Q&A with Erik Charles, Vice President and Solutions Evangelist at Xactly Corporation

MEDIA 7 | October 7, 2019

Erik Charles, Vice President and Solutions Evangelist at Xactly Corporation is an accomplished professional with over two decades of experience in Marketing, Consulting, and Product Evangelization. Erik focuses on helping companies drive expansion and growth by better aligning positions, responsibilities, and incentives.

Erik serves as a subject matter expert in the area of Sales Performance Management to ensure that Xactly’s marketing, sales and product teams have the necessary strategic input for industry leading messaging, positioning, and future direction.

MEDIA 7: When did you start working and what was it?
ERIK CHARLES:
  In early 1980s, I wrote software on TRS-80 model II coded in BASIC to enable for computerized quotes for a life insurance agency. I was in middle school at the time, that was a contract work. My next job was at a software store back when software used to be bundled up into a cardboard box with inserted floppy disks and then it went on from there.

M7: You have an astounding experience of over two decades with industry pioneers like Apple, Sun Microsystems, Canon and recently Xactly Corporation. What has been the driving force behind your remarkable career?
EC: 
There are two things: as a marketer, I don’t believe in mistakes, I only believe in experiments and what we can learn from them, that has kept me moving forward. I keep on trying new things and seeing what works. I assume that just because it worked last week doesn’t mean it’s going to work tomorrow. So, I’ve never allowed myself to get into a rut. I have always been more than willing to find people who can provide excellent advice at critical moments, even on a specific direction. Finding someone that I can speak with, that can give me a few tips, tricks, hints, ideas, direction or path on moving on. So, I have never been afraid to ask just how could I do this better.


"Sales and marketing have to be best friends, they have to be fully aligned with each other, and they have to know what each other is doing at all times so they can partner. Companies that don’t do that cause themselves a lot of heartache."

M7: As the Vice President and Solutions Evangelist at Xactly Corporation, what are some of the challenges that you face and what has helped you in overcoming them?
EC:
The biggest challenge I face – it is a changing marketplace out there. As we know, from a pure marketing perspective, there’s plenty of data sources out there. 60-70% of the buyer’s journey occurs without ever talking to the sales organization which puts more pressure on the marketing team.

Over the course of this interview I’ve already received two inbound phone calls that are unmarked/unlicensed or I don’t have in my directory. I just reject them automatically, they go straight to voice mail, I later read the transcribed voicemail and decide if I want to talk to them. So, cold-calling is not necessarily dead but it does take more work. I wake up every morning and delete approximately 50 cold emails, oftentimes from people who haven’t done any research on what my company does. They’ll hunt my name and my company but they don’t even realize what we do. So, I flip that to my own role in supporting Xactly and make sure that our voice is heard in an appropriate fashion.

The biggest challenge that I work on the most is in the area of thought leadership in terms of not ‘the same old all over again’ but actually being able to talk about what is going on in any given industry/market. I provide that advice backwards and set up Xactly and myself as the thought leaders and experts in the space, so customers have someone to turn to, to know where you should be going next.


"From a pure marketing perspective, there’s plenty of data sources out there. 60-70% of the buyer’s journey occurs without ever talking to the sales organization which puts more pressure on the marketing team."

M7: You’ve been in leadership roles for both sales and marketing functions, how do you think this alliance has evolved over the years and how significant is it for upcoming organizations to align both the departments?
EC:
If you don’t have sales and marketing aligned, all you’re going to do is go through a revolving door of firing your CMO or firing your CRO every 18 or so months. Sales and marketing have to be best friends, they have to be fully aligned with each other, and they have to know what each other is doing at all times so they can partner. Companies that don’t do that cause themselves a lot of heartache. I believe that everybody should work in sales at some point in their lives. Even if it’s retail sales at the shopping mall, dealing with the general public, dealing with the challenges of a sales organization at minimum just doing ride-alongs with the sales organization to see what their life is like.

