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Managing SaaS in the Modern IT Organization

In collaboration with Salesforce Ventures, Zylo hosted an exclusive panel discussion at Dreamforce 2018. The panel consisted of progressive IT leaders from across the country: Alvina Antar, CIO, Zuora; Wendy Pfeiffer, CIO, Nutanix; Yousuf Khan, Former CIO, PureStorage; Mindy Lieberman, VP, Business Systems, Okta.

As the panel host, I was beyond excited to pick these leaders’ brains. Over the past decade, the role of IT has changed drastically: I wanted to hear firsthand how these progressive leaders manage the digital transformation, especially as it relates to SaaS, within their own companies.

As I kicked off introductions, Mindy Lieberman (VP, Business Systems, Okta) provided one of the best SaaS metaphors I’ve heard, relatable and hilarious:

Practice Safe SaaS

In some ways, Lieberman views her business leaders like she views her college-aged son. The question is not if her son will drink in college or if her business leaders will buy SaaS. The question is how to teach them to do so safely. In the midst of her metaphor, “practice safe SaaS” was said and will never be forgotten.

The unavoidable cannot be dodged but the risk associated with the unavoidable, whether drinking in college or buying SaaS applications, can be mitigated through trust, open communication, and education.

As IT Transforms, Questions Overflow

As any diligent host, I prepared plenty of questions for the panel discussion. However, quickly the conversation took a life of its own: the passion of these leaders showed through as they introduced new ideas and interesting quandaries.

Collaboratively and truthfully (qualities any modern IT leader values above all else), we worked to answer following questions:

  • What have you learned from managing SaaS and managing business units?
  • What do you think about LOBs owning application purchase and implementation?
  • How do you tackle the discovery of SaaS applications?
  • As a CIO, do you prioritize cost or security?
  • What are CEOs asking of CIOs today?
  • What parallels are seen through product development and IT today?
  • What is the perfect talent to source for your IT teams?
  • For what responsibilities are talented IT employees looking?
  • What are indicators of a good SaaS investment?
  • How are you prioritizing and measuring employee experience?
  • How do you measure ROI?

Over the 40-minute panel discussion, a ton of ground was covered: the conversation was rich, insightful, and dense. While we covered multiple topics and facets of modern IT management, the overarching theme of governing and driving innovation was evident.

Today, CIOs Must Drive Innovation

The responsibilities and challenges of the modern IT leader are not the same as they were a decade ago. In many cases, the priorities, responsibilities, and challenges are evolving on a yearly basis.

Coming from different backgrounds and industries, each panelist had a unique perspective on the impact the digital transformation has had on their professional outlook. To sum up our experience at Dreamforce, below is an insight from each panelist:

Value Employee Experience: Alvina Antar, CIO, Zuora
As Zuora has grown, what feels like exponentially, employee experience has fallen behind where Antar would like it to be. Her candor was well-appreciated by her fellow panelists who agree with her conclusion: in a perfect world, IT would instantaneously equip a new hire with the licenses necessary to become effective in their position immediately. To get to this ideal place, ample learning, preparation, and automation are necessary.

Digital Transformation Continues: Wendy Pfeiffer, CIO, Nutanix
The first wave of the digital transformation was to recognize the power of social media and to prioritize mobile-first design. Then SaaS swept in and changed the landscape again. However, enterprise SaaS has a long way to go in reaching the usability of consumer models. Next up for innovative companies is to embrace automation and machine learning.

Educate SaaS Buyers: Yousuf Khan, Former CIO, PureStorage
To buy SaaS, business leaders must be apprised on enterprise-wide strategies. As SaaS applications become more sophisticated, the business as a whole will rely on integrations to operate across business units and functions. If buyers are not aware of cornerstone applications and strategies in the company, they should not be driving investments.

CEOs Prioritize Security: Mindy Lieberman, VP, Business Systems, Okta
The push to digital opened up a world of security risks: the mitigation of these risks continue to be a top priority for CEOs. While a very natural insight from a security-driven leader, security of both customer, personal, and company data continues to be top-of-mind across the board.

Thank you all who attended and participated in our Dreamforce panel discussion. A special thank you to panelists, for sharing their invaluable insights.

At Zylo, we regularly tackle the questions posed during the Dreamforce panel discussion. To keep up with the conversation, join our newsletter for exclusive invites to events, webinars, and content.