Doing the math: Using data to make business decisions – CMO Talks with Aaron Ballew

With the acceleration of digital business and the cyber fallout from Covid-19, organizations are looking to identity and access management (IAM) to deliver flexible solutions that secure the enterprise. As the remote workforce continues to expand, identity-based authentication ensures the right people are accessing the right resources.

Getting the Grownups in the Room

“We are in the middle of the biggest, most complex implementations of identity management on earth,” says Aaron Ballew, VP Global Demand Generation for Ping Identity, a global provider of identity security solutions. “It can get a little bit complicated and you want to know that the grownups are in the room.”

Aaron Ballew
Aaron Ballew – VP Global Demand Generation, Ping Identity
A precision-based marketer who uses data and math to make business decisions that build the sales funnel, Ballew joined ITWC CMO Fawn Annan for a September 2021 installment of CMO Talks, a podcast series designed to showcase strategies for gaining a competitive edge through the intersection of marketing and technology. Their discussion centered around what makes Ping and its 1200 employees the sector ‘grownups’.

Beyond the Basics

“Getting the basics up and running is just part of the story when you’re running a multinational business with millions of customers with thousands of employees,” he explained. “There are a lot of systems to integrate and many different kinds of users and permissions. That kind of very sophisticated and complex implementation is where Ping excels.”

As VP of demand generation, Ballew tries to awaken a need for something that people either didn’t know they needed or didn’t appreciate. He is also responsible for market research and analyst relations, which he described as beyond the traditional scope of his position, but important in managing the company’s pipeline model. “We have a revenue and sales plan that goes way beyond the marketing part, so we need to know how much pipe to generate and whether we’re generating enough,” he said. “I’m able to predict within a few points, how much pipe I’ll generate – whether six months from now, or by the third day of this week – and that goes into predicting how much revenue we will generate this quarter, next quarter or a year from now.”

From Data to Decisions

In response to a question from Annan about how Ping goes from data to decisions, Ballew said statistics play an instrumental role. “I have some foundational statistics background, particularly in the area of signal processing,” he said. “We can apply those statistical methods to answer questions about whether the line is really going up or down, whether it has changed direction, what the line will be in the future, and how sure we are.”

By building a simple statistical model that runs on Excel, Ballew and his team can make accurate long range predictions. “It’s an extremely powerful tool,” he said. “At the level of decisions we’re talking about, some of the changes we make at the management level can take months or quarters to play out, so I need as much lead time as possible to know if there’s a problem or an opportunity.”

The Importance of Speaking the Same Language

Ballew agreed with Annan that marketing and sales often have a tense relationship, but maintained that Ping’s departments are well aligned. “I guided the math and the development of all the rules, but we did that in alignment with sales and we tried to agree on definitions,” he said. “One of the reasons we all speak the exact same language is that we’re seeing the same numbers at the same time.”

In a case where marketing and sales don’t align, Ballew’s first tactic is pursuing peer-to-peer agreement. “That’s the starting point,” he said, “and if you still can’t agree, my suggestion is to escalate. Too many people are afraid to escalate, thinking that it will cause a rift in the relationship, but what I’m suggesting is that the two parties escalate it together, by being in the room at the same time and then escalating to seek guidance from leadership.”

Ballew concluded by summarizing some of the podcast’s key takeaways, including the importance of a judicious application of data. “Use data all the way to its limits, but no more than that,” he said. “As soon as you make claims that exceed what the data is capable of giving you, you really draw down on your credibility.”

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Suzanne Robicheau
Suzanne Robicheau
Suzanne Robicheau is a communications specialist based in Wolfville, Nova Scotia, where working remotely continues to fuel her passion for new mobile technologies -- especially on snowy days.

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