Read time: 10 minutes
Read time: 10 minutes
In this episode, we talk about the importance for businesses to pivot their strategy and business models especially in the accelerated times of COVID-19, and the fundamentals of campaigns and their execution to make marketing strategies come to life. We also touch on topics like OKRs, business processes, and frameworks to take consumer input to create a product.
To discuss more, we are joined by Alex Shootman, CEO at Workfront. Alex is a senior field executive with 25 years of experience in all areas of revenue and profit generation for technology organizations. He has led turn-around and growth in multiple organizations across four different enterprises, operating on the ground in all international geographies.
Listen to the podcast for the conversation with leaders from across the world to discuss the forces, opportunities, and challenges that are shaping the future of sales and marketing.
Talk to Lee Hackett, CEO at BluprintX, on LinkedIn, or please send your feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Lee Hackett 00:07 Hi everyone. Welcome to the B2B Game Changers Podcast. I’m your host, Lee Hackett. B2B Game Changes is the result of my hunger to help companies all of shapes and sizes unlock the value in their business. This podcast is my attempt to synthesize what I have learned in the process of working with some of the most successful companies and individuals in the world. We’ll be featuring leaders from across the world to discuss the forces, opportunities, and challenges that are shaping the future of sales and marketing.
Lee Hackett 00:47 Hi everyone. Welcome to the B2B Game Changers Podcast. I’ve got a great guest today, Alex Shootman, CEO of Workfront. Alex has actually been a guest on my podcast before number of years ago. But Alex, thanks for coming back and taking the time to do it again.
Alex Shootman 01:03 Yeah, a little bit different circumstance. Last time we were live over Green Park and now we’re live separated at least six feet apart.
Lee Hackett 01:11 We are, but you’ve got a great backdrop there. Is that Utah?
Alex Shootman 01:15 Actually, that’s Colorado. So, that backdrop is near Breckenridge, Colorado. That’s Lake Dillon, which is beautiful this time of year.
Lee Hackett 01:23 Yeah, I bet it is. Yeah. I was just saying before we started, it’s really hot here. So, I’m kind of mic’d up, I’ve got headphones on. All of these things are now necessary because we’re doing them from home. So, if I’m sweating through it, you know what’s going on.
Alex Shootman 01:40 Well, I wish you were here, Lee. I can’t do the Fahrenheit conversion quickly, but it was about 50 degrees this morning when the sun rose. So, that’s Fahrenheit.
Lee Hackett 01:51 Wow. Would you outtrade in?
Alex Shootman 01:53 No. It was beautiful.
Lee Hackett 01:57 So, that’s why you were up at like 3:00 a.m. because that’s the only time a day you can run in Colorado. A friend of mine is in Dubai. He’s a runner, and he sent me an Instagram post I think the other day, it was 53 and it was 9:00 a.m. He was doing about 25K and it was just kind of horrendous.
Alex Shootman 02:20 Well, I’m 53 Fahrenheit, not Celsius. So, it’s beautiful.
Lee Hackett 02:24 Okay. Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. You definitely need to get the conversions right in the show notes because we’re going to confuse people. But look, thanks for coming on. The reason I wants to get you on is because I want to talk about strategy and how strategy to execution has always been important in any business, particularly now. There’s a lot of different things, which are driving businesses to have to move quicker. And I think you could probably say most businesses have had to pivot their strategy in some way, change the business model, whatever that might be. So, I want to cover that and I want to also try and link into that OKRs, because I think that’s something I know you’re passionate about, I am too, and I think we can talk a little bit about that and what the benefits are of those because I also think that it links into a product and a feature that you have coming out soon, which I think is also super interesting and very much of the moment and needed right now.
Lee Hackett 02:31 But before we do that, let’s get a little bit of history and go back a little bit. So, why did you join Workfront? Because I know you’ve been in marketing for quite a while from Eloqua and I think there’s been a few other things but take us back a little bit. What was the reason you joined Workfront?
Alex Shootman 03:51 It was not part of my plan. I was at a really wonderful company called Aptio run by a good friend of mine, Sonny Gupta, and kind of essentially in a bit of a CEO role at Aptio. Aptio actually ended up going public, and then recently, it was bought by Vista Equity. But about 90 days before Aptio went public, a company called Workfront came and said, “Hey, would you be interested in considering being the CEO of Workfront?” I said, “Of course not. We’re about to go public as a company and that’s a great fun event. We got to do that at Eloqua, it was a great fun event. I want to stay at Aptio and do that.” But then they just said, “Would you just look a little bit about what our customers are doing with our technology?” and Liam, I’m kind of fortunate because I’ve been able to see almost every major system of record come into in enterprise.
