By Chris Barbin
Today I’m pleased to announce another acquisition (yes, our third in two months) to further Appirio’s mission of accelerating enterprise adoption of the cloud. We are acquiring VMG, a specialist in structured, cloud-focused training and learning programs that increase user adoption and customer satisfaction.
The technology industry is plagued with stories about companies spending thousands to millions of dollars on a new piece of technology, only to leave users on their own to figure out those new systems and processes. It’s been a consistent problem in the on-premise world, and can be just as big of an issue for SaaS customers and vendors, where applications are upgraded every few months (not every few years) and where the cost to switch providers is so much lower.
VMG has been a partner of Appirio’s for the last two years. They’ve helped build out our Google Apps and Salesforce CRM training programs and have engaged with us in some of our top customer accounts. During that time we came to admire the quality of the people and their philosophy around training that put the users and their experience at the center, not the technology.
As part of Appirio, the VMG team won’t be holed away in a siloed learning or training organization. Instead, their talents will be dispersed throughout our sales, delivery and solution architect teams to ensure user adoption and customer satisfaction are embedded in everything we do. As enterprise cloud projects become more involved and complex, this holistic approach will be one of the ways cloud service brokerages like Appirio differentiate themselves from the traditional service providers of the past.
Similar to the recent TRE3 Group and Infowelders acquisitions, I wanted to take a moment to introduce you personally to Glenn Oclassen, Jr., the former CEO of VMG who joins Appirio as our VP of Cloud Adoption. Glenn has more than 12 years of experience helping companies like Autodesk and salesforce.com build, organize and scale their channel and learning functions and we’re very excited to have him and the rest of VMG join our team.
Q: VMG stands for Velocity Made Good. What’s the story behind the name and the company?
Velocity Made Good is a sailing term that measures your true pace towards your goal, factoring in speed, direction and other conditions that inform the best course for advancement. When we founded VMG we wanted to describe the nature of charting a smart course to achieve the ultimate goal – in this case, delivering demonstrable value. Customers simply don’t gain value from what they don’t use. If SaaS companies want to maintain, renew and grow their customer subscriptions, and if their partners want to maintain a trusted relationship with clients, there needs to be a big focus on user adoption, customer success and showing tangible value. This is something we talk a lot about in our SaaS Adoption Manifesto.
Q: The VMG team is passionate about helping customers successfully use new technologies. Where did that passion originate?
We, as individuals and as a team, have always been motivated by the practical application of game-changing technology, and the cloud is certainly that. It changes (and simplifies) everything. In order to embrace a game-changing technology, you have to “get it” and vendors do not always make it easy for users to “get it”. In order to deliver powerful innovation at scale, you have to design and deliver simple and scalable ways for people to not only understand a new technology but also how to apply and embrace it in their personal and professional lives.
Q: At Appirio we often talk about how cloud computing is disrupting the traditional services industry. How is the cloud also disrupting training and change management?
Old school training companies do not fully comprehend the multi-modal approach required to drive user adoption and customer success with cloud technologies. The days of “train up front, hope, then support until next year’s release” are over. Although traditional customer training will certainly remain a critical part of the equation, driving user adoption is a much more multidimensional and dynamic exercise. It requires a true relationship with the customer — addressing their needs in the moment, anticipating future needs, keeping content current to the latest release, helping them redefine processes as needed, and nurturing emergent best practices. The shift from “training” to “customer success” represents a much more holistic approach to ensure customers derive constant value from their SaaS investment.
Q: You talk a lot about a holistic, unified view of customer success. Tell us a little more about this view, and what kinds of things you see customers do right and wrong here.
First off, the most successful vendors break down the traditional technical and organizational silos for interacting with their partners and customers. Rather than having separate teams for consulting, implementation, training and technical support, we’re seeing a realignment around customer success teams: a more cross-functional approach to providing customers with a consistent and positive experience with every interaction. This is great news for the customer, and it makes sense for the service providers as well. In terms of what we see customers doing right and wrong, the biggest mistake we see is to focus solely on the technology and forget about the user experience. Companies may have a core team actively involved in defining the most elegant customizations and configurations, ideally aligned with their business goals, but if they don’t prepare the other 95% of the company for its arrival, no one is going to take time to figure it out, let alone use it. And since SaaS subscriptions are nowhere near as confining as traditional product licenses, they’re going to blame it on the technology and move on.
Q: You’ve been an Appirio partner for more than two years. What prompted you to make the jump and join the Appirio team versus remaining an independent company?
I have had the pleasure of working with some of the brightest and most successful people and companies in technology, and have never seen such a powerful collection of practical brilliance, esprit de corps, and passion for excellence as what I see in the Appirio team. I have watched Appirio grow as we have grown, and we have worked with Appirio on more than 20 engagements. Our complementary approaches to business in and of the cloud, and the fact that we both believe that together we are greater than the sum of our parts just made this a no-brainer. The opportunity to work with people we dig, to innovate every day, and to deliver unique value that will help grow the market leader? That was an easy decision.
Q: What are some of the ideas and trends you’re excited to bring to Appirio?
There are almost too many to count. The merger of social learning and social CRM is fascinating, as is the transformation of traditional training to customer success, the promise of user-generated, company-curated content in the enterprise, and the power to use tools like Salesforce Chatter to drive user adoption and customer success. The entire way people work has changed — the future is now about universal access to information and knowledge.
Q: In your words, what do you think this acquisition means to Appirio and our customers?
Appirio’s customers will now have a more diversified capability to meet their enterprise goals for each and every user, for each and every technology which Appirio helps them implement. And successful customers are the defining measure of a successful company. As the cloud grows, as Appirio grows, and ultimately as the world fully embraces all aspects of the cloud, we think we can help make cloud adoption take place faster and be more successful across every enterprise, everywhere. Game on.