Jeff is the Senior Director of Strategic Finance at Harness. When he joined the company three-plus years ago, there were roughly 120 employees. Today, Harness has over 800 employees and its valuation has soared to $3.7B. There are many ways to grow headcount by 8X, and most of them are pretty messy. But Jeff and his team of four have worked extremely hard to implement tight processes and responsible growth strategies, all of which we talk about in this episode.

Chapter list:

00:00 - Cold open

01:27 - Meet Jeff Merlin

02:38 - What does your Strategic Finance team look like?

03:58 - Why is headcount planning important for companies to invest in?

05:02 - How do you do headcount planning at Harness?

06:37 - What is your headcount planning process?

11:07 - How are you determining the total envelope for headcount?

13:15 - How do you determine the ratios that go into your headcount model?

14:52 - What are the ratios to consider for Sales and Product roles?

19:12 - What are the best practices for managing and executing the headcount plan?

20:56 - How are you operating when you have to make these decisions?

22:31 - Guidance for other finance leaders?

25:41 - What are the tools that you use for managing headcount?

29:54 - How much time is spent syncing data and workflows?

32:12 - How did you streamline your headcount workflows?

34:44 - C-suite perspective on headcount management for next 12-24-36 months?

Tushar: [00:00:00] hello everyone. My name is Tushar Maja and I am the C e O of T Moana. And today we are with my good friend Jeff Merlin, who is the senior director of Strategic Finance at Harness.

And this is our episode of the Headcount people. Welcome Jeff. How are you? Hey, thanks. 

Jeff Merlin: It's good. Good, good. Thanks for having me, Tisha. I appreciate it. 

Tushar: So Jeff, uh, for our audience, why don't we start with an introduction. A little bit about yourself, about your career, as well as, uh, your current role at Harness.

Jeff Merlin: Sure. Yeah. Uh, so my current role right now, I'm the strategic, the senior director of Strategic Finance, and I've been here for about three and a half years. Prior to that, I was running fp and a at a company called One Login. Um, and then even before that I started my career, uh, at Gap Inc. When I joined Harness, uh, there was about 125 people.

Uh, they had just raised their series B [00:01:00] and our C F O, John Bonney was starting to build out, uh, his, you know, g a function under leadership under him. And so, you know, we were probably in the unique position where we were able to get started quite early in building out that function. Uh, John was actually our first hire and, um mm-hmm.

so yeah, I was hired probably three months after him. And, uh, we. Pretty small company back then, but now we're, you know, closer to 800 people and raised our series D, so, 

Tushar: so 120 to 800 people and C, B two, C D, and uh, yeah. And as senior director, what does your team look 

Jeff Merlin: like? Yeah, so, um, my team, I've got four people on my team. Uh, two people focus on go-to-market side of things. One in particular focus on commissions, um mm-hmm , and then one person focused on kind of corporate general, you know, financial [00:02:00] model that kind of, and then one person focused on R D M marketing.


Tushar: uh, that's, that's a interesting ratio. Is it a shared responsibility across the finance managers to take care 

Jeff Merlin: of headcount? Yeah. So the way we try and structure it for my team, We try and align them to the departments and ultimately the executives so that whenever anybody has questions around, you know, whether it be headcount or expenses or what have you, um, they know who to go to.

Uh, but then they, you know, they also have kind of different responsibilities, whether, you know, different financial models that kind of keep it more fresh versus just doing expense and headcount. 

Tushar: So Jeff, thanks for, uh, giving us a good overview of how the company is set up, how your department is set up.

Now let's get into the core concept of headcount planning. Let's start at the highest level. Why do [00:03:00] you think headcount planning is important? Uh, for companies to invest in. 

Jeff Merlin: Yeah. I mean, you know, speaking specifically for a SaaS business, you know? Mm-hmm. . Three quarters of the cost is tied up in, you know, payroll related issues.

But even beyond that, like if you think about all of the other expenses that come along with headcount, you know, I would probably guess 85 to 90% of your p and l is actually gonna be driven by some form of headcount, whether it be t and e, you know, um, all of the. Perks that employees get. Um, you know, the people that you bring on are driving the software decision purchases.