Alex Shootman 04:46 I was at IBM when SAP came around and then we saw the Salesforce boom. I was fortunate to be at Eloqua. And what I knew is that there was still one part of the organization that didn’t have an application that it could do what’s working. If you look at the way we look at the world is 400 million knowledge workers in companies with over 1,000 employees, and 180 million of them have a job that has an application built for them. They’re in sales, they can use Salesforce. They’re in human resources, they can use Workday. They’re in accounting, they can use NetSuite. There’s 220 million people that don’t have an application to manage the work that they need to do and that’s what Workfront could do. So, in my mind, I was like, “Oh my gosh. This is the last great system opportunity in the enterprise.” So, I chose to lead Aptio right before it went public and come to Workfront. So, internally, I kind of joke that I wrote the biggest check to join the company.
Lee Hackett 05:53 Yeah. That’s a good anecdote. When Eloqua was around, when it went public, is that when it was bought by Oracle?
Alex Shootman 06:05 Yeah.
Lee Hackett 06:26 So, that was when marketing was exploding as well.
Alex Shootman 06:10 If you think about really the early days of the marketing technology boom, what really helped Eloqua was all of the B2B marketing executives could see how the consumer was dealing with the internet and they could see that digital marketing was coming and that was really great help for Eloqua. But the thing that Eloqua didn’t really have in it, and this is why Workfront has been so successful inside of marketing, Eloqua really didn’t have a way to manage the work of the marketer. Eloqua was fantastic at executing what the marketer had decided to do, but all of the work before execution Eloqua didn’t do, that’s what Workfront has been really great at in terms of helping marketers, especially as you know, Lee, because you do this quite a bit, as marketers have pivoted to trying to really manage their consumer experience or the customer experience, there’s a lot of work that has to happen for that to be successful.
Lee Hackett 07:07 Huge. I know you’ve got a lot of customers, and what is it, 3,000, 4,000?
Lee Hackett 07:13 Yeah. In my experience with our clients, the amount of clients that actually have a solution like Workfront’s is still tiny, right? Anecdotally. I don’t have any data to that, but what would be the kind of market penetration that …
Alex Shootman 07:13 A little bit over 3,000 customers today.
Alex Shootman 07:31 It’s still at its infancy. I mean, we’ve got a great relationship with Adobe right now. We’ve built integrations into many of the Adobe products. We were the first company that had a native integration to their new AEM for cloud. And we look at just working with Adobe, and gosh, there’s a billion dollar opportunity for us just in working with Adobe. So, it’s still fairly lightly penetrated. And one of the reasons why we had our customer advisory board meeting this week, I won’t name the company, but one of the senior executives from one of the largest healthcare organizations in the States was on, and he said, “The thing about the challenge that I have is, I’m trying to ask marketers to plan and to orchestrate their work. That’s not a negative to marketers, that’s just the nature of how we’ve worked as marketers.” So, that’s the whole opportunity is to help marketers just barely organize their work but still allow them all the creative freedom that makes them great.
Lee Hackett 08:38 Yeah. I’ve been in this industry since 2013, so I came from outside of the industry. I think marketers have always kind of specialized in getting things done as being the key measurement. So, volume. But there’s never really been a moment, there has been, of course, anecdotally, with say in clients who really zoomed in on this, the clients who kind of had the game. But there’s never really been a kind of trends and think, “Right. Let’s really drill down on what we do and how we do it, what’s our operating model, who are our target market, and let’s line all of our workflow against that. And then what campaigns do we do? Can we standardize those? Can we get standard campaign intake forms that we can then align with our agencies on?”
Lee Hackett 09:35 And my kind of hypothesis on that, and I’m interested in your view, is because marketing’s had a great run, an amazing run, a ton of investment in that area. And of course, that has yielded some results. But do you think now, because of the circumstances we’re in, because of the economy, the way that’s maybe going to be for the next two to three years that this subject has just become the real issue to deal with in terms of the accountability of marketing, and what they get done and how they do it?
