511: Getting Your Data Groove On | Elizabeth Salomon, CFO, Xactly Corp.

Listen to the Episode Below (00:43:31)

Back in the early 1990s, while a senior manager at Ernst & Young, Elizabeth Salomon was selected to be an “Accounting Fellow” at the OCC–the nation’s primary regulator of banks. Nominated by E&Y for the prestigious post, Salomon moved to Washington, DC, and was soon writing policy statements that would provide guidance to bank examiners across the country. Reporting directly to the OCC’s chief accountant, she quickly became a “go-between” with other banking regulatory agencies as she coordinated policy development. “This was something that I never expected to do, and the big learning for me was that it was okay to get out of my comfort zone,” she recalls. Up to this point, Salomon says, her career had been about helping clients to apply accounting rules, whereas at the OCC, she was developing the rules–an exercise that she credits with extending her thought process. Explains Salomon: “It was just a very different way of thinking.”

Following her OCC posting, Salomon joined Bank of America, where she became controller of the bank’s IT and operations division. However, once more intrigued by opportunities that surfaced beyond her comfort zone, Salomon jumped to a healthcare start-up, where as VP of finance she became the primary architect of the company’s finance function–a role that certified her leadership credentials and advanced her down the path to future CFO appointments. –Jack Sweeney

CFOTL: Tell us about the types of data that you’re tracking today …
Salomon: What’s been really fun here, and again, one of the best practices, is that we’ve just implemented some new systems or re-implemented some systems and processes so that we can capture data better across the company. For the first time in my career, actually, I have a data scientist on my team, which is kind of fun, because we now are involved in helping the organization to see all the way from “top-of-funnel” in the marketing organization through to closing deals. You know: What are our trends? How are we doing? What’s the conversion rate? Which marketing programs are more effective? Which segments of the business are doing better? Where can we make investments? Where do we need to tweak? So it’s kind of really all about the data. And you know, honestly, I thought that I was more leading-edge having a data scientist in the finance organization, but I went to this event earlier this week, and you know, several other CFOs are doing the same thing.
But I think that’s kind of part of the changing nature of the finance organization in today’s world. Really, the key is getting the data, clean data. I heard that theme a lot: Clean data in the right place so that you can analyze it. I think one of the most interesting things in my career in recent years has been the evolution from CFOs as control. You know: You’ve got to close the books, you’ve got to have financials, you’ve got to have AP controls. But those, I believe, are the table stakes. Data is really my sweet spot, and I think my value to the organization is about helping to provide that insight into the business. It is all about the data and about working cross-functionally, but we are in that kind of unique central position to kind of leverage that and drive that across the organization. I think that we can make sure that those metrics are clear and that we have insight into what’s really driving the results. This is definitely kind of a different view than it was maybe 10 years ago when I was a CFO. jb