Executive Profiles: Disruptive Tech Leaders In Cloud Computing – Zach Nelson, NetSuite
Welcome to an on-going series of interviews with the people behind the technologies in Cloud Computing. The interviews provide insightful points of view from a customer, industry, and vendor perspective. A full list of interviewees can be found here.
Zach Nelson - President and CEO, NetSuite
Zach Nelson has more than 20 years of leadership experience in the high-tech industry, where he has held a variety of executive positions spanning marketing, sales, product development and business strategy with leading companies such as Oracle, Sun Microsystems, and McAfee/Network Associates. Nelson has been CEO of NetSuite since 2002. One of top 10 visionary CEOs in the Silicon Valley, Nelson led NetSuite's successful IPO in 2007. Under his leadership, NetSuite has become the leading provider of cloud computing business management software suites in the world. Nelson holds B.S. and M.A. degrees from Stanford University
1. Tell me in 2 minutes or less why Cloud Computing is changing the world for your customers
Zach Nelson (ZN): The original idea behind Information Technology (IT) departments within corporations was to apply technology to gain competitive advantage. But the client/server application paradigm hijacked IT and forced those resources to spend most of their time and energy managing vendors' products. Many studies show that a vast majority of IT resources and investments have historically been spent on maintaining legacy technology, and that does little to advance your own business. Cloud computing frees IT to make your own business better, instead of enriching the software companies. And it happens much, much more quickly, which is how Groupon was able to deploy the NetSuite financials/ERP suite in 26 international subsidiaries in just three months, instead of the years it would have taken them with conventional software.
2. What makes cloud computing disruptive?
(ZN): The cloud – or more specifically web-native applications -- eliminates all of the effort that used to be necessary to make technology work. Once you've done that, you can start accomplishing things which were impossible with client/server systems. The early conventional wisdom said that you couldn't run complex processes in the cloud. I disagree. It is obvious from what NetSuite’s customers have accomplished that you can actually run more complex processes in the cloud than you could with on-premise software. And the fact that you can do so faster, better, and cheaper is tremendously disruptive.
3. What is the next big thing in Cloud Computing?
(ZN): Obviously the mobile device trend will become more important for the cloud, and from our perspective that means making it easier for buying, selling, ordering and customer servicing to happen from a myriad of mobile devices. The ability to aggregate large amounts of data across multiple companies and industries will make it easier for companies to benchmark their performance versus their rivals’ as well.
4. What are you doing that’s disruptive for Cloud Computing?
(ZN): Virtually all client/server business applications were designed to run a single department. At NetSuite, we have built a solution designed to run an entire business. Not only that, but the integration made possible by the cloud enabled us to create NetSuite OneWorld, which can run a complex, multinational business in a single application. Old-world, physically separated systems just can’t do that, which is why no company in the on-premise software business ever attempted what NetSuite has accomplished—building an application which every employee can use to advance their employer's goals.
Personally, when I arrived at NetSuite 10 years ago I made sure that we mined our own gold. In the early days people would bring spreadsheets to meetings and I would have to banish them and tell them, "No, I want to see this data in our system." It's a big and important shift to run your business with metrics pulled directly from the operational system, instead of a spreadsheet someone has massaged to try to advance a particular point or agenda.
5. Where do you see technology convergence with Cloud?
(ZN): My view is that cloud computing is the last great technology architecture, so from that standpoint all technology is converging into the cloud. If a technology is not in the cloud today, it will be in five years. The cloud will be the only way people will access data, both personally and professionally. What's happening right now with social media and mobile devices is really just a cloud story—their success is built around the ubiquitous cloud that allows access to so many great services.
6. If you weren’t focused on Cloud Computing what other disruptive technology would you have pursued?
(ZN): When I left McAfee in 2001, my top goal for a new post was a company delivering software over the Internet, because that's where I believed the market was going. Ten years later, I see that what I expected has come to fruition. I can't really think of another disruptive technology that isn't built in the cloud. When it comes to technology, the cloud is the first and only place I looked.
7. What’s your favorite science fiction gadget of all time?
(ZN): The Wayback Machine from The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show. I'd love to go back in time and meet George Washington with Mr. Peabody and Sherman.
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