Episode #26: Digital Transformation and the Modern CMO, with Marshall Kirkpatrick

In part 1 of this special crossover edition, I join Marshall Kirkpatrick on the Sprinklr Coffee Club videocast where we look at Digital Transformation. Digital transformation is so much more than digitizing documents. It’s a fundamental shift in the way we treat current and future customers. And who better to lead the charge than the individual who has their pulse on the customer? That’s right — the modern CMO.

See all CXM Experience podcasts
The CXM Experience on Apple Podcasts

PODCAST TRANSCRIPT

Grad 
Oh yeah. Today is a special edition of the CXM Experience, and I am your host CXO at Sprinklr, Grad Conn. And today we’re actually going to be doing a replay of a fantastic interview that was done by Marshall Kirkpatrick. Marshall leads the evangelism and analysts team at Sprinklr. Marshall runs a fantastic videocast called Coffee Club. And Coffee Club you can find on Sprinklr’s site. You can also find it on YouTube and other places or just you know, do a quick search on Marshall’s name: Marshall Kirkpatrick. Marshall does an amazing job. And he has been doing it for a couple of years… brings on incredible guests from across the spectrum. Influencers and thought leaders, particularly in the area of digital transformation, and in social. And I’ve seen him do some just exhilarating interviews with people. And then, you know, he also had me on. So we had a great time. Marshall and I threw the ball back and forth for a bunch of passes. And we’re gonna break this into two parts because it was a bit of a long one. So here’s part one. And enjoy this special edition of CXM Experience.

Marshall 
Hello, hello. Welcome back to the Sprinklr Coffee Club. Thanks so much for joining us. We’re really excited to have another conversation about customer experience, digital transformation, modern channels of communication and so much more. I’m Marshall Kirkpatrick, your host here at the Sprinklr Coffee Club. And I have with me today a very special guest. One of the smartest, most knowledgeable, most dynamic people I’ve ever had the benefit of working with, Mr. Grad Conn, chief experience officer here at Sprinklr. Grad, thanks so much for joining us.

Grad 
Thank you, Marshall. That’s nice. That’s uncalled for. But appreciate it. Thank you.

Marshall 
You bet. Have you got some coffee to drink here on the coffee program?

Grad 
A fine Keurig McCafe, McDonald’s McCafe, which actually makes excellent coffee. But it’s the decaf. So I’m going decaf. McDonald’s McCafe which many purists would potentially call… not coffee. But I find it delicious. And then I have my as you can see this is my special edition Starbucks Magic Kingdom coffee mug. So this is from Walt Disney World. And I got this on a trip with my daughter. And it’s a wonderfully large 10 ounce mug that holds a bunch of coffee of any kind, not just Starbucks coffee, which is also by the way excellent coffee as well. But not at hand today.

Marshall 
That’s fantastic. Well Grad you have brought such a wide range of different coffees from the exotic to the mundane here on the show. That’s fantastic. I am drinking a Trader Joe’s special. And if you’ve had the big medium roast in blue cam, I went out and bought three cans of it this week, which will prevent me from having to leave my house and go to Trader Joe’s for another three months.

Grad 
Wow. Okay,

Marshall 
And drinking out of out of a mug from the Shins. One of my favorite bands.

Grad 
It’s interesting the logo, it looks like the logo from the Sunday morning show on CBS.

Marshall 
It does doesn’t. Yeah,

Grad 
It’s got that sun logo. That’s the same kind of feel to it. I love that it’s got a very mid century modern feel to it. Anyway,

Marshall 
I’ve always enjoyed that as well. Speaking of mid century modern, is that what you’ve got going on that T shirt there?

Grad 
Ah, no, just kind of representing the Bronx Zoo today. But this has got this classic Helvetica lettering. And the classic New York subway system sort of look and feel. There’s actually a great book on how the New York subway system graphics were done, and the entire system behind it. And it’s very a revolutionary system. At the time, they didn’t go quite as far as they wanted to. The original designers had other things in mind, in terms of branding the subway and creating the wayfinding and making it even easier. They didn’t quite get it fully implemented, but it’s in that book. And then there was a really great exhibit on the New York City subway system graphics and design at the Museum of Modern Art, probably about a year and a half to two years ago that I saw. It was terrific. And it’s a great example. Though, also just while we’re on the topic is an amazing movie called Helvetica. And the movie is about the founding of that font. It’s far more exciting than you might think. It’s an excellent, excellent film.

Marshall 
That’s a good prompt to check it out. Well, I know that you are a man who appreciates craftsmanship, and communication. And I’m excited to hear your thoughts on some of the subjects that that we both have had on our minds lately. I have been reading your excellent blog, Copernican Shift, for as long as we’ve known each other. But there have been a few especially interesting posts, that you have put up recently that I think, prompt and warrant some further discussion. And I appreciate this opportunity to dive into some of it with you. You ready?

Grad 
I’m always ready.

