The Role of IT and Finance in the Era of Responsible Business Growth

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This is a podcast episode titled, The Role of IT and Finance in the Era of Responsible Business Growth. The summary for this episode is: <p>With tumultuous market conditions, rising interest rates and general economic uncertainty, organizations are no longer spending with abandon in pursuit of growth. Rather, we’re entering a new era of business - we’re witnessing the rise of responsible growth. Business leaders are going back to business fundamentals, focusing on efficiency and challenging their organizations to accomplish more with less. IT and Finance leaders are optimally positioned to lead their organizations into this next era and make responsible growth a reality.</p><p><br></p>
Introduction to the SaaSMe Keynote
01:56 MIN
The definitions of responsible business growth from finance and IT leaders
03:30 MIN
What does a change mindset look like at a company embracing responsible business growth?
03:51 MIN
The relationship between IT and finance
01:33 MIN
Sam's advice for collaborating between IT and finance
01:55 MIN
Business intimacy and true collaboration in collecting and leveraging data
02:22 MIN
SaaS and transparency, reducing software overlap
02:33 MIN
Thinking about license reclamations programmatically, a continuous improvement framework
02:30 MIN
Balancing efficiency and business growth, governance and communicating with a process mindset
03:21 MIN
Software is growing, how Casey leverages and optimizes SaaS
04:20 MIN
The KLO black box, and harnessing data that drives financial outcomes
03:52 MIN
Shadow IT and an agile mindset balancing risk
03:14 MIN
Convincing your CFO that SaaS is a worthy prioritization
03:48 MIN
What advice would you give yourself if you could go back three years?
03:18 MIN

Jason Leet: Thank you, Eric. Hello everyone, and welcome to today's SaaSMe keynote where we'll be covering the role of IT and finance. In the era of responsible business growth. We've all been experiencing tumultuous market conditions, rising interest rates, and general economic uncertainty. And as a result, over the past year, we've entered a new era of responsible business growth. We're back to focusing on business fundamentals, driving efficiency and accomplishing more with less. And we believe IT and finance leaders are optimally positioned to lead this change. And we have two of those leaders joining us today. I'd like to welcome Casey Santos, the Chief Information Officer at Asurion, and Sam Chung, the Chief Transformation Officer at Salesforce. Thank you both for joining us today. Casey, could you please further introduce yourself to the audience?

Casey Santos: Sure. I'm Casey Santos and I'm CIO of a company called Asurion. I've been in the tech industry for many, many years and been in Asurion for two years in this role. And I have also the role of being head of indirect procurement. So both the spend and the technology piece is really important to me on both sides. As a company, what we do is provide tech support, claims warranty support, for mobile devices, electronics in your home, pretty much anything with a power button with over 300 million customers globally. And we're based in Nashville, Tennessee.

Jason Leet: Great. Well welcome. And Sam?

Sam Chung: Hi Jason. Sam Chung, the Chief Transformation Officer at Salesforce. We're the number one CRM provider in the world right now. I have worked at Salesforce for many years and in tech for decades. Like Casey, most of my career has been spent in finance. But in this role as the chief transformation officer, my role is to essentially transform Salesforce to help us continue to scale, to grow, to be a company that's 2 to 3x the size we are right now, while also being one of the most profitable software companies in the world. And at the heart of that is really around transforming our customer relationships and our experiences for our employees.

Jason Leet: That's great. Welcome Sam. Great to have both of you. So let's jump right in with a question for both of you. So I think as we've seen throughout our career over the expanse time, markets will swing the pendulum of rewarding companies disproportionately between either outsized growth or outsized profits. And over this past year, markets have shifted back toward a focus more on profits and therefore, responsible business growth, versus this mentality of growth at all costs. Given its current importance, what does responsible business growth mean to you as a finance leader and an IT leader, respectively? What's your definition of responsible business growth? Casey, let's start with you.

Casey Santos: Yeah, I'll start. I think first of all, this isn't the first cycle that Sam and I've probably been in our careers as far as going from a very high growth time to coming back into something that settles into more reality and thinking about things. But this one feels a little different just because we've been through so many highs and lows in such a short period of time since COVID. And so I think what's interesting is we had to start looking at, and I think every company is looking at the rising cost of doing business with growth that's maybe not quite so extreme as it has been over the last year or so. And so making sure that your growth and your cost curves are not going to ever intersect because that's never a good thing when your growth is here and your cost is going like this. Eventually, that's going to be a bad outcome. So I think a lot of companies are looking at where did we basically make decisions that were maybe weren't as efficient as we had hoped because we needed to grow really fast? Where are the places where we might have things that are just inefficient in costs or things that we can get the same work done? Because that work's not going away. How do we do that in a way that's responsible, that could still be able to develop new products, think about new ways to transform the business? And that's really where we've been digging in to understand all of our spend and where to be more efficient.

