Join us in this exclusive interview as Ross shares his innovative approach to software development and his insights on the future of the industry.
Companies are constantly seeking innovative ways to improve their software development processes to stay ahead of the competition. However, with the increasing complexity of technology and the need for faster delivery, many companies struggle to keep up with the ever-changing software landscape.
That’s where Ross Meyercord, the Chief Executive Officer of Propel Software, comes in. With his extensive experience in the tech industry, Ross has led Propel Software to become a trailblazer in software development, providing cutting-edge solutions that help businesses optimize their processes and drive growth.
In this exclusive written interview, we have the opportunity to gain insights from Ross on how companies can leverage technology to improve their software development processes, his leadership style, and the future of software development.
Scroll down to read the full interview!
Ross, please tell us about your professional journey so far and your role as the CEO of Propel Software.
I’ve had the opportunity to work for some amazing companies over the past 30 years and have led and advised many high-profile global brands on large-scale technology investments. At Accenture, I saw firsthand the need for businesses of all sizes to continuously adapt to new conditions, and how technology can be a great asset in their transformation.
At Salesforce, I witnessed the evolution of the CIO role from a tactical initiative to a core strategic business asset. Digital transformation was the core of my strategy during my time as the company’s CIO. I spent five years helping scale the company from $2.5B to more than $10B in annual revenue.
Now at Propel, my focus is on accelerating our pace of innovation so that our customers can be more successful tomorrow than they are today. Information and information sharing have become a powerful differentiator not only for Software as a Service companies like Propel but also for the customers we serve. And that’s one of the main reasons why I chose to make the leap to Propel late last year.
How does your diverse background help further Propel’s growth?
As a former CIO, I can attest that the holy grail for any CIO is to have a radically simplified systems architecture. Propel can provide that single view of the product that spans engineering, manufacturing, supply, marketing/commerce, and service. Taking complexity, translations and integrations out of this flow creates agility and speed to value for our customers.
My career has taught me that technology is driving business like never before. Companies are being forced to think outside of the box and they can no longer operate in independent silos. We must leverage technology to gain a strategic advantage and retain and delight our customers.
What does your day look like working at Propel? What is your favorite aspect of working with Propel Software? How do you make your day productive?
A typical day involves proactive touchpoints with each of our stakeholders in the business: customers, employees, partners, and investors. It’s not every day that I get to engage and interact with each of them, but I consider it a win when I’m able to find that balance and learn from each group to help make the business stronger.
Customer interactions are my favorite aspect of the job. When I hear how we’ve helped turn a complex, complicated idea – or image – into a physical product I get pretty excited. And when Propel’s innovation gives customers the focus they need to support their customers – I admit I may geek out a little.
Driving positive change always gets me excited. One area where we can really see that is in the med device industry. Here we aren’t just helping companies create the best widget (which is very cool – don’t get me wrong). It’s the products that help improve customers’ quality of life that I find the most remarkable – whether it’s identifying early cancer signs or helping diabetes patients find alternative treatments – that is what it’s all about.
Productive day? When I’m surrounded by a team of execs, providing strategy when/where needed and am able to leave the rest up to the team to execute. I like to check in on progress and weigh in when we need to make crucial decisions – but I rely upon our diverse group of creative thinkers to get the job done.
Tell us more about the comprehensive set of products and services that Propel offers. What makes the organization stand apart from the competition?
Propel is an ideal cloud-based solution for innovative product companies that value end-to-end data visibility and collaboration. Propel’s Product Value Management (PVM) platform future-proofs technology investments with a single, master product record that provides visibility, insight, and collaboration from product concept to customer delivery. This end-to-end product view enables businesses to make smarter decisions, faster so that they can expedite new product introductions. But speed isn’t the only challenge for today’s product companies – they also need to address market disruptions and customer demands. Propel’s whole product approach connects business units and solves gaps that siloed solutions present when product information is scattered across different units and various technology solutions.
Propel is built on the Salesforce platform for enterprise-class security and scalability. We make it easier for companies to connect teams, processes, and information to efficiently manage the full product lifecycle. It is a single platform with one shared product record built for continuous collaboration between designers, engineers, suppliers, quality, marketing, sales, and customer service.
Our customers are at the core of everything we do at Propel – that’s one of the main reasons why I wanted to join the Propel team. This company has customer satisfaction scores off the charts, amazing 97+% retention rates, and expansion rates that clearly demonstrate our customers’ reinvestment in Propel to fuel their future business strategy. Our attention to the customer clearly differentiates us from the competition.
In all your active years in the industry, what has been your toughest challenge? How did you work around it and turn it into an opportunity?
In my 30+ years focusing as a consultant helping to drive change for others, and as an executive driving change internally, the toughest challenges usually happen when going through a large-scale customer transformation. Somewhere along the journey it typically hits a snag – it could be something like disruptive market conditions or executives questioning the rationale for the transformation. Many transformation projects fail at this point, drowning in the valley of doubt. To achieve success, you need to keep forging ahead and prioritize obtaining executive alignment. This means painting a clear vision, galvanizing the team, and developing a plan with measurable goals to drive toward it. Sticktoitiveness is mandatory to drive change.