So a large majority of, of your expense and in your p and l is gonna be driven by the headcount that you bring on. 

Tushar: I like your unique perspective is that you're also tying in t and e and it's not just payroll benefits and you know, payroll [00:04:00] taxes, but it is all the other elements.

So it would be, it would be good to get a little more sense of like, how do you guys do headcount planning 

Jeff Merlin: at harness? Yeah, I mean it's certainly evolved and it's still evolving today. Um, you know, the challenges that we had 24 months ago are different than the challenges that we have today. And so the, you know, the first thing is we kind of had to lay out a very, um, defined process with our key stakeholders.

So, you know, with our recruiters, with our HR team, with the business understanding, What it takes to bring somebody on board, uh, and the kind of process that needs to be followed was really important for us. Um, so that was mm-hmm. , you know, kind of, you know, 12, 18 months ago, we kind of worked through that with all of our key stakeholders, um, so that everybody's on the same page.

Um, that's kind of the, the biggest thing. [00:05:00] With headcount planning is that there are so many different people involved with the process that it's, it's less of an approval, but just more of a, you know, heads up that you get everybody on the same page that we're doing this thing and these are all the things that need to happen to, to make that happen.

So. Okay. 

Tushar: Um, if, if we have to map this process out, like what would you, what would you say is the first step? So let's imagine that. Let me ask you this. How, so for the next fiscal year, when, when do you actually start planning? Yeah. And what are some of the first steps that you take? I mean, yeah. It would be good if you can map that entire journey for our 

Jeff Merlin: listeners.

Yeah, sure. So, uh, hopefully this isn't an unpopular opinion, but it's my belief, like the mm-hmm. , the actual creation of a, of a, a wreck inside of. Uh, the financial model actually lives within the financial [00:06:00] model of the finance team. It, it doesn't live in your, your H R I s, it doesn't live in the a t s, it's generated by a, you know, somebody in finance inputting that row or what have you into the spreadsheet.

And so for us, One of the challenges that we really had initially was that we could never tie, tie back like our financial model to everything that was in the hr, you know, what HR was doing and working on what the talent team was working on and, and recruiting against. And so, The thing that we created was a kind of a finance ID to basically tie everything back to our financial model.

So then we create a wreck in the system. We share that. Uh, and, and when I say system, you know, we, we use sheets today. We're, we're trying to move to a planning tool to do this in a more automated fashion. And then we submit that through a data workflow [00:07:00] to our business intelligence tool. And that's where, that's where the business partners, that's where recruiting, that's where HR all go to reference that information.

And so they take that information, which, you know, we're trying to collect as much information as we have about the rec level location department. Hiring manager, you know, every bit of data we can collect on that will help inform each individual who's involved with the process. So, you know, let you know, we'll take creating a a Rec for finance and we say it's a senior analyst role.

well, that senior analyst role needs to have a job code that we can reference that our total rewards team has given us. Mm-hmm. so that we can input the budget dollars that they've set for the midpoint range of that, of that role. And then that tells recruiting [00:08:00] the type of person that they're going to go and target in the market and, and so on.

And then, and then even further, you know, once they come on board, um, that. Information then goes to it and lets them know the type of systems, uh, that they'll need access to, the type of equipment they'll need to do their jobs. Um, so it, it, it kind of goes all the way through the system and. You know, a lot of people in the planning process rely on headcount to make decisions in their business, right?

So, you know, headcount is a, a, a major contributor to everybody else's function. 

Tushar: I love how you started by describing and I. I ascribe to, and we promote and advertise the same ways that the original ID starts with the finance. I and finance must have all the information about the headcount.

It's not just, [00:09:00] you know, I wanna hire 25 engineers. Well, what level would they be? What location would they be? And I loved how you said that using the job codes so that you are relevant and you. Looking at the latest and the greatest information that your Total Rewards team is doing. I think in the last 24 months we have seen that the job market has, uh, exploded.

Um, and it's still very volatile. And if you were planning, looking at last year's data, because we've heard that in the past that hey, we did an average salary on the department and we just came up with a number. Um, so you basically, if these steps aren't taken upfront, you are already start. With a budget, which you are gonna blow out, you are going to be wrong to begin with.