Alex Shootman 10:09 Yeah. Lee, if you think about marketing in the past, and this analogy may not play out because I just thought of it when you were talking, but if you’re merely a string quartet, you need to practice but you don’t need the conductor. But if you’re a complete orchestra, you need the conductor. And when you think about what a company has to do to win in the marketplace today, the level of personalized experience that it needs to deliver, the full conversation to the full lifecycle of a relationship with a buyer, that is now a very complex piece of work. If you think about the amount of content that needs to be created, if you think about the amount of channels that you need to deliver that into, if you think about synchronizing that to where the customer is in the relationship with you, you’ve now gone from a string quartet to a full orchestra. So, I think that the conductors win.
Alex Shootman 11:10 I think the future of the marketer is the conductor wins. And to be a conductor, you’ve got to have some, whether it’s not at Workfront or whatever, you’ve got to have some level of transparency into knowing what folks are working on and some ability to sequence the work. So, from my perspective, a great orchestra leader wins in marketing in the future. And to your point, what that great orchestra leader is really good at is turning back around to the business and say, “You gave me $1 and I gave you $2.”
Lee Hackett 11:43 Yeah, completely. I think it’s a great analogy and I’ve seen that anecdotally since 2013. In regard to the businesses, that really get it. The CMOS or whatever, they know they’re going to do these things at scale. And the only way to do that at scale is with really tight orchestration. I think the barrier to entry for that for me has always been one, the knowledge gap. The business knows they have a problem, but they don’t know how to fix that problem, which is where you guys come in and where we come in. But the other the gap to that is because the status quo. The status quo was, “Let’s just keep doing what we’re doing. It’s going to be harder to change. People are going to leave, they’re not going lay here, we’re going to drive accountability, and all of those things that impact of that. And you know what? We’re kind of making it work now. Right? So, let’s keep doing what we’re doing.”
Lee Hackett 12:38 I’m really interested in, and I already see it from our clients who … I had a client yesterday who had spoken to this client over the last two years about operating models, about standardization, about go-to market strategies, all of these kind of component parts, and it was definitely, “I’ll get around to that. We just got to keep doing what we do. And we’ve got to do that better, but small, incremental changes.” He called me yesterday, he’s based over in Australia, and he said, “Look. I need to sort that out.” My CEO is now asking those questions and now I’ve got to do more with less. I need to be much more impactful with a lot less revenue and a lot less opportunity in terms of budget. So, I’m interested to see how that plays out and I think that’s why I want to get you on because I think also align your product that you’ve got come in can help that because we also got to do these things fast in terms of how do we get the business lined up to that.
Lee Hackett 13:46 So, look. One other thing before we get into the OKRS and strategy execution is you wrote a book, Done Right. That was the name of the book. We’ll put the link in the show notes to it. But 2018, I think I …
Alex Shootman 14:01 You fell asleep reading it in 2018.
Lee Hackett 14:03 No. I have a diary of books that I’ve read, and I think it was January, I’m trying to recall because I looked at it last week when I knew I was doing the podcast. I think it was January or February. There’s a particular part of the book that I really like, one of the outputs of the book I think, which is really good. But what why did you write it? What brought you to it?
Alex Shootman 14:28 The reason I wrote it is because we’ve got a front row seat to being able to watch how work changes. We serve over half of the Fortune 100. We serve all 10 of the top 10 brands in the world. So, we really do, we’ve got this view of what’s going on in these enterprises and what we kept seeing happen is there be a complicated problem inside of marketing organization, for example, and the senior leadership would kind of turn around to somebody that I might call a digital native. I don’t want to necessarily say, “Hey, they were the younger person in the company.” but they’re digital natives. They kind of had a different way about thinking of things. And this person brought some new innovative ideas into the organization. So, what we saw is this next generation of leaders that were being asked to change work. And every time I had an opportunity to meet with one of these folks, after we finished talking about maybe some technology or the project, or whatever, they kind of say, “Hey. Can you tell me like how do you actually get stuff done in a big complicated global organization with people in multiple time zones? This is hard.”
Alex Shootman 14:28 So, we decided to write a book that was just about how to get stuff done. And the way that we went about doing it is we went and interviewed customers. We literally just asked him a question, like, “How do you get stuff done?” And that turned into the principles that you find in the book. And what I continue to find, Lee, is the number one most important skill for anybody trying to get stuff done is to be able to frame the work that they want done. Like, why are you doing this? What is the outcome? Who’s paying for it? Who’s going to get the benefit of it? It just shocks me. It’s the hardest thing to do. Number one, it’s a real skill set. And every time I see something go right in our company, we framed it well up front, and every time I see it go crashing off the rails, we didn’t frame it well upfront.
