Customer Success, Sense Making, Startup Innovation

Why selling productivity is hard and what to focus on instead

David Sacks who founded Yammer (the original enterprise social network) alongside Adam Pisoni, knows what it takes to build a business or two. He nailed it in this tweet from the other day:

Having worked at Yammer and been in the productivity game for a while now, I absolutely concur. I have always maintained that focusing on something as generic as improved productivity is not going to cut it🔪 Not in sales, nor customer success. Neither will focus on technology and feature or functions do. I’ve written about this before:

The two alternatives to focusing on productivity and their relative merits and challenges are discussed below:

Bottom-up freemium groundswell

Sacks is the master of this tactic. Yammer was predicated on making it easy for users to try Yammer for free, invite other users to try it and then start the groundswell needed to convince IT they couldn’t shut it down.

This is hard to do well. It depends a lot on the usability and virality of the product. The first is about getting users excited to use the product to such an extent that they want to share it with others.

Especially with products that rely on social collaboration, virality is probably built in because you cannot collaborate alone.

Building massively attractive products is also not easy but is made easier depending on how new the proposition is. These days with so much competition in enterprise software, that is really difficult.

From a people change effort, building a groundswell from the bottom up is also really heard in certain cases. Like when there isn’t an initial spark from product attractiveness or demand or it goes against the grain of the current company culture.

Solving a business pain

For me this is the more worthwhile alternative, at least in enterprise software. Its also not easy to do but if you nail it, you convince the people with the purse strings 💰 This is an eventual hurdle you need to overcome, may as well do it upfront.

Solving a business pain often means working outside of IT and that is often the first challenge. Ideally, you have business users that have come to the product through the viral groundswell 😁

If the business is engaged, whether through some initial use or not, on understanding how a product can solve problems or address opportunities, the battle is two thirds done 💥

Deep understanding of the environment the business operates in and mapping that to the use of technology is needed.

The more you focus on leaders in each business domain, the better. Although you can can also focus on regular business users and how they use technology currently and could do to meet their needs. Showing this to business decision makers will nail it 🔨

As a Service, Customer Success, Sense Making

The product customer success cycle

This DanelDoodle pretty much speaks for itself but just a few added notes. The feedback loop is the critical element for success (aside from the obvious one – the customer/user being at the centre of everything).

A good feedback loop is not an easy thing to build so the simplicity of the diagram belies the effort. Feedback loops should incorporate many things, the most impart being, in summary:

  1. A good reporting interface into how customers and users are using the product that both product development and customer success teams have access to and share insights from in terms of how outcomes can be improved. This should include both quantitative data as well as qualitative, e.g. survey responses.
  2. A feedback loop between customer success teams and product development teams where the former bring field insights to the latter and these influence new feature development. Conversely, new feature ideas can be shared by product development teams and discussed with customer success teams before they are developed further. A good collaboration system will help with this.
  3. A similar reporting interface as above for the customer (those responsible for end users) so they gain insights into how the product/s are being used. This should include an element that allows the customer to build their own reports and feedback loops which I have hacked solutions around (covered here and here).
Sense Making

Thought rocket: arc of change and bending reality

As the year closes on a challenging 2019 this brief retrospective on my InnerVentures is preparation for 2020. If it shines a light for anyone else then I am grateful 🙏

I’ve been at the game of workplace change a long time now and sometimes I get despondent. I weary at the lack of change I see or the setbacks I observe.

Other times I’m geed up by the possibilities from the positive outcomes I experience.

Then I remember a quote from His Holiness the Dalai Lama that puts it all into perspective for me.

“It’s too early to tell”

His Holiness the Dalai Lama on being asked about the impact of the French Revolution

Perspective is such a valuable tool.

It allows you to neither be lulled into a false sense of satisfaction or security by the overly positive changes you see (like the frog in boiling water). Nor feel too discouraged by the negative ones.

Detachment from results is key. It’s all about the journey and sometimes the steps are more backward than forward, or they veer off course.

All of which is fine and doesn’t mean to say we should not strive.

At Microsoft where I work, our CEO Satya Nadella speaks of (and I paraphrase), the distance between what the espoused culture is and what the lived experience is. The distance is what you want to keep working at, reducing it, removing impediments. We’re not perfect. We may never be perfect. But every day we work at it. That’s the journey we are on.

I love this perspective because that is also how we should live our lives and a key principle of InnerVentures (i.e. the interplay between our working and personal lives and how they are inseparable).

Step by step, day by day, striving to be a little better. Shining a little more light. Handling setbacks with equanimity.

The right perspective leads to the right awareness and this needs to be maintained constantly. Without constant awareness of our actions and the reality they create every day, we lose sight of the goal and the journey we are on.

Perspective also helps with the perseverance needed to overcome challenges. Perseverance requires equal parts commitment to purpose and detachment from results. Commitment to purpose keeps us moving forward into the attitudes and activities that serve to fulfil it. Detachment from results keeps us from becoming frustrated and discouraged when things don’t immediately work out as we had hoped.

