Approaching a new CMO role: An interview with Eric Schou
Cisco AppDynamics recently announced that it has appointed Eric Schou as its new CMO. According to Cisco AppDynamics, the appointment comes at a key moment for the company, as it continues to assert its leadership in full-stack observability – a fast-growing, multi-billion dollar technology market. With that in mind, David Rowlands, senior editor at B2B Marketing, spoke with Eric to learn more.
DR: For the uninitiated, can you outline what full-stack observability is, and what Cisco AppDynamics’ role is here?
ES: Since the start of the pandemic, the number of applications that people are using on a daily basis has jumped by 30% and, at the same time, expectations of performance from applications has also sky-rocketed – 76% of people say their expectations of digital services have gone up over the same period. The heat is on for application owners – 57% of consumers say brands have one shot to impress them and that if their digital service does not perform, they won’t use them again (The App Attention Index 2021: Who takes the rap for the app?).
Much of this pressure to deliver incredible digital experiences has fallen on IT teams. Technologists have innovated at breakneck speed, delivering digital transformation projects 3x faster than at any other time (Agents of Transformation 2021 - The rise of full-stack observability). To enable this level of transformation, most IT teams have migrated some aspects of their applications to the cloud. But that acceleration towards cloud computing has created technology sprawl, with a patchwork of legacy and cloud technologies that are extremely difficult to manage.
Full-stack observability solves this problem. It allows IT teams to monitor the full IT estate, from traditional, legacy IT systems through to new, hybrid cloud environments – from customer-facing applications down to core network and infrastructure – and allows technologists to identify and fix performance issues before they adversely affect customers and the business.
As a key component of Cisco’s solution for full-stack observability with business context, AppDynamics helps technologists prevent digital performance issues by monitoring cloud-native technologies and traditional infrastructure to understand exactly what drives user experiences and impacts the bottom line. We call this the AppDynamics Business Observability platform.
DR: The press release announcing your appointment says that you will be responsible for “driving awareness and demand for AppDynamics’ industry-leading Business Observability platform amongst enterprise IT decision-makers and channel partners.” What strategies and tactics do you intend to employ to do this?
ES: In my career, I’ve learned that data and creativity are invaluable components of a successful strategy, but, without doubt, the data always comes first. Data drives decisions! Without it, marketing becomes guess work and gut feel. This applies to creative direction of top-of-funnel campaigns, to the minutiae details of a demand generation campaign. I’ve always encouraged my teams to ‘embrace bad news’ and ‘never hide from the numbers.’ If we can see what’s broken, we can fix it!
One of the biggest challenges facing all marketing leaders is selecting what strategy and tactics to deploy as much of the world makes tentative steps out of the pandemic. Over the last 18 months, the absence of physical events, which traditionally form a critical component of a technology company’s marketing strategy, has meant far greater reliance on virtual events. This change in approach has been fantastically successful and the AppDynamics team has generated incredible engagement and ROI from these virtual events. We’ve been able to reach larger, more global, and more diverse audiences and tailor content to suit their individual needs. I suspect we will move to a new model in the coming months, with a mix of in-person, virtual and hybrid events where there is a mix of both. But we can take learnings from the last 18 months and apply them to make our events strategy even more successful.
The same applies in other areas of marketing too, and we should leverage as much of the data and insight we have collected as possible to make accurate, informed decisions about how to invest in campaigns, events, content strategies, etc. It’s an exciting time because it gives everyone a chance to innovate – try new things, test new approaches, and to use the data to steer our decision-making.
DR: And following on from that, which key metrics will you be using to measure success?
The best marketing teams have a culture of openness, fluidity and creativity, which means they’re not afraid to change their strategy and the metrics they use to measure success. What never changes however, is the focus on whether marketing is influencing the success of the business. Our marketing metrics must be business metrics. The OKRs (objectives and key results) of the marketing department must directly align with the company’s OKRs.
DR: Channel partners are going to play a large role here. How do you intend to work on your marketing campaigns with channel partners? Will you be asking for their input and insight first, or is it case-by-case?
ES: In September, AppDynamics announced major updates and improvements to its Global Partner Program. These moves were made to support a major strategic shift to a 100% channel model. Investing in – and prioritising – our channel partners gives AppDynamics scale, and the opportunity to grow exponentially faster. And when you have an emerging, multi-billion dollar market opportunity such as full-stack observability, you need to choose the correct delivery model to maximise the opportunity.
From a marketing perspective this is really exciting. We can invest more time, money and resources in developing our partners at all levels, from our largest and most strategic ‘Elite’ and ‘Titan’ partners, to our smaller and fast-growth ‘Alliance’ partners. With improved access to market development funds (MDF), eligible partners can access budgets through a new Funds Manager Platform, which will improve their overall experience and make it simpler to request funding for their marketing programmes.
DR: As a marketer, what do you think your biggest challenge will be in your new role, and how do you intend to overcome it?
ES: I think for any new leader coming into an organisation, there is always pressure to quickly develop and present a strong, coherent strategy which everyone can get behind. But for me the biggest priority comes before that – and it’s to build trust within your team. Without a universal foundation of trust, everything you want to achieve in the future becomes harder. From day one, colleagues need to know that you are listening to them, that you have their back, and that you’re here to fix things and make life easier. The AppDynamics marketing team is packed full of talent, commitment and ambition to win in this new market, and I couldn’t be more excited to get started!
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