Jason Leet: That's great. Sam?

Sam Chung: Well obviously, I agree with everything that Casey just said. I think certainly the characteristics of a company today, one that can be disciplined in the way they think about their top line performance and expectations in the future, while also driving increased profitability and cash flow is extremely important, especially in today's market. I also feel like what is happening right now is I think companies around the world are really looking for those leaders who can embody the principles behind disciplined growth, and show them the path to doing so in the markets in which they operate. And really being a beacon of someone who can actually balance the equation both on top line and on bottom line. At Salesforce, I think we really believe that we live by our values. And as Casey mentioned, lots have changed in the last few years, especially in the last 24 years since Salesforce has been around. But we believe in our values of trust, of customer success, of innovation, of equality and sustainability, and those values are enduring. And I think when you think about those values for the company, they really provide the guiding principles that we use to think about decision making at the company. And those things I think are going to last forever. They're going to be things that we'll continue to look at to ensure that we are balancing the needs of the organization and hopefully the needs of our customers as well.

Jason Leet: So with this move to responsible business growth, really as you said, the values are the guiding light for the business. But this requires an additional alignment mechanism across the company. It's a change in mindset and maybe even company culture needs to adjust. What does that look like? How have you observed that change in your organization? What challenges have you come across and had to tackle as a result? Sam, let's hear from you.

Sam Chung: Yeah, sure. Well, I think a lot of other companies, we had to face a very harsh reality in the last 12 months. And nothing really stirs the need for change like bad performance. And performance didn't meet our internal expectations. When you look at our last fiscal year, we had a moment where we had to revise out our revenue guidance. We had a significant change in internal leadership in the company. We started to see our shareholder base evolve and started to see new players come into the world, into our universe, activist investors that expected something more out of the company than what we were delivering on our own. And that I think that was very helpful in us really sparking this idea of the need for change in the organization. But even beyond that, Jason, forget the external view, the internal view I think is just as important. You think about an organization that has grown as significantly as we have at Salesforce, at some point the question is can we continue to operate the same way and still be successful? And if you think about our employee experience as an example of that and think of an employee who started during the pandemic, I think they had a very difficult time joining the company. I think we didn't really provide them with the tools and the assets that they needed to become successful parts of the organization in the same way that we had pre- pandemic. And that's just one example of really I think, what we have seen throughout the company and really kind of forced the need for us to really think differently about the way that we run the organization.

Jason Leet: Casey, how about you?

Casey Santos: Yeah, I think Sam said something really interesting earlier about leadership and the kind of leaders you need. I think growing with unlimited resources or being able to throw lots of investment at something in a very short period of time is a very different problem than being able to grow with a limited set of resources. And so I think that mindset is something that everyone is shifting back to or some people have started their careers in the middle of the boom, so this is probably a bit of a shock to the system. But really having more transparency and understanding where our spend is and trying to understand where there's synergies and trying to find alignment. And instead of creating three different groups doing the same thing or utilizing different tools, how do we find ways to rationalize and get everyone working more together? Those are things that we're going back to our values in that area that I think it got a little frenzied for everyone over the last few years. And so I think people are having to step back and say, " Okay, I still need to grow. I still need to develop new product. I can't just stop. But I've got to think smarter." And what does that look like? And I think we've had to really think about how we track things, what kind of processes we put in place. And we don't love process because we want to stay as agile as possible. So a really light process to keep ourselves very innovative and transformative, but enough that we can make wiser decisions in areas that really matter. So that's something that we've really been working on and I think we're able to see some pretty interesting results.

Jason Leet: So Casey, you talked about working together across the business. Let's talk about the relationship between IT and finance, the CIO, the CFO. As you're going through this change, why is this partnership so critical and how can you know together, you collectively drive more accountability and responsible business growth across the organization together in partnership?

