Networks have always been a critical part of any IT infrastructure, but despite increasing demand and complexity, network operations have not changed dramatically in the last twenty years.
Becoming an early adopter of innovative practices can be a gamble, even more so when an organisation is reliant on a technology to work. If network connectivity is down, everything is down regardless of how many redundant servers, databases and applications organisations might have.
Network solutions have evolved with the rise of SD-WAN, SDN and Cloud Networking, but a conserative ‘if it’s not broken, don’t fix it” approach has stifled innovation with regards to network operations. Network Engineers are still manually connecting via SSH to network devices to perform configuration and troubleshooting tasks.
The networking world has tentatively sought validation from other industries to accept and adopt automation. DevOps demonstrating predictable outcomes over the last few years, coupled with demands from users, applications and businesses has forced the industry to rethink both practices and attitudes.
What Is Network Automation?
Often appearing under the moniker of NetOps or NetDevOps, Network Automation is the process of automating the operations of physical and virtual devices within a network. NetOps has taken inspiration from DevOps but focuses on transforming network operations within an organisation. Although both drive efficiency, speed up internal processes and improve agility, whereas DevOps often adopts a risk tasking, iterative approach, NetOps prioritises uptime and minimises risk.
What Are The Benefits?
The benefits of more stable, scalable and resilient networks have teased the industry from eering on the side of caution. Alongside being a huge technological advantage, network automation has allowed organisations to achieve crucial business goals.
Increasing Operational Efficiency: Automated provisioning allows organisations to accelerate service delivery to customers from weeks to just hours. Automated change management shrinks maintenance windows from hours to minutes, minimising downtime and business impact.
Cost Reduction: Replacing lengthy, repetitives (and often error prone) taks with automation greatly reduces man-hours and cuts costs dramatically. Replacing manual tasks with predictable, repeatable network changes will increase productivity and create simpler management tasks.
Staff Retention: IT professionals, like most, do not like to be inundated with boring repetitive and monotonous tasks. Alleviating such tasks allows professionals to perform more fulfilling tasks that lead to drive business growth and personal development.
Compliance & Risk Management: Financial institutions and other industry-regulated organisations very often rely on security audit reports from the distant past. Automated security audits ensure that network device configuration is compliant with best practices and industry standards at all times.
Why Now Is The Right Time To Automate?
Network Automation has been mooted as a method of delivering more efficient services at a reduced cost, while freeing up IT teams to innovate. But what validation factors have led to the practices being adopted considering years of hesitancy?
Maturity Of DevOps: As discussed earlier, NetDevOps looked to validation from DevOps which has become a mature approach in organisations across the world. It has proved to be hugely valuable and transformed systems provision and orchestration in the deployments of all scales, giving the endorsement to transfer the concept into the network world.
Proliferation Of Tools: Six to seven years ago, organisations would have faced the daunting challenge of developing tools from scratch. There is now a great variety of open source tools available – Python libraries (Paramiko, Nornir, Batfish), automation platform Ansible, CI/CD tool Jenkins and many more. Spinning up a first automated use case now requires far less investment.
Network Vendors & Producers: Predicting this coming trend, vendors and producers introduced best-practice automation guidelines for their hardware and software. Many of the latest network devices and platforms deliver rich API interfaces to provide specialists with unparalleled flexibility to automate.
Knowledge Sharing: Becoming accustomed to NetDevOps has become easier thanks to the amount of information, courses, blog articles and guides available online. A greater number of resources also allows Network professionals to remain familiar with the latest technologies, trends and tools.
To say we’re not a fan of meetings would be a mild understatement… People scrambling in late, half the people in the room not knowing why they are there and the ones that do wish they weren’t. Sound familiar? We’ve been long-standing proponents of canning meetings altogether and replacing them with workshops.
To gain maximum value from a workshop, however, you’ll need a great facilitator. These arbiters of truth oversee proceedings to ensure the right people are in the room to have conversations that solve actual problems.
It can be a tricky business, but here are the top seven simple mistakes I’ve seen facilitators make and that you should avoid!
1) Pretending to be an expert on the topic.
The clue is in the title: ‘facilitator’. Unless you are an expert in the particular field or industry, don’t pretend to be!
Your job is to facilitate or guide the real experts in the room through the discovery process to generate conversations and ideas. Faking knowledge can ultimately reduce the trust people have in you and even lead outcomes in the wrong direction.
2) Letting people in the room run the session.
Too often I’ve seen facilitators lose control of the class, so to speak. Remember, you are there to guide the session to achieve the best possible outcomes for the participants. Upfront communication is key to make sure everybody knows why they are there. Make sure agendas, purpose statements and expected outcomes are shared before any session.
*If the conversation starts to wander, use a creative “car park” to capture ideas that can be discussed later.
3) Not sticking to the plan.
There are so many different processes/ styles to facilitate a workshop and I’m not going to pretend to know them all. Whichever you choose, trust the process to get the outcome everybody wants. Don’t be tempted to chop and change on the fly otherwise the session can become confusing and ultimately less constructive. If it’s clear something has to change, take a break and reassess.
*I facilitate a lot of workshops and they can often feel like they’re not on the right track (particularly at the start), but each time I’ve trusted the process and there have been some incredible outcomes.
4) Forgetting to keep time.
