Farnaz Bengali, VP of Enterprise Applications at MicroStrategy, speaks with CXOTalk about digital transformation and the new services economy. The enterprise software company uses FinancialForce to manage IT, treating clients and internal projects alike as customers for the business intelligence tool.
“Just like if you were to hold a product conference like the one we’re at right now, you would bring sales and marketing into the table. You’d try to think about what customers you want there, who you’re marketing to, all those kinds of things,” Bengali explains. “I’m also trying to bring IT to that table; the internal IT department. You may be looking at three different venues. We can help you understand which of your venues are going to accommodate the people that you need from a wireless and infrastructure perspective. We can also think through what kind of support you need at the conference so we can bring that expertise to the table, and focus the decision to be better because now, you’ve got more facts.”
Michael Krigsman: I’m Michael Krigsman, an industry analyst and the host of CxOTalk. And I’m here in Las Vegas at FinancialForce.com’s Community Live 2017 conference. And I’m speaking with Ferny Bengali, who is the VP of Applications at Microstrategy. Hey, Ferny! How are you doing?
Farnaz Bengali: Good! How are you?
Michael Krigsman: I am well. So, tell us about MicroStrategy.
Farnaz Bengali: MicroStrategy is an enterprise software company, and we are the best BI tool out there.
Michael Krigsman: You’ve been around for a long time.
Farnaz Bengali: We’re actually the original BI tool.
Michael Krigsman: And you’re the VP of Applications, so what do? What does that mean?
Farnaz Bengali: So, I work under the CIO’s office, and I manage all of our software applications.
Michael Krigsman: So you’re a part of IT?
Farnaz Bengali: I am a part of IT, but funny enough, I have no IT background.
Michael Krigsman: Okay, tell us about that!
Farnaz Bengali: So, just came up from an accounting and consulting background, and they really wanted somebody for this job that could help them modernize their applications, which is my role.
Michael Krigsman: So, your background is very clearly with the business, and it sounds like you’re taking that and applying it very directly to your activities within IT. I hate to say “within IT” because it’s really focused outside of IT.
Farnaz Bengali: Well, I’m actually helping optimize the business processes for everybody, every other department in the company.
Michael Krigsman: What does that actually translate to?
Farnaz Bengali: So, I have marketing coming to me and saying, “Hey, we can’t get leads out to our internal reps fast enough. Can you implement X tool,” right? And I’ll think through and help them say, “Okay, before I implement the new, shiny tool that you’ve heard about or watched a YouTube video on, walk me through what is your leads process? What tools do we use today? What people are involved? What is the process involved?” And, then I will help them tailor a solution.
It may be a new tool. It may be optimizing something we have currently. Or, it may just be a business process change. Do we really need a new software application? That’s my job. I’ll implement it for you. Or, is it something we can just tweak in something current, or a business process?
Michael Krigsman: At this conference, there has been a lot of talk about the new services economy, and it sounds like you are applying this concept directly to your work inside IT.
Farnaz Bengali: I’m trying to make IT a services organization. They have customers. Their customers are corporate and around the organization, but we should treat them as if they were external paying customers.
Michael Krigsman: And, you actually are using FinancialForce to manage IT as if it’s a professional services organization, in fact.
Farnaz Bengali: Yes. We primarily implemented the PSA tool to manage our consulting arm, because we do external services out to our clients and customers. But, I’m actually also using the tool to manage my internal projects.
Michael Krigsman: That’s a really interesting use-case for professional services automation software, and again, it stems from your focus on IT as a business partner.
Farnaz Bengali: To be honest, we’ve had no issues extending the software to do that, because as I said, we’re a services organization, and without that customer service hat on, most of us wouldn’t be employed.
Michael Krigsman: What are the challenges involved in rethinking IT from this service perspective?
Farnaz Bengali: Making them understand the value and the proposition we bring to the table. I’ve done that by ensuring that not only do I have the right IT people in the organization, but I’ve also hired-in a marketing person, somebody who’s got a finance hat on, somebody who’s got an accounting hat on, a sales hat; in the past, so that we’re bringing that expertise to the table from a decision making perspective.
Michael Krigsman: So you want IT to actually possess the full range of business expertise?
Farnaz Bengali: Absolutely. It’s been very successful. We’ve been brought to the table, our adoption is a lot better, and we’re not necessarily just back-end people implementing systems anymore.
Michael Krigsman: I know that you’ve spoken about wanting a seat at the table.
Farnaz Bengali: Mhmm.
Michael Krigsman: What does that mean in your case; in your context?
Farnaz Bengali: Just like if you were to hold a product conference like the one we’re at right now, you would bring sales and marketing into the table. You’d try to think about what customers you want there, who you’re marketing to, all those kinds of things. I’m also trying to bring IT to that table; the internal IT department. You may be looking at three different venues. We can help you understand which of your venues are going to accommodate the people that you need from a wireless and infrastructure perspective. We can also think through what kind of support you need at the conference so we can bring that expertise to the table, and focus the decision to be better because now, you’ve got more facts.
Michael Krigsman: Before we finish, give us advice. Share your advice for other IT organizations who want to have that kind of relationship with the business, but they’re maybe struggling to do it.
Farnaz Bengali: My advice would be: Hire the right skill set. Ensure that you’re able to scale properly; don’t do too much, too fast. And, really focus on the process.
Michael Krigsman: Ferny Bengali, thank you so much!
Farnaz Bengali: Thank you!