Friday, June 21, 2024

Failing Ahead – What We Realized at Cisco from a “Failed” Digital Orchestration Pilot


The trendy buyer expertise is fraught with friction:

You communicate to a buyer consultant, and so they let you know one factor.

You log into your digital account and see one other.

You obtain an electronic mail from the identical firm that tells an fully totally different story.

At Cisco, we now have been working to determine these friction factors and evaluating how we will orchestrate a extra seamless expertise—reworking the shopper, associate, and vendor expertise to be prescriptive, useful – and, most significantly, easy. This isn’t a simple activity when working within the complexity of environments, applied sciences, and consumer areas that Cisco does enterprise in, however it isn’t insurmountable.

We simply closed out a year-long pilot of an industry-leading orchestration vendor, and by all measures – it failed. In The Lean Startup Eric Ries writes, “in the event you can’t fail, you can’t be taught.” I absolutely subscribe to this attitude. In case you are not keen to experiment, to attempt, to fail, and to guage your learnings, you solely repeat what you already know. You don’t develop. You don’t innovate. You should be keen to dare to fail, and in the event you do, to attempt to fail ahead.

So, whereas we didn’t renew the contract, we did proceed down our orchestration journey geared up with a 12 months’s price of learnings and newly refined path on easy methods to sort out our initiatives.

Our Digital Orchestration Objectives

We began our pilot with 4 key orchestration use circumstances:

  1. Seamlessly join prescriptive actions throughout channels to our sellers, companions, and prospects.
  2. Pause and resume a digital electronic mail journey primarily based on triggers from different channels.
  3. Join analytics throughout the multichannel buyer journey.
  4. Simply combine information science to department and personalize the shopper journey.

Let’s dive a bit deeper into every. We’ll take a look at the use case, the challenges we encountered, and the steps ahead we’re taking.

Use Case #1: Seamlessly join prescriptive actions throughout channels to our sellers, companions, and prospects.

Right this moment we course of and ship business-defined prescriptive actions to our buyer success representatives and companions when we now have digitally recognized adoption boundaries in our buyer’s deployment and utilization of our SaaS merchandise.

In our legacy state, we have been executing a collection of advanced SQL queries in Salesforce Advertising Cloud’s Automation Studio to hitch a number of information units and output the particular actions a buyer wants. Then, utilizing Advertising Cloud Join, we wrote the output to the activity object in Salesforce CRM to generate actions in a buyer success agent’s queue. After this motion is written to the duty object, we picked up the log in Snowflake, utilized further filtering logic and wrote actions to our Cisco associate portal – Lifecycle Benefit, which is hosted on AWS.

There are a number of key points with this workflow:

  • Salesforce Advertising Cloud will not be meant for use as an ETL platform; we have been already encountering day trip points.
  • The associate actions have been depending on the vendor processing, so it launched complexity if we ever needed to pause one workflow whereas sustaining the opposite.
  • The event course of was advanced, and it was troublesome to introduce new beneficial actions or to layer on further channels.
  • There was no suggestions loop between channels, so it was not attainable for a buyer success consultant to see if a associate had taken motion or not, and vice versa.

Thus, we introduced in an orchestration platform – a spot the place we will join a number of information sources by APIs, centralize processing logic, and write the output to activation channels. Fairly shortly in our implementation, although, we encountered challenges with the orchestration platform.

The Challenges

  • The complexity of the joins in our queries couldn’t be supported by the orchestration platform, so we needed to preprocess the actions earlier than they entered the platform after which they may very well be routed to their respective activation channels. This was our first pivot. In our technical evaluation of the platform, the seller assured us that our queries may very well be supported within the platform, however in precise follow, that proved woefully inaccurate. So, we migrated probably the most advanced processing to Google Cloud Platform (GCP) and solely left easy logic within the orchestration platform to determine which motion a buyer required and write that to the proper activation channel.
  • The person interface abstracted elements of the code creating dependencies on an exterior vendor. We spent appreciable time attempting to decipher what went fallacious through trial and error with out entry to correct logs.
  • The connectors have been extremely particular and required vendor assist to setup, modify, and troubleshoot.

