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Interview: Driving Digital Shelf Excellence with JJ Schmidt, Global Product Manager at Mars

The ongoing journey to digital shelf excellence at global CPG brand Mars holds lessons for every business leader. In an interview with Peter Crosby and Molly Schonthal, JJ Schmidt, Global Product Manager at Mars details the organizational and technology transformation required to get agile and achieve results.


Peter: Welcome to unpacking the digital shelf where we explore brand manufacturing in the digital age. Hey everyone, Peter Crosby, executive director of the digital shelf Institute, and one of the largest digital technology projects at Mars in recent years has been their e-content program. They're enabling their business teams worldwide to create winning product experiences on the digital shelf. They learned some great lessons along the way. JJ  Schmidt global product manager at Mars shared their journey from output to outcomes, projects to products across 30 markets with Molly Schonthal and me. So JJ, I have to know what is your favorite Mars product and why?

JJ: Ah, yes, yes. Good question. So everyone definitely at Mars has to have a favorite Mars product. That's, that's by default, but it’s, it's actually changed. So it used to be Three Musketeers back when I was a kid and I thought it was that. And then I had too much Three Musketeers actually working at Mars and then combos to took the cake. A lot of people don't know that Mars makes combos. Uh, and I used to go back and forth between the office and grab a pack every time. So combos is definitely my go to nowadays.

Peter: Remind me of combos is that with the pretzel, with the...

JJ: The pretzel and the cheese, they print various formats. They have uh, like spicy jalapeno. The default is just the pretzel with the cheese in the middle, but they make pizza combos. It's, it's all sorts of greatness or grossness depending on your tastes. But I love it personally. So

Peter: Now Molly, you were at Mars. What was your, favorite product?

Molly: I was. My favorite product was Skittles, hands down. Um, I worked on the brand. And there's something about a, and this is a technical term, crack and chew lentil piece with a fruity flavor.

Peter: Is there a trademark associated with that or is that just internal?

Molly: That's internal. That's how we described the product. And also Skittles can withstand a lot of temperature extremes. I don't know if you've noticed that you could take Skittles out in a heat wave on a really cold day. It'll sort of maintain its integrity and it has a really long shelf life.

Peter: Should I be worried about why it has those qualities?

Molly: No. Just enjoy them.

Peter: Excellent.

JJ: And I have to make a plug. In this Halloween season we released zombie skittles, which is, have you guys heard of this? So it's in the pack. There's one rotten zombie Skittle or a few, a handful. So people make a game out of it. So the rest of the skittles are the normal deliciousness. And then everyone eats a Skittle and then someone hits the rotten zombie Skittle and it's just genius. So they have YouTube videos, check out the social channels,

Molly: Wait, it’s a rotten Skittle, JJ?

JJ: Well, it's not actually rotten, it's just, it's, it's just, you know, the taste of it when you bite into it gives the impression it was a fun game.

Molly: It's designed to taste rotten.

JJ: It's designed to taste rotten. I promise you. It's still perfectly healthy for you, but it's designed to taste rotten.

Peter: Now, not to take us down a rabbit hole, and everyone who says that is absolutely taking you down a rabbit hole, but when you think, how do they do that on the production line? Like,

JJ: Oh gosh, whatever, if I were to answer that question, I'd just be lying to whatever I told you.

Peter: Alright. I just picture something…

Molly: I am certain that is a manual process.

Peter: I just pictures. Yeah. Some, some person at the end of the line just going through…

Molly: And throwing in the FDA approved rotten Skittle. Yeah.

Peter: There's a, there's a, there's a job description for zombie dropper or something like that.

Molly: Or it's coming from the misshapen scrap spin back into the front of the line.

Peter: So now speaking of zombies, I understand that you both are actually, and I've never met them before, Martians.

JJ: Well people say zombies.

Molly: I know I was waiting for, I thought like, PIM zombies.

Peter: So I work with Molly long enough to know she has no zombie.

JJ: Yeah, that's right. Yeah. So we have our, our fun little nickname for ourselves internally. So I say Mars, you can probably connect the dots here, Mars Martians, but it's our, it's our lovely nickname for ourselves. We call each other Martians, uh, internally here. And, uh, you either love it or you hate it. And I've, uh, I usually jump between both pretty frequently, but yeah, we, we embrace the name and feel free to call us Martian and JJ for the rest of the podcast.

Peter: Take me to your leader.

