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The Transformational Journey of a Cloud Services Leader


Episode Summary

In this episode of Behind the Growth, host Imran Mian chats with Matt Collins, Chief Commercial Operations Officer at Calix, a company that transitioned from a traditional networking equipment provider to a cloud services leader. Matt shares insights into how Calix shifted from hardware to software, detailing the strategic vision, challenges, and the importance of meeting customer needs.

As the episode progresses, Matt talks about the leadership and collaboration strategies at Calix. He highlights the necessity of reskilling the workforce, hiring new talent with software and cloud expertise, and building a culture of transparency, dynamic tension, and collaborative decision-making. The conversation also touches on the challenges and advantages of remote work, highlighting the importance of technological and cultural enablement to ensure productivity and inclusivity in a virtual environment.

Matt then discusses Calix’s impact on broadband service providers, emphasizing net promoter scores as a key metric of customer satisfaction and loyalty. Looking to the future, he explores the role of AI in transforming customer interactions and operational efficiency, and how broadband expansion is shaping industry economics and competition. He underscores the necessity for service providers to deliver compelling experiences to stay relevant.

Finally, Collins offers advice for aspiring leaders, encouraging boldness, resilience in the face of failure, and a focus on understanding the “why” behind actions to drive meaningful change. This episode provides valuable insights into navigating industry shifts, fostering customer partnerships, and driving impactful transformations.

Featured Guest

  • Name: Matthew Collins
  • What he does: Chief Commercial Operations Officer
  • Company: Calix
  • Noteworthy: Matt is the chief commercial operations officer for Calix. The Calix commercial operations team is responsible for supply chain operations, demand management, commercial strategy and analytics, field operations, and global process transformation. Matt also leads the Calix go-to-market team, which is responsible for corporate, field, and product marketing, as well as partner operations and business development.

    Over the course of his career, Matt has built and led marketing and strategy teams at Dun & Bradstreet (D&B), IBM, McKinsey, and Merck. At D&B, Matt was SVP of global marketing and go-to-market strategy. Prior to joining D&B, he spent over a decade at IBM in senior marketing and strategy roles across IBM’s software, hardware and services businesses. While at IBM Matt also led several cross-company “Smarter Planet” growth initiatives and helped build the chief analytics officer function. While at McKinsey, he worked with many of the firm’s leading global clients to help them transform their go-to-market and operations strategies.

    Matt received his MBA from Harvard University and has a B.A. from Dartmouth College.

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Key Insights

Embracing Bold Transformation
Matthew Collins discusses Calix’s shift from hardware to cloud services, highlighting the strategic vision that drove this significant change. This move not only transformed Calix’s offerings but also its position in the broadband and cloud services industry.

Customer-Centric Innovation
Matthew shares insights on the importance of understanding and anticipating customer needs. He emphasizes how Calix’s focus on providing value beyond mere connectivity has enabled its customers to achieve remarkable operational efficiency and customer satisfaction.

Future-Proofing Through Technology
Looking ahead, Collins touches on the integration of AI and machine learning across Calix’s services. This forward-looking approach is aimed at continuously improving service delivery and customer experience, setting a foundation for sustained growth and innovation in an ever-evolving industry landscape.

The most important growth driver is when your customers are so excited that they're going to go out and promote you.

Episode Highlights

Transformation from Hardware to Software

Matthew Collins discusses the complex journey of transitioning Calix from a hardware-focused company to a leader in software and cloud solutions. This transformation required a strategic shift in vision, extensive customer education, and support for legacy products during the transition. Collins emphasizes the importance of bringing customers along for the ride and the challenges of changing product development processes.

“Going from a company like we did which is hard and transforming that into a new company is actually harder than doing a startup. And the key, the first thing you have to do is bring your customers along.”

Leadership and Culture for Innovation

Collins shares insights into the leadership dynamics at Calix, focusing on the necessity of reskilling, hiring for new capabilities, and fostering a culture of collaboration and transparency. The discussion covers the critical role of executive alignment in navigating the company’s transformation and the unique collaborative culture that drives Calix’s success.

“So, the first thing is we had to reskill the company in terms of keeping the people who are here who see the vision and want to do it. But then we have to go out and quite frankly, hire a lot of people.”

Embracing Remote Work and Collaboration

This section explores how Calix adopted remote work and virtual collaboration even before the pandemic, focusing on creating a supportive environment for remote employees. Collins elaborates on technological and cultural practices that enable effective remote working and the advantages it brings to the company’s operations and talent acquisition.

“So first, I’ll say from my own experience. When I was at IBM, back in the early 2000s. It was one of the first well-known companies that started to enable working from home.”

Future Vision and Emerging Trends

Looking ahead, Collins discusses Calix’s roadmap with a focus on leveraging AI and machine learning to further enhance service offerings and operational efficiencies. He also touches on the impact of industry consolidation, the importance of differentiating through managed services, and the company’s commitment to addressing the digital divide.

“Sure, so I’ll start with technology and I think is a key one. We look at everything we’re doing today with our customers. And there’s a role for machine learning and AI. We’ve already got machine learning in the systems and when I talked about the ability to do all those fixes in the home with connected devices, that will happen automatically thanks to machine learning.”

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