Welcome to the ‘Sigma Leaders’ blog series! Here we will feature members of our leadership team, their journeys and learnings, and get a peek into their personal lives. As a model Sigma customer ourselves, we will also learn how they’re winning by leveraging the product in their core functional areas.
He is obsessed with progress and believes you can’t progress what you can’t (and don’t) measure. He believes in the promise of analytics and the future of how people will operate with data. He has a hard time sitting idle and constantly chases physical and mental discomfort. Nothing brings him more joy than setting (and beating) lofty goals quarter-after-quarter. He has done that for 80 straight quarters and counting. Meet Brian Murphy, the Sigma CRO.
With another record quarter in the Sigma history books, Brian has built a highly performant GTM (go-to-market) organization over the past year and a half. He’s extremely bullish about Sigma in a BI (business intelligence) world ripe for disruption. A fine blend of grit and humility, he calls upon his teams to focus on learning, relentless prioritization, and to surround themselves with challenges and smart people. He believes, “To build a great company, you’ve got to solve big challenges, and smart and driven people are the most important thing.”
Prior to Sigma, Brian played a pivotal role at Okta where he served as the Senior Vice President of Sales for the Americas. During his tenure, Brian saw and led an organization with ~$41 million in annual revenue into a publicity-traded company with several billions in annual revenue. Prior to Okta, he held several leadership positions in enterprise sales at Alpine Data Labs, Hadapt, Vertica, Salesforce, and Cognos.
Interestingly, a Cognos Christmas holiday party turned into a life-changing event when he ran into his future wife, Melissa, who was accompanying a friend at the time. Today, 16 years and four children later, she manages the home front like a pro. Brian and Melissa live in a suburb outside of Boston, Massachusetts, with their mom, four kids—Isabelle (14), Elizabeth (13), Annaliese (11), and Thomas (9)—and two Leonbergers, Gus and Bear. Outside of work, Brian enjoys reading, listening to podcasts, working out, golfing, basketball, soccer, and traveling with his family.
I had the pleasure of sitting down with Brian to learn about his Sigma story and the power of winning. Below are excerpts from our conversation. Enjoy!
Chitra: Brian, from Cognos to Okta and everything in between, you have a solid enterprise sales background. What brought you to Sigma?
Brian: When I look at companies, I primarily look at four things: (1) a large market, (2) the secular trend, (3) how we can grow the market, and (4) the people. At Sigma, all four aligned brilliantly, which led me here.
Business intelligence is a 40 billion-dollar-a-year market. People are spending money on legacy tools out there, and conveniently for us, they are largely not happy with or have not been successful with those tools, which means Sigma has an incredible opportunity ahead of it. Then, there’s a secular trend that is going on, a trend that is changing where the market is headed. The rise of Snowflake, Databricks, Google BigQuery—the cloud data warehouse (and lakehouse), cloud ETL, and cloud-based modeling tools has skewed the market in our favor. Nobody wanted an analytics tool designed when the data stack was on-premise but now we have the luxury of designing our architecture around a cloud data warehouse (and lakehouse) world.
Today, there are a billion people who use Excel, and tens of millions use BI tools on an everyday basis. If we can deliver on the promise that every single person can use analytics with the same ease that they can manipulate and analyze data in Excel, we can reach and enable a billion people to drive insights in their business on a daily basis and push that decision making to the edge where people have the most context of what is really happening.
Finally, Sigma has a world-class team. We have great people with great values and principles here.
Chitra: What does winning mean to you? How does chasing ARR (annual recurring revenue), quarter-over-quarter, feel?
Brian: I love winning, but I hate losing more than I love winning. It’s a key element to the culture and, candidly, to my happiness (smiles). The net is that in order to be happy I need to progress, and winning is the ultimate validation of progression and the fact that you’re moving forward.
