How I Buy – Karen Pisha, VP Customer Success, Code42

By Steve Woods in #HowIBuy

Karne PishaToday, the discipline of customer success is widely known and well implemented. As a discipline, it owes a debt of gratitude to Karen Pisha, the VP Customer Success at Code42. She is one of the clearest thinkers and strongest leaders in the field and is well respected in her executive peer group.

I caught up with Karen to talk about how she buys, and not surprisingly, it was a well thought-out and clearly articulated viewpoint. It also relied heavily on the thoughts of that tightly curated peer group.

Here are Karen’s thoughts on buying:

First, tell us a bit about Code42 – what do you provide to the market? Also, for context, roughly how large of a business are you?

Code42 is an enterprise SaaS solution that backs up all distributed end-user data on a single, secure platform. Our product provides continuous, automatic collection via a lightweight agent on the device and protects every file on Mac, Windows and Linux laptops and desktops. Our platform enables IT, security and business teams to limit risk, meet data privacy regulations and recover from data loss, no matter the cause.

We’re a global company with over 47,000 organizations using our products. Code42 is headquartered in Minneapolis, with satellite offices in San Francisco, Denver, London and Munich. We have more than 500 employees and are backed by great investors like JMI, Accel, Splitrock Partners and NEA.

What is your role within the organization? What kind of things do you spend money on throughout a year?

I’m the SVP of Customer Success at Code42. I’m responsible for managing the teams that interact with our customers after the sale including Professional Services, Education, Support and Customer Success Management.

The majority of my budget is on people, training, and benefits. We utilize technology to help us manage the business, so I’m always looking at software.

How do you find out about what’s new? How do you discover the latest solutions and approaches that might have a chance of making your world better?

Code42 has a dynamic user community that keeps us abreast of the current and future needs of our customers. Feedback from the National, Regional, and Local customer events – combined with QBR’s with our most valued customers – keep us abreast of the marketplace.

In addition, I stay in touch with other technologies companies that are part of the VC portfolio to share ideas and discuss how they are solving problems. We participate in local and national user groups that focus on Customer Success to share ideas and learn best practices.

What role do you play in the decision process? What role do your front-line leaders play?

I have a solid management team so I count on them to evaluate solutions and make recommendations. We often try before we buy when we are looking at software solutions. We recently evaluated a product that allows employees to provide peer to peer recognition and we used the product for 60 days before signing a contract.

How do you prioritize what initiatives are “now” and what are “later”?

I like to get my leaders together at least twice each year in an offsite workshop so that we can step back and look at our business and prioritize what’s going to help us achieve our goals in the future. We just did this about two weeks ago and used a “start, stop, continue” exercise to gather all of the ideas and then prioritize them into the highest level of impact to determine our plan for 2H 2017. I like to focus my Teams on three items every quarter.

How does an evaluation happen? What do you do during an evaluation to assess one vendor against the next?

We do a lot of homework online to evaluate products, then we meet with the vendors and get demonstrations. Our last few selections have included a free trial before we committed. We tend to scrutinize technology purchases because it feels like many companies our size try to solve problems by purchasing more tech. We evaluate solutions to determine whether or not there is an expected ROI and whether or not we can solve the problem without the purchase. We don’t really incorporate vendor ROI data into our decision criteria, but we leverage back-channel references to get the inside scoop on the product and the customer experience.

What is different about buying today than buying a decade ago?

So much information is available online and through social channels. SaaS products have made it very easy to stand up trials so many companies are offering a try before you buy option. These changes have removed much of the risk from the buying process. While SaaS products generally make it easy to procure and deploy quickly, replacing or re-deploying a new solution is costly because it requires training, orientation and changes to process. While we know that we can replace solutions relatively quickly, we tend to try to get the most out of what we have before we make the decision to replace.

Where do salespeople play a role in your overall buying process? What is the most valuable thing a salesperson can do in selling to you?

So much information is available online and through social channels that a salesperson’s role has evolved from an advocate to an advisor. In one of our recent purchases, the salesperson was great at getting us connected and helping us determine which companies are ‘best in class’ when it comes to utilizing the product. He connected us with other companies and helped us with best practices. Much of our conversation was about how others are using the product and what we might learn from them.

What is the biggest mis-match between what you need and how salespeople try to sell to you?

As with most Executives, I’m deluged with email on a daily basis. Vendors who try to attract my attention with email campaigns rarely succeed. I am most influenced by connections within my peer group or at events when I can learn about trends and best practices.

How do you leverage your network in understanding the landscape or individual vendor offerings?

I regularly speak and/or attend Customer Success events to meet with & gain information from my peers. In my opinion, this is the best way to get a great understanding of the landscape of products. The forums provide a platform to discuss our business challenges and the products we use are an extension of the conversation. This is the most helpful way to get a better understanding of what’s out there that we can take advantage of.

Thanks Karen for some great insights!

Steve Woods
CTO and Co-Founder