Adam Avramescu  00:09

Welcome to CELab, the customer education lab where we explore how to build customer education programs, experiment with new approaches and take those myths and bad advice and grind them into our fine paste. I’m Adam Avramescu. And we’re here today with Brian Childs. Hey.

Brian Childs  00:27

Hodw’s it going?

Adam Avramescu  00:28

Good. How are you doing?

Brian Childs  00:30

Doing great. Yeah, this is great. I’m really excited to chat about this.

Adam Avramescu  00:34

Yeah, me too. And you know, you’re joining us on national chocolate midday. flavor. Okay.

Brian Childs  00:42

Oh, yeah. That’s why we love chocolate sauce today. Oh, yeah. chocolate mint plus tartar sauce. It’s a bit of a tough combination. But I mean, I guess you can make it work.

Adam Avramescu  00:52

those are those are two flavors that don’t get three flavors that don’t go well together.

Brian Childs  00:55

Yeah. I mean, we’ll try to make it work. You know, who knows? Maybe Maybe it’s just hasn’t been tried in the right way? It might

Adam Avramescu  01:02

It might. I don’t know that I would go there. But I’m willing to try anything. We’re all about experimentation here on CELab. Right. For sure. Cool. So Brian, for those of you who are not familiar with him, is an experienced customer education leader who has experience at mas TapClicks. As well as building other customer education programs over time. And specifically, he’s been doing a lot of work to define customer education, maturity models to really help others in the industry lift up and build their own programs. So, Brian, super happy to have you on the show today. And I’m excited to talk about some of that work.

Brian Childs  01:42

Yeah, yeah, I think it’s gonna be really helpful. I certainly found the process of going through it, and developing this particular tool, very helpful in kind of articulating some of the challenges that I think most of us face or launching these programs, and just also kind of thinking about, like, how do things evolve over time. So it’s been a good exercise, and hopefully, hope other people can find value in it.

Adam Avramescu  02:03

Yeah, me, too. So speaking of how things evolve over time, I’d love to start with how you’ve evolved over time. Maybe you could tell us a little bit about your story and what you were doing before you got into customer education and how you got into the field?

Brian Childs  02:17

Yeah, yeah, I have a little bit of a, I think I have a pretty weird background. So back in the Wayback Machine, I used to be a commercial pilot. So I did, just like charter flights and things like that in Southern California, got into commercial aviation. And then, after a couple of years, I volunteered to go and work for the United Nations. And I was the chief pilot for the United Nations in Afghanistan for two years, did some more work with the United Nations in Pakistan, and then started on defense contracts, flying reconnaissance aircraft and in Iraq. And, you know, after working in Iraq and Afghanistan for a little while, yeah, it’s like, after doing that for a little while, you know, you just, it’s like, you just kind of wanna sleep at home for a little bit. And it just made me move on. So I got into software pretty randomly, started working with a software company in just outside of Seattle. And, you know, all throughout that career, in aviation, I was doing a lot of education, I was doing a lot of training of pilots, training of new team members into our programs, things like that. And so it just kind of always been there. And I just gravitated to it once I was in software, where you know, the same challenges existed, which is, how do you get people up to speed quickly on whatever process or tools you’re using. And there was just a lot of parallels. I think, with software, the thing that’s a lot more, maybe interesting and nuanced, is just the evolution of how we measure success. You know, in aviation, it’s like, it’s, it’s very stats driven, it’s almost like sports, you know, it’s like, you can either land the plane or you can’t. So there’s kind of like some pretty easy goals that you have in mind. And with software, I think that the interesting evolution has taken place. You know, for many of us over the last 10 years or so, it’s just been the degree to which we can know about what people are doing on our various websites and on our various applications. And so that merging have kind of the soft skills, or the social skills that go along with behavior change. And also the technologies that are enabling measurement have just been kind of an interesting thing to explore. And I think training is where a lot of that comes, comes together.

Adam Avramescu  04:25

It’s it’s very different when we think about our training needs within software versus something like aviation, where software is is ephemeral in a way. So even though it’s important for us to measure and we’re seeing more and more importance around being able to measure what we’re doing, because it’s going to help us grow in our professions and ultimately grow the businesses that we work with there. Isn’t that necessary? That that physical aspect that there is aviation where like, if aviation training goes wrong? What someone’s probably gonna crash

Brian Childs  04:57

Yeah, or, or maybe, you know, it’s like, there’s definitely accidents, accidents tend to be one of the drivers like safety is a pretty big driver in aviation. But But I would say that, like, I think the interesting parallels are, it still comes down to human behavior, right. And so you’re still trying to connect with individuals, but make systems and programs that can work in aggregate. So you’re kind of having to figure out in, you know, large groups or large numbers, what’s the most effective way of teaching someone to do anything. And maybe like, aviation probably has a good parallel with enterprise software, in the sense that there’s both a lot of technical language and, you know, technical tools involved. But, but also you, you have to build upon a pretty sizable amount of knowledge that the person’s bringing. So if you have, you know, if I was to be like, taking a commercial pilot and teaching them to fly in Afghanistan, it’s like, they would already be standing on top of a pretty tall mountain of information. But if I was to take somebody who had never done either one of those things, you know, the question is always like, how do I, how do I start? And I think with enterprise software, that’s really cute, right? It’s because we tend to just go like, here’s the tool, and I’m gonna show you how to use a tool, we maybe forget the the language that we’re speaking, when we’re actually introducing those tools, or the expectation that the person is showing up with, with some kind of capacity. And you know, you get into customer success or sales, and you try to teach people products there. It’s like, in my world now, you know, with a lot of the digital marketing stuff, it’s like sales and customer success folks, and maybe even the customers we have, might not necessarily know that much about the context in which the product or the tool fits. So I think there’s actually  a lot of parallels there. I

Adam Avramescu  06:45

guess I just say, Well,

Brian Childs  06:46

I’m kind of surprised with it. Yeah, I got this thing that we need to do. And it’s complicated. And we need to learn it as quickly as possible. So

Adam Avramescu  06:54

yeah, and then and then you’re right, we kind of make the same mistake as training content developers or training program leaders a lot of the time we think, Okay, well, if we can just get all the knowledge out of this really detailed subject matter experts head and somehow cram it into our learners. We’re taking that content first approach. And I mean, I’m sure we’ll get into this as we start talking about the maturity model. Like that’s a very common myth. Yeah, we’re starting this for the first time. Right. Okay, so you were saying, go ahead.

