Yvonne Wassenaar, CIO at New Relic

March 27, 2017
Icon Scrolling Bar


By Peter High, published on Forbes

Yvonne Wassenaar has been the Chief Information Officer of digital intelligence platform company, New Relic, for a bit more than two and a half years. She represents a rising trend among fast growing, Silicon Valley technology companies who reach a certain size after nearly a decade in business, and determine they need a CIO for the first time. (Recent interviewee, Mark Settle of Okta is another example of this.)

In choosing Wassenaar, New Relic’s executive team brought on someone with the killer combination of a technical background as an undergraduate coupled with an MBA followed by an extended period as a partner at Accenture. She brings equal measure of technical and business acumen together with deep problem solving skills. Not surprisingly, she has also gained board access, serving on the boards of multiple organizations, as well. We cover all of the above and more herein.

Peter High: For a little more than two and a half years, you have been the Chief Information Officer of New Relic, a software analytics company founded in 2008. In your own terms, please describe the business and the roles that IT and the CIO position play within the organization.

Yvonne Wassenaar: New Relic is what I call a digital intelligence platform, which in this age of every business becoming a software business, is vitally important. New Relic technology provides a company with insight into what people are doing with their software. For example, because most people bank on their phone or maybe on their laptop, but less at the retail branch, a digital intelligence platform is critical because what matters then, is not how long the teller lines are or how warm the coffee is, but rather, questions like: “How quickly did the app load? How many people were trying to do what type of transaction? Where are people spending their time?” The insight offered by New Relic’s technology is valuable from a developer-operator perspective for designing and running great software. Furthermore, this type of technology is increasingly important from a business perspective because, if done effectively, it offers us new eyes into consumer behavior which will provide us with more insight than we have ever had.

My role as CIO is an interesting one because New Relic is a technology company that was “born in the cloud.” As such, there is some question as to why New Relic even needs a CIO. However, more companies like Octa, DocuSign, and other similar companies “born in the cloud,” have been adding a CIO role to their docket. The reason being, as amazing as technology is, it does not quite run itself yet. The way that I look at my role within New Relic is to, internally, help the company take advantage of the technology that is available to run the business services of the company; things like sales, billing, and so forth. Even more importantly, externally, to get insights into customers; into how we can better serve those customers and to ensure that we are providing the ultimate digitized customer experience. My role is founded on those two principles of ensuring that internally we can leverage the technology well in a decentralized way but with guardrails, and then externally, that we are bringing the best of our insight from technology to bear in partnering with the CTO in thinking about the products we develop and offer to customers.

High: Do you foresee a time, and if so how soon, where the technology will “run itself” to a degree where the CIO will become obsolete?

Wassenaar: I would say if we turn the clock back five to eight years ago, there were some that believed that the CIO role would become extinct because you had data centers in the cloud, you had SaaS applications, you could credit card swipe your way to nirvana in technology. Now I see a resurgence in the role of the CIO for two reasons. The first is that companies today are structured in a functional fashion. This creates a tendency for them to see things only from one angle. That works fine if you are doing a point solution or something that is working in isolation, but few things in a public company fit that mold. For example, technology such as Salesforce, which may have been fine when they were a small company just supporting a sales organization, however, now it is not just a SaaS application, it is a SaaS platform –and it impacts the value chain across the company. First and foremost, you need someone who has a horizontal viewpoint across functions that is geared toward outcomes. The CIO is a perfect role for that because we have cross-function visibility for large applications, for large investments in AWS and Azure, and elsewhere.

The second reason is there is a lot of work to be done around “basic hygiene” when it comes to running technology at scale. There are certain principles that are important to think about whether you are designing for velocity, or for different use cases, or for size and dispersion of transaction; all of these factor into how you might want to structure your enterprise architecture. I have found that the basic functionality of a SaaS app or AWS is easy to get your arms around, but as you augment, and you build on it over the years, unless you have some understanding of how technology runs most effectively, you will start to create a lot of technical debt. You might be blind to this debt, or you may not necessarily understand or appreciate the investments, or the value of things like staging an environment, or how you actually do agile development in a robust, quality, and effective way. I believe the need for both a horizontal viewpoint and the need to bring a technological mindset to how you architect the ecosystem of solutions that is increasingly not just running your business but serving your customers is going to put increased focus on what people call the CIO role, the CTO role, or the chief digitization role. Somebody has got to play that role, and I think for the next five to ten years, it is going to become more important.

High: You began the description of New Relic as a digital intelligence platform. Digital and intelligence are increasingly the domain of other organizations as well, either in concert with IT, or in some cases superseding IT’s involvement. Given your network and your knowledge of the kinds of companies where the CIO leads the conversation on digital intelligence, versus those where they are reacting to it, what differentiates the former versus the latter category in your mind?

To read the full article, please visit Forbes

Interested in working together?

We’d love to hear from you.
contact us

Contact Us


    Thank you for your submission

    We will get back to you as soon as possible. Back to site