All of this talk about open letters brings back memories.
This coming August will mark ten years to the day that EMC announced its plan to acquire Data General (DG). EMC recognized that the market for mid-range storage was going to be huge and the fastest way to go after that market would be to acquire the CLARiiON technology. In hindsight it was a great move that has probably raked in greater than $10 billion in the past decade.
As an "acquired employee" there were two aspects to the acquisition that I thought were important:
- The logistics of integrating me as an employee
- The logistics of integrating the CLARiiON product
The EMC executive responsible for integrating Data General was Frank Hauck. His message was clear: the integration of DG employees will happen like clockwork. It will occur quickly and non-disruptively, and EMC will immediately qualify CLARiiON DGers for bonuses and stock to motivate the execution of the CLARiiON roadmap.
And it did happen like clockwork; it exceeded my expectations. As a 14 year DG employee it was refreshing to have new management that communicated the plan clearly and then executed the plan.
This seamless acquisition of employees, accompanied by perks that were INFINITELY more generous than us DGers were used to, played a large role in the explosive growth CLARiiON would achieve.
Integrating the Product
Once the acquisition was finalized, there was a 6-month "moratorium" on transfers to or from Data General engineering groups. EMC did not want any disruption of the momentum that CLARiiON was building.
I understand the rationale but in hindsight it was like building a wall around CLARiiON. Because once the six-month moratorium was over, the acquisition was no longer a front-burner topic, and the discussions of high-level "architectural integration" of the product line was pursued with less aggression than the "employee integration" process.
The Flood of Acquisitions
It's my impression that subsequent acquisitions experienced a similar pattern. Acquired technologies such as Centera, Documentum, RSA, etc., underwent fairly seamless employee transitions, which enabled successful growth rates as part of EMC. After forty or so acquisitions, EMC has the employee reward and transition thing down pat.
Discussions about overarching product integration lagged behind. Certainly there were obvious touch points that came together (integrating PowerPath with RSA encryption keys, for example). However, newly acquired engineers (especially top architects or technology experts) did not have a forum for discussing product and architecture integration. It usually happened at a grass-roots level instead.
This has changed. EMC recognized that there was an issue of technical unity within the company. For the past few years I have noticed some fairly impactful initiatives being rolled out:
- Global Innovation Network: EMC assigned an "acquired employee" (Dr. Burt Kaliski from EMC) to "gather" the pockets of innovation occuring across all of the acquired companies and create a loosely-coupled forum where technical advances are monitored and cross-pollinated. This effort also involved listing all of the outstanding research relationships with academic institutions.
- EMC Innovation Lecture Series: a live, monthly discussion of technology topics that also draw from employees that have been acquired into the system.
- Monthly CTO Council: Once a month EMC's Office of the CTO (Jeff Nick) runs a 2-day summit which unites the employees from acquired companies and provides a forum for architectural discussion and product innovation. Acquired companies usually show up immediately and are asked to "open the kimono".
- Innovation Showcase: a yearly event exclusively focused on technology unity and innovation across business units. Level playing field for any employee in any business unit to submit a killer idea and potentially be trotted out in front of EMC executives.
- EMC|ONE: EMC's internal social media site is pushed heavily as a method of uniting all employees (not just engineers). It can actually be used as a "research portal" to learn about new products (e.g. Symmetrix V-Max), new initiatives (e.g. VMWARE/Cisco/EMC), and most importantly it "puts a name to the product" in order to reach across business units and learn how something really works.
- EMC Ed Services: when an acquired company becomes part of EMC, it is AMAZING how quickly computer-based training for that product becomes available (followed closely by live training courses). Whenever I want to learn about an acquired company I'm about 5 mouse clicks away from watching a training course on the topic.
- EMC's External Blogging Community: this community is perhaps one of the fastest methods of finding something out within EMC. There's not one external blogger who doesn't instantly respond to a call for help. Those who have chosen to blog externally (like myself) have naturally formed huge amounts of internal connections.
None of this was in place when I joined EMC. What a difference a decade makes. Nowadays, acquired employees have that "cool new toy" that everyone wants to hear about.
Does it sound too good to be true? The simple fact is that I use these tools all of the time. They are there for everybody.
And this is the point of my post. Sure, when EMC acquires a company's technology the new product typically experiences explosive growth. But would a given employee from a company acquired by EMC fit in? Well, that would depend on whether or not that given employee possesses one critical characteristic.