Martech Interview with Deanna Ballew, Senior Vice President of DXP Products, Acquia

Dive into the world of martech innovation with Deanna Ballew, SVP of DXP Products at Acquia.

1. As SVP of DXP Products, your job role involves leading cross-functional teams. Let us know how you built and mentored these teams to seek innovation in software development?
Innovation is the holy grail in the world of software. We know of the success stories of Apple, Microsoft, and Facebook; it is often talked about as unicorns that are magical – something that starts in someone’s garage or basement. However, we often confuse the concepts of invention and innovation; invention is something new to the world, while innovation is changing the way a person behaves. It not only takes something new, but the person needs to have a problem that is large enough that they want to change their behavior.

Innovation is solving human problems – once we align on the definition of innovation, new opportunities open for us to solve. We stop trying to invent new technology and start focusing on the problem that we want to fix. Innovation can be found at various levels; it can be incremental with small impact, or transformational with a large impact on the person. Innovation is no longer only for engineers when tinkering with technology, it is a cross-functional sport that relies upon diverse teams to create creative solutions. Once the team aligns on solving a problem for a person, the collaboration flourishes and overcomes constraints and roadblocks along the way.

2. What obstacles did you encounter when pivoting your career to product management? How did you manage to overcome them?
No one understood the value of a product manager at the time I transitioned. Many project management tasks were expected of me, especially when it came to working within a scrum team. These tasks kept me from getting out in the market and in front of customers; it limited my ability to be strategic and form a vision. Nevertheless, I overcame these challenges by setting clear expectations with cross-functional teams.

With any new team, I use a R.A.C.I (Responsible, Accountable, Consulted, and Informed) exercise to clearly define areas of responsibility for a product manager and areas that the product team does not own. This exercise is extremely powerful as it also allows others on the team to step up and own the project tasks. Product Management is often ambiguous, preventing access to all the data you want to make a decisive choice. As a product manager, you can lean into your design team to work through the ambiguity and collect both qualitative and quantitative data. I especially love design’s hypothesis-driven experimentation methodology to quickly test out assumptions and de-risk any decisions.

Product Management is an art, not a science; it involves envisioning solutions through market exposure and customer interactions. When you step into this role, you are often handed someone else’s vision. You have to take time to tailor your outlook by immersing yourself in the market and talking directly with your customers and users. It’s important to get out of your comfort zone and talk to your customers; I have diligently applied pragmatic marketing N.I.H.I.T.O (Nothing Important Happens in the Office). With myself and all of my product managers, I set forth KPIs on how many interactions we have externally on a quarterly basis – it’s important to measure what matters.

3. What is the primary objective of Acquia Exchange, and how does it contribute to the digital experience landscape?
As the martech landscape is ever-evolving, Acquia Exchange enables our customers to easily detect what technologies they can adopt and integrate to enhance their digital experiences. There are thousands of vendors that customers can choose from with new technologies continuing to evolve. Digital experiences need to delight customers – being able to effortlessly compose and augment your digital experience platform (DXP) with any technology is key to quickly evolving a digital experience.

4. In what ways does Acquia Exchange focus on AI and product innovations, and why is this emphasis significant in the context of digital experiences?
At Acquia, we don’t just deliver innovations through our DXP; we discover innovation by seamlessly fusing technologies together and packaging them up for ease of implementation and setup.Acquia Exchange showcases these innovations and provides our vast partner network a channel to bring their innovations to life for all our customers.

Nurturing community is deeply embedded within Acquia’s open source Drupal foundation. Acquia Exchange is key to our partner community and empowers them to innovate with us to deliver value to our customers. We believe that the more people who can contribute, the more innovation to be delivered.

5. What piqued your interest in DAM (Digital Asset Management) and DXP (Digital Experience Platform)?
I’ve been in the martech space before martech was even defined – almost two decades. I have found it especially gratifying to see the rapidly evolving space and it evokes a personal eagerness for continuous learning. Marketers are early adopters of technology; they’re constantly searching for new ways to work, therefore I get the opportunity to explore new technologies and innovate with them.

Since the inception of broadband, mobile devices, the rise of social media, and the evolution of AI over the decades, marketing has undergone substantial information. Marketing is the intersection between a brand and a person, therefore, being able to support brands to improve their marketing and brand message with every user has a large impact on society. Aquia’s solutions provide value and impact from various sectors including non-profits, higher education, technology, healthcare, and many more. Working in this space provides a unique opportunity where we can determine the same solutions for a billion dollar consumer brand can similarly work for a non-profit organization, ultimately transforming how they impact the world.

6. Lastly, could you offer some motivational insights for individuals aspiring to venture into product management?
Stay curious and seek out opportunities to learn. Product Management is not a skill you can study and become an expert – it’s a craft that you build overtime through experience and learning from others. The most important skill will be your ability to actively listen to your customers to uncover problems and to collaborate with people across the organization to find innovative solutions.

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Deanna Ballew, Senior Vice President of DXP Products, Acquia

Deanna Ballew joined Widen in 2004, focusing on research and development activities and served as the company’s Chief Innovation Officer from 2020 through the acquisition by Acquia in 2021. Her leadership abilities revolutionized Widen’s software-development operations to embrace new approaches to solving marketing problems. Deanna has built cross-functional teams of software engineers, designers, researchers, data specialists, and product managers in support of innovation necessary to capture market opportunities. In her role as SVP of DXP Products at Acquia, she continues to guide core strategy while planning for future growth. Deanna holds degrees in computer science and English writing from Loras College, and an MBA from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. LinkedIn.
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