Episode 188: Chris Wrenn on Improving Tool Engagement With User-Centered Design

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Shawnna Sumaoang: Hi, and welcome to the Sales Enablement PRO podcast, I’m Shawnna Sumaoang. Sales enablement is a constantly evolving space, and we’re here to help professionals stay up to date on the latest trends and best practices so that they can be more effective in their jobs.

Today, I’m excited to have Chris Wrenn from Adobe join us. Chris, I would love for you to introduce yourself, your role, and your organization to our audience.

Chris Wrenn: Sure, thanks for having me. I’m Chris Wrenn. I’m a Senior Manager of Experience Delivery Management at Adobe, and I’ve been at Adobe, boy, going on almost 25 years now doing different roles throughout, but the last five years or so I’ve been in the sales operations organization.

The focus of my team had really been primarily, when I started, around content delivery whether it’s training or sales collateral. It’s really shifting in this last year or so for us to become much more of a user experience type of organization team that’s focused on trying to really reinforce what the business wants with our sales teams and do that through design as opposed to just relying on training alone and coaching and some of those other activities.

SS: Well, I’m very excited to have you here with us, Chris. On LinkedIn, you highlight your experience with managing the development of digital experiences to support enablement objectives. From a content delivery perspective, how does a focus on the digital experience improve engagement with content?

CW: I think that really where that comes into play is I think many businesses realize that they’ve got a lot of content for complex deals in particular, and Adobe was among these groups that often had content in different buckets and different places. The problem wasn’t necessarily that there was bad content or content that wasn’t very helpful, it really was not available or consumable in an easy way for our sales organization historically.

A lot of the work from a design and content strategy and management perspective and content delivery perspective has been around really making content easy to find, making sure that it is authoritative, and also just making sure that there are some governance activities in place to keep it up to date and current. Those three areas, search, governing, and authoritativeness of documents so people know they’ve got the right version at the right time, and also that it’s up to date, those are the three things that

I think have been continuous in what my team’s journey has been, going from managing content to getting more involved in the actual experience of how people receive content, where they get it, and how they use it.

SS: Absolutely, I couldn’t agree more. What role does content governance play though in really optimizing the delivery of content and the digital experiences for users?

CW: Well, I think content governance ends up being one of those huge items that any organization has to deal with. I think at a place like Adobe, which is a large organization, it has a lot of different moving parts, a lot of different teams, the issue becomes really, okay, how do you get centralized management when there’s a lot of teams that are really empowered to do their own thing? How do you provide an experience that from the perspective of, let’s just say a seller, that is consistent? It doesn’t change depending on what product they’re selling or what area or domain that they’re in, they have a consistent experience with the content.

Part of the governance pieces I think that need to be solved are making sure that the people who are contributing are doing it in a way, delivered in a way at least, that is easy for users to understand and take in. It’s not just, okay, we’ve got our one-stop-shop for this little, small-scoped area that we are concerned about. Somebody is mining the whole shop and understanding how to get content, how it flows to the system, how to get content from point A to point B in the most effective way.

We certainly have found that there isn’t really a way to get that experience optimized for sellers of any kind if there isn’t a group of folks focused really on the ability to really consolidate and deliver and focus on that experience separate from actually the content itself.

SS: Absolutely. Now, shifting gears a little bit beyond content delivery and management, you also focus on, as I mentioned earlier, providing user experience guidance on technology for the field. As part of this, you’ve emphasized the importance of user-centered design. What does it mean to have user-centered design in the integration of tools for sellers and what are some of your best practices for really infusing that across the tech stack?

CW: Yeah, that’s a great question and it’s a difficult one for large organizations in particular. One challenge is just trying to get teams on the same toolsets and the tool stacks. You might have multiple instances of CRMs, multiple instances of quoting tools, and different types of tools that have been used based on acquisitions and things, and so it can be a very complex network of sometimes technological debt, sometimes homegrown tools and things like that.

