CTO Sessions: Venkat Rangan, Clari

What predictions do you have for the role of the CTO in the future? “CTOs will need to adapt to the needs of “digital-native” people coming into the workforce in large numbers. This generation of workers demand digital agility, expertise and aligned workflows…”

Headshot of Venkat Rangan, CTO & Co-founder at Clari

Name: Venkat Rangan

Company: Clari

Job title: Chief Technology Officer

Date started current role: July 2012

Location: San Jose, California, United States

Venkat Rangan is CTO and co-founder of revenue operations platform Clari. He is a software executive and technologist with over 36 years’ experience leading, designing, architecting software products for enterprises in product organisations of various sizes ranging from early-stage startup, high-growth phase as well as large enterprises. With broad experience in all aspects of product development, management and leadership in all stages of product and company development, Rangan’s mission is now to help company customers grow their revenue with Clari.

What was your first job? I started out as a software engineer for Proximity Technologies in the early 80s, implementing key software technology components to several word processing vendors. It was an informative experience for me, as it taught me the power of software and OEM models for distributing software. It also showed me first-hand the power of software, and how it can streamline business processes and, importantly, how software can directly impact lives for the better.

Did you always want to work in IT? Yes, I was fortunate to get in early into software development and have always believed in the large impact that software can make in value creation. Software is so powerful because you can take something imagined, a mere concept, and turn it into reality. It’s really something special to be part of, and I’m so grateful for the work I get to do.

What was your education? Do you hold any certifications? What are they? I have a Bachelor of Technology degree in Mechanical Engineering from the Indian Institute of Technology, and also hold a Masters degree in Computer Science from the University of Miami.

Explain your career path. Did you take any detours? If so, discuss. My career path has alternated between software and hardware startups, as well as the large companies that ultimately acquired those startups. Within software development, I have made subtle shifts in line with the large industry trends, whether this is from mini computers to PCs and desktop software in the 80s, from dedicated standalone apps to client-server in the 90s, from client-server to web apps in the 2000s and now cloud and SaaS applications. In terms of specific technologies, my trajectory spans ASIC and hardware design, storage virtualisation to enterprise applications incorporating Machine Learning and AI as well as advanced analytics.

What type of CTO are you? I’d say I’m heavily technology focussed with a strong sense of business value and the impact technology has on the end user. I also like to pride myself as someone who looks at technology through a strategic lens to see how it can be incorporated into the growth of the business from all angles. I make a concerted effort to stay on top of emerging trends and explore new opportunities that these trends present by keeping in close touch with my tech teams to understand what they’re seeing and experiencing on the frontline of technology.

Which emerging technology are you most excited about the prospect of? I’m currently very excited about blockchain infrastructure and what it means for a new class of applications. The ways in which we can leverage the infrastructure components of blockchain, layered on top of superior internet connectivity from 5G and beyond is really exciting.

Are there any technologies which you think are overhyped? Why? I think metaverse has a long way to go before meeting the hype that it is promising. It’s still very early days, with a large amount of AI and human learning needed to properly understand how it will work within the ecosystem.

What is one unique initiative that you’ve employed over the last 12 months that you’re really proud of? We elevated and extended the capabilities of Clari’s revenue operations platform using advanced data ingestion techniques. Not only has this helped our customers to connect data silos within an enterprise, it’s also increased the ability and ease of our customers in predicting their revenue targets as well as helped them understand on a deeper level the state of the business across all revenue paths.

Are you leading a digital transformation? If so, does it emphasise customer experience and revenue growth or operational efficiency? If both, how do you balance the two? Absolutely, that’s what Clari is all about. We are transforming the single most important business process of any company: revenue. Clari is offering a new level of customer experience, combining cloud technologies and data science to reinvent enterprise data and ultimately support more predictable growth for businesses around the world. Clari’s revenue operations platform improves both efficiency and growth across the entire revenue process. By giving revenue teams total visibility into their business, it helps to drive process rigour, spot risk and opportunity in the pipeline, as well as use insights and data to increase forecast accuracy, predictability and efficiency. I’m so proud to be a part of the Clari team that is helping our customers achieve unmatched performance and growth while streamlining and simplifying revenue workflows wherever possible.

What is the biggest issue that you’re helping customers with at the moment? Revenue is without question the most important business process, and yet, it’s the last one to be transformed. Software is transforming the world, and because of Clari, revenue has gone from an antiquated mess to software-driven, taking the most important business process out of the stone ages and into a new world. No more jumping back and forth between Excel spreadsheets and your CRM. We developed the only purpose-built software solution that lets you run your entire revenue process in one place.

How do you align your technology use to meet business goals? As CTO of a company with primary responsibility for building products, we are constantly evaluating how our offering and technology can service and meet our customer’s business goals. Both for internal usage, as well as for building the infrastructure for delivering our SaaS application, several factors are important here, including establishing business objectives, reaching alignment with senior management and an agreed budget, securing dedicated resources and working with finance and business teams on costs.

Do you have any trouble matching product/service strategy with tech strategy? Technology introduction is usually about future savings, future efficiency and leverage. Sometimes, the value is realised much later, so it is imperative that one takes a long-term view. However, product and service strategy often involves having to make choices that are tactical (e.g., short-term customer or marketplace wins), and prioritising long-term initiatives against short-term is often a challenge.

What makes an effective tech strategy? An effective tech strategy is one that aligns business goals with technology leverage, technology modernisation and a rollout consistent with human value development.

What predictions do you have for the role of the CTO in the future? CTOs will need to adapt to the needs of “digital-native” people coming into the workforce in large numbers. This generation of workers demand digital agility, expertise and aligned workflows, which will place greater burden on tools and technologies CTOs bring into their workplace.

What has been your greatest career achievement? Building Clari from the ground up and evolving the product and technology to meet emerging needs of our customers so that they can better run their revenue workflows.

Looking back with 20:20 hindsight, what would you have done differently? For startups like Clearwell and Rhapsody Networks, which I was involved in, I’d have done a more thorough total market opportunity assessment to get a better understanding, before digging deep into building a company.

What are you reading now? Second Mountain, David Brooks. The Scout Mindset, Julia Galley. The Bid Switch, Nicholas Carr. Think Again, Adam Grant. A Pirates Guide to a Legendary IPO. The 8 Category Levers.

Most people don't know that I… Have run six Boston Marathons.

In my spare time, I like to…Read, play the violin, play chess.

Ask me to do anything but… Sing in public.