Lee Hackett 16:34 Yeah, that resonates. And from my own personal experience, we’ll talk about this, the marketing and sales element of this because that’s the community that this podcast is meant for, but as a CEO, you’re the CEO of Workfront, I’m the CEO of Blueprint X, the articulation in a crystal clear way of your goals and objectives so they can flood through the company is a real skill. A real, real skill.
Alex Shootman 17:04 It’s the hardest thing to do and we don’t take enough time. That was one of the chapters in the book, is all about the commander’s intent. Some people don’t like the word commander because they think it’s got kind of a military connotation, but Lee, if you think about it, in the history of the world, there was only two reasons why large groups of people came together up until the corporation, it was either religion or war. So, you kind of got to study effectiveness. We got this notion of commander’s intent from a friend of mine named Mark McGinnis, who’s a retired commander in the Navy Seals, and it marks like Alex we train on this, like this is the most important thing that I do, is frame what I want done, but the outcome so that I can give freedom to people to accomplish it the way they think is best. And so, that’s, Lee, like probably like you, that’s where I spend most of my time, is trying to make sure that I have framed what we need to do well, and that always starts, if you go back to a great Simon Sinek Podcast, it always starts with the why.
Alex Shootman 17:20 Why do we want to do this? And I think that gets into the marketers’ challenge, too. We can get into pretty quickly. Well, I want to experiment with advertising in a new channel. Why do you want to do this? And being able to communicate that why.
Lee Hackett 18:27 Yeah, completely. I think there’s another great book Jocko Willink. He talks a lot about actually go back to my early career. I’ve got a sports background, but in my early career in management, when I did my MBA, a lot were delivered by a lot of guys who are actually military. In my own career, it’s been a journey from being a doer, kind of in the trenches with a flag, “Right, guys. Behind me, come on.” And when you’re doing startup businesses, as you know, you kind of got to be like that because that’s the early days and because there’s nothing to articulate on. You just got to make it happen. And as the business evolves, and it gets bigger, then you have to become that kind of leader who can articulate what the why is.
Alex Shootman 19:18 Yeah. And the challenge, it maybe posts a link to this for our listeners, there’s something that’s called Dunbar’s number. It’s basically this notion of you can lead like a village chief up to about 100 to 150 people because up to that point, you can maintain a personal relationship with everybody that you’re leading. Your ability to talk about the strategy of the organization and connect it to the work that they’re doing, you are doing that personally. But then once you get past about 150 people, you can no longer manage through personal relationships. So, everything we do after Dunbar’s number, we’re trying to recreate our ability to personally interact with everybody in the organization, explain the strategy, explain why we’re doing what we’re doing, explain how their work is connected to the strategy. And that’s what our customers kept telling us.
Alex Shootman 20:18 What they kept telling us is, I live in two worlds. I got my team working on stuff. And me as a senior executive, I’m laying out the strategy of what we want to accomplish and I’m spending my entire life trying to connect those two things, trying to connect strategy to execution. “So, Workfront, you’ve been amazing at helping me with work execution. The next frontier that I want you to help me with, help me with connecting strategy to execution because I can no longer walk around the room and touch everybody personally, and help them understand what’s going on.” So, that’s a journey we’ve been on, is to try to help our customers do that.
Lee Hackett 20:55 I’ll take a look at that number. I think I would add two things to that because in my early career, when I go back to pre-2010, I felt that at that time, that number was maybe around about 100 or 130. But now, until in the last five years is that, the new digital native in a committed where place, the why is absolutely super important for them. Where I think maybe 10 years ago, 15 years ago, of course, it was an issue, but it was less of an issue. So, there’s a huge amount of effort that has to be put into that in regard to … let’s use that as a segue into strategy and execution because it’s funny where you lay it out like that, where it’s actually, “Look. We’ve been great mapping out our kind of workflows and all of those kinds of things and been able to manage our work. But actually, what we need to do is tie together strategy and execution.” What is the kind of pitfalls that you see in that when you’re speaking? In customers previously, what challenges that they had?
