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Entrepeneurship

Entrepeneurship, Innovation, IT is business

Have you already tried to buy software per sprint?

June 28, 2019

Lack of understanding of business by IT and of IT by businesses may still be one of the main issues when building software. 

Main issues on buying fixed scope/price software

The main common thoughts when somebody starts to think about creating some software is that it will be something similar to any other stuff we buy. How much will it cost? And how many time will it take to be done?

I’m trying to demystify the bad comparison between building a house and building software that commonly takes places during these conversations.

Software is a baby

We tend to think that building software is similar to building a house or a tower. But this parallel/analogy is impossible nowadays. For centuries, houses have been built and the process has reached a maturity that it’s possible to put all the information in 2 or 10 blueprints, and everything the buyer said he wants will be there well described.

Softwares have been created for less than 100 years (since the 1950s) and until today there is no way to put all the information on a document that can be followed from the very beginning to the end. Invariably, the documents have a macro vision of what is wanted with the pages described. But, as an example, what should happen when I hit the button “notify user”? Does it send an email to one user? Or does it triggers a background processing involving AI looking for all the users that match the current data and send them a push notification on their phones?

PMI addresses this scenario writing huge documentations with plenty of details following the PMBOK. But only some software have this level of detail. For the entire rest (the biggest majority I’ve seen during 10 years on IT) companies can’t afford the investment for having this level of detail.

Different complexities

Back to the analogy of houses. When you are building a house, the level you reach when designing the architecture (similar to the requirements document in software) will be the walls, plumbing, electricity, network and etc. But at that level, you don’t describe how the house will be decorated (the UI on software). How many paintings will be there? Which will be your sofa? How many inches will have your TV? Your kid’s room will be Superman or Batman’s?

Obviously, this is not described because people will have different opinions on how to decorate the house. And these opinions change from time to time. When talking about software, sometimes these UI behaviors are just not described at the level they should be.

The migration to agile

Given the scenario above and after severe issues developing software, eventually, companies start the migration to agile. Currently agile is the fastest approach to address the issues that come when a scope is not clear/detailed enough. Gartner (ID #G00325642) says that the main barriers for the change from fixed scope / fixed price to agile are:

  1. Sourcing and finance:
    • Sourcing: It’s hard to tell how much the software will cost. In organizations structured like having a hard sourcing process, this will be one of the main challenges.
    • Finance: the organizations have their financial operations structured as price per project. Budgeting for treating the software as a product instead of a project can be complex in some organizations;
  2. People’s routine adaptability / culture / mindset:
    • Be prepared to face challenges on people behavior when migrating to agile. It’s a new way to work, and everything new creates resistance.
    • As one of the key features of agile development, the ability to adapt your software alongside its development is essential. When applied to organizations changing, some issues will arise:
      • Since the scope can be changed at any time, people may fall on the trap of keep trying to reach perfection on some requirement and spend too much time on it, instead of moving to next requirements, making the entire cycle slower.
      • In some times, it’s easy to lose the UX pattern, as the features that have already been delivered may have functional or design differences from the next ones;
      • Managing people will have different KPIs to measure performance and quality. Finding the right ones to your project won’t be quick;A

A hybrid approach

The more flexible the scope is, the bigger the risk is for the client. The more fixed the scope is, the bigger is the risk for the vendor.

A good hybrid model between fixed scope and 100% agile can be the purchase per sprint/phase (Gartner, 2017 – ID #G00325642). You will need a big picture of the project to use this model. Starting from an initial internal estimate of price and time, the client will be able to go for the market and call vendors to produce the software. The software production will be done sprint per sprint. Every new sprint beginning has a new deal. What will be inside this deal is:

Anatomy of a per sprint deal:

  • Start and end dates (2, 3 or 4 weeks are good to start);
  • Price for the sprint;
  • The stories to be delivered;
    • Every story must have a clear DoD (Definition of Done);
    • Every story must be detailed enough for the team to work on without blocks.

For this model to work, the product owner has to have the autonomy to sign. This cannot involve an entire cycle of procurement.

