Marketers have faced some of the hardest challenges of their careers this year. Our agility has been tested like never before. Skillsoft’s Jeremie Audran, VP Performance Marketing & Operations, is successfully leading a growing team thanks to new processes and technologies they’ve adopted to stay ahead of the curve. We had the chance to learn more about his strategy changes in a recent Ask Me Anything event.
Since joining Skillsoft in only December 2019, Jeremie has been integral in three major initiatives that have set the marketing organization up for success.
- Implementing a new agile methodology
- Adopting Uptempo for budget and performance visibility
- Building a new measurement framework to track performance
1. Implementing a new agile methodology
As soon as Jeremie started, his CMO made it clear that agile was going to be a focus for Skillsoft’s marketing organization. The new framework was rolled out in January and put to the ultimate test just a couple months later in March when COVID-19 hit.
Skillsoft’s annual in-person conference Perspectives was scheduled for May and needed to be entirely shifted to virtual without missing a beat. Their agile framework enabled Skillsoft to pivot plans quickly, but acting on them with the same velocity wouldn’t have been possible without the budget visibility Uptempo provided.
After Perspectives and nine months into their new agile methodology, Skillsoft is starting to understand where it’s limiting their efforts and are making effective adjustments. As useful as agile is, it’s not applicable in every situation. Skillsoft has found that it’s a better fit for global marketing activities rather than local marketing which needs to be more responsive to its environment.
Skillsoft operates in two week sprints, with some variation across teams in how many sprints they plan ahead. To be more effective and flexible, they’re thinking of standardizing plans to a maximum of two sprints–so planning no further than one month at a time.
2. Adopting Uptempo for budget and performance visibility
Uptempo was one of the critical platforms Jeremie flagged as a “must-have” when he came onboard at Skillsoft. Previously, they’d been tracking budgets in spreadsheets across 4 continents and it was messy to say the least.
But, having implemented Uptempo just before March, meant that when COVID-19 hit Skillsoft was able to quickly see exactly which investments should be reallocated and where as opposed to other companies that spent March and April weeding through incongruous spreadsheets.
Literally, I just pivoted my laptop in a meeting (when we were still physically present) and I showed it to the CFO. And it was ‘ok, problem solved – let’s move on!’ The budgeting was never the issue because we had the answer literally at the tip of our fingers.Jeremie Audran, VP Performance Marketing & Operations, Skillsoft
The key moment came during a meeting for Perspectives when the CFO was asking about the budget. Jeremie was able to pull up Uptempo and show exactly what the numbers were: the total budget, the revised budget after shifting to digital, their savings, and how much they’d spent against their proposed investment plan. Skillsoft pulled it off even though they only changed the date of the conference by two weeks and their budget was cut by 30%.
3. Building a new measurement framework to track performance
As if rolling out a new agile methodology wasn’t enough, Jeremie was in tandem working on a new measurement framework. His goal was to take Skillsoft’s performance metrics to a more empirical level–it’s the first step towards creating more data-driven growth targets. Which also wouldn’t be possible without the visibility into spend from Uptempo. As Jeremie says “without a reliable foundation of data, any measurements are just conjecture”.
The measurement framework rolled out in May, but was built to be retroactive. The next step in the road to performance measurement for Skillsoft is integrating Uptempo and Salesforce to efficiently connect cost to results.
1. What was the biggest challenge to implement the agile framework, and what would be a best practice for a marketing organization that does not have these practices?
“When you think about agile, you often think about scrum, and scrum teams, like in software development. When you bring it to marketing, the problem is do you have enough people to build an agile team or the right people? We said at the beginning that we want four agile teams because we have four customer markets. And that’s great, but do you have four of each person? Do you have the right scrum master, with the right skills? All those things were mind-boggling… The biggest challenge is having the resources. And if I had to do it all again, in hindsight I’d say ‘let’s build one scrum team’. And then duplicate it. You have to be agile about agile.”
2. How do you respond to the pressure of being accountable to pipeline and targets right now?
“It’s hard. Marketing set targets based on a normal economy, in a normal world and so did sales. And not every company is able to meet 100% of their sales targets, they might be in the 90th percentile, but somehow marketing’s targets did not move whatsoever. In effect, the economy of the world went down in some areas, and our targets went up to some extent. We are even more vital for the company to grow, it’s even more valuable for the marketing team to deliver on their KPIs because that’s the lifeblood of net-new acquisition and of retention.”
3. Times of great change, can also bring great opportunity. For the next 3-6 months, what were some of the opportunities you unearthed at Skillsoft?
“First, you don’t need to be all together in one room to get great work done. We were able to pull off our biggest conference ever, and none of us were in the same room. And that was a lightbulb moment for our CMO. It doesn’t matter where people are, so it opened up who we can hire, instead of being confined to a zip code or state.
The other thing that was eye-opening, is that you can achieve your goal with less money and that forces you to be more nimble with how you spend your money. Guess what? We’re still delivering. The team is doing an amazing job–this month we delivered above our targets.”
The pandemic has exacerbated everything but it hasn’t changed what Skillsoft is trying to achieve. Now that they are operating with agility and have visibility into spend, it’s a matter of scaling their processes and reallocating resources to drive the biggest impact.