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What is a Center of Excellence? - Sage

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Debbie Qaqish

Debbie Qaqish


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What is a Revenue Marketing Center of Excellence?

Join us as we talk to Liz McClellan of Sage and find out what a Center of Excellence is and what is the value in terms of Revenue Marketing.  We'll learn about the importance of corporate and field Revenue Marketing alignment and key roles that fuel this unique organizational structure.


0:17 Debbie Qaqish

Hello this is Debbie Qaqish of Revenue Marketer Radio and welcome back. We've been on hay just for a little bit but we're starting our final season this month August and we are really looking forward to the upcoming revenue marketers that we are going to be talking to. I am so excited to have the particular revenue marketer on the show today. We are going to be talking about how you build a revenue marketing center of excellence. Sometimes people use the term revenue, performance management and to me those terms are interchangeable. But before we get started let me remind everybody what is the working definition of a revenue marketer. So a revenue marketer is two people really, it's a combination of sales and marketing that really does two things, number one puts high quality leads into the top of the phone and number two accelerate the opportunities through the pipeline and the thing that I love about working with the revenue marketers is, they all understand it's about the number, it's about revenue. And I will tell everybody this, our guest today Liz McClellan is an absolute revenue marketer. As a matter of fact she likes to say to the brand advocate and a revenue marketer. So let me tell a little about Liz, and we are going to find out what Sage has done to begin to build a RPM or Revenue Performance Management Center of Excellence. First of all, Liz is the VP of Marketing and Sales for Sage. I think she's been with Sage for about 10 years and her business group is age 50 where she runs the marketing communication, new customer acquisition, retail sales and also online strategy. Liz is a 15, 16, 17-year veteran in the sales and marketing world and also does a wonderful monthly guest blogs for B2B online around all things revenue marketing. So Liz welcome to the show.

2:17 Liz McClellan

Hi Debbie it's good to be back.

2:19 Debbie Qaqish

And I have to tell you guys, not only that she is a great revenue marketer, she is a very good friend of mine as well. And I have really worked with Liz for the past two years and I have seen the journey that Sage has been taking. So I will tell you right now her journey is very, very exciting. So now Liz, why don't you start with our guest, because a lot of them may not have heard the term center of excellence in particular as it is applied to marketing or revenue marketing or to revenue performance management. And why don't you begin by maybe giving us a working definition.

2:53 Liz McClellan

Well sure, and thanks Debbie I mean this is a great conversation to have because you have been with us through the beginning of this journey when we were really at our exploratory stage of where do we go from here, how do we become revenue performance marketers, and how do we transform our company so from our early days of implementing our system and realizing some efficiencies within our own business units to our now current state which is building out the revenue performance management center of excellence. So to answer your question, the center of excellence is really, it's a centralized group of shared marketing services. So for us we've been managing a lot of marketing at the business unit level, but this centralized group of shared marketing services also consist of a centralized infrastructure and process, enabling our organization to bring the programs to market and leveraging leverage key corporate assets and best practices. I have said it before and you will see it on my blogs, we've created some great work within the individual unit at Sage. And now its time to take up notch and create that from the centralized group, leverage our best practices and really go to market in the most effective manner as possible.

4:06 Debbie Qaqish

Liz that is a really interesting story and that you were doing most of the demand generation, revenue marketing, RPM marketing at a field level. And now with the center of excellence, you are moving to a shared services model and a different structure and different roles and responsibilities between corporate and field or business unit marketing. What was behind the change? I mean, why, why make that change?