Brian Childs  07:20

Well, I should say, the thing is, it’s like you can advance pretty far with that strategy. But then there’s gonna be things that kind of hold you back, if you look more holistically at the organization, or the objectives. And so I think that’s kind of, you know, as we get in and talk about the maturity model a little bit and describe sort of like the, the layout of it, and interpretation of it. It’s like, you can have quite a bit of success in one. But when you look at it as a holistic program, there’s it’s kind of like, it’s, it’s easy to think like, Oh, I’m really doing well here. But then you’re actually being held back by other aspects of the organization. So

Adam Avramescu  07:56

yeah, you might end up kind of setting yourself up for failure, because you’re not thinking holistically enough about what you’re doing and how it’s ultimately going to attribute business value and like real material value to your audience. Yeah. So you were you’re basically this is this was your first experience in aviation of building training from the ground up. And now you’ve done it a few times that right.

Brian Childs  08:18

Yeah, I mean, my first, my first training program was working with a with an airline ground handling company. So for people that aren’t familiar with what airline ground handling means, it means those are the people with like, the lighted wands that stand outside the aircraft and load bags into planes. And that program got started because we were Yeah, exactly. It’s like, you got the you got the wands and every you know, it’s like it was a great job.

Adam Avramescu  08:41

If you’re just listening to the audio, we’re on video I’m actually doing now. Yeah,

Brian Childs  08:46

Adam’s doing the wands. It’s great, great. I’m doing. And, and that, uh, you know, we had some accidents there we had, it was a pretty like a lot of entry level workers. And this wasn’t customer education by any means. But it was definitely like teaching people to use tools and trying to do it quickly, where the downside risks were, that we could have either costly accidents, or people could get, you know, hurt. And so that was the first one for me. And the nice part about it was that it had a very good goal and a very good measurable goal. That’s the thing that I didn’t really understand at the time, is that we had a very nice number to work with, which is like incidents of accidents, and also incidents of familiarity with certain tools and a relatively, you know, in comparison to software, a relatively small cohort of people to teach. And so that was the first one and then it’s just been, you know, it’s like when you’re chief pilot, you’re just kind of like jack of all trades. So I had to teach everybody that came into the program and set up a lot of those structures and things like that. So it’s just been it’s just been a part of pretty much everything I’ve done. And then like I said, when I got into software, it was just kind of like this nice marriage of a lot of these different soft and hard skills together.

Adam Avramescu  09:59

Yeah, so So tell me a little bit then about going to Moz. What was that, like? How’d you build the program there?

Brian Childs  10:06

Moz was great. So Moz has some for again, maybe for people that aren’t familiar is Moz is a search engine optimization software, they have a big presence in their education materials. So they, they have an incredible blog and incredible presence within the digital marketing space. But one of the challenges with SEO that we saw, working with the customer success and onboarding teams, is, you know, if I kind of using that example before about like, kind of having to stand on top of a mountain of knowledge is that a lot of businesses knew that they wanted to have the outcome of search engine optimization, so I want to have more people coming to my website. And so it’s easy to sell the sizzle of SEO, because you’re like, Hey, here’s the outcome you’re going to get. But as a practitioner of SEO, you need to understand a ton about websites, and web crawlers and all kinds of stuff, right? All kinds of nuanced, technical, digital marketing stuff, and for somebody who’s just doing it a little bit, you know, it’s like, that’s gonna be it’s gonna be really challenging. And so that was really the the problem was, let’s talk, let’s figure out how we can put context into these people’s minds so that they can actually unlock the value of the the tool, which I think is probably a very, very common experience for for most of us.

Adam Avramescu  11:25

Yeah, you’re giving me strong flashbacks now to being at Optimizely. And having a bunch of digital marketers come with the exact same problem. I thought that we were an SEO company, right? Oh, you’re optimized? Yeah, you’re helping me with SEO? Now, we’re a little bit different.

Brian Childs  11:39

Yeah, SEO is just kind of like a SEO is just one of those terms, it gets tossed around for just being like, Oh, it’s like neat digital marketing stuff. It’s like, you know, I always joke that, like, there’s some button on the computer that people are like, how do I SEO, my stuff? And you’re like, yeah, it’s a little more complicated than that. But I’m really good program very successful. I think it It showed what, what can be done. But it also introduced a lot of challenges, I’d say that it was it was one of the you know, we talked about the maturity model, I can kind of plot where we were on a mas when we started, but it was like most people, it was sheer force of will to produce content. You know, at the start, it’s like one person, it was just me doing a lot of the content development and instructional design, and promotion, and you know, the recording of everything. And in that phase, I think people make a lot of common mistakes with how they get out of that phase, right? Like, then the next investment, it’s always that question like, what’s the next dollar good that I’m going to spend, it’s like, what’s the next dollar that I’m going to spend, you can solve the immediate challenge, in that, it when you’re in that space, thinking I need help to build content, and you can start building a sizable content team. But then actually, you know, six months down the road, when you try to go get more budget, you know, you realize you just don’t have as much flexibility is maybe you would have if you could build it a little bit differently. And so that was a pretty big learning for me was just was a mas really kind of taught me about how the importance of having agility and production. How much how important that was.

Adam Avramescu  13:18

Yeah, absolutely. I mean, I think the experience that you described coming in is that one man show building from scratch, having to figure out how to architect this thing and making mistakes along the way. That’s, frankly, the the position that a lot of our listeners are in. And in fact, we also have a lot of listeners, who are the customer success executives who are thinking about investing in customer education for the first time, or in some cases, it’s marketing exact, right? We know they come from different parts of the org, but really thinking about, you know, if I could look forward to, what, six months a year out, how can I avoid making some of these same mistakes, that someone who just came in and figure it out from scratch can so I think there’s a ton of value, and maybe this will start to lead us in to to actually thinking about something like the maturity model.

