How 2020 Changed the Enterprise AI Game

Dataiku Product, Scaling AI, Featured Catie Grasso

No one could have expected 2020 to unfold exactly how it has, particularly with regard to the global health crisis, lasting economic impacts, and the shift to remote work. At Dataiku, we have always been tremendously committed to our customers, helping translate the business use cases they are trying to solve into data science solutions.

2020 took that dedication a step further, humanizing the work our customer success managers do on a daily basis. It allowed them to dig deeper into their customer relationships, as the effects of the health crisis reverberated across the data science community. I sat down with Jag Gill (Customer Success Americas Team Lead East), Sunny Gill (Customer Success Americas Team Lead West), and April Zeng (Enterprise Customer Success Manager, Americas) for their observations on how exactly we supported our customers in 2020 — from broad industry observations to unique ways they adapted.

Industry Observations

Empower Customers to Use Self-Service Analytics

Many administrators who were overrun with sustaining environments told our CSMs that they didn’t have time to give access to projects. According to Jag, “A big question I fielded this year from customers was ‘How can I give users the control and ability to build projects and run analytics without sacrificing governance and security?’ Luckily, Dataiku DSS lets users do all of this in one place and admins can control who has access to what without having to be hands-on all the time.” This situation is a win-win, as it frees up admin time to focus on strategic initiatives and helps give more people a seat at the table to use data to enhance their projects on their own.

Support Evolving Architecture Needs

Many customers with on-premise architecture needed support quickly with tasks such as expanding their memory, supporting a high volume of users, versioning models, and sustaining an entirely virtual workforce. The CSMs helped configure the customers’ environments to support those requests, set up the most efficient connections across other tools in their ecosystem, and made sure all of that was done the right way. If needed, they would connect them to the right people, such as getting a field engineer involved to address complex architectural requests.

Of these evolving architecture needs, Sunny said, “Many firms want to shore up architecture in 2020, so we saw a lot of activity on that front, especially with customers moving to the cloud. Companies are preparing for the new business landscape and haven’t slowed down thinking through what their IT strategy is to enable the business to compete in the next wave of data science.”

CSM picture

How Dataiku CSMs Helped Our Customers Overcome These Challenges

1. Be (Even More) Empathetic

This was the learning that each Customer Success Manager (CSM) kept coming back to in our conversations. According to April, “We wanted to let them know we would support them however we can. We emphasized that we’re a strategic partner and want to make sure they continue to be successful and their needs are met.”

In March when most of our customers’ organizations transitioned into remote workforces, the CSMs focused on taking a step back to look at their customers and their needs, reflecting on each interaction in order to share their insights with other customers who might be experiencing a similar issue. Even if they weren’t personally impacted, organizations are still experiencing the business impacts from the pandemic, causing the CSM team to bring a new perspective to their customers at every touchpoint.

2. Pave New Communication Paths

Once again, each CSM I spoke to referenced the new lines of communication that 2020 opened, but with a unique spin. To Sunny, “Without in-person meetings, we had to adapt quickly to make sure our meetings were productive — we had to be more intentional, ask more strategic questions, be more critical of our time, and challenge each other in a healthy way, all of which will be organic benefits for when we return to in-person meetings.”

With things constantly shifting within companies (i.e., moving to new teams, department reorganization), our CSMs had to optimize their cross-functional communication, making sure they gave the proper business context to Dataiku data scientists or field engineers before they joined a call. Jag said, “The shared personal experience we had with our customers helped us connect a lot better because we could relate to them in a way we hadn’t been able to before.” Finally, April said, “We’re customer-centric at Dataiku, and we became even better listeners to make sure each interaction brings our customers value.”

3. Find Unique Ways to Upskill and Drive Internal Education

Besides making sure our customers are using Dataiku smoothly, our CSMs regularly bring them additional thought leadership on industry hot topics like Responsible AI, data governance, business value, and use case prioritization. In practice, this happens in the form of virtual workshops and roadmap sessions and, while the CSMs aren’t the ones delivering the session, they act as orchestrators listening to the customers’ needs and reemphasizing that they’re here for support and to make sure they’re getting value from the product.

On top of that, CSMs take other actions to ensure customers derive business value, upskill their team, and enhance data science maturity. Examples include coordinating a demo of Dataiku’s integration with other tools (i.e., Snowflake, Tableau) or a demo of key features in a product release, sharing Dataiku upcoming events and resources, and laying out the path to success.

4. Adopt a More Strategic Approach

This year more than ever, the criticality of the CSM role came to light. They are constantly switching back and forth between tactical and strategic work, managing the client relationship now and in both the near- and long-term future. They ask pointed questions about their customers’ businesses, propose new ways for how they can support them, and keep a pulse on everything going on with the account.

Looking Ahead

At Dataiku, the CSMs work closely with stakeholders across the company (sales engineering, sales, data science, and so on) to ensure customer satisfaction. Customers look to them as trusted advisors, providing guidance on how to approach a specific task and scale their data initiatives. While it certainly wasn’t easy, the team is grateful for the learnings from 2020 — it will be the one they remember, as it helped them take their customer relationships to new levels.

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