Leigh Plumley of Aptum: “Company culture is key to unlocking true success of any business initiative or goal”

To break it down, a digital transformation is the process of utilizing technologies to transform the way a business functions, often centered on cloud computing, big data and artificial intelligence. And, every organization’s transformation is unique to its needs — it is not a one size fits all approach. As part of our series about “How To […]

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To break it down, a digital transformation is the process of utilizing technologies to transform the way a business functions, often centered on cloud computing, big data and artificial intelligence. And, every organization’s transformation is unique to its needs — it is not a one size fits all approach.

As part of our series about “How To Use Digital Transformation To Take Your Company To The Next Level”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Leigh Plumley.

Leigh Plumley oversees the creation of new revenue opportunities and growing sales of Aptum’s products and services portfolio globally and is responsible for helping Aptum’s customers leverage multi-cloud managed services, allowing them to build robust hybrid cloud infrastructure platforms that maximize the value from their data.

With more than 20 years of experience in developing sales organizations, Leigh is an expert at generating profitable revenue growth in the IT and Managed Services industries and has worked for companies such as Sungard Availability Services, Ricoh, Wolseley and Pitney Bowes.

He has a Bachelor of Business Administration Degree from Brock University, a Marketing Diploma from Sheridan College, and Certificate’s in Marketing and Sales Management from the Schulich School of Business and Smith School of Business.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series. Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?

Everyone has a “first job” and like many kids, my first job was one I created. I would go door-to-door in the neighbourhood and sell window cleaning services, lawn cutting, and perform odds jobs for people who lacked time or desire to perform the work. These early jobs provided a real opportunity for me to figure out what I liked and disliked. It wasn’t long before I realized that I preferred “knocking on doors” and the selling aspect way more than the actual act of cutting the lawns or cleaning the windows. So, I partnered with a neighbourhood friend and we split the money. Overtime, we unconsciously gravitated into more defined roles — I was business development and he was the head landscaper.

Years later, following college and university, I earned a professional sales role within a Fortune 500 company that permitted the opportunity to do much more than sales. They empowered me to explore different roles within sales, marketing, and operations. It became a wonderful foundation and looking back helped to prepare me for larger roles in the future.

Today, as the CRO of Aptum Technologies, I take pride in the fact that I spent time as an individual contributor, a marketing manager, as well as a team lead, knowing how difficult these jobs can be, how important they are to the organization, and how much fun they are when everything goes right. These experiences over the last 20 years have really shaped how I approach my role today, and I feel it allows me to relate to all the sellers that drive the results of our company, and with the customers who benefit from the services we provide.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?

In my first professional sales job, about a month out of business school with Pitney Bowes Canada, I distinctly recall a moment when I found my first opportunity. I ran back to the office and created my strategy of how I was going to propose the lowest possible price I could get, win the deal in my first month on the job, and be a hero to my new manager…Presidents Club here I come! Well, the lowest price did not win that deal, like it almost never does. This became an early lesson for me. Sellers need to focus on truly understanding the client’s needs, take the time to demonstrate the value your product/service provide, and make sure to articulate why it’s different than alternatives in the marketplace. Getting a great price on the wrong thing doesn’t help anyone.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

I’ve been blessed over my career to have an outstanding family and support network, and I embraced the mentor/mentee relationship early in my career. One person that sticks out in my experience is a gentleman I met about a year before I finished university. He was a seasoned VP of Sales of a Fortune 500 technology firm. He went out of his way to create time in his busy schedule to work with me, coaching me on how to approach my career, explaining the B2B sales process, and encouraging me to consider not only the role I was looking for post grad but also the industry. If I’m honest though, I learned the most years later when I had a chance to work with him. How he would lead, how he would take regular business relationships and turn them into genuine friendships, how he would strategize and prepare for meetings, and how he had that special knack for making everyone he met feel special. A big part of growing up in your career is emulating the good qualities you see in people along the way. I feel I’ve been lucky to have so many to choose from.

Something that excites me moving forward is the opportunity to give back and help others as they begin their careers. I’m constantly on the lookout for people about to enter or who have recently entered the workforce who embrace the mentor/mentee style relationships. It’s probably one of the most rewarding aspects of my job today.

Is there a particular book, podcast, or film that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?

One book that I recently enjoyed was Dare to Lead by Brene Brown. This book introduced a concept to me that I didn’t really associate with business — vulnerability. After reading this book, it resonated with me that being vulnerable means you are taking a chance, that you have the courage to try something new, and that you accept the fact you will fail at some point but then do it anyway. Whether it’s your career path, a high-end target account, or a personal relationship — going after something big takes vulnerability, because you may fall flat on your face. This book inspired me to take reasonable risks, and to be selective on the criticism I listen to along the way.

