CIO Spotlight: Scott Crowder, BMC

Should the CIO role have additional responsibilities it does not currently include? “For modern CIOs, it’s less about running the business and keeping the lights on, and more about growing and innovating for the business.”

Headshot of Scott Crowder, SVP and CIO at BMC

Name: Scott Crowder

Company: BMC

Job title: CIO and SVP

Date started current role: January 2014

Location: Houston, Texas

Scott Crowder is chief information officer and Senior Vice President for BMC Software, Inc. He is responsible for the company’s Information Services and Technology group, which provides business applications, end user support, production and R&D cloud infrastructure, unified communications, information security and service governance. Crowder has more than 30 years of experience in product development, service delivery, and assurance for information technology organisations. Prior to joining BMC, Crowder was vice president of data centre operations at Blackbaud, where he was responsible for delivering managed services and SaaS offerings to approximately 12,000 customers. Previously, he held IT leadership positions in high technology companies that included Sprint, Akamai, Inktomi, MIH (Entriq) and Kintera. Crowder holds two patents related to digital media and is a veteran of the U.S Air Force, where he oversaw combat computer and communications platforms.

What was your first job? I was a pizza guy at Ken’s Pizza in Atlanta, Georgia when I was about 15 or 16 years old.

Did you always want to work in IT? Yes, starting at about 12 years old, I knew I wanted to work in technology. I remember my dad being a big electronics guy, and we would order projects from Heath Kit with all the components of electronics equipment. One of the first major projects I did on my own was build a 25” colour TV console in early 1970s. I had to learn various technical components and solder it all together.

What was your education? Do you hold any certifications? What are they? I went straight into the U.S. Air Force after high school, where I scored very highly on the electronics portion of the ASVAB test. I spent my first year learning about and working on electronics all day, every day — essentially, I got a direct education in component-level repair computer and electronic switching systems. While I was in the Air Force, I completed multiple certifications, in addition to several others over the course of my career.

Explain your career path. Did you take any detours? If so, discuss. I got out of the Air Force in 1985 and went to work for US Telecom, which later became Sprint, where I worked on building the world’s first digital telecommunications platform. My role was installing and commissioning fibreoptics and digital switching systems. Then, I migrated into the control centre and became a supervisor. That led me to become the manager at Sprint’s video group, and then eventually a director.

After 14+ years at Sprint, I was given an opportunity to run operations and engineering at Intervu, the world’s first distributed content delivery network (CDN). While there, I led the team that built the first globally distributed broadband CDN for streaming media and video on demand. Intervu was eventually acquired by Akamai, and I moved on to Inktomi, where I led the product operations organisation and established a professional services team to deploy broadcast streaming technologies.

From there, I became the COO for Entriq, focused on monetising streaming media and rights management. That led to my time as CTO of Kintera, the first comprehensive SaaS platform for charitable campaigns. I later became the head of data centre operations when it was acquired by Blackbaud.

Finally, I landed at BMC, where I started as the vice president of Infrastructure and Operations before moving into my current position as CIO. This role has been my “detour” — it’s the first time in my career I’ve been able to leverage my customer focus internally. What I love is being uniquely positioned to take all we’ve learned internally and using that to deliver value to our enterprise customers.

What business or technology initiatives will be most significant in driving IT investments in your organisation in the coming year? This year, one of my focus areas is a multi-year initiative we call Project ROME (Reinventing Order Management Excellence). The goal is to transform our entire end-to-end quote-to-cash process, supporting BMC’s shift away from on-prem/perpetual licenses and move to subscription-based platforms. The project will help us modernise how we do business and create an improved experience for our employees, partners, and customers. 

As always, security investments are also top of mind – BMC is focused on continually advancing our detection and response capabilities and threat hunting activities as the global landscape evolves.

What are the CEO's top priorities for you in the coming year? How do you plan to support the business with IT? In addition to focusing on Project ROME, the IS&T group I lead serves as “customer zero” for our full line of IT operations management software. Our group runs our own solutions in production and works hand-in-hand with R&D to design, test, and innovate. This year, we’re taking this program to the next level by enabling salespeople to showcase these implementations as examples of what we can deliver to customers.

My role in this is ultimately to align IT initiatives with business goals; lead IT standardisation, governance, and security; assist in the creation of new go-to-market strategies and technologies; and use IT as a revenue generator.