Brian Childs  14:05

Yeah, yeah. And that’s really, you know, fundamentally, the, the way that it got developed, honestly, like the initial inception of this kind of model for me, was was mostly about actually like interviewing other companies, right. So I kind of what I wanted to do is I wanted to I wanted to understand, if I’m speaking to a company, and they’re looking to hire a training manager or something like this, you know, my initial instinct around it was, you know, fairly self serving in the sense that like, what I wanted to do is I wanted to be able to ask better questions. I wanted to say, if I’m going to be talking to a company, how can I figure out where they’re at? Right? What What do what am I as a training managers are going to have to solve for this company, knowing you know, again, Moz is a great example of it and I think Moz did a really good job. So anything that I speak about with Moz that might sound like criticism, I actually think that That team in that as an organization did really well. But nonetheless, what it? Yeah. And what it showed me is that it does take a village, right? I think many of us who are in this space will will use that term where it’s like, hey, it takes a village to do this. And the question is, is, well, what other villagers do I need? You know, if I walk into these proverbial village, like, how am I going to be able to spot What’s missing? So that I can very clearly articulate to a business? Who’s thinking of starting one of these, you know, and wants me to help out? Or once anybody help out? How can I articulate to them? Hey, you know, we’re only going to be so successful in less, we also, you know, see some development within our business intelligence, or we see some development within our systems integrations and things like that, because those are gonna hold us back, it’s like, I’m not gonna be able to help you target churn unless we can really have a number that we’re looking at, you know, and that that’s complicated to do. So that was where the motivation of the development initially came from. And then last year, at some point, there was a study that was being done by the University of Alabama, I think intellian was doing it they might have been, they interviewed a bunch of folks, a bunch of practitioners in in that conversation, a question I kept, I kept on answering the questions as being like, Well, you know, once you reach a certain stage, or as you get to a different stage, and one of the interviewers asked, you know, do you have a model? for this? You keep talking about stages, like, what are these different stages? And so that was actually where I was like, well, I should probably write this down. And that kind of like led into interviews and discussions with other practitioners about like, well, what are the different ways that people are solving these challenges? And how did they see where they are within their maturity? And those were some really fruitful conversations with there’s a lot of really smart people in this community. And so as a matter of developing a tool, and really testing it with them, and saying, Can I develop a tool and ask people questions, and based upon their answers, can I can I derive something, you know, that has a reasonable amount of fidelity, about like, where I think they’re at, and I feel, you know, it’s like, Look, things are unique to every program. But I felt like the maturity model is at a place now where I think it’s at least a little bit diagnostic for people who are starting out and being able to actually use it.

Adam Avramescu  17:27

Yeah, so it’s so it’s rooted in the real world experiences of customer education professionals who’ve been building their programs? Who would you say? Is the the primary audience for this? Is this for the person who has just been hired as you know, customer education person number one at the company, or you got transferred into the role? And they’re the accidental customer Education Manager? Or is this for the exact sponsor who’s trying to build a program and figure out where they are? Who’s, who’s really the the primary audience here?

Brian Childs  17:56

Yeah, I think there’s, I think there’s utility across each one of those different, you know, personas there, I think of it maybe as the most utility for the, for the person who’s like me of several years ago, you know, or maybe it’s the author of several years ago, where it’s like, when you’re starting out a program, how can you avoid some of the common mistakes that people make? So that’s what I’d say, as the primary audience is like, hey, help out other people who are going to be practitioners in this because there’s a lot of excitement for it. COVID is certainly brought customer education and remote education or online learning really to the forefront. So there’s a lot of people entering into, and this is about helping them, you know, make the right choices in the beginning. I think there’s also another kind of persona, which is the we’re thinking of buying an LMS you know, that that person, because that can be a pretty sizable investment. And I think there’s a there’s a decision point there to say like, Well, are you ready? is an LMS really gonna solve your problems? You know, and so when I think about people who are have potentially limited budgets, and they got to ask themselves, you know, is this going to be that? Yeah, right. You know, it’s like, do I do I need to buy this thing? Which thing should I buy? Where should I put this money? Yeah, it’s like, certainly an LMS will help. But it’s like, when you’re making those decisions. What are the other choices that you could make with the same dollars? And are you ready for and then and then I think the exact sponsors also should be aware of these things, just understand that it’s like, hey, you’re not going to hire one person. And that one person is going to solve all your problems. There’s also other capacities that you need to develop throughout the organization that you should be cognizant of. So it’s kind of those are kind of the main main use cases of folks, I think they could probably plot themselves on this and get some value out of it.

Adam Avramescu  19:39

Got it. So that that makes a ton of sense. And I’d love to dive into the model with you. I actually have it up. So I’m looking at it as well. You put together some excellent slides on LinkedIn about this. So maybe before we just jump into the model is there is there anything you wanted to frame up around how you designed it or how you put it together and then we can kind of jump To the capabilities and walk through some of them together.

Brian Childs  20:04

Yeah, yeah. And we can kind of do this, you know, for the, for the radio audience. So Well, well, Adam and I are both looking at a visual representation of this site. Let me, let me at least start by describing what Adam and I are looking at. And again, you can find this on LinkedIn, if you go to if you go to my LinkedIn, Brian childs, it’s basically you can look me up in Seattle pilot is on LinkedIn. So we can, you can only

Adam Avramescu  20:28

post on there. But we can also put this on customer.education in the show notes for folks to link to as well.

Brian Childs  20:35

Yeah, awesome. Yeah. So go to the show notes and check it out. And so in here, what you’ll find is you’re gonna find maybe the the media as part of it is this table, and the table basically has kind of four swim lanes, right, and I’m calling those capacities. And then each one of those swim lanes extends to the right, for several different maturity tiers. And so I just kind of arbitrarily call those tier 123, and four. And so each one of these swim lanes, prioritization, data architecture, team structure, and process, each one of these think of them as different capacities that you can develop in your organization. And you can develop or advance any one of those capacities, pretty significantly, right, so you can mature any one of them. But when you’re developing a training program, if you don’t develop each one of them, to a certain degree, they end up holding each other back. And so when you’re looking at the maturity model, think of it as like, four different capacities that each have a, you know, ordinal, ask aspects to them in development, and that they work together to actually advance a training program. So things like for example, prioritization would be just about how you make decisions, or how you prioritize the next work that you do. team structure would be something like how you actually produce the work. So you can go to that, and you can take a look at and I think, as Adam and I talked about it, we can flesh it out a little more to.

