Zenoss GalaxZ17: Stories That Connect People and Technology

Daniel Newman - GalaxZ17 Keynote Speaker discussing the top Digital Transformation trends in technology.

Last month I had the opportunity to deliver the Keynote at GalaxZ17, Zenoss’ annual user conference in Austin, Texas.

When CEO Greg Stock took the stage, I expected another 45 minute spiel on the state of the company. As a regular event speaker, I have seen a million of these (or so it seems) play out the this way. For the first minute or two my guess was right on target, but then he took a positive and welcome hard left turn when I was expecting him to stay the course.

Greg paused, and you could tell he was about to share something very personal. He went on to start sharing a personal passion that he was pursuing as a foundation for Zenoss and perhaps more evidently for his heart. Greg forged ahead and with a tear in his eye he shared the story of a number of dogs he had fostered over the past couple of years as a project he and the Stock family had committed to.  As I looked around the room of over 500 technology professionals everyone was looking up. Greg's story, his passion and his love for these animals became magnetic and with the snap of his fingers he had everyone’s attention. It was pure magic.

Sure, you could argue that I’m splitting hairs, but after extensive research on the topic I have found only 2 things to be certain.

1. You cannot facilitate digital transformation if you put technology ahead of people.
2. Understanding Buzz words like digital transformation is less important than successfully driving change in your organization.

I digress.

(L to R) Zenoss CEO Greg Stock, Keynote speakers Daniel Newman and Zorawar Biri Singh.

Over the course of the two days I spent with the Zenoss team, customers and partners, I had the chance to attend a number of impactful breakouts and even share a few stories of my own. My keynote was on the biggest digital transformation trends that I was envisioning for 2017; however, much like Greg’s presentation, I had the audiences attention most distinctly when I stepped out of the realm of tech trends and into the depths of my soul to share a little anecdote from my life.

Being a man’s man, I have kept my emotions to myself for a long time, but it was while watching Collateral Beauty on a flight home that I found myself tearing up. I won’t give away the story, but what drew the moisture from my eyes had to do with losing a child. Something as a father of 3 that I cannot even imagine. The story wasn’t so much about my crying, but about our daily interaction with technology. Our watching cinema films in HD on a plane and the fact that we don’t blink an eye.

In many ways, this evolving story of our life with technology personifies digital transformation. In short…
“When technology makes our life better, we will never complain or resist.” – ME

However, in enterprise we spend so much time trying to force change. We want people to use what we give them because we’ve invested in it and it is important that we use it. While that may be true, that will never drive them out of their shells and it will never make the change you are aspiring for more palatable.

My story about letting go emotionally, similar to Greg’s teary eyed story about his dogs serve as a wonderful reminder about the importance of people in the digital change we are looking for. When things connect within our souls, change is easy (or easier). We can’t expect real change to happen through brute force or even long explainers. It happens when people connect to the mission and the vision; It happens through a story that everyone can get behind. Begging the question for everyone trying to change their organization for good…

What’s your story?


GalaxZ17 sponsors included: SOPRIS Technologies, LayerX Technologies, ServiceNow, Cascadeo, Big Panda, Higher Logic, SaltStack, VictorOps, Verinon, SoftServe, NTT DATA, Everbridge and Broadsuite Media Group.

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