Facilitation 101. Make sure you track the time for every step of the conversation. If you don’t, discussions will drag and before you know it your workshop has descended into another fruitless ‘meeting’. The imaginatively named Time Timer (https://www.timetimer.com/) is one of the best apps for timekeeping.
5) Illegible or tiny handwriting.
How will people understand what’s going on if they can’t read your notes? Exactly. ALWAYS WRITE IN CAPITAL LETTERS ON POST-IT NOTES SO EVERYONE CAN SEE. Ideas will be flowing like fine wine so it’s important people can quickly refer back to notes. “What does that say?” is an awful waste of time. Once you become more experienced, you’ll quickly become more efficient at capturing what someone has said in just a few words.
6) Lacking communication &/or preparation.
People should arrive energised and excited for a workshop. I love to share a short two-minute video with project summaries prior to the day so people know exactly what the purpose of the workshop is and what to expect. Arrive early on the day, set up tables, pens, paper, water… You’re the facilitator, everything should be in order so when people arrive the magic can begin.
7) Not inviting key decision-makers.
The purpose of workshops is to get **** done! Decisions will often need to be made on the spot before pursuing certain ideas, particularly with design sprints. The last thing you want is for an idea to go all the way through to prototyping before a senior team member shoots the idea down. It’s a quick way to waste a week. ‘Decision-makers’ may be short of time, so just make sure they’re present for core decision touchpoints for a thumbs or down. If it’s down, you can quickly pivot. Pivot!
So there you have it, 7 simple mistakes to avoid when facilitating a workshop. If you enjoyed this, you might also find our 10 Tips To Workshoppin’ Like A Pro helpful.
For any further questions, or if you’d like me to facilitate one of your workshops, don’t hesitate to get in touch.
Book a free session today to explore how we can help you achieve better outcomes.
Millennials flooding the workforce has forced the redefinition of the much-loved buzzwords “work/life balance”. Instead, how about we cut the cr*p and do away with it altogether?
Perhaps this is a sign of resignation. Possibly calling for the term’s shelving altogether is the culmination of frustrations following years of trying to understand and articulate its current standing in the workplace fully. Perhaps it’s a touch of pedanticism.
Balance, fine, it’s the two words before it and dash or slash that irk me. We have a myriad of obligations and responsibilities to others and ourselves that we must prioritise and balance, not just two. Why are we making a distinction between ‘living’ and, ironically, ’making a living?’.
The assumption is that we tread a delicate (and often seemingly impossible) tightrope between two polarising worlds: what we “must do” and what we “want to do”. Work is bad; private life is good. The work/life paradigm implies we have two lives. We don’t, we have one, and if we aren’t in charge of it, then somebody else is.
I was once told, “life is our priority, but work is somebody else’s”.
Many adopt a somewhat dangerous position of defining our self-worth via our career, and I think that boils down to a particular view of “success” that we are taught. A “good job”, long hours, big money, promotions… And there’s nothing wrong if you are fulfilled, but the constant discussion over work/life balance would suggest not everybody is.
The traditional days of career trajectory are largely behind us. Long gone are the expectations of a single career – towing the line along a linear trajectory from bottom to the… well, somewhere that isn’t the bottom in return for a gold watch upon retirement. It’s a truly symbolic trading of time because let’s be clear, our finite amount of time is what we are trading.
We now live in a connected world of opportunity where people are having ten different careers (and less are treading the first rung on the corporate ladder). As people are becoming more conscious and aware of themselves, we’re beginning to question our relationship with work and how we spend our valuable time.
Well, perhaps. For some necessity and obligation to others will, of course, take priority because unfortunately, we need money to survive (I’m sure I’ll write in further detail about the utopian bartering system I’m devising at a later date). The point I’m trying to make is that there has never been a more significant window of opportunity to find meaningful work that integrates with our chosen lifestyle.
We’re seeing more freelancers, gig workers, people continuously chopping and changing to find integration rather than separation of “work” and “life”. A healthy work-life balance requires reflection on what we truly value and prioritising your whole self instead of just the needs of your work.
Loosely translating to ‘reason for being’, Ikigai is a Japanese concept representing a cross-section of our work, responsibilities and interests. It incorporates what you love, what the world needs, what you’re good at amd what you can get paid for. To have Ikigai, and a healthy life because of it, means not being burdened by any one part of living. (and there are more than two parts to choose from).
It’s time to publicly ostracise or ‘cancel’ (a word I despise so much I now instead ‘annihilate’ my Amazon Prime membership) “work-life balance”. Banish it to the graveyard of annoying and useless business vernacular and make meaningful changes that allow us to integrate and prioritise our one life as we best choose.
I Googled ‘Agile’and discovered my worst fears. Confusion and mis-information about Agile software development, how it works, and how to make it effective as a method of digital solution delivery.
Following on from the short, rather poorly animated video, let me share a slightly more concise and coherent insight on how Agile should work and how it’s possible to make it a means of delivering exceptional outcomes. Spoiler alert: it’s probably not what you expect or want to hear, but please know I’m here to support you if you feel in the slightest bit unsure about what to do next.
The methods used to build solutions with software haven’t changed significantly for 30 years. And even though we’ve lived in the The Age of Agile for almost 20 of those years, the time it takes to deliver solutions, not to mention quality and efficacy, are still falling short of expectations.
