Robert Bell
Robert Bell
Exploring the intersection of business, technology and creativity.

A rock song cover is like a customer deployment

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You’d expect people to be grumpy when you invite them to a meeting first thing in the morning on a Sunday. But this wasn’t the case for me and some colleagues from NetApp’s Cloud Innovation Center. That was probably because the Sunday morning meeting in question was about our participation in an upcoming Rock Band Competition for startups and hi-tech companies.

We checked the entry requirements and quickly realized we’d found out about it way too late. There were only five days left to upload a video of the band performing a song. The process of planning, rehearsing, performing, recording, and producing a music video can take weeks. The logical thing to do was to decline because it wouldn’t make sense to even consider trying with such a tight deadline. But since when are Israeli high-tech employees driven by logic? We decided to go for it. Yalla Balagan! Let’s rock!!!

Oh, and I forgot to mention that this meeting took place before we’d even formed the band.

If you work at an Israeli startup or innovation center, you’re most likely familiar with this kind of irrational behavior. We thrive in a dynamic environment where you learn to expect the unexpected. So, when a Sales rep asks us to deploy our cloud solution in the most complex architecture possible for an extremely important customer (which incidentally is every single customer in existence) and without enough time to prepare, we don’t hesitate. We get the work done and meet the deadline. At our cloud innovation center in Tel-Aviv, this sort of agility has become second nature, and I believe it can be broken down into 3 basic components. Interestingly, these 3 components not only apply to customer deployments but also help when you’re forming a rock band and recording a cover.

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Component #1 – Mutual support and synchronization

Have you ever wondered how a startup with a dozen or so employees can compete against large enterprises with more experience, much larger teams, and more budget, and the startup ends up winning the deal? In a team where everyone is in total sync and has each other’s backs, it’s more likely each team member will go the extra mile and make the necessary sacrifices to accomplish the team goals. Just like in the business setting, a well-performed song requires each band member to be in tune to keep pace with the other musicians while accompanying one another in perfect harmony.

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Component #2 – Anyone can set the tone

The one thing developers hate more than other people’s code is micromanagement. It totally kills their creativity and productivity. One of the values I appreciate in the NetApp Cloud Innovation Center is Inclusion. Every voice counts, regardless of your seniority or age. Some of the best ideas come from those whom you’d least expect. Giving everyone an equal opportunity to lead and room to express their uniqueness can result in a masterpiece. Each member gets to enjoy the success of the group while taking pride in the distinct notes that they contributed as an individual.

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Component #3 – Fail your way to success

Entrepreneurs know that around 9 out of 10 startups fail. But they’re still willing to embrace failure for the slim chance of phenomenal success. The executives in our center communicate that failure is a necessary step on the path to success, and the outcome is that our teams are eager to innovate. Sometimes we succeed, and other times we learn an important lesson that helps us improve. By embracing this approach, we can produce remarkable products (and songs) that delight our customers (and audience).

It was during band rehearsals that I realized that our roles at the innovation center are not entirely unlike the roles of musicians. The developer is busy on the keyboard while the architect plans a modulation of the original bassline, with QA ensuring optimal performance and the entire team progressing in perfect rhythm with the project manager’s orchestration.

By applying the same principles we use in customer deployments, we formed a rock band and recorded our first cover, all within five days.

Robert Bell, Product Marketing at NetApp Cloud Innovation Center and Bassist in the NetApp Cloud Band.

About the Author
Robert has over 20 years of experience in product and strategic marketing roles at pioneering organizations accompanying businesses and helping them advance in their digital transformation journey through the implementation of innovative technology solutions. Robert has worked directly with market-leading companies across many different industries and has expertise in diverse information technology domains.
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