We found that we really wanted to tackle that problem the way we were trying to tackle it with content delivery. We wanted to really treat this from the seller perspective as opposed to the business perspective. I think we have a lot of tools and a lot of great product teams that are working on delivering things for our fields and partner sellers, but they don’t always connect the dots between each other, between these different tools, and look at things from the seller’s journey the way we would look at things from a customer journey, for example, if we’re doing marketing and selling together. Doing that internally and focusing on people who are involved in sales and deals as really that same customer base regardless of the multiple products we have and not necessarily treating these as separate silos and competing little fiefdoms, but actually as one sort of holistic approach to getting a customer from point A to point B in the most effective way possible requires us to really use a lot of the same things that Adobe product teams would use with our customers. Use that internally on our sellers, our BDRs, our other key roles in the sales process to say, hey, look, we’ve got a lot of competing technologies, some are third-party, some are homegrown, some are our own types of tools, but they don’t necessarily connect to each other the way we would want them to or the way that the user would want them to connect and work together.

What we’ve done is really look at a lot of the personas internally, focus on the personas and focus on what their needs are as much as what the business is wanting to do or what the go-to-market strategy is. We’re looking at things a lot more now across the different teams and folks who are trying to use any of these multiple tools we have, what’s their experience going to be like and how do we optimize that? How do we increase the velocity all of those things that I think everybody knows are important? I think we’ve done a good job of dealing with training and coaching and what our sales managers working on, how do we infuse more of that into the design of our systems?

I think the obvious challenge there is, well, many of them are built on different technologies. We’re throwing out the idea of this isn’t an issue of visual design or any kind of UX from that perspective, it’s really more about how we dig in and make sure information architecture and all these points, all these pain points, are looked at from the user perspective not just the business perspective of what the business KPIs are.

I think a lot of what we’re trying to do now is invest a lot of the tools that we deliver to a sales organization with some usability KPIs that stand really at the same level as some of the business KPIs. I think as we all know, if we don’t really reinforce with our tooling what we’re trying to accomplish and make the tooling effective enough for users to either want to use it or to actually have an easy time of using it, we’re not going to have the adoption. We’re going to have people leveraging different tooling for doing the same job, all that sort of stuff that makes it much more difficult to manage at an enterprise level.

SS: Absolutely. You’d be back to the ad hoc chaos all over again. No, I think that’s a phenomenal approach. How do you ensure that the design and integration of tools for sellers don’t just reinforce business goals, but are also truly valuable to the end-user as well?

CW: Right. Well, that’s the key, I think. It’s not because people don’t necessarily care about what the user experience is, I think that there’s been a lot of well, it’s boiling the ocean to consider it. When we’re talking about what sellers have to go through, there’s obviously changes and tweaks to the go-to-market every year. It’s not so much what people have to relearn or learn again, it’s what they need to forget and do differently. Having to manage all those changes, for the most part people think that, well, the tool is the tool, and you can’t really do much with that.

I think that where we want to focus is essentially flip this a little bit and try not to get too focused on the systems themselves, the tools themselves, but focus more on the capabilities that we’re trying to deliver and see to what extent we can really say, well, this is going to be consistent. We’re always going to have to progress a lead to an opportunity to get a quote. We know what those basic capabilities areas are, and we also have a pretty good idea, or at least through doing research and interviews and conversations with folks, what they like. If you do things that the sellers like, or more things that the sellers like or that are more natural to the way that the sellers are trying to sell, you’re going to be more successful with whatever you deliver. Some of that is not, like I said, that people haven’t wanted to do that or thought about that in the past, and some people do it themselves, I think it’s just been more at the ad hoc level, at the small scope level, not really horizontally across the whole thing where we’re focusing a lot more now with my team.

I’ll admit it’s emergent right now, it’s not really a full team of a cast of thousands that that’s doing all this work. We’re really starting with a team of about five folks that are trying to look across all of the touchpoints for many of the key roles, what these key roles are, and even just settling on where some key personas that we can go after are and think about where we can actually add the most value. The value that we’re trying to add is making things easier for users in a way that it really reinforces the business. The business gets what they want out of it, the users get what they want out of it, and we’re in that happy place.

SS: I love that. Now, we talked about how important adoption is I’d love to hear from you from your perspective and your experience, what are some challenges to tool adoption among sellers, and then how have you helped to overcome those challenges through the user experience design?