How on earth can you create a presentation deck for sales to use if you’ve never delivered it yourself or at least heard it being delivered in a customer or prospect facing situation. If you haven’t done that you get yourself into trouble very fast in my opinion. In smart organizations, the CMO and the CRO should be going out for coffee and cocktails whenever possible and talking about what’s working or not working in a non-threatening, not a senior staff offsite situation but more of a “Huh, we have this challenge how can we work together better?” But too often I’ve seen companies where marketing and sales are not in partnership. One of my advantages has been because I’ve been in sales, because I’ve carried a bag, because I’ve had a quota it has helped me significantly. So, when I’m talking to sales I can say, “Here’s a different way I might present this information, see if it works for you and if it does please let me know and we can share it out with the other members of the team”.

M7: You are a regular speaker at summits. Could you share some insights into being an industry thought leader?
EC:
Yeah, don’t sell your product, provide information. Provide interesting, current, actionable information that is backed by both data but entertained with anecdotes. You have to remember things like the Ebbinghaus curve which gets into the fact that within 20 minutes how much people have forgotten and within 2 weeks how much more they have forgotten. I want people to walk out of my sessions and if somebody asks, “What did you learn in there?”, they should be able to list off almost bulletized format, three to five total things that they learned that they’re going to take away and act upon. And if they do that two weeks later, if they didn’t write it down, they’re still left with three of them and they’ll actually be able to get value out of my talk. I work very hard so that when people walk out they don’t think they’ve been sold to.


"In smart organizations, the CMO and the CRO should be going out for coffee and cocktails whenever possible and talking about what’s working or not working."

M7: According to you, what are the key marketing areas that industries will need to focus on in the coming 5 years?
EC:
From a marketing perspective, one is to make sure you are adjusting your channels of communication to meet the next generation of employees. Millennials and the follow-on generation are taking over the workforce, and personally I welcome them. I think it’s magnificent, but note how they are communicating – people text as opposed to calling, they are using tools like Whatsapp to communicate. That is slowly shifting the communication medium and how people wish to absorb information on the business side as well. So, that’s going to be critical.

The other is people have gotten very good at detecting false narratives being used solely to sell product. People are looking to learn – constant learning is important for professionals but if you treat your outbound conversations also as constant learning people will respond positively. I had a customer at Xactly ask me, “Look, I’m a customer now, but can I still come to some of the talks and webinars and learn something?” And the answer is, “Of course!” That’s how they became a customer, they were interested in the education that we provided and that actually raised our profile as a company within the marketplace and it makes people want to do business with us.

M7: What have you learned from your experiences?
EC:
You’re going to stumble and fall a lot, mistakes will be made, mistakes will happen. You will butt heads with opposing personality and you’ll have to learn to work with people with a variety of different interaction, styles, and skills, introverts and extroverts, people that go on the attack very quickly, etc. Understanding the personal side of the professional world is very important. People can claim that they can turn it off, I don’t think that’s true, especially now that it’s a 24/7 world.

I do international business so it’s always work time someplace on the globe for someplace that my company does business and I just have to accept that. So at the same time, I need to be able to accept that for my employees and for the people I’m talking to. They do have a personal life; unfortunately, personal life is blended into their professional life. Recognize it, accept it, work around it.

ABOUT XACTLY CORPORATION

Xactly delivers a scalable, enterprise platform for planning and incenting sales organizations, including sales quota and territory planning, incentive compensation management, and predictive analytics. Using this powerful sales performance management (SPM) portfolio, customers mitigate risk, accelerate sales performance, and increase business agility. Combined with Xactly Insights™-- the industry’s only empirical big data platform, Xactly empowers companies with real-time compensation insights and benchmarking data that maximize the bottom line. With an open, standards-based architecture, Xactly seamlessly integrates within an enterprise’s existing infrastructure, with the ability to work with any ERP, CRM, or HCM application, while meeting the highest enterprise standards in security, reliability, and privacy.