Another one of my favorite books is 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey for so many reasons. If you step back and think about it, we all have the same hours in a day; what separates us is how we use them. This book teaches you about time management (Urgent vs Important),relationship building skills (Emotional Bank Accounts), and even touches on interpersonal interactions (“you can be effective with things but not people”). These are time-tested concepts that have become foundational in my approach to managing a large, complex enterprise.

Extensive research suggests that “purpose driven businesses” are more successful in many areas. When your company started, what was its vision, what was its purpose?

Our company has a 20-year heritage of helping customers store, manage, move and secure their most critical data.

In 2019, we underwent a rebrand of our organization. Before landing on the final name and organizational model, we consulted our employees to determine how they viewed the business because this rebrand was about more than just our name as it also represented a commitment to new leadership behaviours and values within the organization. Ultimately, we landed upon Aptum, which means “adaptability,” setting the tone for our company, brand, leadership style and, ultimately, our entity.

The word Aptum is born from Latin roots that strongly reflect our corporate vision. Adaptability is key to our success in meeting the evolving needs of not only our customers but also our employees by leveraging the potential of technology to solve complex business challenges. I think that’s even more important in today’s environment.

As one of a very few companies able to provide true hybrid infrastructure solutions, Aptum’s hybrid multi-cloud offerings and expert Managed and Professional Services provide total solutions and tailored options across North America, Latin America, the United Kingdom and Europe. We concentrate on enabling multi-cloud services for enterprises, while reinforcing our role as a leading hybrid solutions and managed service provider.

Are you working on any new, exciting projects now? How do you think that might help people?

We’re always looking to incorporate new technologies that help our customers evolve their businesses and become more adaptable.

In the past year, we launched several new solutions including Aptum Hybrid Cloud Manager, a powerful hybrid multi-cloud platform that enables customers to accelerate their cloud initiatives. It delivers visibility and control to plan migrations, optimize spend, secure data and automate critical tasks, all through a single pane of glass.

We also launched Managed Detection and Response (MDR) with our partner Alert Logic. Alert Logic MDR provides managed detection and response capabilities to help businesses extend understaffed security teams through a unique combination of award-winning technology platform, continuous threat research and analytics, and round-the-clock security experts.

We’re always assessing new technologies to determine if they will help our customers achieve their goals. If so, we’ll incorporate them into our portfolio.

Thank you for all that. Let’s now turn to the main focus of our discussion about Digital Transformation. For the benefit of our readers, can you help explain what exactly Digital Transformation means? On a practical level what does it look like to engage in a Digital Transformation?

Digital transformations are happening constantly, and the events of this past year have only accelerated them. Enterprises alike undergo digital transformations when forming a closer relationship to available technology, using it to increase efficiency and productivity.

To break it down, a digital transformation is the process of utilizing technologies to transform the way a business functions, often centered on cloud computing, big data and artificial intelligence. And, every organization’s transformation is unique to its needs — it is not a one size fits all approach.

I’m sure many can relate to the disruption that came with the rapid shift in remote work in early 2020. Both organizations and employees were catapulted into engaging in a digital transformation much quicker than previously anticipated. Typical, face-to-face business practices have become things of the past, among other valued functions that contributed towards the success of a company. Businesses had to shift to an online model, likely assuming cloud software, in order to continue ‘business as usual’ and adapt to the new era of remote work. Companies had to pivot their strategies to fit emerging needs and oftentimes found themselves lacking the expertise required to successfully migrate to new technologies.

Working with a managed serviced provider (MSP) can prove to be one of the most beneficial decisions a company can make to ensure success when undergoing a digital transformation and adopting new technologies. This provider can serve as a consultative partner, bringing value to the organization and helping to relieve any operational burdens. With an MSP provider, IT leaders can establish a strategy-first approach to technology that will help to create a more effective and attainable transformation journey.

Which companies can most benefit from a Digital Transformation?

Any companies seeking new ways to increase productivity and mobility among customers and employees would benefit greatly from engaging in a digital transformation. Many businesses choose to undergo digital transformations, including the enterprise, mid-market and small business markets.

From my experience, shifting to the cloud can speed up digital transformation for organizations, reduce costs and increase productivity. But none of those outcomes are guaranteed unless companies map their business objectives closely to their cloud infrastructure, ensuring they have the right cloud technologies to meet their goals.