Adam Avramescu  22:12

Yeah, so what you’re saying in terms of it being ordinal, is you’re typically not going to be in a position where you’ve got one of the dimensions all the way over at Tier four, and another one all the way over at tier one, typically, they’re going to cluster a little more, is that is that what I’m hearing?

Brian Childs  22:28

No, actually. So interestingly enough, I’d say that you could find yourself, I think that you could probably find yourself mostly easily on things like data architecture and prioritization. So that is, how integrated are the systems that you’re using? And how are you how, as an organization, do you prioritize goals? And that could be in training or can be in other things? And I would say that the thing where organizations probably find themselves in the higher tiers is usually around that. So I’ll use an example of like Peter Goldstein at bitsight. Right? So Peters got like a, he works in an organization. That is if he has got a really great program, by the way, if anybody ends up being able to pick his brain, he’s he’s a really sharp guy. He works in an organization that’s afraid of the future of the business. Yeah, okay. Great. Yeah. Awesome. Yeah, Pete is great. You know, as an organization, they’re an analytics business. And so they just naturally have a lot of systems integrations. And they naturally have because of those systems integrations, quite a bit of insight about their application and insight about who’s using it. And so introducing a training program into that kind of environment where you have a very high what I’d say like a tier three, or tier four, again, you can go and read these things. But tier three, or tier four in your data architecture makes it so that that training program is going to be a lot easier to advance in terms of processes in your team structure, because you’re just gonna have a lot more information about what you’re doing. So you’re probably not going to get stuck in, you know, just tracking how much content have we made, which is a typical challenge, if you’ve if you just try to like push forward on processes. So I would say that you can end up you know, it’s more likely that a company would end up starting with a higher tier of data architecture prioritization goal setting, then they would having really advanced processes and team structures, but for many companies, many organizations, I think they start pretty low down.

Adam Avramescu  24:33

Yeah, so so maybe taking a step back from that you’ve just mentioned all four of the capabilities. So in order you have those prioritization, data architecture, team structure and process and you’ve clustered them, yep. So the prioritization and data architecture are part of goal setting. So as you just described, the way I understand that is, that’s your organization’s ability to measure what it’s doing to set KPIs against the progress of others. Have any of the programs and so for customer education, typically, it sounds like the more data you have available, the more you’re able to prioritize your initiatives and activities and tie those to higher level company metrics, the more mature you’re going to be on those two goal setting metrics. And then the other two are team structure and process you have together as agility. So the more sophisticated team structure you have, the more people you have to be able to do things. And the more process you have around that that’s going to allow you to get more done in more sophisticated ways. Is that about right?

Brian Childs  25:35

Yeah, and these two things, goal setting and agility can work together, or they can work against one another. So yeah, so when we think about the typical challenges, right, like, and these different tiers, I think that when people build these programs, they find themselves, they can probably self identify into some of these tiers, where when you set up a program, and you’re that kind of jack of all trades, that’s that’s trying to do everything, you know, the challenge that you have there is, I just want to get rid of my backlog. You know, you’re like, I have all of these idiots in my organization asking for all kinds of stupid training stuff. And so help me God, if anybody else comes to me and says, I have a training idea. And so, you know, it’s like, when you’re in that space, like, all you want to do is you want to get rid of your backlog, right. And so, the natural thing to do there is like, well, I’m going to go hire a bunch of people, to hire a bunch of content developers, I’m gonna hire a bunch of instructional designers or people who can teach, and just kind of burn my backlog down. And in the absence of having really good goal setting, the the inclination, then is to just go like, let me just treat all work the same. And so therefore, I need to build a big team that’s going to be able to handle all this work that’s coming to me, and to create content for it, manage that content, etc, right? That actually works against you later on, because you’ve now hired a bunch of content managers. But if you get better at setting goals and priorities, you realize that all of those different activities don’t have equal value in terms of what they do for the business. And so if you don’t have good goal setting and prioritization, right, it can like work against your agility, because you might actually make decisions about who to bring on and what size of team you might need, and how you get your work done. That it becomes very difficult later on to be agile, right? Because you’ve just got all these people working on all these projects, you’ve said yes to everything, you’ve set expectations. And so they can really work against one another if you develop your team structures and processes without taking into account the importance of goal setting and and some of your systems integrations. Hopefully that makes sense using that as an example there.

Adam Avramescu  27:53

That Yeah, no, that that makes a lot of sense. And then it sounds like it can also go the opposite way where as you mentioned, you might invest heavily in goal setting, like you’ve got all your systems in place, you’ve got an LMS, it’s hooked up to the data warehouse, but you don’t really have a team or any process in place to support it. So at that point, you’re you’re operating a lot of complex machinery, with nothing to put in it.

Brian Childs  28:17

Yeah, or you end up in the same place where you might really not know how to have what team members to bring on to help you out. And I think some of that just goes along with experiencing becoming familiar with different team structures. But certainly, I think I think it tends to work where the lack of goal setting and prioritization tends to really hurt the decisions around team structure and process more so than the other way. But certainly, any one of these capacities. If it’s not understood how they contribute to the overall objective of building a, an agile and KPI based training program, they all come together, you know, it’s like they work together in concert. So

Adam Avramescu  29:03

yeah, so maybe maybe we can take a walk through each of the tiers for each of the capabilities or capacities, just to give folks a little bit of a taste of what life is like and see if they can self diagnose. So maybe, maybe we can start with prioritization. Would you like to walk us through kind of what it looks like in prioritization to go from tier one to tier four?

