You probably have too many SaaS apps

Welcome to Runtime! Today: How Cushman & Wakefield got control of a sprawling app portfolio after several mergers, Salesforce plans a hiring freeze, and this week's enterprise moves.

You probably have too many SaaS apps
Photo by Darwin Vegher / Unsplash

Welcome to Runtime! Today: How Cushman & Wakefield got control of a sprawling app portfolio after several mergers, Salesforce plans a hiring freeze, and this week's enterprise moves.

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Silos are for corn

The commercial real estate market has been through a roller-coaster ride of ups and downs since Cushman & Wakefield emerged from a series of private-equity deals as a public company in 2018. While the century-old company couldn't have foreseen the rapid changes in this market caused by the pandemic, it did foresee the need to build a new digital platform on which to ride the rails.

Right after that IPO, the company decided to focus on partnering with SaaS vendors rather than maintaining a swath of applications when adopting its cloud strategy, said Sal Companieh, chief digital and information officer. Several different real-estate companies came together through its private equity partners to form the pre-IPO organization, and it wanted a flexible but standardized base to get everyone on the same page.

  • "We strategically created an environment where we have afforded ourselves the privilege of focus on our data," said Companieh, who has been with Cushman & Wakefield since 2015 when it merged with competitor DTZ.
  • A convoluted series of mergers, acquisitions, and divestitures had left Cushman & Wakefield with "hundreds" of separate enterprise-resource planning applications with their own data silos, Companieh said.
  • It slashed that down to two, and around the same time cut several human resources apps down to just one, standardizing on Workday.
  • "We've gone from hundreds of dispersed local platforms with unique data models to the global platform, global data model," Companieh said.

When Companieh became CDIO across the entire company almost two years ago, a second shift began to take place.

  • Standardizing on core SaaS applications made it easier to manage Cushman & Wakefield's data, but it's a big company with different lines of business; property brokers prioritize different datasets than asset managers, for example.
  • "We had platform owners, we had technology owners, but we didn't have them tethered for the experience of a product," she said.
  • Now there are "technologists waking up to optimize the data and the digital workflow for every single one of our products that we sell to our clients."

Cushman & Wakefield was ahead of the curve when it came to paring down its enterprise software assets to work closely with a smaller number of vendors.

  • The early days of enterprise SaaS were characterized by the "best of breed" mentality, in which department-level managers were more or less free to pick the tools they thought were best for their needs, and emerging companies sold business software by emphasizing their laser focus on a particular feature.
  • Over the last couple of years, however, some enterprises have grown weary trying to manage dozens or even hundreds of separate vendors.
  • Last week Battery Ventures' Max Schireson predicted that trend would accelerate in 2024, writing "the long march towards best-of-breed, where each specialized solution was viewed as a competitive advantage, now feels like a night of too-hard partying; and technology users have a headache from the complexity hangover."

But companies selling integrated stacks of software overcorrected when chasing their smaller rivals by rushing out new features every quarter, Companieh said.

  • "SaaS platforms, in particular specialized SaaS platforms, are moving faster than most companies can consume the change," she said.
  • Through a series of conversations with companies like Workday and Salesforce, Companieh is trying to get them to focus on slowing down to focus only on services they intend to support in the long run.
  • "That's going to be an interesting pivot for most of these companies."

Read the rest of the full story on Runtime here.

Triple axel

How do you spin a report of a hiring freeze? Take a cue from Salesforce, and throw the author of an authentic internal memo under the bus.

Citing a memo sent to Slack staff from Ross Harmes, chief of staff to Slack CTO Cal Henderson, Fortune reported this week that employees were told to prepare for a hiring freeze across both Salesforce and Slack; "this isn't our first rodeo with hiring pauses, but it’s definitely disruptive and will affect our plans in Q1 and beyond," Harmes wrote. In response, Salesforce told Business Insider and Fortune "we are not freezing hiring in any departments," but it also "did not dispute the authenticity of the memo," according to Fortune, so there you have it.

It's worth noting that this is very similar to the PR strategy Salesforce employed when responding to a report from Protocol's Joe Williams in late 2022 that the company was about to make major layoffs across the board. In response to that report, several publications dutifully reported Salesforce's claim that it had only laid off a few hundred underperforming salespeople, only for the company to turn around and lay off thousands of members of its "ohana" in early 2023.

Enterprise moves

Khozema Shipchandler is the new CEO of Twilio, replacing co-founder Jeff Lawson, who stepped down under pressure from activist investors.

Mark Moffat is the new CEO of IFS, replacing Darren Roos, who will become chairman of the ERP software company.

Michael Weingartner is the new chief product officer of HashiCorp, joining the company in the newly created role after recent stints at Google Cloud and SAP.

Oliver Parker is the new vice president of AI for Google Cloud's go-to-market organization, after serving as senior vice president and general manager at Okta.

The Runtime roundup

SAP will pay the U.S. Department of Justice $230 million in fines stemming from an investigation into practices of bribery in Indonesia and South Africa.

OpenTofu. the open-source project created as a fork to HashiCorp's Terraform after it announced it would adopt the Business Source License last year, is now generally available.

Harness acquired Armony, a continuous integration startup built on top of Spinnaker that Harness CEO Jyoti Bansal hopes will help build out his vision of the CI/CD pipeline.

Justin Garrison, the AWS employee who aired concerns about its direction during the holiday break, has left the company.

Broadcom eliminated a large portion of VMware's partners after closing its acquisition, confirming earlier worries of such a move according to The Register.

Thanks for reading — see you Saturday!

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