715: Blazing a New Strategic Path | Todd McElhatton, CFO, Zuora

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Among the growing number of finance leaders who can be classified as cloud computing CFOs, few have arguably stayed in step with the parade of cloud opportunities longer and with more brand muscle behind them than CFO Todd McElhatton of Zuora.

For the past two decades, McElhatton has been finance’s cloud point man for some of the biggest names in tech as the technology developers have shifted their offerings from on-premise to in-the-cloud solutions.

Turn back the clock to 2001, and McElhatton is joining Hewlett-Packard’s finance team, where he serves as a vice president of finance while advancing into the realm of managed services for the first time. Fast-forward to 2007, and he’s joining Oracle, where he invests 7 years and oversees business operations for the developer’s pioneering cloud business. Next, he’s jumping to VMware, where he’s named CFO of the developer’s Hybrid Cloud Business before moving onward to SAP as SVP and CFO of their Cloud Business Group.

Today, as CFO of Zuora, McElhatton is tasked with opening a new chapter of growth for a developer whose offerings are designed to help companies manage and grow their subscription businesses. It’s perhaps the obvious next chapter for a finance leader who built his career inside companies set on harnessing the awesome power of subscription businesses.

CFOTL: Tell us about Zuora. What does this company do, and what are its offerings?

McElhatton: First of all, Zuora is a subscription management platform company. We help companies to launch and manage their subscription services. A lot of high tech companies operate on us. Companies like DocuSign and Zoom are our clients. We power all of their billing, and we do a lot of their revenue accounting for them. We help them to collect revenue from their customers. We really are helping clients as they’re transforming from a product sale to an ongoing subscription sale. This is really huge change for companies because when you think about a product sale, it’s a one-and-done, but a subscription sale is an ongoing, circular relationship that you constantly have with that customer. The customer signs up, and then you’ve got to make sure that you collect the revenue. You’ve got to make sure that you recognize the revenue correctly, make sure that you fulfill it, make sure that you renew it. Every time you do these different tasks, you might impact 15 or 16 different business processes. Using Zuora as a platform allows companies to do this really seamlessly.

The other thing that we know about really good subscription companies is that they’re constantly iterating. Their customers might have some sort of change up to four times a year, so if you have a good subscription business, you’re going to have all of these changes going on. For the most part, homegrown systems and ERP and CRM systems don’t do a good job of helping companies to manage these businesses, and this is where Zuora comes in. We’re really helping to transform a lot of what’s happening in the New Economy. I recently saw that IDC projects that in the future, more than 50% of GDP will be in the form of a subscription. Zuora is absolutely out front-and-center on this and is a recognized leader in helping customers through this transformation. We want to make sure that we’re helping people as they’re engaging in the subscription economy and as they really transform. Our employees want to make sure that we’re building the best products that we can to help our clients accomplish this.

We’re also really focused on making sure that our technology and platform are world-leading and that we execute our strategy in a way that makes sense. In some ways, Zuora is where ERP was in the 1990s. We’re really on the cusp of this, and it’s really changing how people operate. Think about yourself. When was the last time that you bought music? And cars … kids don’t have an interest in buying a car. It’s like, there’s Uber, there’s a subscription, or there’s a way that they can buy something as a service-on-demand—and this is really changing how things are working.

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