I recently had the pleasure of sitting down with the Centage leadership team to reflect on what we have learned as a team from 2020 and to share priorities and focus areas for the coming year.
Q: Looking at where the company is today, who is Centage and what does the organization stand for?
John Murdock, President & CEO: Centage is a software company that empowers small and mid market finanhope thats ce teams to meet the growing appetite inside their business for more business data and metrics, more frequent financial reports and dashboards, and highly accurate projections and forecasts. We serve businesses across a variety of industries and are helping them innovate and transform their processes.
As far as what our organization stands for – first, let me say that we have an incredible group of people at Centage who care deeply about our mission to empower finance teams. I’m incredibly proud of the work they are doing to support our customers, especially in the year we have had. Who we are and what we stand for is really defined by a set of guiding principles:
- Commit to Customer Success
- Focus on Value to Customers
- Personal growth and the curiosity to learn
- The Pursuit of Growth
- Diversity and Inclusion
Maddalena Rossi, Office & HR Manager: In support of our guiding principles we do have a peer-to-peer employee recognition program called the Principles in Play which gives employees the opportunity to nominate their peers who exemplify our guiding principles. We have also added professional development training courses designed to give people the skills necessary to apply our principles to their daily work lives as well as their own personal and professional development.
Nate Burnes, Vice President of Customer Success: Our team spends a lot of time working with customers – and the principles are always present in their day to day interactions. The biggest one is our Commitment to Customer Success – this is the most rewarding. And we get there by really understanding what the customer needs – we don’t have a cookie cutter solution, a one size fits all – we get there by taking the time to understand our customers, the challenges they face, the objectives they have in using Planning Maestro and putting a plan in place that they can execute and make themselves successful.
Q: How has Centage responded to the challenges brought on by the pandemic?
John: First and foremost, when the situation began to unfold earlier this year – I am sure like many companies – the health and well being of our employees was a top priority. We moved very quickly to set up our employees remotely. Luckily for us it was a seamless shift and there has been no effect on our business continuity since we moved remote back in March. And since then we’ve turned our attention to our customers and helping them navigate this uncertain time. As customers use the solution for their cash flow, cash flow forecasting, and scenario planning activities, which they were doing a lot of, we were at the ready if they had questions or needed help with modeling a particular scenario. We’ve seen continuous use for these activities since – and we’re happy to say that we’ve been there for our customers – and continue to be – through a very unusual year.
Jason Lin, CFO: I think one of things we did in response to the pandemic was we really made an effort to focus on communication. As John mentions, we went remote pretty quickly and as a leadership team we established weekly company all hand meetings – which has been great. We have a social committee that kicks off those meetings with a theme. I have heard from multiple Maestros that since going remote they feel very connected and that the communication at Centage in 2020 has been better than it’s ever been. And when I say communication, not just internal, I mean all aspects – external to our customers, the executive sponsorship program where members of the leadership team will reach out to our customers on a regular cadence to check in. Our finance team has also been reaching out to major vendors – we’ve set up monthly and quarterly check ins – to ask how are we doing, how they are doing and to make sure our current terms are working for both sides. It’s a lot of communication that should happen, but the pandemic was a force of function.
From a logistical and technical perspective, we’d made investments to ensure that every single Maestro is properly equipped for remote work. The biggest item there is our laptop ‘refresh’ program where we essentially said we were going to look at every single laptop and if it was old and tired, we replaced them. We wanted our employees to feel that they had the tools to their job.
Adam Rice, Vice President, Product Development: From a Product Development perspective, the great news is that we had already employed a somewhat liberal approach to remote work, with tools for agile software development and real-time communications continuing to be mission critical for us. While the events that unfolded in 2020 were certainly unexpected, the shift to full remote was not an issue for our team. There was a period of acclimation for the first few months, and yet the team very quickly hit their stride in this new way of working.
