Salsify’s Mary Jefts Sees Collaboration as Key to SaaS Company Growth
We recently spoke with Mary when she served as a panelist at our Strategic BizOps Meetup, ‘Becoming the Growth CFO: Exploring the BizOps/Finance Connection.’ Mary has great insight into why BizOps is becoming more strategic and how collaboration is absolutely essential to company growth.
Stephanie Fox: You’ve been a finance executive for more than 20 years and have seen how the role of BizOps has evolved. What change has struck you the most?
Mary Jefts: I’ve been very operationally focused throughout most of my career, so BizOps is near and dear to my heart. What I’ve seen is that BizOps has become much more strategic as the number of SaaS businesses has increased. This is due to the fact that SaaS companies have more instrumentation, data and metrics to manage, so there’s not only been a growth in the number of BizOps positions, but the role has shifted to a more strategic one. In past positions, I’ve had BizOps folks working for me in both BizOps and FP&A roles and at a relatively low- to mid-management level. But when I joined Salsify, I took the opportunity to hire a VP of Business Operations. It’s a new executive role for our company but I felt very strongly that not only did we need to centralize all of the metrics in the company for a more integrated view of the business, but that the role itself is so critical to our success that it needed to be at a very high level. And while she reports to me, our VP of Business Operations works collaboratively with all of the different groups in the company, which is critical.
Stephanie: You took the step to centralize the BizOps function under Finance at Salsify. What past experiences precipitated this decision?
Mary: In my unbiased opinion, BizOps should report to the CFO. I’ve worked at companies that had marketing ops and sales ops and each department used their own systems and their own data. We spent a lot of time in meetings talking about whose data was correct. The Finance team has to pull all the data together and report something accurately, so having BizOps centralized under Finance gives the CFO more control over the systems that are put in place that feed into the central system of record. It’s very hard when multiple teams are vying for what they want for their individual departments and no one’s looking at it all holistically. As we go forward at Salsify, any BizOps people that we hire will work under our VP of Business Operations, and while they may be focused as business partners with other teams such as Product, Sales and Marketing, they will add value by serving the entire organization.
Stephanie: How has the changing tech stack had an impact on how Finance interacts with other functions? For example, at the end of the quarter, what’s the system of record?
Mary: We try as much as possible for Salesforce to be our single system of record by tying Hubspot directly into it. We use Salesforce to generate our executive dashboard, though sometimes we have to manipulate things using Excel to get things the way we want. It’s not perfect but at least it’s not separate.
Stephanie: From an operations perspective, how do you and your VP of Business Operations collaborate with other groups in the company such as Sales and Marketing to help drive the company forward?
Mary: Even before I hired our VP of Business Operations I would have weekly go-to-market meetings with Sales and Marketing. In those meetings, we would look at the entire process and analyze everything from the top of the funnel all the way through. Sometimes I’m the arbitrator when Sales and Marketing disagree, so having everyone in the room looking at the same data is very important. I think Finance can help be the glue that holds the teams together. We try and have as many cross-functional meetings as possible to get the data we need to see the picture clearly so we can understand and solve issues that arise.
Stephanie: The shift to the SaaS model has changed the software business for good. How has the recurring revenue business model impacted the CFO role at software companies?
Mary: Today’s software CFOs spend far less time on traditional financials than they used to. There is a far greater focus on getting the data we need to identify key metrics and track key drivers with the greatest impact on the business. We’re looking not just at financial data, but a very broad range of data about our activities to see how best to move forward as opposed to looking in the rear view mirror to explain what already happened. Software CFOs today have a much higher level of collaboration with other members of the business. I’ve seen a shift to a more open work environment and more natural collaboration and I would say that’s just as true at companies that are not SaaS. If you compare the interaction between a CFO and VP Sales at what I’d call an old school company, you would tend to see the VP of Sales have greater influence because they’re calling the shots since they bring in the revenue. Today, VC-backed companies expect to have a more cohesive team where the CFO and head of sales work together to build the business. And I think that’s the only way to do it.
Got questions for Mary? Add them to the comments below.
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Steph served as Rekener’s Community Manager and CMO. A Rekener co-founder, she was previously Senior Director of Marketing at CCC, a $300M+ recurring revenue business, and served in marketing leadership roles at Vertical, @stake, Informio, DotContent and Meridian. Her first recurring revenue role was as an inside sales rep selling real-time stock pricing subscriptions.
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