Does the conventional CIO role include responsibilities it should not hold? Should the role have additional responsibilities it does not currently include? For modern CIOs, it’s less about running the business and keeping the lights on, and more about growing and innovating for the business. This is especially true working for an IT software company. We need to think about how to move the needle to create technology and experiences that are frictionless. For example, I’m in the process of doing a home renovation, and have been impressed with the quality of the revenue-generating applications some of the large retailers in the home improvement space have built. If it’s not easy to use, I’m not going to do business with them, so I try to apply this same mindset to the enterprise.

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? Digital transformation can profoundly change a company’s technology, processes, culture, and people. I don’t think you can separate customer experience from revenue growth or operational efficiency — as a B2B solution provider, we should have deep insight into how our work affects the customers we serve, and that insight starts in our own operations.

We’re very fortunate that our digital transformation began more than a decade ago. Now, the big thing we’re focused on is how we do more with the data we have, delivering insight the business needs to accelerate. We’re transforming our order management process to help create the best experience for both customers and our internal organisations. That's why Project ROME is so important — it’s touching 60+ various business platforms, essentially performing a heart and lung transplant on our enterprise.

Describe the maturity of your digital business. For example, do you have KPIs to quantify the value of IT? BMC has had a SaaS-first approach since around 2011, so digital is just part of how we do business — it's in our DNA. At this point, our environment is more than 90% SaaS platforms. Today’s successful companies — including BMC — are enabled by technology, and IT plays and will continue to play a key role there. We’re focused on what’s ahead and making sure we are constantly evolving so that we epitomise our own Autonomous Digital Enterprise framework, because that’s what will enable us to continue to succeed.

We always want to make sure we’re using data to help drive our decision making, so KPIs are a key part of that equation. We measure the value of IT in countless ways, from how we reduce ticket counts to how we’re ultimately driving revenue through customer engagements that showcase IT implementations.

What does good culture fit look like in your organisation? How do you cultivate it? At BMC, one of our focuses is on creating a culture of innovation internally and across our ecosystem — it’s one of our core values. Innovation and culture feed into each other. We hire the best and brightest to build on the talent that has shaped BMC for the past 40+ years, and we want to make sure we’re supporting all our employees in their roles, because good ideas can come from anywhere. A tell-tale sign of success is when we see exciting new development come to life through collaboration, and we’ve found that giving employees the ability to leverage their own creativity results in a massive increase in job satisfaction.

What roles or skills are you finding (or anticipate to be) the most difficult to fill? Right now, there are 800,000 open jobs in the InfoSec space. Data science, Salesforce, Snowflake, security — these are all skills that are in high demand right now.

What's the best career advice you ever received? Listen a lot. The more you listen, the more you understand what’s going on. Use the data you’ve gathered through listening to inform how you react in every scenario. The more data you can collect before making decisions, the better.

Do you have a succession plan? If so, discuss the importance of and challenges with training up high-performing staff. We have a detailed succession plan in place for our entire leadership team — that’s just part of being a prepared organisation. I also think it’s extremely important to support and promote career development within all levels of any group. We automate by moving work down and people up so that we’re training people to become experts. BMC has a development program that brings in fresh college grads through service desk positions, then trains them on various platforms until they reach our engineering program.

What advice would you give to aspiring IT leaders? I would encourage those stepping into leadership roles to listen and practice empathy for what’s going on with a person or situation. Some leaders don’t talk to people at the entry level, but it’s extremely valuable to have an approachable leader who can get into the weeds and not lose where they came from.

I also truly believe in establishing a regular cadence for managers meetings. Those forums can give your team the opportunity to be transparent and help each other, and it helps ensure everyone is on the same page.

What has been your greatest career achievement?  I’ve been fortunate to be part of a lot of ‘firsts’. Early in my career, this was building the first distributed content delivery network with 40 data centres worldwide. Then, I was part of the team that delivered the Olympics on the internet for the first time. Even at BMC, I helped lead the complete transformation of our IT organisation.

Looking back with 20:20 hindsight, what would you have done differently? Overall, I am very happy with what I've done and been able to accomplish.

What are you reading now? 😉

Most people don't know that I… am a huge boating person. I once piloted a boat I built from Destin, Florida to Key West.

In my spare time, I like to…spend time with my family and friends. I’m also a car collector and have several classic cars, and I like to get outside with a good game of golf.

Ask me to do anything but… yard work.