Beyond Agile, examined why software development failed to meet the lofty aspirations of the Agile Manifesto founders. The book also explained how to avoid some of the classic mistakes of Agile software development.
A talk given by one of the creators of the Manifesto for Agile Software Development, Dave Thomas, underlines the dysfunction caused when the principles of the manifesto are misinterpreted or distorted to fit an enterprise IT agenda. He half-jokingly attributes the downfall as our tendency to turn adjectives into nouns; so instead of the title Manifesto for Agile Software Development, people turn it around a truncate it to — Agile Manifesto, thus losing its meaning and purpose.
Beyond Agile explores many of the noteworthy lightweight methodologies in use today, some of which pre-date Agile. This provides context and explains why software development often fails to meet expectations. Another founder of the Manifesto for Agile, Alistair Cockburn, puts it simply:
“The Agile Manifesto was the product of seventeen people from different schools and backgrounds. No one person is responsible for the words we came up with — it is clear that it was the product of all seventeen people. The addition or removal of any one person would have changed the outcome, something we recognised and discussed at the end of that meeting.
Whether you think ‘Agile’ saved the world or poisoned it, be sure always to recognise that it grew from a rich compost (joke intentional) of backgrounds. The next time you read a would-be history of the Agile movement, look for all those names. If you don’t see them, it is not a history; it is one person’s recounting of their journey, years after the event (as indeed, this one is).”
Cockburn’s statement gets to the heart of why Agile is such an enigma: few people bother to understand or respect it for what it is, choosing instead to follow second-hand interpretations of the manifesto or, worse still, adopt a consultant’s cheap imitation of it.
Agile often fails, not because it is inherently flawed or lacking in some respect, but how people interpret and apply the principles. The Agile Manifesto and its core principles are, in fact, quite logical and straightforward. The problem with Agile is it was released into the world and then distorted by people unwilling and unable to think about the true meaning and purpose of the method. Kent Beck, the creator of Extreme Programming and another of the creators of the Agile Manifesto, calls this the ‘staring dog problem.’
“If you try to point something out to a dog, it will look at your finger,” he explains. “If you explain an idea in terms of concrete practices — like test-driven development, pair programming, continuous integration — people will fixate on the practices and stop thinking.”
Kent is calling out that often we’re unable to make the cognitive leap between practice and application. Scrum and other so-called enablers of Agile fail precisely because they compensate for lack of intellectual integrity. They shroud important ideas like user-centricity and fast iteration in rituals and catchy names. The Agile manifesto left too much room for interpretation and not enough specific rules. It feels like we’re back where we started in the late twentieth century with powerful technology and tools but no idea how to make them relevant to the ever changing needs of our enterprise users and customers.
Beyond Agile, describes three outcomes Agile practised well delivers:
Eliminates (or at least reduce) waste in software development;
Creates software that people use; and
Delivers projects on time and budget.
An analysis of fifty thousand software projects conducted by The Standish Group in 2015 found 29% of projects was successful (meaning they were delivered on time, on budget, and to a satisfactory standard). The remainder, 71% were either failures or failed to meet expectations. Just think about that for a moment: starting a large-scale technology project, there’s only a 1 in 3 chance of success. Not very good odds. The same report in 2018 showed the situation got worse, with only 23% of projects successful and 77% unsuccessful.
Other sources corroborate these stats. In a paper presented to the 7th International Conference on Knowledge Management in Organisations, Stanley and Uden proved that software projects typically overrun their budgets by two hundred per cent, and exceed their scheduled completion dates by fifty per cent.
But it’s the cost of project failures that’s the real issue here. It’s nothing short of tragic:
– The cost of re-worked and abandoned systems costs the US economy an estimated $75 billion per year;
– In Australia, $5.4 billion is wasted each year on IT projects that don’t deliver value or are abandoned completely;
– One project alone — the infamously abandoned National Health Service patient record system in the United Kingdom — cost taxpayers £10 billion.
To put those numbers into perspective, the United Nations estimates that a yearly investment of $267 billion would end world hunger by 2030. A meagre $175 billion per year would eliminate extreme poverty globally.
It’s been almost two decades since the Agile Manifesto was written, and even longer since Winston Royce published Managing the Development of Large Software Systems. But little has changed and no single methodology has improved software development; it’s still a hugely expensive and wasteful endeavour that rarely meets expectations. And that’s hard to accept, in any era.
It shouldn’t be beyond humans to come up with a better, more reliable way of developing software solutions. Just as garment makers and car manufacturers in past centuries industrialised their domains, so too software coders need to do the same. Digitisation begets automation.
Methods like Beyond Agile address some of the shortfalls, but it’s by no means a silver bullet. The method requires skilled people, disciplined practices, full engagement with users and problem owners.
When I Googled ‘Agile’ I was hoping for the answer to some of the more taxing questions surrounding the method. What I came away with was this: to make Agile software development successful, there are four areas that align closely to the original manifesto principles:
Start by defining the challenge or problem to be fixed
Define the project outcome in terms of a quantifiable measure
Describe the first 6–12 features or functions the solution must have
Identify the first half a dozen users you’ll engage at the outset and throughout.
Rinse and repeat.
Digital Village is a community of IT professionals dedicated to providing flexible IT project team solutions in an authentic Agile way to enterprises in Australia and New Zealand.
