Brian Flood, VP of IT, Business Systems, and Data at Fastly recently joined Workato’s VP of Marketing Bhaskar Roy to talk about his years of experience working in business technology at companies like Cisco, Gitlab, and now, at Fastly. He discusses why it’s essential to visit and revisit your priorities, how to try to prepare for an M&A event, and his secret tip for a healthy relationship. We’ve rounded up 3 takeaways from the discussion below:
Takeaway 1: Champion “ruthless prioritization,” and lean on steering committees to help guide you towards projects that move the needle.
Balancing the needs of a rapidly growing company like Fastly with the health and sanity of its employees during a year like 2020 was certainly a balancing act. In order to keep up the momentum while still being sensitive to the difficulties the year presented, Flood says he and his team became masters of “ruthless prioritization.”
“I think as a whole, when you are growing really fast and you’ve got to deal with all of this stuff flying at you, we had to be really picky about what was going to really move the needle in the organization. As one does when faced with high-speed growth, social upheaval, and a pandemic, we decided to go through a really significant M&A event as well. We acquired a company called Signal Sciences last October, and that had a really significant impact on IT and business systems. It pretty much consumed our lives for the last few months,” Flood says of the last year.
So how do they parse out where to focus their energy? They rely on steering committees dedicated to five different areas of the business’s systems: people, go-to-market, smarketing (sales and marketing, “anything that doesn’t touch quote-to-cash but is still really focused on the sales force and the marketing stack”), customer success, and finance.
The steering committees come together every two weeks to revisit the roadmap. During this time, everyone is completely transparent about what they’ve been able to accomplish and what the plan looks like moving forward. This gives all relevant stakeholders the opportunity to provide feedback, assess the inevitable tradeoffs that come with ruthless prioritization, and level-set with one another.
Takeaway 2: It’s next to impossible to plan for an M&A event, but that doesn’t mean you can’t be prepared.
“It is really next to impossible to plan for an M&A event,” Flood explains, but the first thing he would recommend is to make sure you have someone representing business systems on the diligence team, whether that is a CIO or the head of the BT team. “IT and BS sit in the middle of so many operational aspects during an M&A,” so it is critical to have someone asking important questions related to both organizations’ application ecosystems to see how they might merge together.
Chances are your company and the one being acquired are not set up the same way. From how customers pay for your product (annual subscriptions vs. monthly usage model) to the way you track leads or report on churn, the business systems org will be at the center of merging of systems and reimagining the future landscape.
For this reason, Flood asserts, “the business strategy really needs to drive the systems strategy.”
In the immediate event of an M&A, “You are going to have a tsunami of work hit you in your organization,” Flood says, but creating an integration management organization (IMO) can help. IMOs are there to “help dig into what are all of the pieces that need to happen, both from a systems standpoint but also a business standpoint,” explains Flood. They determine the integration strategy and identify the stakeholders who need to be involved in each step of the process.
Flood estimates that IT is involved in around 90% of tasks related to the overall integration—for this reason, it becomes clear during an M&A if the team hasn’t been properly developed. By staying on top of best practices and training, you can make sure you are prepared to tackle anything.
Takeaway 3: Joining a community of like-minded professionals is “good for your relationship.”
When Flood starts talking to his wife, a chef, about roadmaps or Netsuite, “her eyes glaze over.”
At the end of the day, everyone isn’t as passionate about business systems as those who work in the field. That’s why joining a community like Systematic, the largest community of business systems professionals, can connect you with others who share the same passions.
As one of the founding members of Systematic, Flood knows exactly how powerful it can be to connect with those who are working through the same professional problems as you. When asked about the benefits of being a member of the community, there are three things he highlighted.
First of all, it is important for those working in business technology to champion the work they are doing. As BT becomes increasingly separate from IT, a community like Systematic is the ideal place to have conversations with other practitioners about the role of BT within an organization and the broader scope of what BT even is.
Secondly, Flood notes, “It’s just super useful. If you’re looking for a new LMS or you are implementing Workday for the first time, picking the community will often turn into a zoom of 15 people trading ideas by the end of the week.”
And lastly, you’ll save your relationships. Take the Netsuite talk out of dinner with your friends and family, and bring it into an enthusiastic group of practitioners who share the same interests and want to solve the same problems.
If you’re interested in checking out the Systematic community, you can find more information and request to join here.
To watch the full recording of Flood’s session, as well as explore more upcoming sessions in our “The Confession Series,” click here.