This episode of the Sage Thought Leadership Podcast features Neil Robertson. Robertson is the Executive Chairman of Compleat Software – a leading provider of smart spend management solutions for businesses of all sizes – having previously held the role of CEO since 2008. He has a 41-year track record of building successful global software businesses in the financial software industry. Compleat Software is no exception and is now perhaps the most disruptive of them all.
Below is an edited transcript of our conversation.
Why do you do what you do?
Neil Robertson: The “why” has evolved continually over the last 42 years since I sold my first accounting software back in 1979. But there’s one that remains constant, and that’s the catalyst of the incredible advances in technology. It spawns the applications which continually make the impossible, possible— and from there practical, affordable, and easy to consume. It actually makes life exciting, from the recognition of an opportunity and realizing there’s something to be had.
Can you talk about the big changes that you see taking place in the business world today?
Neil Robertson: Everything is accelerating. In the entirety of my career, I can think of three relevant and big changes within the purchasing arena, that have been driven by the tragedy of COVID, and that impact absolutely everybody.
The first big change is the fact that we’re going to be working with a permanently dispersed workforce. The life changes that people have experiences from working from home is that the majority now want to keep a degree of that freedom to be retained, or certainly working in an organization that gives them that flexibility. This has driven everything online, and I think every organization now is sitting there, looking at their IT infrastructures, and are trying to identify ways to evolve in order to offer that flexibility.
The second change is the corporate billing in the United States. Pre-COVID, about only 50% of the invoices being sent were arriving digitally, most were still being sent by snail mail. But throughout COVID, that’s changed and is probably at the moment in excess of 80% and growing. That’s because there’s no point in sending a paper invoice to an empty office, you’re not going to get paid.
I think the third biggest change since COVID is that we now all buy just about everything online, simply because we haven’t had the choice. It’s fast. It’s convenient. You can get what you want, where you want it, and when you want it. And enabling individuals to be able to do that not only saves a huge amount of time with regards to the person who’s looking to raise the order, but with the right approvals and budget checking taking place, it also removes about 90% of the accounting work that’s necessary to actually then account for it. Not to mention it’s considerably cheaper. So, you’re combining making life simple, making it quick, making it convenient, while actually giving finance total control.
What impact do you think that subscription has on a subscription model, and is this part of the changes you are talking about?
Neil Robertson: We started out with a perpetual model and have moved to a subscription model. The issue is that removing the upfront capital cost for the organization that’s making the decision is giving them opportunity to validate to their satisfaction. It needs to be simple from the point of view, the speed of deployment, and the return on that investment. And subscription does all of those things. And so really, the perpetual model no longer exists. I think the last time we sold a perpetual model was probably about four years ago. Subscription is the future.
Who is your hero and why?
Neil Robertson: There’s been a lot of them over the years, but for today, I think most relevant is Doug Burgum—CEO of Great Plains, and current Governor of North Dakota. I had the pleasure of working for Great Plains from 1995 to 2001. If you want to really understand partnership and see how you can aggregate the broadest range of people to have a common goal, common ideas, and focus and work together, this is the place. Even when there were challenges or issues that came up, the openness and communication they provided their people and partners have made it an extraordinary organization. I learned so much from that and it’s been so valuable in the years that have followed. So, thanks Doug, and everybody at Great Plains. I’ve really appreciated that rather exciting part of my life.
Lastly, how can somebody contact you?
Neil Robertson: The easiest way is to hit up our website at CompleatSoftware.com or reach out to me on LinkedIn.
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