David McKie is VP of Marketing Operations at Medidata Solutions and brings to this role a unique set of experiences.
Prior to Medidata Solutions, David McKie lead the North American marketing operations function at SAP. He points to his experience leading three major projects simultaneously that helped develop his skill sets in managing complexity.
While at SAP, David McKie lead three major projects:
- Consolidating five regional operations teams into a shared service model
- Integrating Ariba and SuccessFactors marketing operations
- Rolling out and adopting SAP’s marketing automation product internally
By orienting teams around new processes and building focus around technology, McKie gained a strong ability to build out marketing operation functions at enterprise level companies.
This is what excited him about joining Medidata Solutions, the ability to accelerate growth by building out the marketing operations function.
In our interview we discuss change management, and how marketing leaders evaluate and adopt new technology.
What’s your approach to adopting new technology?
I try not to overload the team with too many transformation initiatives at one time. I balance the big change initiatives with the small ones. I also balance the big technology changes against the smaller ones.
I look at the priorities across the business. I look at what’s important for sales. And I examine which of the initiatives will require buy-in and support. There’s nothing worse than trying to do a major technology change when the rest of the organization is saying, “This is not important to me and it’s sucking up my time.”
I look at the individual projects in front of us and ask, “What are the benefits we will get?” It comes down to benefits around efficiency, scaling, transparency, and data visibility. [pull out quote]
Furthermore, as we’re collecting more and more data, being able to gather, visualize, analyze and act on that data becomes very critical. So we find tools that help us do that.
When it comes to marketing technology, I look for new ways of engaging with customers. And this is where I start to differentiate between the nice to have versus the must haves. [pull out quote]
How do you categorize the different technology vendors or offerings?
For technology, there are three broad categories that I’m looking at:
- Capabilities to scale
- Transparency and visibility
- New ways to engage with customers
Despite all the new ways to engage with customers, I’m always a little skeptical of technology that is not proven out. I’m willing to take small steps, rather than jump in full-force. I carve out a little bit of time or budget for those new ways of engaging with customers.
Rather than trying to make this a big project that takes up a lot of people’s time and undue risk of drawing everyone’s attention to it, I experiment quietly first. Once I see results then I start announcing. I’ve done this for chatbots and content recommendation based on AI.
What’s an example of a successful implementation and scale up of a marketing technology?
When I first came on board there were multiple technologies that had been launched but hadn’t actually succeeded in terms of delivering on the promised results.
For example, there was an existing contract in place for a cloud storage and sales enablement content tool. We were asked to turn that into something valuable and useful.
The cloud storage tool had an out-of-the-box integration with the our CRM’s Opportunity object, which we had to customize. The idea was, if you have a product listed on the opportunity, we’re going to show you content related to that product within Salesforce.
We extrapolated that idea and asked, “What about a campaign?” The idea being, if you are a lead and campaign member, we want to show you the content related to that campaign.
That’s not something that the vendor had ever thought about. So we worked with them on developing capabilities so that as the lead was handed over to the lead qualification team, they could see all the relevant content the lead interacted with. The sales team sees the original email that was sent, the landing page, the tradeshow brochure, and the webinar signup. We collect all this content so there is more context for the person doing the follow-up phone call.
It’s tremendous in that the sales person doesn’t just get a lead with some campaign ID they don’t know anything about. We deliver the sales team content directly related to why that person was interested in engaging with Medidata.
It’s also a way for the sales team to be aware of all the campaigns or activities that are running across the company.
Without this information and content, a sales person treats it like a cold call, missing out on the opportunity for a more engaged discussion. And it just goes to show a lot of times people get excited about things and jump on it quickly. But in order to get these projects to work you have to roll up your sleeves and make the technology work for your organization, for your processes, and for your teams. You must go through the change management, continue to iterate on the process, and revise the process according to how the team is adopting it or providing feedback.
When it comes to working across teams, change management and acquisitions, what are issues and solutions you’ve encountered?
When it comes to change, such as a merger or acquisition, it’s important to help team members adapt.
One way to do this is to help team members see the importance of attaching their value to something beyond an existing process. If you look at your value as being the person that does process X, then you’re thinking about your value add and your career incorrectly.
You should bring something to the table. You don’t want to just be the person that owns that process. You should be able to add something independent of the process you own. Getting people to think about their role in the organization differently is important for change management.
I find that checking the validity of claims is also very helpful during times of change or when working across the IT and marketing operations team. When there are projects involving vast amounts of data and the accuracy or reliability of that data is unclear, it can create a lot of chaos.
For example, teams will make claims about the data without having truly gone through the hard work of validating the data. During these moments I’ll make a decision to direct our resources to investigating and validating data quality. This way, we can focus on the root of the problem and reveal the unknowns.
I’ve found going through this exercise can help move both the IT team and the marketing team forward in a productive way.
How do you balance sticking to a process and being flexible in order to respond to the business needs in front of you?
An important topic in marketing operations and B2B marketing is flexibility. When it comes to larger organizations there’s a reputation for marketing operations to be too focused on process and getting in the way of of conducting business.
Whenever we’re dealing with integrating other systems, other acquired companies, implementing new systems there’s a need to be flexible.
In the mid to long term you want standardized processes and standardized tools. Short term you need to focus on supporting the business and helping business get done. And those two things can come into conflict. And you have to be ready and prepared to accommodate the short term business needs while at the same time building for a longer term sustainable model.
Oftentimes operations teams get too hung up in the long term model and lose sight of the fact that business has to get done today.