4:34 Liz McClellan

Well Deb, I'll give you a little bit of history here and I think you are quiet familiar with most of it. You know, if you look back to our history two, three even four years ago, there were different business units at Sage. All trying to embark on this marketing automation, RPM journey and like I said earlier everyone was doing great work but we were all doing it in silos. And so, thankfully someone kind of stepped back and said "how do we take what we've learned within each of the business units and really kept alive on this?" At one point Debbie, we actually had I think upwards of seven different marketing automation platforms in place at Sage. Now, of course that's a little bit embarrassing to admit, but you know me I am a pretty transparent. I, just a consolidation of the technology alone is a big journey, you know a big step forward. Now that we are all moving to one platform of course Eloqua, we will get a lot economy to scale and a lot of efficiency by moving in that direction. So here we are today, we're consolidating teams and processes and as I mentioned earlier we are really in this early stages of the journey. We spent the last year looking at how we could be most effective as an organization. And well we haven't fully embark on it, we will start put the structure in place in the fall. I feel like we've done a lot of the right work to get us there.

6:05 Debbie Qaqish

So again this is really interesting Liz, because again I think a lot of our listeners especially our larger enterprise listeners they probably had very similar situations to what you guys have. You know a lot of pocket, a lot of silos, a lot of different systems, a lot of people doing good work but not necessarily sharing it in the North American or even in a global level to do that. And so I think that you know I think that's just pretty standard for a lot of companies who are looking to do that. How many business units do you guys have?

6:41 Liz McClellan

We have about 12 that we are trying to consolidate. The Holy Grail for us Deb for any CEO of a large organization we really want to get a common set of KPIs, common reporting and get common service level agreements in place. So that the president of our company can look down and see the performance in a common manner across business unit. We all had different sets of data that we were reporting on but there was no one common view and what we are about to realize is really going to be extraordinary once we get there.

7:15 Debbie Qaqish

So listen, again Sage is that when said there is a beginning of the center excellence journey but I would say this I think that where they are probably puts them ahead of about 90-95% of all enterprise marketing companies in North America and potentially even the globe. So I want a back up for a minute Liz and I want you to share with our listeners, where you are on the journey right now and then I really want you to kind of share what you guys did over the last year to get the background so you can decide that is a good move for you. So where are you today and over the last year, what did it take to get that kind of step and this probably cost a dollar or two to get this done, right?

8:04 Liz McClellan

Well sure, I can give you as much history as time allows here. So, as you know Sage went to a pretty tremendous brand transformation. We move from a house of brand to branded house. And prior to that, what that means we are operating as I mentioned our individual business silos and communicating to pockets of customers by business group or product line. There is no real overarching strategy and we didn't have one clear view into customers and prospects. So fast forward we completed our brand transformation around the summer and what we were trying to do in terms of making sure that customers know who we are. We are trying to be effective in our communication to them. So a few years ago we are on multiple different platforms, we are consolidating towards one platform which is Eloqua, and one CRM platform in the fall. We have about a dozen different groups to move unto one platform for one instance and so right now were in, I guess I'd call it discovering. We are having some very in depth business planning session rights now with each of the business unit stakeholders, and trying to decide who should move and when and how and mapping out how to do our move and make sure that we don't miss a bit in the meantime. Does that help answer your question about where we are?

9:35 Debbie Qaqish

Yup. Yeah. That's where you are right now but you have actually started longer that. I don't want the listeners to think because all the things that you guys have done is, before you created a model of what the center of excellence will look like and the technology.

9:50 Liz McClellan


9:51 Debbie Qaqish

is just one part of that maybe you can share how you guys arrive to that

9:54 Liz McClellan


9:55 Debbie Qaqish

as a model.

10:00 Liz McClellan

Sure. So in terms of how we are going to structure of this group, we are identifying a leader a VP I guess or an SVP of RPM and that leader will have the direct reports. One of these direct reports would be focused on the DemandGen center and one of those would be focused on the marketing apps piece. So if you think about it, you've got one RPM leader who will report up to CEO level executive and on the DemanGen side we'll have to focus on program management, content strategy, campaign services, best practices and then of course on the app side we have data specialist, process specialist and folks like reporting and field liaison to communicate back with the business unit and make sure that everything is in alignment. And the org will start...

10:50 Debbie Qaqish

So now...

10:52 Liz McClellan

Go ahead.