The benefits

Developing projects per sprint puts the risk balance somewhere closer to the center. And here I list some key important outcomes of the change: 

  • For the client:
    • They can stop the work whenever they want without long term contractual strings;
    • The client will be able to apply new business decisions whenever he wants;
    • The client will be able to respond quickly to market and competitors changes, without having to wait for the current project to finish and then start an entire negotiation once again;
    • If something is delayed from one sprint, it will be the vendor’s responsibility to solve without generating new costs;
  • For the product (software):
    • One of the key benefits of flexibility is the possibility to involve more people that are experts in some specific process. Then the product will fit better what the users want, and not what a group of people (like the old project manager and system analysts) think they want;
    • The product will be flexible to respond fast to business decisions and users feedbacks;
    • Practices focused on finding innovation can be turned into a routine. Running design sprints, inceptions, usability testing, and user interviews are some key practices that would be done without affecting the project continuation;
  • For the vendor:
    • The vendor will have clearer information to work with. Less double understanding of requirements will happen;
    • The vendor will have more flexibility to turn into more like a consultant, bringing knowledge from many different projects. Both technical practices and business decisions will benefit;
Entrepeneurship, Practical examples

Successful negotiations

February 20, 2019

When we talk about services industry, unless you are in a niche not explored or own an entire market, it’s hard to show trustworthy credentials and proofs that you should be the one chosen (showing you are better, you deliver in time, your quality is world class, etc). Almost everybody can say they are good at doing what you do, even if they have never done anything like that before. This affects sales directly in a market where the competition is huge like the US. Getting into scenarios where we have at least 3 competitors, and some times more than 10, is pretty common.

In 2018/2019 I’ve been successful in the biggest part of sales negotiations I got in. For those which we didn’t win, at least we figured in the final shortlist. They all have different stories like where we met people involved, the percentage of how much the negotiation was done physically or not, how many steps each one of them had, the client’s size, and many other things that influenced on the results.

The common thing for winning all of them, from what I’ve seen this far, for sure passes by how much you can show of your technical quality not using technical stuff. The one who signs the check usually is not someone technical, but wants to feel comfortable on choosing us. Making them comfortable someone appropriated is going to handle the situation is the key.

But after winning, a feeling, or even a testimonial, comes about why did we win each one of them in specific, I mean the strongest reason in particular for each of them. Below I listed some of those main reasons for some companies, described a bit the scenario involved and shown how we prepared for some of them.

Speed and coherency in communications

Being fast and coherent on your communications is something decisive. If you go too slow, your client will end up thinking they are just one more in your list. Some studies say that your first answer must be within the first hour the client contacted you. For the next steps it may vary a lot. Being fast brings the feeling that you are dedicating energy to them. Beyond that, the speed with coherency creates trust between the parties. By coherency here I mean saying NO when you have to do. When you say no for something requested you are creating anchors of truth (that you will have to proof they are true in the future), and also is decreasing the strength of vendor-client aggressive relationship that some partners try to proceed.

Dedication on understanding the scenario

Do dedicate yourself on understanding the scenario. For sure this is the step that will give you inputs for everything mentioned here. If you don’t know the partner’s scenario, you simply are not up to help them. Dedicate on understand what is the business scenario, what you really have to deliver, but also spend at least 30% of your time understanding the consequences of each scenario. Why is that company buying from you? Do they have a strategic move related? You will know that and get more information to look even more trustworthy just knowing your client’ situation.

Be flexible. Give alternatives

For many of the negotiations I got involved in, there was a mental clock running out of time for something to be solved on the partner’s organization. If your client is under pressure, he needs alternatives. Period. He needs something he can realize is better for him so he will sleep comfortably at night. If you go for a negotiation with one scenario of purchase, you are losing the opportunity of being 2, 3 or even more alternatives inside one partner at a time. If you go for the scenario with more than one alternative, you will show empathy with the situation and also will show flexibility. You solution and your knowledge may always be the best in world, but sometimes it’s more than what the partner needs. He just needs to solve a problem, not a rocket.