Marshall 
That’s the spirit. So here, you know, Grad at the Sprinklr Coffee Club, which was your idea in the first place. Thank you very much. We primarily operate from an influencer relations kind of perspective. But you may recall that a few years ago, you put me in charge of analyst relations here at Sprinklr, as well. And it’s a real good combination. But I want to try something different and new today, bringing those two areas of responsibility together and see what kind of magic we can create, by asking you, such an inspiring thought leader on these kinds of topics to reflect on some of the things that we are reading from the world’s leading research analyst firms, regarding the topics that are so important to our customers, and see how they play out in your experience. See, if you’ve got a different perspective, see if you can extend on or critique the analysts perspectives. And I want to start with the blog posts that you put up recently advocating for this: that digital transformation, be led by the CMO. You wrote a real good blog post making that case. And it is an unorthodox way of going about digital transformation. I think, at least according to Forrester Research, they found back in 2019, that only 16% of CMOs are currently responsible for digital transformation. So why is it that you think that should change?

Grad 
That’s a great question. And I actually have I think a reasonably thoughtful answer that really focuses on who’s in charge of the customer. And when you’re making digital transformation happen, are you making it happen around processes? Are you making it happen around systems? Are you making it happen around the customer? Right, so let’s kind of cover that and pull that apart a little bit and see if it makes sense.

Grad 
I think that the Forrester stuff… I know is accurate. I mean, I know that number’s accurate. It’s also a few years ago, though. And so if you think about, you know, the article that you’re referring to, it’s the most recent piece on my post, my blog, and it’s basically the intro, it’s a slightly revised version of the intro I’ve written to the upcoming Forbes top 50 Most Influential CMOs study. And then there’s some other stuff obviously, that’s in there, that refers to the study itself, which I took out of the post I put on the blog. But the essence of the intro that I write in the study is what I put up.


Grad 
And I do think the world’s changed pretty significantly, not just the last six months, which honestly I’m getting really tired of people telling me about. By the way, just as a… if you’re listening out there, SDRs is trying to sell me something. Could you please not ask me how my family’s doing in these challenging times? And first of all, I’m not gonna tell you how we’re doing. We’re doing fine. But I’m not gonna tell you that. And number two, don’t tell me that these are challenging times. I don’t want to hear it. Everybody knows. Except for maybe… there’s probably someone who doesn’t know. But most people know. Don’t keep rehashing stuff that’s old. It’s tiring and makes me feel frustrated.

Grad 
Anyway, come back to this. I do you think that what’s happened is that over the last couple of years, digital transformation is moved from something that was really about becoming more digital. I’m going to give you an actual example in a second from my days of Microsoft, to actually thinking about how to deliver experiences that cause customers to become more loyal, to buy more, or to become customers in the first place. And so going back not very many years. 2007, 2008 I was at Microsoft and I had been in Microsoft Research. Actually this is actually even later than that. So I started at Microsoft Research in 2006. And in Microsoft Research we were extremely digital, right? Eric Corbett’s had a robot as his assistant. Like literally an actual physical robot answers questions and tell you his schedule and stuff, and that’s been going on for years. You know, we were using Communicator, which was the preceder to Skype for Business, which is now what Teams is. And so we were very digital in Microsoft Research.

Grad 
And then I moved into the US subsidiary in 2011. And they were still printing everything out on these large sheets of paper. And I had literally not used a piece of paper in so many years. And I had not had a phone on my desk, I just I’ve been using my computer as my phone for years at this point. I didn’t even know how to like, I didn’t know what to do with the paper. It just started piling up on my desk because I didn’t know how to… I had forgotten how to file and had forgotten what to do. It just it was just like this alien invasion of this virus, and so it started spreading over everything. And so that’s 2011… like yesterday. And so 2012-13, somewhere in that zone, Steve Ballmer is like we’re going to go digital, we’re going to digitally transform the company. And at that time, what he meant was, we’re going to stop using paper. And so our budget sessions and our media reviews in the strategy sessions, and all the things that… there’s a very strong rhythm at Microsoft that we’d go through… became paperless. And we would use our phones or we would use our computers to access it and, and then there was a fairly steep learning curve. And also many of the products at Microsoft were adapting quickly, like OneNote has started to become very, very, very useful product, but was still working. And the Surface touchscreens are just coming in. Like there’s a bunch of stuff all happening at the same time, a lot of innovation. It was very messy and very exciting and very fun.

Grad 
And I remember my boss, Allison Watson, who is genius and an amazing manager, and one of the greatest people I’ve ever worked for, she had been very comfortable in the paper world. What was great about Allison is that she could get behind anything. And she’s like, all right, and like, it was either overnight or over a week, we went from paper to no paper. And just off we went. And then Alison got one of the very, very large Surface Hubs in her office. They’re these, I think 100 and there’s 100- or 120-inch one and there’s an 80-inch one and she had that really big one. And you could stand in front of it, you could draw on and you could do back and forth communications and all sorts of stuff. It was a pretty incredible device. But she was like one of the very first people with one of those and she just dove headfirst, right in. And that’s what digital transformation meant low these five or six years ago.

