Looking for IT Innovation Beyond Packaged ERP Suites

For Ring Central’s CIO, it’s about making sure “our IT spend is going against the most critical things to move our company forward.”

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Trevor Schulze is Global Chief Information Officer at Ring Central, a rapidly growing provider of unified communications as a service. Before joining Ring Central, Schultze held CIO and other IT leadership positions at Micron Technology, Broadcom, AMD, and Cisco Systems.

With its global customer base approaching 350,000 businesses and its annual revenue edging toward $1 billion, Ring Central needed to ensure that its internal IT operations could keep pace with its rapid growth. The company brought in Trevor Schulze in late 2018 to serve as the CIO guiding that process.

“They brought me on to level up the maturity of the IT organization and to put us in a position to grow to become a multibillion-dollar company,” Schulze explains.

Achieving that objective requires not just IT solutions that can scale, Schulze says, but that can also deliver on three core business objectives: improving revenue, customer experience, and employee experience. In pursuit of those goals, Schulze is willing to look beyond the default applications that come bundled as part of multifunction enterprise resource planning (ERP) suites.

While the major ERP suites deliver many advantages, the strength of the individual functional elements can vary significantly.

“You may realize that one area is a point of weakness in a large suite and conclude that the vendor isn’t going to adequately invest in it,” Schulze says. “In that case, you have to look for alternatives.”

Ring Central is a cloud-native company and its IT department is fully cloud based. As such, any complementary IT solutions that Schulze considers must also be cloud-based services.

“We believe that the cloud gives you competitive advantage for speed, cost, and productivity,” he says.

Most critical, however, is the requirement that any solution aiming to replace or extend an ERP suite’s built-in capabilities must give Ring Central a clear strategic advantage or some form of competitive differentiation. Schulze also evaluates each candidate vendor’s track record, its financial stability, and its future prospects.

As an example of an innovative company that has found “the sweet spot” in this regard, Schulze cites Coupa, a leading provider of a cloud-based spend management solution suite.

“Coupa is an established company that has strong revenue and backing, and they’ve found an operational area where they can really show good differentiation,” he says.

Not surprisingly, spend management itself is a critical area of focus for Schulze, as for most CIOs. Given that “the demand signal is always three to five times your capacity,” Schulze has to prioritize which demands to address with his available budget.

“I need to make sure our IT spend is going against the most critical things to move our company forward,” Schulze says. That means continually tracking investments to ensure they’re supporting core business objectives.

If those investments are helping to drive revenue growth, making customers happier, or improving employees’ experience and productivity, the IT department shouldn’t have to worry too much about external budget pressures. By clearly supporting these critical business needs, “You’ll have fewer executive conversations along the lines of ‘Is your IT spending meeting your expense targets?’” Schulze says.

Business Spend Management leader Coupa gives companies the visibility, control, and insights they need to better manage their spend, and in so doing, facilitates IT and business unit partnership. For further information about Coupa’s platform, go to https://www.coupa.com/.

Click here to read this ongoing series of interviews about how the role of the CIO is evolving as digital transformation initiatives mature.

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