The setup for the moment

Unquestionably, my favorite part for every single negotiation. The moment at the round table. The table must be round. For all of those I got involved and I remember while writing this article, we wanted the long term approach. We didn’t want just to have a deal and never show ourselves again. We want that deal to be successful, because we want more deals and also referrals for more deals. A lot of techniques can be applied for this moment, but it is a matter for a single article and I will resume here in three steps:

  • Preparation – know everything. The scenario, the people involved, the implications involved, etc;
  • At the table – prepare for that. Plan ahead each move and each question that might arise at the table. Be prepared for a money negotiation;
  • After the table – you went so far, let’s now miss the deal with small mistakes;

Use credentials

For every moment of contact you are allowed to use credentials. Credentials can be a lot of things like telling a story about a project your company delivered, for how long the company exists and handle challenging projects like the one you want to talk, even cheap chat can show credentials for some unformal scenario. The goal for a credential is to increase trust in something that will help the negotiation move ahead. But the one who got my attention and was not in my speech at the beginning of my journey was telling how many years I’ve been working in my company. The perfect scenario happens if the customer ask you that, because will show he’s interested. But you always can mention that to leave one more strong anchor.

Decisive factors exposition

In long-cycle sales like my reality (having more than 6 months between knowing a company and signing a contract), it’s close to arrogance to think that what you heard for the first time when you met your client as his business goals will remain exactly the same 6 months later, when you are at the round table negotiating. Whenever you have a chance, ask key questions to check if you are delivering what the customer expects. Be straight on that. That’s simply the reason you are being hired. Ask that and double check whenever you can to check if nothing has changed. At the right time make it visual to create a mind-contract between you and who are signing for your services. This is the only way for you and the partner have the same feeling that you are going to deliver what they need and want.

I hope these thoughts I gathered during 2018 and 2019 (this far) help you to be successful in your upcoming negotiations. Use the space in comments to ask questions if you want. Let’s talk!

Digital transformation, Entrepeneurship, IT is business, Office, Practical examples

How did Netflix reach the nirvana of ownership?

May 15, 2018

Netflix doesn’t have a CTO (Chief Technical Officer). Having a CTO would be a symptom of centralization of technical decisions. On Netflix they have just a CPO (Chief Product Officer), which is the chief for their products. Products and IT are the same. Netflix also is one of the most innovative teams on technology and value purpose on world. But how did they reach this point? What took them there?

 

Profiles and responsibilities

They were born this way. It was a mindset simple to keep while they were a startup in 1997. But this thought have been kept during the years even with company’s growth.

With a set of benefits to their employees, which can be translated simply on freedom for them to take the actions they think are needed, Netflix shares their actions on management and responsibility in their speeches. The main concern of a manager is to hire the best people on world. The main concern of all the employees is to take the best possible decisions, having all the company’s context available to rely on. Subscribers numbers, revenues, all the areas budgets are part of the routine information that the managers share with their teams. Managers require their team members to enroll to competitor’s hiring process at least once a year to ensure they are getting the money they deserve. There is no knowledge management also. When an employee leaves the company, their projects die with him. There are no junior, plenum or senior levels.

 

No rules

Netflix avoids rules and processes because they believe that when you tell people how to act, their creativity is restricted and it makes them to stop thinking on how to add more value to the company. It has a cost. It is common for hiring positions to take more than 6 months to be filled, because they require complex hiring process and high levels of subjectivity.

Having some benefits examples like:

  • Vacation time undefined;
  • Maternity leave time undefined;
  • Technical subjects budget unlimited;
  • Hardware and software budget unlimited;
  • No work plan definition: once you get hired nobody will tell what you have to do. You create your own project, work, finishes, tests, and goes to the next. At this point your manager can help you taking the decision if you want.

This freedom goes through only one restriction: act like Netflix interests.

This way the company, which is proud of saying that hires only the best possible people for their positions, and that has more than 4000 employees, reached a level of ownership hard to compare. Each one is responsible for their projects and has autonomy to define if it is useful to the company or not.

