CIO Spotlight: Carter Busse, Workato

What roles or skills are you finding (or anticipate to be) the most difficult to fill? “The roles that I’m finding the most difficult to fill are data roles (including data leaders) and business analysts. Data is such an integral part of what our company does.”

Headshot of Carter Busse, CIO at Workato

Name: Carter Busse

Company: Workato

Job title: CIO

Date started current role: March 2021

Location: San Francisco

Carter Busse is Chief Information Officer at Workato, a leading enterprise automation platform. Busse is an IT executive with a proven track record of success in both private and public companies. He was the first IT leader hired at Salesforce and has since gone on to lead security functions at multiple other organisations, with extensive experience managing local and remote teams globally. Busse’s expertise includes building large, high performing, collaborative teams, delivering on business strategy, and generating new revenue while decreasing operating costs. He has successfully completed SOC 2 Type 2 compliance for 2 pre-IPO companies and has helped navigate 3 companies through IPOs: Excite@Home,, and MobileIron.

What was your first job? My first job was a staff consultant role at what was then known as Andersen Consulting. Today, that company is known around the world as Accenture. At the time, the role at Andersen was a great stepping stone. It provided great management training, leadership training, and mentoring. This was during the days of coding in COBOL and mainframe technology.

Did you always want to work in IT? Yes, it was something I always knew I wanted to do.  I was a schoolboy back in the late 80s and saw the power of PCs when they first arrived into our classrooms. I then bought a personal Mac computer in the late 90s and was immediately attracted to the power of what computing could do in business. I knew I wanted to have a role in that.

What was your education? Do you hold any certifications? What are they? I hold a BA in Finance from Southern Methodist University, Cox School of Business.

I also hold Automation Pro I and Automation Pro II certifications from Workato. 

Explain your career path. Did you take any detours? If so, discuss. My professional career path started in the IT sector. My first job was an IT Associate role in the finance space. I went on to work for Accenture for over four years, where I worked on large custom system implementations at 3 Fortune 500 companies, including Sprint, AT&T, and Texas Utilities.

I continued in IT, going on to work at Excite@Home and later Salesforce. At Salesforce, I was employee number 70 and the company’s first IT leader. I continued in IT leadership which brought me to where I am today — CIO at Workato.

Along the journey I have become a peer group member of the Consortium of Information Systems Executives (CISE) and InspireCIO which allows CIOs to collaborate and share industry best practices for technology.

What business or technology initiatives will be most significant in driving IT investments in your organisation in the coming year? The world is becoming increasingly digital, meaning that enterprise apps and infrastructure are moving increasingly to the cloud. While the cloud isn’t new by any means, many enterprises and legacy apps are just now moving their data into cloud infrastructure.

From customers in the financial to the healthcare space, automation plays a big role in making companies more efficient.  Data triggered automation will be a big topic in the upcoming years.  For example, sentiment on customer calls can trigger automatic training to a support agent.  

Artificial Intelligence and Natural Language Processing will be more widely accepted across IT tech stacks. This technology can help companies leverage past knowledge and actions on routine processes. AI can also uplevel front line workers from task oriented jobs to knowledge based jobs as they work more on tuning the AI instead of mundane tasks.

What are the CEO's top priorities for you in the coming year? How do you plan to support the business with IT? Since Workato is an enterprise automation vendor, we look at IT through a unique lens.

At the end of 2021, Workato raised $200 million in Series E funding following growth of +243% in Europe alone over the last 12 months. Our company’s rapid growth has been due, in part, to organisations turning to how work has evolved during the pandemic. As hybrid work remains a post-pandemic fixture, workflow automation is more important than ever and will continue to be a growth area for the business.

When I joined Workato, I was put in charge of scaling the business. Growth strategy continues to be a top priority of the business and IT is at the forefront of our ambitious plans for ramping up globally. Having the right foundations and processes from the get-go is important to a growing business. Hence, Workato’s ambition of scaling comes down to technology —  setting up foundational processes and systems is what will help us scale more quickly.

IT has also helped get employees back in the office safely and efficiently through the use of our back-to-office accelerator. This is an automated process that handles contact tracing, logs vaccine verification, and allows employees to reserve seats in an office and be notified when their colleagues are coming into the office  —  all through a chatbot interface. Best of all, it was built by a person without a computer science or technical background, simply by using Slack and Microsoft Teams. Thanks to automation, people don’t need to have technical training to work in IT.

So, looking at IT through a different lens, trying new things and creating a culture where people can take risks is what will help IT support the broader business most effectively and continue to improve workflow automation.

Does the conventional CIO role include responsibilities it should not hold? Should the role have additional responsibilities it does not currently include? These days, I see many of my fellow CIO colleagues in the industry having a broad scope, including responsibility in areas such as security and facilities management. That’s not uncommon — after all, IT is very intertwined with the workplace at large, given the essential and growing role of technology in the workplace. In particular, the ownership of security as part of the CIO role often happens within growing companies. As a company matures, security might sit underneath the CIO and eventually spin out independently.