Excel is probably the closest thing we have to the perfect tool for analysing & reporting on data. It’s greatest downfall, however, is that it doesn’t really scale beyond a single user, and the result is organisations find their data and IP locked up in un-verifiable (but easily shareable) files.
James Diekman, who’s recently joined the Digital Village network as a Producer, sat down with DV co-founder Luke Fabish to share his solution.
[Luke Fabish] Hi James, we’re pumped to welcome you aboard as a DV Producer – could you tell us a little about yourself?
[James Diekman] Thanks! I’ve been in the IT industry my entire career, starting out in support to more recently becoming a Microsoft specialist consulting to government agencies and large enterprises which has been super exciting. I’ve got a passion for business applications and leveraging them to solve business problems and getting involved with the Power Platform community and also not for profits.
[LF] Hey, that’s great James. Recently we were talking about one of the technologies you work with, Microsoft Power Platform, and about how it has the potential to solve one of the biggest problems affecting IT in organisations… Excel is used for everything! What are your thoughts on that?
[JD] Completely agree! Use Excel for what it’s good at – analysing data. Don’t use it as a store of record, it simply wasn’t built for that and you’re missing out on turning your data into valuable insights. Also it’s not just Excel… We often see Word, OneNote and good old Microsoft Access heavily used because it’s all the users had at hand. These products have been around for eons.
[LF] So could someone who’d normally open up Excel to get a job done use Power Apps just as easily?
[JD] Absolutely. Organisations, however, need to look at PowerApps as a better way to capture data that can be stored in a common data service. From here organisations can start to automate processes they were never able to before because the data is stored in one place in a structured format. Start adding more applications and more data and you start to build up a valuable data estate that you can analyse and interpret by levering new technologies like artificial intelligence (AI).
[LF] That sounds amazing! So what you’re saying is we can solve some of the problems introduced by the pervasive use of Excel as a data store?
[JD] Yes… from simple problems such as versioning, multiple users, and data corruption to relating and querying large data sets. Thousands of disparate Excel files are of little value. Leveraging tools like PowerApps and the Power Platform allows you to turn data into business insights you previously didn’t have available to you before.
[LF] Thanks so much, James. For me, the big takeaway seems to be the ability to remove complexity and open up a way more collaborative approach to data than is possible in Excel on its own.
I know we’ve barely scratched the surface here… The Power Platform is at heart a powerful system for rapid digital transformation that can provide deep and integrated value across an organisation’s entire digital landscape.
Want to learn more? We have an upcoming live event with James where he’ll be highlighting the breadth of capability that Power Apps can bring to an organisation (plus he has some great tips for getting the I.T. department on board with it as well).
So to learn more about rapid innovation and digital transformation with Microsoft’s Power Platform, register for our upcoming event here.
by Suraj Pabari, Partner in Customer Analytics at SingleView, a data consultancy in Australia.
Currently, many businesses value customers based on their first purchase. As a result, they may under-invest in customers that would be higher value over a period of time and over-invest in lower value customers.
However, we can value customers based on their lifetime value, which is the total spend of the customer over a given period of time.
One way to measure lifetime value is to segment based on recency, frequency and monetary value.
By calculating RFM scores for our customers, we can segment our customers and understand the highest value customers,as well as those with low frequency, low average spend and those who have not visited for a long while.
We can then take action based on these segments to increase long term business revenue.
What do we mean by lifetime value?
You acquire a new customer. Not only that, but the customer returns again and again, spending hundreds of dollars every time they return. This customer must really love you! However, traditionally, you value this customer based on the revenue from their first purchase and now, this customer does not look so good. In fact, you would pay the same for this superstar customer as you would pay for his discount-seeking neighbour, who only bought something because it had a heavy discount. But do not fret, as we are moving to a new world, a world in which the customer is valued based on their total spend over a defined time period… or their lifetime value. Now, you can more easily find the valuable superstars and give them that star treatment with the hope that they stay with your business, and help you discover more just like them, transforming your business into a business of superstars.
The problem with big shiny things
Let’s imagine an extremely technical person in your business spends six months on building a model to predict the customers that will churn in the immediate future. They tell you that they have found a number of relevant features that predict churn, such as delay in bill payment, location and even age. They even excitedly proclaim that they have refined the model to the point where the model can find almost 90% of the customers that will churn. You are excited! You decide to run an experiment by showing ads to customers that are likely to churn to try to prevent them from leaving. However, clicks are so low, that you see no difference in churn rate. You go home, dejected.
Can you relate? After nine years in the Marketing Analytics space, I certainly can. And I’m not the only one.
We often hear buzzwords about things we ‘should do’. ‘Optimise to lifetime value,’ they say. ‘The customer journey is complex, implement a custom attribution model,’ is a common recommendation. ‘Most of your sales are occurring offline, why not connect offline data?’ is often proposed as a solution. You spend time and money on these pet projects, thinking they will transform your business and you divert resources away from your acquisition marketing efforts. The results are often far from impressive.
Should you avoid these types of projects? Absolutely not. The intentions of these projects are generally sound. However, my learning has been that these projects only work when you think about ways that you can use these programs to drive value before you invest significant resources. Write these specific actions down. Get endorsement from other teams that need to be involved. Quantify the value (with some justifiable logic!)
