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Conga’s new CEO, Noel Goggin, talks company culture after merger and the future of CLM

11/11/2020 By

Conga’s new CEO says he’s ready to scale up to be the specialist in contract lifecycle management (CLM), especially after last spring when Conga merged with Apttus, a quote-to-cash provider and document management vendor.

In September, CEO Noel Goggin took over the combined company with about $400 million in revenue, and he recently told Spend Matters that he is excited to take on the leadership role at Conga, a company that is continuing to grow in the fragmented but thriving CLM market.

“You will see a pretty material shift at Conga now to innovating even harder,” Goggin said. “We’ve kind of been at the forefront of some of these products.

We’re going to tilt more energies on innovating the next wave of what we do, building on our heritage. So getting very clear on our strategy, as a company, in the next wave of growth as an organization, and then being able to grow on that.”

In its announcement of the appointment, Conga said that under the helm of Goggin the company will be focused on a growth mindset. Goggin has nearly 30 years of leadership and management experience. Most recently, he served as the CEO and Culture Leader at Aptos, a retail and commerce company.

He will lead a team of 1,400 employees across North America, Europe and Asia-Pacific to serve over 11,000 customers, many of which are focused on digital transformation.

In a recent Zoom call, Goggin shared his vision of Conga. He hopes to work on the culture that will continue making Conga a key player in the contract lifecycle management market.

Q&A with Conga CEO Noel Goggin

Spend Matters: What initially attracted you to leading the Conga organization?

Noel Goggin: There’s really three core reasons that I was looking for my next endeavor. The first one was excitement about a big market. Conga for me is exciting because it serves a global market. It’s very much about the products and services it provides. It’s also very much in the early days of digital transformation. And it’s a space that’s evolving really quickly at the moment.

What I also like is the fact that it’s an integral part of the Salesforce system. We kind of get to ride on the coattails of Salesforce as well, which is great.

No. 2, it has world-class products, and it really spans from lead-to-cash. It builds a lot of connectivity issues, across the business processes that binds the CRM systems and ERP systems, and the fact that those products serve all industries, whether it’s manufacturing or financial services, or healthcare, whatever.

Conga has had a history of very strong growth, but it also has an extremely talented team. A lot of intellectual horsepower and a strong team.

The third reason, for me, is because it’s such a big opportunity, a big marketplace. And with such strong products, the fact that it’s underwritten by top investors in the world, like Thoma Bravo, and Insight Partners, and Salesforce Ventures, that kind of gave me a lot of confidence that I had their support to do big, bold things as we craft the next level of growth for the organization.

What areas of growth are you most focused on at Conga?

When I look at where we’re at as an organization, we have tremendous breadth and depth, an industrial-strength platform, a lot of components that can give us scalability. Give us integrated ability. The infrastructure allows us to scale on a global basis.

On top of that, we have a very strong set of domain and deep process knowledge. Between our capability from things like quarter contract, design, digital document generation, configuration, orchestration, and contract lifecycle management — all the components that are really needed to go between CRM and ERP, the fact that we can do that with a very rich, deep set of business capabilities allows a customer to start wherever they are today. They may be simple, but they can go through a capability maturity curve. Over time, they can increase their sophistication, their ability to really optimize what I say is the end-to-end revenue operations cycle, the lifecycle.

And it’s a journey. It’s not a destination — it’s a journey of continuous improvement on that path. So the fact we’ve got all the pieces and you can start simple and get more sophisticated.

More coverage: See where CLM vendors, including Conga, compare in SolutionMap’s view of the CLM market.

And then being able to bring that into the industry verticals. CLM in finance is a very different application than Telco, for example. CPQ is very different in both those industries as well. There’s a language and nomenclature, a business process and best practices.

The fact that we can bring this into these industry verticals, with deep domain knowledge, we will be able to be more of a trusted partner with our customers and help them navigate this digital transformation, which is always difficult.

These are complex projects. There’s a lot of change management to them. So if we take that whole kind of ecosystem together, we now also have an opportunity to start optimizing, being able to bring more intelligence to bear, being able to bring more optimization on things like revenue operations or discounting rates. Are there ways for me to optimize more across regions, across products, across sales teams, across partners?

There’s a lot of intelligence that’s inherently in there, once we start pulling that out. And being able to build a lot of a level of optimization intelligence around that is the next level of sophistication for customers. And you will see us start to do a lot more in that area, specifically over the coming months and years.

How are you planning to draw on your experience to help achieve growth for Conga?

Firstly, I’m a culture leader. The culture has to start from the top of the organization. Every organization has smart people. But not every organization is a healthy organization. And that will be a key focus of what I do at Conga.

The most important part of my job is getting a clear culture, which will be anchored by what we term as the “Conga Way.”

It’s a way of working. A way of showing up. Our way of behaving. Getting us to show up every day in a consistent way. If we’re all growing in the same direction together, that is the hardest part of any sales job. So that’s job No. 1 for me. And we did that at Aptos. The Aptos Way was a very big part of our identity.

The second part of it for me is that my past comes from a product background. And I think in today’s world, given the pace and complexity of changes going on, CEOs really have to be multi-dimensional thinkers. I often say that CEOs have to be able to play chess versus checkers, because there’s so many dynamics you have to navigate to create a high growth and global organization in an industry that’s evolving.

So, the strategic decisions, the areas of investment, the markets, the partners we work with, the acquisitions, we have to be really thoughtful. That comprises my DNA coming from my prior roles where I’ve actually built products. We’ve done acquisitions in a thoughtful way that augmented our product portfolio.

The third thing is that I’m a start-up guy. Central to the start-ups is customers, and there will be a very strong focus on customer experience in our organization as we go forward. We have over 11,000 customers. We have a very broad product set that we can sell them. If they’re happy with us, excited about us, energized by us, we’re doing good things.

What do you view is the next phase of the CLM market? And what role does Conga play in defining that or future phases?

There’s a couple of dimensions to CLM. There’s the industry verticalization as one factor. There will be a lot of changes going on with labor coming up shortly. And in different sectors in different markets. So, the industry verticalization of CLM will be one vector that will be going down and in a real material way.

The second one will be integrating CLM into the end-to-end business process, very natively. We have a lot of products that surround that, that help our consumer, product grid and everything else.

The third element for us is going to be around the whole intelligence. We’re going to build around contracts looking at exposure versus liabilities. What do companies need to know that is quite industry-focused?

You’ll see a lot of optimization, AI, machine learning that will go into that, or to build out a very strong practice on that as well. That’s where there’s a lot of risk management. The other side there is modernization of contracts as people start to bring contracts and terminology to future subscription deals.

Spend Matters: With the CLM market, it’s obviously diverse, rapidly growing. There’s strong competition from best-of-breed solutions and upstarts that are focusing on select aspects of CLM. So, how do you see Conga fitting in with the changing dynamics? What should prospective CLM customers be looking for when evaluating their best fit solutions?

Noel Goggin: I think with CLM, there will always be point solutions in it. But the critical part of CLM being successful is how it’s integrated into the end-to-end business process where it comes in from lead-to-cash.

If I look at our 11,000-plus customers who have various components of their solutions, and a lot of CLM, and then they start to expand with simple contracts that get more complex, we can add in things like e-sign.

If I’m a customer that’s taking a point CLM solution, and I now own the integration or headaches of putting all those things together, I then also own the ongoing maintenance of that. Some people will do that, obviously.

At the end of the day, most enterprises are looking for help to automate and digitally transform or one-cycle the entire process. If I take a broader step out, our customers are trying to create connected customer experiences, right? They’re trying to connect the front-end to the back-end. My goal is to get us focused with helping them do just that.