Driving Digital Transformation Across Change-Resistant Italy

In this Tech Barometer podcast segment, meet two guys who built a team to help businesses across Italy modernize IT systems with software-defined, hyperconverged infrastructure. Learn why they’re just scratching the surface.

By Jason Lopez

By Jason Lopez March 13, 2020

To most people outside the country, Italy evokes the delight of pizza and mandolins. But for Alberto Filisetti and Christian Turcati, their country, which is steeped in tradition with a diverse mix of regional dialects and cultures, is a place where change doesn’t come easy. Yet in just a few short years, the Nutanix Italy Country Manager and Technical Director grew a team that won over hundreds of customers who want Nutanix to help them with digital transformation.

In this Tech Barometer segment, Filisetti and Turcati tell how they started out as two guys driving demo gear to potential customers in far away regions, and share why they believe they’re just scratching the surface.

TRANSCRIPT (unedited)

CHRISTIAN TURCATI: You know a lot of people think about Italian as a country and talking about pizza, pasta, and mandolin and I can tell you we love pizza, we love pasta. No one play mandolin anymore. A lot of Mediterranean country are very stick to tradition and the same is also in IT.
ALBERTO FILISETTI: Someone asked me who's your biggest competitor, my answer, it was our culture because change in Italy is not easy.
KEN KAPLAN: Italy is steeped in tradition. Even when it comes to IT, change is not easy. I’m Ken Kaplan for the Tech Barometer podcast. Recently I chatted with two Italian pioneers on the front lines of the shift from hardware centric to software defined. Alberto Filisetti is the country manager for Nutanix Italy and Christian Turcati is the technical director. Here’s my conversation with them recorded between sessions at the 2019 Nutanix Europe conference in Copenhagen.