One particular project that often can drive a high cost despite demonstrating a low return is ‘lifetime value’. However, hopefully by the end of this article you will realise that lifetime value can drive significant business growth, in ways that are neither time consuming nor expensive.
The most valuable customers are the ones who have spent the most, right?
To start with, let’s discuss why lifetime value is so important. The current state of measurement with many businesses can be demonstrated in the graphs below. Assume the bars represent the value of five individual customers and the horizontal line represents the cost to acquire a customer: naturally, you set that cost to be equal to the value that you will get from the customers to break even (or even lower if you want a higher margin). You can see that by optimising to this cost you end up over-investing in some ‘low value’ customers (shaded red) and under-investing in other ‘high value’ customers (shaded green).
In contrast, if you were to focus on acquiring more high value customers (the green bars), in many cases, the long term revenue would be higher, as can be seen below.
So what do we mean by high value customers? The ones that spend the most money?
Not quite. Often using total spend over a period of time can be a good proxy, but it is important to take a more nuanced view. Take the example below. Which customer do you think has the greatest value to the business?
Were you able to guess correctly? The behaviour of the first customer suggests that they will be more loyal, as they have greater consistency and bought more recently. We saw this with one of our hospitality clients: they had customers spending a lot of money in their venues on expensive champagne, and then not spending anything for a long period; we had to think of them differently to those customers who spent the same amount, but over a more extended period. The former may have been enjoying themselves on a luxury holiday, and since they will not be coming back, it may not make sense to define them as a high value customer.
So how do we define a high value customer then?
We have a fairly simple way of measuring high value, which is based on three factors:
Recency = How recently the customer bought. Someone who bought a year ago is at risk of churning and may not be high value versus someone who bought last week. Note that, in some models, recency refers to the gap between the first and last purchases.
Frequency = Number of repeat purchases. More purchases demonstrates greater loyalty. Using frequency in this way allows us to distinguish between the tourist who came to the venue and spent a lot of money whilst she was on holiday, and the businessman who goes to the same venue every week.
Monetary value = Average order value. We sometimes exclude the first purchase in this average, particularly if the purchase has been driven by a voucher.
This RFM method gives us a score for each factor. The simplest way to come up with a score is to rank the value that each customer has for each variable between 1 and 5 (though the exact scoring might differ by business). As an example, for recency: bought within last week = 5, bought within last month = 4, bought within last year = 3 etc.; for frequency: 10+ purchases = 5; 8–10 purchases = 4 etc. The recommended approach to determine the actual boundaries is to ensure that 20% of the customers are in each bucket.
Now the fun begins!
With some simple maths (which can even be done in a spreadsheet) you now have three scores per customer. What does this mean?
Let’s say a customer has a RFM score of 555. Keep this customer close! They have recently bought a high value item, and will often return to buy high value items. But what about a 155? With a low recency, this customer hasn’t bought anything recently. Why haven’t they bought anything? How can we bring them back? This diagram makes it simpler to understand.
..though note that in reality we are looking at a cube as a pose to a square!
You may already be thinking about some of the things you can do with this data. What could you do with a ‘High Spender’ to increase their frequency? Would you give the ‘Superstar’ a voucher or would you instead offer them a ‘concierge’ service? Now, rather than simply saying: “These are my high value customers and these are my low value customers,” you can answer some more complex questions, such as:
Who are my highest value customers?
Which customers are on the verge of churning?
Which customers have the potential to be transformed into higher value customers? How might we do that: by trying to upsell them, or getting them to return more often?
Who are the low value customers that you can ignore?
Which group of customers is most likely to respond to your current campaign?
I hope you now have a better idea about the power of LTV segmentation, and understand how you can segment your customers using RFM methodology to answer some important questions.
How do you currently segment your customers? How do you leverage the insights from your segmentation? Feel free to add some comments in the post!
I’ve just read Tim Duggan’s remarkable book Cult Status. It’s a fascinating insight into the way millennial-run businesses are changing the landscape of commerce, work-life balance and the way we perceive brands.
Tim’s been around the millennial revolution for most of his working life. He has first-hand knowledge of the challenges of appealing to the fickle, often illogical ways millennials engage with suppliers and service providers. He led a very successful media business in Australia in the early 2000s and has gone on to achieve remarkable results with Junkee Media, Australia’s leading digital publisher and content agency for millennials.
He’s interviewed hundreds of people all over the world to distil the essence of what makes a successful cult-status brand. It boils down to following a seven-step process he claims is a common thread. I won’t list all seven steps here — you’ll need to read the book. But they do follow a logical path to achieving success, provided you have the necessary determination and passion for meeting the needs of a generation seeking more than just great products and services.
Steps one to three are: Think Impact First; Question All The Small Things and Refine your Superpower.
Think Impact First is about purpose and visualising outcomes. Most successful entrepreneurs can envisage and articulate a tangible impact they can make on peoples lives, from the get-go.
Question All The Small Things refers to the need unravel the way business is traditionally done and question whether there are better, smarter ways to do things. In essence, they are asking ‘why?’ – a lot.
Refining Your Superpower explores how successful people concentrate on getting better and better at one thing, becoming an expert, while recognising success doesn’t always mean being big.