Brian Childs  29:24

Yeah, or we can maybe we can talk about like, like a tier one program and kind of like, illustrate that for them. Right. So yeah, like a tier one. Yeah, so like a tier one program. And again, these are these are somewhat, somewhat loose definition. So when I’m saying tier one, you know, it’s not derogatory. And it’s also not meant to be sort of like it’s only one thing but some of the diagnostic

Adam Avramescu  29:50

Maturity Model.

Brian Childs  29:50

Yeah, right. I’m just like for the and one of the challenges for me, honestly, like, there has to be something I was like, is it zero? Is it one, you know, it’s like that whole Um, but yeah, the, the, it’s sort of like arbitrary, but there’s some some exam aspects of this. So if we think about what a Tier One is, as I’m, as I’m defining in the model here, it means that there’s just basically no structure, right? So it’s like work is getting done in a very ad hoc way. And some of the diagnostic characteristics characteristics of this is that you see a lot of wastes and a lot of duplicative effort. And those things can exist in multiple forms, if you’re in a really big organization, duplicative effort can mean that you, you know, you go into the the meeting, and there’s somebody you know, you find out, there’s somebody who’s on some other team doing the exact same thing you are, and they’re, you know, six months, and just like you, it’s like that whole experience we probably had, if you were to big companies. There’s also other duplicative efforts that you could look at in terms of customer success, onboarding, implementation, where you have individual resources, and everybody’s having the same, you know, conversation 20 times a week, right. So that also is a representation of a lot of duplication in that. And so tier one just means there really hasn’t been any organizational structure put to what’s going on here. Typically, you’re not going to find in terms of the, you know, like our data, data architecture and prioritization, it’s like in prioritization, no one’s you know, everybody’s just doing their own thing. So there’s no, you couldn’t point to any one goal that everybody’s working on. It’s like, well, we build training for this particular team, where we do it internally or externally. It’s like, there’s no, if I if you were to ask that team, you know, tell me the thing that you’re trying to impact and what was it last year? What is it this year, they’re not gonna be able to answer that. So that’s kind of like the prioritization aspect. And then data architecture, this is a little bit more challenging, but like, there tends to just be a lot of different systems, but they’re not all tied together at all. You don’t see there’s no systematic way. There’s no integration there is maybe not any specialized software. So those are kind of

Adam Avramescu  32:02

Zendesk Help Center over here. I’ve got the videos over here. I’ve got my data warehouse, but nothing’s hooked up to it.

Brian Childs  32:11

Yeah, or like, again, this might be like a bigger organization problem, but like, that team over there is using Zendesk, and then we got this other team over here that’s also using Zendesk, but totally different logins until you know where you see like systems or just people just buying software and using it and the idea of bringing it all together and trying to get it to, to leverage towards some outcome is just not there. And so tier one organizations are very much like that. It’s just kind of an amorphous blob. It’s like a you know, multi celled organism that’s just you know, on the bottom of the sea floor and so, the main difference I’d say like the the the dry you know, you know, like when the beach washes washes up those like blobs of whatever and you’re like, what is that is that kelp? Is that like a, you know, flotsam the

Adam Avramescu  32:59

flotsam and jetsam?

Brian Childs  33:01

flotsam you have flotsam, you live in a world of flotsam and jetsam, flotsam and jetsam. And so, you know, it’s like, I think this is where a lot of these teams originate is somebody you know, customer success, or marketing, or maybe even product or in sales or something, somebody goes, you know, what it would just be if we could just get all of these people into a webinar, you know, then we could teach them all at one time, instead of having all of our success team members saying the same message. And like, that’s the inception of it is going down the path of being like, if I could just make this a little bit more organized, then, you know, some kind of beneficial aspect is gonna happen. And so that usually moves. Yes. From like a T shirt standpoint. Yep.

Adam Avramescu  33:52

Well, yeah, we have a little bit of delay on our Oh, yeah, no, we’ve got a little bit of a delay on our on our things I was just trying to jump in. I completely agree with you. I actually just want to spend a moment on that point, because I think it’s so important like this, this, to me is the lightbulb moment for customer education in so many ways. But it’s not, it doesn’t happen that the leader oftentimes of whatever program that is, has the particular lightbulb that, hey, we need a customer education program, we need a mature customer education program. It’s exactly what you just said, We need a webinar, or we need someone now to document all this stuff in knowledgebase articles or we need someone to make quick videos. So often it’s a it’s a spark of an idea that this thing needs to scale. And we have so many people doing these unscalable things in silos. But it’s interesting how often the idea at this point is based around a certain modality not necessarily based on should we be investing in a function that makes this happen and I can’t tell you how many conversations I have with customer success leaders Mark Hitting leaders who recognize this exact problem and are just trying to figure out how to get to the next stage.

Brian Childs  35:06

Mm hmm. Yep. Yeah. And it’s, it’s interesting for those of us who have been there, and for the folks who are there right now, how foreign of a concept it is to look, you know, a year down the road at what it could be, right? Because you because what you are doing is typically you’re trying to solve that one particular thing, you’re trying to be creative or find efficiencies within a particular activity that exists. And, you know, I think a lot of people end up being kind of like operations managers, or project managers to some degree, because then they start putting pieces together. And they’re like, well, we got all this documentation over here. And it’s going out to support but wouldn’t it be great if we could take that information and turn it into, you know, videos, or whatever, and, like, turn it into some other thing, and all of a sudden, it’s like, it’s like going through and starting to put the Lego pieces together? And the challenge is, is that usually just two or three Legos that you got? Right? And you don’t and so you’re like, I have these three Legos. And these three Legos are now together, and therefore, that’s better than the other thing. But that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a well thought out process. Right? And so things tend to happen very organically

Adam Avramescu  36:17

trying to run barriers to tier two.

Brian Childs  36:19

Yep. Yeah. Or, or, like, you know, what, what I would say is, I was like, I always felt like I was trying to, you know, dig up this boulder and hold it over my head, you know, there was this, it was this value that I knew existed. And I just was like, if I could just find it and find the edges of the thing, and then figure out how you can lift it up, right.

Adam Avramescu  36:40

But, uh, it is in my book, I call this very challenging escape from ad-hoc-atraa.