Alex Shootman 22:09 There’s two challenges, really. The first challenge is translating the strategy to an individual. Lee, what I believe is people do their best work if they understand their role, if they believe that their role matters, and they had the opportunity to be proud of their work. So, if you and I want to get the greatest work out of the organization, if you and I want to get the greatest motivation, it doesn’t come from financial rewards, it doesn’t come from me saying to you, “Lee, if you don’t do this, I’m going to fire you.” It comes from, first of all, the people enjoy what they’re doing. And secondly, can they connect it to a bigger purpose? So, the first challenge that we saw with our customers is could they get the strategy to the last mile? I want everybody to understand the strategy, understand our four key objectives of the company, and understand how their department connects to it, how their team connects to that, and then how they individually connect to it. That was the first challenge.
Alex Shootman 23:15 The second challenge that I want or my customers’ want is, are we making progress with this strategy? So, how do we have a feedback loop that says, “Great. Maybe we did a good job and we got the strategy and our objectives to the last mile. Are we actually making progress with this strategy?” So, that’s what we kept seeing with our customers. Those two things of, I just want people to understand how their work is connected to what we’re trying to accomplish. And also, if they’re not connected to what we’re trying to accomplish, let’s have that conversation because maybe they shouldn’t be doing the work. But then also, as a senior executive, I just want to understand if we’re making progress on our strategies and our objectives. That was the challenge that we saw.
Lee Hackett 23:58 Yeah, absolutely. I think we did a recent piece of research, and I just pulled one of the stats out, I’ll show you the stats, but there’s one that really relates to that because there are traditional way to do that, which I think I would say is probably 98% of the time is a deck. So, with the manager or CEO, [inaudible 24:39] as well. and due to this now, right? So, there’s a deck and his presentation with list of objectives in it, and this what we’re going to do. Right. I’ll see it in six months, and we’ll tell you what we’re going to do next.”
Alex Shootman 24:34 How many people ever learned anything from a PowerPoint?
Lee Hackett 24:37 Zero.
Alex Shootman 24:38 Other than how to fall asleep with your eyes open?
Lee Hackett 24:40 Yeah, exactly. I’m a big fan of Ray Dalio and the book Principles and that’s been kind of fundamental in my career. We’re trying to create a meritocracy where the best ideas went out. It’s about can you put someone on the table. Can you get a team come around that? And that’s one of the things why I always like OKRs because I think they go back to Intel.
Alex Shootman 25:12 They go to Intel and then, I should know this, but one of the board of directors for Google that came out of Intel taught Google the OKR method, but it goes back to I believe, Andy Grove at Intel.
Lee Hackett 25:26 Yeah, that’s right. I think it’s a John Doe, who is a BC.
Alex Shootman 25:31 Yeah, John Doerr, I believe with Kleiner Perkins, worked with Andy Grove at Intel. It’s that ability to cascade. Like if you take Workfront, for example, we’ve got four main objectives as a company. One of them is to help our customers adopt and get value from Workfront. So, that’s a company objective. It’s got metric associated with it. And that’s to maintain a greater than 90% gross renewal rate. Then what we’d love to be able to do is get that all the way down to the frontline. So, for example, we just implemented something called Workfront One, which was a was a new technology implementation of our Workfront community and it had some improvements in the way that we could get the community to work together. What you want is that team that’s working on Workfront One, you want them to clearly understand how what they’re doing connects to this objective of getting customers to adopt our technology and get value from the technology.
Alex Shootman 26:35 That to me is the beauty of the OKR process. It makes you just be very thoughtful through every level of management that says, “Okay. If that’s what we’re trying to do, then what can my team do to contribute to that?”
Lee Hackett 26:48 Yeah, absolutely. Because that’s the power, isn’t it? So, use your example, I think a lot of your staff could intellectualize why that is important. I think that’s, you would agree, a common sense there, but actually, in their day to day actions, it’s quite difficult to make that connection between what I’m being asked to do today and how your customers use Workfront and how successful they are, and the impact that has on the business, and all of those kind of things that come together. Is that how you use OKRs?
Alex Shootman 27:19 Yeah. If you thought about it, the hardest skill in my mind is for a frontline manager to be able to translate that objective. Let’s kind of walk through this, this is really hard, Lee. So, let’s say that one of our goals is to help our customers adopt and get value from Workfront. So, then that might turn around to the overall technology team to say, “Okay. For us to do that, we’ve got to be able to provide better integrations for our customers.” For us to do that, as an example, we’ve got to make some improvements to our API. So, that rolls all the way down and what you love is an engineering team to not say, “Hey. I’m working on the REST API.” which I’d love for them to do and say, “I’m working on the REST API because if our we have better integrations to lots of different applications, it helps our customers out, it allows them to get value and that is tied to our company goal of having more than a 90% gross renewal rate. That’s a really hard skill. So, if we can provide some technology that gives the manager visibility to A to B to C to D to E, then that helps him or her have that conversation with the folks doing the work.