CW: Yeah, that’s a great question because I think you find with adoption that there can be any number of reasons why things have low adoption. There might be something just about awareness, it might be something related to regional differences with a global company, it’s hard to provide a one tool solution that’s going to work in all circumstances. Then there are sometimes issues with knowledge or reinforcement, the people are not necessarily remembering something. It’s not something that they do enough that they do it the right way every time.

What we’re looking at from a design perspective is, are there opportunities there where we can look at providing more structure where it’s needed to essentially invite people to do things the right way by making the right way easier than any other way? One example of that might be if people are storing documents that they use for deals, they might store them on their One Drive, they might store on their desktop, they might store them in a SharePoint, they might store them in the CRM itself. They have different ways of storing it because there wasn’t really an easy way to make it easy to get the document you need, update it, send it out the door, and then keep track of it and what happens with it. Things like that are areas where I don’t think it’s a matter of people maybe not adopting so much as it really wasn’t clear what to adopt. We’re trying to focus some attention there.

To the other question about some areas where we’ve seen lower adoption than we wanted I think goes into many of those types of self-service things that we try to do. Can we get people to do a bit more self-service quoting, like get some quotes together without necessarily calling a deal desk or getting other people involved? Can they do some ROI calculations on their own without calling an expert? How much of that can we get folks to do? Sometimes you’ll have issues with that being it’s not really a design thing, it might be more of a time thing. like people. I don’t have time to wrap my head around what’s needed here to make this change.

I think for us to be successful now and going forward, is really to be aligned with our business change managers and other folks to determine really what is that core problem with adoption. At least what I’ve found so far as there isn’t any one reason. It’s often you have to get into the weeds and get into the details of why something specific isn’t adopted. For us, at least from the user-centered perspective, I think we get the best information when we go out and do the interviews. When we go out and do a user study and you usually find something you really had no idea why that was the case, or you had all these assumptions, and you find out that they weren’t very good assumptions because people are coming to different conclusions, or they are having completely different motivations than what you were expecting.

One of the values that our team has been trying to promote is formalizing more of that user research where we go out, and particularly if there’s an adoption problem or if there’s something new that’s coming out and we want to make sure it goes smoothly, really trying to find out what people are doing today, what their motivations are to ensure that it’s as smooth as we can possibly make it when they transition to something different.

SS: Absolutely. Well, you touched on this a little bit earlier, but I would love to close on thinking about success metrics. How do you measure success when it comes to the user experience with technology?

CW: Again, that’s a great question because I think there isn’t a cookie-cutter approach. I mentioned before that we’re trying to infuse some usability KPIs into the overall business KPIs that go with any type of project or rollout. Some of the things that we get focused on might be a pure usability problem. Like, hey, have an error prevention approach with this. Maybe there’s just a consistency problem where you can detect like, okay, the labels are completely different in these different tools, but they mean the same thing. Stuff like that that we try to address.

We would basically apply the KPIs that are the most important usability KPIs areas with what the business KPIs are because obviously we’re not just making things consistent for the sake of consistency or we’re not making error messages nice just for the sake of doing that. If they’re not that common, what we’re really trying to do is take a look at what the business is trying to accomplish, whether it’s increasing the deal velocity or if it’s basically increasing customer satisfaction with the process, things like that that as designers we have to adopt those as well as figure out how our individual usability KPI can basically move the needle the best.

The idea is that our KPIs tend to be shared where we’re half of them are, okay, what is the business trying to accomplish at this point? We have to partner with them on that, and what we do with what we’re measuring is okay, do we have user satisfaction with what the tool is doing? Do we have consistency things that we can measure across the board there?

SS: That’s fantastic. Chris, thank you so much for joining us today. I learned a ton from you today, and I appreciate your time.

CW: Thank you. It was a pleasure.

SS: To our audience, thanks for listening. For more insights, tips, and expertise from sales enablement leaders, visit salesenablement.pro. If there’s something you’d like to share or a topic you’d like to learn more about, please let us know. We’d love to hear from you.

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