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CIOs to procurement, finance: Partnership is key to Cloud computing success

 

How often do you get to sit down and hear what’s on the Chief Information Officer’s mind? At Coupa Inspire last month, about 800 of us got to sit down with leading CIOs for a wide-ranging conversation.

 

In this excerpt from that discussion, Ravi Thakur, Coupa’s VP Customer Success and Service Delivery, interviewed Beth Devin, CIO of Silicon Valley Bank; Ross Meyercord, CIO of Salesforce.com, Curtis Miller, CIO of Amerinet and Dan Rosenbaum, the Director of Technology at Land O' Lakes, to hear their thoughts on Cloud computing and how procurement and finance can best align with IT to drive success.

 

Ravi: CIO's, we have a room full of 800 people here and they all want to know how can they work better with their IT leaders. What advice can you give them on how to better align with you?

 

Curtis: One of the things we try to do is get the IT team to become trusted advisors in the business processes. Our mantra is "make it easy." 

 

Try to make it easy for folks to do business with us, whether it's our customers, our employees, or our suppliers. If you deliver on that to your business users you develop credibility.

 

Ravi: Dan, when we were preparing for this panel, we had a great conversation about how at Land O' Lakes, IT is working with the business to get them to focus on success criteria when selecting products.  Why don't you share some insight here?

 

Dan: Absolutely. It's no different whether it's a cloud solution or a traditional solution--the due diligence process is similar.  Coming to your IT teams with, "Here's my business problem.  Here's what I really need to try to solve," I think is important, and I think it's important to keep that as a focal point as you move through that process.

 

To the earlier point, trust is a key factor in building that core relationship.  We encourage all of our technology people to spend time getting to know the business.  You have to understand the business to be a good advisor.  Conversely, I encourage our business users to really understand things like, is there a regulatory challenge?  Are there concerns about data centers and data privacy? Getting that relationship fortified I think is really important.

 

Ravi: Right. Ross, one of the things that you bring to the discussion here is your Accenture background. You were on one side of the fence, now you're on the other.  What kind of advice can you give on how to get procurement and spend management transformations prioritized within the IT organization?

 

Ross: Great question! I’ll start first with my CIO hat on and then I'll go to my consultant hat.  From a CIO perspective, there are two ways to get our attention: a carrot and a stick.  The carrot is ROI.  We were talking backstage about how IT and finance are often a cost center. When we can participate in projects that drive bottom line benefits, you have our attention. 

 

The stick is compliance.  We're all in the business of helping keep ourselves, our CFOs and others out of jail.  So, if you have something that helps you better achieve your compliance goals, you have our attention.  That is something that we know we have to participate in.

 

Flipping to my consultant hat, what I often found in working with procurement professionals is that you really try to solve for compliance.  Where I've seen procurement transformations go awry is when we over rotate to compliance.  If we focus so much on making sure every box is ticked along the way that we make it cumbersome for users, shadow procurement functions will continue.

 

To me the challenge is to make our new solutions and our new processes the simplest and the most frictionless way to get buying done.  When we provide something that users want to use and solves as many compliance issues as we can, that's Nirvana.  You no longer have a rollout problem, because people want to use it because it's the easiest way to get their procurement done.  And, you've helped solve your compliance problems.  When you can find that magic balance between the two is when you have the really successful implementations. 

 

Ravi: Beth, talk to us a little bit about implementation. What is IT's role during implementation in a cloud deployment?

 

Beth: I've certainly heard folks who think, "Well, we can do this without our IT partners."  But I think what we found with the SaaS solutions we have in our environment is that IT can really help with the end-to-end process modeling.  Where does this solution fit in the context of all the other technology and tools that we have in the business?  How do we make sure that we don't over complicate the situation, or that we don't plunk a solution in where we haven't really thought through what the different plumbing on the backend needs to be around data.  How are we going to have that data flow with our ERP system?  What's the user experience going to be like?

 

We were having a conversation before the panel about how with SaaS in general, about how the more time you put into really understanding the use cases and who are the different end users, and really think through how to configure and enable that capability in your business, that pays benefits down the road.

 

There's also a lot of user acceptance testing that needs to happen.  When you bring new technology into an organization you need to make sure it's working with all the other technology and it's meeting expectations. I see a lot of roles for IT during implementation. 

 

Actually, my inspiration to my team is to become that trusted SaaS consultant. It's one thing to get the system in. Then the next quarter when there's a new release, and then another, and another new and there's more functionality, what then?  If we don't know the solutions and we're not there as a partner, I think it makes it hard for everyone and maybe leaves a bad taste in their mouths.

 

Curtis: There are very few applications, SaaS or otherwise, that are truly standalone, either from an IT perspective or from a workflow perspective.  One of the things we found very successful is, we run a project management office. We have a set of business rules about how we work with business sponsors, and when we follow that process, whether it's an in-house implementation, in-house development, or SaaS project, we're invariably much more successful.