10:53 Debbie Qaqish

No go ahead, it will start when

10:55 Liz McClellan

I was just going to say, so that origin has been laid out in terms that you know what it looks like on paper and we're in the process in making sure we are having the right folks, the right talent, the right training, everything in place so we can be up and ready this fall.

11:08 Debbie Qaqish

So how did you get, how did you get Sage to go along with that and what I mean is you have responsibility with the business unit level and after that moving up to corporate. What is the process that you guys went through that got everybody on the same page to move in that direction?

11:29 Liz McClellan

Well Deb we look at the ROI, we look at the talent across our org, we look at the marketing spend that we are all individually spending on RPM systems, campaigns, etc. Also we look in depth at our vendors spend, you know as I mentioned before at one point we have over six or seven different marketing automation platforms within Sage. But we did a very in depth marketing audit and I think you actually used this trade we gained a stark view of reality. It was really an eye opener. When we looked at the data behind what the activity was viewing, there were about 70 to 100 active vendors being used across the business units. And as you know, as you operate in individual business unit silos, there is a huge duplication of efforts. In some cases we found that we are buying the same list more than once. Overall efforts were not coordinated and that is not just to say negative about the good work that people were doing in their groups. They're just wanting visibility that into what folks were focused on. And so there were major things that we identify that we realized would be benefited by centralizing and organizing this RPN COE. And in addition, we found that we didn't have a consistent document of lead process. There is no common set of funnel conversion metrics or honestly, we're not even speaking the same language. You know marketing qualified lead might have meant something different to different groups. And so, when we found that there are lot of activities going on that were just not aligned, it was really easy at that point to put together some kind of ROI that showed, okay if we join together and we really align on this key objectives. Cure the economy so we can realize from the people, a process, a brand, an ROI standpoint.

13:33 Debbie Qaqish

It just make so much sense to do that. But I also would like you to share with our listeners Liz, I think you kind of put together kind of like an internal-like SWAT team or pirate team or something like that.

13:47 Liz McClellan


13:48 Debbie Qaqish

Because I think that process is exactly why large organizations made partnership though. I thought that was a very expensive process so let us hear how you guys did that.

14:00 Liz McClellan

So I have to actually give a big kudos to our President Pascal, he assigned a SWAT team, a small team of cross-functional leaders to get together and focus on how the best streamline new customer acquisition across Sage. Now, we all had our day jobs to do but he actually called it a renaissance team. And we were still doing our day jobs but we pull together and identified, all right if we want a streamline new customer acquisition what does that really look like, what does that mean, when will it take us to get there and so we started meeting, oh gosh I think we met for six to eight months and at the beginning we had a charter document of our objectives and how we thought we definitely meet them and then we assigned separate work streams to the team. So for instance, I think there are 12 or 15 people on the team, each person on that team serve on a sub-team that rolled up to an executive sponsor. So we would meet frequently each team obviously working on their objectives and report back and it was an amazing opportunity and there is a lot of great work that came out of it. It was definitely overwhelming at times, but in the end we all fully believed in the model that we are recommending and no one could argue with the numbers Debbie. It seems a little daunting at first but when you said it first "hey let's take an honest look at this. If we have 70 plus vendors doing this work, do we really need that?" You know in aligning our talent was a big win for us too. We have pockets, what I recall RPM masters throughout the org but they were spread across the organization. And so when we pulled together this team and put together their recommendations and I don't want undercut the great work that was done that it was almost __0:15:57__at the end because the numbers made sense, the aligning of resources made sense, and from an employee's standpoint it made sense there. This new org is going to do some pretty cool things.

16:10 Debbie Qaqish

So I want to come back, and I want to get a little bit more information about the renaissance team 'cause again, I think that any company listening to this, any company thinking about there's got to be a better way for us to have marketing, make an impact on the revenue. I think they'd be very interested. So one of the things that you mentioned about the renaissance team was that they had different work stream, so what are those work streams?