Right. Um, I wanna talk about like, what is the envelope or guidance that you provide to different leaders of the company? And maybe let's start with your c e O.

[00:10:00] What is Joti giving you as. Envelope as a framework that you can then relay out to the different departments before you even get, you know, uh, any headcount request from them. . 

Jeff Merlin: The envelope starts at, you know, essentially growth rate and burn and, and like, what are we comfortable with?

What are we, uh, targeting? You know, what are our investors expecting of us? And that, that's kind of like the very broad envelope. Mm-hmm. . And then like, you, you then like start to create envelopes for each of the departments. And so like, if you think about sales, th there's a envelope where ye yes, they have a, a revenue.

But there are, capacity plans that you have to build to get to that target. And so like the envelope is dictated by the capacity plan, and then we're. We try to be as scientific as we can, um, with obviously flexibility [00:11:00] built in. But you know, we try to be very ratio based in the roles that we can around capacity and sales engineers and the like.

Uh, and we do the same thing on the engineering side and, and it's less revenue focused, but it's more product focused than what we wanna go and build. And we have a pretty detail. Model on when we are building a new product, how many engineers do we need? How many UX designers do we need? What are the ratios of PMs to engineers, et cetera, so that we can then be a lot more accurate in whenever we wanna build a product, knowing what the cost is going to be.

Tushar: See, that's that. That's. You know, harness is at that, uh, elite level of companies that we all aspire to be because you all have done the hard work of coming up with these ratios and coming up with these variables that you can plug and play to actually lead to, okay, what would it really [00:12:00] take? Um, it's testament that you all ship feature features fast enough and also hit your revenue targets.

Uh, but give us a little glimpse. Because you, as you know, going back, you've been here from 120 employees now to 1-800-EMPLOYEES, right? Did you start with some standalone benchmarks or best practices for companies? Did you use your past experience or how did we come up with these ratios? 

Jeff Merlin: Fortunately, like, uh, obviously Jo T's like been very successful in his career and has a lot of knowledge and, and we, we did rely a lot on him and our, our, um, engineering leader on their experience to kind of build out those ratios.

They've. Shift a lot of products, so they kind of know what it takes to, to operate those. Um, and then on, you know, on the sales side, we're definitely much more tied to the unit economics of the business. So what mm-hmm. , what is, what is the CAC we can't afford and expect? Um, but then also what's, what's the, with a kind [00:13:00] of ingredient of.

Of our industry and our market and like how complex of a sale it is. And so there, you know, we're not looking at like the Pacific Crest survey and just using the that, but we referenced that just as a sanity check to make sure, are we in line with, you know, Other companies, but we really rely on both our internal teams and their experiences, but also just our, our, our current market and where we are today.

Tushar: Great. It, from the top of your head, would, you know, like let's say it's an enterprise sale, average sales price is, uh, upwards of a hundred thousand dollars, I would say. Uh, what is the, what, what are some of the ratios to consider for. AEs AE BDRs to AEs to sales engineer, uh, and then product managers to 

Jeff Merlin: engineer.

[00:14:00] Yeah. So on on the engineering side, we're looking at a ratio of like between 12 and 15 to one of engineers. Okay. Like product managers. Uh, same thing with UX by the way. It's not something that we do like 12 to 15 to one for both of those. Um, and then docs, we have like 20 to 30 to one on on Docs team, and that's kind of like the unit we build and.

Within even the engineering team, we have like a rough estimate of, you know, how many principals or how many staff and how many senior level folks we would need to go out and launch that product. Right? Because I mean, you know, if you just take the average, sometimes it could be wildly off. . Um, we also have the unique challenge of, uh, being international focused, so that that is, uh, you know, we have offices in Bangalore, in Belfast, you know, o obviously across the US in, in Brazil.

And so w we do have that added. [00:15:00] Uh, complication of understanding the markets that we're in. And, and that also has a big factor of how many, uh, you know, individuals it would take to build a product or the cost of it. Um, and, you know, on, on, on the sales side, You know, we're, we're typically looking at, you know, two or three to one on sales engineers.