Grad 
So that Forrester study 2016. That is, yeah, I’m sure the CIO, was probably driving a lot of the digital transformation, because many companies are still very much paper based. And even up until a few months ago, many companies still required wet signatures, which is, you know, a signature of on ink on paper. And now suddenly, everyone has discovered, you know, the Adobe product, I think is the dominant player. Now, I think Microsoft has endorsed the Adobe product. And there are other players out there as well. But you know, everyone’s got digital signing. It’s kind of part of what they do. And so digital signing was part of what it meant to be digitally transformed. Right? So that’s why I think that Forrester stat’s accurate, but it also is a reflection of the time.

Grad 
Well, I’m trying to write in maybe a slightly more… I’ll admit that I might be a couple of years ahead. Or maybe a year ahead. I feel comfortable saying that. I don’t think I’m five years ahead on this. But what’s happened now is that we’re really not talking about whether it’s good idea to use computers or not anymore. I think we’re mostly through that stage. Okay. I think the more we’re talking about is our customers will buy from us online. Their propensity to buy or desire to buy will be driven by the experience of the buying journey. We need to compete based on that, and there are many good and bad versions of that out there. And so what digital transformation now means is, how do we as a company, make sure that we’re delivering an experience to the customer that makes them want to stay a customer or be a customer or you know, be a more valuable customer.

Grad 
If you think about how Amazon works, like Amazon’s doing two things, sort of shockingly well, right? One is they’ve got this very, very powerful engine to deliver recommendations or deliver the desire you have. And I don’t know how many of us have said, Oh, purple scissors. And then type it in Amazon, they deliver purple scissors so quickly, and they deliver the perfect purple scissor fast enough that you just go boom, boom, boom, you’ve ordered it, and you like what happened. I just ordered that. And then boom, it’s there the next day. And that’s the second thing they’re doing well, which is Amazon, in most respects, is really a logistics company. And they’re amazing at logistics. Because there’s also something about, I ordered the purple scissor, I want the purple scissor, I go to buy the purple scissor, and it says it’ll be delivered in two weeks. Do I really need purple scissors, maybe I’ll just go to the store, maybe, and then you move on. But if it’s gonna be delivered, like today, you know, or tomorrow, that’s probably faster than I could get to the store. And that keeps creating that connection.

Grad 
And so, as companies think about becoming amazing at logistics and amazing at selection, there’s a lot of work to be done there. And so the digital transformation that has to occur is around the customer. Okay, so who knows the customer best? Yeah, who tends to own that customer relationship? Well, in almost every company, that’s the CMO. So it feels not super crazy to me that the CMO is going to be someone who’s going to be taking on that mantle of digital leadership, and helping drive it against a better customer experience, but also what company systems need to support it. We’ve had our own experience at Sprinklr, I came on board at Sprinklr. We weren’t using Sprinklr. And there’s a whole bunch of issues when that happens. One is we don’t get the benefits of an amazing product, which we get for free. Right? So that would be a big one. Number two, it’s super hard to tell the story of your product when you don’t use it. That’s just harder. Number three, your product’s not going to be as good as it could be if you’re banging on your own product every day.

Grad 
I saw this in Microsoft. There’s no question that OneNote got a lot better when the whole company started using OneNote for doing budget presentations. These are like high stakes presentations to Bill and Steve and had to work and they had to work well. And if it didn’t work, well, the OneNote team heard about it. And they heard about it with you know, an angry red faced fist shaking Microsoftee standing in their door shaking from an experience they just had. And that had an impact, right?

Grad 
So those things for me, you know, you have to… so when I came in as CMO was like, wow, this is kind of interesting. We’re not using your own product. And so we rapidly shut down, everything else, moved on to Sprinklr. Immediately, everything got better. When our care team moved on, they immediately saw shocking improvements in their numbers in their indices. We were all suddenly in the same system. It was great. We suddenly had much better asset management. We could certainly do social marketing, everything got better that way. There’s no question we got a lot smarter about the product. So we could talk about it in better ways. And there’s no question the product got better because I know we submitted hundreds and hundreds of tickets and we had an inside track on getting those things fixed. And now we’re well on our way to having a full top to bottom end-to-end marketing product. That could be the only thing you use in marketing. That wouldn’t have happened if we weren’t using it. And so that’s an example of digital transformation. Other people in the company could have done it. But it happened to happen at the CMO level. Because, you know, I own the customer relationship and the customer relationship was driving a need and desire to have that.

Marshall 
And that’s exactly what Forrester recommends, to CMOs that aspire to drive digital transformation is first to transform your own marketing and second to drive customer obsession throughout the entire enterprise.

Grad 
Alright, so that’s the end of part one with my interview with Marshall Kirkpatrick on the Sprinklr Coffee Club. We’re going to be airing part two next time. So stay tuned for that and I am Grad Conn for the CXM Experience. We’ll see you soon.