Q&A With VP Jon Rolls: Ivanti Is on a Roll With User Workspace Management

From mathematician to systems engineer to Ivanti VP of product management, Jon Rolls is fully engaged in a job that never stops.

As a product expert with Ivanti, your travels frequently take you to conferences and expos, meetings / presentations with customers and prospects, product advisory councils, meetings with industry analysts and the media, etc. What did you experience recently and / or what’s on the horizon for you over the next six to eight weeks?   

The RES Software acquisition has been the hottest thing in my world for the last few weeks, and will continue to dominate our User Workspace Management business strategy for the foreseeable future. As we travel around the world talking to customers, partners, analysts, and the whole ecosystem, we learn that Office 365 adoption and Windows 10 migration remain huge initiatives and challenges, with the hardest part of these projects being how to minimize downtime and maintain user productivity, and at Ivanti we have unique solutions to achieve that.

The other massive shift is to move infrastructure and management systems to the cloud, and we are already piloting running our servers in Azure and learning how to minimize our operational costs.

Narrowing down to just one of the items in your answer to question #1, what was / will be your purpose for being there and what did / do you hope to accomplish?

Citrix Synergy in May in Orlando, Florida is the biggest event of the year completely focused on desktop virtualization and end user computing. We had a large and highly visible presence there so that we could:

(a) get the new company name out into the community;

(b) underline our commitment and investment in security and optimizing virtual desktops;

(c) expose the Citrix community to our wider product portfolio; and

(d) expose Ivanti sales reps and systems engineers to the world of desktop virtualization and the huge opportunity we have.

We had a massively successful event, lots of leads and opportunities created, four roadmap sessions, an outstanding booth, and a massively over-attended party! We definitely got the message across that Ivanti is not just the new name for AppSense, but represents a far wider set of software solutions and a major force in the world of IT software vendors.

Which way are the industry winds blowing?

Cloud. Cloud. Cloud. IT is done with deploying infrastructure and storage on-premises, and wants to use hosted solutions delivered as-a-Service whenever possible. A corresponding shift is from perpetual licensing to subscription pricing, whether solutions are deployed on-premises or from the cloud. This represents the way that CFOs and CIOs increasingly view IT as a business enabler and a service to empower the business. Optimizing and automating that service to reduce costs is more in-focus than ever.

What are your three key takeaways / insights / epiphanies surrounding the future of Ivanti in the market space you’re primarily involved with? Where do you foresee both the challenges and opportunities for the company?

The RES acquisition is a great way to expand our footprint in the User Workspace Management space, and also acquire some impressive technology in the service management and automation space that will bolster our ITSM efforts. Our primary challenge is bridging the worlds of service management and automation in IT with the teams that management day-to-day operations in end user computing, and endpoint and datacenter security. This holistic IT vision sounds simple enough, but we have to bring groups together in IT that traditionally operate independently. We have to graduate from point solution sales to selling an integrated solution to the whole business. The important thing is that we have 25,000+ customers where we already have a significant foothold, and from there we can expand our influence.

More specifically to my product lines, we have to continue to serve users of both physical and virtual endpoints. The virtual desktop space is relatively flat (although still a multi-billion-dollar market!), but there is huge upside in improving user experience on physical desktops, and we already have our solutions on millions of physical endpoints. As I mentioned before, the adoption of Office 365 and Windows 10 are the biggest market opportunities that we can use to gain new customers.

What was your professional journey like to get you where you are today? What were some of the unexpected hurdles and some of the unexpected benefits?

After a pure mathematics degree, followed by 18 months learning hard sales skills on the road at Canada Life, I was ready to get back behind a desk and took a QA job at a software company where a friend worked (Insignia Solutions). That was an amazing technology grounding and after a couple of years I found myself helping Systems Engineers, then I became one, and then I went through Technical/Product Marketing into Product Management which is my most natural home! I love the spread of skills and knowledge required, bridging the technical and commercial aspects of the company, and taking responsibility for the strategic and tactical directions of a product line. As I grew in seniority I also discovered the joy of hiring great product managers and giving them authority and ownership as they in turn expand their careers and learn how they can make a huge difference to the business.

The biggest challenge in Product Management is always that you have no direct authority—no one actually works for you! Product direction and strategy has to be driven by influencing the R&D leaders, and staying close to the Sales and SE teams. Data is king! And keeping your ear to the ground at all times, watching the industry, and building a network. And it’s a job that never stops! Yes, I’m writing this at 4:30 pm on a Sunday afternoon in a few quiet moments.

If you were stranded on a desert island with a CD player, what are the top three music CD’s you’d want with you?

Peter Gabriel – So

Sting – Ten Summoner’s Tales

Allan Holdsworth – Atavachron

And the best thing about being on a desert island is that no one could hear my painful attempts to sing along.