Lee Hackett 28:39 Yeah, absolutely. I think there’s a good tool called Rockefeller Habits. I don’t know if you come across that, but I can’t remember the guy’s name, but it was all done on paper. Again, it was one of those things developed back in I think ’60s or ’70s. It’s just about aligning everything through the business. But my kind of hypothesis on that is that it’s very difficult to do because one of the outcomes, and I see this in marketing teams, is a new CMO will come in or a new CRO in a sales team, or in the business, and we want to do things in a different way. So, everyone kind of pivots, goes in different directions, but no one really knows what they are supposed to do and what impact they now have. So, that message doesn’t happened. What I do see it happen, one of the outcomes of that, is obviously, there’s a change to that because the people in the business are now almost boxed in.
Lee Hackett 29:34 They feel there’s a degree of restriction in now what they can do because maybe six months ago, the engineering team could go off and developed products how they wanted to develop products or what they thought the client wanted, but now it’s got to be tightly aligned back to a business objective or goal. Then that kind of takes a bit of time in my experience about six to 12 months, but is that something you’ve seen, or you see with your clients? That kind of window of change, how long does that go on for?
Alex Shootman 30:08 The reason why we decided to invest and build a capability to be able to connect strategy to execution, this is what we saw from our customers, you’re 100% right, Lee, everybody did this with a PowerPoint. Well, then you had to get on planes and fly around, and communicate with people, and that took some period of time, then you didn’t really know if the work was connected, so you had to go interview people and see if the work that they were doing was connected to the strategies, then COVID hit. In post COVID, speed kills, man. Every customer I’m talking to you right now, the number one thing I have to do is move with speed. It became no longer acceptable to have a PowerPoint method of communicating the objectives and the key results of the company, and then go through an interviewing process to see whether or not those objectives are being met.
Alex Shootman 31:09 Now, what you have to have is some technology that allows you to communicate that with speed and it has to be connected to the actual work. So, to move with speed, what you really need to move with speed is feedback loops, right? You need a lot of feedback loops moving really fast. In the old world, we were on a on a power boat and we fixed our eyes on the horizon and we said, “We’re going to go there and we’re going to go in this direction with a [inaudible 31:56].” Now, we’re on a sailboat. We’re tacking all over the place and we’re moving every single day, every single hour, every single minute. So, it’s insufficient to have a standalone OKR capability. You have to have it connected to the work that’s being executed because that’s how you drive the feedback loops.
Lee Hackett 31:59 Yeah, absolutely. I think that’s super powerful. When are you guys launch in that?
Alex Shootman 32:04 In three days.
Lee Hackett 32:07 Good time then, yeah? Good time. That was not settle.
Alex Shootman 32:12 No, but it’s being released next week. Then we added to that the second thing that people told us that they needed. Because if you think about, one thing is cascading the strategy in the organization and making sure that strategy is connected to execution, but this will resonate a lot with you, Lee, if you think about marketers. The second thing that folks told us they needed was the ability to iterate very quickly on multiple scenarios, so that they could say, “Okay. Here’s the digital campaign we want to do. It’s going to take these many resources and you take this much time, then we turn around to the CFO and we tell her, “Okay. We’re executing this new customer engagement campaign and it’s $3.2 million.” And she says, “No. You don’t have $3.3 million, you had $2.7 million.” But now we got to go build another scenario and then we go to the business and we say, “Well, it’s going to take an extra four weeks and we don’t have an extra four weeks. Give me another scenario.”
Alex Shootman 32:14 So, we created this scenario planning capability so you can look at five or six scenarios and take those scenarios to the business, get their commitment, and then lock in that scenario and say, “Okay, remember. We made some compromise here on delivery date, some compromise here on investment, some compromise here on the resources that we’re going to use, and this is the scenario that we’re all going with.” So, those are the two things that release next week is both an align product, which is that strategy to execution and then a scenario planning product, kind of think about that like Anaplan for work that just allows people to iterate on scenarios very quickly.
Lee Hackett 33:48 Super powerful. That works in a similar way to where an OKR would do in terms of a line and not back to it all.
