The Future of BizTech Podcast

Epi. 47: How to Build a Risk Resilient Business – Bruce Dahlgren, CEO of Metric Stream

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Find Bruce Dahlgren on LinkedIn here:

JC: Welcome, everyone to another episode of the Future of BizTech. I’m your host, JC Granger. And I have another fantastic guest with us today. And if you end up loving this episode again, please show your love and appreciation by following the podcast wherever you’re listening. And be sure to give it a five star review, preferably with some nice comments, of course, because that is how techies like you and I find cool podcasts like this. And today I have the absolute pleasure of interviewing Bruce Dahlgren, the CEO of Metric Stream. Bruce, tell us a little bit about Metric Stream. What do you guys do? And who do you help out?


Bruce: Sure, sure. Well, thanks for having me. JC it’s certainly an exciting time. Even with all the challenges out there, I can tell you that things are moving forward. And we’re excited metric stream of what we’re working on. So take a step back. Basically, we are risk management software. And traditionally, the past, risk has always been something in the shadows, things people hope never showed up, you know, and if it did, you know, you panicked and you addressed it, our belief is that risk should be at the forefront, it can be strategic, and if you prepare for it, and you have the data and the reports and the capabilities, then you can make it strategic. So our tagline at metric stream is “thrive on risk”. And we actually believe that leading into this and understanding risk can help your business.


JC: Well, that’s awesome. So then what kind of industries typically are like your clients now? I mean, are you in like financial district? Is it like high regulation areas or like vulnerability areas, you know, like legal and, and government, things like that, like who’s really the best fit for you guys across the board?


Bruce: Sure. Well, if you look at the issues in the past, you look over the last couple decades, those things that really showed up like the Enron issue, or the Subprime Loan Crash, for example, cyber tech, a lot of that was in the financial services sector. So a big part of our marquee customers are clearly banks in the financial services area. However, with this pandemic, everything has changed. Every company now a lot regulated industries, but every company, every industry, every region around the world, is dealing with the risk. And what do I mean by that? Well think of it, it is a perfect storm, from health issues, to economic challenges, think about work from home now and all of the cyber aspects and then throw in on top of that now, environmental concerns and social concerns. It’s like the perfect storm for risk. And guess what, it’s a good time for Metric Stream because we can help customers navigate those choppy waters.


JC: Well, that’s good. Um, well, let me ask you this, then what motivated you to start the company? I mean, were you you know, in some other sector and you guys got hacked, everything went down and one lawsuit drive me like this is crap, I need to fix this. I mean, just what was that moment where you said, I need to start a risk management software company?


Bruce: Well, actually, I’m the recipient of the company as it had begun.


JC: Oh okay..


Bruce: So a while ago, Gunjan Sinha, Gaurav Kapoor, several of those came up with the concept. And in the industry, the acronym is GRC. It stands for governance, risk, and compliance.


JC: Ah okay


Bruce: But it’s mature. So every one of these issues as these things have come up, the industry is mature. I’ve actually been the CEO at Metric Stream for 15 months. But I’m really proud to be the recipient of all of this great heritage. And what we’ve done over the last 15 months is build out the sales team, build out our technology, add to the whole process of what we do in the industry, and build our customer base. So they’re really an exciting time, but it’s not new. The industry started a couple decades ago, actually.


JC: Okay, and then well, then what drew you to metric stream in particular? I mean, obviously, if you’re the CEO there, you had a lot of options. With your experience, you could have gone to a lot of companies, what made you say, all right, that’s where I want to land. That’s the company that I want to go take to the next generation?


Bruce: What a great question. You know, we all look at this, and we all manage our careers and everything about this. We’re the right ingredients, in my opinion. So you have a wonderful heritage, there’s a halo around Metric Stream, being the innovator of this market, this integrated risk management software world. But on top of that great talent, marquee customers, great innovation. So you had this great foundation, and then you add into it with the pandemic and all of these other changes. Literally the risk world is changing, right? It’s not anymore where you show up with red, yellow, green, and green, you just don’t look at yellow, you kind of hope, you know, maybe it’ll go away and red, I better worry.


JC: Yeah


Bruce: And today we quantify risk. And by the way, some of the issues that are green could be your biggest impact for managing the risk and making it strategic. Now I’m not saying you don’t address red, but think about where we’ve taken this now we literally quantify risk, and part of it is the reporting. But a big part of it is the artificial intelligence. And how do you actually start taking this data and turn it into a strategic advantage? 