Molly: The other thing is I say I work for Mars or I work at Mars and people say things like, “the Rover? And then you feel bad for saying no, because it was just so interesting right before that.

JJ: Yeah, and you think there's going to be disappointment when you have to say, oh, it's actually the chocolate company, but then they're like, oh, oh that's, that's awesome.

Molly: Outer space or candy.

JJ: I just told my nieces and nephews recently that I am, I didn't say Martian, but I said I worked for Mars and they really picture me as like an Oompa Loompa there actually creating the chocolate and the candy itself. They have no idea what I do, but they think I'm the coolest uncle in the world.

Peter: So you take your cool where you can get it right?

JJ: That's right. It doesn't come very frequently for me, so I definitely have to do that.

Molly: Aw, JJ. So, um, JJ and I also know each other because we work together on one of the largest, if not the largest technology, digital technology programs at Mars or a program called E-content, which was a combination of digital asset management or DAM and product information management, or PIM. And so Mars launched this project in an effort to both streamline and enhance their e-commerce program. And JJ and I were on it together for a couple of years and the program started off, in a direction that, later became known as our first try.

Peter: Again with a trademark.

Molly: Um, and so JJ, I kind of want to get into that with you. Like, uh, can you tell us a little bit more about the first try and then how we knew it wasn't working?

Peter: And I'd also actually love to know, kind of, uh, before you get to the actual trial itself, what happened at Mars that led to this project even coming to life? Like what was the situation that the senior leadership was confronting that they wanted to?

JJ: Yeah. Well, you can imagine. So, and this story goes back a whole four to five years ago, but it really goes back farther than that as well, right, I mean, you can imagine in our category or any CPG, like a question four or five years ago, like what's our, what's our actual role to play with our products in online. You can't imagine that someone is going to go to Amazon just to buy gum or at least you couldn't back that. Right? So I wouldn't say we were behind on what our category industry was, but we didn't have an answer for where our products and our brands play online at that time. And it's still evolving right now. So, um, so four or five years ago, you know, we always did manufacturing great. We had great brands, but we didn't create, really drive anything around direct consumer experience, right.

JJ: Whether it be through our indirect channels or through any direct commerce. Right? So, you know, hence came this program to where it was starting to become important. And we knew it was a challenge we had to solve and we knew content was something that was, you know, across our entire, uh, company that was something that we lacked or lack the capabilities, lack of strategy, liked a lot of things, right? And so it started to be like we knew we had to solve for some of these foundational challenges. And so that's sort of where the e-content program started to form. Um, and the conversation started to become, okay, we don't know exactly how we're going to enable a strategy of selling gum and chocolate online, but we know we have to get our content ready. Uh, so the e-content program was aims is to solve exactly that. So it was bringing our product content and our digital assets all the one place and be ready for the future. Right? So that was sort of the overall statement and to Molly’s credit. Like as she says, our first try. Now obviously we had struggles and we failed, but the strategy and the intent is still the same. And it was always right. Right. So it was never about that

Molly: Directionally right, people, directionally right.

JJ: Yeah, directionally right, not specifically wrong. Yeah, directionally right, not specifically wrong. That’s Molly’s famous quote.

Molly: Just try not to be specifically wrong for longer than 18 months.

JJ: Yeah, that's right. So directionally correct, and so, you know, as we started going through this, uh, you know, we were a small team and still figuring out what our path was to solve this challenge. And obviously the first thing you do is start bringing a lot of consultants, a lot of people with outside perspective. And we knew this challenge was something we had to solve, right? So, uh, we put together a giant program team made of some internal folks, made of contractors, made of consultants, uh, and, and built sort of this robust three year roadmap and game plan to solve it. Uh, and that was the start.

Molly: How many workshops and meetings were in that plan, JJ?

JJ: Man. So I think we first, we first started, we did nine week exploratory session, if that's the right way to term it, to where we just brought in consultants that talk with everyone they could and come back with their analysis. So just nine weeks, you know, a little over two months started workshops and sessions, uh, you know, basically every day to just show the findings of where the gaps were and what we needed to start doing. Right. And then pretty much you could think of a company size of Mars, right? We weren't just building this for a single market, we're building globally across our entire organization. Right? So that's, you know, across our business segments. You know, just we have multiple teams in the US uh, we have countless teams across Europe. So you can think of just that exploratory session, how many teams we're talking with. But then, yeah, whole day workshops, multiple day workshops, sitting in a room, white boarding, drawing out like a perfect solution. Like it had to be a perfect thing. The silver bullet that was like solving for everyone. You could start to see.