Casey Santos: I always think CIOs and CFOs are actually kindred spirits in the sense that we both sit across the organization. We see all the lines of business, we support the entire organization and we can connect the dots, but with different angles. We're looking at it from a technical perspective, they're looking at it from a finance perspective. Many times, it's helping each other see what's important, having a great partnership with the CFO is important. So for our case, we have amazing finance partners that can give us insight into where our spend is, what trends we're seeing, understanding how we're projecting, and really challenge and ask questions that are pretty deep subject matter experts in each of our functions. And on our side, we can provide technology tools and understanding of what we need. So I think the two together can really create some interesting results. So we've really benefited from that on how to identify areas that we might not have transparency into ourselves.

Jason Leet: Sam, I think you might have an interesting perspective on this question, just considering you've spent a big chunk of your career in finance leadership roles and then in taking on this chief transformation officer role, you know are partnering and working even more closely with the IT organization. What advice, what perspective do you have on this partnership between IT and the finance organization?

Sam Chung: Well, I completely agree with Casey yet again. This is, I think, going to be a common theme. We often think of these groups as first cousins to each other, members of an extended family that carry similar traits. And certainly, what Casey talked about applies here at Salesforce as well. I just want to add one other thing. I think these are two organizations that also really I think hold themselves accountable to manage risk governance and compliance. And I think in today's world, where you just see a lot of bad actors out there that are testing the strength of your firewalls, that are testing kind of your ability to maintain disciplined access to your data, your customer's data, all of the assets you have in the organization. I don't think there are two other functions that have the same level of passion around security as IT and finance. And I think that gives us a different lens around disciplined growth. I think one of the things that can really derail an organization is when you realize that you don't actually have a trusted environment. And imagine what could happen to your operations, to your prioritization of your projects, to your ability to fund the things that you need to, to drive innovation, to drive growth in your organization because you had a surprise, and that surprise was in fact, a breach of your security. And I think this is a huge issue for everyone in the world right now. I think that's just another example of the partnership and how strong the partnership is between finance and IT.

Jason Leet: So some of our audience members today, maybe working in an environment where that partnership between IT and finance isn't as strong as what you're describing and what you've both been able to experience. What recommendations do you have on helping them build that bridge, how to start that process, where and how to engage to work together and actually create this change within their organization?

Sam Chung: Why don't I start on this one Jason? I mean I think for us, we really believe in the concept of business intimacy. And this is really ensuring that both organizations, whether they are talking to each other or talking to other functions and other leaders and other business units across the company, that they truly are partners. They are advisors, they are people who can influence, who sit at the table with those leaders because they really understand those businesses and they understand the priority of the businesses that they support. And so I think the more you can create this idea of business intimacy, not only within each of the domains that we're talking about but then sharing it across each other I think is really vital. We bring our IT and finance business partners to every one of our staff meetings. They are extended members of the family, as I mentioned before. They need to be there even when we're talking about things that don't seem related to their jobs, but they really need to understand the full context of what is happening across the enterprise and then that's the only way they can really be effective. So certainly I think embracing this idea of businesses intimacy, bringing your finance and IT leaders to the table is super important. And then the other thing I would say is I think that at the heart of all of the work that we do is around data. And I think it's really important that finance and IT worked collaboratively to generate the data that is trusted, that is a trusted source, and the source of truth, across the enterprise together so that they can leverage that data not only within their own teams, but obviously, the company broadly can leverage that asset as well.

Jason Leet: That's great. And I think Casey may have said something similar earlier, but it's two functions that are unique in the business because they really truly have a 360 degree view of the whole business and see how things are interconnected and see how the data flows, can understand the data and really help the business create action out of that. So let's switch gears here a little bit and talk about software. And so would be curious on your thoughts on why this software category of spend within a business is such a rich opportunity for companies to address and find fuel for responsible business growth. Casey, let's start with you.

Casey Santos: Yeah. So first of all, I'd say SaaS software has really changed the way we work in the sense that when you used to need to set up a system, you had to go out and find a place to host it and you had to go... And so by nature of that you would kind of have a lot of transparency to what was happening and how you were managing it. But it didn't move as fast. And so SaaS is really helpful and there's so many opportunities out there. And so each system that we deal with, however, is a separate set of administrative tools and understanding what's happening, and not to mention that employees can go out and set up their own SaaS. And so what we've found is while we lean heavily into using these tools, we didn't have a lot of transparency or it was a lot of work to go out and get all that information to be able to manage it responsibly because it wasn't all in one pane of glass. And so it first came to light for me a while ago when I found out there was a tool we use that has two different kinds of licenses. One's the fully loaded cost and the other one is the light cost. And you don't necessarily need the fully loaded cost, but people always ask for the fully loaded cost and we had no way of knowing who was using what and what was happening. And so I think for us, when we started looking at our spend starting to grow and grow and grow, we thought goodness let's go out and figure out. It was like playing whack- a- mole trying to find all these different SaaS products, they had just kept popping up and you don't know where they are. And so that has been a big focus of ours. How do you get a view of that? How do you get in one place and then you can start to understand where there's overlap or you're using the same things where you have people that shouldn't be using it. Or you have people who have left the company that somebody forgot to offboard. There's so many scenarios that are just wastage, and that's almost like free money if you can get it. And that can be shifted towards the good stuff.