JC: Well, you know said something that caught my attention for a second, you had said that risk management is changing. And I have a question and whether you guys do this or not, or maybe if it’s something you guys are looking at, when the risk manager software, I imagine it works well with, you know, a lot of numbers and things like that, right? So that’s why the financial industry is a big thing for that. But what about culture? What about like, PR crisis, so to speak? So for example, you know, you guys enter a certain industry or work with a certain figure or company, is there any way for your system, either now or maybe in the future, to go to see like, what kind of risks that would be for any kind of canceled culture? For example, right? You mean, right now, whether which side you land on if you like, cancel culture, I think it’s bad isn’t really the point as much as that consumers are holding companies accountable, for better or worse. And so that can be a huge risk, you know, you guys partner with the wrong company, so to speak, or, you know, say the wrong thing on social media, or the CEO or C level somebody gets in some scandal, you know, is there anything about your system now, or in the future that you plan to start talking about the risk management when it comes to community and culture and social media?


Bruce: This is a great, very insightful question. Let’s think of it this way, every one of these companies, big, small, medium size, different regions, whatever industry you’re in, you have a ton of data, you have a lot of this information. But it’s used in different ways, operational ways. You know, if you think of the early workflow process improvements, if you think about some of the network capabilities, or customer intimacy, they collected this data, but nobody has ever really took taken that data and said, Let’s use it to help us manage risk. Why couldn’t we bring this together, both internal and external, think of the risk issues around cyber attacks, so much of this comes through third parties. But guess what all that data exists, what we do is we pull all that data, structured data, unstructured data, pull it together, and then put it in a usable form with an effective user interface. So I can start now understanding this, what if we do this? Let me come in about your culture. I couldn’t agree with you more JC I think it’s a wonderful insight. I’ve been around the industry a long time, as I mentioned, right? So in the past, a lot of the new technology drove culture, we got a smartphone. And that helped us communicate or we got an iPod and we we digitized music, and you know, all these different things is cool, right? Today, I believe culture is starting to drive technology. And this is a really fundamental change. Let me give you an example. I had a flight last night and I was looking at my itinerary, do you know on the itinerary, it lists the carbon emissions footprint, but just think of the impact now of people starting to choose an airline or an actual flight based on carbon emissions,


JC: It’s like calories on the fast food menus now.


Bruce: It is! How many times we go and buy potato chips, and you look at the back, and then you put them away?


JC: Oh, crap.


Bruce: And I really believe that now what’s happening and in the industry, it’s called ESG. And its environmental, social, and governance. To us, we connect that with the government governance process – GRC, I mentioned this earlier. And what’s happening now is, all of a sudden, this thing around global warming, social diversity impacts are now showing up in risk as well. You know, investors now will look for an ESG score to decide if they want to invest in that company. This is amazing impact that now, so what are customers asking? They’re saying, Okay, first, I now have to worry about the compliance regulations coming out more every week, these government’s coming out of the post pandemic? How am I addressing that? Am I able to report can I be compliant. So our software pulls all of these data elements to give them that compliance, to help them with the audit to work through those requirements. But that’s just the first step, what we do is we go into what we call metric stream intelligence. And it’s our form of AI. And think of it this way, we literally can take that data. And we can combine it from all of these different data sources and start being able to give them some predictability. What will happen in this risk space? And what if I do this? And think of all these companies out there that are wondering about a new marketplace? Or a new product line? Or should I address this? Or what about my diversity? Well we can not only help them with the reporting, but we can start helping them with understanding where this goes, and what things could they do to make risk strategic. So let me say it again, thrive on risk.


JC: I like it. I like it. Well, let me ask you a question. And so you know, you said you’ve come into this company here in the last year and a half or so that you know, I’m a marketing guy by trade. So I always have to, I always want to know like, how are you getting the word out? You know, what does your company do to let other companies know that you even exist? I mean, you know, some of the listeners like to hear about different marketing strategies that might be working for different industries. Are you guys doing paid ads? Are you just doing trade shows? Well, maybe now, because last year and a half, you couldn’t right? You know, obviously, you’re on a podcast. So that helps, right? I’m sure you do more of these. But what are the strategies you guys are using to allow companies doesn’t even know that you guys exist are in are out there?


