News Corp Australia is undergoing a significant Salesforce refresh, converting five years of piecemeal investment into a unified environment and strategy to drive up usage and value.
The media giant is one year into its renewal journey, laying the technical and cultural foundations for what is likely to be another 18 months to three years of additional work.
Commercial technology general manager Matthew McKenzie told the Dreamforce 18 conference that Salesforce had been spun-up for various pockets of News Corp Australia, according to perceived need.
“We grew up tactically, without a strategy, and in a fairly rapid period of a few years,” McKenzie said.
“It was a very piecemeal implementation, which ultimately resulted in technical debt around poor data quality [and] a real lack of integration.
“That, in turn, meant that Salesforce was just another system in the chain as opposed to an integrated part of a broader ecosystem.”
The lack of integration between and oversight of the various Salesforce orgs and tools in use caused News Corp a range of problems.
One of the main ones was that Salesforce became just another system that users had to move in and out of as part of their work processes.
“One of the most frustrating things for our user base was that there were very few systems that you could start and finish your process in, so you’d have to start something in Salesforce, then move to your booking system, then to the fulfilment system,” McKenzie said.
Head of Salesforce enablement David Rapa said the piecemeal nature of Salesforce meant there was no “clear sense” out in the business of how to fit the tools into existing processes or of the additional value Salesforce brought to the table.
News Corp Australia’s IT team also struggled to understand what the “real vision and purpose for Salesforce” was internally.
“As a result of lacking strategy on both sides, our poor users on both the sales and customer care teams were navigating through multiple screens and different applications,” Rapa said.
That led to poor adoption of the platform, and in some cases to it being shunned.
“People would often choose to work outside of the ecosystem that IT had provided for them,” Rapa said.
“We weren’t really driving any value of the investments that we were making in the technology components that we’d put together, and really there was a sense that Salesforce was a chore.
“Before they finished the day they’d ‘go and do their Salesforce’ - whatever that comprised of. It was quite ironic they saw it as a chore, not as something that would add real value for them to drive business benefits for News Corp.”
Getting IT and the business talking
News Corp Australia drew a line in the sand 12 months ago.
“We made a very conscious decision to consolidate all of the Salesforce technical teams into a single group and put a renewed vision around where we can take it both with the business and from a technology perspective,” McKenzie said.
The company was able to tie the Salesforce consolidation and upgrade to a broader business transformation underway within News Corp.
“We were hugely fortunate that a couple of the big things that we were doing could underpin a business transformation that was already happening,” he said.
“For example, our advertising sales business was making quite dramatic changes around how they were structured, what and how they sold, and how they targeted [customers].
“We kind of underpinned that business transformation and were the technology enabler of that.”
One of the keys to the project was to get business and IT aligned on what Salesforce could deliver if it was treated as a strategic asset and investment.
For IT, that meant trying to understand exactly what Salesforce-related work it had a hand in, and making some hard decisions on what to do with it.
“One of the first things I did when we started this journey 12 months ago was understood the portfolio of projects that was ongoing at the time,” McKenzie said.
“There were a number of projects that didn’t have a business owner, that didn’t really have a clear business outcome identified, and I was not entirely sure why we were doing them, so the first thing we did was to stop the technology projects.
“If there was anything that didn’t have a business sponsor or clear business benefit articulated, it just stopped.”
By stopping IT from operating independently of the business, McKenzie said that trust was able to be re-established.
“It wasn’t an easy decision to do and ruffled a few feathers to begin with, but I think it was the beginning of rebuilding the relationship with the business teams so they saw we weren’t in it for ourselves, we were in it for a greater good, and partnering with them was the next step.”
After that, Rapa said that IT sat down with the business and asked what they wanted from Salesforce. The two ran workshops and time and motion studies to understand exactly how users dipped in and out of Salesforce in their jobs.
“The business had some process documents but when you sit down side by side there’s a whole bunch of activity that happens off the screen … that they didn’t realise they were doing,” Rapa said.
“It was a real eye opener for both sides of the organisation to see where we were spending our time - and not spending it.”
From there, business and IT collaborated on a joint strategy, roadmap and plan to revive Salesforce.
“There’s no IT Salesforce roadmap or strategy - we have an advertising strategy, we have a consumer strategy, we have a retail strategy, and it’s all just hand-in-glove [with the business],” McKenzie said.
Creating a CoE
News Corp Australia enshrined its joint attitude to Salesforce development through a new operating model, built around the creation of a centre of excellence (CoE).
The CoE brings together the entire ecosystem of technical resources and technology partners that, together, are responsible for all elements of News Corp’s Salesforce ecosystem.
