With hiring freezes and limited capacity for software spending, businesses have had to reconsider their priorities during the pandemic.

Gregory Paris, Director of Business Technology and Intelligence at People.ai, and Chris Blaisure, Director of Support Operations at Elastic, discussed this very issue at this year’s Biz Systems Magic, the largest conference for Business Systems Professionals. 

In the session, Paris explained how he’s piloted a process to revamp People.ai’s software spending, while Blaisure spoke about how Elastic has approached hiring and building a better employee experience throughout the pandemic. 

Here are some of the key learnings from their session!

See what else they had to say by downloading the full session.

How to Make the Case for Software Governance 

After Paris became in charge of managing People.ai’s technology portfolio, he quickly learned that the company was over-investing in software. 

To fix this issue, Paris launched a Software Governance Program. 

Beyond cost savings, the mission of this program was to make sure that their software aligned with the needs of the business, to validate that tools were compliant with security and privacy requirements, and to drive consistency within the tech staff. 

To kickstart the program, he established a set of software governance best practices that could drive a sense of ownership across the company, position the program as a value-added service, and keep the program lightweight and agile. 

The next step? Making people care. Paris highlighted their yearly over-spending on software based on the 160 SaaS tools they used. He then asked employees to think about what that money could have gone towards and how much they had to work to make up the difference. 

Paris highlighted that within their portfolio, there was redundancy, lack of use, and siloed data. 

The Launch of People.ai’s Software Governance Program

With the launch of the Software Governance Program, Paris created a Software Advisory Board at its center, including key people in Security and Compliance, Technology Fit, and Business Functionality. 

The three services included purchasing, software inventory management, and ongoing software rationalization. Here’s a look at each:

  • The purchasing process was designed to help the business team think through all the costs and implications of the purchase and then make a recommendation. 
  • For inventory management, Paris decided to crowdsource their software inventory and set up tracking and renewal reminders within a spreadsheet. 
  • He designed a semi-annual software rationalization process to review everything in their software inventory and to ultimately identify cost savings. 

To test the process, Paris piloted it with three cases prior to the launch. This allowed Paris to fine tune the process and provide testimonials for the actual launch. “Anticipating objections and being proactive in addressing them is key to getting buy-in,” Paris explained.

Providing specific guidance was key to People.ai’s Software Rationalization Process. Paris was able to recommend removing 19% of their software, which amounted to $400K in cost savings. The process also provided intangible benefits, like allowing his colleagues to better understand software costs, and gain confidence in their tech stack.

Keeping Diversity Top of Mind and Rethinking Expectations Around Productivity

When it comes to headcount planning, Blaisure routinely incorporates feedback and additional insights, as it allows his team to be better about hiring for diversity.

Blaisure expanded on this:

“It’s not about finding the silver bullet, but about continuing conversations even after the final headcount to make sure diversity is always in the conversation moving forward.”

For Elastic’s Delivery Process, Blaisure explained how they focused on reporting three things: how much work is coming in, how much they delivered, and the difference between how many issues they planned to deliver on versus how many issues they actually delivered on. 

Even though Elastic was already 100% remote, their team still delivered significantly less than planned. Blaisure talked about how this was OK, as it was important to set the expectation that employees should prioritize family and mental health over work. 

You can learn more about what each speaker shared by watching the recorded session.

Anusha Kuppahally
About Anusha Kuppahally

Anusha is currently studying Business at Georgetown University. She's excited to learn from and write about the Business Systems Community as she earns her degree.