Bruce: Sure. Well, I think in the past, if you look at risk, previous to now, and the pandemic and all that there were specific risk officers, and they would go to seminars, let’s say, or they would participate in new technology, and it was kind of isolated. Today, all business executives are interested in risk. They’re all trying to figure out if I launched this product, or if I do this, what’s the impact to my business? Right? And how do I manage this. So we do a lot of direct contact, we obviously feel very good about our marketing. And by the way, we’ve completely rebranded Metric Stream over the last six months and Aquamarine color and a new, fresh, lively, you know, exciting part to metric stream. But we also now are doing a lot of summits. And we’re doing a lot of business events. In fact, we have one coming up in London, in just two weeks, the middle of October, and we it’s called GRC Summit, obviously by Metric Stream. And here’s a chance for business executives and risk executives to come together and share stories and learn. And we do a lot of insight to share with them the new tools and techniques and metric stream intelligence and things now that are available for them. It’s very effective. It’s great. I’m proud of our sales and marketing team.


JC: Well, that’s good. I mean, if you have a strong, that’s one of the hardest things to build out, is a good sales and marketing team. You know, I mean, everything about a business is hard. But that seems to be the hardest one that I..


Bruce: And think of it this way, too, you know, we think of sales as fear or greed, you know, and what’s what motivates people, you know, risk isn’t necessarily the kind of thing that people raise their hand and say, I’ve got risk concerns come see me.


JC: Well, that happens usually, you know, we’re a fix it, not prevent it, kind of society you know..


Bruce: Correct


JC: You know, but a lot of things have happened, and it’s got, you know, some people going, Oh, crap, maybe I should look at that. Now, you know..


Bruce: Let me give you an example around cybersecurity issues, right? So it’s not an if it’s a win now, right? We all know, whether it’s hacking or ransomware, all these things are gonna happen. I want to be clear, our software doesn’t go and protect their enterprise. We’re not a ransomware software. But what we do is we’re able to pull the data together, use the algorithms to give them a sense of what risks they have, and what would the the cost be to that? And how do I quantify the impacts of some of these IT cyber attacks on their company. And this now becomes, think of it as a forecast or an understanding in advance of how as a business, do I want to protect myself? And what do I know the risks could be? And so it’s, it’s really exciting. The ESG that I mentioned, is another great example, right? So companies now are starting to be ranked on their environmental, their carbon footprint on their diversity scores. And they’re sitting back saying, where do I get this data? Well, the reality is they have it, they have it in their HR systems.


JC: Yeah it’s all there.


Bruce: ..and all their ERP systems, they have all this stuff. So we are able to pull that together, we help them do the reporting. And now from that point, then we start bringing to them the ability to start doing what if scenarios, how can I get ahead?


JC: You can also tell them, if you know, what’s worth putting money at now versus later to right? You know, I’ve seen that are things that are immediate, you have to address right now things that are low risk, it’s like, Okay, well start getting on this soon kind of thing. And that helps them with their budgets, so I can see a huge advantage to having a..


Bruce: No question. And you know, I think European Union, I think the European basically, climate is a little ahead of this, and some of the regulation aspects. But one of the things that Metric Stream also provides when in this ESG area, is understanding those indexes, what content is going to be required, what are those regulations and those compliant aspects. So if you think about it, a business leader is sitting back saying, I’m running my business, I’ve got all of these things, I’m worried about the risk aspect, and I don’t even know what’s coming next. And so metric stream on top of bringing the software and the analytics and all of that to them. We also are the ones that can connect this whole ecosystem. So we know where the content providers are, we know what those scores are going to be, and what are the requirements, and we can help them understand how to navigate through this.


JC: So what’s the future look like? I would be remiss if I didn’t ask the golden question of the future of big tech, which is a two-part question. First, I want to ask about your company because my audience does like to get the inside scoop. So I know you had a launch. I know you had that GRC launch recently, but what’s on the roadmap? What new, cool things are you guys working on what’s in the skunkworks basically, of the company that that will be coming down the road here that you really plan on, you know, hitting hard what’s coming down the pipeline?


Bruce: Well, let me take a step back and just brag about metric stream real quick. And then I’ll tell you about the future. But you know, basically the way we think of this as our platform is the foundation. And on that platform is a federated data model. And that is able to bring in all these data elements to make sense. And we have low code capabilities are at all of the user interface, all these aspects, the user experience, then on top of this platform, in our federated data model, our six product lines, right, and these are all of the things that the businesses need to worry about from risk compliance, audit, third party, cyber, and now ESG. Yeah, but here’s the cool thing about metric stream is they all can work together. So if I’m an audit customer for metric stream, and I want to add compliance or risk product, I’m using the same data model, the same data elements, and now I can pull it together. So all of a sudden, if I’m going out, and I’ve now now have to do reporting, and scoring for environmental, our carbon footprint, I don’t have to have that be a one off point solution. And I got to bring this in separate and it doesn’t integrate with anything else. It fits together with all of our product lines on that same platform. So what’s important? Well just think about it. One is we’re going to continue to advance and modernize that platform, new and new user experiences, ways for our user group and our customers to benefit from this capability. But then we will also continue to build out the product lines. So as new requirements come in, as new risk elements come in, it’s very easy for us to go and build those products on that platform. But I would tell you, if you want my personal opinion is maybe more nearer term than longer term. I think the whole aspect of risk quantification is the big advancement. And what I mean by that is, it’s just like I was saying earlier, the red, yellow, green, you know, we tend to sit back and say, Well, I’m in compliance. Okay, that’s good. That’s good. 


