Thursday, December 4, 2008

An Interview with Jascha Kaykas-Wolff: WebTrends Newly Appointed VP of Marketing

I’d like to start off by thanking Jascha for taking the time to speak with me in just week three on his new job at WebTrends. I sent him my interview questions in advance, so he had a bit of time to ponder his answers. But just so you know…Jascha is a very fast talker. I did my best to type as quickly my fingers would allow, but alas, some responses include paraphrasing. Here’s what we discussed:

JL: What will be your #1 priority upon moving into your new role at WebTrends?

The way I’d frame it is that I’m providing the definitive voice for our customers throughout all our communications, internal and external. Listen: I’m going to spend time with our customers; engage in dialogue, share ideas. In my first three weeks I’ve already been fortunate enough to have met with some of our partners like New York Times, McGraw-Hill and Reuters and I will continue to do so. My goal is to get to know the industry experts such as you and begin a consultative dialogue. I’m going to share my vision with our partners and you – AND – I’m looking for feedback. Most important to me is that I’m going to make changes because of the feedback where it’s appropriate. I want our relationships to drive value both ways.

I’ll do this by focusing on a Solution Viewpoint: We have an awesome collection of industry experts (business analyst, consultants, marketers, executives, sales people, partners and developers). As a company focusing on marketing optimization we will explicitly solve for the business problems of our customers with the right mix of our services, our partner services, our products and our partners products. For too long, web analytics vendors have focused on products and features instead of solutions.

I also plan to focus on our Customer conference: I’m shaping an event that will create meaningful experiences. Real, tangible value. I’ve been an attendee of customer conferences and usually left feeling unsatisfied with the substance of the content. Being spoken to just didn’t resonate with me as an individual or as a marketer. I’m driving a change in the style and delivery of the event to better meet the needs of customers and industry experts such as you. How? I believe that form meets function and that means driving a many-to-many discussion instead of the typical one-to-many oration.

JL: Can you provide some insight into your professional background at Microsoft and involvement with Web analytics, but more importantly how will you leverage this experience at WebTrends?

I was one of the first customers of WebTrends at Microsoft. My history with WebTrends in particular dates back around three years ago when I helped create what has now become Microsoft Store, Microsoft PinPoint, Windows Marketplace and digital locker. As we received funding to execute on the concept of marketplace & digital locker, I was challenged with the task of building and running the marketing team. In the context of this team, marketing encompassed: MarCom, Demand Gen, Merchandising, User Experience, Business Development, and Analytics. I chose WebTrends after a head-to-head RFP with the other major players. Once I was up and running as a business began to fully appreciate the power of the services and products. I understand the challenges and opportunities that web analytics customers face as I've been one for most of my career I intend to take my experience, the learning’s in particular, and reinforce them through our messaging. For example:

I plan to support this vision using the three pillars:

    1. Open access to data drives product innovation: Fundamentally, data about the web channel is only so interesting, it can and should be connected to the enterprise BI strategy and infrastructure. That is a core value proposition for WebTrends but it also can spurn innovation. In marketplace we utilized the WebTrends tags and data collection services to create collaborative filtering software…this type of innovation is happening everywhere. When I was consulting I explored attaching WebTrends visitor data to offline pricing optimization engines in financial services companies.

    2. Information empowers all parts of the business: My team used our analytics information to drive prioritization of development efforts across geographies. Our test teams and development teams in India and California would prioritize features and testing scenarios using the dashboards my team created.

    3. Partnership and thought leadership are an Absolute necessity: In retrospect I believe my team at MSFT were fairly sophisticated in the usage of analytics data to drive the business. We setup the organization structure, operational practices, and goals to reinforce the team’s use of data. That all said, we were able to get what we needed and sometimes what we didn’t know we needed because of support from the WebTrends Services team. I believe that a significant component to WebTrends future successes will be because our technology, coupled with a meaningful collaboration between our services team and our customers will drive real customer successes.

JL: Can you share any great success stories or breakthroughs you’ve had with Web Analytics and related marketing tools that influenced you to move from user to the vendor side?

Analytics has always played a significant role in my professional career. This opportunity for me personally is really exciting. Very specifically, I’m working for WebTrends because I believe in the passion they have for their customers. That starts from the top down with Alex Yoder as the company leader and extends to everyone here at this company.

I think that web analytics is entering an exciting time. In fact, the core benefit Web data will produce in the future probably shouldn’t even be called “Web analytics.” It’s not just about the “Web”. My view is that the introduction of the Web channel’s data will provide the most current and accurate view of customer behavior that any enterprise has ever known. The next step of maturity will be moving from a channel-centric, historical view of performance, to organization-wide use of customer-centric insights. At the end of the day, all this integration is about better predictive capabilities as well as continuous improvement against business problems. It’s a bit of a practical application of Ian Ayer’s Supercruncers.

JL: WebTrends has a large customer base, many of whom are on legacy versions of the product. How will you encourage existing customers to upgrade and continue using WebTrends solutions?

I really like this question. It gets at the heart of what we have to do to continue being successful. The large majority of our enterprise customers are on WebTrends On Demand; they are all on the current version. Software customers are thus the ones that can sometimes fall behind on their versioning. Regardless if they are on software or on-demand some of the things we are, and will be doing, to drive value include:
  • Introducing new service and support programs designed to help customers recognize more value from the solution and our products.