Brian Childs  36:47

Yeah, totally, totally. Yeah, exactly. It’s like it’s all ad hoc work. And so so that lightbulb moment, or that lightbulb activity tends to be the inception from if we look at the maturity model, and consider it in terms of agility. This would be like the first step not towards agility. But along that path where mistakes can be made that can either help or hurt agility, which is around team structure and process. So the team structure is the first breakout, right? Typically, if it’s just from the from the perspective of the person who’s doing the work, is all of a sudden, in tier two, tier two, your organizations and team structure are represented by that individual owner, right? And so that function ends up being tied to the individual. And that individual says, I think we can do this better. I think that there’s value within these training activities, whatever you call them, training activities, or knowledge activities, or just reorganizing, whatever, but somebody ends up taking responsibility for it. And I’ll and I’ll often joke that it’s kind of like your, you know, your, like, stealing, stealing your own time, right? So I got this day job, and I need to, like be a thief of my own time and be a pirate and steal my own time away. Because I know. And it’s the first proof point of value. If you can say like, Look, I do this thing, 10 times. And if I can just do it the 11th time, but the 11th time record it, I’m going to start carving out my own value of time, because I know now I only got to do it twice instead of the whole 10. And you can prove at an individual level that there’s a value there. And I think what the incredible thing and one of the the aspects that I really like about training programs and practitioners is, is that in the last couple of years, there’s been so much more demonstrated value, there’s so many more touch points in the environment where we can say that little glimmer that you think is there actually isn’t just an idea, it’s huge amounts of value, is there’s real dollars in all of this thing. And so trying to get that, right, it’s like I encourage people to both turn on the light bulb, and try to move to tier two. But then once you’re in tier two, and you have all of that again, once you’re there, from a team process standpoint, you become the only person life just kind of actually sucks for a little while because as soon as you become the place where that goes. The whole organization is like, Alright, we got a training program. And it’s like, l&d comes in HR. And the sales team needs to know about, you know, like, Oh, God, the sales team needs to know about the products. And it’s just like, trying to figure out how not to get dragged in any one of those directions is a real is a real challenge in that tier two, because you become the point of contact for all of these different backlogs. In essence.

Adam Avramescu  39:30

Preserving focus is so important at that point. And and I think, you know, what you’re also saying in some ways in tier two, kind of as you’re verging from tier two to tier three, is that you’ve probably done a good job at that point, being an evangelist for education at your company. Because a lot of folks I think, come in is that one person there, they’re stealing time from themselves. They eventually get some dedicated time to actually do customer education or be a customer education person. But that’s what they’re doing right? They’re doing custom more education. They’re not running a customer education program. And I think what people underestimate at this stage is that you can’t just be creating content or doing activities, you also have to be that evangelist to say, Hey, here’s how this actually provides real business value. And if I can do more of this, and do more of this in this way, and with more people, this is the result that we’re going to generate.

Brian Childs  40:26

Yep, exactly like spot on. And in that aspect. So again, this is why this is why I break this out into these different capacities. So again, we have these, you know, prioritization data architecture, team structure and process, it’s the reason I break them out into different capacities, because some of the models that are out there that people might reference are models that are very linear, you know, so it’s like, in granite, I realize is tier 1223. And that’s linear but but linear in the sense that all of the things have to happen to move forward. And if I go back to something I said before, it’s like, you could actually have very sophisticated goal setting and very sophisticated business intelligence and systems architecture, and your organization that already exists, that once you get that evangelists, that salesperson pirate who’s stealing their own time, and also talking about what it can do, if they already have systems in place, and they have a bi resource that they can go to and be like, Hey, could you run some numbers? And what’s our current churn? And where does the churn happen and what type of people churn if I have, if I have those tools available to me, and again, this would be like the kind of thing i’d interview with a company before. But I’d be like, if you have those resources that are available, and you can tell me what your churn is in a cohort basis. And you can tell me the kinds of things that lead to churn or that are correlated with churn. I can take an evangelist, you know, not me take but an evangelist can take themselves a lot further along in terms of how they’re going to produce content. Because when all those requests come in, and a salesperson says, We need sales, training, and learning and development says we need to do onboarding training, you can be like, cool, those are all great ideas. But I know that if I can just target this one activity over here, that’s going to have you know, the perception of more value, and we can measure it in dollars, if that doesn’t exist, right. And you and all you have is a breakout into tier two of an individual evangelist who’s doing the work. And they have no systems integrations, and they have no way of doing any prioritization, they’re going to be, you know, that figuring out how to do that prioritization, and prove out the value is going to require a tremendous amount of like internal sales. Right?

Adam Avramescu  42:36

Yeah, so that just kind of continue to do your nation doing the activities.

Brian Childs  42:42

Yeah, and I’m just gonna in like, and I’m going to report on how many videos I made. And I’m going to report on how many people I trained. And I’m going to report on like, nominal activities that aren’t, you know, the year over years and the period over period, changes are going to be things about typically like content development. And,

Adam Avramescu  43:03

and that’s great. Because that’s a

Brian Childs  43:06

Yeah. And you’re going to try to optimize for more like, right, when you think about it, it’s like I’m going to optimize so I can optimize by adding more resources. Or maybe I can, like, hire some contractors. And this is the thing I think, is really interesting. And this is one of the forcing function. And another inflection point within the development of these programs, is that in that process of trying to get more resources, or to bring to bear more resources in your program, you inevitably have to create project management structures, and you probably start getting project management tools to be like, Well, I have external resources, making videos, and I have internal resources doing it, and I got this giant backlog of things. And even if I don’t have any prioritization, I will inevitably start organizing my work. So I have more visibility into what’s going on. And the reason I say that’s an inflection point is because as soon as you get one of those pieces of software, you start thinking about project management, what do people end up doing, they end up breaking the work down into small little pieces, right? And that breaking it down into small little pieces where you can write it into tasks, and track it in some type of format, and know that your contractors are working on X and that your IDs are working on why and your asset developers or whatever, as soon as you break it down those small little pieces. That’s a step change that moves people into more of, again, from a team structure in a process development that advances their process management function. And so the complexity, yeah, sort of is the mother of invention of more process development. And that process development pushes people along to ask better questions about like, well, how can I drive down and make more efficient, the things that I’m actually doing and that is a box that people can put themselves in. If they’ve hired a bunch of FTS and then find out later on that they’re like, I don’t actually need this many headcount to get things done. Done, because I can break things down into smaller pieces.