JC: And how close are you to fail?


Bruce: Right? Like, if I’m not, is this like in the millions?


JC: But how close are you to fail?


Bruce: Correct. Is it brilliant? You know, it’s, it’s a little bit like having your bloodwork done, you know, okay, I’m in a good, I’m in a good zone. But whoops, this could be a bad thing.


JC: Yeah and you can’t see your blood pressure isn’t critically low, just because you haven’t passed out yet. You could be two seconds from that. And it’s a you need to do something about it.


Bruce: You and I, we’ve covered everything from calories to heart attacks. 


JC: Oh yeah, there’s a huge parallel.


Bruce: Unfortunately, we specialize in risk. And risk is a is a reality, it’s a reality, and maybe even more now in the pandemic. But we believe risk can be strategic, if you can get out ahead of it, and they have the information, we just need to have it in a usable manner in a way that they can capitalize on that. And then through our metric stream intelligence, we can start predicting and helping them be able to get out ahead of it. It’s really it’s really a cool thing.


JC: So it sounds like you have that near future. You have things working better together. Some AI stuff here and quantification that can help with this. That’s really cool. So now let’s talk about the industry. I mean, risk management, you’re not alone in it, of course, right? There’s a big industry out there. Where do you see the industry itself, you and all your competitors? And that next 10 years, like, where do you see the major shifts of either technology? Or what’s happening in the world that’s going to force people to try to go more risk management? Or maybe do you see things getting better because of it? And maybe people start, unfortunately, until they back off, right? Because we’re very reactive of a species. So where do you see that next 10 years for all risk management going?


Bruce: Yes, it’s a great question. I would tell you the amount of investment interest in this segment of the industry, this GRC, this governance risk and compliance- it’s intense. People want to invest in this because they realize the impact. And what I would tell you from a company standpoint, I think there will be a lot of consolidation in the industry. And this happens as it matures. Man, let’s go back to ERP systems with workflow. Think of the way that whole segment consolidated and advanced, and then the CRM, the customer intimacy, aspect, and how that the same thing will happen in this GRC and ESG area. And what we’ll see is we’ll see consolidation, what’s the advantage to metric stream, the solid platform Foundation, and one single federated data model. So it’s very easy for us to pull those advancements into a common place versus the point solutions. 


Bruce: You understand because every point solution has to do what the CIOs got to standard and justify it. And you know, you’ve got to bring it in and test it. Also, once you’re in on this platform, going from compliance to audit or adding third party, these all become a natural expansion for that customer. And it all comes back to using the same data model coming back to using the same data elements and then starting to expand. So the whole aspect of Unstructured Data now external, let me give you a specific example. In IT Cyber right? The majority of these hacks, the majority of this ransomware actually comes through scenes when you build in third parties, right? So a third party gets evaluated and scored and accepted. And now they’re in. But how many companies go back and really manage that third party. And so what you see is a lot of these hacks, it’s terrible stuff, they come in through third and fourth party relationships, look at the complexity of the supply chain now, in this pandemic world, and all of the changes that are happening, every one of them creates scenes through third parties. Well, wouldn’t it be great to have a solution like Metric Stream that helps you manage those third parties to really understand.


JC: Now that’s a big part right there because most people can’t, they can control what they can control, which is themselves? Correct. I have a platform that can also keep checks and balances on your providers. Now that I think is one of the biggest things that you guys do it sounds like from a scalable standpoint, and you know, how important that would be? Do you guys work with government entities at all? Or is it mostly just..


