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Box and MongoDB CEOs discuss software and the future of work

In a conversation over dinner last week in New York with a small gathering of tech journalists, the CEOs of MongoDB other cash register shared their thoughts on software, the future of work, and how the return to the office is playing out. While individual companies are making their own decisions amid shifting responses to the pandemic, there are high-profile leverage points that could influence such trends.

“Two people on the planet will determine Silicon Valley’s return to power: It will be Sundar and Tim,” Box CEO Aaron Levie said, referring to Alphabet and Apple CEOs Sundar Pichai and Tim Cook, respectively. “Whatever happens, that will eventually leak out.” Levie explained that smaller tech companies could stick with remote work or return to the office as a competitive advantage in response to moves by market giants on a full return to the office.

Many organizations may be figuring out how to navigate the path ahead, just as employees are walking their own paths. Looking back from the early days of the pandemic to now, Levie said she has seen some people leave more established companies to test out the startup scene and return to their old stomping grounds.

“The office is just a place”

It also demystified some notions surrounding the office, such as being the only place where teams can exchange ideas rather than allowing for hybrid operations. “Every company is going to have to figure out how to work in this hybrid way and digitally is going to be the way that everything will eventually be mediated,” Levie said. “The office is just a place where you can choose to do some of that, or you can choose to do it from the beach, from your house, or from your apartment. Companies will have to figure out how to ensure work can continue no matter where the actual physical location is.”

A common refrain heard from the early days of the pandemic was the rapid shift of many companies to cloud and remote operations, an acceleration of previous timelines. But apart from the pandemic, major changes to technology infrastructure and operations seem to take a long time to make. When asked about the pace of technological change, with some changes wallowing in the “early days” phase for years, Levie pointed to the scope of creating large-scale innovations. He also pointed out the time it takes to develop the infrastructure to transition to something new. “AI as an example, we’re probably like the first entry into anything relevant to what AI is really driving,” Levie said. “These are multi-million dollar market changes. Things that change are on the edge of what’s going on.”

More immediate changes, he said, could be overlooked because of their apparent banality, such as the evolution of data models in databases.

Still, companies are exploring which technology options make sense for their operations, even if change may seem slow. MongdoDB CEO Dev Ittycheria said his customers care about cost reduction and efficiency, and in terms of the company’s overall migration to the cloud and digitization, he said it was still in the early stages. For example, Ittycheria said his company has seen some banks struggle to move workloads to the cloud, including resolving legacy technology. However, he also sees more outliers looking to leverage the cloud for flexibility and agility. “When I talk to my vendors, girls and clients,” Ittycheria said, “there’s a greater appetite to drive more efficiency.”

Figuring out the efficiency of MongoDB has meant exploring a combination of options. Ittycheria said his company was fully remote until last year, when MongoDB introduced working models for some team members to remain fully remote, others to return to the office full-time, and another segment to operate under an in-office hybrid for two hours. or three days along with remote work.

Benefits in the office

Ittycheria spoke favorably of the return to the office, saying it can more easily offer workers feedback or guidance from other staff members who are also present. He also cited the community and social benefits of team members communicating directly in the office, though such claims raised questions about why that should matter to a worker who recognizes that his employer does not have the same kind of relationship with him as a dude. . Ittycheria posited that office work presents opportunities for skill and career development. “We can offer a lot of growth roles,” she said. “People stay for that.”

Still, many companies trying to get back up to speed face shortages of engineers and other technical talent essential to developing software and applications that power many businesses. Platforms and resources such as low code/no code continue to be explored to help fill some gaps in the software development cycle. “People want to automate almost everything in the process,” Ittycheria said.

After dinner ended, Levie shared his thoughts with InformationWeek on questions raised on other matters, namely the rise of a software-driven world fueled by data. “We have the data; Have we been able to use it effectively to create a better customer experience, a more efficient business model, a better employee experience? I think we’re actually entering an era where, ‘So what’… now is the biggest thing,” she said. “Can you, as an insurance provider, lower the cost of insurance for your customers to get more customers?”

At a time when data privacy regulations have gone into effect in states like California or legislation is being debated in other states and nationally, the data-hungry marketplace faces new challenges that may drive other kinds of transformation among businesses. . “This is the key that is thrown into gear,” Levie said, “which is at a time when you have to generate more data, have your workflows and experiences powered by data, you also have data privacy challenges, that might be different by industry, by geography, so building software that allows you to meet all of those needs and deliver a great experience, that’s hard. That’s harder than ever.”

What to read next:

The moment of return to the office generates discord

Bring your IT staff back to the office

How remote workers can keep their careers on track in a back-to-office world

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