Sramana: It sounds like you discovered the business need by recognizing the lack of tools for CFOs, and that you discovered the lack of those tools while you were working as a CFO consultant. Is that a correct statement?
Rob Hull: Yes, that is. There were not good tools for planning, budgeting, forecasting, and analytics. I needed tools that allowed two-way collaboration with the managers throughout a company or an organization.
Sramana: Let’s talk about the founding of Adaptive Insight with a bit more circumstantial details. What exactly triggered the idea and how did you validate that idea?
Rob Hull: I was actually moving from company to company putting together financial models. I was helping businesses understand what their key drivers were and how they could be controlled. I helped these companies evaluate how they looked at cash flow. I wanted to get management engaged and involved in that process. Excel was a poor tool for that workflow.
I also noticed that Salesforce.com was used by the majority of those companies. Salesforce was actively used and adopted by the business users. They did not push back on use because they needed to use it. Second, Salesforce was implemented without IT in the middle, which meant it was implemented and adopted quickly. As the CFO, I was able to get insight into what the sales pipelines were from the perspective of the sales teams.
The concept of cloud-based software allowed a couple of different ideas to be formed together in a way that was easy to use. I wanted to leverage that concept. That meant that I needed to have an offering that had no IT involvement and that allowed a very easy and intuitive interface for both business users as well as finance. The tools should put finance back in control of managing the process and would put finance back in control of budgeting, forecasting, and analytics, without getting stuck in the technology behind it. The time, cost, and difficulty of implementing something like a Hyperion would overwhelm a finance team.
I saw an easy to use solution as key to creating high collaboration. That meant a high ROI. That is what Salesforce offered and that is what I felt needed to be done for the office of the CFO. Nobody was doing that. CFOs were relying on Excel knowing that it was flawed or they turned to a heavy solution, which cost too much and would take years to implement, and even when implemented they were not ultimately in control because they would have to rely on IT or outsourced consultants because they did not understand technology well enough to make changes to those deployments.