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Alibaba Cloud, the digital technology and intelligence backbone of Alibaba Group, has announced its latest international strategic roadmap at the 2022 Alibaba Cloud Summit. During the three-day summit, the trusted cloud provider has revealed new products to support technology innovation among enterprises, an investment of USD1 billion for a global partner ecosystem upgrade, and enhanced customer services to provide comprehensive support throughout a customer's digitalization journey. Technology innovation to power rapidly increasing cloud consumption With more enterprises moving to the cloud and an increase in demand for cloud services in a hybrid environment, Alibaba Cloud has made available globally a series of its proven infrastructure products, a multi-model cloud-native database and distributed cloud services. This range of new products aims to provide enterprise customers with a wider scope of cloud services covering network, storage and compute. Cloud Enterprise Network (CEN) 2.0, the newly available network services, provides global intelligent networking to support enterprises' global expansion. CEN 2.0 supports ultra-large-scale networking capabilities with higher availability, lower latency, enhanced security capability and greater flexibility in pricing options for enterprises, compared to the previous version. Alibaba Cloud has also unveiled a storage product called ESSD Auto PL, which provides block storage services and supports automatic scaling within seconds to allow businesses to handle sudden traffic surges. As the world's leading elastic block storage product with auto-scaling function, it offers up to one million IOPS (input/output operations per second), significantly higher than the industry average. Lindorm, the cloud-native multi-model database developed by Alibaba Cloud, successfully supported Alibaba Group's 11.11, the world's largest shopping festival, last year. Designed for fusion-processing requirements for wide tables, time series, space-time and various unstructured data, Lindorm has also been supporting customers in various industries in China – including automotive, finance and manufacturing – thanks to its high availability and low storage cost. Alibaba Cloud also introduced ACK One (Alibaba Cloud Distributed Cloud Container Platform), a multi-region and multi-cluster container management platform to provide a consistent management, delivery and operation experience for enterprises. It allows users to implement container cluster management, resource scheduling, data disaster recovery and application delivery through a unified platform, whether in a public cloud, private cloud or on-premise environment. ACK One is the latest addition to ACK Anywhere, Alibaba Cloud Container Service for Kubernetes. Earlier this year, among the eight significant industry players evaluated, Alibaba Cloud was named a "Leader" in The Forrester Wave™ Public Cloud Container Platforms Q1 2022 for the first time. Lastly, to support enterprises' need for hybrid cloud, CloudBox integrates Alibaba Cloud's public cloud infrastructure technologies such as compute, storage and network to provide enterprises with fully managed cloud services for deployment close to customers' business premises. CloudBox delivers a consistent experience as Alibaba Cloud's public cloud, while meeting enterprises' demand for on-premise data processing and low latency compute. CloudBox is designed for multinational companies with business operations in China. Alibaba Cloud has been strengthening its capabilities in computing, storage, network and security. For example, its recently unveiled Cloud Infrastructure Processing Unit (CIPU), a dedicated processing unit designed for its Apsara Cloud operating system, can reduce network latency to as low as five microseconds and improve computing power performance in data-intensive AI and data analytics scenarios by as much as 30%. Prioritizing partner benefits to build inclusive technology ecosystem With its revamped ecosystem strategy, Alibaba Cloud has announced that it is committed to investing USD1 billion to support partners' technology innovation and their market expansion with Alibaba Cloud in the coming three fiscal years. This investment consists of both financial and non-financial incentives, such as funding, rebates and go-to-market initiatives. To accelerate partners' growth, Alibaba Cloud also launched a "Regional Accelerator" program to provide partners operating