  • Creating and refining education programs to inform customers of new functionality and related service programs.

  • Making the upgrade process itself easier with things like deployment cookbooks and easier installs. I can tell you that easy deployment is something near and dear to my heart. At Microsoft, my team worked with so many partners and had to deal with numerous installations. So I recognize that it is a necessity that partners can empathize with pains that users feel.

At the end of the day, we believe it’s our responsibility to reach out to our customers and ensure they are not only getting the most out of our products but help them create solutions to solve their business problems.

JL: How do you envision supporting the “data independence” vision at WebTrends?

My vision is to drive our marketing initiatives to support three key contributors to success in this space:
    1. Invest heavily in our ecosystem: Data independence allows for and promotes innovation in the industry.

    2. Publishing and promoting our standards: You will see focused attention around the extension of TagBuilder, Our data collection components, and our Warehouse.

    3. Foster community engagement: Including driving 1:1 and many:many discussions with our customers and industry influentials such as you. I expect to make strides in this community engagement through tapping into social media and reshaping customer events to reinforce the importance of community engagement.

JL: Web analytics is one of several products offered by WebTrends including: Marketing Warehouse, Visitor Intelligence, Score and Ad Director. Given this product mix, which direction do you see WebTrends heading in the next 12 months?

At its highest level, the product mix we have today is about addressing the broader marketing optimization needs of our customers. We want to help customers get their message out and determine if the right behaviors are tied to business. It’s about leading with solutions and prioritizing services and products that support these solutions. Ad Director can be a part of a solution to help customers by creating a funnel that will bring customers to them and analytics will help them understand and influence changes in behavior. But this means exposing data out to others systems. We will continue to invest in marketing warehouse and rich insights about customer data and push forward on products that support data enrichment. That said, analytics remains a core product and we will continue to improve that as well.

JL: Considering the Web analytics market at large, how do you think the analytics industry will weather though challenging economic times ahead?

I tend to believe that in business and in our personal lives, we return to our comfort areas when things get tough. When I fall back, it is to being a data monger. I want to understand the successes and failures of my marketing efforts and web analytics gives me that opportunity. I think you said it well in your blog, and I’ll paraphrase: “The accountability that WA brings to marketing is irrefutable”. I think it’s prudent to prepare for challenging times ahead but I also believe that players in our space whom add real measurable customer value will continue to be healthy.

JL: WebTrends has been relatively quiet over the past year, what is the one thing you’d like to communicate to analytics practitioners, consultants, competitors and onlookers about WebTrends?

So, if you’re going to make me stick to one statement, it’s this: WebTrends is first and foremost a marketing optimization firm. But, that in and of itself isn’t the end. We empathize with the business problems of our customers. Our management has a deep understanding of the issues our customers face and the experience and flexibility to solve real business problems. This will help us make our customers and partners successful. We will do everything in our power to make customers successful in their marketing optimization initiatives.

JL: Thanks Jascha for taking the time to speak with me today and best of luck in your new role.

My pleasure. Thank you.


Anonymous said...

Very nice interview. In-depth questions and meaningful answers. :)

Anonymous said...

Eric, since you say you paraphrased a lot, it's hard to know whether all the marketing catch-phrases are yours or his. I guess time will tell if there's substance there.

What I'd like to have seen here is a mention of the rich pent-up BACKLOG of feedback available to him. Going out and getting feedback and "welcoming" future feedback are both nice, but I think WebTrends already knows much of what it needs to know and should start acting on it rather than going through feedback ceremonies. Bottom line: facilitating implementation is what I'd like to be hearing about, and that means adding resources to actually do the work. Is that happening? I hear talk, but I'm not convinced.

Has he been to the
WT customer conference? I don't remember his name from any I've gone to. I hope he won't try fixing parts that aren't broken.

Despite the above, I'm a devoted WT user and probably always will be; the product is just that good and the people working there are excellent. Good luck to them.

Anonymous said...

Hi John,

Very interesting to read about WebTrends and where they're going (I'll be in Vegas for the conference next April).

BTW, in your last question, I think you meant "quiet over the last year", and not "quite over the last year" which wouldn't be that nice ;-).

Anonymous said...

Oops, meant "John" not "Eric" (Eric's twitter directed me to your blog)

John Lovett said...

Amber - thanks for reading and commenting. I'm glad I can add value.

Chris - I can tell you that the marketing catch-phrases and sentiment are indeed directly from Jascha. He did in fact review my transcript prior to publication, so there was no misinterpretation. I agree that addressing known issues is a great starting point and we'll see how they handle the resource issue. I was going to slip in a jab about calling me John, but clearly you've figured out who I am...who is that Eric guy anyway?

Jacques - Thanks for the comment and the catch on the typo.

Anonymous said...

Hi Chris, I wanted to let you know that I have been to the WebTrends customer conference before. I actually spoke in one of the keynotes at the Orlando event a few years back. I believe there are a lot of great qualities about the event historically and I (we) don't intended to upset that. My goal is to drive more of an intimate sharing & learning environment with our format and content.

Anonymous said...

Eric who? Somebody who used to have YOUR job, or something like your job, maybe at another place ... he does something different now ...

Anonymous said...

I did like this interview. You are right that they have quietly in the shadows for sometime.