We are looking at, um, you know, for, for actually for our BDR team, we, we very much look at pipeline, um, as an output metric and not necessarily how much, um, how many BDRs. Uh, sales rep, but we we're looking at like mm-hmm. , how much pipeline we can expect them to generate. Um, we're, you know, manage, you know, span control is another, uh, big thing to, you know, consider, um, wanting folks to have, you know, six to seven, to potentially up to 10.

Um, and, um, kind of employees per, per manager. But [00:16:00] it kinda always depends on the, the function and, and frankly the managers role, the. 

Tushar: That's great. So I wanna summarize first is that I think the key insight I heard here was it's not just about the ratios around pipeline, around, uh, Coverage between engineers, but it is also about org design because two key, two key things that you said, which really resonated with me is that number one, you wanna make sure about span of control as well.

You need to make sure that, you know, we have a manager in place for every seven, eight, uh, 10 employees, uh, depending on the composition of the team. And then also look at the composition. Senior to junior to mid-level, whether it's engineering or in sales, because that can also affect, uh, output and result in requesting more heads or more expensive heads.

Um, and I think we mentioned Jodi's name a few times, and, uh, uh, we were being very, I was presumptive that only people in [00:17:00] Silicon Valley are going to be listening to our podcast, but, uh, I'll give. I'll give it, I'll give one minute. So Joti Buns, uh, was the founder of AppDynamics and, uh, sold the company right?

One day bef to Cisco one day before it was going i p o Uhhuh. . Yes. So that's the story to tell. And that has been serial entrepreneur, investor, I think he's currently co, c e o, of, uh, Multiple companies. Um, traceable. Yeah. Yeah. Right. Uh, yeah. And then harness has been, uh, just a runaway success, uh, in the last, uh, four years.

But that's, that's great. I think, uh, I think, I think we've gotten all the elements now about the importance of planning the coming up with a plan. How does it flow from top two bottom? Can you add a few more logistic steps about, okay, you have a plan. You created this, you pushed it out to your business intelligence system, but how are [00:18:00] people.

This plan was done, let's say at the beginning of the year. There are changes to the plan, there are adjustments to the plan. What are some of the best practices that, uh, both hiring managers and recruiters can do to horse trade with, with you about, um, managing the plan and executing it throughout the year?

Jeff Merlin: Yeah. Uh, I mean that, that all kind of comes down to relationship management at the end of the day. Um mm-hmm. , you know, that that's where there's a lot of, uh, there's a lot of education that goes around because headcounts not a very simple thing, right? You, you have ha you have transfers, you have. Uh, you know, you have managers who are managing a team that's within an organization, but like, cost structure wise, they should, they're, you know, in another different, uh, org.

So like you have somebody in r d mm-hmm. that's running, uh, that has an employee that is actually in the marketing, you know, department. So, [00:19:00] There, there becomes quite, quite a lot of complexity and then like cross-functional approvals required. And that's, you know, where, uh, you know, finance comes in and, and tries to help connect the dots between the two.

Right? Because a lot of times whenever, uh, a business partner is thinking about a transfer or something like that, they're reducing their head count. They're not thinking. About the fact that, well, that head count's gonna go over and create, uh, more cost elsewhere, right? So that's where we, we oftentimes have to play kind of the, negotiate the, uh, the liaison between, uh, departments and say, Hey, like, what do you, what are you guys agreeing to here?

Because, uh, at the end of the day, we need to kind of keep the pie hole, 

Tushar: uh, so, and is this conversations, uh, because now it's a completely distributed. Uh, so does this result in tons of emails, slack messages, zoom calls? How are you actually operating, uh, when you [00:20:00] have to Yeah, when you have to make these decisions?

Jeff Merlin: Yeah. Uh, so we are very, very close with our recruiting team. Uh, so we meet weekly with them. And not only do we meet weekly with them just to talk individually, but as a group, we come together every Monday and make sure we kind of go through like, what are all our open recs? What are all the recs that we have on deck?

