As Apptio celebrates its thirteenth anniversary this month, I find myself reflecting on our history and how the lessons we learned in the beginning are just as relevant today as we face the current global pandemic.
Apptio was born in 2007 during the Great Recession. More than 500 banks and an untold number of businesses failed as a result of the recession that lasted from December 2007 to June 2009. Despite widespread economic challenges, it turned out to be a perfect opportunity to cultivate a new business idea. In fact, if not for the crisis, Apptio would never have flourished.
Today, we are once again in a global crisis. The principles we used to navigate the Great Recession are the same ones that have guided us through this pandemic: an unwavering commitment to our customers, which requires listening to them and focusing on their success.
There are interesting parallels between the two crises and many differences as well.
Out of the Great Recession, Apptio is born
In 2007, my four Apptio co-founders and I had a bold mission. We wanted to create a new software category focused on helping IT departments manage and optimize their technology spend. We formulated this idea by listening intently to customers of our previous company.
Those customers told us that IT is critically important to the strategic direction of the business. However, IT organizations had long been relegated as a cost center. Business leaders struggled to get a view into IT spend and planning – IT was a black box. They often remarked that it was impossible to measure the ROI of technology investments and difficult to explain the consumption levers to the business. In short, there was no way to make informed, data-driven decisions.
These former customers also helped us understand why IT leaders would be willing to spend money on a new software category and why their existing financial systems (i.e. Oracle, SAP, Hyperion, etc.) could not solve this challenge – they lacked the granularity and financial agility to make data-driven decisions. Apptio would not exist if we had not listened to them.
As we were getting ready to launch Apptio in 2008, the financial crisis was forcing organizations to begin severe cost cutting. I remember traveling to Wall Street to advance sales discussions with top financial institutions. Unbeknownst to me, some of the very executives I was to meet had just been let go that morning. Banks had already begun severe cost cutting measures.
The situation made us rethink whether this was the right time to launch Apptio or if we should wait. To help decide, I reached out to many of our prospects and customers to get their perspective. They told us that this was exactly the right time – we needed to focus on our value proposition of helping IT organizations make data-driven cost cutting decisions. The economy was forcing CIOs, CFOs, and board rooms to better manage IT spend. Apptio was exactly what they needed.
We remained focused on the mission, engaged our early customers, honed our value proposition, built strong product capabilities for cost cutting, and went to market. As the world came out of the financial crisis in 2009, we leaned heavily on our core values, listened deeply to our customers, and expanded our product suite. We have driven incredible value and cost-cutting outcomes for our customers over 13 years. As the economy started to recover, our customers focused us to help manage new investments in IT, manage transition to the public cloud and be a catalyst for digital transformation. This allowed Apptio to go public in 2016 and then private with Vista Equity Partners in 2018 for $2B dollars.
The global pandemic; not quite the same story
The Great Recession and COVID are very different crises, but two challenges remain the same: Everything we thought we knew about customer behavior and preferences has been upended, and customers’ ability to make purchases has drastically changed. However, in both crises we have found that customers still invest in their respective businesses. The question is, “Investing in what”?
COVID restrictions very quickly created revenue shortfalls forcing extreme cost cutting at a time when companies had to increase investment in equipment, teleconferencing solutions, and security to support their newly remote workforce. A major university system told us that they went from limited remote work to over 30,000 faculty, staff, and students online in less than a week.
During all of this, companies have accelerated their push to digitize the business. An executive at a global financial services organization told us, “It was imperative to move to a cloud-based contact center right away. The business case was delivered quickly using Apptio data, and now the business is seeing true benefits of moving to the cloud-based contact center so quickly.”
Revenue of most companies has been disrupted and CFOs are asking CIOs to create optionality in the technology budgets. As a result, we found the need for companies to quickly replan their budget, make investments, and perform scenario analysis. We leaned on our experience during the Great Recession to quickly reposition our core products. We redesigned much of our product suite and existing tools to accommodate the changing needs of our customers.
CIOs and CFOs need to get their software-as-a-service (SaaS) and cloud sprawl under control, manage decisions of IT, and increase the transparency of IT finances. We are still listening to our customers and providing an integrated platform to help them prepare for the next chapter. We’ve also shortened the contract time for many of the products we believe will get them to value quickly.
Below are some of the ways our customers say they have used Apptio to be successful during COVID:
We were able to reclassify our entire budget and conduct an initial COVID-19 disruption analysis on total IT spend in about 10 hours. This would have taken us months the prior year.
We conducted a face-to-face working session with the CFO and CIO using live Apptio views to make decisions and drive a $6M IT contribution to contingency planning.
Our TBM office created a report to help budget owners look for discretionary expenses that are more controllable than others.
The TBM and finance teams created a tracking process that documented committed spend, what we paid, resource allocation, and overall TCO of IT spend for COVID-19 efforts. It also tracked IT productivity metrics and trends for IT services that were ramped up in response to COVID-19. These dashboards allowed teams to adjust planning activities with real-time data.
To assist with application rationalization, the TBM team provided insights into applications by service (in lieu of function) to help leaders quickly assess extraneous costs and competing systems. During these days especially, insights like this provide the value-added information to decision makers that keep our enterprise healthy and ready for tomorrow.
Multiplying our success
Customer feedback led to the creation of Apptio and has been critical to the success of our business during the pandemic. Customers have helped shape short-term decision-making and long-term strategic planning. They have helped us understand the evolution of IT organizations. Now, Apptio is in the position to identify market disruption, forecast technological trends, and create products to allow our customers to thrive so they can drive digital transformation. Having a data-driven business system to manage this transformation is critical.
Our immovable intention has always been to create value and drive long-term growth for our customers. What’s remained really consistent is that we want Apptio to be the source of truth that technology leaders can rely on to make critical decisions to drive their businesses forward.
Watch the Apptio Anniversary Recording to see Sunny Gupta, CEO, Kurt Shintaffer, CFO, and Larry Blasko, CRO, reminisce on their 13 years with Apptio.