Molly: Everybody.

JJ: To see we’re setting ourselves up for right.

Molly: Everything to everybody.

Peter: So take us ahead to, you have the solution and you're starting to work it out. What, what, what happened?

JJ: Yeah. So I, to a lot of people's credit, the roadmaps, the program plans, everything was beautiful, right? Everything. We mapped out like a great technology. We chose a technology. We were confident in the architecture. We knew it was going to connect into our internal systems properly. We had the entire plan, we were going to build a model of framework. It was going to work for everyone. We had, gosh, the, the requirements gathering, I mean Excel sheets of just probably hundreds and hundreds and if not a thousand lines long of just like requirements. Right. Um, and it was everything. And that's hence like a three year program of each priority market laid out exactly how it was going to be deployed to give it that way.

JJ: And it was, it was well done. It's not that it wasn't well done. It was program management at its finest. Right. And that was, that was the thing. And that that took, I mean, that process, gosh, months and months, you know, six plus months. But then, you know, working on that for about 18 months before, um, you know, our first try if you will. So it wasn't, it wasn't a fail, fail fast and learn quickly, uh, mentality that we took in that, in that first, uh, that first iteration of that first pass of it.

Peter: So it sounds like if there's a first try, at some point you realized there needed to be a second try, where, what, what took you to that and, and how did your process change  for your second go round?

JJ: Well, so, so there's a few things. I think one of our first realizations is like, I'll fast forward like 18 months later when we had like our first duration built, you'd put in front of business and the first time you're like, uh what is this? Right? It's like that.

Molly: Fast forward to an office somewhere in the south of North America. On a rainy day.

 JJ: Yeah. Right. And so that was our first tipping point, but I mean it should have been earlier than that, but that, you know, we started, it started to think about like so many things that potentially went wrong. The usability of the system was first and foremost. Anytime you put in front of your users and they can’t figure out how to do the most basic things. And that's, that's obviously the biggest issue. And the fact that we went away working for 18 months and then came back and that's when we figured out that was one of our biggest problems as well, which is why, which is the start of what we took a look back and started to make changes on to sort of shift away from project and program methodologies to more product approach, uh, to, to building this out.

Peter: Yeah. Talk a little bit more about that. What, what, explain that.

JJ: So yeah, so there's all, there's, there's all sorts of methodologies, frameworks and approaches. You know, you hear all the buzz words, products, management, agile, whatnot. I mean, it comes down to a few basic things, right? Uh, product management is being as close to like your user base, your customers, anyone who's going to be using the tool or eventually what, where you need to essentially ship out or get your capability or content to, you have to be as close to them as possible and you have to be ready to adapt for change, right? So those were just like two of the most fundamental things that we realized that needed to be done differently. Uh, and you know, and projects and programs like definitely have a  time in place and are really important when you need to, you know, measure something very specifically or on time and costs. Uh, but when you're working in something that's just changing every day or a month from now looks very different than what it did a month ago.

JJ: Uh, you have to be ready to have a team that's gonna adapt to that change. So it's, it's like basic core, you know, focusing on the user, users and being as close to them and being ready to adapt for change when you're actually building something out. It's like that. It's that simple. I mean, when you look under the hood and figure out how to build a team around it, it's not as simple as that, but that, that, I mean, in it's fundamental challenge is what we had to shift and change from

Molly: JJ, can you say more about the difference, can you say more about the difference between KPIs of a project versus KPIs of a product?

JJ: Yeah, yeah, that's, that's a great one. So, um, one thing we that I love the concept of is outcome versus output, right? And so you start thinking about output like project, what are project KPIs, right? And what do we have in like our three year program plan we had delivering systems, delivering channels, delivering what have you specifically to markets, but we didn't know what any of that meant. Right? So outcome versus output is what's the overall value or what's the end game that you're looking at? Or are you trying to deliver a system where you're trying to deliver a growth growth online, things of that nature. So when you're talking about a KPIs in a product versus a project methodology, a product KPIs are all around in value, right? So we have online sales is always like the biggest one. Maybe it's time saved, maybe it's speed to market. It's all about the outcome that you're actually creating for the team. It's not about project deliverables anymore, which is one of the big methodologies shifts in tracking success of like a product.