Prior to a year ago, the media company relied heavily on Salesforce for technical resources.
“From a people point of view we had a very strong [internal] administrator capability, but we didn’t have any tech skills above that,” Rapa said.
“We didn’t have any solution architects, solution designers, tech leads, or developers.”
The company still doesn’t have this completely; it is still partnering “for scale” and has struck a multi-year deal with Accenture to “continue to drive innovation on the [Salesforce] platform.”
“We took a three pronged approach to developing and recruiting people internally but also leveraging our partners where needed to plug specific gaps in capability,” Rapa said.
Part of getting the operating model right was deciding the core technology components that would make up the new Salesforce environment.
It consists of four Salesforce “clouds” - sales, service, marketing and communities - and a host of tools from AppExchange partners, including CloudSense for CPQ [configure price quote] and Gearset for release management.
“We took an opportunity to design it for the future,” McKenzie said.
“We mapped out all the functions and components we needed in order to deliver on our broader ambition around CRM and excellent customer service.”
In an effort to cut down on the amount of customisations being pursued, McKenzie said News Corp was working with Salesforce and the AppExchange partners to have desired functionality built into future releases of their products.
“We’ve been able to form some really strong relationships and have conversations with their product teams and C-level around ‘rather than us building or you building a capability on our behalf in a bespoke fashion for our instance, what can we bring to the table so you can enhance your product, build out the capability of your product and we buy that as part of our licensing agreement’,” McKenzie said.
“We’ve been able to do that with a few core partners and that’s made a big difference to us.”
The journey so far
In addition to standing up the CoE and central architecture, News Corp Australia has shifted from the classic to Lightning interface for three of its internal CRM orgs.
“We had a classic UI but worse than that we had implemented it poorly,” McKenzie said.
“There was a number of fields that weren’t required, we had nothing pre-populated in terms of data assets we already knew, and date fields were confusing and misleading around when a sales order could start versus when it could end.
“Over an eight month period we migrated to Lightning in our ad sales org and in our consumer org which is used by our national call centre. On the back of that we’ve had some great outcomes achieved in terms of reducing average handling time but also adoption of the Salesforce platform.”
The implementation of CPQ has also proven to be a big win for the organisation.
“We have subsequently rolled that out to about 1200 sales users,” McKenzie said.
“We’ve implemented a raft of packages and bundles and really moved away from bespoke selling into a more solution based selling approach through the CPQ platform.”
At the same time, McKenzie said that News Corp had made the lives of sales easier by creating a single product catalogue in the central Salesforce architecture.
“At the beginning of the journey I think we had our product catalogue replicated - but not necessarily synchronised - across four or five systems,” McKenzie said.
“It wouldn’t be uncommon for a salesperson to sell something that couldn’t be fulfilled or for something to be in the fulfilment system that couldn’t be sold because it was not available in Salesforce. It was a self-fulfilling prophecy of conflict and complication.
“We made the decision to master an enterprise product catalogue ... within the Salesforce environment and then from that we make that available as a service.
“Our rate cards are a constantly moving thing. We have new products, we evolve things. When your business teams are doing that in one place as opposed to four or five and [the changes automatically] flow through the ecosystem it’s a way of showing the value of what you’re doing.”
McKenzie said the first 12 months of the project had been “awesome” but that the company was “so not done yet.”
“At a minimum we’ve got another 18 months of opportunity but I’m quite sure over the next 3-12 months we’ll then plan another 18 months ahead of that,” he said.
The company has gone live with a new instance of marketing cloud, replacing an older instance of ExactTarget (the technology that forms the foundation of the Salesforce marketing platform).
In Q1 next year, the company plans to launch automated booking through Salesforce.
“This goes back to starting and finishing a process in one system,” he said.
“Salesforce is not going to do all of our booking and provisioning but we’re going to use it to orchestrate that process.
“A lot of stuff needs to happen in the background to enable that, but that’s a huge value driver.”
Work would also be put into creating self-service capabilities for the organisation’s customers.
“Now that we’ve got a lot of the foundations right with regards to how we use the system, now it’s time for us to put that in front of our customers,” McKenzie said.
“We want them to be able to serve themselves, to have a feature-rich capability to be able to buy more, do more, change more.”
Even further out, News Corp Australia has flagged the potential use of Einstein, Salesforce’s artificial intelligence capabilities.
“We’re not sure when but we know Einstein is going to be an opportunity for us,” McKenzie said.
“We’ve held back on it over the last 12 months. We’ve had a few opportunities to try it but getting the foundational piece right came first.”
Ry Crozier attended Salesforce’s Dreamforce 18 conference as a guest of Salesforce.