Jason Leet: Absolutely.

Sam Chung: I love the concept of SaaS, software whack- a- Mole, Casey. I think that's great.

Jason Leet: I have to look into branding that. That's great. So Casey, maybe to build off of those comments, this age of SaaS software, software's been fully democratized. As you've mentioned, stuff comes in, creeps into the company without IT being aware of it. IT can't own everything anymore, it's spread across the business. And so from a CIO perspective, you just mentioned having visibility is kind of the first step. And so that's the reason why a single system of record matters in this day and age for software. And so you are starting to touch on this a little bit. But if you have something like that in place, you can have full visibility regardless of whether it's IT owned or not. What are those tangible actions that you and your team are working with the company, to lead to benefits? You mentioned license redundancy or license reclamations, a couple of examples. How do you think about it programmatically once you're able to get that visibility in place?

Casey Santos: If you think of a continuous improvement framework, you've got waste, you've got overlap, you've over- building. There's different concepts that all apply to the SaaS. So understanding, once you have everything, and Zylo's a great tool for this, seeing what you have, then you can start to see where have you over bought, where have people bought different licenses by themselves? We are able to pull from expense reports now and see that we might have a really good pricing and someone's paying off the shelf pricing for different software. Understanding who's using, who's not. Understanding whether we have products that are exactly the same but two different ones and we need to standardize. We've been able to have those conversations. And back to the finance perspective, we're starting with the biggest thing first that has the financial output, that's going to have the biggest bang for the buck. And let's go have those tough conversations or just do the legwork to get it done. So we have been working through that. And then on an ongoing basis, being able to continually monitor because again, it keeps popping back up again. We can put processes in place but we don't like to create lots of bureaucracy. We'd like to give creativity and give people some ability to take advantage of great products. So this is a great way to manage an ongoing basis.

Jason Leet: Absolutely. So Sam, the theme over the past year is asking people to do more with less, right? Efficiency is now the name of the game. But software portfolios continue to grow. Software is becoming ever increasingly important to every business and every function. How can finance and IT leaders increase efficiency and ensure the business is making the most of their tech investments while still supporting growth? Because at the end of the day, everyone still wants to grow. How do you think about balancing those two things?

Sam Chung: Well, I think this is the hard work that I think every finance and IT leader needs to really think about, day in, day out. And I think what I said before around business intimacy I think is really important, Jason. I think being able to prove that you understand the needs of your business partners so that when you tell them no, because sometimes we have to do that, that it's done in context and it's done with thought, and it's not just done because it's the easy answer. And so I think certainly, ensuring that you have business and finance and IT leaders that really understand what's going on across the organization is critical. I think the focus on governance, as I said earlier, cannot be overstated. It is probably the most trying issue, the most sensitive issue for most companies right now. And I think you know have two organizations that really lean into words like compliance and they take it to heart. And so I think that's another aspect, Jason, where IT and finance leaders can really add influence and add value to the equation. Casey talked about process simplification. I think every organization is a little different. Certainly, a lot of tech companies want just enough process to get the job done. But I do think that really a focus on process simplification is really important. I think if you just put in technology and software for the sake of putting in technology, you're bound to get it wrong. You're bound to just create more complexity in your organization versus more optimization, and the better use of resources. So I do think it's worth the investment to ensure that you have experts in your organization that have a process mindset, that ultimately can be leveraged so that when you put in your new technology, that you're going to come out with the results around efficiency that you intended to when you went through the project in the first place. And then as Casey mentioned, I do think that tools like Zylo I think are incredibly impactful and valuable, just to ensure that we know what's going on. I think ultimately, the more data that we can get our hands on, the better off we'll be at helping the organization make the best decisions they can with the resources they have available to them.

