Core pieces of the intelligence function in times of corporate change can be revisited.

Allyse Nockels concluded Aurora WDC’s RECONVERGE Tuesday schedule with her views on how to navigate the corporate game; she provided a practitioner’s cheat code based on her experiences to help.

What is reinvention? asks Nockels. In her definition, it is the action or process through which something is changed so much that it appears to be entirely new. Twitter serves as an example—they were created as a network for podcasts, and then repositioned themselves in the face of competition to provide the service we know.

Avon is another example—one travelling book salesman decided to give out free perfume samples and discovered a business in beauty products rather than book sales. He decided women needed to sell to women in promoting this brand.

And, Nintendo changed the gaming industry. Before video games, Nintendo focused on playing cards, among other enterprises. Their turning point was when Walt Disney approached them to place Mickey and Minnie Mouse on playing cards. Nintendo found the characters had value, and pivoted into video games with use of characters.

Reinvention in gaming—Xbox, Playstation, and Wii changed the way we define free time, and transformed where we spend our recreational time—consumers moved from the video arcade to their living rooms as gaming evolved.

Parallels exist between Mario game releases and Nockels’ career.

At her 10-year anniversary at her current employer, she found herself “locked in her house” due to bad weather, and consequently playing Mario, an event to prompt her consideration of parallels.

Before her time at McAffee, the CI function was “archaic and simplistic”—no research plans or templates existed—staff liked to “play with new toys.” In order to move up in a Mario game, Mario needs to eliminate competitors. The work team, also, resorted to research and established ROI by their association with sales. This increased credibility allowed them to invest in her, and subsequently build a CI team.

Nockels joined in “The good old 8-bit days,” and came in with process and structure familiar to her from a previous employer. These tools were similar to the tools Mario uses—the CI structure, then, became increasingly sophisticated with a new tool set.

The ROI of working with the sales function grew as the CI team expanded sales support. The sales team was pressured in a highly competitive market, and the CI team needed to help drive strategy—the first step was to focus on core business needs.

They balanced sales requests with competitor, and made great progress in presenting to channel partners, beta testing, driving roadmap decisions and then—the unthinkable. Her company was acquired by McAffee just as Mario became Super Mario—the game absolutely changed.

And they already had an existing CI function.

Many staffers lost their jobs, but the CI team remained due to their relationship with the sales area.

During a time of change, org chart changes are prevalent and the CI team viewed it as an opportunity to get back to their CI roots.

In one org change, the VP of sales left, and the CI team indicated they did not want to do sales advocacy, but rather return to CI. They shared more insights, and exerted pressure on the existing McAffee team. They went back to product management—where they started. Sales advocacy was no longer part of the deal.

However, compromise was required. A PM team in a business unit wanted to acquire them; they had to focus only on half of the things they knew.

The advantage was it afforded time for the team to build credibility.

They did technological deep dives on the competition, worked on road maps, eliminated sales advocacy, and renewed focus prompted them to make their manager “a rock star.” The management team was competitive, and they hoped to instill jealousy in other management such that they would be asked by others to assist them with similar resources.

The agreement was that this could occur—but only if they could add staff.

They changed reporting structure again and moved up in the organization.

They were able to add two more business units, and consequently, add staff…which allowed them to cover the entire product portfolio.

And then another change.

Intel acquired McAffee, and the game changed again.

A resulting issue was a loss of talent; cultures in hardware and software companies differ and trouble ensued.

Executives with whom they’d developed good relationships left the company to form startups in the security industry, and poached talent.

New competitors, then, were introduced.

Their product manager left, and the CI unit needed a new home—but first had to convince management they needed to remain centralized. Nockels was able to preserve the team, but they still had to be located somewhere in the organization, and wound up in engineering.

Nockels sought to provide team members a career path, but also to gain legitimacy. This opened up exposure to more than intel as they became part of engineering.

Gaining access to help make strategic decisions got them involved in divestiture, a painful process as everyone in the group was reshuffled in product coverage—a problem as institutional and relationship knowledge was lost in the transfer. Flexibility is important for CI practitioners who may be forced to play a brand new game.

“Sometimes you just need to go karting,” notes Nockels. Build a trust and support mechanisms so you can ask questions, gain feedback—and have fun.

Emerging competitors changed the landscape, some were unethical, and the sales team struggled. They needed the help of the CI team.

The CI group helped the sales staff to build confidence as they made clarifications about the competition.

The office environment changed as many had to work from home, and communication needed to be preserved. Improvements in communication channels were found in Slack and an open-voice communication channel to mimic an office environment.

One last change was that Nockels had to relate with intel legal. Don’t assume that all leadership will look at the code of conduct, she notes. Consequently, the CI team had “pushed the envelope” in ethics, and rigid rules were implemented. Negotiations ensued and finally the CI team is able to now work under new guidelines.

And, Intel divested themselves of McAffee—and the CI team was back to their roots.

Persistence and patience pays off!