Alberto: I had a car big enough to put inside a demo machine unfortunately to the first floor. And bringing in my home, the demo machine, it was not really easy but that was a part of the game at the beginning.
Ken: Alberto was the first to bring Nutanix technology to Italy… just a few short years after the company launched in 2009. One of his first employees, Christian Turcati recounts a similar experience.
Christian: I told my wife I'm joining a software company. And in the end I have my car full of boxes and my garage box too and so she was saying, you’re in a software company, you’re still moving boxes.
Ken: Is that changing now that we go to subscription, that you also get rid of the boxes, you hope.
Christian: It’s changing a lot honestly. So our strategy to become more software defined, it's really becoming concrete and customer also realize that we are not anymore on appliance technology and very enjoy the flexibility to use software in the environment and different hardware as they prefer.
Ken: Talk to me how it was in those early days that you were bringing customers what and what did they want?
Christian: So we was bringing technology to the customer in our car. So we just tell them what these technologies is looking to do or can help them and after we was just the open our car and show how it works in reality because we tell them things that are very disruptive and after you showing few minutes how works, it’s really impressive.
Ken: What was the thing that they saw and were convinced?
Alberto: I tell you one interesting story. I was a more or less a 400 kilometers far from my home. So I would get up at about 3:00 AM. I went to take back and appliance to a customer to bring to another one. It was really interesting to test our solution box. And so I left him the box. It was Friday evening and what I said to the customer, it was don't talk the next week or we'll engage with a distributor, but we support you in building the environment using Nutanix. I was working during the week on my PC, and suddenly I started to receive email with picture. And the picture was Prism picture from the customer and I said, what are you doing? Oh, I’ve stolen Nutanix. How did you do it? Well, I taken a look on YouTube. I found some interesting video and I recopnfigure completely the machine starting from scratch and it's running. Oh, but wait, I stolen also SAP with a ASA database. It’s fantastic. So you understand what’s with this disruption of Nutanix, this guy never faced Nutanix, didn't any training and so on. And starting from scratch was about to build a complete infrastructure using our technology, SAP integration before we announced it. So that was really disruptive for the customer.
Ken: You describe kind of the era that we're in that people can just grab stuff and go with it if they believe it. What was holding them back before they were struggling to make the pieces work and you came in to help them with something like prism connect everything easily.
Alberto: Yeah, they struggle in doing, more or less, everything because you cannot take days in providing an application. Only because you take days to provide the VM to run the application. You cannot takes weeks to upgrade the end infrastructure. You cannot have people dedicated to, with additional infrastructure, only to do stupid the things day by day. Nutanix was really the answer to all these pains the customer had. So to be more business oriented, to allow them to be really competitive in the market.
Ken: What changes have you seen, what customers want or how their needs are changing?
Christian: So the transformation from customer point of view was really surprised us. You know a lot of people think about Italian as a country and talking about pizza, pasta, and mandolin and I can tell you we love pizza, we love pasta. No one play mandolin anymore. A lot of Mediterranean country are very stick to tradition and the same is also of IT. So people try to use the same technology but what differentiates Italy is that we try to maximize everything from the technology. The customer start to understand that Nutanix platform is so flexible that can they do what they want at the time that they want. And so it's really shifting their mind and they clearly understood our message becoming computing invisible is becoming key. And so the journey started to simplify infrastructe IT and move it to cloud. And it was easy for us to have the right feedback from the customer, that is a journey they want to do. And so there’s a match between traditions and a new way to think.
Alberto: If you think about Italians we are strange because, in the beginning when someone asked me who’s your biggest competitor, my answer, it was our culture. Because change in Italy is not easy. But to the other side is strange what's happened because you know, Nutanix is really well known as a VDI company. It was in 2012, 2013. But in Italy we never sold VDI, by the way, we got the big data integration. We got a database on Nutanix. We got all the possible strange integration. We did it. No VDI at all. So people in Italy are black and white. They continue to use a traditional architecture or they completely completely change. And Nutanix was the driver also for this change.
Ken: Let's talk about some of these challenges of Italy. People aren't playing mandolin and we talk about tradition and not changes, but there's so many cultures in a small area and you're covering the whole country.
Christian: In the beginning we was just a few guys so we'd travel everywhere. And you know, we use that raw style to create intimacy to the customer. To be clear to understand that you say that is local to every focal point. So we decide to arm people with local content. So the idea was really strategic to have people coming from the region that they have a strong knowledge and intimity for our local customer.
Alberto: I will add also a local dialect because if you go to sell in the northeast of Italy or you the speak local dialect, forget to sell anything. You cannot simply. They don't trust you. Christian: So what we really work is to find the right balance between local resources, cover all the country, be close to small customer and even big customer. And it's not more difficult to sell to the enterprise. The difficulties are the same because with Nutanix we are going to a core on the production, on the customer, whatever is the dimension of their needs.
Ken: Do you have any memories of like the most remote place or the trip that a customer took you to a place you hadn't seen in Italy?
Christian: To have a Nutanix block on a gondola in Venice is something really unique.
Alberto: To bring the machine to the customer, we put on a sort of gondola. It was amazing. We got a picture that really represents that this kind of customer because Venice isn't any place.
Ken: I feel like you're raising your game, right? You have a bigger team, you have more customers. What's your new drive desire.
Christian: For business point of view, we start to find the right intimacy with the customer working a specific use case but you're not becoming strategic to your customer. And so now our challenge is to become really a full platform that customer can rely for all the workload, but also their digital transformation to become very multicloud or hybrid cloud, whatever they needs.
Alberto: And that's from a country perspective, business perspective. Go with a personal one. What's your challenge?
Christian: My challenge is to balance my time because I love to stay at customers' side, but as you, you know, when the team is growing, there's also internal needs. And so this balance is something that is my focus, uh, because I think is really strategic. We need to have the team energized, because when people is energized, bringing the same energy and the same passion of the customer. Customers fully love about the people sometimes more the technology. And this is something very close to our country and tradition style.
Ken: If I can ask, how is it finding talent?
Christian: So in particular as I'm covering the technical role, candidates are coming, thinking that technology background is the key. In Nutanix it’s not enough. The culture of the people joining the team, it’s the key. And we see the best talent with are today in Nutanix, Italy, it’s not the best CV or the best background, is the people that want to bring their personality inside the business and trust this is not just selling a box, but is driving a change inside the IT technology and landscape.
Ken: To me it's a, it's a remarkable story that, you know, you are one person and two, and I think it's a remark…
Alberto: Two, three, four, and we are really too many. Sometimes I look back and I think when I was alone it was, for sure, not enough, and now we build something really special. I couldn't expect this kind of growth. During interview someone asked me, what do you think Nutanix will be in three years? And my simple answer if I think about to be able sell what we had in 2012, I simply can answer that we just a scratch the surface of our market. Try to think about what's happened from 2012 until now. We've got so many solution to bring to the customer to solve, so many pains, so many needs that we've got a future. We just started the game. Looking ahead we can be only successful, but as Christian said we need to find the right people in the right talent. That's the secret and it's not easy.
Ken: Many people would look at what you, as you're pioneering a lot of change in Italy. Like how does it feel to be on the edge of innovation or pushing innovation to people you think could benefit?
Christian: This is an interesting question, as you say we are a pioneer. Now I think we start something again from scratch. We’re still at the beginning of the Nutanix journey. It's something different between selling something and be part of the customer transformation. And services, for us, it's very key and I think it's a day by day activity but still energize you to wake up in the morning. I see the same energy inside the team. So we are super happy about our team and what we build as Nutanix Italy.
Alberto: Yeah, the customer obsession is the key and it’s the secret also to go inside the customer and to move together with our Nutanix journey. It's not easy, by the way, as Christian said, we started virtualizing the storage and now we do something completely different that we can speak with a customer about digital transformation. We need to take the hands of the customer and to bring him in this journey together. That's a better stronger challenge for the future.
KEN: Toward the end of the interview we switched to Italian. I did my best to get the first question out… I don’t know if I'll say right. Comme fatto comence questo professionale, see, I don’t know… IN ITALIAN Alberto and Christian
Ken: Talk about what you're going to do in Copenhagen, like who you’re going to go talk to.
IN ITALIAN Alberto and Christian KEN: What started off as one guy in his car driving across Italy demoing Nutanix technology has blossomed into offices in Milan and Rome… and their sales force is growing. This is the Tech Barometer podcast, part of the online news publication, The Forecast. You can find more stories and podcasts at Nutanix dot com slash the forecast by nutanix.

Modernizing IT in Italy, Where Change Doesn’t Come Easily

Jason Lopez is executive producer of Tech Barometer, the podcast outlet for The Forecast. He’s the founder of Connected Social Media. Previously, he was executive producer at PodTech and a reporter at NPR.

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