 

What does it generates?

It generates an incredible freedom environment for people to produce what they consider important. Once all the employees are the best in their areas, it is understood that they will have enough knowledge to take the best decisions. It generates more than 100 projects going on simultaneously from all company’s areas and being tested at every moment. IT projects can’t take more than 2 months to be finished. Each 2h one publication to production environment is made, and nothing is activated before going through A/B testing.

The great objective of ownership also is achieved because all of these conditions also have the intention to delegate power. Every Netflix employee must be capable of taking decisions without depending on endless validation processes or unnecessary opinions. Mixing freedom, responsibility and power is how Netflix reached and keeps his very high level of ownership among their employees and keeps being one of the most innovative companies since the moment it was created.

 

The model and how to learn with it

Compared to other companies on different acting areas, among the most traditional ones like industries and the most recent startups, Netflix reached his ownership through the joint of some things: almost unrestricted power, almost unrestricted freedom and seniority/maturity as a premisse.

This is a unique model that should not be pursued blindly, but used as inspiration to watch the disruptive way they found to manage their company

Entrepeneurship, Innovation

5 steps to have an innovative mindset in your company

April 23, 2018

Nowadays when we talk about business, companies, money, processes, and everything else, we always turn to innovation. Improve internal process? Innovation. Make a new software to cut and automatize processes? Innovation. Make more money or save more money? Innovation.

All knowledge areas talk about innovation. Cientists always look for innovation to get new formulas, theories and progress. Banking people innovate to get bigger profit margins. Architects innovate on construction to find cheaper and more resistant materials. IT professionals innovate to make faster systems that make user experiences more and more immersive.

Once all areas have to innovate, what new and traditional companies do to make that possible? How to foster an innovative environment? What results can be expected from which kind of innovation?

 

Break hierarchy

The hierarchy kills innovation. Face that. The person who is suggesting the innovation cannot rely on judgement of another 4 or 5 people above his hierarchical level until the idea reach those who will really understand it.

The faster incremental innovations well succeeded are those who research for consumer behaviour. It’s a quick innovation, it’s inside every user of your tool. You just have to ask for it. It cannot wait for hierarchy.

People are afraid of getting their ideas ahead because they think they will be judged. They are afraid of the feedback in case their idea is not good. When there are too many steps to be “won”, the idea will die without reaching the ears of whoever really matters. Given that, let’s get to the next step.

 

Have many ears

I’ve seen many clients being proud and saying “we created an innovation area!” with big budgets! I’ve already seen the “innovation area” be the new name for R&D team (Research and Development). I recognize the innovation has to start somehow, but restricting the ears only to the voices coming from the innovation area is dangerous. Yes, it’s a step, but just that. If it’s the way to start, let’s go!

But always keep in mind that small companies with few employees don’t have innovation areas:

  • Nubank has a department called “Wow! Factor”. As the name suggests, their goal is to create experiences to impress their customer. But their innovation doesn’t come only from the “Wow! Factor” department.
  • Your scenario is a big company? Think about Google. With thousands of employees, 20% of their time is free for them to work on their own ideas.
  • Ok… Google’s business model allow them to have idle time because their money factory is automatized? Cool, let’s take a look at Apple. It sells hardware, it’s a factory. It’s one of the most innovative companies in world.

 

Encourage intra entrepeneurship

The final objective is to innovate, but the innovation only will come when people think outside the box. To think outside the box they have to feel comfortable and understand they have freedom to suggest ideias and they won’t be cutted.

 

Focus on “How”, not on “What”

An idea whose owner judges awesome, but after evaluation be discarded, requires much care:

  • If the owner don’t get any feedback in a fair time, they will demotivate. Don’t let him into limbo.
  • If the owner don’t get convinced about the reasons why their idea won`t be taken ahead, he will demotivate. Don’t let him without explanations.
  • Help the owner to identify the main idea. If more scenarios over their idea are not explored, they can demotivate. Help him to understand that creating a new credit card is a way to solve something, but the innovation can be if he looks for new payment methods.

 

Start

There is not how-to here. It depends only on you. Big consulting companies will have ready models, costing millions of dollars about how implementing “digital transformation” i.e. It won’t work. Your culture won’t allow it to work. Innovation is incremental. It won’t have preset costs and schedule. Nothing is invented and evolved at the same time (beautiful sentence, not invented by me).

Think by yourself how to start. Establish plans, go for innovation theories and how the innovation happens. Once you get how the innovation happens, you will conclude where to start. Suggestions: Lean, design journey, agile software development methodologies.

Avoiding problems, Entrepeneurship

Matching Lean mindset with good intention mindset for entrepeneurs

April 17, 2018

The discipline to apply the Lean mindset must be everywhere. Last saturday I got myself into a class where we were discussing project management tools and concerns, focusing on risks.

The Lean scenario

We had this construction project as example. Almost everybody was stating that the project could be consider successful if we deliver it inside the defined scope, schedule, cost and quality planned (as PMI states for years). It is very subjective, because it will lay on the understanding of success each one has. If your goal is just to make a check on your checklist, keep that above. But let’s explore an exception.

Consider yourself as the project manager. The point here is: if during this construction a plumb is broken and your project release toxic wastes in a nearby river? It would cause an environmental damage at least. Naturally fixing the plumb turns inside your project scope. But it’s not the same for all of the rest. It’s not your responsibility to create a workaround to fix the damages to the environment (seeding trees, cleaning the river, etc), neither to care about your company’s image regarding media and the society (marketing advertising, taking water to the affected communities, etc).

To explore that we started discussing if you, as a project manager should tell your organization’s owners about what happened and the subject got into the MCSW tool to help evaluating.

MCSW tool

Making a break, we argued about the MSCW tool when we were defining the risks also. It is a tool to classify the importance of the item you are handling. M stands for MUST, S stands for SHOULD, C stands for COULD and W for would. Clearly there’s not a Lean mindset applied to this tool. It should be just DO, and DON’T. It’s yes or no. You must or must not do something about a requirement, or a risk, or a situation. Discussing about the points in the middle will be waste of time.

The good will thought

Getting back to the plumb. It SHOULD be your concern, as a good project manager to tell, and I suggest, to help planning something to fix the environmental problem and your company’s brand’s image. The project management bible tells you shouldn’t get involved unless it turns your project scope. And here we have a difference between entrepeneurs and people who just work.

But for many times, the complete support to the organization needs may conflict with the Lean mindset. In this case, telling the problem to people is Lean. But getting involved in the resolution is not, unless it is added to your scope. This is the time when the entrepeneur has to have maturity to let the problem be treated by other people and get distance to focus in its real challenges. Otherwise getting involved in unplanned activities, will be faced as micro managing.

Keeping knowledge and good intention close to you

One important thing to explore after this fact occurs is the learned lessons here. Forget about creating a document, writing many pages of FCA (fact, cause, action) analysis, and throwing it to the repository. The most important thing is to make sure the right people understood what happened and what it caused. Because of that plumb broken, our stocks dropped 20% in six months, and that affect the employees there in the edge because we will loose many projects for our competitors due to uncertainty about our service quality. It may cause people leaving the company and knowledge being lost.

The most important thing after this things happen is to keep this kwowledge. For sure you, as the project manager, won’t ever again be discplicent about the soil analysis and researches because you will be concerned with environmental impacts. It’s a chain and everything is connected. From the very beginning, the environmental problem, to the labor force working there.

Entrepeneurship, IT is business

Business automation benefits and impacts

January 22, 2018

We automatize things since the very beginning of human history. The windmills powered by the water coming down the rivers can be considered as an automation to process seeds. A lot of discussions have been growing lately due to the automation factor. Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates have already pronounced themselves about the impacts of the recent automation initiatives.

Talking about recent IT projects, a comment I’m very used to hear from many groups of people is the question about what will happen with people’s current labor.

 

The automation always existed

As mentioned on the article “A vision about IT evolution“, the IT was always faced as an arm for automation. Since it was created until today, we are used to automatize sheets so the work can be done in a decentralized way. Many people working on the same activity creates the need for a system. When its built they can communicate and get advantages of each other information. E.g.: The guys from logistics have to warn people at the gates to allow the trucks to go out when they are done loading. If there wasn’t a system to help, someone calling other person every 5 minutes would be needed, or even someone running through the whole plant during the day.

But the industry focus was kept inside the industry for many years, since the companies were who had machines and money to buy them.

 

Now it changed its scale

Nowadays everyone has a smartphone, and internet. With that, many new business were created. Now the automation, and new businesses, can reach millions of people easily.

  • Uber came and created a business model that connects customers to suppliers. Uber, iFood, Archie and many others get benefits from that. There is no intermediate involved anymore.
  • Digital banks – How people face money today? The agencies can be found empty easily nowadays due to the move of convenience at people’s hands. Big banks from Brazil don’t have ATMs anymore.
  • Retail – people get bored when they go to malls or stores because of many things. There is too many people competing for attention, the lines are stressing and there is always the risk on moving from their places to the stores. We can’t neglect that the biggest store of every retail brand is the online one.

 

New opportunities

As stated by the speeches of Gates and Zuckerberg, many people may face a change of their jobs. They can become obsolete due to this market change. But whenever a change come, many opportunities are brought with it. The responsibility of big companies and entrepreneurs, whenever they automatize something, is to let people do what machines can’t: think. Automation will bring several benefits:

  • Quality – every process will be ran in the same way. Then improving that single point will improve all of the processes executions;
  • Predictability – with maturity you will know what to expect from your tools. Then you can plan in advance;
  • Time savings – standardization brings speed naturally. Lets improve the single point to take the best allowed performance;
  • Metrics – using practices of telemetry, you can get metrics to take decisions about which point you should improve first;
  • Reduced costs – having all the benefits above, the direct ROI will be found easily;

For the companies and entrepreneurs, automation means saving money in a process. The people who will have their time saved already have a lot of knowledge on the business and on the process. Their new responsibility is to research and think on ways to improve the processes. Machines still can’t think like people.

 

What else?

During recent years, we faced a new mindset talking about services providers getting ease to find their customers. Uber, iFood, etc are examples of a business model created by one of the steps of automation history. When we talk about large scale automation, one of the steps to come has the blockchain influence. What it does is to remove the intermediates of handling money process, making one edge getting to another without assistance, and in this way money is saved. It also has potential to affect things not only related to money. What can be the next industries affected by automation at this scale?

Career, Entrepeneurship

Opportunities and how to get prepared to them

November 26, 2017

I’ve already wrote a very wide and generic article about career talking about guidelines and macro objectives. Then the self-retrospectives and motivation check came to help you to keep on the track. But even if you accomplish all of your own objectives as a master, if your goal is a promotion or a new position in your company, you will need an opportunity to grow.

Then let’s talk a bit about posture and how people will look at you while you are trying to grow, and how you will be evaluated to receive that opportunity or not.

 

Life objectives and your behavior

When you are planning a trip, moving to your own apartment, making a move towards that person you always have a look, you are very well motivated, right? When you talk about that stuff, you are always motivated and specially your humor is always good. So since you act like that to everything that really MATTERS to you, why don’t you apply this behavior to your career?

A research from Harvard tells that people with good humor at the work place seem more confident and competent. Your work place is not a place to make jokes during all the time, but it is a place to be optimist.

A very known cliché sentence very helpful here. You are the image people have from you, and not what’s inside your mind. It means that if you are a pessimist person, always complain, always find something to judge someone, people will end having a bad thought of you. When they think of inviting you to do something important, you can be discarded because people tend to get distance from those who just complain. Sports can be very helpful here. Serotonin is not fiction. It changes your humor and consequently how you will face the things that come to your day. If you are happy, everything will be easier. If your mood is not good, everything will start as a problem.