Um, what are the terminations we have coming up that we need to create back fills for? . Um, the, the, the really helpful part that, um, you know, recruiting has, is they have different conversations with the same best business partner. And so it's, IM important for us to make sure we, uh, we hear what they're telling us and we mm-hmm.

they hear what they're telling them. So, um, we make sure we're kind of like in. And in sync with those people cuz they're the ones that are, are really going out and building the job description of the rec and recruiting against the rules so they, they really know what [00:21:00] the actual rec will turn into eventually.


Tushar: Having done this over such a long period of time, right. At multiple companies now and be have, you know, literally scaled headcount at, uh, harness from one 20 to 800, what are some of the best practices that you would, uh, you know, best practices or basically how, what would be the suggestions or guidance that you would provide to other finance leaders who.

You know, either mid cycle or ready to embark on this kind of a scale of, for headcount? 

Jeff Merlin: Yeah. Uh, I, I mean, I think the simplest way I could explain it is the, the rigor that I see around the procurement process, uh, you know, around bringing on a new vendor, the same type of rigor needs to be applied to headcount.

And if that, you know, Because arguably you should be having more [00:22:00] rigor and more understanding around the headcount because of the disproportionate amount of spend that goes there.

You've got breadth and airbase and like all these cards like, and. You know, argu, at least for sas, arguably headcount is magnitudes larger in terms of how, yeah, you can control your p and l and there it, you know, that, that's just, it just, there's not as much rigor around it. And so that's what I, and it's probably because it's a little disjointed still.

Like there's not a procure, there's not a head of workforce planning, right? Like, you know, finance is more of a shepherd of the process, but there's so many people involved. 

But, um, that's, you know, from, from my lens at least. Having the rigor, the same rigor that you would have in procurement with headcount is, is vital. Um, especially if your headcount is as big of percentage spend as most SAS [00:23:00] companies are.

Tushar: So, I, I think you're, you're providing a business idea to people just like there is a spend, there is spend manage. Are you saying there is an idea that someone should go build headcount management? I'll, I'll write that down. I'll write down another

Well, this is just for everybody that, uh, no money was exchanged between me and Jeff so that he, this was very organic and natural . Alright. But, but Jeff, I think let's, naturally we come down. Uh, it's amazing, right? It's like, uh, I was talking to a CFO F just very recently and he said, um, uh, at, because he uses Airbase, I, I sold airbase to them, which is a spend management system, and he is like, Tisha.

Now I get to approve a $15,000 vendor, but I don't get to approve $150,000 engineer[00:24:00] 

Jeff Merlin: Yeah, totally. I mean, it's, it's, I think, I think. 

Tushar: So marvel of the story be, bring more rigor and intention in building your headcount because it is the largest part of your p l. But let's, I think natural segue, I think you've been a master of tools and, uh, harness has never shied down from like, not.

Exploring new tools when it or not. You're not stuck in spreadsheets as some people are. Right. And spreadsheets are great. And I know that you've gone through this journey of FPNA tools and now you're on this new journey. Let's talk about some of the tools and how you want to use them. Where do you think some of the capabilities are and where do you see some of the opportunities?

Uh, yeah, that would be from your, from your lens and vantage point. 

Jeff Merlin: Yeah. So I, I mean, the funny thing is that. A lot of the core systems, like we don't actually own like the HR F system, the ats, like we don't [00:25:00] own it. And so we have to try and influence folks around like why it's important to have some. Some of the fields and approval process that's in there.

So, you know, we, we use Lever for our at t s system and one of the mm-hmm. , like very early things that we did was put a approval process in, which I think is Yep. Fairly basic. And, and so, um, but we have both a, a, a job rec approval and then a job offer approval. Offer approval. Yeah. And, and mostly the way we're using the offer approval, honestly, is that, Basically taking that information and inputting it into our model so that we have like real time information.

Um, You know, the H R I S system, it needs to also talk to, uh, the at s system. So like whenever somebody actually officially gets hired, like that information needs to transfer over to the HR system. And a lot [00:26:00] of what we are doing actually today still is managing some of that gap on the, on the time it takes between.