Bruce: Oh sure, in fact, a lot of the government entities now are also in a private world with new content providers and content scoring around environmental social, for sure. That’s our strength, is that ecosystem. JC, I’ll give you another example of some new technology because I know your listeners like to hear this. I would tell you, it’s the link of mobility into risk. And why do I say that? Well, think of where the majority of real risk takes place. It takes place at the frontline, whether it’s a teller in a bank, and it could be a mobile application, whether it’s a receive a shipper receiver on a dock in a supply chain, you could go on and on a receptionist in an office building, right? When they see a risk, how do they get that into the system? How do they notify and so the real advancements now are around this mobility and frontline detection of risk and being able real time to say I see something that’s of concern, and it needs to be flagged and visible, and how you bring that real time data analytics in data and analytics into the system. So we’re working on this, we’ve got some really cool things happening. And I think there’s a big future there as well.


JC: I love that. And then like I said, I like that second level of checks and balances. And I think that’s a really key part of what you guys do. And I think that’s really from my opinion, the way that I think that’s one of the leading factors of why people would would hire you know, a company like yours. Let me ask you a personal question. You’re more like business personal. So if you could pick one business book, because you seem like a really well read guy, you know, a lot of stuff of one business book that you had to recommend to anyone listening that’s like the it’s a must read, period, whether it be for your industry, or just in general, what would it be? 


Bruce: Well, there’s, this is a little dated now. But I think it’s it was very telling us leading digital and there were some books early on, about how the digital society was going to change the human race. And there are a lot of obvious things, right? Social media, etc, etc. But I don’t think anybody predicted, right? So I’ve been around a long time. And I worked at AT&T, NCR, HP, some great companies, a lot of this technology was kind of on the forefront and started to forecast where we would go, right? But nobody ever predicted something as dramatic as a pandemic. I mean, just think of video conferencing. Here we are doing this interview through video conferencing. I remember early days when we were at AT&T, we’re talking about this. And people said, no one will ever want to do this. Now you might get caught in your pajamas, you know where the dog is barking. And think of today’s world, we don’t think..


JC: And some people still don’t want to, some people don’t.


Bruce: They don’t think twice about the background noise, right? If we hadn’t done those things, and this whole aspect of leading digital – if we hadn’t put those things in place, think of what this world would have gone through the last 12-18 months. Think of how we’ve been able to continue our lives in a relatively productive way because of technology. And I think it’s really cool to be a part of that. 


JC: What was the name of the book again, though you said it was?


Bruce: I believe it’s “Leading Digital” 


JC: Oh “Leading Digital”, got it. Got it. Okay, well, especially if it’s before to see if they were able to predict this so well, that’s really..


Bruce: Correct and it was basically a way to start scoring companies as to how they use digital, not just to, to gain retain customers, but also internally how you use the whole digital aspect. To be a thought leader in this. I just think it’s really exciting. And for me personally, to think of the years spent building these systems and data processing and networking and all of this now coming together in this post pandemic world. And we have a program – a marketing campaign we call “Power what’s next” And so basically, now that you have all of this, how do you make risk strategic? How do you thrive on risk? And how does risk become commonplace to the way you manage your business? So before you launch a new product, before you change your supply chain before you enter a new customer segment? Are you really analyzing all that risk? Have you really put forth the assessment of where you stand? That’s not just reporting. That’s a big part of it. But how do you really make risk a strategic and I’m excited about what we’re doing. I can tell you we’re hiring. I would love to have more people come join us. We can’t hire fast enough.


JC: So as our last question then, how can people get in touch with you personally, if they’d like if they’re part of a company with that big deal for you? And then how can people reach the company in general? If they’re just trying to inquire?


Bruce: Yeah, so obviously, you can catch us on the internet- that’s the quickest way. I like to think our social media is really up to date, and be a quick way to to see what opportunities we have. You can always reach out to me personally,  that’s an easy way to get to us. But you know, I tell you, look for some of the things that we’re doing. We’re always on LinkedIn, with new programs, new information, we have the summit, as I mentioned, coming up in middle October in London, and we’ve just loved to have people come be a part of this. I’m not just saying this, we’re literally hiring today. And we’re looking for talent that want to be a part of this journey.


JC: Why there’s a lot of people looking for really good spots out there. And it sounds like you guys are a great company to work for. And listen for everyone out there listening again. If you liked what you heard today, please be sure to subscribe to this podcast, give it a five star rating, putting some cool notes on there for us. So other techies like us can find it and enjoy learning about all the amazing and helpful B2B software’s on the market today. Bruce, thank you again so much for coming on the show. If I happen to be in London, October I think I mean like December..


Bruce: You have an open invitation from the CEO. JC I’ve thoroughly enjoyed it. I think your insight is terrific.


JC: I’m gonna hold you to that.


Bruce: Come see us.


JC: Thanks Bruce.


Bruce: All right. Cheers.


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