Our Subsequent Step Ahead

These three challenges pressured us to assume in another way. Our purpose was to centralize processing logic and connect with information sources in addition to activation channels. We have been already leveraging GCP for preprocessing, so we migrated the rest of the queries to GCP. As a way to resolve for our must handle APIs to allow information consumption and channel activation, we turned to Mulesoft. The mixture of GCP and Mulesoft helped us obtain our first orchestration purpose whereas giving us full visibility to the end-to-end course of for implementation and assist.

Orchestration Architecture
Orchestration Structure

Use Case #2:  Pause and resume a digital electronic mail journey primarily based on triggers from different channels.

We centered on making an attempt to pause an electronic mail journey in a Advertising Automation Platform (Salesforce Advertising Cloud or Eloqua) if a buyer had a mid-to-high severity Technical Help Middle (TAC) Case open for that product.

Once more, we set out to do that utilizing the orchestration platform. On this situation, we would have liked to pause a number of digital journeys from a single set of processing logic within the platform.

The Problem

We did decide that we may ship the pause/resume set off from the orchestration platform, but it surely required establishing a one-to-one match of journey canvases within the orchestration platform to journeys that we’d need to pause within the advertising and marketing automation platform. The usage of the orchestration platform truly launched extra complexity to the workflow than managing ourselves.

Our Subsequent Step Ahead

Once more, we seemed on the identified problem and the instruments in our toolbox. We decided that if we arrange the processing logic in GCP, we may consider all journeys from a single question and ship the pause set off to all related canvases within the advertising and marketing automation platform – a way more scalable construction to assist.


One other strike in opposition to the platform, however one other victory in forcing a brand new mind-set about an issue and discovering an answer we may assist with our current tech stack. We additionally count on the methodology we established to be leveraged for different kinds of decisioning corresponding to journey prioritization, journey acceleration, or pausing a journey when an adoption barrier is recognized and a beneficial motion intervention is initiated.

Use Case #3: Join analytics throughout the multichannel buyer journey.

We execute journeys throughout a number of channels. For example, we could ship a renewal notification electronic mail collection, present a customized renewal banner on Cisco.com for customers of that firm with an upcoming renewal, and allow a self-service renewal course of on renew.cisco.com. We accumulate and analyze metrics for every channel, however it’s troublesome to point out how a buyer or account interacted with every digital entity throughout their total expertise.

Orchestration platforms provide analytics views that show Sankey diagrams so journey strategists can visually evaluate how prospects have interaction throughout channels to guage drop off factors or notably crucial engagements for optimization alternatives.

Sankey Diagram Sample
Pattern of a Sankey Diagram

The Problem

  • As we set out to do that, we realized the most important blocker to unifying this information will not be actually a problem an orchestration platform innately solves simply by executing the campaigns by their platform. The biggest blocker is that every channel makes use of totally different identifiers for the shopper. E-mail journeys use electronic mail tackle, net personalization makes use of cookies related at an account degree, and the e-commerce expertise makes use of person ID login. The foundation of this situation is the dearth of a singular identifier that may be threaded throughout channels.
  • Moreover, we found that our analytics and metrics group had current gaps in attribution reporting for websites behind SSO login, corresponding to renew.cisco.com.
  • Lastly, since many groups at Cisco are driving net site visitors to Cisco.com, we noticed a big inconsistency with how totally different groups have been tagging (and never tagging) their respective net campaigns. To have the ability to obtain a real view of the shopper journey finish to finish, we would want to undertake a typical language for tagging and monitoring our campaigns throughout enterprise models at Cisco.

Our Subsequent Step Ahead

Our group started the method to undertake the identical tagging and monitoring hierarchy and system that our advertising and marketing group makes use of for his or her campaigns. It will permit our groups to bridge the hole between a buyer’s pre-purchase and post-purchase journeys at Cisco—enabling a extra cohesive buyer expertise.

Subsequent, we would have liked to sort out the information threading. Right here we recognized what mapping tables existed (and the place) to have the ability to map totally different marketing campaign information to a single information hierarchy. For this specific instance for renewals, we would have liked to sort out three totally different information hierarchies:

  1. Celebration ID related to a singular bodily location for a buyer who has bought from Cisco
  2. Net cookie ID
  3. Cisco login ID
Data Mapping Example
Knowledge mapping train for Buyer Journey Analytics

With the introduction of constant, cross Cisco-BU monitoring IDs in our Cisco.com net information, we are going to map a Cisco login ID again to an internet cookie ID to fill in a few of the net attribution gaps we see on websites like renew.cisco.com after a person logs in with SSO.