Jason Leet: I love the comment around process improvement before you implement software. I've seen so many bad software implementations happen because of what you said, it's taking a bad process and wrapping software around it. Really the time to do process improvement is before you ever buy software and then you're in a much better place, can move faster and as you said, gain the efficiency. So I think you're absolutely spot on, on both those comments. Thank you. So Casey, in many companies, software is the second biggest category of spend, after labor, after employees and it's growing. Gartner says that the software adjustable market's growing 15 to 20% per year. Earlier, you talked about this kind of collision course risk of happening of revenue and costs colliding. Maybe just going back to again, some of the tactics and some of the strategy around leveraging SaaS management platform to help with these competing forces. Because again, software's growing, it's becoming more important every single day, but you've got expand operating margin in partnership with the rest of the company. So again, how are you thinking about that more broadly?

Casey Santos: Again, I have a unique role in the sense that I have the technology organization, but I also have the procurement organization. So putting those two together towards this problem has been really helpful. And then giving them data has been a game changer. So I'd say there's a few things that we are tackling. Again, we're looking at first of all consolidating old licenses for things that are the biggest spend for us first and saying, " Okay, do we have all the licenses in one place in the most optimized contracts? Have we really gotten the best?" Now that I know where they all are, now you've got your volume figured out and you can predict where you're going to be volume wise. So that's an important role. We've been tackling that. And then we talk about over licensing where we might have the wrong types of license applied to different user groups. And I've talked about one product where in order to create a sheet you can do that, but not everyone needs to create, some people just need to update. And so how do you think about that and make sure that people are using it the right way? So we've been looking at those kinds of spends. And then I think the other one is looking at barriers where we have duplication and where they're competitive products that we have seen. So for instance, whiteboarding products, there's five or six different whiteboarding products used across various engineering teams, at least, there's far more. But bringing those into one and then having a conversation. Now everyone loves their particular whiteboarding thing, but is it the thing that changes their life? Can we have a meaningful conversation about what that's costing? And also, allocating out to like, okay, you need, this is now yours and it's costing you X per year, and this is on you. We have a saying about act like an owner. You own what you're doing. Acting like an owner, it's nice to be able to see what you're spending. You have a statement at least at the end of the month of what's going on. So those are some of the areas we've been really tackling. There are many others when we have these information, like being able to see how our contracts are structured and comparing at some point with benchmarks or understanding that. Those are all really important tools that we're working through. But a year ago, we couldn't have any of those conversations and we'd have to go into one system at a time, try to figure out where it was. Even then, the dashboard that comes with the system isn't necessarily showing me all the information. It's limited. Doesn't tell me exact usage or the way that somebody's using something. So we found that some of the reports out of Zylo give us a little more granularity, a little more fidelity into what is truly happening.

Jason Leet: Yeah. Going back to the cost and the trade- off discussion. I think it's so important, if you can show the data, have that conversation with the business owner, then they can start to maybe think about what is more important from a company perspective. If I'm an owner, is this feature and functionality really that critical or is it good enough with another solution that the company may already have? So it's having those conversations, but you got to start with the data and the visibility before you can convince the business to think about those kind of trade- offs. So Sam, so speaking from my own firsthand experience when it comes to spending and budgets, not Casey, but other CIOs many times will show a breakdown of IT spend. And the biggest bucket by far, the giant bucket is called KLO, keeping the lights on. It's the run rate piece. And then there's always just a little budget left for the new stuff, the incremental projects, et cetera. And so as a finance leader, I always found that very frustrating because KLO was the black box. No one knew what was inside of it. And from my perspective, one of the benefits of SaaS management is it shines a light on that black box. It eliminates the KLO black box and enables a constructive conversation between finance, between IT, the business, on what should the financial targets be, what should be the objectives for the company, and how can we meet those? How does that resonate with you, as a fellow finance leader?