16:35 Liz McClellan

We have three work streams Debbie. We divided up, one work stream was focused on vendor consolidation and I guess I should say vendor optimization. What we did was, that team looked at all of the vendors that we are working with, and also looked at the need of the business and decided to focus on how can we optimize or spend there? Do we even have the right vendors in place? And then we have a technology team who is really focused on getting the technology piece mapped out for us and in place. And the DemanGen team which was focused on how do we set up true DemandGen center of excellence, how do we align SLAs, what are the goals of this team and there is also a marketing apps team, so I believe in all, there were four teams.

17:30 Debbie Qaqish

That makes a whole lot of sense, because again neither all of the key aspects of what you need to do. And I think you guys also did a marketing audit. So tell us about how that audit works at a high level and what was the benefit of doing that marketing audit?

17:48 Liz McClellan

Yeah. The marketing audit Debbie was really interesting. I again have talked how to our finance team for helping us dive in and do this. We looked at not only just talent across the organization who is really kind of a power user and who could help us get to where we need to be but also where do we need to train our folks and get them up to speed. And then in addition to looking at the talent piece of the audit there was also the cost piece of the audit. So what were we spending as an organization on this RPM journey as individuals and what could we gain by aligning span and spending it in a more prudent fashion. So finance came back with some very, very detailed spreadsheets of what things looked like and we're able to really look at, which business units were performing really well and where we could move the nail and a lot of __0:18:47__.

18:48 Debbie Qaqish

You know Liz, you are so right we have to do this with finance. So you've mentioned a couple of people, people who were in the business units, you've mentioned finance, you've mentioned from the executive stakeholders. So what was the make up of this team? And then what does the team did to finally get the project, to prove and how was that presented, how did that work?

19:15 Liz McClellan

Sure. The team was made up of variety of functions. We had as I mentioned earlier an executive sponsor and a chairperson and then there were different roles within the team. Someone is focused on our mid market segments, someone focused our small business segment and there was like partner segment as well. We had sales involvement, we had legal, we had HR, we had someone from our E-marketing group, it was really, we pooled the best skill set from each of those groups so that we can come together and represent all of the different areas. And honestly I would discourage anyone who just thinks that this is a sales and marketing team. It is, but it is so much more than that Debbie. You know the fact that we have finance involve from the early stages of this to make sure that what we thought was a great idea made good financial sense and of course we had our HR partners in there as well to make sure that -- and I will talk about this later, but the change management component of transforming an organization to something such as this that's a big piece and so all of those people had different functions on the team and they all made the team round out the skills that it was great. As far as the next steps what we did was this team put together a very detailed business case and a presentation deck which, by the way thanks again for all your involvement with that, and it was presented to our executive team, our executive leadership team. And the PowerPoint and the business case had a full financial modeling in there and we had different scenarios, we had kind of our low mid and high financial scenarios for the executive team to digest and so at each phase of the numbers it made sense but the presentation was delivered I believe in the middle of May and was approved shortly thereafter and then we got to work putting together as the team and the structure and really getting ready for the fall launch.

21:20 Debbie Qaqish

That's excellent so the renaissance team took about six to eight months to do their work. The presentation to executives you had keys they called their alignments across all the major functions of the company and now you guys are moving ahead with the fantastic model. So Liz I do want to talk about change management, I am glad you brought that up. So, that's the one thing that people asked me all the time. They love the idea of RPN with the revenue marketing journey they get it - they absolutely want to be the company that transforms marketing for being a call center to a revenue center. They absolutely want to do that, but they are just they're kind of overwhelmed by the change management issue. So tell me a little bit about those and how you guys manage those?

