I was part of a project that created monitoring software for loom machines that wove sacks in the Dominican Republic. My first proper, full-time job was as a software engineer for Web load testing, at a small Austrian software company called Segue Software Inc., which later became part of Micro Focus.

Did you always want to work in IT? Definitely. I've always been fascinated by machines, electronics and software - so I thought I might end up in the industrial automation sector. However, my true path was with software. I found that because software can be changed and adopted so rapidly, it allows me - and organisations across the world - to achieve their goals much quicker. Software is running the world, and to be part of ensuring it works perfectly is extremely exciting.

What was your education? Do you hold any certifications? What are they? I studied at Johannes Kepler University in Linz, Austria for a BSc and later an MSc in Computer Science.

Explain your career path. Did you take any detours? If so, discuss. As I mentioned earlier, while I was at technical college and at university, I was already creating software to solve problems. I was actually halfway through writing my master's thesis when I decided to work full-time for Segue Software Inc., first as a project lead and then as CTO. When I left to finish my MSc and then wrote the prototype product that convinced me to make the move of founding Dynatrace to help organisations deliver better digital experiences.

What type of CTO are you? I'm an entrepreneurial CTO and part of my mantra is that it's important not to just do what the customer wants, but instead understand their need and then develop an innovative new solution accordingly that will really wow them. It's also important to recognise that technology only comprises around one-third of any successful company. The other two-thirds come from sales and marketing, and so I take a lot of time to think about customer value, ease-of-use, design and ease-of-selling in everything we do at Dynatrace. Ultimately, I think it's important to just always ask why, as it's the best way to learn and constantly challenge not just myself, but the team around me.

Which emerging technology are you most excited about the prospect of? There are so many areas that excite me when it comes to new and emerging technologies. Electric vehicles like cars or drones seem set to take over the world and we've already started to see the development of digital implants to augment and extend human capabilities.

A more immediate technology is the rise of microcontrollers and the Internet of Things (IoT) to revolutionise how businesses operate, enabling tasks like predictive maintenance, real-time inventory control and fleet management. However, organisations must get on the front foot to ensure the complexity of their enterprise cloud environment doesn't impact the performance of IoT ecosystems, ensuring they can reap the rewards of a more connected future.

Are there any technologies which you think are overhyped? Why? For me, I think the biggest thing is the liberal use of the term AI. We hear terms like machine learning, deep learning, natural language processing and chatbots - all of which we associate with artificial intelligence. AI comes in many different forms and I think as an industry we need to be careful not to be too general and avoid treating all AIs as equal. For example, Amazon has hundreds of employees working to manually code Alexa so that it can understand customer queries, but you wouldn't use Alexa to monitor complex IT environments and identify performance problems. We need to educate end users on which type of AI is most suitable for specific use cases.

What is one unique initiative that you've employed over the last 12 months that you're really proud of? One thing I'm particularly proud of is the rollout of Dynatrace One, which was designed to break internal silos and help accelerate customer success and innovation. We wanted to develop a way for customers to collaborate and engage with Dynatrace experts - we found that most don't need monitoring support anymore, the Dynatrace platform does that for them. Instead, our customers are collaborating with us to modernise and automate IT operations, release better software faster and improve business outcomes.

Are you leading a digital transformation? If so, does it emphasise customer experience and revenue growth or operational efficiency? If both, how do you balance the two? Dynatrace has traditionally operated in the application performance management space, but in recent years we've reinvented ourselves to become a software intelligence company. Six years ago, we decided to build a completely new platform for the world of cloud, dynamic microservices, the Internet of Things and DevOps. We saw this shift coming and realised we needed to transform for a cloud native era - our mission was to reinvent monitoring and the result has been a platform that does that and so much more.

What is the biggest issue that you're helping customers with at the moment? We're helping our customers to tame and understand how they can solve the hyper-complex cloud challenges they face. In today's always-on digital economy, end-users have come to expect a flow of new innovation and a consistent user experience. Digital services like online banking, messaging applications and e-commerce sites are expected to work seamlessly. As a result, organisations are investing heavily in microservices, containers and multi-cloud services - creating complexity within modern IT environments. It's become impossible for IT teams to make sense of these hyper-dynamic environments using traditional tools. In this increasingly cloud-centric future, our deterministic AI is providing a lifeline for IT teams, giving them end-to-end visibility of their IT environment and allowing them to correlate this against the impact on the customer and user-experience, ensuring their software is able to work perfectly.

How do you align your technology use to meet business goals? What works for me is starting with the outcome that needs to be achieved and then defining the best technology to get there. Too often, organisations use technology for technology's sake and then are surprised when their software ends up being complex and expensive. It's best to define the journey first before diving headfirst into technology adoption.

Do you have any trouble matching product/service strategy with tech strategy? Not really. Our biggest challenge is the continuous reinvention of ourselves. To overcome this, we apply the reverse of Conway's law to structure our rapidly growing engineering teams better towards delivering on our tech strategy. At Dynatrace, our architects have the same say and responsibility as product management. This allows us to invest as much in non-functional requirements as in functional ones, so we don't have problems with mismatched strategies. Our architects not only build our core product innovations, but also live NoOps and create the self-healing in our Web scale product offering, while our product managers drive domain specific use-cases.

What makes an effective tech strategy? First and foremost, I think it's important people don't just follow the latest tech hype - just because something like blockchain might be in vogue, doesn't mean it's the best solution for you. Beyond that, I think an effective tech strategy is built around innovating for a solution, not just taking the latest technology and shoehorning it into your solution. I'm a big advocate of the Keep It Simple Stupid (KISS) principle - simplicity should be a key goal in software development. Enterprise cloud environments are already complex enough, so any unnecessary complexity should be avoided.

What predictions do you have for the role of the CTO in the future? Being a CTO is about more than just technology, it's also about entrepreneurship. In the future, it will be crucial for CTOs to equip engineering teams with the means to implement modern processes like BizDevOps, as well as taking advantage of AIOps, so their teams can focus on innovation.

What has been your greatest career achievement? One of my goals when I first founded Dynatrace was to beat Segue Software Inc.'s best year - a bit of healthy competition with my previous employer! Dynatrace's product exceeded that goal in 2012.

Looking back with 20:20 hindsight, what would you have done differently? I don't look back. Every morning, I like to look forwards and think about how I can answer the question "what is the next best move?"

What are you reading now? I'm reading High Performance Sailing by Frank Bethwaite, a book about finding faster sailing techniques.

Most people don't know that I… was the intern for the person who now works for me as my Chief Product Architect.

In my spare time, I like to…Sail foil catamarans - sailing is a huge passion of mine and every chance I get I try to get out on the water. When I'm at home I also love to encourage my kids to develop their digital skills, working with them on IT projects, but also getting outside to play sports with them.

Ask me to do anything but… Repetitive tasks. I love to have variety in my day and focus on strategic tasks that will make a difference, so doing something very repetitive and tactical really isn't for me.

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