Unlocking productivity: 3 key priorities for tech leaders in the age of AI

By Chet Kapoor, Chairman and CEO of DataStax

In tech, success means embracing change and moving fast. With the rise of AI, leaders are re-thinking how they drive productivity and execution within their teams. Here, I’ll share perspectives from industry experts on winning in today’s constantly evolving landscape.

1. Leverage the power of asynchronous communication

Productivity starts with finding the right tools, eliminating as many meetings as possible, and using documentation as a means of collaboration to work asynchronously.

Jeetu Patel heads up security and collaboration at Cisco and has been helping teams across the globe work together asynchronously.

“Async is not just about messaging,” Jeetu told me recently. “Using video allows you to infuse tone that’s missed in chat. Every couple weeks, I will send my team a video message sharing what’s top of mind for me. They all respond and react.”

In fact, when people ask Jeetu for a one-on-one meeting, he has them send a video message first. This helps with reducing unnecessary and redundant meetings, and it keeps people aligned across different job functions and time zones. Plus, video is more personal than Slack or Google Docs.

Although hybrid work is here to stay, Jeetu argues that there’s a human connection element that we have to maintain among teams. With the right tools and practices – including some in-person collaboration – it’s totally possible.

2. Transform time management from reactive to proactive

There’s a lot to be said for organizing your inbox and time blocking your calendar. But what happens when you have 10 minutes before your next meeting or your current meeting ends early? How do you get the most out of a few extra minutes? How do you turn idle time into productive time?

Jennifer Smith, CEO and Co-Founder of Scribe, is an expert at time management and encourages taking a proactive approach.

“A radically different way of approaching time management and energy management starts with the fundamental question: “What do you want? What are you trying to achieve? What’s most important for you to get done today?” Jennifer says.

Maybe you spend your free time checking your inbox or pinging someone about a non-critical item. This is your brain in reactive mode, according to Jennifer. Instead, think about the five most important things you need to get done today. Then use those 10 extra minutes to work on one of your priorities.

Still, even the most productive people need time to disconnect. It’s impossible to always be “on,” but Jennifer believes that you can even be proactive about your downtime. For example, she goes on daily walks with her son and intentionally leaves her phone at home.

Jennifer’s message is simple and clear: Effective time management comes down to knowing your priorities and being proactive.

3. Embrace data-driven decision-making

I’ve always said you can’t buy a data culture – you have to build it. This is more critical than ever because AI technologies can leverage the power of data in ways that were previously unimaginable. At DataStax, we start by using data everywhere, and then going beyond the data to get insights that change the way we make decisions.

Mark Nelson has spent decades doing this at companies like Tableau and Oracle. His advice? Start small and look for areas where data can make a real impact.

“Pick the spots where you know you have a problem that can be well instrumented, where you can get good data and then grow from there. It will become a very virtuous cycle once people see the power of what you can do when you have good data, when you have a good data culture and data processes,” Mark says.

But data alone doesn’t drive smart decision-making. You need human instincts and intellect, too.

“Data is an amazing tool. … But in reality, the magic happens when this amazing tool is put in the hands of humans. It is the combination of the tool with human intellect that leads to amazing insights because now you have more information that helps you make these decisions,” Mark says.

Wrapping it Up

This is the most exciting time tech has seen since the creation of the internet, and it will redefine the way we define productivity in the enterprise and society. As you navigate the rapid pace of change and experiment with new tools, remember to prioritize asynchronous communication, proactive time management, and data-driven decision-making.

You can find more insights on leadership in the age of AI on our latest season of Inspired Execution, featuring world-class experts like Jyoti Bansal (Harness CEO), Cynthia Stoddard (Adobe CIO), Marco Argenti (Goldman CIO) and Shankar Arumugavelu (Verizon CDO/CIO).

About Chet Kapoor:

Chet is Chairman and CEO of DataStax. He is a proven leader and innovator in the tech industry with more than 20 years in leadership at innovative software and cloud companies, including Google, IBM, BEA Systems, WebMethods, and NeXT. As Chairman and CEO of Apigee, he led company-wide initiatives to build Apigee into a leading technology provider for digital business. Google (Apigee) is the cross-cloud API management platform that operates in a multi- and hybrid-cloud world. Chet successfully took Apigee public before the company was acquired by Google in 2016. Chet earned his B.S. in engineering from Arizona State University.

Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning