Monthly Archives: November 2013

How does your company culture stack up?

A great article from Mashable – by Lauren Drell on improving your company culture.  All the tips make perfect sense and are not too difficult to do – but they may require change in your thought process.

Take a read… 9 Tips for a Better Company Culture.

Google company culture

Your company culture is the killer differentiator between you and the competition – it’s why guys want to work for you in the first place, and why they will in many cases go out of their ways to secure a position with you.  They like what you do, your vision and the opportunities with you and want to be part of your journey.  Take Apple, Google and Amazon as prime examples of well known companies with great cultures where people want to work.

Apple company culture

Lauren suggests a number of different tips on how you can change your company culture for the better.  I’ll summarise these below:

  1. Hiring should be a continuous process and not just when you have specific vacancies.
  2. Encourage entrepreneurial thinking.  What would people do if it was their company.
  3. Hire fantastic people, remember people are your business.
  4. Lead by example – culture starts with you.  Show passion for the company and vision.
  5. Character counts – hire people for attitude and positivity.
  6. Don’t forget the freelancers or recent graduates.
  7. Your gut reaction is more often than not right – listen to it more.
  8. Encourage ownership and flexibility – we want happy people.
  9. Continue to build your company culture.

Lauren sums it up very well in one sentence…

“Hire in tech, product or business, but only take people that really wow you.”

A great culture, means an even better team, resulting in better productivity from the guys, improved services, better relationships with your customers and a great vibe in the market about you.

Culture word cloud

Nothing will ever top this Volvo ad

A quick follow-up post on the viral Volvo ad with Jean-Claude Van Damme (JCVD) in – after seeing more posts of the ad on our favourite social media platforms!  The headline on the latest post is great…

Advertisers Should Just Quit

The viral YouTube ad is now at 40 million views.  That’s 9 million more than yesterday.  That level of viral-ness is staggering!  Give it a month and where will it be?

Now, of those 4o million views, how many are from prospective truck buyers or people looking for trucks?  Probably not many.  But we’re talking about it, and yes now even more 7 and 8 year olds are (and they love it and are very impressed by Mr. Jean-Claude Van Damme – some demos of splits yesterday at school).  And these views are only online – there’s no TV ad running for it.  Is there one coming?  That would be cool.

Volvo trucks

The strange life, death and rebirth of the CIO and what it means for the future of technology

A re-blog from a very good article earlier this month on ZDNet (by Steve Ranger – the UK editor-in-chief of ZDNet and TechRepublic) which follows the same theme as my recent posts on the changing role of the CIO and CTO in organisations and what this means.

Which way to go

The way companies buy, build and use technology is changing rapidly, which means the teams that build it and run it will need to change too.”

Technology business alignment

Are you as a technology leader changing quickly enough and giving the necessary direction to your teams and the business?

We’ve faced some huge shifts in technology services and provision of these in business over the last 5-10 years.  First outsourcing and offshoring, then the cloud and technology as a utility, then more recently consumerisation and the whole BYOD phenomenon, and this is forcing us to make big changes in how we lead and manage technology teams and functions in businesses.  These changes will accelerate over the next 2-3 years and new changes will emerge.  Technology will become more and more critical to businesses and needs to be more agile and responsive to change.

The challenge for us as technology leaders, is to manage increasingly conflicting business expectations – to increase efficiency, reduce costs and come up with new innovative ways of using technology to create new business opportunities.

 

Creativity, advertising genius and a bit of flexibility

Every so often I see an ad that is so mind-blowingly clever, and it can be for something I might have no plans of ever purchasing!  Case in point last week with the Volvo advert with Jean-Claude Van Damme (JCDV) that went viral (31 million views of the video as of today – 5 days after it was released; that’s viral at a whole new level).

Volvo trucks

Most of us know JCVD from his martial arts movies – some good, some not so good.  It was “Bloodsport” (in the late 1980’s) that got me hooked – and not just because it was set for part in Hong Kong (my home town).  JCVD’s martial arts skills are somewhat impressive and he’s extremely flexible.

I can remember some shots from “Bloodsport” of some unbelievable high and targeted kicks.  I’ve studied karate for a few years since those days and know a bit more about how the body works and what static and dynamic flexibility is all about, and know even better how difficult things like this are to master!

If you’ve not seen the video yet watch it before reading further…

Epic split doesn’t do it justice!  It’s unbelievable.  It took me 2 takes of the video to realise the trucks were going backwards!  The skill of the professional drivers is amazing as well – they’re not driving that slowly but in a perfect straight line!

The genius of the advert for me is on so many different levels.  The music is perfect – very relaxed and almost mesmerising.  It’s “Only Time” by Enya and all of a sudden the track is up in the charts on iTunes and conveniently a whole £0.20 higher in price than all the other tracks on the album (that’s 13 years old).   Yes I’ve downloaded it through iTunes now and listened to it a lot.  Even the little Nobles know the name of the track.

I also now know a bit about Volvo Trucks and their amazing dynamic steering control (2000 readings per second for the steering goes into the trucks’ on-board computers) and have even watched a few YouTube videos showing how it works – and it is very impressive.  A hamster can even steer these trucks with a bit of help and a fan case!  Some of the ads Volvo have done for these trucks are pretty cool – do take a look at Volvo Trucks on YouTube and check out the others.  Did JCVD know what he was letting himself in for when he signed up for this?

A very very clever ad.  Sure most of the people viewing the viral ad won’t be buying a truck but they will know about them and are sure talking about them.  I was only helping on a school trip today for my little girl’s class (7 to 8 year olds) and telling them about JCVD and his splits!  Viral marketing at it’s best.

CIO-DNA part 2 – joining the dots

A couple of other points and thoughts from the BCS CIO-DNA event a few weeks back – these ones on the theme of better aligning with the business.

Business alignment

  • Technology’s role is about joining people up in the business and delivering according to business priorities.  We have to let the business drive these – no longer default to saying “No” but instead be innovative and look at how we can say “Yes”.  Technology is there to help, not stop.
  • Define what success would be.  Work with your senior peers and be a key person who is involved in their decisions.  Build your credibility.
  • Embrace social media (yes, this might strike fear in many people) and make it work.  Yes there is the whole control side that needs to be dealt with but don’t say no!  The key is getting people to understand the value of something (e.g. losing data) and being accountable for it.
  • Demonstrate the value that technology can bring by stitching all the component parts together.  And also demonstrate the value-add of technology by mitigating the risk of the business going out and doing their own thing – as we’re seeing more and more now.  I.e. working with technology providers or using the likes of Dropbox on our own for storing company documents, without any involvement from technology.
  • Run know-how events – and help build bridges with the business.  Run these as stalls, solution days or surgeries.  And it doesn’t just mean having a new page on your corporate intranet.  Get out there and engage with your customers.  Run them as executive sponsored events.  And merchandise them to death – give things away.  These can work really well – it’s technology’s opportunity to hear first hand what works and what doesn’t and to show off new tools, services, devices etc.
  • Train all your team on what the vision for technology is – get everyone on-board with the classic 30 second elevator pitch.  Your CEO should be able to ask anyone in technology what the vision is!
  • Engage actively with communications people.  There is always a hook – the challenge is finding it.  And keep listening!
  • Work with multi-functional teams on projects and build respect across the different groups in the business.  A great idea I’ve seen work successfully in a number of different businesses is working with your graduate recruitment programme and having these new starters rotate around the business.
  • Don’t be afraid of failure.  Too often there isn’t enough failure.  Encourage wildcard and lateral thinking.  And even what you might think of as more pure academic research.  We need more horizon planning to innovate!
  • Our role as CIOs and CTOs is a bridging role between technology and the commercial side of the business.

BBC Micro

Don’t forget, in theory technology can be taught – it’s attitude and behaviour that is key.  Technology teams need to be more customer facing and engaging!

I really like this quote on the role of technology…

“The role of IT then, is to act as a business analyst who can translate business priorities into technology and figure out how to get the most out of technology to serve the business better.”

CIO-DNA part 1 – an event hosted by BCS

British Computer Society

I attended the CIO-DNA event earlier this week, hosted by the BCS Elite Group, the BCS London South Group and the IOD.  It was a 1/2 day session with technology leaders from different organisations speaking and with some very thought provoking discussions around what makes an effective CIO and CTO, and some of the speakers’ personal journeys to becoming technology leaders.

I’ve summarised some of the key takeaway notes – the fundamental drivers behind what makes a good CIO – from the session below .  Let me know what you think – do you agree?