Alex Shootman 33:55 Think of the OKR as, “What do we want to do?” Then think of scenario planning as, “Okay. How are we going to do that?” Then think about an execution platform like Workfront as, “Okay, now do that.” right. So, we think you got to line up what do we want to do, that strategy, which also includes ‘why’, how are we going to do it, what are our options to do that, and then let’s do that, but then come back and build the feedback loops. “Okay. Are we doing that? Does it look like the scenario that we plan? Are we accomplishing what we wanted to accomplish?” Lee, that’s what our customers kept telling us is, was kind of their holy grail of executing. Then as soon as COVID hit, it was like, “And I got to do this yesterday.”
Lee Hackett 34:38 Yeah, absolutely. It’s now a real issue. I think it’s that have things like level of impact, level of effort, all that kind of stuff in terms of what’s the return on investment from scenario A, B, and C, kind of thing.
Alex Shootman 34:52 Yeah. That’s exactly the conversation. If you think about being a marketing executive, the conversation that you want to have with the business is not, “Can I have funding?” The conversation that you want to have with the business is, “I can accomplish three different outcomes with three different levels of funding or three different levels of resource constraints, that could be people or time. Let’s have an agreement on …” because that marketer lives in this world, where they either spend too much money or don’t deliver enough outcome, and it’s really not the marketers’ fault. It’s the fact that the marketer could never go to the business and say, “Okay, king or queen, what outcome do you want and how much money are you willing to spend?” and really get the business to own the decision instead of blaming the marketer when they didn’t accomplish what the business couldn’t really tell them to accomplish.
Lee Hackett 35:47 Yeah. We’ve always had a philosophy within Blueprint of asking our clients and ourselves, “So, what?” So, we want to do this, “Well, so why? Why do we want to do that?” And then just keep asking that question and try to get back to what is that scenario? Is it growth? Is it sustainable growth? Is it retention? Is it efficiency? And really trying to drill down. I think that is one of the super important questions that any leader of any type can ask now is, “So, what? Why am I doing this? What impact is it going to have? What’s the effort I need to put in?” and lock your tools clearly going to help them do that. So, I don’t think you could have picked a better time. We couldn’t have picked a better time. You could have picked a better time to launch it. We could’ve picked a better time to talk about it, for sure, and I’m super excited to see it in the next few days when you launch it.
Alex Shootman 36:42 Well, we’re fortunate. Like I said, we’ve got relationship with 3,000 customers around the globe and they’re kind enough to make that an intimate relationship. They’ve been pretty open about what their needs are, you know. If you think about the marketers need, they have to be able to respond quickly to deliver for the business, but they have to do it in an increasingly personalized way to the buyer, which creates a tremendous amount of complexity and orchestration. So, it’s really putting those two things together, Lee, which is how do I explain to the business, what they’re getting for their investment and then how do I turn around and orchestrate an increasing level of complexity inside the marketing organization. In my mind, the marketers that do that are not just going to win, but they’re going to be seen as the executives that are actually transforming the business. I think this is a great time for a CMO to step up and be the transformation agent of the business.
Lee Hackett 37:45 Yeah, and really drive business impact. I think the other thing I would add into that is we now have a more complex situation where a lot of people in lots of different locations. I did a podcast a few weeks ago with one of our clients, they had about 40-50 marketing people all on one site. That’s now changed overnight. That adds a level of complexity to this situation as well.
Alex Shootman 38:13 I talked to him in our customer conference, one of my favorite interviews that I got to do right after COVID was with the Chief Technology Officer of John Paul Mitchell Systems. In the states, it’s a haircare, probably more than haircare, I’m probably underrepresenting it, but their customers are the salons, right? And it was just this amazing story about how they were about to have their 40th anniversary bring everybody into maybe Vegas or something like that, all their salon owners into Vegas, have a big celebration, and then COVID hit, and the salons were deeply impacted. And the founder and CEO of John Paul Mitchell System said, “Hey. We’re going to invest in our salons, our customers.” They created a salon stimulus program. The whole company had to pivot overnight, to your point, with everybody distributed. Then just listening to the story was really inspiring about how they did that. What it taught them is we can actually do this. We don’t have to all be in the same location anymore.
Lee Hackett 39:22 Absolutely. One of the things that, and then we’ll kind of wrap it up a little bit because I don’t want to take up all day from you because I know it’s early there but I don’t want to take all up all of your morning, but the other element to that is I think it has been easier for businesses to pivot during COVID. I think what it does is it gives that collective problem that we can all get around. What I’m really interested in from a humanistic psychological perspective is once we get back to normal, the normal problems and challenges of working from home are going to come by. I think lots of businesses have benefits from the goodwill of their employees to be super flexible working from home, but that is going to become increasingly difficult. So, the hypothesis that I would make is that now’s the time to get these things in. Because actually, when we go into next year, hopefully when things get back to normal, then if you kind of got this thing in, then it’s going to make it much easier for you to reap the benefits of all those kinds of things.