Maddalena: We made an important change at the beginning of the pandemic, moving our company meetings from monthly to weekly – which has kept employee engagement high. We also kept our core committees going – our Centage Committee which consists of employees who plan & drive Centage’s operational, social & cultural initiatives, as mentioned earlier our Diversity Committee has played a key part here as well. We also have Icebreaker, which is an add on to Microsoft Teams, where every two weeks it pairs people at random, even though the meetings are done virtually, this still gives folks the opportunity to get to know their peers on a more personal level. Most recently we have been able to bring back our ‘give-back’ programs such as our yearly Thanksgiving food drive as well as our holiday toy drive for Pathways Family Shelter.
Q: On top of the pandemic, there have also been a lot of social issues that have been raised during this time – could you give us some insight into how Centage has responded?
John: I’m really proud of how our company and team have been involved in advancing that conversation this year. It’s important to me that we create an inclusive team to ensure every voice is heard, everyone has an equal chance to advance their careers and be a part of our team. This year our team created a Diversity Committee that helps our company culture remain strong, diverse and inclusive. They launched an initiative this year inside the company to create a Diversity Cookbook, which is a collection of recipes from across the company that are reflective of our diverse backgrounds and ethnic foods. We published the e-cookbook and sold copies of it to raise funds for the BLM movement. This is just one small example of something we did as a company that brought us together and helped our small team to contribute to a big conversation.
Maddalena: The Diversity Committee has also done a stellar job hosting virtual internal lunch & learns on various topics and it’s really given us a forum where we have been able to facilitate discussions such as BLM, share experiences and learn from one another.
Q: From a business perspective, how is Centage doing?
John: We are doing very well during a very odd, uncertain year. Things have only gotten better as they have progressed over the 6 or 9 months. Which makes a lot of sense as the business we are in is a mission critical category of software – helping our customers with cash flow projections, scenario planning, forecasting more frequently, accurate reporting and up to the minute performance tracking of their business.
Scott Jennings, Vice President, Sales: One of the things that has been very rewarding this year, while we haven’t been able to remove the uncertainty, the unexpectedness of this year, the combination of the Planning Maestro solution and the Maestros who work here and some of the experiences we have had have allowed us to provide some best practices to the market that have been very well received. Also, the process of working with potential new customers – we have had to be nimble and agile, and very responsive in a changing evaluation process as many organizations postponed their typical budgeting process. I think the fact that we have been able to provide value to those organizations whether it’s through best practices, whether through the Planning Maestro solution that allows them to model some of these scenarios, or just being responsive and empathetic to how organizations have taken to evaluating solutions in 2020 have all been has been very rewarding – and I think this directly correlates with how we have been doing as a business.
Q: Let’s dive into our customers, how are they doing?
Nate: The pandemic has affected everyone, some of our customers were hit harder than others but what stands true, no matter how you were affected, there has been increased focus and attention on the financials. In speaking to customers over the past year, everyone is using the tool for cash flow analysis, running what-if scenarios and more. It’s really rewarding to see that they are getting great value from Planning Maestro as they are planning and thinking about 2021
Adam: We’ve seen overall product activity increase 2.5 times year over year from 2019 to 2020, which makes sense given the continued levels of economic uncertainty. We’ve been seeing more data in Planning Maestro from our customers, specifically in areas like scenario planning – new versions, trying out different things, rapid turnarounds for rapid scenarios.
Q: Can you give us an update on the plans for 2021 and beyond?
John: Specially looking at the first two quarters of 2021 we have some amazing new features and product releases coming. We’ll have a lot more around collaboration, reporting and dashboarding, and more frequent planning. We have quite a bit coming that will empower our customers with a faster, more frequent, more collaborative, planning process. We also want to continue to build communities next year for our customers to connect with our team, as well as each other to share, learn, improve.
And looking beyond 2021, we are in a really interesting time for the office of Finance as we’re entering this new age, coming out of the COVID climate – and we don’t see it slowing down at all. We see FP&A and the office of finance taking center stage – no longer the back office team – but taking a front seat to help build strategy, enable their business teams, be that single source of truth for their business and really empower their business with insight and information.