Sam Chung: Well. I share your experiences, Jason, where the keep lights on black box that you're talking about ends up being like 90% of the total program spend that you see coming out of an IT organization. Not to say that that is what happens at Salesforce, but I have seen it happen in my past as well. Casey mentioned something that I think is truly important, which is at the end of the day, data is our most powerful asset in this company, in any company. And accessing the data, making sure that you have transparency in the data that drives your financial outcomes, I think is really, really vital. And if you don't have it, I really don't know how you make good decisions for your organization. It is absolutely essential. And when you think about that data, I think one of the things that we think a lot about, and I'm sure everyone does this a little bit differently, but in our organization, our IT organization actually is the one that pays for a lot of our software, on behalf of the business. And so it creates a layer of abstraction whereas a business leader, you don't really know what that total cost of ownership is of using that particular piece of software that you think is so important for you to run your organization. Beyond the actual cost of that, to your third party vendors, there is additional costs that's born by the organization, whether it's costs around maintenance, whether it's around integration costs, whether it's around regression testing. All these things I think are really important for everyone to understand if they really want to understand the decisions that are really driving the right outcomes for an organization. And ultimately, I think it's in everyone's best interest, I think, to have as much of your IT program budget dedicated to grow versus run. And so similar to what Casey talked about, we have something called the bill of IT that we produce every quarter, and it is a breakdown of all the costs that are associated with every one of our business process groups. And it is now part of our daily routine or our quarterly routine where we show our bill of IT out to our business partners so they really can digest, embrace, and understand the true cost of their technology infrastructure and help us make the best decisions for the organization.

Jason Leet: Such great points. And it's really the overhead associated with bringing in new software. There's obviously the license costs, but there's so much cost around it to really leverage it and optimize it that not having that full purview into what that looks like is really a disservice to the business. And also, you don't want to be ripping out software all the time either. So it lives on for a long time once you make that decision and bring it into the company. So just great feedback on those points. So Casey, shadow IT is a topic that many leaders have strong opinions about. It exists in many, many organizations and on one hand it presents a lot of risks, financial risk, security risk, compliance risk. But on the other hand, you kind of mentioned this earlier, it could be a source of innovation. You don't want to stifle innovation across the company. What's your perspective on shadow IT and why does it matter? Why should it matter to a company?

Casey Santos: I'll tread carefully, it's a very tough topic. Shadow IT, so I'd say this, there are times when parts of organizations steps up and need something and for whatever reason they're not able to get it throughout in their normal day of business where they just wanted to create their own thing. So we want to be agile, we don't want to create a lot of bureaucracy. I don't want to be the CIO all the time. There's only so many resources, so many inaudible. But it does introduce risk that can be problematic if you don't manage it actively and decide which risk you want to take and which one you don't. Because that's the tricky thing about risk is that you don't just eliminate it. You have to decide which risk you as an organization want to take. And so there are some cases where you would say, " Yeah, I'm okay with that group using X, Y, Z tool." SaaS tools tend to pop up in these shadow IT organizations. But you need transparency to manage the risk. You need to know what system's being used, who's using them, how much they cost, being able to make sure we've turned them off. That's another benefit of a tool like Zylo, making sure you don't have accounts that are out there that should be turned off and terminated. So I tend to ask the question when I learn of shadow IT like what's going on there? What's driving it and is that a risk or is it something that we can give you an opportunity to be more of a citizen developer, do your own thing, but within with guardrails? And those guardrails include being able to track what you're spending. So I think that I tend to take more of a, I need to enable and empower where it makes sense and support where I can and see where. So I think tools where we can understand where the spend is, be able to provide the IT bill that you talk about is important. They're important to help us manage that.

Jason Leet: Sounds like it allows you to provide the company a freedom within a framework to operate. So it's not the wild wild west, but also people can also experiment and innovate across the business as they need.

Casey Santos: Yeah. And there's no way that an IT team can scale out and be the expert of every function throughout an organization. We've tried for decades now and have not mastered that. So where can we partner in ways that make sense?

Jason Leet: So Sam, let's switch gears here with the next question. So here, over the past year we've seen the CFO's role in the buying process evolve. They're now reviewing and approving every new purchase it feels like in a much more detailed level than before. How can our listeners today work with their procurement and finance departments throughout the buying process and build a business case that passes muster for the CFO? How can they get that project they really want to do over the line and convince their own finance department, their own CFO, that it's a worthy prioritization in the company, in this environment?