Molly: JJ, talk to us about the difficulty in creating outcome oriented goals and then how you ladder from those ultimate outcomes down to interim steps.

JJ: Yeah. So really good questions. So we know there's certain KPIs that are really important, but it can be really hard to track as well, right? So when we're talking about online sales. If you were to make any any content update, change an image, add descriptions, edit posts, whatever the case might be, it's really hard to say every time you  make a change, whether it has a direct like 5% increase in online and see something along those lines. So what we did for some of those KPIs that are very difficult to attribute specific values to, we use industry trends or industry standards, right? So we, every time we go to market, our intent is to help them increase their online NSV by five to 15%. We use 5% as our benchmark every time we're implementing our content capabilities with a market. Right.

Peter: Sorry, just that acronym, JJ. NSP, is that what you're saying?

JJ: Uh, yeah. Uh, net sales volume. So yeah, so it's the, uh, essentially the tracking the sales that you're doing. So on Amazon specifically, right? We track all of our product sales that we, uh, every time we go to a market we're saying we're going to be able to help them increase their sales by 5%. Right? This specific thing had a very specific output as far as or outcome as far as a 5% increase in, you know, NSV super difficult, right? So we went to more tangible things. Like Molly said, the interim KPIs are maybe the more easily reportable KPIs. Time-saving was an easy one, right? So we knew every time I went to our users, we'd watch them spend 30 minutes in an Excel sheet updating new line forms for retailers, right? When we put something in place to automate that, we saved them 30 minutes per product. So some of our, so our, one of our content managers in the UK, we saved them 20 hours per month by just one just by bringing Amazon automation. Right? And so then it becomes, they got 20 hours per month back. What did they do with that 20 hours? They now can optimize content to create better conversion.

JJ: They can create better images, they can get more distribution, you know, they can then are freed up to actually leverage that time to then really go after their strategies and goals. I mean, one of my favorite examples of that is one of our, uh, our teams in the U S uh, one of my favorite quotes of his is “every five minutes that you save me from my days, but it's time spent on innovation”, and he messaged me their day and said, “Hey, the time you saved me by implanting these capabilities, I just launched a Google lens pilot for, for some of our products.” So stuff like that, uh, that is, is really much, you can find a place that you report a lot better, uh, as opposed to some of those more intangible things that maybe are harder to track.

Molly: What about, um, like portfolio availability, and retailer availability?

JJ: Yeah. Yeah. So we, um, so we definitely put in goals and each, and I'll, I'll say this, the way that we've run our product is every market has very specific KPIs that we worked with up front around that as well. So we, we like define all their tier one priority connections and retailers that they want to go to. So anytime that we're rolling out to a market, uh, those tier, like we defined the top two to three and that's what we go after, right? So it's, it's always their priority. It's always like your Amazons, your Walmarts, but we make sure that we're hitting the biggest value first. And then likewise, uh, portfolio availability, like the product is sourced from instance such we always focus on, typically it's like the 80, 20 rule, right? Uh, so we've always focused on like their top assortment of products and getting that out and making sure the content is in tip top shape for all their top products. And so it does depend in each one, but we always work and define all those KPIs up front and that that's really the most important thing to us.

Molly: And I would imagine that being available with their top retailers with the top performing skews is already going to create an impact in terms of sales, let alone the time saved.

JJ: Yeah, for sure. I mean five we think 5% increase on alliance fee when we go to a market is the very safe number. We think it's much more, uh, typically and it's always been a nice market and where they're bad, but you always always focused on the top, always focused on the stuff that's going to move the needle, stuff that's confined the most value first and start there. Don't try to solve everything at once. Right. And that's the important theme of it. Start with your top percent priority skews and retailers for sure.

Molly: And I know JJ, you've got these KPIs that are in different dimensions. So when you go into a new market, you kind of have KPIs for initial adoption and then KPIs for increasing maturity. Can you talk us through that framework?

JJ: Yeah, yeah, for sure. And I'll go, I'll go on that sort of like some of the challenge that we have. It's a good challenge to have is how do we prioritize the, the biggest thing, right? So we have a KPI framework. So our five major KPIs are always time saved, speed to market, accuracy and governance, um, conversion and ultimately online sales. And every time we go to a market or work on an initiative, uh, we rank those with them. So it's like tee shirt, size, concept, t-shirts, size. It's not an exact science, but you give them a ranking of one to five for each of those buckets for it will make an impact for, and in our sort of advanced algorithm, we add those up. It's not really bad. So we're of like 20 by the end of it, right?