The book concludes by reminding readers there’s no magic bullet to success. Hard work and clarity in your strategy and execution rarely have short cuts.
One other step intrigued me: Step six: Lead From The Middle. Duggan points out many successful businesses growing in this era are led by people exhibiting very different leadership skills to those of 10 or 15 years ago. Leaders today tend to build a strong sense of belonging to those on the journey with them, be they team members, partners or customers. New-age leaders are better listeners and enablers to others around them.
The book is packed with case studies and examples. It’s no longer about creating great products and services; businesses need a higher purpose, to make an impact — not just a profit, give something back — not only supply a product but advance the life-experience of being human. An excellent read for anyone questioning the purpose of their business or themselves for that matter.
The ABS statistics only tell part of the story. The more significant revelation from COVID has been a realisation that the way organisations adopt and operationalise technology needs to change. Put bluntly, most organisations are paying too much for resources they don’t need — at least not full time — and when they do need them, they can’t manage them effectively to deliver business outcomes.
Why is this so? Well the experience of many organisations during COVID has been their IT has run perfectly well with either contracted in resource, shifting them to work remotely or a mix of offshore services to onshore — mainly those services involving IT support and end customer technical support. The same goes for innovation and systems development. The gig economy and rapid growth of IT services platforms like UpWork, Equal Experts and Digital Village has made it easy for businesses to pick resources they need off-the-shelf, with clearly defined outcomes at a competitive price.
The big takeaway for those who were employed during the lockdown was that remote working is both productive and often preferred. Provided there is a dedicated space at home and decent WiFi bandwidth, the overall work-life balance equation improved and the sense of being in control of one’s life also ticks up.
Many people felt stressed and unsure, to begin with, but by the time lockdown came to an end and they were able to make choices about whether to work from home or return to the office, the vast majority wanted to continue homeworking to some degree. Atlassian, Australia’s largest locally owned IT company, tells us 76% of their staff prefer to avoid their office altogether when they need to concentrate on a project. This stat, along with 40 others gathered by Hubspot, underlines remote working is here to stay and has profound implications for the IT services sector in particular.
Any organisation seeking to optimise its IT resources post-COVID has the opportunity to make some changes which both improve their capability to develop and support systems. It’s also going to be a relatively easy sell to people if they chose to move to a remote working or semi outsourced model, as most have now come to terms with the benefits and ways to make it work for them.
Hence telescopes and microscopes, x-rays and satellites and so on – a massive amount of our energy goes into seeing more of the world.
But our ability to perceive the world isn’t just limited to physical sensing.
No matter how many details I perceive, they’re no use to me unless I can understand them.
This of course is where my mind is the limiting factor on my ability to perceive the world. So we all go to school to hopefully learn things that’ll help us understand the world.
(Or at least give us the tools to widen our perception in the future – like reading and mathematics).
This is great, because now I don’t have to be smart enough to work out everything by myself – if I want to calculate the perimeter of a circle I can do that because a teacher told me how.
But there’s a third kind of limitation on perception – or understanding – though.
Luckily, at Digital Village’s March Meetup, the good people at This Thing of Ours introduced us to a way of addressing that limitation.
But before we get into what that is – why make a big deal about perception anyway?
This is how I think about perception: if I were alive 50,000 years ago, what would improved perception mean to me?
Physical senses: they’d allow me to see, hear or smell food (and anything that wanted to eat me)
Understanding: it’d allow me to avoid dangerous things to eat, or to know how to prepare them properly
(And hey, if this COVID thing goes on long enough, this might become relevant again!!)
But what about now?
Our society is full of signals: we get them from the news, from talking to people, social media, and our own observations too.
But they amount to the same thing that the ‘me’ from 50,000 years ago cared about: some of these signals represent opportunities, and some of them are threats.
So it’s good to be able to see more, and understand more of what we see.
So getting back to that limitation I mentioned earlier.
This comes back to the natural frame we use to understand the world.
Everyone has their own, unique way of evaluating, and understanding the world:
Sometimes it’s in terms of understanding who’s winning, and who’s losing.
Or it may be a matter of understanding what people are afraid of, and what they’re greedy for.
Or seeing the systems that people operate in, and how those systems affect peoples behaviour.
Whatever your natural way of understanding the world is, wouldn’t it be good to step into someone else’s shoes and see the world the way they see it?
So what happened in our March Meetup is that Phil, Rachel and Chris from This Thing of Ours introduced us to a technique for doing exactly this.
The technique comes from Integral Theory and is a very straight-forward way of understanding any kind of situation the world throws up.
It’s pretty simple. I won’t go into to a lot of detail (The This Thing of Ours gang are the subject matter experts for that) but basically we create something that looks like this
So we end up with these four sections:
And the amazing thing is, there’s not a single human endeavour that can’t be completely described by those four categories.
Let’s imagine we’re targeting a new customer, and we wanted to use this system to understand our customer better.
We’d go through each of those four sections one at a time – Behaviour, Systems, Culture and Mindset – and write down everything we could think about that particular aspect of the customer.
If I do this, what it forces me to do is step outside my normal habits of thinking and consider the world from new perspectives, and to do it systematically.
If I were doing this to understand a new customer, I’d end up with a quadrant covered in notes which I could then analyse for themes that cut across each quadrant and can become the source of powerful insights.