Adam Avramescu  45:06

That makes a lot of sense. So that kind of brings us then into tier three, where at this point, now we do have more of those systems in place, we’re actually able to prioritize more of the work. So tell me a little bit more about what life looks like they’re at tier three. Yeah, so

Brian Childs  45:23

tier three, I think tier three is kind of the place that many of us would think is like, this is rad. You know, like, tier three is the place where I think that a lot of a lot of folks are like, Hey, this is really you know, this is pretty fun, right? Because so let’s, let’s think about these in terms of these different swim lanes, right? So prioritization, data architecture, both of those as it relates to goal setting, and team structure and process as it relates to developing agility. So in tier three, one of the one of the things that I think can advance people very far along both in in agility, right, so if you heard me just talk about, like breaking things down into small little pieces, one of the things you can do before you ever even start with one of these programs, is to build a backlog. And anybody who talks to me, I probably sound like a parrot whenever I am talking to people about this, but I’m always like, build a backlog. All these people are gonna come to you with things, build a backlog, learn how to write down all the different requests and put it into one place, and then say, what, what constitutes the full volume of all the work that we have, and how might actually execute on all that work? And what are all the pieces that are involved in it. If you develop a backlog, that way, you can kind of advance at least mentally into sort of behaviors that you tend to find in tier three, which is I’m learning to manage my projects, I have a decent sense of the work involved in the in the different, you know, things that I’m doing whatever whatever type of training that you’re doing, whether it’s webinars, live videos are in an LMS, you you can get, you can, you know, you probably are going to get some of the different tools that are available to you at that point in time are like, well, if we had an LMS, you know, I could deliver this in a different way. It’s not just on YouTube, and I’d see a lot more of what we’re doing. And maybe we can start SS you know, having SSO connection to the rest of our application, we can start tracking users as they go across different touch points within our organization. And then with that, right, you’re also building your own data, all of a sudden, and I think this is the cool part, right? This is the thing for me that I think is really interesting, when we get to that with different programs, is at tier three, you start showing up to the meetings, and you’re the person with data. And you’re like, here’s how many people got trained, here’s the things that they used, here’s how long they’re doing it, here’s the different activities that we’re going to do to try to drive those up. It might just be even like some of the consumption metrics around like sessions within your knowledge base, or, you know, monthly active users or people that have been completed. But not just the existence of them, but also the quality of what’s coming out the other end of your systems. And tier three, when we think about prioritization and data architecture allows you to show up at the table with those other parts of the organization and say, How can my data connect with your data? So we can we can do the, you know, one plus one equals three here? How can I have my learning management system? Talk to, you know, the the database that we’re also putting our Salesforce and HubSpot information into? Like, how can I make those relationships? And so tier three, I think, is where you start seeing training resources, show up at the table and start making decisions. And because of that, it also, you know, requires that you have a little bit more structure, right? So you go, you’re the evangelist, and you’re no longer the only person doing the work. But you’re also really running the business of training and education programs and talking about how they’re going to drive towards those outcomes. And so I think tier three is really like the now you have that’s the fun place where you can start kind of running a little bit. Yeah.

Adam Avramescu  48:58

Yeah, for sure. And you’re developed at this point, more specializations?

Brian Childs  49:04

Mm hmm. Exactly. And so again, that that aspect of specializations where you’re introducing, and you’re interacting with a lot of your subject matter experts, your subject matter experts within the organization or outside of the organization, are contributing to the content that’s being developed, you know, and so that’s fun, right? Because you’re sort of getting a lay of the land of all the different minds that are there. And I think you go from, you know, tier two, where it’s like, I kind of hate everybody and everybody’s stupid, because they all just want training to, like, human beings are amazing. You know, like, God, people know, so much amazing stuff. And if we could just, you know, like, I can’t wait to get these ideas in front of our customers. And, you know, you start getting that organization, again, that that structure and trying to manage multiple team members, really just drives a lot of sophistication. In that in your in your ability to be agile. Again, you could make decisions that make it hard to do that at this phase. But if you can, at tier three, you start making those those sort of objective decisions about how can I actually deal with? And maybe this is an important part is how can I deal with the competing priorities of short term content development activities, and long term content development activity. So like, Adam, you and I were talking earlier about Moz, and, and Optimizely. And, you know, it’s like, there’s new features coming out all the time. And, you know, in a perfect world, the product managers would tell me six months beforehand, but that just isn’t how it works. So I have to constantly be feeding that beast of like, hey, new features are coming out, we want to make sure there’s part of you know, that our that our success and sales teams are ready to go with this and upsells cross sells. But then you also have these big concepts that you’re working on, you know, where it’s like, I also need to be running regular scheduled programming. And I also need to be making sure that my customers or potential customers have what they need to be successful with our platform. And those two things can be in real, you know, that can get really challenging. And so again, when you get into tier three, and you start thinking about, from a process standpoint, how do I how do I manage these two things? Short term long term, that really is the foundation of Agile process development, or agile content development is saying, I need to be able to break things down into small enough pieces that I can put stuff into work in a in a logical enough way that I can, I can switch back and forth and make sure that I’m tracking towards my long term goals, but also being able to be flexible to handle the latest feature product, that’s an, you know, come out of left field, or God forbid UI change. Yeah. And

Adam Avramescu  51:39

as you add change auto word, yeah, a lot of organizations. What I said is,

Brian Childs  51:46

you I change that often, but that is bad. That Yeah.