Peter: One of those fancy calculators with the extra buttons on the top.

JJ: It's one of those really fancy things that just does a stump of them all. And we end up with a number of 18 right?

Molly: I never did figure out the extra buttons.

Peter: No me neither.

JJ: Exactly. That's right. And then we'd take a look at it and then, you know, we shape up our, what we, you know, our user stories is all, you know, back to like the agile product management frameworks. But we'd take a look at the level of the effort and we signed a point system of the actual development hours and we have, you know, a backlog of saying it's giving 20 a KPI or business value points and it'd stay 10 hour development effort. And then we have a list of everything and we only focus on what's most important first. And that's how we've built our framework. You know, it's half art form, half science. Cause of course what may be some of our smallest market stays the most important thing in the world. But ultimately they're driving, you know, uh, less than 1% of the sales online and cross-Mars versus what our largest market is kind of important. That's where the art form comes in, right? So, uh, that's, that's where the maturity and getting the team in place to really be able to track those, those business goals is where it becomes super important.

Molly: JJ, can you tell us a bit about the relationship between the transition from project to product ops is a way of working and the kinds of goals and KPIs you set with each market you roll out to?

JJ: Yeah, great question. So one of the major principles of switching from project to product that we don't deliver something on leave as with the product team we deliver something and then we just continually build upon it, right? So the products team is never done. So anytime we have a framework where we get live with a market within three months, um, and then from there we, we make sure that the deliverables of those three months are just the most valuable stuff. Like we kind of talked about just their priority retailers and priority skews maybe improve or optimize a few different processes. And that's your V one launch. And then we work with them every two weeks if not more frequently. And we continually populate a backlog of new initiatives, whether it's like connecting with new retailers or tier two retailers, maybe it's completely new channels starting to feed like their websites and other platforms start driving more traffic or growth. It can be anything to help drive their content strategy within that market, right? So it's then laddering back what their strategy is to our major KPIs. And then that is in essence what our backlog is after market is launched.

Peter: So this is a, this is really an intensive ongoing relationship between IT and the business to drive the KPIs and achieve the goals for for that region, for that market.

JJ: Yeah, that's, yeah, that's right. So our, our, uh, it's definitely a cross functional team, so we call our champions within each markets typically makes up like a content manager, maybe customer marketing and like a master data or IT ttype folks. And that's who we work with every two weeks. And we collectively create those new initiatives against our backlog that then we work with. We work against every four or four weeks sprints, um, and such. So we're just always detaining, actually delivering that value to the market. And so then we're stops, right? And it goes live and that just, that never stops and we don't intend on stopping. Then you know, if our work ever gets done there and then it's time to start bringing in new capabilities, new products, make sure we're linking up to new strategies with the business side.

Peter: And how many markets is that total across the globe that you're managing in that process?

JJ: Right now? 30. Uh, we have 30 markets live across our business and well 30, I'll say 30 by the end of the year. So, uh, and we're on track that we're going to, we're going to hit that for sure. Uh, so we're, we're live in 30, so we, and next year we'll be 40 plus. Uh, so we spend about 50% of our time, uh, with the live markets, uh, continually building out those new features. And we spend about 50% of our time onboarding a new markets, that's probably gonna shift a bit. We're probably spend about 25% of our time on boarding new markets since we've hit all of our larger priority markets and are a pretty good shape as far as, uh, uh, having that buttoned up.

Molly: So I know that if I'm a brand manager in another company listening to JJ or an eCommerce manager or director, I'm thinking, how many people are on your team, JJ, what are their roles do you have? Like 50 people?

JJ: Actually, you'd be surprised. It's a pretty small team. So the way we structure ourselves, myself I’m the global product manager, and then we have leads in each region. And the leads me to region, what I was describing for managing the product sessions with each market that they're accountable for doing that. So they're the ones that are like our extension, our conduit into each one of the local teams there, uh, so they are sort of hands or feet on the ground working with everyone. And then beyond that, um, we have a number of configure, what we call configuration integration leads. And it's only about four people, uh, that we have on the team. Uh, that play, those types of roles. And then we also work closely obviously with you all, uh, from an architecture development, cost of integration point of view. So Salsify also is a close extension of our team, uh, as well.

Peter: And JJ, take me, uh, how, how did you decide, cause would that many markets to think about, how do you prioritize where you begin this collaboration? What market do you choose first? What do you choose next? Like how do you make that call?