in different markets with a localized business collaboration model. The model is designed around factors such as a market's level of technical maturity, vertical focus, digitalization needs and business demands, with an aim to boost partners' income and strengthen their technical expertise. Alibaba Cloud ecosystem partners including resellers, technology partners (ISV, SaaS and SI), service and consulting partners can benefit from the program. "Partners have always been a key focus for Alibaba Cloud, and we are committed to providing them with strong support for our ongoing co-creation and value-add – both technologically and commercially to further empower our joined customers, Our revamped partner strategy prioritizes our partners' growth. By continuing to support our partners' business expansion, we can build an inclusive ecosystem benefiting partners and customers." Selina Yuan, Alibaba Cloud Intelligence International President To address complications with partners' international business operations, Alibaba Cloud has also upgraded its collaboration model with its ISV partners, with a focus on enhancing industry collaboration, standardizing go-to-market process, and accelerating technical solution integration to increase efficiency. Looking ahead, Alibaba Cloud hopes to recruit more financial services, retail, internet and manufacturing ISVs to co-develop products and support customer innovation. Alibaba Cloud currently works with about 11,000 partners worldwide, including Salesforce, VMware, Fortinet, IBM and Neo4j. Empowering customers with comprehensive support In order to provide all-round cloud-based solutions and services to all customers, Alibaba Cloud also launched a "Global Delivery and Service Program" to enhance the cloud adoption process for customers. Under the program, it has unveiled three Customer Service Centers in Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia), Porto (Portugal), and Mexico City (Mexico), to support customers in their cloud adoption journey, providing timely and regionalized cloud migration and consulting services. In addition to the Customer Service Centers, Alibaba Cloud has set up three Service Delivery Centers in Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia), Dubai (United Arab Emirates) and Hong Kong (Greater China), to provide extra technology support to its regional offices and customer project delivery in Asia Pacific and the Middle East, Europe and Africa. Fueling new innovations with reliable infrastructure During the summit, Alibaba Cloud has inked nearly 30 agreements to help customers and partners accelerate their digital innovation capabilities with leading cloud computing technologies. In collaboration with JP Games, Japan's leading game development studio, Alibaba Cloud has unveiled a set of new services to create virtual spaces and realistic avatars for global customers venturing into the metaverse. Together with MetaverseXR, Thailand's leading metaverse company, Alibaba Cloud rolled out a comprehensive suite of metaverse solutions for the Thai market in order to fulfill growing local demand for embarking on a Web 3.0 journey. Alibaba Cloud also teamed up with UMG Group in Myanmar, to power the country's digital transformation – especially in traditional industries. With BeLive and VisionTech from Singapore, Alibaba Cloud is expanding its regional outreach in the media and Fintech verticals. Alibaba Cloud is collaborating with OnFinality, a leading New Zealand-based blockchain infrastructure provider, to offer robust cloud-computing capability and a strong global network for Web 3.0 developers looking to scale globally. More than 300 Alibaba Cloud customers and partners around the globe are attending the summit, including Accenture, Tiger Brokers, DANA, Thai Data, and Lala station. About Alibaba Cloud Established in 2009, Alibaba Cloud (www.alibabacloud.com) is the digital technology and intelligence backbone of Alibaba Group. It offers a complete suite of cloud services to customers worldwide, including elastic computing, database, storage, network virtualization services, large-scale computing, security, management and application services, big data analytics, a machine learning platform and IoT services. Alibaba maintained its position as the third leading public cloud IaaS service provider globally since 2018, according to IDC. Alibaba is the world's third leading and Asia Pacific's leading IaaS provider by revenue in U.S. dollars since 2018, according to Gartner.

