Business Transformation

Putting People at the Center of VMware’s SaaS Transformation Journey


By: Annie Lin, Senior Director, Business Strategy and Jerry Ibrahim, IT Chief Technology Officer, VMware 

This article is part of a three-part series between VMware’s CIO leadership who are rolling out VMware’s largest transformation yet: VMware’s transition to being a Software as a Service & Subscription model. Follow along as we learn what it means for 40,000+ of our global colleagues to come together and transform as ONE VMware. 

True transformation is rooted in a strong culture of innovation. Too often, employees focus on the day-to-day execution of operational tasks leading to inertia and the lack of agility that companies need. So, how can executives influence new behaviors and transform the way we work to execute more efficiently against strategic priorities?  

The key is shifting the cultural mindset. At VMware, we call this the “SaaS Mindset”, which encourages innovative thinking and approaches to achieve our business outcomes. As we shift from a license model to Software as a Service, we are driving a digital transformation across all our major functions.  

This paradigm shift isn’t just about the technology. It’s also about people and behaviors behind this transformation.  It’s about how we communicate, collaborate, and empower people with a SaaS mindset. Focusing first on transforming our culture before we can transform the way we work. 

Within our CIO organization, every colleague – whether engineer, developer, product manager, data analyst – operates under a set of core principles. 

  • One VMware inspires the entire organization to work across all business units and silos as a unified team with a shared mission.  
  • Outside-In mindset is a customer-centric approach that ensures we design every solution to solve our customers’ real-world problems.  
  • Move with Urgency embraces an agile approach to accelerate engineering delivery velocity by empowering decision-making to drive iterative scope and faster releases. 

We can’t just look at digital transformation from a scale and systems perspective and forget the people component. You cannot discount the human element of that transaction. If you want that value to be fully realized, people need to be at the center.

Jason Conyard, CIO, VMware

Mobilizing Global Teams as ‘One VMware’ To Tackle the Log4J Crisis 

The Log4J Shell is one of the most critical software vulnerabilities of the last decade, placing the industry in a global crisis mode. Risks increased daily as systems remain unpatched. Here is how Jerry Ibrahim, IT CTO at VMware, mobilized our global IT teams to re-prioritize and act swiftly to resolve this vulnerability:  

  • Empower leads with end-to-end accountability and decision-making: We enabled our engineering leads to take full end-to-end ownership of process. This was a new muscle for our teams as we worked outside our historical silos. By reducing bottlenecks in the decision-making process our teams were able to move faster. The feedback we received from leads was incredibly positive as this gave them autonomy and the ability to make adjustments in real-time.  
  • Adopting a Shift-Model approach with frequent checkpoints: Our teams worked in shifts, allowing timely rest and the ability to return refreshed. Each shift had a team checkpoint every few hours to help maintain momentum and confirm direction as new information was constantly emerging.  
  • Communication is key: This mobilization required a “relay race” of communication, making it essential to keep in constant communication and articulate to each team member what has changed every step of the way – ensuring everyone continued to operate on the same page. An open communication approach also applied cross-functionally to our business operations, marketing, and legal teams. Engineering provided these teams with continual information so that they could provide support as needed. 
  • Ensuring a shared understanding of priorities: Impressing a sense of urgency and severity across teams is vital to align focus on the right priorities. The number of actions required to remediate the Log4J flaw was significant, and we needed to make sure everyone was moving in the same direction. We reinforced the importance through frequent meetings and team member check-ins.  
  • Manage well-being: Empathetic leadership is smart business. Leaders need to recognize that their teams are human and operating under a lot of stress. It’s important to find ways to reduce stress, to listen, encourage, and motivate so that teams can focus and be effective. Our teams worked tirelessly on this project and showed incredible passion and commitment to our customers. From the first red flag of a potential incident to the successful remediation of affected environments took phenomenal effort – and we couldn’t be prouder of how our teams handled the challenge. 

Driving Engineering Mindset with ‘One VMware’ Engineering Principles 

The Chief Digital Transformation Office and Office of the CTO (OCTO) group has thousands of engineers driving innovation, R&D, and IT, and supporting our five business units.  It is critical to drive a consistent set of expectations across all our engineers’ disciplines involved in product and service delivery. 

What we make is important,
but it is even more important how we make it.

Jerry Ibrahim, IT CTO, VMware

With a large set of teams, it is easy to get buried into silos, with each acting according to their own set of norms and principles. To break out of this disparate mindset, we identified key engineering representatives across all teams to come together as ‘One VMware’ to develop a core set of common engineering principles that transcends organizational boundaries, from design to delivery of VMware products and services. These principles now serve as the foundation of how our engineers build and make decisions across the organization.  Examples of our core engineering tenets include: 

  • Platform Thinking: Treat every component as a part of a whole, with user-centricity as the pillar. Start with APIs that adhere to our standards, versioning, and documentation so that all builders have empathy for others who also build around this software. Platform Thinking implies quality, trust, simplicity, accessibility, sustainability, ease of integration, and operation. Done right, Platform Thinking enables extensibility, interoperability, and reuse.   
  • Designing & Building for the User: All our products and services begin with the user experience, and we build towards it. Driving a culture of trust also means approaching development with a focus on security and privacy-by-design. Consumability is key, with a mindset of self-service enabling the user to realize immediate value. We expect our engineers to collaborate closely with the Design and Product Management teams from inception to release.    


With a common ‘One VMware’ mindset, we empower our engineers to make decisions that drive iterative scope, faster releases, and increase speed to market – all to deliver the best-in-class multi-cloud services. 

Mindset shift becomes part of your organization’s DNA 

Innovation is driven by people and culture, not just technology. Adopting a ‘SaaS Mindset’ and transforming the way individuals and teams work is a journey that will require participation at all levels. Each of us is responsible for this transformation and making it successful. Only then can it become a part of our culture, embedded in our organization’s DNA – transforming VMware into a more agile company, always aligned within and ready to deliver to our customers’ needs.