Paul Mackender (00:07):
I’m Chief Revenue Officer here at Agent3 and for the latest conversation under the Agents of Change banner, I’m really delighted to be here with Nalina Athyantha who’s the vice president of biz operations for ServiceNow. Nalina, thanks for making time to chat.
Nalina Athyantha (00:20):
Yes, thank you so much for having me.
Paul Mackender (00:22):
And I’m really excited about this conversation because it’s kind of under the auspices of the chapters of growth which I think is really interesting to think about. Most organizations are trying to grow and in the current climate and all the various things happening in the world at the moment, that can be more of a challenge than maybe previously. So, but before we kind of dig into that, Nalina, would you mind just introducing yourself, your role, what is it you actually do at ServiceNow and kind of the scope of your role from a geography perspective?
Nalina Athyantha (00:47):
Yeah, sure, sure. So, my role is VP of business operations, particularly for the global sales team. So, in essence, my job is to make sure that we’re steering the internal organization, driving consistency, and ultimately, the end goal is just to help us reach our revenue targets faster. So, a lot of it entails many special projects, but the end goal is just to make the business operate in a consistent way and do so in a way that helps us achieve the goals of the business faster and more efficiently.
Paul Mackender (01:19):
Fantastic. And you obviously joined ServiceNow during the COVID period which obviously seems to be kind of growing and growing. How have you found that? Because again, starting in a new organization in a global role that’s fast growing, I know you knew a few people within ServiceNow which I know that helped, but how did you find that kind of adjustment?
Nalina Athyantha (01:36):
Yeah, it’s challenging. I think many of us went through this, right, in the last couple years, the challenge and the choice to stay in the role or the occupation that you’re in or try something new. Obviously, there’s a risk in shifting gears and doing something new in a virtual environment. I joined ServiceNow in July of 2021. So, it was a bit of an in between, right? So, we were kind of on the back of some lockdowns. We weren’t quite in normal world yet. Offices weren’t open yet. I left a profession where I was in a company for seven years. So, I had a lot of familiarity with where I was. So, the idea of leaping to something new was, of course, a bit daunting.
Nalina Athyantha (02:16):
I would say there is a blessing and a curse in starting virtually. The blessing was that you really had to evaluate the new opportunity for what the job was and not the extras, and I think often in this working world, there’s a lot of perks that encompass a specific company, and a lot of times that feeling of being in an office and all of that environment is such a draw to what you’re actually looking for in a career, and for me, I was sitting in my home behind my laptop. So, I was really after a job where I would get more satisfaction. I knew that this role would challenge me in the way I wanted it to. So, that was a blessing in the way I evaluated the new opportunity. I would say upon starting the challenge was of course not being able to be in the office and meet people in a more informal manner. I think at the end of the day, we’ve all been on Zooms back to back. So, for that to be the only method in meeting my peers initially was difficult.
Nalina Athyantha (03:15):
But then the flip side, the benefit was you had access to the whole world. So, I’m part of a global organization. Many people’s companies these days have people all over the world in every corner of not only your own country or city, but also in other continents as well. So, for me, the ability to ramp up and meet people in every corner of the world within my first few months of joining was absolutely a benefit in virtual work, and eventually, as we all know, things have opened up and I’ve had the opportunity to travel for work and meet people face to face. So, that expedited the relationships of course, but in the early days it was tough. It was tough.
Paul Mackender (03:50):
Great. So, in terms of the theme of chapters of growth, one of the things that you said to me when we were chatting recently was what you got to where you are today isn’t necessarily the way to get you to where you are in the future. In terms of today, obviously your earnings have been great recently, year on year growth of roughly 25% and renewal rates of 99%. So, coming into a high performing organization and thinking about the next stage of growth, what is the sort of things you’ve been thinking about, and what are the areas that you have to consider and people should consider in thinking about scaling an organization that’s already on a fast growth path.
Nalina Athyantha (04:25):
Yeah. What got you here isn’t necessarily what’s going to get you there. So, ServiceNow is a successful business. For all intents and purposes, there isn’t a lot of work to do to make it successful in the way it’s standing now, but we have this ambition to be the defining enterprise software company of the 21st century. So, to get to that chapter of growth, we probably need to reevaluate the way we message, what we prioritize, how we go to market, how we’re really fueling our sales team to be the best it can be.