As far as chasing ARR goes, I don’t know anything else. I’ve been in technology sales for 20 years, so I have been doing it for 80 quarters now. At a certain point, it becomes a part of your identity and who you are. The fun part is that not only do you chase business quarter-over-quarter, but you have to look at what you do now to beat the number three quarters, four quarters, eight quarters from now. Making decisions with futuristic impact and building for the future gives you an adrenaline rush.
Chitra: Do you use Sigma on Sigma in your day-to-day work? How?
Brian: Absolutely! I use Sigma for everything from pipeline management, forecasting, and customer analysis to exploratory analysis to find opportunities to coach the team and make investments in the relevant focus areas.
With the Sigma workbook, I can look at my top performers and how they convert on Stage 2, Stage 3, or Stage 4 opportunities, along with their close ratios by various stages versus others. This helps me spot trends where others are underperforming to determine gaps and coaching opportunities. Data and information in looking at individuals makes you incredibly efficient because it gives you a treasure map of where the opportunities to improve are.
I also leverage Sigma to determine investment opportunities in functional areas like content, enablement, and marketing or acquisition of accounts and contacts in a particular area, say, financial services. If I know the level of success we’ve had in those areas and why, I can invest in that area, knowing that it will pay off since now I have the data to back it up.
Chitra: Which are your favorite Sigma features?
Brian: Actions and Input Tables are my favorite two Sigma features.
With Actions, I can understand what’s going on with our customers both from a quantitative and qualitative perspective with a click of a button. It allows me to capture data at the intersection of our sales teams’ interactions with customers, prospects, and the product. For instance, within a particular account, it allows me to see that we’re talking to five different people. We’ve talked to them for ~248 minutes over the past week, and they’ve run 4,000 queries on a daily basis for the past five days. By looking at this data, I can quickly and easily tell they’re engaged. I can see that side by side with the GTM team's notes of how things are progressing with the customer.
Input Tables, on the other hand, let me forecast the business—the who, what, where, and why. It helps me forecast key metrics like revenue, average cycle, ASP (average selling price), productivity, and ramp within Sigma. CROs typically look at these metrics at QBRs after the dust settles in after quarter close. I have the ability to forecast them in real-time!!! Our customers like Blackstone and Workato are using Input Tables for data write-back to Snowflake, their cloud data warehouse, and driving use cases like root cause analysis, forecasting, territory mapping and planning, and scenario modeling.
Chitra: Has Sigma made your life easier? Can you quantify the value it brings to you?
Brian: Yes, dramatically easier. I went from operating based on gut to operating based on hard decisions where I know there will be a predictable outcome based on numbers. If I were to quantify it, I’d say I’m ten times more predictable in building a business based on having an understanding of the numbers and making data-driven decisions.
Chitra: What according to you is the future of data?
Brian: The data and information will be engrained into every single business process so people can make data-informed decisions 100 percent of the time. Right now, BI data and analytics are siloed, which means they live outside a business process or an application. Going forward, with the rise of embedded analytics, I see data as a core tenant of the workflow for any application.
Chitra: We have a pretty strong set of operating principles at Sigma. Which is your favorite Sigma value?
Brian: Act like an owner. Period.
Chitra: When hiring, what are the top three qualities that you look for in a candidate?
Brian: The top three qualities I’d look for in a candidate are intelligence, humility, and grit. You can’t teach intelligence; without humility, you will not grow; and the difference between those who win versus those who lose is often associated with who quits first.
Chitra: One final question: This one’s personal :) At the SKO, you teared up at the mention of your wife. Are you able to share what it takes on her part to support you?
Brian: I love what I do but it’s a demanding job so there’s a lot of baggage that comes along with that. I have four kids, two dogs, and a mother-in-law who lives with us. So, we have a pretty busy house and a very demanding home front. I also travel a lot for work, and there’s zero chance I’d do what I do without having her do what she does. I’m extremely fortunate to have her as my partner in this journey.
Want to join Brian in his mission of enabling a billion people to drive data insights? We’re hiring. Join our team of data driven, diverse, and exceptional individuals who strive for greatness and optimize for learning. You can also get a peek into Sigma Life and follow us here.