We’d love to hear about your experiences helping others with Digital Transformation. In your experience, how has Digital Transformation helped improve operations, processes and customer experiences? We’d love to hear some stories if possible.

Organizations that invest in digital transformation and a data-centric business approach will always be steps ahead of their competition. When I say data-centric approach, I’m referring to IT infrastructure being designed around how businesses are capturing, managing and using their data — too often IT teams take the opposite approach. They build an infrastructure and then try to make their workloads fit into that infrastructure. What they should be doing instead is identifying their data workflows and then deciding what the optimal places for those workloads are, whether it’s the public cloud, a private cloud, at a co-location site, or on-premises.

Different types of data are better suited to different cloud environments. For example, driverless cars rely on a constant stream of data to accurately travel roads. That data needs to be processed at the network edge where there’s less delay because it has to be interpreted and acted upon in near real-time. On the other hand, data such as medical records may only be accessed once every several years, allowing it to be stored far off in the cloud because speed isn’t as important.

When looking to take full advantage of the cloud and move to a data-centric model, businesses should consider that the key to success is to start with the business problem you’re trying to solve and not with the technology you’re hoping to adopt.

Here’s an example that demonstrates the importance of first identifying your data workloads and then deciding the optimal place for those workloads:

A sharing platform, designed to ease collaboration among researchers, needed a complex infrastructure that could support millions of scientists from around the world. With more than one million shared projects, the platform’s users generate and share a lot of data. Ensuring that data is stored safely and can be accessed by appropriate researchers securely, was critical to this company’s business.

Aptum built a complex private cloud environment for the company. The infrastructure encompasses high-performance computing, big data analytics, an immense amount of storage and machine learning — everything the company needed to keep up with its rapid growth. With its technology solution in place, the company has continued to contribute to significant advancements in scientific research.

They prioritized their use of the data over everything else with a strategy-first approach. They built their infrastructures around their data needs — how it was being captured, managed and used — allowing them to make the best use of their technology investments and deliver solid business outcomes, by putting the right data, on the right cloud, for the right reasons.

Has integrating Digital Transformation been a challenging process for some companies? What are the challenges? How do you help resolve them?

There are always bumps in the road when undergoing any kind change. Organizations must first have a holistic view into business operations to identify the needs of the company. Then, they can go on to develop a strategic approach leaving no rock, or file, unturned. This will allow for a smoother transition versus trying to rush a digital transformation with no clear view into what needs to be achieved, and how.

IT leaders must take into account the four pillars of transformation — process, people, technology and culture — as the digital transformation will become an operating model for the business. This will help the company mold and adapt to and support how these fundamental pillars may evolve as a result.

Finally, having a full understanding of the cost and ROI of the transformation will alleviate potential challenges down the road, specifically as it relates to security and compliance, which are often forgotten. For example, if a company experiences a multi-cloud transformation, they must look at how to manage identity, customer data privacy and data loss prevention across multiple disparate SaaS and IaaS solutions.

Ok. Thank you. Here is the primary question of our discussion. Based on your experience and success, what are “Five Ways a Company Can Use Digital Transformation To Take It To The Next Level”? Please share a story or an example for each.

In your opinion, how can companies best create a “culture of innovation” in order to create new competitive advantages?

Company culture is key to unlocking true success of any business initiative or goal. It is vital to create a company culture where change and innovation is not only accepted but embraced. This will give businesses the ability to adapt and survive sudden fluctuations in the marketplace and society.

As a global company, we are committed to maintaining open communications about goals, opportunities, and challenges and encourage employees at all levels to ask questions, provide comments and feedback to foster a workplace that enables innovation and adaptability which in turn benefits Aptum as an organization and our customers.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

There is a popular book right now by NY Times bestselling author Mark Manson that talks about fault and responsibility. It reminds me of my teenage years, when I would carelessly throw around the phrase “it’s not my fault Dad!” and expect my parents to turn a blind eye. I hear that phrase from my children today, and ironically enough I also hear it in the workplace. The reality is there are times when we must take responsibility for things that aren’t our fault.

As a leader I almost never look at fault for something that has already happened — I have no influence over it. I look for problem solvers and those individuals who have the courage to take responsibility and find solutions even when it’s not their fault. It leads to improvement and contributes to success. One of my favorite quotes is a Zig Zigler quote “When you do more than you’re paid to do, you will eventually be paid more for what you do”. I relate with this quote as it rewards people who take extreme responsibility. This concept has served me well over the years and people that know me well know I look for it in other leaders.

How can our readers further follow your work?

They can find me on LinkedIn — https://www.linkedin.com/in/leighton-plumley/

Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!

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