Pivotal’s software factory at heart of a disruptive world

The Dell-owned software development agency is not as well-known as other web era stars but is just as important

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Some technology companies are so well known that they become iconic: Think Apple for design excellence, Microsoft for personal productivity, or Google for search. Others are also hugely influential but rarely appear on brand index reports because they operate in the engine room, making the picks and shovels without which modern gold rushes couldn’t take place.

One such company is Pivotal which helps companies insert some Silicon Valley mojo through its programmers and methodologies. The name might not mean much to the person in the street but the company is the go-to brand for large organisations that are being disrupted by pesky startups or otherwise feel the need to improve their software approaches. Ask HSBC, Sainsbury’s, BMW, Daimler, Volkswagen, or Allianz—they’re all customers of this modern software factory that rents out its people and processes to some of the world’s biggest brands.

“The world is flat and technology and software have proven that,” says Leo Spiegel, Pivotal’s SVP for corporate strategy when we spoke by phone recently. He’s echoing Thomas L. Friedman’s view that the modern economy is global and unfair advantages no longer exist, so pressure is placed on incumbents and those that used to have unfair advantages based on where they were from or inertia in markets.

“All of these industries have been challenged by cloud-native companies and they all have the same issue,” Spiegel concludes.

Pivotal’s role is to catalyse some fresh thinking and talent and, Spiegel says, new processes and the right people. That said, he concedes that some customers can still make rookie errors in a world where digitisation and new development models can still deliver shocks. There can sometimes be a “frozen middle” when it doesn’t work it, he says. “People at the top are saying ‘we must become digital’ and there are people at the bottom who desperately want to do the right thing and innovate, but you have this middle layer. They’re afraid and feel they’re not up to speed, and that they’re going to lose their jobs.”

You might argue that another reason for Pivotal being something of a hidden gem is that it resides in the complex and federated world of Dell Technologies, alongside EMC, VMware, RSA, Virtustream, SecureWorks, and others.

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