Helpful tools on your InnerVentures

Stepping back and viewing events with an aspect of eternity makes a difficult present easier to understand and bear. It also creates an awareness of real impact that can encourage and drive us to change our future.

May your InnerVentures be filled with perspective, awareness and perseverance in 2020 👓 🔦 👊

Future of Work, Sense Making

Effective Meetings and Collaboration at work and Microsoft Teams

I’m often frustrated with how meetings are misused and ineffective at work. I know I’m not alone 😬

I think a whole lot more thought needs to go into things before a meeting is held and included in that is whether virtual collaboration could do the job in place of a meeting.

At some point a meeting may very well be necessary and even a face to face one at that, which is best for driving certain outcomes at times.

By virtual collaboration by the way, I am also thinking of effective working out loud.

I read a really good article on Harvard Business Review: Do You Really Need to Hold That Meeting? It had a great decision flowchart which you will see in the article.

I decided to take that a little further and extend that into how Microsoft Teams which I am currently using heavily at work (in my work and in supporting customers to use it successfully) can be used. Here is the result below:

Click to view larger image

Not sure I’ve quite nailed it yet. So in the working out loud spirit, if you have any feedback that you think would make this better, please let me have it 🙏 😆

PS: the definition of Hell in the featured image is mine and I’ve created an entry on Urban Dictionary for a laugh – vote for it if you agree (but mostly for some irreverent fun😜 ). Find the entry from here.

Dharma Hacker, Sense Making

Homo Deus and the cosmic dance between humans, mind and machine

I’ve just come back from holiday where I read Homo Deus by Yuval Noah Harari.

It focuses on many things and chiefly the direction is forward looking, as opposed to his first book, Homo Sapiens, which looked backward from whence we have come.

One aspect I was fascinated by was his account of the recognised decoupling of consciousness and intelligence and how this might play out in the future given the rise of “machines” and their impact on humans.

With machines and technology getting bad press of late, I thought it would be useful to highlight the positives that I see.

It’s very much in line with my take on Dharma Hacking – more below.

I created a #daneldoodle of course, to summarise my thinking. Here it is:

And some added notes to elaborate:

Why the Dharma Hacking in the title? There is more here on what it is but essentially it is based on the the interplay between humans finding our way, developing our mental capacity (especially consciousness) and using technology to help.

We have only just scratched the surface in terms of expanding our known mental states and utilising our super consciousness.

Technology, far from being the bogey man that it currently is, can greatly help us get there.

It plays its role (intelligence), we play ours (consciousness), in a unique cosmic dance of creativity.

In this past post (The post robotic AI age and the role of creativity and innovation) I think I was somewhat deluded in my belief of what will distinguish humans based on their unique skills in the future. Intelligent technology will be able to master these skills and are already (see next point) but it will be advanced levels of consciousness (super consciousness) that will be our unique differentiators.

AI and Super AI is already doing credibly well with being creative and innovative. Check out the comments in this video I uploaded a while ago of famed theoretical physicist and futurist, Michio Kaku (you’ll need to view the video on YouTube for that). He also it appears, was deluded.

How technology will help us develop our consciousness and to what ends is outlined in some of the elements I position in the doodle. Essentially it is between the island on which we currently find ourselves with our known mental states and the antipodes of the mind as I call them. I’m not sure what these supporting roles and end states all are yet but I will be exploring further – watch this space 😊

Future of Work, Sense Making

Thought Rocket: State of Enterprise Collaboration

As the title of this post suggests, this is a very quick thought on the state of enterprise collaboration, mostly captured in the form of a DanelDoodle – the one above. Some added thoughts/considerations:

  • In my view, each new phase supplements the last, not replaces and all products and forms of activity still exist and have a place today. But there is a natural, progressive emphasis.
  • There are many other products, I have just highlighted the major ones, no offence to the ones I left out 😁
  • The penetration & value axis is wildly subjective and not intended to be accurate. Also because it conflates two characteristics it will be difficult to judge accurately. It’s just a stab at plotting what’s important.
Future of Work, Sense Making

The changing influence of culture and technology at work and the battle for the mind

I work in a field that frequently deals with changing the culture of work through managed change engagements. They are most often aligned to new technology adoption or digital transformation efforts. In all this work, the typical influencers present themselves: people, technology and process.

I’m exploring the first two in this post and assuming people as being synonymous with culture. Mindset is a relatively new component I also delve into. This is an essay capturing recent observations on the changing influence of all these elements. You may get more questions than answers ;)

Continue reading
Sense Making

Internet Trends and the impact on As a Service

Mary Meeker is famous for the insight of her Internet Trend Reports so of course I read them. Two slides stood out in relation to the trend I am tracking and the report I am working on. I captured my views with some annotations.

Sense Making

The end of ownership and the rise of usership

Foundations

NOTE: this post is made up of 3 pages so click through the pages at the bottom to get it in full.

