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Brad Pollard: Rockstar, Changemaker, Tech Innovator & G-Suite Fanatic

tech innovator Brad Pollard


Brad Pollard is the former CIO of tenable, a tech innovator, and raving fan of cloud software. Learn how he thinks about SaaS transformation, driving employee engagement, and the role of the CIO.

Episode Summary

What do you get when you combine music and technology? You get Brad Pollard, former CIO at Tenable. 

From dreams of becoming a rockstar to leading early 2000s cloud migrations to navigating Covid-19, he’s been through it all. But it’s not just about technology change.

“Migrating our email to G-Suite was really a cultural change… you have to do lots of training, lots of politicking. It was probably three months of: this is happening, this is happening, this is happening.”

It harkens back to the role of the Chief Information Officer. How can you be a tech innovator while managing your budget, empowering employees, and driving business growth?

In this episode of SaaSMe Unfiltered, co-hosts Cory Wheeler and Ashley Hickman speak with Brad about how SaaS is impacting organizations for the better and ways progressive CIOs can help their companies enable employees without hindering innovation.

Guest Spotlight

Name: Brad Pollard

What he does: Rock musician, former CIO at Tenable

Connect with Brad online: LinkedIn

Episode Highlights

CIOs Play an Important Role in Scaling the Business

“With growth companies, you can’t grow your IT staff linearly with the rest of the company. You need to do more with less. And the expectation inside those companies is, I have the same things that my biggest competitors have, then you have a fraction of the budget. When I went to Tenable, it was really tasked to become a cloud-forward company, to move off of on-premise systems. And we were flat in headcount for the past five years in my group, and the company grew almost five times.”

Communication is Crucial to Effective Change Management

“Migrating our email to G-Suite was not just a technology change but a cultural change… you have to do lots of training, lots of politicking. You’re talking to people when you’re about to do it. The Gmail thing was probably three months of: this is happening, this is happening, this is happening. Slow rolling, while we were doing the prep work in the backend, but getting people on board and selling the collaboration factors and everything that went along with that.”

Covid Forced a Culture Shift – And We’re Never Going Back

“I looked at Covid as a forcing function. We were ready from a technology standpoint five years ago. Maybe those of us that have been in this industry for a long time took it for granted that this was not going to be a problem. But Covid was the forcing function. It pushed everybody in that direction. I also think it was the attitudes of both employers and employees as to where I need to be to do my thing, and people found a new work-life balance. It was a technology change as much as it was a cultural change – and one that appears to be sticking.”

Find the Needle in the Haystack

“I was walking around the building… looking at all these phones on desks and started thinking, ‘Nobody’s using these phones anymore.’ So I went into your tool and I was looking at what is my adoption of my unified communications as a service? I’m looking at what this bill is we’re paying… Okay, where can I save money? And I always want to know what I can put it in to get more value out of the dollar. So I looked at it and it was my customer service team that was still using it for inbound customer support calls. Other than that, everybody was Zooming. And so we looked at what it would be to move the voice over IP to Zoom phone, and it ended up being a fraction of the cost. We ended up saving a ton of money that we were reallocating to other projects. So we ended up staying flat on budget, not losing any functionality, and then having money to do innovation, do new projects.”

Shadow IT is Not Malicious

“I don’t think shadow IT is malicious. I think people are trying to get things done. And when you’re working with really smart people, they don’t need your help. They’re going to go do this thing. And the thing that I find hysterical is everyone’s like, ‘Well, no, I don’t need any integration. It doesn’t need to do this, doesn’t need to do that.’ I’m like, there is no such thing as a standalone tool. I don’t care what you’re going to turn on. There’s single sign-on, there’s multifactor authentication, there’s governance, security, privacy, and everything that has to go along with it. So, you got to partner with people. That is the challenge that all CIOs have, especially as the companies get bigger and bigger, more distributed, and more geographically diverse saying, ‘We’re your partner. We’re not going to say no.’”

Partnering with Your CFO is the Secret Sauce

“When a business unit wants a technology solution and then it’s not funded, it’s not an IT problem, it’s a business decision. And that is something that should be discussed between the CFO, the CEO, the business unit, and the CIO. Because the company as a whole has to make decisions to fund those platforms or to fund those, and to prioritize. You can’t do everything. If you’re a responsible CFO, you have a budget and you’re keeping everybody to that budget. And if you’re a responsible CEO, you’re talking to your line of business units and having them prioritize. Where is this going to generate more revenue? Is this going to increase customer satisfaction? Why are you prioritizing these things? And so I think the communication has to be there.”

A SaaS Management Platform Makes Tracking & Data Management Easier

“In my career, I’d written a bunch of database applications to track things. And as I got more into executive management, I couldn’t write my own apps anymore just for sheer lack of time. And I didn’t want to task my staff with it, because they had bigger fish to fry at the time. I was doing everything on spreadsheets… I was just trying to get organized. I was just trying to be on top of what I have… But if you don’t have that data, you can’t even have those moments.” 

Top Quotes

12:37 – “The realization of that vision of work from anywhere is, no matter where you are, you can do your job. And that was the philosophy, and it really hit hard with Covid, and we were very successful. We actually had one of our best years and didn’t miss a beat.”

19:19 – “I’ve only ever worked in technology companies, where everybody there is smart and everybody there is technical and everybody there is trying to get things done, and in these growth companies, everyone’s going really fast. Someone spinning up some SaaS tool ends up being shadow IT, but it’s not malicious. It’s someone trying to solve a problem.”

Recommended Resources

Check out Brad’s band Normal Suits’s latest single Five from the Future on Spotify or iTunes.

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Cory Wheeler

As Zylo’s Chief Customer Officer, Cory is responsible for helping our customers drive ROI and SaaS Management success with Zylo. He helps companies of all sizes effectively discover, optimize, and govern their SaaS through Zylo’s platform and services. Prior to founding Zylo, Cory spent 15 years in finance and procurement, managing categories and sourcing teams at Arthur Andersen, BearingPoint, and both Takeda and Astellas Pharmaceuticals. He built the procurement organization at ExactTarget, and managed the integration with the Salesforce Marketing Cloud procurement organization in 2015. He and his family reside in Indianapolis, IN, where they can be found cheering for the Purdue Boilermakers and Chicago Cubs.

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