As an executive at Salesforce, I always found a measurable internal momentum shift once we were able to demonstrate positive results – even if they were small to start. Once we could prove the concept and show a positive outcome, support started to shift and we started seeing immense tailwinds. When you start achieving results, momentum flips – and everyone starts to jump on board. Focusing on near-term milestones refocuses the team and starts to build confidence at the executive level. Later, when you start hitting those milestones and lay out a plan to check off the next challenge you create a trend line toward positivity and galvanize support across the business.
Being a leader, how would you describe the changing industry landscape? How do you strategize on aligning your offerings to the changing client preferences?
To be an effective leader today you need to be able to adapt quickly to market conditions and customer demands. This often means an unexpected, quick change in direction as many of us learned during the COVID-19 pandemic. Those companies who learned to pivot to address the changing market are still around today to talk about their successful transition.
One of the current trends we are addressing with our PVM platform is the transition product companies are making to subscription-based revenue models. Today’s consumers no longer want just a one-time purchase, they want to engage with brands they like and build relationships with companies they trust. So, a single barbeque grill purchase has turned into an experience where the consumer engages with the brand to become a pitmaster – subscribing to receive monthly meat/fish/condiments and/or access to online tutorial videos outlining how to create the perfect meal for their closest friends and family. With solutions like Propel, this shifting business model can easily be supported with a continuous feedback loop from product design and engineering through sales/marketing and customer support to engage with customers anytime, anywhere, across any channel with the right service or product offering.
Also, giving a voice to the customer is important, and actively listening to that voice is imperative. At Propel we do this by proactively partnering with customers to understand their unique business landscape – giving them various opportunities to share their challenges with us through dedicated customer service managers, professional services, user communities/conferences, and ongoing executive engagement opportunities. At the same time, we need to understand and prioritize their customers’ needs so that we can help them create products that build life-long product engagement.
What advice would you offer to budding entrepreneurs and aspirants who wish to venture into the industry?
- Customer success should be your North Star. You can build an amazing product but if the customer can’t achieve value from it, it will never have a real impact.
- Don’t let the cool factor suck you in – customer reaction is the only measure that matters.
- Don’t let your love of the concept prevent you from changing its outcome – this is really important for product entrepreneurs. In the end, your successful product may not be what you envisioned, or what you thought it would become – and that’s okay. Your one and only concern should be if it is driving value for your customer.
The best advice I can offer is to make your customers’ success the top priority.
Tell us about some of your prominent clients. How did your solutions help them scale the growth of their organizations?
We’re lucky to have some of the most future-forward product companies in the medical device, consumer goods, and technology industries as customers. They all have these three things in common 1) they want to get to market quickly 2) they want to create innovative, quality products, and 3) they want to secure lifelong customers. They work with Propel because we enable them to innovate faster to address both market and customer needs.
Our PVM platform enables emerging companies with big ideas like a direct-to-consumer start-up, Sunday, to reinvent safer lawn-care products by providing internal and external collaboration needed to avoid production delays. With Propel, Sunday eliminated miscommunication about product ingredient information, providing collaborative insight into every aspect of the product, in real-time, between suppliers and internal teams. Using Propel to manage engineering change orders, Sunday reduced process time by 15% in just 6 months and reduced go-to-market timing by eight weeks.
Meyer Sound used Propel to pivot its business model during Covid. When most companies were struggling to survive, Meyer Sound adapted quickly to changing market conditions by focusing on product innovation and geographical market and industry needs. Launching award-winning loudspeaker systems and focusing on installations in performing arts centers, corporate headquarters, and universities helped avoid its dependence on venues with short-term ticket sales. Propel delivered the business insight to respond quickly while increasing communication across the company. Propel has given Meyer Sound the flexibility to configure its needs with full control over who has access to what, and when. We provide a level of complex control, without the complexity, so each department can focus on value-added projects that compress time to market and ultimately expand the company’s award-winning portfolio.
The U.S. government is one of our newest customers embracing the PVM platform. The Bureau of Engraving and Printing within the U.S. Treasury relies on Propel to automate business practices and manage suppliers and quality processes for corrective action response. Our secure, cloud-based technology provides the capabilities the federal government needs to drive change within the organization and is highly scalable to support ongoing market needs.
These are only a few of the cutting-edge customers we partner with, but you can learn more here.
What do you consider to be your biggest achievement as a leader?
I love to mentor and coach executives so that they can spread their wings and become amazing leaders. When I was CIO at Salesforce I recruited an individual from my network who was not being recognized or utilized effectively. I brought her in as my chief of staff and she drove strategy and programs that impacted thousands of individuals. Today she is a director at Google directing the work of hundreds of engineers. Stories like this are what make the work I do so rewarding.
What hobbies do you actively take an interest in? How do you strike a balance between your personal and professional life?
Tennis, golf, dog – not always in that order. My golden retriever usually comes first! I enjoy spending time with my family – especially navigating evolving relationships with my three daughters as they are becoming young adults and entering the workforce. I love traveling with family and friends.
As far as striking a balance, I work as late as needed, but when the computer goes off at night, it’s off until I’m up the next day. I completely shut down at night and avoid being drawn into work emails/messages once I’m shut down. Typically there is no reason why work can’t wait until the morning.
What’s next for Propel Software?
I’m excited about the amazing innovation coming from North America right now – not only in the product itself but also in how they are coming to market.
The ingenuity in the manufacturing sector, medical devices, clean tech, etc. is cutting-edge and continues to push the boundaries of what we can do by leveraging new technology and creative thinking. The future is bright and innovative!