Today we’re excited to announce Sri Srinivasan as Zuora’s Chief Product & Engineering Officer and report to Zuora’s founder and CEO Tien Tzuo. The last three decades have served as perfect training for Sri’s new role. He has roots in engineering, starting out at Peoplesoft (Oracle), a 12 year tenure at Microsoft, serving in different product capacities including CTO of Dynamics 365, GM for Microsoft Dynamics 365 for Finance & Operations, and Director of Cloud Engineering including Dynamics Cloud Platform for ERP. During his time at Microsoft, Sri oversaw major transformations – expansion of product portfolio into the industry verticals and large enterprise as well as transformation from on-premises to cloud and hybrid. And most recently served as Cisco’s SVP and GM of the Collaboration Group, a multi-billion dollar division including WebEx Meetings, Calling, Teams, Meeting Devices.
Why did you choose to join Zuora when you were leading a huge software division at Cisco?
Zuora is at the precipice of driving growth in a subscription-first economy across industries. We are at the center of a “once in a century” business transformation — from selling products to helping organizations create business models around endearing experiences. As a platform that enables this digital shift, and as a subscription company itself, Zuora is well on its path to enabling and easing this journey for companies in all industries. Opportunities are endless! Zuora has the ability to break away from the pack we compete with today.
I believe there are three entities important to a company’s success: customers, people, and product. Salesforce aspires to own the customer journey, LinkedIn or Workday, they own the people insights. We, at Zuora, are uniquely positioned as we have the ability to bring Customer, People, Products along with experience and value, through subscriptions as the fulcrum. We can ease the transition journey through our simple, extensible and insightful solutions.
At my two previous jobs (Cisco and Microsoft), while my remit was large, it was a small portion of the larger company and never the central theme. Zuora gives me the opportunity to work on the core of the company. Finally, Zuora is a growth focused company ready to make big bets and blow through any barriers for the sake of our customers.
Aside from a great tenure in enterprise software, what personal qualities led you to this role?
My roots are in engineering but over the last two decades have grown into learning product management and eventually into general management where I have led efforts spanning the lifecycle from marketing, into GTM, sales, product, design, engineering, support and customer success. I have been blessed to be part of customer obsessed cultures wherein we drove major transformations – desktop to web early 2000s, multiple transformations to SaaS and cloud and hyperscale for the sake of doing good (enabling 30X scale at Webex to meet the new work from home demand). All of these experiences have left me with a profound understanding and need for a continuous learning mindset. I am a big fan of “growth mindset” principles.
With the advent of the cloud, I have never been more excited about using this growth mindset towards tuning product and engineering outcomes through connected customer listening systems. I believe in data driven decision making with a bias for action.
Finally, I believe in building engineering teams with diverse perspectives for the discerning enterprise we serve. I believe in building global solutions that are inclusive and endearing.
In today’s fast paced technology world, it is so important to continually discover ourselves. No better way than to come with a learner’s point of view.
Zuora’s CEO has long said “ERP is dead”. What’s your take having spent over a decade working on it?
During my 12 years at Microsoft, I drove the company’s shift from on-prem to ERP in the cloud. In 2008, it wasn’t yet called Dynamics 365, but I led the re-engineering of the legacy system to become a suite of ERP applications. Ten years later, the subscription and cloud-based Dynamics business has grown substantially into many thousand customers mainly through disambiguation of erstwhile ERP as the market knows it.
And product-based business models are becoming less relevant, so is ERP. ERP is a system of record, more of an audit trail rather than a real time enabler of modern day business. Customers are looking for platforms that stay ahead of their needs, and most importantly relevant to the direction they are taking. ERP, with its legacy thinking, is unable to shed their inhibitions to meet these expectations.
Zuora, on the other hand, can break away from the pack (CRM and ERP vendors) by engineering simple, intelligent and extensible solutions that are easy to deploy, use and engage with, in our quest to enable a subscription first economy. It is ours to seize!
Any big takeaways over the last year (a challenging one!) that you can share with us?
I joined Cisco three years ago to work on more of a high scale cloud — one with more than one million users. But I could have never anticipated what 2020 would bring. Overnight, WebEx grew from having 116 million to 370 Million Monthly active users. An onslaught of new customers from governments, schools, medical facilities, existing customers expanded their usage as everyone worked from home – now video (which was optional in the past), was mission critical and usage went up 40 times in the peak hour of the day. If I had asked engineers to design their products for a day where everyone would work remote, I would have been laughed at. Needless to say, that became reality. It was a great learning journey and I plan to someday pen a book titled “Hyperscale for the sake of good”.
What does the role of the Chief Product & Engineering Officer bring to Zuora?
Unifying engineering functions under one technology leader brings great agility and alignment towards our objectives. I plan to learn from each one of our ZEOs, yet synergize us towards a few simple objectives that will reflect and amplify our customer obsession. Commonality of purpose, planning and outcomes are force multipliers and that is the design principle used by Tien and the leadership team in bringing these functions under one leader. Needless to say, I am humbled to have this amazing opportunity.