JJ: Yeah, that's a great question. So we, uh, there are other global teams, global digital commerce teams at Mars that drive market priority. So we have a close partnership with them that, you know, for Europe for instance, it might be, you know, France, Germany and Poland are on the priority list to say we need to travel agencies from e-commerce strategic standpoint for our business segment. And that starts our roadmap, right? So we connect to the folks that own that from a global perspective for digital e-commerce. And that's the foundation of where we start. But then where we actually start the work is based on availability and capacity.

JJ: So we don't let, um, the availability of a local team there. Let us stop if we'll just go to the next level list. So we basically have a list of about 10 markets and based on that business priority and then we talk with each one of them, we tell them how much time, how much commitment it takes to bring it live, and they give us a sense of when that's ready, we go down our list and then we basically got a queue of all of our markets and when they're going to be ready and we just work on whoever's ready next. Right. So we, we do prioritize based on, our business goals for each market, but then really it's all fair game depending on who has the timing to pass, to start going after, uh, an activation or any initiatives.

Peter: Wow. That's really impressive to build that kind of system out that can, can handle all of these markets in different stages of their, of their journey down this path of, of really serving their retailer markets most effectively and, and delivering the value that you're talking about. When, if I, and I know you want to be a Martian forever, but let's say somebody forced you to leave Mars and dropped you into, into a, another organization that you needed to figure out, all right, you know, that they want to solve a similar problem and really up their, their digital game. Um, what would be your advice to, you know, how do you connect with the business? How do you convince and, and how do you, uh, walk them through this process?

JJ: Yeah. Yeah, so that's a good one. I, I will say for everything we've been talking about probably, I’m going to make this number up, 80 %is actually change management. It's actually getting everyone on board, giving everyone in the same direction, getting everyone sort of, um, to buy in what we're building, that the values there, that, um, the approach is the right approach. Um, but I, what I will say about that is if you take an approach to where you need alignment across the board, across all leadership, across all teams, you're never going to get anywhere, right?

JJ: So you have to find where the value can start and prove that out. And it just, and it just starts to organically work, right? So the, my recommendation if, uh, dropped into another company trying to figure out how to start on this path, um, don't be deterred if you talk with five different teams and they give you a hundred different reasons not to do something, right. You know, you have to have one great reason to do it and find that great reason and find the value and no matter how small it's proved out to start and then build upon it, right? Take the same product approach that you're taking for delivery and take the same approach that you're doing for like change management, start small and it's organically going to grow. And before you know what everyone's going to be on board because it's going to have the buzz and it's going to have all the alignment that you're going to need and everyone's going to want once you're delivering.

Peter: I, that that really resonates because I remember earlier, one of the first things you said was in step two or in try two, uh, we wanted, we wanted the first thing to happen and go live in three months. So that's, I would imagine that's, an unusual timeframe for standing up an IT project like this. But it sounds like it's critical that it happened that quickly to start that buy in and expansion process. Is that, is that accurate?

JJ: Yeah. Yeah. I mean, so one of the other things, uh, that's, that's a good, a good thing to note or a good discussion to have. It's like what's the cost of not doing something right now. Right. And so if you're not going to, if someone wants to come and build a proper project, plan out 12 months that had deliverables and everything, button up, and have the financing, you know, whatever the case might be. Um, the cost of waiting and having something to learn 12 months from now, three months from now, way out what that costs might be. You know,  maybe you're not getting content to Amazon during those, uh, you know, nine month gap and that's not acceptable, right? And that's not acceptable to have to have the governance and sort of, um, the red tape to not deliver something in what we could do in three months, even if it's not perfect, right? Progress over perfection. I really believe in that methodology and that's a big one in that that is, is a good approach to have to make sure that you're delivering something as quick as you can and not saying quick is always the best. But especially in this, uh, in this space, you have to be able to deliver that pace.

Molly: And I remember the original proposal we had for the e-content program that was you know, multimillion, multi-year program. And the challenge that we would get back on an ongoing basis was how do we add more segments and more countries to this plan right at the outset, because JJ and I are on a global team we we're on a global team at the time, so if you’re going to launch a global program it better be good for everyone right away.

Peter: Wow, that's a tough standard.

