Building great software companies is hard work. But the end result – the satisfaction that comes from building something relevant and changing the way businesses use technology and access data – is what all of us in the software industry strive for.
There is no universal definition of “relevance” for a successful software technology company. We build our own definitions based on personal experience. And having had the opportunity to be a part of some incredibly successful and impactful technology companies during my career – from Rational Software, to Apptio, to Citrix – I’ve developed my own idea of what a relevant company looks like, and what it takes to build one.
I believe that uniquely relevant companies are founded on great products and amazing teams. Other elements of the business may change over time, but these two elements are essential to companies that have a lasting influence on customers, partners, employees, and investors. Such companies continually earn the right to exist by doing a superior job for all of their stakeholders. Leaders within these organizations know that exceptional financial performance, great returns, and high revenue are all byproducts of that superior performance. They understand that, ultimately, their long-term relevance will be measured by their importance, endurance, and level of customer success.
At Rational Software for example, our goal was to change the way customers built software because we believed that successful businesses would use software to gain a competitive advantage. Our conviction proved true. And today, as we know, “software is eating the world.” Successful businesses use software to drive product and customer engagement differentiation in virtually everything they do.
As I reflect back a decade later on how we were able to change the world of software, I realize that corporate culture played a significant role. It was a culture in which people were encouraged to take risks, make decisions, and develop their careers. It was a culture that had as enduring an influence on our team as our technology had on customers. Rational Software alumni have gone on to lead many successful companies, including, TriNet, Apptio, oDesk, and Appistry, to name a few.
Relevant companies are built by people who understand that customer needs and expectations are constantly changing, and that evolving with them is essential to market leadership. The best business leaders can correctly anticipate market needs and provide an exceptional product to meet those needs, while also using their expertise to guide users along a customer journey to success. Executing on such a strategy requires an entire team to be passionately focused on customer success. Only then can a business expect to maintain relevance 5, 10, or 20 years into the future.
My experience over the past twelve years with the incredible team at Citrix is another great example. I watched that team grow its business from roughly $500 million in 2003 to over $3 billion today by continually challenging their understanding of market direction and correctly anticipating customers’ needs.
Citrix has an incredible passion to innovate and understand how customers and markets will evolve. This has driven continual innovation as customer needs have changed – from client / server in 2003, to mobile access and virtual workspaces in 2015. Indeed, as part of this transformation Citrix has built a $600 million SaaS business around great products like GoToMeeting and ShareFile, using business models and entering markets that were nascent a dozen years ago.
Companies that offer exceptional products with extraordinary expertise and support will be able to help customers excel at their jobs today and in the future. And the SaaS business model has done more to fundamentally drive this alignment than almost anything else in enterprise software.
For example, when I would speak with customers at Rational, we wouldn’t just talk about Rational products. Rather, we would talk about the way they were currently using software, how they wanted to use it in the future, and how Rational could help them do both. Those conversations are key to building large groups of loyal and passionate customers – an essential part of any long-lasting and relevant organization.
As I embark on my journey with Adaptive Insights, I know I have found a place that, in many ways, fits perfectly into the natural progression of my career. I began that career as a young CFO frustrated by the lack of tools available to effectively drive our finance functions. First we discovered spreadsheets. Then we discovered the first generation of business planning tools. That changed our world from a performance management standpoint – but it wasn’t enough. Over time, those planning tools proved either unreliable or far too expensive and cumbersome to implement.
As the complexity and pace of business continues to accelerate, we clearly need something better. That need is the intersection at which my CFO experience meets Adaptive Insights’ mission: To provide finance and business leaders with the technology to access critical insights that lead to more data-driven and strategic decisions.
At Adaptive we have the foundation in place to build a relevant and enduring company. We have an organization that builds amazing technology for its passionate, loyal, and ever-expanding customer base. We have a team dedicated to helping clients truly transform their businesses by understanding how they are currently building their finance organizations, and how we can help them transform those organizations to be more strategic and relevant than ever before.
We are using that strong foundation to revolutionize the world of corporate performance management, and we’re building an enduring and relevant company in the process.