Alex Shootman 40:30 And it’s a couple things. One of the things that fellow, Drew, he’s the head of technology for John Paul Mitchell Systems, one of the things he told me is, “We learned that we could work differently.” And now, people in the organization that not necessarily resistant, but that would have been a new way for them, now they’re the ones coming up with ideas. The second thing, Lee, that we brought our customer advisory board together the third week after lockdown in the States, what they all told us is, “Okay. We immediately tried to solve the synchronous work problem. We bought our crisis tech stack. We bought Slack and Zoom. But what we realized is there’s a tremendous amount of asynchronous work that happens, to your point, if we try to make our people do it on this tool set, we’re going to burn them out because that means they’re going to be on a Zoom call 12 hours a day. So, we’ve got to connect technologies to manage asynchronous work.
Alex Shootman 41:33 Those are our platforms. We have a platform, other people have a platform, but those are platforms, like a Workfront. We’ve got to connect those to the platforms that we’re using for synchronous work. And if we can do that, then we can relieve the pressure from work from home, if you will.
Lee Hackett 41:52 And the risk is, when you think things about financial services and you think about compliance, that’s been tolerated currently. Businesses had to tolerate it, but that can’t last forever. That’s got to be tightened up. The infrastructure we’re talking about here has got to come in place. But look, covered a lot of ground. Great as always. I’m going to make sure that we put all of the links in the show notes. So, link in a new product, we’re going to put the white paper in, which is some research that we did.
Alex Shootman 42:26 I read your research and folks listening to this should read your research. It’s really fascinating.
Lee Hackett 42:30 Yeah, no, definitely. We’ll also put some best practice in there and a bunch of other different stuff because we really want this to be a resource. There are ways of solving these problems and I think that’s part of the problem awareness is of this subject matter is part of the big issue, the big challenge, so we want to get it out there. But look, Alex, where should people reach out to you? What’s the best way if we want to get to you and ask you these questions?
Alex Shootman 42:56 The easiest way, and this will tell you how early I was on Twitter, the easiest way is just @shootman. Just reach out to me there and that’s the best way to connect with me.
Lee Hackett 43:08 Let me just say in that last time, actually, you definitely want to keep that address. But Alex, look, I really appreciate it. Thanks for taking the time and enjoy the rest of the day. Yeah?
Alex Shootman 43:18 And I just want to put a plug in for you all. We’ve had an opportunity to work with Lee, you and your organization, and you all are really awesome at being able to help customers simplify the journey to transformation. So, for those folks listening to this, make sure that you check out Lee and his team.
Lee Hackett 43:36 Thanks, Alex, much appreciate that. That means a lot coming from someone with your credibility and experience. So, appreciate that.
Alex Shootman 43:43 It was great being with you this morning. Try not sweat for the rest of the day.
Lee Hackett 43:47 I will. Have a good one. You can find all of this information and more on blueprintx.com where you will find high quality show notes and other great stuff. And you can also sign up for my biweekly update on all interesting things I have found that week in sales and marketing.
As President and CEO of Workfront, Alex drives the overall strategy, vision, and execution of the company, ensuring that Workfront is a dedicated partner in helping its customers transform the work experience. Shootman brings more than 25 years of experience in all areas of revenue and profit generation for technology organizations, with significant experience leading SaaS-based companies.
Prior to joining Workfront, Alex was President of Apptio, where he was responsible for the company’s integrated sales and services functions globally. Prior to Apptio, Alex was the President of Eloqua, where he was responsible for leading the organization’s global sales, customer success, and field operations teams. Alex was integral in leading Eloqua’s category creation as an enterprise SaaS company, and in 2012 was a member of the team that helped bring Eloqua to a successful public offering, subsequently being acquired by Oracle. Shootman has also held executive-level positions with Vignette, TeleTech, BMC Software and IBM.
In his free time Alex can usually be found trying to convince his legs that they really don’t hurt on a road bike or running trail, admiring the view from a 14er in Colorado, or down on a reef in his home state of Hawaii. That is if his four kids leave him any free time.
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