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Published March 25th 2019

Bigger, Better Brandwatch: CPO Bex Carson on Pain, Change, and Success

Bex Carson has a huge job to do. Here are her thoughts on merging teams and the challenges that come with change, as well as the latest on the integrated product.

“When the conversations were first happening I thought ‘nah, it’ll never happen.’”

I’m catching up with Brandwatch CPO Bex Carson, and we’re talking about her gut reaction when the idea of a merger with Crimson Hexagon was first floated. Luckily, she’s far more optimistic about things now.

The transition point between Bex’s skepticism and excitement around the merge would be a trip to Boston with a small team of Brandwatchers last summer.

“We spent a week with our counterparts and ran through how each product works in real detail. It was like meeting your long lost twin. They’ve got similar experiences, they’ve been solving the same problems as us but in subtly different ways, and it was interesting thinking about how we could stitch things together.

“That was the moment for me where not only did I believe this would work, I would be really disappointed if it didn’t happen. I was in.”

Team work, to the max

Bex has been at Brandwatch for six years and worked her way up to becoming Chief Product Officer after a long stint in the strategy and insights team. There, she built a team of researchers that ran as such a well oiled machine that she effectively worked her way out of the job. “There wasn’t a whole lot for me to do anymore. I wasn’t as challenged as I could be, so I started consulting with the product team internally, becoming a pretty serious stakeholder on the products,” she said.

After officially moving into the product team she recognized the importance of the skills she’d honed in research.

“As the team went through changes and experienced frictions I started to use the skills I’d used when I was building a global research team that had a lot of the same challenges – close collaboration, tight deadlines, customer needs, things changing at the 11th hour, the unruliness of social data tripping you up at the last minute. I started to use those skills and those were the skills they needed from me. The then CPO moved on and I sort of naturally evolved into the role.”

Those skills are exactly what she’s brought to the merger, which requires teamwork at a whole different scale.

When I ask her what she’s most excited about in the coming months, it’s the way different teams are working and will work together that she’s most passionate about.

“The engineering teams have been collaborating since day one – well, before day one – on how to bring it together technically,” she says.

“We’re now moving to the phase where the engineers will start to pick up the front end work that the designers and product managers have been working on, and that’s where you get this really nice blend. We get engineers, designers, product people and stakeholders in a room for a week to solve a problem and it’s so much fun – the energy in the room is really interesting with so many smart people from different places. That’s what I’m most excited about.”

Of course, there are tough decisions to be made. With two products that have competed against each other for so long there is plenty of crossover. The combined team have taken it all in their stride.

“There’s been no ego, there’s been no protectiveness, we’ve all been quite open that when you’re integrating things and you have two versions of something you have to let one go. No one’s stuck in the past or getting hurt feelings about any of it – we’re being practical and I’ve been so grateful for that with the teams.”

The best of both worlds

As a Brandwatch Analytics user myself, I hoped to get the latest gossip on what was coming with the integrated product that’s launching later this year. It’s clear that Brandwatch and Crimson have gone different ways with each of their products, but Bex sees big opportunities in getting the best of both worlds.

“Crimson invested early in machine learning and had those expertise while Brandwatch had gone down the route of flexible segmentation that customers could do themselves in the form of rules. So Brandwatch gave unlimited segmentation to the user and Crimson worked more out of the box with machine learning. And that’s really compatible – there’s no reason we can’t use both in the new product.”

Another difference is the way that the two companies have stored data. Crimson has gone for the easily scalable cloud option, that allows for speedy searching. Meanwhile, Brandwatch built its own physical storage which has allowed users to get really in-depth insights by examining the meta data and verbatim examples. Mixing the two, again, will only mean good things for the integrated product.

“We’re going to be keeping the speed and the depth,” Bex says.

Change, pain and success

Bex can’t wait to share the integrated product, and she’s encouraged by the prototypes that are already working.

“It’s going to have a new name and a new look and feel and I’m really excited about it,” she says.

At the same time, she’s conscious that change isn’t always easy. For her, the true sign of success won’t be the big launch and the accompanying sighs of relief and the glasses of prosecco. It’ll be that our customers want to get their hands on the new technology.

“Even though migration involves change and change is always slightly painful, if people want to go through that change that will be a sign of success for me – a sign that we’ve built something worth changing for.”

Thanks to Bex for taking the time to share her thoughts with the Brandwatch blog.

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