Molly: And we would have a lot of philosophical talks about agile methodology, design thinking, but when it came down to global program planning, we weren't subscribers to our own rhetoric. We weren't starting easy, flexible, incremental. We were starting all at once, global, now. Or in 18 months. So, um, what JJ is talking about, or the philosophy that he's talking about, is the philosophy of getting a win and then building momentum sounds logical but was culturally hard to do.

Peter: And go ahead, JJ. Yeah,

JJ: Yeah. No, I mean that's, that's spot on, right? It's, it's always, it sounds like, you know, something that should be easy. And it always seems like, you know, when it comes to being able to deliver something and it shouldn't be as hard as this, but when you have an organization as large and collaborative as Mars is, everyone has an opinion and it's a good thing, right? Everyone should have an opinion, but that's going to stop progress as well. So finding that balance and it did, you know, it took years to get to where we're at right now and it shouldn't. And there's, you know, there's a lot of learnings that hopefully folks can take away that it won't take nearly that long when you start delivering value sooner, right? But that's the nature of it. Like change is the hardest part and changing and alignment is at its core is the hardest part of the entire thing.

Peter: And JJ, uh, just to, to close out, uh, I'd love to if, if you were going and having a, a beer or whatever, adult beverage or non adult beverage of your choice was..

Molly: Oat milk.

Peter: Yes. We've, we've become obsessed with oatmeal here. Uh, if you are, if you, you know, a business executive that's trying to figure this out at their company and is trying to build that relationship with it and sort of is asking for the kind of agility that you’re looking for and not finding it in their, in their business partner, what would you advise them? How would you advise them to sort of pitch this and what would be, what would be the right way in to kind of shift that mindset?

JJ: Make it as least scary as possible. So part so, so actually you know there's a lot of IT teams and a lot of, especially in this changing environment with digital, a lot of people don't know even what's next. You know digital itself has changed nature of the game and we know it's just going to continue to change the nature of the game. Having, part of it's like having relevance, making sure that those teams feel included, that they're actually part of like part of that is holding on to old values that are, that folks are worried about that if they lose that, that they're not going to be relevant anymore as well. So when you approach something like this, we go back to make it as small, make it as small as possible to not be scary for everyone, right? So if you're going to delay, if you need something like find a pilot and find a team that you, you need to partner with everyone.

JJ: Everyone needs to be on this journey, right? But find a way in to where it's not going to rock the boat, but it's going to prove the value that you need it to, to prove to then build upon, right? Um, and a lot of the IT teams, they have a lot of governance and a lot of process that they need to follow. Typically whenever they're doing any initiative, cause it impacts a hundred different things. If you're gonna put in a content manage system, it affects 10 other things, 10 other teams, and processes like that every time begins it is scary stuff, right? Find whatever place that, that stuff is not going to be going to be the least amount of scary. And then that's your starting point.

Molly: So JJ, if I'm a scared CIO and I run into in the hallway and I say I'm scared of this e-content thing. What do you say to me?

Peter: Here, have some combos.

JJ: Yeah, that's right. Have some zombie skittles. So essentially go back to the outcome over output. Don't start talking about the technology cause they're always going to start thinking about the impact of everything. Go back to the value driven stuff. Say I need to save 30 minutes a time from my content manager. He's going to get 20 hours back a week that he's going to spend on innovation. We just need to figure this out, right. Or I need to reach my business goals of increasing 5% online and sure that’s a little bigger, but find the value point to where you're thinking back on outcome versus output and then go back to the table and draw. Draw it up together. Right. And so good, come, don’t come with a solution that says we need to implement this. Right? It's implementing this. That's scary. If we need to reach this goal, if you start up top and then go back and draw the rest of it together, that becomes a much safer place in a collaborative thing. Right?

Peter: Yeah. So outcomes versus output and products versus projects. And that's where to start the conversation. JJ, thank you so much for joining us and bringing your martian intelligence to this conversation. Um, we really appreciate you making the time and I know that, that this sort of way of thinking is important to winning on the digital shelf and we really appreciate you, um, re-joining up with Molly and sharing, sharing your stuff with us. Thank you.

JJ: This is great. Thanks for having me on. Uh, love to be here. Great.

Molly: Thanks Jay. Jay, thanks guys. Hold down the Fort on the red planet.

Peter: Well, I hope this journey to Mars has been helpful on your little planet. What resonated from their experience with you? Have some questions for JJ? Well come to the digital shelf institutes LinkedIn page or tweet at us @windigitalshelf and drop a review of our podcast when you have a chance. Thanks for being part of our community.