Today marks another milestone in the continued upward trajectory of Determine as we welcome our new Chief Marketing Officer and EMEA SVP, Gérard Dahan. An industry veteran, Gérard brings with him a long and impressive resume, both from within and outside the source-to-pay industry. The fact that he chose to join Determine from among the many companies that were pursuing him, and the reasons why he did so, underscores the vision and goals Determine, as a whole, has worked so hard to achieve.
By way of introduction, what follows are the highlights of a conversation in which Gérard shared his background, the path that led him to Determine and where he sees that path going now that he’s here.
Can you start by giving us a bit about your background?
Growing up internationally gave me a facility for languages – I speak English, French, Spanish and Italian fluently, and have a working knowledge of Portuguese, Arabic/Berber and Hebrew – and I wanted to use that to study international business at university.
I didn’t specifically choose technology, but that’s where my first opportunity was, and I’ve never looked back. My career started with the first desktop pc’s, then the introduction of graphic workstations, followed by the branding of microprocessors and onto the first procurement technology – an industry I’ve stayed with ever since.
I was at Ariba as Marketing Director when they introduced their first procurement offering, moving on to BravoSolution to start their supply management, marketing and communications programs. Most recently, I spent seven years at Ivalua as General Manager for EMEA, which was really a global role.
What brought you to Determine?
When I left my last company in June and began looking for my next opportunity, I talked to many companies in this general space. Surprisingly, I didn’t talk to Determine, and that was primarily because of what I thought I knew about the company, which wasn’t very much.
And, like a lot of business decisions, a round of golf changed that. I had a game with Patrick Chabannes (Determine’s Senior Solution Strategist in France), who encouraged me to meet with Patrick Stakenas (President and CEO) and Jeff Grosman (COO).
Needless to say, it was a great conversation that began to divert my attention from other opportunities and focus on what we could do together at Determine. I brought along a plan to share with them, and it turned out to be the right one. What was immediately apparent, was that I could sense they trusted me and that we could work together.
What excites you about Determine? What do you feel really separates us in the market?
My entire career has been built at and around companies and industries that were at an inflection point. Determine, and the Determine Cloud Platform are at that point right now. We are at the cusp of changing how people and organizations work. Of all the companies I visited, met with and spoke to, Determine is the only one who can truthfully say that.
People in the industry wonder why I left an organization I was with for seven years — one I helped aggressively grow — and also passed up another opportunity so I could join a much smaller company. Why? Because I believe in the product and the people. It’s that simple.
What did you know about Determine before coming here?
Being in the industry, I knew about Determine, of course. But their reputation was, and is to a certain degree, as a start-up. Determine does have a defined message, but it’s not known in the market. Considering the technology Determine has, the people and the depth of experience, Determine has to be one of the best-kept secrets in the industry.
I did my due diligence, speaking with industry analysts and Determine customers. What attracted me were several things: A management team that is focused and committed, but more than willing and capable of embracing change and new ideas; and a great product that is not only very advanced but has a very solid vision driving it.
Talk about how you see your role as CMO and EMEA SVP here, and what you’d like to accomplish.
I’m a builder and a doer, as well as a leader. To make Determine a leader, we need to raise the bar as high as possible, get our objectives and resources in line, and then we will achieve it. It’s going to take a lot of discipline to get there.
There’re two parts to that: Working closely with our product people — with sales, marketing, the leadership team — we can clearly define our message around the company’s vision and how our technology is going to change source to pay.
You don’t need to spend big to look big. The most important channels are industry analysts and customers. Build trust, pull back the curtain and help them understand what we’re doing and what we can help them do better.
Which leads to the second, and most critical, part: The client has to be at the center of everything we do. Everything. That has to be the core of our culture. We need to build a customer-user group, a community that will work with us as our advisers and advocates.
What do you think is the biggest challenge facing the industry today?
The biggest challenge today is the same one that’s been around a long time, and that is the industry has never reached a point where customers are fully satisfied. If you took the industry as whole and had every provider put the names of fully satisfied customers on a list, it would be less than a handful.
By satisfied, I mean meeting customer goals that were never met. I see so many companies that are using less than 50% of solution functionality, have less than 30-40% of spend going through their platform, haven’t achieved more than 50% adoption, and are dissatisfied with the interface.
It’s almost 20 years since the first procurement platform, and the industry is still struggling to satisfy customers, to achieve their deployment goals.
A big part of that is the other major issue facing the industry: the products are just too complicated. That’s the reason less than 50% of the functionality gets used. The products have to be simpler to use.
Considering that situation, what is the opportunity for Determine?
One of the advantages of Determine is the lack of any arrogance. As a company, we’re willing to first meet a prospect and truly understand their challenges and needs, build a partner relationship with them, and develop the trust in us they need to understand that everything is going to be okay.
A company can have the most sophisticated technology – and we do — but it absolutely has to be simple to use. Determine focuses a lot of energy on usability.
I also see Determine’s future as one where solutions will be vertically launched. We have such a depth of knowledge from developing business processes in so many industries, that it is a natural, logical progression for Determine. Complete solutions with business processes tailored to an industry. None of our competitors are doing this effectively, they’re not organized for it. And Determine is in a great position to make it happen.
In one sentence, what is Determine’s Unique Selling Proposition?
Great product vision, international ambition and the people and products that have the DNA to help customers.
“Agile” is really a perfect descriptor for Determine – it applies to the people, the thinking and the technology. Determine is good at change.
When I got to the end of my search for a new position, I was speaking with some industry analysts and told them I was hesitating between Determine and one other company. They said, if I could gain people’s trust here, and with the right resources behind the marketing machine, Determine is where success lies. And I want to be a part of that.