Nalina Athyantha (04:53):
So, there’s a number of tweaks that we need to make in order to help us achieve that kind of high performance rate that we want to get to, but all of it comes down to prioritization and what it is that you’re looking to achieve as a business because what happens in high growth companies is there’s a load of things that people want to focus on, and we often freak out about the idea of only zeroing in on one or two things. But the reality is it’s better to do one or two things well than it is to try and do a hundred things and not execute all of them to their full fulfillment. So, one thing I’m focusing on within my capacity and my role is looking at how we prioritize across the business, the few things that we really want to focus on, but it’s going to help us get from the stage that we’re at now to the right stepping stone to get to where we want to be in one year’s time, two years’ time, and eventually in five years’ time to hit our revenue targets in a faster way.
Paul Mackender (05:48):
How do you do that where you’ve got ultimately different, if you like, revenue streams with their own distinct leaders? You’ve got different cultures and different markets. ServiceNow as an organization will have a different reputation and greater longevity in some markets than others.
Nalina Athyantha (06:03):
Paul Mackender (06:04):
How do you go about that in terms of are there certain frameworks you’re using or ways of thinking that you’ve adopted?
Nalina Athyantha (06:09):
Yeah. So, there’s a number of frameworks. I once worked at Salesforce and they famously use a V2MOM framework which is a goal-setting framework for the whole organization. We similarly have a goal-setting framework. For the global sales organization, we have a structure around kind of five key global sales priorities, and those priorities span across the entire business and touch beyond just the sales organization. It may touch everything from marketing to our ecosystem, to everyone who kind of contributes to the whole go-to market function, and what we want to do, and this is something that we’re working towards to master, I wouldn’t say that we’ve nailed this piece completely yet, but what we want to do is make those five priorities pertinent and relevant to every single person across the organization. Often in higher growth companies, you have goal-setting objectives. Right? Everyone has some form of goals within their organization, and that’s not new, but the way to make goals actionable is what becomes a tricky part, and that’s where the rubber meets the road.
Nalina Athyantha (07:11):
So, we have five global sales priorities which are kind of overarching categories, and under each of those priorities could be a list of a hundred things that relate to that top-end priority. Right?
Paul Mackender (07:22):
Nalina Athyantha (07:22):
So, what we want to do is make sure that rather than having a hundred things under each of those, we’re all aligned as a leadership team on what are the one or two things in each of those buckets that we’re going to focus on and get after within either this quarter, this year, or objectives for next year. So, we want to have a really fine-tuned approach to how we take our goal settings and our goals and make them a reality. And then the important thing is it doesn’t stop at leadership. I think goals often come at a corporate level, at a CEO level, they go down to the top-line leaders, but for goals to be impactful and effective, we need every single person in the organization to understand why what they do on a day to day basis impacts the top line of the business and the bottom line of the business, rather.
Nalina Athyantha (08:07):
So, I think at the end of the day, the way to make goals effective is to have every single person wake up with the same view of what we’re marching towards, and that’s super important because I think we’ve heard this before, people and employees are a company’s absolute number one asset. So, there is nothing that we can do without our teams, without our employees.
Paul Mackender (08:28):
This whole idea of prioritizing and trying to really focus on what truly really matters and getting the whole organization behind that, but making it stick with everybody from the CEO right down the organization in it’s relevancy piece. Is there anything else that come almost as a wrap up, you’d say, in terms of anybody else in a similar journey to you, whether in a smaller organization or equally in a larger organization like ServiceNow that you’d almost advise them to think about?
Nalina Athyantha (08:52):
Yeah, I think at the end of the day, it’s change management, right, and whether you’re in a small organization or a large organization, change is important. We all have to make changes to reach our next objectives, reach our next goals, but at the end of the day, make the changes in a methodical way, and don’t be afraid to focus on one or two things. I think we all look at change as something that has to be done across the board, and often we want to do a lot in order to show kind of volume and scale, but at the end of the day, making one or two changes and doing them well and seeing them through is more important than quantity.
Nalina Athyantha (09:29):
So, I think it’s a quality over quantity discussion. It’s understanding the changes you need to make in your business. I think in a large organization, it is like steering a cruise ship. Right? You make those changes, but you actually don’t see the shift or a change for quite some time. So, there’s a kind of balance between patience and focus that comes in change management. I worked at startups before, and of course changes, you feel the impact a lot more quickly, and that’s the benefit in being in a more agile, small company, but I still think that focus of a couple things that you want to do to see through fruition is really important.
Nalina Athyantha (10:05):
So, whether you’re a small company or a big company, do things in a prioritized, focused way, and empower your teams to be prioritized and focused because the better we are at prioritizing a few things, the more change and impact we’ll see, and I know we have the tendency to want to take on everything at once, but it just, it never really works that way. So, I would say just be open to making the small steps because I actually think those lead to bigger changes.
Paul Mackender (10:33):
Very wise words. Nalina, thank you for chatting. It’s great to talk as always.
Nalina Athyantha (10:36):
Thank you. Nice to speak to you as well.