Uh, kind of somebody being hired, offer being made, and then making it into, uh, our, uh, H R I S system. And the re and the reason for that is we try and provide a, you know, real-time visibility to our executives on, on where we are with headcount. So we have, you know, active headcount, we have pending starts, we have pending at trips, we have, you know, rec offer, job offers about to go out, so we have.

Fairly robust category, like almost as robust as like, you know, you would think about your sales pipeline stages. Mm-hmm. is kinda how we think about also the headcount. Um, so that's, uh, you know, one area that we've, uh, influenced and, and not necessarily owned. Um, You know, for us, [00:27:00] we, we deal, we do still do primarily all of our planning inside of sheets.

Uh, and we're starting to see the limitations of it, and we're trying to build out, uh, a planning solution and put all of that information in there. Um, and, and that's mostly just so that we get off the spreadsheets and the, the challenge is like, you know, whenever you have like department changes and all these other things, It's much easier to load your HR data and then build off of that versus like having to like go and copy and paste it into your model and, and, and things like that.

So we can stay as fresh as possible. Um, and then I guess the last piece I would say is like, go to where your. Business partners are so, like we try, you know, most people like hiring managers in our company have access to our BI tool. That's where they will go and see the information relevant to mm-hmm.

their departments. Um, [00:28:00] We're trying to also push that we push that data into lever so that they have all of the information and we actually collect that, like, uh, lever produces an ID so that we put that into our model so that all the systems have a unique idea across each other and we can reference that and kind of trace that rec throughout the process.


Tushar: how, how much time is your team spending in getting all of this right? And I'm thinking like, W data synchronization is a challenge. Workflows is a second challenge. And then modeling everything and keeping real-time, real-time visibility for everything is a third challenge. And I know that the fp n a software is the most.

Appropriate to solve the third part, which is the realtime visibility by, by syncing HR data, syncing ATS data. But what about the first two parts, which is data synchronization and, uh, the workflows. Who, where do they [00:29:00] sit today and where do you imagine they sitting in future? 

Jeff Merlin: Yeah, I, I mean, as far as the workflows concerned, like it's a collaborative process between, you know, us and recruiting us and the HR business partners.

Um Mm. You know, there, there's process that they own, um, that we are just, uh, approvers on and there's vice versa. Um, . And so, you know, I, it, it would be great if there were a, a, like a one platform to kind of like manage the, that entire process and get everybody's kind of input on the, the whole hiring process.

But today it's still a little bit disjointed where, you know, we have lever approvals for job racks and job offers. Mm. any, like compensation changes or anything like that is me measured in the H R I S system. Mm-hmm. . So it, it's still a little bit, uh, disjointed today. Um, but I, you know, I'd say overall, [00:30:00] like reporting wise and, and how much effort we're spending, you know, we have most of it on kind of just like update mode really.

Uh, so my, you know, our teams, you know, they spend probably a couple hours a week just making sure that the headcount data in our models are up to date. And then we meet 30 minutes every Monday with, uh, recruiting just to make sure everything's tied off and you. Probably 12 months ago, that meeting was an hour and it was extremely painful, and it was like mm-hmm.

a lot of miscommunication between like, what, what, what does this mean and what does that mean? And. You know, my team put in a lot of effort to, to make sure that they got those business partners on the same page as us. And now it's a, I mean, 30 minutes is probably generous. We probably go through it in 10 minutes today just to make sure everything's aligned.

Uh, so it's, it's a much more palatable process. 

Tushar: and that, that's awesome. Right? It's like I to understand that [00:31:00] yes, it is a hard problem to solve and you put in time, money, effort to get it solved. Like how would you quantify the cost that you, was it just more people, was it more systems? Yeah. How did you get from, like how did you get to this wonderful update mode, state of 10 minute meetings,

Jeff Merlin: Yeah, so I mean, I think the biggest thing was connecting our spreadsheet, which is usually disparate and off. Mm-hmm. into Silo Land and connecting it to a data warehouse, which is our BI tool. And so then like anytime we make an update in our spreadsheet, it pushes to our bi. Now there are challenges with that.