22:09 Liz McClellan

Yeah, and I'm glad you brought that up. Change management was a huge piece for me. You know me as a marketer and as a leader, I'm pretty transparent in how I operate, you know. I'm always honest but there's going to be challenges and bumps on the road. I certainly wanted to paint demos, positive pictures because I really do believe in it, but there is a lot of transformation going on at the same time. You know your consolidating systems and you're moving people and you're changing processes and you know in the back of that book "Who moved my cheese" you know it. Everyone has a little bit of anxiety and of course when you start talking about change or transformation, people think what does that means for me. So to me I think it's really important if not critical to really communicate to the org why you're doing this so that they understand the benefits that they and their customers will get. You need to be transparent and honest. It's not going to be a perfect thing and guys, we are going get a few things wrong, but I think in that change management piece Debbie you just need to be forthcoming with your stakeholders and say we're going to do our best, there going to be bumps, we're going to learn and at the end of this journey and it is a journey you know we're going to evolve and evolve and evolve and it's going to get better and then the fact that we are able to align all of the skill sets and the __23:30__ and that really the effort and energy. This is a very exciting time for us.

23:38 Debbie Qaqish

That is such great advice and one of the key points that you made Liz you know beyond transparency is that it is a journey and you will evolve, I mean there again there is only a handful of company who are making the strive that Sage North America is making right now or creating an RPN center of excellence and it's a handful of company though. So this really puts you and the company in a very, very elite class of marketers and because there is going to be more the very first to do it honestly it's going to be a journey and you are going to evolve. So I think you are absolutely right Liz saying those expectations upfront you know it is not like a lot of people have done this before you have all these models that you can go out and borrow it, see how someone else has done it. They are very little that has been done in this area and yet all the goals are there all the fundamental resources are there that shows that this is going to be a great thing for Sage and I also note that you guys had a very, very strong ROI business case, which again very few companies take the time to put together and yet that was a business case that really I think propel the projects. So, I really like the way you kind of describe change management. It is not rocket science but it is a lot of work.

25:02 Liz McClellan

Yeah, it is and...

25:03 Debbie Qaqish

Put those stakeholders in mind. You will okay, but you just had to kind of consistently communicate.

25:11 Liz McClellan

Yeah, and if you don't mind me keeping you on speed dial that I think will be okay.

25:16 Debbie Qaqish

That's exactly, right.

25:18 Liz McClellan

Yeah. Honestly Debbie you know when we first got this charter of, hey, how can Sage streamline new customer acquisition. It was -- it felt like, how are we going to get there and throughout the work that's been accomplished certainly you've been a big part of this and with the strong team that we had and the strong leadership that we had, we're really excited a little nervous sure, but we're ready to do this and the enthusiasm around this is going to be big you know I don't want to be Pollyanna and paint the perfect picture because we need to route in reality, but I just think that where we'll be in a few months and in the year and two years is just extraordinary.

26:00 Debbie Qaqish

I completely agree. I will come back to that organization because you painted a picture of a pretty complex organization with the vice president of revenue performance management reporting that to a C-level you got a demand generation center, you have a marketing app center, you've got program management content. I mean you had a whole bunch of stuff in there. Are you guys filling that entire organization from that very beginning or, I mean how you are building out that structure?

26:32 Liz McClellan

Well, I actually don't have all those answers right now. Where we are in this journey is we're stealing the leader positions and while we have -- what I would call a Stromian structure on paper and we intend to move forward in this manner, will be staffing the leaders you know over the next couple of weeks and we will let those leaders really flush out what exactly the org looks like. So I don't want to be too prescriptive here because it could change, but at a higher level you are right. Those are the areas that we're focused on for right now.

27:07 Debbie Qaqish

Okay. So Liz, I want to ask you the next question and that really is let's fast forward two years from now and the RPN center that could stay has been up and running for two years. Liz, what would it look like? What kind of impact do you think it will be having on the organization?

27:29 Liz McClellan

Well first of all, it won't feel like anything new. It will just be part of our DNA that two will become as an organization of marketers because we will just operate with such efficiency. We will have a consistent set of processes consistent vernacular all of that stuff, but hopefully it's my desire that we are in the state where we can predict you know what tweaks to the pipeline we could make so that we could have more impact on future revenue and where I want to be is forward looking and not looking back at what worked, what didn't but be in more of a predictive state where we can say, okay, if we tweak this then we will except acts and really transform the organization to that way of thinking because for a long time and I don't thing we are unlike any other large organizations we oftentimes will get through a program or a campaign and then look back at the metrics, but having this ability and having impact into directing the future flow of the pipeline that will be huge.