Sam Chung: Well Jason, I'm going to say something that I'm sure is music to your ears given your title, but in today's world, the CFO could be considered the new CEO. And I think it's all because of this focus on cost containment, on doing more with less, on yielding efficiency so that you can allocate dollars to the places where you can continue to grow and innovate as an organization. And that's certainly true today. I think what's important when you talk to a CFO is they really want to see a thoughtful plan. They want to understand your analysis, they want you to also, as part of your analysis and thinking about different options that you're going to bring to the table to him or her, they also want to understand what your current state looks like as part of that analysis and what are the opportunity costs that you can avoid if you just continue to do what you do right now. I think that needs to be part of a very thoughtful analysis that you could put in front of your CFO. And ultimately, what they really care about is time to value. How quickly is the payback period on the investment that they're going to make to greenlight your project? What are the KPIs that are you going to use to make that analysis? Getting that to the point of process orientation, Jason, I think it's work like that that really identifies those KPIs, that I think ground your CFO in a sense of reality, that you know what it is that you're going after and that you can measure what you're going to do. And ultimately, the last one I'll say, Jason, is you also have to commit to measuring the outcomes of your KPIs and your ROI analysis throughout the entire project. And certainly at the end of it as you think about your new universe. And so I think those are table stakes that you must deal with as a business stakeholder who's trying to champion a project forward to the CFO. That's what I would expect. I'm sure that's what you expect as well, Jason. These are times where the quantitative analysis becomes very, very important and I think gone are the days where people can just say, " Trust me, we'll make it better." People are going to want to see the proof in the pudding.

Jason Leet: Yeah, absolutely.

Casey Santos: I just have one thing on that. I think all IT leaders need to get a basic amount of proficiency in basic finance terms, return on investment, time to break even, understanding that because at this level, this is an important discussion to have. And you hit all the points, KPIs and having a process to build that trust over time.

Jason Leet: The opportunity costs of doing nothing I think is important to understand. And then following through, as Sam said. It's about building trust with the CFO, right? It's not one and done, you're going to probably want to buy something else in the future. So really it's beyond that buying action. It's following through and delivering value that you said you were going to and that trust goes a long way for when the next project comes up, for sure. So we only have a couple minutes of time remaining. Hard to believe. So I think we're down to our last question here. So they say hindsight's 20/20. If you could go back three or four years before this rollercoaster ride that we've been on in the economy and this massive software investment cycle that we've just gone through, knowing what you know now, what advice would you give yourself? What would you do differently now, given where we're at today? Casey, let's start with you.

Casey Santos: Wow. So the rocketship had already started in my current role has already started taking off when I got here, but I'll just kind of go back to where I was before. I think investing in ways to have transparency, to be able to see a more complete picture of IT spend and what it's for, how we're doing it, I think is something I would've done earlier on. Because now we're making decisions and without data and without information, those are really tough decisions to make. I think going forward, I would try to stay to keep that transparency because there's always a cycle, up and down. And thinking this way all the time saves you a lot of heartache.

Jason Leet: Yeah, it's a lot to gear up for if you don't already have it in place. Data's hard to obtain. So it's being ready for the next cycle. Sam, thoughts?

Sam Chung: Well, personally, I would've gone long on the US dollar about two years ago. That would've been great for me personally. I didn't, so I missed that opportunity. I agree with Casey. I think what is really important is this idea that we do find ourselves in the cycles, and whatever goes up eventually does come down or whatever starts down will eventually kind of return back to a sense of normal. But when you make decisions in the moment, I think you can often lead to really poor decisions because you're kind of dealing with it without the benefit of thought, without the benefit of a rational mind, without the benefit of a more calm environment in which you're making those decisions. And Jason, you and I know a leader who was famous for saying the words, " The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is right now." But I think those words are very true. I think time is the most important variable in any business equation. There is a sense of urgency to move and to make the right businesses decisions as quickly as possible. We can't afford, honestly, to wait on making some of these structural changes that Casey talked about, that you talked about, Jason, that lead to responsible business growth. And so I think it's really important that we all think about that, we all think about what decisions we can make now that will start to really make a meaningful change, structural change, durable change to the way that we run our organizations so that we can continue to be successful in the future.

Jason Leet: So what I'm hearing is better, better, never done. It's ongoing.

Sam Chung: Exactly, Jason.

Jason Leet: Casey, Sam, I'd like to thank both of you so much for joining us today to share your insights on how we can successfully rise to the challenge of delivering responsible business growth within our organizations. Thank you very much. And thank you to everyone for joining today.


With tumultuous market conditions, rising interest rates and general economic uncertainty, organizations are no longer spending with abandon in pursuit of growth. Rather, we’re entering a new era of business - we’re witnessing the rise of responsible growth. Business leaders are going back to business fundamentals, focusing on efficiency and challenging their organizations to accomplish more with less. IT and Finance leaders are optimally positioned to lead their organizations into this next era and make responsible growth a reality.