In my decade-plus experience leading fast-growing software companies, I’ve found myself saying, “Why am I just hearing about this now?” more times than I can count. No one likes feeling blindsided, but as much as I dislike it, my team is even more frustrated by this statement. 

One big aspect of my job is to consume a tremendous amount of data.  This data is presented and communicated in many different ways, and I need to be able to sort the key elements from what’s not as important.  On the flip side, a big part of my team’s job is to ensure that I’m informed and supplied with this information as quickly as possible.

As CEO, there’s a constant stream of information flowing in my direction. I have multiple email addresses, dozens of Slack channels, plus countless meetings, reports, and dashboards. Not to mention the off-hand update as I pass someone’s desk on my way to said meetings. The upshot of this reality is information that lacks context, timeliness, and clear relevance. Fast forward a few weeks, and you’ll find me in a meeting getting the same information in a different context saying, “Why am I just hearing about this now?”

Take this story…

The day is wrapping up and I’m headed down the elevator when our HR manager, Sally, gets on. As we are briefly chatting she tells me that this is one of the most challenging recruiting markets she’s ever seen and the chatter about the great resignation is real.  Candidates are harder to attract and she’s concerned about an uptick with attrition, and that it’s especially challenging with sales positions.  The elevator opens and we are each on our way home.

It certainly sounds like HR has a big challenge in front of them. I know Sally is going to manage through this and do everything she can do to get people hired and retained.  Is this all I need to do? I trust my leadership team and am glad that Sally gave me a heads up, so I can let her handle it and move on, right?

The answer is no.

There is a brilliant quote-of-a-quote from Charles Munger: “You have to realize the truth of biologist Julian Huxley’s idea that, ‘Life is just one damn relatedness after another.’ So you must have the models, and you must see the relatedness and the effects from the relatedness.”

Nothing in business (or life) happens in a vacuum and that simple conversation with Sally actually has a huge impact on many areas of the business.  It’s my job to understand what this means.  A key element of that quick chat is our ability to hire salespeople, as that is going to have a direct impact on financials and cash flow.

In our financial forecast, we are planning on hiring several new Account Executives.  Each of these Account Executives has an expected hire date, budgeted compensation, and forecasted revenue from the quotas they will carry.  Each of these quotas has a start date and a ramp period.  If we miss the hire date, then there’s an added risk that the quotas don’t start on time and don’t ramp as forecasted.  Depending on the quota amount and the ramp time this could have a devastating impact on not only new revenue but cash flow.

That’s a major ripple effect from one brief, informal conversation. These types of interactions are constantly happening, so how do I keep track of all of them?

We have many systems that help us record this information.  In this example, I assume that we would be able to look at our applicant tracking system (ATS)  and clearly see we are behind on hiring.  Great, but is our finance team looking at the jobs in the ATS to see that we are behind?  If not, should we add a meeting for HR to update finance on the status of each opening? Do we do this meeting weekly, bi-weekly, monthly, or quarterly?

Everything in business is connected, but the way we interact and work within companies is a bit broken.  We have historically tried to solve this with more meetings and by marrying many different systems together with complex integrations. The majority of these systems were never really designed to work with each other and usually lack contextual data to help really understand what is going on.

For example, many of the financial forecasting and planning solutions available have integrations into CRMs to extract sales pipeline data.  While this is great and helps solve repeated data entry, it doesn’t actually give me the clarity on the true status of each deal in the pipeline to determine if I should really include them in the forecast for the amount and at that time the data is saying.  Great, let’s just add yet another meeting so the head of sales can debate their pipeline with the head of finance - when should we have it? Do we need to reschedule other meetings so that we can ensure we have this meeting first?

I think the real solution is natively connecting the entire business on a platform that is specifically designed to provide real-time data, the context to support that data, and the ability to engage with others about it.  

Back to my interaction with Sally, if we had a solution that would have alerted finance, leadership, and anyone else impacted by these hiring challenges, we’d be well-positioned to collaborate, gameplan, and adapt in real-time.  

I don’t think one software solution will have every piece of data natively stored, and you will need integrations, but how you engage with that data and the context it provides is the secret sauce.

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