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CLOUD SECURITY

Northern Data Becomes Preferred Cloud Service Provider in NVIDIA Partner Network

Northern Data | September 21, 2022

Northern Data Cloud Services has joined the NVIDIA Partner Network as a Preferred Partner for Cloud Services in Europe. Northern Data's (XETRA: NB2, ISIN: DE000A0SMU87) sustainable data centers provide a GPU compute infrastructure based on NVIDIA A100 Tensor Core and RTX A6000 GPUs, primarily targeting artificial intelligence (AI) and professional visualization development teams. Northern Data helps these teams solve research and development assignments that require high processing power as well as data-driven business models. This infrastructure creates the platform for automated and semi-automated workloads in fast-growing segments such as image, video and data analysis, natural language processing (NLP), rendering, and machine learning (ML). "We are delighted to be an NVIDIA Partner Network Preferred Cloud Service Provider. The market is just getting started in the development of GPU cloud computing, yet we have the capability to offer large volumes of GPU computing power, tailored to the growing needs of our customers based on our own HPC data center infrastructure. We run our climate-neutral data centers in Scandinavia with a focus on the highest levels of energy efficiency. As a European supplier, we also guarantee our customers data sovereignty and security in line with European standards to meet their compliance requirements." Aroosh Thillainathan, CEO of Northern Data "Combining our powerful full-stack accelerated computing platform with Northern Data's user-friendly and climate-neutral concept marks a milestone in the European cloud services market," says Markus Hacker, Regional Director of Enterprise Business DACH at NVIDIA, and continues: "Together, we'll drive demand for these new, cloud-based HPC offerings." A powerful overall package With a large number of NVIDIA GPUs, Northern Data will provide start-ups, scale-ups, established companies and system integrators with massive computing capacity for data-intensive workloads on demand. With Northern Data, customers will benefit from a tech stack that guarantees high interconnectivity and absence of latency between individual GPUs, as well as within one tenant for maximum scalability and flexibility. In accomplishing this, Northern Data is relying on the latest networking technology from NVIDIA, all-flash storage solutions from PureStorage and an external, redundant 100 Gbit internet connection. High security standards, low complexity of the network configuration and the simple scaling of workloads thanks to the support of Cloud-init complete the offerings. To simplify developer workflows and optimize performance on GPU instances, NVIDIA offers NGC™, a Hub of GPU-optimized AI and HPC software including enterprise-grade containers, frameworks, pre-trained models, Helm charts and industry-specific software development kits (SDKs) for data scientists, developers and DevOps teams to build and deploy solutions faster. This end-to-end approach — from the choice of location to the construction and operation of the data center — and Northern Data's focus on cloud-native applications and the formulation of transparent flavors guarantee Northern Data customers cost-efficient use of sought-after HPC resources with no surprise follow-on costs. This is enabled by Northern Data's sustainable data centers with exceptionally high power usage effectiveness (PUE) in Sweden (PUE value: 1.04 in 2021) and Norway (PUE value: 1.15). "The underlying technology and framework conditions in which it is provided are crucial for our offerings. NVIDIA GPUs speed up large, demanding workloads as they can process data volumes in the petabyte range much faster than traditional CPUs. With the exceptional performance of NVIDIA GPUs, large-scale simulations can also be processed faster than ever before," explains Christopher Yoshida, President and CFO of Northern Data. Cost transparency for wide-ranging application scenarios The current cloud offerings target a wide variety of application scenarios for GPU computing. For example, they include fast, efficient image and video analysis for media content creators, rapid rendering of complex models and 3D simulations for research and development teams, real-time analysis and evaluation of large data volumes for business decision-makers or even the accelerated training of AI and ML models. Customers of Northern Data Cloud Services can reserve large processing capacity in advance as part of a transparent cost structure. Besides B2B customers, the company is also providing system integrators and AI consultants with a powerful, immediately available HPC offering that represents an intelligent addition to traditional solutions from classic hyperscalers. About Northern Data: At Northern Data, we are convinced that High Performance Computing (HPC) will open up opportunities for research and development, business and ultimately human progress never seen before. Our multinational company is quickly becoming a globally significant provider of GPU and ASIC-based solutions through the development and operation of an efficient, environmentally-friendly HPC infrastructure. We combine intelligent, sustainable data centers, advanced, leading edge hardware and in-house, proprietary software for various HPC applications such as Bitcoin mining, blockchain, Artificial Intelligence, Big Data analytics, IoT and graphics rendering. We work in large, customized data centers and proprietary, mobile high-performance data centers which offer the ultimate scope of flexibility in the choice of location. The Northern Data Group employs around 220 members of staff in active in 7 countries.

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