Digital augments CIO - CMO equation in modern organisations: Chris Powell, Commvault

New age marketing tools empower us to deliver customised content and probably helps speed the decision making for buyers of enterprise IT, says Chris Powell, CMO at Commvault.

Data exploding in large volumes across various departments, multiple devices and  unstructured data is a major problem for companies of all sizes. 
A provider of data protection and information management solutions, Commvault offers an open data platform to help customers manage complex environments. "We are working together with an extended partnership base to provide data portability for CommVault customers to move from VMware into Hyper-V or VMware to Nutanix, says Chris Powell, Chief Marketing Officer, Commvault on an India visit.
IDG India spoke to Chris Powell at length to explore the world of new age marketing tools, the changing behaviours of IT buyers, and the evolution of digital for CIOs and CXOs.
Edited Excerpts.
How has marketing changed in today’s digital era for you as the CMO of a technology company?
The face of marketing has fundamentally shifted due to the change in buying behaviours of the customers. Much of the decision making is occurring even before the customer actually reaches out to the company. That has sort of blurred the lines between marketing and sales. Decision makers aren’t looking to be marketed to, sold to and spun to with digital content. They are seeking more information to understand about a solution or a product. 
The content has to be valuable and engaging but more importantl is how it is delivered. People no longer want to listen to a 30 minute video but prefer a 3 minute video, they want an infographic than maybe a 27 page whitepaper. Marketing is experiencing a fundamental shift from digital content perspective to engage decision makers with company’s value proposition story in maybe shorter but more impactful manner.
Does shorter duration of marketing collaterals (videos, whitepapers etcetera) influences decision makers or CXOs more than traditional marketing?
There is definitely information overload for buyers that’s necessitated in the changing technology landscape. At the same time, in a lot of tech companies the pyramid where the buyers come in is flooded with information and they have to sort their way and find the value. 
We have to make sure the pyramid is inverted correctly wherein the customer comes in first to you understand the value and then there is depth to the story. The customer will probably not make the decision to buy watching a 90 second video but it certainly enables you with the broader set of who’s who in the audience which helps us in longer run.
What new-age marketing tools act as a catalyst to convince CIOs? Any recent initiatives by Commvault that accelerate customer traction?
Some of the new technologies help identify who’s visiting the websites and other details so that we can personalise relevant content to them accordingly. The digitisation of lot of marketing practices and increase of importance of it enables us to understand buyer profile and have relevant conversation. And it does helps in turning in faster. Whether it is overall faster is such an interesting topic in marketing fraternity right now.  A nine month sales cycle now appears as four month sales cycle. For customers it might still be a nine month cycle as they would still do others same things. 
Digital tools give that visibility to have the conversation and a different kind of engagement with the customer. We can absolutely track companies or buyers who look for information and it’s not just information to buy. Commvault found with its digital properties that many companies come to the website to get educated while establishing the roadmap. And our ability to know who they are and target some of that messaging - we believe - helps with the close rates but also probably speeds up decision making.
Tech OEMs’ often overdo the jargons like cloud, big data, IoT in their messaging. What has been your experience? 
Sometimes you have to. For things like SEO you get people into the tent - if you will – and that needs usage of common terminology because that’s what people are looking for. 
We don’t want to walk away from it. But at the same time, we do see an important gap between companies talking hype and the reality. It feels like hype at times because there is so much out there and it takes some time for companies to realise the benefits of newer technologies in real ways. Like IoT will undoubtedly revolutionise many aspects of business, society and personal lives. If my fridge will not die for another 5 years, I will not buy a new one that talks to the internet.
It’s the same with marketing as we want to stay relevant as provider of leading -edge technology in data protection space. We see ourselves as enabling the transformation with the product history of traditional and new environments. As the hype comes, we take customers on that journey with the product history of traditional and new environments.
From marketing stand point, it’s quite a struggle to balance and we don’t want to put our terminology which is just hype. We generally combat the jargons with proof points in our every message and really talk on the distinct advantage of Commvault in the market.
How much are research analysts responsible to overhyping newer technologies - many of which are still some way from effective deployment?
They are sort of completely responsible but I don’t think that’s necessarily a negative thing. The analysts often serve and together with thought leaders in companies are trying to move the companies forward. The benefits that companies can derive with new technologies are tremendous in terms of efficiency, saving money and reducing risks. But the real upside is to get the value from the data. 