As soon as we had established that degree of knowledge threading, we may develop our personal Sankey diagrams utilizing our current Tableau platform for Buyer Journey Analytics. Moreover, leveraging our current tech stack helps restrict the variety of reporting platforms used to make sure higher metrics consistency and simpler upkeep.

Use Case #4: Simply combine information science to department and personalize the shopper journey.

We needed to discover how we will take the output of a knowledge science mannequin and pivot a journey to offer a extra customized, guided expertise for that buyer. For example, let’s take a look at our buyer’s renewal journey. Right this moment, they obtain a four-touchpoint journey reminding them to resume. Clients may open a chat or have a consultant name or electronic mail them for added assist. In the end, the journey is similar for a buyer no matter their chance to resume. We now have, nevertheless, a churn danger mannequin that may very well be leveraged to switch the expertise primarily based on excessive, medium, or low danger of churn.

So, if a buyer with an upcoming renewal had a excessive danger of churn, we may set off a prescriptive motion to escalate to a human for engagement, and we may additionally personalize the e-mail with a extra pressing message for that person. Whereas a buyer with a low danger for churn may have an upsell alternative weaved into their notification or we may route the low-risk prospects into advocacy campaigns.

The targets of this use case have been primarily:

  1. Leverage the output of a knowledge science mannequin to personalize the shopper’s expertise
  2. Pivot experiences from digital to human escalation primarily based on information triggers.
  3. Present context to assist buyer brokers perceive the chance and higher have interaction the shopper to drive the renewal.

The Problem

This was truly a moderately pure match for an orchestration platform. The problem we entered right here was the information refresh timing. We would have liked to refresh the renewals information to be processed by the churn danger mannequin and align that with the timing of the triggered electronic mail journeys. Our renewals information was refreshed in the beginning of each month, however we maintain our sends till the tip of the month to permit our companions a while to evaluate and modify their prospects’ information previous to sending. Our orchestration platform would solely course of new, incremental information and overwrite primarily based on a pre-identified major key (this allowed for higher system processing to not simply overwrite all information with each refresh).

To get round this situation, our vendor would create a model new view of the desk previous to our triggered ship so that each one information was newly processed (not simply any new or up to date information). Not solely did this create a vendor dependency for our journeys, but it surely additionally launched potential high quality assurance points by requiring a pre-launch replace of our information desk sources for our manufacturing journeys.

Our Subsequent Step Ahead

One query we saved asking ourselves as we struggled to make this use case work with the orchestration platform—have been we overcomplicating issues? The 2 orchestration platform outputs of our attrition mannequin use case have been to:

  1. Customise the journey content material for a person relying on their danger of attrition.
  2. Create a human touchpoint in our digital renewal journey for these with a excessive attrition danger.

For primary, we may truly obtain that utilizing dynamic content material modules inside SalesForce Advertising Cloud if we merely added a “danger of attrition” discipline to our renewals information extension and created dynamic content material modules for low, medium, and excessive danger of attrition values. Accomplished!

For quantity two, doesn’t that sound type of acquainted? It ought to! It’s the identical drawback we needed to resolve in our first use case for prescriptive calls to motion. As a result of we already labored to create a brand new structure for scaling our beneficial actions throughout a number of channels and audiences, we may work so as to add a department for an “attrition danger” alert to be despatched to our Cisco Renewals Managers and companions primarily based on our information science mannequin. A suggestions loop may even be added to gather information on why a buyer could not select to resume after this human connection is made.

Failing Forward

Discovering Success

On the finish of our one-year pilot, we had been pressured to consider the techniques to attain our targets very in another way. Sure, we had deemed the pilot a failure – however how will we fail ahead? As we encountered every problem, we took a step again and evaluated what we realized and the way we may use that to attain our targets.

In the end, we found out new methods to leverage our current methods to not solely obtain our core targets but additionally allow us to have end-to -end visibility of our code so we will arrange the processing, refreshes, and connections precisely how our enterprise requires.

Now – we’re making use of every of those learnings.  We’re rolling out our core use circumstances as capabilities in our current structure, constructing an orchestration stock that may be leveraged throughout the corporate – an enormous step in the direction of success for us and for our prospects’ expertise.  The end result was not what we anticipated, however every step of the method helped propel us towards the correct options.




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