However, I believe that security should be an independent role and not fall within the remit of the CIO. Security is a big area within any organisation and it is especially so at a technology company. Security should belong either at a higher level within the organisation or in the product or operations areas. In some cases, when security is controlled by the CIO, they end up controlling governance policies as well, which should in fact be handled by a company’s general counsel.

As far as responsibilities that a CIO should have but doesn't, I think being another public face in the executive team is an important topic. The stereotype is that personalities in the IT sector tend to be more introverted, but as CIOs we have a unique and credible technology perspective that deserves a voice. Communication is an important way for CIOs to increase awareness —  both internally and externally — of the important work our teams are doing.

As CIO at Workato, we have embraced an outward-facing CIO role, and we are not alone. I have begun to see many more CIOs at other companies take a similar approach, including taking on more customer-facing activities and evangelising the company’s products and solutions. A company’s CIO can both run the company’s technology and help evangelise the company’s products.

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? Digital transformation is a key part of my work. Many companies look to Workato for guidance on where to focus their transformation efforts, so although we were born in the cloud era, we are undertaking rigorous measures to ensure our technology is above-best-practice standards.

Customer experience, operational efficiency, and revenue growth are all important areas of priority for our transformation process. Ultimately, we want to always find the simplest solution to any given problem. Thankfully, it doesn’t take a lot of technical know-how to automate processes at Workato, so the gap between the great ideas and execution is small.

We also derive inspiration from ideas shared by our customers. Our annual report, the Work Automation Index, gives a sense of what areas are seeing the most transformation in the adoption of enterprise automation. The resulting patterns and trends help us understand which areas are receiving the most attention from our customers, such as onboarding and offboarding employees or customer order processing.

We also find inspiration with other, less-obvious areas, such as access (e.g., employee access to sensitive information), and finance (e.g., spend management and automations that monitor for wasted or unused assets, which increased by 46% in 2021). As we better understand the possibilities of digital transformation across different areas, we begin to apply them internally.

Describe the maturity of your digital business. For example, do you have KPIs to quantify the value of IT? At Workato, we do have KPIs to quantify the value of IT. Our KPIs focus on measuring the baseline of a current process for a customer or employee and how much potential efficiency and revenue the project can generate. Questions we might consider include:

  • How long does the current process take?
  • How much will the project cost?
  • How much efficiency will it result in?
  • How much more potential revenue can we bring in with a certain project?
  • At the completion of the project, how will the improvement stack up against the baseline?

I like to use baselines because they allow us to measure efficiency gains against the status quo. We establish baselines before kicking off a project and measure against it over time. That allows us to begin the project with informed goals in mind and track our progress.

What does a good culture fit look like in your organisation? How do you cultivate it? The culture at Workato is about appreciating everyone’s unique talents and opening up possibilities for people to work on problems they have a passion for solving. To illustrate, we found that 45% of all automation was being built by non-technical people. A recent hackathon hosted by my team saw a quarter of the company participate.

This shows that, with the right tools, anyone can be empowered to participate and automate a process. At Workato, our IT department is confident and comfortable with letting people in the business use the Workato platform to put automations into practice.

I strongly believe that with automation, neither computer science degrees nor technical skills are required to work in IT at this moment in time.

In fact, most of my team members do not have technical backgrounds but are able to work closely with the business to automate processes based on their hands-on understanding of existing processes and ideas around how they can be improved. These employees have been trained and promoted from within the customer support organisation and joined me at entry-level roles, gradually gaining more responsibilities as they move up.

Anyone who is curious and interested in taking a hands-on approach adds great value to the Workato culture.

What roles or skills are you finding (or anticipate to be) the most difficult to fill? The roles that I’m finding the most difficult to fill are data roles (including data leaders) and business analysts. Data is such an integral part of what our company does. Getting the right team and infrastructure together to empower decisions based on data is paramount to our success as an organisation.

Business analysts play a key role in our use of data because they interpret it for those in leadership roles to be able to make the most informed decisions. A person in a data role can be a data geek but that doesn’t necessarily translate into business success if they can’t accurately communicate the value of that data in a business sense. For data analysts to be effective, you need the business analysis component.

We are looking to hire those who understand both data and business. People who can work across the organisation, surfacing data to the right decision makers when they need it.

What's the best career advice you ever received? It’s not so much a piece of career advice I received, but rather a career experience that has stuck with me over the years. I learned early on to have no tolerance for low performers on a team. Tolerating low performance risks dragging the entire team down. It may sound harsh, but in all honesty, vigilance about performance is best for everyone: both the team and the individual who is under-performing.

Do you have a succession plan? If so, discuss the importance of and challenges with training up high-performing staff. I definitely have a succession plan in mind, as I am a big believer in hiring people better and smarter than myself. Doing so allows me to expand my role —  if I have great people underneath me to spread their wings, I can be more visible to our company’s customers and employees. It’s good to give people the independence and freedom to thrive and grow in their roles.

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