I look at the analysts as often being those that facilitate and help us understand who’s who (OEMs) are on cutting edge and how more companies can get on that maturity cycle.
What are typical pain points of CIOs with respect to data management strategy? 
The complexity of the networks has been thrust upon everyone. Maybe many CIOs have found themselves running seven or eight software packages with data spread across separate environments of traditional datacentre, cloud, virtualised environment, and couple of clouds sprung up, people accessing mobile devices across the planet etcetera. Virtual repository capability of CommVault collates all kinds of data at one location. If the customers want to move data between AWS and Azure Cloud, CommVault is the only provider to facilitate it. The data movement between VMware and Hyper-V is possible only with CommVault. 
Many companies of various sizes when told to do ‘more with less’ or ‘more with same’ point to the important aspect of people resources. If let’s say 8 out of 10 people keep wheels on bus for CIOs, then implementing a solution that simplifies the environment can free up two to three resources (which we have seen with CommVault solutions) which can be shifted to business innovation. It is also about practicality of much higher percentage of CIO staff used to keep the lights on.
Has the equation changed between CIO and CMO at  organizations? Who’s calling the shots for IT projects? 
From my history at SAP and here at Commvault it’s not the case of CIO role getting diminished but it has changed. Similarly CMO role has changed with the technology change and business necessity is driving that valuable conversation. IT companies not only want bullet proof products with more or less the same money, but many CEOs today demand innovation.
I look at the role of CMO as working hand in hand with CIOs because I need that technical expertise. Sometimes folks think they can go around CIOs but that doesn’t help. Really intelligent CIOs are seeking inputs from business owners as they try to innovate the business and smart business owners are looking for guidance from CIOs.
A decade ago when marketing departments wanted to speak with CIOs, we were 17th on the list of priorities and it was very difficult. That’s changed now to a big extent.
Do pre sales, marketing speak to more CXOs or business stakeholders of the companies than just CIOs as most IT demand is emerging out of IT team.
As we are traditionally in data protection and data management space, many LOB leaders will figure out the ways they can benefit from our technology but they are not sure in this part of the world. Now, we see our opportunity not necessarily trying to tell directly to them but rather enable CIOs to have the broader conversations within their companies. 
In some cases, IT infrastructure department needs archival solution while the next level of business needs compliance too. Hence there will be different needs across business units of an enterprise with respect to data protection and data management strategy. 
In the marketing department of a OEM organisation, we can have a lot of messaging around SaaS applications that’s incredibly powerful. But it is also dangerous as many companies put customer data and sensitive information and many are not aware on its presence on the cloud and the duration. The data in datacentre is now moving into SaaS, multiple cloud, mobile and CIOs truly understand the need to maintain relevance but also avoid the business owners going rogue. We need to make companies not devolve into wild wild west.
Any do’s for CMOs of corporate world while purchasing enterprise technologies and dealing with OEMs? 
CMOs should look at the lens through three areas of smarter content, smarter targeting and smarter execution. Smarter Content for CMOs trying to advance forward need to employ people who have understanding of how to develop content that can put to social media and develop content which is easy to consume.
We practised smarter targeting in commvault and more companies will do it in the future - employing data scientists. We built a data scientist group within commvault marketing group to fundamentally change the manner of targeting C-level execs. It is about lot of utilisation of data and putting propensity models and then do predictive modelling which is the key to do things much smarter.
Smarter execution is the final one. Especially in some of growth markets, marketing equals bringing coffee and doughnuts at the events. We need to evolve the science and art of marketing. Just like brand does not equal logo, marketing shouldn’t equal events alone. 
More data, more complexity means more business for companies like CommVault.
More data for sure. The more complexity is the danger we face that we need to put a layer of simplification. It’s not about managing the complexity for the business that complexity is masked and managed automatically.
They key to this revolution is -  if you are relying on 10 people in your datacentre to keep things together, writing scripts and make all this work, you are waiting for something to go wrong. And eventually something will go wrong. The more you automate, the more you free up other resources. 
But for sure, I am extremely happy to be in an area with data growth and the need to provide that value to manage it, we see it as an opportunity for us.