Subscribed Podcast: Mark Settle and the “Truth from the Trenches”

By Aarthi Rayapura November 22, 2017

Select Excerpts from Subscribed Podcast with Okta CIO Mark Settle

Mark Settle is a seven-time CIO with broad business experience in information services, enterprise software, consumer products, high tech distribution, financial services, and oil & gas. He has received multiple industry awards and is a three-time CIO 100 honoree. He’s currently the CIO of Okta.

Settle sits on the advisory boards of several Silicon Valley venture capital firms and pioneered the adoption of service management and cloud computing technologies within several large enterprises. He is the author of Truth from the Trenches: A Practical Guide to the Art of IT Management. Settle received his Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees from MIT and a PhD from Brown University. He is a former Air Force officer and NASA Program Scientist.

We talk to Mark on the evolving role of the CIO, business transformation challenges, and lessons learned from being the “the most experienced CIO in the world.”

Select Excerpts:

The role of the CIO has clearly evolved over the years. Cloud computing and SaaS companies have changed the landscape. What’s it like being a CIO today?

I think somethings have gotten much more important than they used to be. At the top of that list for me, would be data management. A lot more effort and thought goes into how data is sourced within a commercial enterprise – the integrity of the data, it’s consistency, people are constantly discovering uses for data, it can be stored in the cloud, it doesn’t have to go to a data center like in the old days, there are security concerns around how data is handled and manipulated…

Data management used to be pretty straightforward – Think about an ERP system in a lot of companies. The ERP itself collected most of the data. The ERP vendors wanted you to think about their database as being the mother of all databases that you could use to run a company. Today, it’s a much more disconnected environment in the way it’s sourced and handled. This is before the Internet of Things had been introduced and updated the way business and companies operate.

Your book “Truth from the Trenches: A Practical Guide to the Art of IT Management” came out last year. What inspired you to write it?

Part of the motivation was personal therapy! After you’ve done this job in different industries, it seems like we all end up making the same mistakes over and over again. When I go out and socialize with my peers, we have many of the same common problems. We stub our toes and trip over our shoelaces in many of the same ways. We’re becoming more sophisticated or progressive over time. But, we’ve done a poor job of handing down some of these lessons learned, to the next generation of IT leaders.

I obviously know other books on IT management but, I think many of them are written by consultants or research analysts. Many are based on interviews. There are a few that are actually written in a first-person kind of voice by people that have done the job themselves and so, I thought there was an opportunity there to really help out with some practical advice to folks.

You’ve worked with some of our customers, namely Arrow Electronics which is a huge electronic company going through a major transition to the subscription model and Okta, which is a native SaaS startup. Both are seeing their future as cloud-based subscription business models — how do they approach it differently (or is it similar)?

I think it really comes down to the alignment of the management team and their ability to translate that alignment to the people in the company. You think about transformation to a hub-based business model…I don’t think it’s necessarily driven by company size, or history, or lack thereof. It comes down to that vision and alignment, which is, as you know, in partial enterprises, that’s some of the toughest jobs around to try and establish that alignment across a large number of people.

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