Like we're running into some issues of around like how we are discreet, about like the changes we make and how do we then disconnect between changes we need to make, but. We're just like scenario planning kind of thing. Hmm. Um, [00:32:00] but you know, for the most part we've, we've found some workarounds for that.

Um, but yeah, so that, that was the biggest thing for us because now we don't have to share a spreadsheet with somebody and Right. You know, there's so many spreadsheets out there. It's just like, no, go to this dashboard. You'll see it. You can't edit. But you can consume the information and, and, okay. And then we can actually, we can set up like the security controls necessary where, you know, if you're in r and d and I'm in G N A, I can't see the r and d recs and you can't see the G N A recs.

So yeah, 

Tushar: so, so there is like, uh, if you have, if you need, the infrastructure that you have to build is you would need to build this connected spreadsheet that talks to a BI tool. The BI tool must be. I would say elaborate enough to support access controls. And even then you are, if you're doing scenarios, you don't wanna publish there because that, that can result in, oh, I didn't ask you to do this so well.

Yeah. Why [00:33:00] are you taking my headcount away? Alright. Yeah. Um, but I think it is still, it's awesome that you, you, number one, you have treated headcount as a first class object and an important category. Of that jobs to be done and you've invested time in the last few years to get it right. 

 I think parting, parting thoughts for everybody out there. We are in a new world. Um, it is not growth at all costs. There is no guarantee on how the next round of funding is going to come. Um, how are you guys thinking about headcount management, uh, at the C-suite level? Um, how's, give us, give us some insights into the discussions that you are having with John and, uh, Joti, your cfo, F and your c e o, around headcount and set guiding into the next 24 36.

Jeff Merlin: Yeah, I, I mean, I, I, I think I, I'll try and simplify as much as possible, but, uh, you know, at the end of the day, you know, [00:34:00] the growth at all costs model is, is kind of out, right? And what is in is, is prioritization of those headcount requests. And so from a strategic stand, The headcount that you're putting in now is truly the, the, the strategy of the company.

Uh, so any incremental headcount you're adding at this point should be tied to the strategic investment of, uh, of the company. Um, and so, you know, whenever we are going through, uh, Headcount planning this year. It's very clear on the areas that we are going to be investing in next year and what we're going to be doing and how it ties those, those broader strategic objectives that, that the management team has.

Um, it's definitely, um, You know, it, it doesn't, you know, the, the volume is not as much obviously now. Mm-hmm. , but now, but now it's much more of a, a kind of a, a [00:35:00] prioritization conversation. And, and now more than ever, it's important that you have all those attributes correct. So that you give the management team as much.

Uh, as a outlook, uh, an accurate outlook as possible, and kind of narrow that, you know, variance range from, you know, five and 10% to like two or 3% or even 1%, right? That's, that's kind of the, uh, the variant, the margin that you wanna work with and, and give them. Mm-hmm. , the flexibility because every point of variance that you're off is a point of variance That could have went to some other strategic objective.

Um, right. So that's, that's kind of like the end goal of like being as precise as you possibly can be, um, with obviously like not being like overly precise, but you wanna make sure that you are giving a, a pretty tight range so that they can make as many investment decisions 

Tushar: as. [00:36:00] That's wonderful. So I think bottom line is that you are hiring for a head of workforce planning because you already do have someone head of procurement

Jeff Merlin: Yeah, for sure, for sure. 

Tushar: On that. On that note, thank you so much, Jeff, for being part of the headcount people. I think this is going to. A great episode and a lot of learnings and a lot of cool insights, uh, from this beautiful four or five years that you have spent really, really, really nailing down headcount.

Um, so thank you so much for spending time with us. 

Jeff Merlin: Thanks, Achar. I appreciate it.

About the guests

Jeff Merlin
Sr. Director of Strategic Finance
Jeff Merlin is the Sr. Director of Strategic Finance at Harness, where he oversees a team responsible for planning and managing strategic investments for the business. When he joined the company three-plus years ago, there were roughly 120 employees. Today, Harness has over 800 employees and its valuation has soared to $3.7B. Prior to Harness, Jeff was a Finance Director at OneLogin and got his career start at Gap Inc in corporate FP&A.

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Painless headcount planning for modern companies.