To own or to use is not a new concept. I started grappling with this at least 12 years ago when I worked for a technology division at Sony and we developed a mobile music streaming service with Vodafone. That was in the day before iPhone was launched, before Spotify, when the iPod was on the rise. I remember the naysayers at the time saying, no one will pay a subscription fee for a mobile service for music they don’t own. CAN YOU IMAGINE THAT??? Check out the video I recorded of the service back in the day in case you don’t believe me.

Erich Fromm wrote To Have or to Be in 1997 – from the blurb:

To Have Or to Be? is one of the seminal books of the second half of the 20th century. Nothing less than a manifesto for a new social and psychological revolution to save our threatened planet, this book is a summary of the penetrating thought of Eric Fromm. His thesis is that two modes of existence struggle for the spirit of humankind: the having mode, which concentrates on material possessions, power, and aggression, and is the basis of the universal evils of greed, envy, and violence; and the being mode, which is based on love, the pleasure of sharing, and in productive activity. To Have Or to Be? is a brilliant program for socioeconomic change.

How does that resonate for you 22 years later, in this day and age?

Future of Work, Sense Making

Meaning and models as future work motivators

We don’t all have the luxury to question why we are working and to what end.

Many are in dead end, soul sapping or even worse, life endangering jobs.

But the reality is they have no choice. No choice but to toil in whatever adversity they find themselves because there is no alternative

On the other hand, many in the first world are spoilt (and I count myself amongst them). We are lucky to have jobs and vast choices with global employment rates at all time highs.

We have incredible jobs, are highly paid and in fantastic industries.

And yet engagement levels at work are at all time lows.

I ascribe this near universal condition of motivation in first world employment to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Once our basic needs are met, we will naturally incline towards the higher levels and that is what my enquiry in this post pertains to.

I believe it is in the higher levels that we are falling short and this is leading to so much dissatisfaction and lack of engagement at work.

Dynamics of meaning

I have explored (and still am) many aspects of motivation and meaning because it is so fundamental to outcomes and success in the work I do with customers.

I have taken Maslow’s theory and applied it to organisations and this seems to have resonated: The Modern Organisation’s Hierarchy of Needs.

I am exploring that further in a very detailed manner in terms of the things that are measured and how this drives behaviour: Leading the right behaviours through metrics and new work models.

I believe at a practical level, with robots and AI taking some of the lower level jobs that we are going to be forced (or have the luxury – depending on how you see it) to the higher levels: The post robotic AI age and the role of creativity and innovation.

I am not alone. The purpose or meaning driven organisation and defining the elements of its success have practically become an industry. Culture as an important contributing factor too.

Whether out of necessity or luxury I believe this to be meaningful work, to get a little meta.

However, as Maslow suggested and I too believe, we will constantly be forced by circumstance (e.g. losing a job) or simply because its healthy, to re-evaluate the lower levels.

As individuals, it might mean our excessive food intake has become a problem that needs addressing. So too organisations might be forced to re-evaluate their business models when the basis for the industry they are in is disrupted.

Dynamics of the business model

I have suggested in my hierarchy of organisational needs that the business model sits at the lowest level. I posit that it is as basic and necessary for business survival to have a good model as it is for individuals to have food, water and shelter.

And the basic business model of many organisations is under pressure to be re-evaluated and transformed like never before.

One such pressure I am currently exploring in a new eBook / trend report is coming from the subscription economy. Software as a Service has influenced enterprise technology and this has led to a broader As a Service trend (that’s a link to all posts with the tag where you can find material I am using in my work).

Business model transformation and innovation has become an industry in its own right too.

I would argue that this sits within a context and hierarchy of its own. The context is probably organisational transformation and what is currently very much in vogue, digital transformation.

It terms of hierarchy, it probably sits at the apex.

I’m doing some work at the moment around these very elements and have two charts that I use to demonstrate these aspects.

By “elements” you can probably see that I don’t mean those of the business model itself (which something like the business model canvas does very well).

In terms of effort and impact, you can see business model innovation is the hardest to do yet has the greatest impact over time and in value terms. Too often I see the focus on lower level transformations because they are easy.

The thing the diagram at right also points to is the limited impact over time that innovations or transformations have, hence the need to constantly be innovating and transforming.

This brings me full circle to the two pinnacles of my modern organisational hierarchy framework: innovation and creativity. The need to constantly innovate and create (or re-create, in a circle of positive creative-destruction) is key in the future of work.

In conclusion

This also brings me to the motivation element in the subject of this post.

One point I make is about the critical role of meaning in our future work roles, as individuals and organisations. About how we must spend time defining what creates meaning and will make a difference and this means going beyond the basics.

The other point is about how we cannot ignore the basics but in the case of organisational business models, how crucial it is to work on reinventing these for greatest impact. But here too, we shouldn’t waste effort on lower level efforts.

I am highly motivated by all this at the moment. In turn I strive to make it key motivator for the efforts of individuals and organisations I work with because I think it will make all the difference.