If you’d like to know more about analysing your own organisation, customers or anything else using the quadrant model, contact This Thing of Ours.
To learn more useful techniques for analysing and understanding the world of business, technology and people, be sure to come to Digital Village’s next Meetup!
You wake up in the morning, you turn off your alarm, and as you lie there in bed, you check facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, Twitter, texts, emails and then the news. Then you go to the bathroom, you use the toilet, brush your teeth, take a shower, get dressed and then head for the kitchen. You drink some coffee and eat breakfast. Maybe you watch the news or check your emails again. It’s the same routine you follow everyday.
Then you drive to work on the same old route, and when you get there you interact with the same coworkers you saw the day before. You spend your day performing pretty much the same duties you performed yesterday. You might even react to the same challenges at work with the same emotions; Then after work, you drive home; maybe you stop at the same grocery store and buy the food you like and always eat. You cook the same food for dinner and watch the same television show at the same time while sitting in the same place in your living room. Then you get ready for bed in the same way you always do-you brush your teeth (with your right hand starting from the upper right side of your mouth), you crawl into the same side of the bed, maybe you read a little, and then you go to sleep.
Currently working with Allianz Insurance with their organisational transformation. Jo is a creative, driven Executive Coach, Facilitator and Organisational Development specialist, helping leaders and organisations transform and achieve more through their people.
Justin is the co-founder of ‘Eighty20 Solutions’ a modern workplace transformation company specialising in Microsoft systems integration. Justin has a background in running large scale transformation programs for enterprise organizations.
NIkki Thompson (Coach & consultant – Inner Circle Work)
Nikki has a long history working in the health industry as a clinician and manager. She also brings business and life skills gained from raising a family and assisting her husband on their grain and grazing property. Nikki provides coaching and consulting to empower individuals and organisations to live and work more mindfully. This promotes health, wellbeing ,collaboration and creativity.
Dave Massage (KPMG Australia)
With over 15 years in the ICT, Banking & Finance and Professional Services industries, Dave specialises in data analytics and strategy development and is passionate about growing and developing dynamic, high performing teams, delivering large scale strategic and transformational programs. Dave is currently the Director of data and analytics at KPMG.
With over 15 years in the ICT, Banking & Finance and Professional Services industries, Dave specialises in data analytics and strategy development and is passionate about growing and developing dynamic, high performing teams, delivering large scale strategic and transformational programs. Dave is currently the Director of data and analytics at KPMG.
We spoke about working from home (WFH) and what this might mean for us as people in terms of work and life balance. We also explored the impact on business and how organisations are navigating this change and how they will need to adapt to remain relevant into the unknown future.
How are we dealing with the change?
Around the 29 minute mark on the video Rachel describes a change curve model. The Change Curve is a popular and powerful model used to understand the stages of personal transition and organisational change.
Rachel’s observation was that companies went from being in denial or panic mode to then jumping to focusing on what is going to happen in the future. Possibly avoiding the reality of now.
Jo suggests that this coping mechanism is where employers need to be focusing on to support their people. Being a crucial point in this journey of change. It is an especially important point in time where there is a need for authentic care and support for people before business implications are considered.
Adapting to change means being flexible.
In the ‘old-normal’ world there was often a clear distinction between work life and home life. Now that everyone is working from home, co-workers are seeing a new side of their co-workers that is more real as they get to meet their kids in the background trashing the house or the pet dog joining the conference call. Or as a listener shared on Youtube chat on the call, her friend sharing more than expected with her husband’s company.
But what this ‘rawness’ or ‘exposure’ of vulnerability is doing for people and companies, is bringing them closer together in a more personal and meaningful way. There is empathy between co-workers and also client relations because we are now no-longer displaying a different version of ourselves. The benefits of this authenticity is trust, better communication, culture, camaraderie and togetherness.
Parents having to cope with a very hectic home life are obviously finding it very difficult, but at the same time coworkers are aware of their challenges because they have a window view into the lives of their co-workers. The team now has a greater appreciation and understanding of the lives of the coworkers and the blend between life and work is more balanced. Dave shared his experiences of this and Rachel suggests how organisations should be supporting their staff at about the 47min mark (here).
Will companies want to go back to the ‘old-normal’?
Justin raised a good point about why WFH is working now and what the challenge might be when the lockdown is lifted. Suggesting that WFH is working for many organisations now because everyone is in the same circumstances. The real challenge comes when we go back to the office and there are say 80% of people working from the office and the other 20% remotely. Do those people who are working from home feel that they can contribute and are being heard by the rest of the team? Taking into account non verbal communications such as body language and the effects of physical presence.
Some people thrive in the office environment and feel a need to be around other people. While others enjoy the solace of their own space and actually would prefer to WFH from now on. We might see a more equal split between those working from home and those from the office. If that is the case, workplace environments and communication technology will need to be re-imagined. (if you are a large organisation interested in exploring what that might look like, I recommend speaking with Justin or someone from Eighty20 Solutions about that).
Jo described a very interesting scenario; now that people are not needing to go into the office anymore, but they will still be wanting the connection and community that comes with the workplace. So the office environment we are accustomed to, could be more about social hubs for people to congregate and work. Which opens up a range of working environment designs that are more functional, enjoyable, productive and innovative.