28:38 Debbie Qaqish

It's gigantic for any company Liz, I mean a lot of companies have a hard time getting sales pipeline to be predictable and here you are talking without having a marketing impact on revenue and being able to actually predict that impact on revenue. That's very exiting, but it is also very comfortable. I mean there is what we have now today as marketers have all the tools that we need to do this, we've got you know the marketing automation systems line there as well. We've got the CRM like Sage CRM and we have all this fabulous tools you know to make all this stuff happens so you're right it's a very, very exciting journey for you guys.

29:18 Liz McClellan

Yeah, but you know Deb you were making a point there; you know we have the tools, the tools aren't going to make the change for you. The tools are a piece of that change and I think in terms of communicating how to successfully build an org like that we can want people to know tools are a piece of it, but they are not it. You've got to get the processes and the people and really get everyone head wrap around this way of thinking.

29:41 Debbie Qaqish

And it is very, very different and that is an excellent point and kind of leads into the last question from the interview and that is you kind extraordinary experience in journey over about the last three years 'cause you have been working with marketing automation, you've been running marketing, you've been running sales, you have had the chance to be one of the leaders and the transformation at Sage. to RPN and building a center of excellence. To all our listeners who are sitting out there. What advice would you give them Liz or what are your top lessons learned?

30:20 Liz McClellan

You know my top lessons learned, I have talked about getting people onboard -- getting the right people onboard I would say that if you are thinking about embarking on a journey like this, get a team that covers a broad spectrum of expertise. Don't think that sales and marketing can get into a room and knocked this out and drive this change within an organization. This takes leadership from the top down and then you know across an organization and don't be afraid to be transparent and honest. You know my biggest thing that I am very fond of is be humble. You know here is what we're trying to do, here is what we want to do and bringing an expert, I mean Debbie has been a huge to help to us in this journey you know we have a lot of expertise internally, but we don't know it all and so we relay on experts like yourself to help with along with that. I would say the other piece of it is be realistic when I set out on the marketing automation implementations or any years ago. I thought that this was going be a pretty quick transformation to our business and you well know Debbie it evolves overtime. You know when we first set up our scoring and grading methodology, we got it all wrong and we made a lot of tweaks to it and if you have the relationships with the people on the team and you operate with transparency and honesty, I think you get a lot of an alignment along the way and you know don't be afraid to ask for help. It really is a complex thing, but its so transforming and like I said before I think this is such an amazing opportunity and grateful to be part of it.

32:00 Debbie Qaqish

You know your right. I think all those lessons learned you know begin with the team that covers a broad spectrum. It has had leadership from the top down not going to work and then you have to engage leadership across the organization as well. You've mentioned being transparent and humble bringing in an expert is always a great idea and then finally be realistic because transformation does not happen overnight. It takes a while for that to happen. Now Liz I understand that we've got a blog out on center of excellence, when was that being published and where can I or our listeners go read your blog.

32:38 Liz McClellan

Well it is on B2B Online Magazine and I believe it goes live this week I will shoot you a copy once it's live and you can send it out to your listeners.

32:47 Debbie Qaqish

And what's the topic?

32:50 Liz McClellan

It is on developing an RPN Center of Excellence so definitely in line with the topics we covered today. I am going to a little bit more detail in some of the areas, but I would be happy to share it with everyone.

33:02 Debbie Qaqish

That is excellent. Well Liz, thank you so much and this was such an incredible interview with you again the journey that you and Sage you're on right now is incredibly exciting and I hope that all our listeners learned a lot today and please go read, Liz's blog on Center of Excellence I have also recently blog about the center of excellence and you can find that blog at revenuemarketer.com. That's the end of our show, we will see you next time and in the meantime you know it's all about revenue marketing find revenue. Thanks everybody.