Adam Avramescu  51:50

Yeah, it’s I mean, it’s one of those things where that’s, that’s also the stage where you start to see teams take on to your point, agile processes, right? Like, they’ll move from Addie to Sam, they’ll start using, well, they might have never used it, they’ll just be using Sam, or llama, or they’ll they’ll have a Kanban board. And they really start taking more of a portfolio approach to customer education versus just flat content production or prioritizing what’s what’s in front of them. So Brian, I know just being sensitive to time. Do you want to talk a little bit about tier four? I imagine that’s aspirational for a lot of folks. Yeah, I’d say

Brian Childs  52:26

I think like a good thing. So tier four is basically like kind of a catch all for maybe the higher levels, the the big attribute, the big attributes here. And I think once once programs become more sophisticated, you know, they, they by the nature of being, you know, more organic to the organization, they’ll be a little bit different. But But conceptually, the main things here is it like I would say a good indication of tier four is when, when you have executives who are not on your team, who are not your executive sponsor, talking about training types of objectives, and using the language of education come out of their mouths, when they talk about what can and can’t be done. I think that’s a good indication that and that kind of spans across it. There’s, there’s things in here, you get again, you can go look at this. And I’m always happy to chat with people about this framework. But it’s like you have more complex hierarchy within your team, you’re able to handle short and long term production cycles, and you have a lot of integration within your systems. So those are kind of tier four activities. And I’d say maybe maybe the most important thing I kind of alluded to this, or where I might leave people with is, there’s always this question of like, well, what should I focus on first. And just like I said, before, I’d say, if you’re just starting out, one of the most important things you can do is develop a backlog. So get ready to handle a bunch of people coming to you with different priorities, and put it all in one place and start asking the questions, what’s going to have the biggest impact, and if you want to go to somebody and ask them, or if you wanna have somebody, take a look over your shoulder, like what those might be, as you take that big list, you go over to your customer success and support teams and go help me organize this, what do you think is going to be the thing that helps our customers the most, if you get that backlog, and you go and talk to your customer success team, you’re going to start generating data that can move you up that prioritization and data architecture of those swimlanes probably faster than you would otherwise. So that’s my advice for people that are just starting out is is go after that backlog and talk to customer success.

Adam Avramescu  54:21

Yeah, customer success is going to be your proxy to the customer. They’re going to they’re going to know in many cases what that is. Brian, let me ask you one final question. of the various capacities which do you think are the most important?

Brian Childs  54:34

Um, I think that the organizational success, the most important one is probably relates to systems integration. And not necessarily as a saying that has to be done, but I’d say as a diagnostic if you can, if you look at an organization and they have a good degree of systems integration, so if they have HubSpot, and Salesforce or par dot and Salesforce and they have a database and they have a bi resource that is going to provide you with so much power to understand the complex behavioral questions that you’re going to be asking of your customers or of your customer cohorts. That, to me, that’s the most important thing from a team structure standpoint, I’d say, you know, just like I said, get involved with your customer success team. But But if I had to choose one, I’d say, I really would want to be seeing organizations that have good systems integration that have all their data in one place that can answer complex behavioral types of problems. If you can, if you can see that you can find organizations that do that, you can fold in customer education and training into that kind of structure a lot easier than then if it’s absent.

Adam Avramescu  55:49

I agree. One thing that I say to customer education leaders who are just starting out, is start making friends with your business systems team or whoever owns your data warehouse, make friends with them now, because it’s going to take a while for that to pay off. But once it does, it’s going to give you access into so much data and so much information that you will need. Probably by the time you’ve just started making friends with them.

Brian Childs  56:12

Yeah, literally do whatever you can to buddy up with those folks. Yeah, I 100% agree, I think that that’s like something that a lot of people don’t take into account or they’re, they’re timid about it, because it’s kind of like a different world, maybe then then where they might be coming from and marketing or success. But those people your friends, and, and they because they’re also interested in seeing the impact, they typically get pretty excited about new ways of of impacting customer behaviors, because it certainly helps them they’re good projects to work on.

Adam Avramescu  56:44

I agree. And you know, after you start going through these maturity phases, there’s there’s a Natural Bridge as well to expanding your portfolio. And, Brian, you haven’t heard this episode yet, because it hasn’t been released yet. But we talked to Michael harnam, from ESG group as well. And he was talking about the kind of the education services maturity model. So there’s, there’s almost a tie in there, I think from coming from these very early stages to being a one man or woman or whatever gender you identify as one person show, to then building up a team building some structure. And finally really having this this Agile process in place to then being able to go out and do things like build a portfolio, build education, subscriptions, start to do things that are that are quite frankly, fancier and are really going to drive more revenue for you or more more business impact for your business.

Brian Childs  57:33

Yeah, absolutely. And, and remaining flexible to those. I think the other the other aspect of all of this is it’s like, Look, the technology’s changed, the expectations change. And so, building a team that’s that can function today and can function six months or a year from now is, is a real challenge. But yeah, I look forward to that. Listen, that conversation, that’s gonna be great. And really appreciate the opportunity to come on and talk about this. And if anybody any of your listeners want to dig in more, they can find me on LinkedIn. So feel free to be feel free to reach out.

Adam Avramescu  58:03

Perfect to your Brian child’s on LinkedIn or Seattle pilot. Yeah,

Brian Childs  58:09

you can find it Brian child, there’s a bunch of Brian child’s is out there. But you can find me Seattle pilot, and you’ll see a lot of the maturity model and other things posted there. And of course, if you ever want to look at pictures of Afghanistan or Iraq, I got a bunch of that stuff too. And I’m always I’m always down to riff on on aviation stuff. So if you ever want to nerd out on aviation stuff, just shoot me a note.

Adam Avramescu  58:29

Perfect, well, listeners. If you want to learn more, we have a podcast website at customer dot education, where you can find show notes and other material. On Twitter. I’m at MSU. I’m also on LinkedIn. Special thanks to Alan coda for the theme music that you hear playing right at this moment. And if this helped you out, you can help us out by subscribing and Apple podcasts, overcast Stitcher, Spotify, wherever find podcasts are found. Leave us a positive review on Apple podcasts that helps a ton. It really helps expose our podcasts to other people and keep this whole thing going. And so Brian, thanks again for joining today. This is a wonderful conversation. Yeah,

Brian Childs  59:07

this is great. Thanks, Adam.

Adam Avramescu  59:09

Yeah, thank you and to our audience. Thanks for joining us, God, educate, experiment and find your people

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