Reliance and Adoption of Digital
The Industrial Revolution accelerated growth through mass production and huge efficiencies. It was throughout this period that organisational structures were formed and systems and processes were prescribed to form the blueprint of business, employment and trade that we still live our lives by today (including school systems).
This attachment to a Marxist view that value is determined by time of labor input, has developed an expectation overtime that employees need to be in the office, at their desk and sitting there from 9-5. And this is how a company can be sure that things are getting done. This is of course an extreme example of ‘command and control’, but it highlights where we have come from and how things can change.
When asked about the impacts on business, Dave shared that one of the lasting legacies of this scenario will be a faster and more extensive digitisation of Australian businesses. He expressed the general resistance that organisations have to digitisation and some examples of how much more effective teams can be when truly adopting digital into their organisation. (Thanks Dave for the reference to this great article about such adoption of digitisation in the Australian business community.)
Digital technology provides an opportunity for businesses to quickly create new customer value propositions. By better understanding the customer, creating more meaningful services and products, and providing an enhanced customer experience through new digital offerings. As more people are online now, there are new opportunities everywhere for organisations to try new things and remain relevant into the new world.
Digital Business Design – Digital transformation challenges and what solutions researchers have learned
Digital business design: ‘The holistic organisational configuration of people (roles, accountabilities, structures, skills), processes (workflows, routines, procedures), and technology (infrastructure, applications) to define value propositions and deliver offerings made possible by the capabilities of digital technologies.
(Ross et al., 2019)
For mid-large businesses, becoming digital is a competitive necessity. Ubiquitous data, unlimited connectivity and massive automation provides organisations with an opportunity to reinvent themselves, adapt to new markets and evolve for the future of business and the way people work. Reinventing themselves for the future requires stepping into the unknown, and I have great respect for the leaders of these companies who are steering these highly challenging transformations. There is no right way up the mountain and there is no pre-existing cut path guiding the way.
Experimentation and flexibility are characteristics that typically are not associated with large organisations, but ironically this is what it is going to take to navigate the digital mountain.
In September 2019, the MIT Sloan Center for Information Systems Research Press published the findings of 4 years of research into a book; Designed for Digital. How to Architect Your Business for Sustained Success. Within it, defining 5 organisational capabilities that companies must develop to succeed at digital. These 5 building blocks of an organisation are:
Shared Insights about what digital solutions the company can develop that customers will pay for. (building the intersection between what the business can do and what customers desire.)
An Operational Backbone that captures the company’s requirements for integration and standardisation of core operational processes. (This building block enforces reliability in the execution of foundational processes and integrity of company data).
A digital platform of reusable digital components making up digital offerings (this building block provides access to repositories of business, data, and infrastructure components.
An accountability framework that allocates decision making rights to ensure both autonomy and alignment (this building block defines roles, decision rights, and processes to support speed and alignment in development and use of the digital platform.
An external developer platform that exposes digital components of external partners (this building block provides the technology, processes and roles enabling digital partner relationships.
(from “Designed for Digital: How to Architect Your Business for Sustained Success (Management on the Cutting Edge)” by Jeanne W. Ross, Cynthia M. Beath, Martin Mocker)
What got me into tech, was the fascination with the fact that with technology, almost anything is possible, you are only limited by your imagination. What I love about innovation, is that there are no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ ideas. There’s only things that work and things that do not.
So what new designs of businesses are we going to see in the future? What innovative configurations of people, processes and technology will form throughout the evolution of the digital age? What new services, products and offerings are we going to see? And what could this mean for employees and their livelihoods?
Finding Balance: Giving power to the people
Centralised organisational structures have most of the decisions and responsibility at the top of the organisation, while decentralised organisations allow decision-making and authority at lower levels of the organisation.
By breaking down silos and verticals into small cross-functioning teams, it can provide the business with greater and faster innovation because of the diverse knowledge and expertise within the one team. There is no skill or knowledge waste and people are learning from one another. Ultimately each team has their own culture. A team culture created by empowering individuals and teams to take ownership and responsibility for what they are working on. Where it is a choice to work, not a requirement.
Funnily enough, the flexibility that companies need is the flexibility that people now need for a healthy WFH and work:life balance. Companies that are adopting ways of engaging people that provide a flexible balance between work and personal life will no doubt attract and retain the talent they want and need.
An example of this is a small team of people dedicated to a specific digital product where they are responsible for its design, delivery and success like a startup within an organisation. The cross functioning team can quickly innovate, test and make decisions without getting approval from further up the org chart. There is ownership and purpose in this way of working that is empowering and enjoyable. And it gets results. (learn more about DV teams here)
Transformation of work life
In Nikki’s words;
‘COVID to me is giving us a beautiful global tap on the back to say change how you do business, because if you don’t your grandkids are not going to be impressed.’
We are being forced to look at the world in a different way. The way we work, the way we live, the way organisations operate, serve their customers and engage their people in employment.
Like the movie Finding Joe, we are all on a journey of transformation where if we break from the shackles of the past, we are sure to come out better than how we went in. But we need to make choices and take risks and be willing to let go of the way things were.
Whether that be the shackles of legacy organisational structures or personal baggage we hold onto, we have the choice for a more balanced work life.
You wake up in the morning, you turn off your alarm, and as you lie there in bed, you have a choice. How will you choose to live your life?