DNA

  • The CIO and CTO roles are now primarily about innovation.  The focus is no longer about keeping the lights on.
  • As technology leaders we need to advocate the creation of an environment in which the team feels empowered to create sparks of innovation.
  • You need to be fundamentally close to the business and to the customers.  They need to help drive the priorities for technology.
  • A great quote from one of the speakers – “The death of the mouse is only weeks away” – in reference to how important touch is becoming and will be.  Interesting point.  Yes touch is critical but I think there’s a longer transition for a lot of core technology products and platforms.
  • Related to touch, devices that are touch enabled remove barriers to entry for C-level executives and help get wider buy-in to new technology services.
  • Communication and visualisation are key for the CIO to raise their profile.  And as part of this we need to be recognised as equal contributors to business transformation.  The CIO needs to be the agent of business transformation.
  • See technology as an enabler to open up new markets and do things the business wasn’t doing before.
  • The key areas where there are new opportunities, are – smart machines, capturing the real world, mobile computing, touch and cloud.  Where cloud can be seen as more about provision and delivery.
  • Knowledge management will continue to be a challenge for technology leaders, with retiring staff taking know-how with them.  This isn’t a new problem though and can’t be changed.  Focus instead on the new guys coming in and give them an environment that they can be most effective in – and that doesn’t just mean yes to BYOD.  New recruits – and the work force of the future – now have very different expectations for IT and technology.
  • Develop techniques for managing different streams of inputs and see where they match and where they conflict.  Where they conflict, dig deeper – these places show the most interest.
  • Move away from being a pure technologist and focus on the business transformation agenda.  And get proportionately more focus on the profit side of the business – technology is no longer just about costs.
  • Technology does not have users any more – something I’ve been saying for a good number of years.  We need to shift our way of thinking to see them as our customers – whether external or internal ones.  We as technology are providing our customers with a service!
  • Understand what your customers want from the services and systems, and move then to create and deliver that!
  • Create a clear future workspace vision – that allows the business and teams to be more flexible, work smarter and to work faster.  And get the inputs from the business for this – don’t drive with technology.
  • Technology is about change management with the business, and utilising technology to do that.
  • Test the vision with the business – and use visualisation tools (e.g. storyboards and animations).  See a great example of this by Gavin Walker at NATS below – this part of the session was from Gavin….

 

  • Position technology as the enabler – to help your customers work better and more efficiently.  Get the decisions pushed into the business – to give them greater accountability.
  • Don’t see IT as a cost centre – the business own the costs and budget.  Technology spends the budget on behalf of the business, with the business making the choices.
  • Focus on change management, not technology.
  • Focus on information, not systems.

These last 2 very nicely summarise where the focus needs to be for technology.  A very pleasant afternoon at the BCS with a good theme and great sessions and as always great networking.

More thoughts soon!

Technology leaders

A guide to understanding customer success

Two relatively recent formal functions within businesses are those of customer engagement and customer success.  Clearly not new as in we’ve not been focusing on success or engagement before but in that it wasn’t someone’s job title or sole function.

Customer success

Or was it?  Customer success and customer engagement have clearly been critical to businesses, since commerce first came about and it’s always been – or should be – part of everyone’s job and the function of every department.  But what has changed is that a need has been identified to have individuals and teams who focus just on success and engagement, particularly from a leadership perspective – and ensure all other teams are working in a customer focused joined up and collaborative way, that results in the best experience and service for our customers!  All great to have.

There’s a great blog post from last month that looks at the role of someone heading up the customer success function from Dan Steinman (Chief Customer Officer at gainsight).  Dan highlights the key traits that are needed for a successful customer success leader and does so by asking his team about him in his role – a very interesting and insightful exercise.

Do read Dan’s post for full details but in summary the key traits are:

  1. A passion for customers.
  2. A willingness to get their hands dirty.
  3. A philosophy.
  4. An understanding of what the customer success team do each day.
  5. A knack for influence management.

Influence management

Passion makes perfect sense.  You need to have be focused on the customer and making things right for them and caring about them being successful.  And your team need to share the same passion – and then let it spread beyond just your team!  It can be a cultural shift but a critical one.

Getting involved when there are customer issues and challenges, means getting stuck in and doing what is needed and engaging with the customer and team.  And not just taking a back seat overseeing it all.  It’s about credibility.

As a new field, it is evolving fast and there are lots of new ideas.  You need to be committed to what your phillosophy on customer success is and what that means for your customers and your teams.

The better you know your team and what they are doing, the better informed your decisions are – not rocket science, but all about good leadership.

The last point is the big one I think – influence management.  You need to be working across all the functions and teams in your company so that they understand their roles in customer success – from sales to operations to development to product management to admin to support – so they can understand what and when changes are needed and implement them.

As an evolving new function, there is no commonly agreed standard definition of what customer success (or engagement) management is.  Having a team focused on customer success, has a strong message for both internal teams and stakeholders and customers.

Pay as you go technology

As technology moves more and more to a utility based – pay as you go – model and more focus is on long term relationships and not the legacy models where there was a huge upfront cost (as CAPEX – capital expenditure), customer retention becomes more critical.  This is where customer success and customer engagement both come in – ensuring customers are retained.  And key to this is ensuring customers can easily see the commercial value of the platforms and services you are providing.

These new technology models, have created a need to formalise and structure the customer success function, but it’s not just in technology companies where it applies.

The more value your services provide, the more successful your customers are and the more successful you are.  Customer success can be the focus of your VP of customer success, or your chief customer officer, or your customer success director, but their role is to make sure everyone understands what customer success is all about and everyone’s own role in it, and to make your customers successful.

Customer success