CXO Series – Bill Donohue, CIO at MINDBODY, Inc, shares his insight…
Bill has been CIO at MINDBODY for almost three years. Prior to this job he was an independent consultant for 2 years, and before that he was CIO at 24 Hour Fitness for 11 years. “I find the health and wellness space to be important, vibrant and critical. It is a worthy place to spend my talents and my time. When I joined MINDBODY, the company was in an extremely fast growth phase and it needed the structure and infrastructure to allow it to gro. During the past two plus years, we’ve positioned the company to scale both vertically and horizontally, in a secure and cost efficient environment”. – Bill Donohue
Sajid Khan: Bill, Thank you very much for taking the time out of your busy schedule for this Interview. Can you begin by sharing your perspective on the role of IT in the health and fitness industry?
Bill Donohue: As in any industry, IT is the grease that makes the wheels of business turn. In particular, at MINDBODY, a SaaS business, the IT leaders need to ensure that our product is available and that it performs. Our average page load time is 2.3 seconds, world-wide, and for the past two years we have provided better than 99.99% uptime. If you’re running a small business, and you use our software to run your business and generate revenue, I feel that I have a moral responsibility to ensure that you can access our software, and that it performs as if it were on premises and you should have full trust and confidence that your customer’s data is secure. At MINDBODY, all of those requirements are met.
SK: What is your perspective on the role of CIO in the Software as service business industry?
BD: I don’t know that the CIO role in a SaaS business is different from a brick and mortar business. The CIO should first be a business person, concerned with the performance of the business, and in his or her role as CIO, should present technical solutions to business challenges, keeping an eye on spend, scalability, while always giving the business the agility to take advantage of opportunities as they arise to change or add directions or channels. SaaS presents a new set of challenges, in that High Availability becomes a key performance indicator, and should be part of the total customer satisfaction metric.
SK: How effectively the SAAS business organizations are innovating these days?
BD: SaaS, like any other business needs to keep their eyes on changes in technology, without becoming a slave to technology. Change for change sake is never a good idea. Innovation has to have a business reason, and should be accompanied by success criterion. We need to ensure that we are continuously evolving, while also making sure that we remember that we exist to support the business, not to be great technologists. There is a cost to innovation; there should be a commensurate gain.
SK: What is the biggest challenge for the CIO in the SAAS business organization?
BD: Uptime. I spend a great deal of time ensuring the survivability of my systems, and also spend a great deal of money on building redundancy into my systems architecture, while focusing on providing fast and accurate performance, in a secure environment. We do business on the Internet. The internet, by its very nature is a dangerous place. There are lots of bad people with criminal intent who would do us harm, just to be able to say that they could. We have to plan around those who would harm our business and pay particular attention to the security of our clients, customers’ data and the sanctity of their personal identifiable information.
SK: What’s been your proudest achievement in your career?
BD: I’ve had multiple phases of my career. As a commissioned officer in the US Marine Corps, my proudest achievement was the evacuation of the US Embassy in Yemen in May of 1994. As CIO at 24 Hour Fitness, my proudest achievement was the resurrection of a failing implementation of an Oracle 11i suite of applications. At MINDBODY, I am most proud of the amazing team that I’ve built in a very short period of time, and the achievements that we’ve made, collectively. We operate as a team, we succeed or fail together and we share the blame for our failures, and the credit for our successes. No single person is providing heroic actions to keep the systems running.
SK: What is your leadership Style? Does your leadership style vary with the role?
BD: I was taught leadership in the Marines. I believe that the Marine Corps is the greatest producer of effective leaders in the world. The standards apply. Lead from the front. Lead by example. Empower your subordinate leaders with the tools, trust and authority to succeed. Take the blame, give the credit. And finally, don’t confuse leadership with management. You lead people, you manage things. People matter and people create success. They are your greatest assets, not your hardware, great software or superior vendors.
SK: What advice would you offer for other finance executives who aspire to follow in your footsteps?
BD: Bloom where you’re planted. Do a great job, no matter what job you’re in. Never seek the limelight, if you are doing your best, day in and day out, you will be noticed.
SK: Anything else you would like to share with our readers.
BD: : I’m very proud of my company. We are breaking new ground every day. We are achieving new heights. We believe and live by our core values. Ethics and honor matter. Never sell your soul for dollars. Seek opportunities to do the right thing. And finally, in order to do your job effectively, your greatest concern should not be the security of your job. You have a duty and responsibility to tell the truth, even when the news is bad or may not be what the boss wants to hear. Bad news never improves with time. Be honest, accurate, demonstrate the courage of your convictions and never confuse motion with progress.