Being critical is an important quality, do not loose that. But when a moment of discussion come and your thought is to disagree, try to realize if you are disagreeing because there is a real problem or because you are putting a barrier to that subject by yourself. You won’t win all the fights, so pick up and win the important ones. For the rest, to try improve them as much as you can with your ideas.

 

Be consistent

Nobody likes people who always change their mind. It causes the impression of untrustworthy. So be consistent with your thoughts and don’t change your mind with the flow. Get your principles and stand with them, but you will have to know how to negotiate something different.

It doesn’t mean you can’t change your mind. Changing is good, and on labor environment it’s turning into something very valuable. But always change to a level above. That phase when people had proud and wouldn’t change their mind even if it means loosing their business is gone. When you change, it means you learned something new that made you improve your mind, and then you evolved, and then you got better.

 

Be prepared

The opportunities will come for those who are ready. You already have a plan to develop your knowledge (as explored here) and now you will be able to develop a plan to your own look and how people look at you.

An example of assuming an opportunity and getting prepared for the others: for sure you are a reference for someone in something in your life. You can be a leader for something trivial in your life, such as the sunday’s family barbecue. It’s you who invites everybody, picks up needed stuff, goes to kitchen and tell jokes to make everyone happy during that moment. Now imagine yourself when you are performing this activity. It’s so natural you don’t have to think about doing the next thing. Someone will admire how you do the things you do. In this case your specialty is to be a good cook. Now whenever you get into a new group of friends and the barbecue time doesn’t have a leader yet, you will have the opportunity to get there, coordinate everything and the benefit of making new friends easily.

Now why don’t you get prepared for something like that in your work? What’s your companies goals for next year? For sure there’s one you will fit inside. How can you get prepared to be a reference for some of them?

 

Show you are prepared

Your physical appearance means and tells a lot about you. When you see someone at the streets yelling, complaining or with a bad look in their face, you will get distance from them. So your clothes and how you talk business matter. Don’t underestimate anyone who’s around you.

Since people don’t know what’s inside your mind, you have to show what’s your will. Sharing knowledge about that specific subject you are getting prepared to receive an opportunity is a good start. Also giving speeches and being a professor, can be activities to make you turn into a reference for that something new.

You will receive an opportunity if you are well prepared to that. So try to talk to people you actually want it and to walk around people who can actually give you that.

 

Career, Entrepeneurship

Self-retrospectives and motivation check for career

October 9, 2017

I have already spoken a bit about retrospectives here. But that was regarding the professional environment and your office mates. Retrospectives are always a good way to keep improving anything you are discussing about. So why not retrospectives surrounding your career and yourself?

It’s not post-it talk

It’s obvious that the intention is not to follow a regular retrospective ceremony. The goal here is to check if what you planned (or even what you haven’t planned) is going well.

Let’s say you have that plan, and are able to break it down to some tasks and practices that will lead you to the big goal (which I won’t talk about right now. Just keep your own goal to yourself). Some examples:

  1. Enroll AND finish that online course – because you want a promotion;
  2. Find a sport you can get addicted – because you have pain in your back;
  3. Learning a new language – because you want to travel to Yemen and there they speak Arabic only;
  4. Forget your fears and give a speech to more than 100 people – because you want to try the academic career at least once;

You can see that I structured the sentences above as: “task” – “motivation”. Or even: “what I will do” – “what I want to achieve”.

Once you have this big tasks, let’s plan at least one thing a month you will do to move forward on this steps. Keep in your mind from now on that some tasks will require a lot of discipline to do whatever you have planned.

 

How did you make it happen?

After a few weeks (two weeks is a good rhythm) of work on the list, it’s time for a retrospective. You can always take a look back at what you are achieving and check if it’s the result you were looking for. Remember to keep discipline and avoid building barriers that will prevent you to do things you consider as ‘boring’.

Make your progress visual and mannual. Many researches, such as this one, say that you commit and pay more attention to things you write with your hands, than things you type with your fingers. Then put it into a place you will look at daily. The board must be ~ staring at you ~.

 

So let’s keep up with the track this far:

  1. Have you enrolled to the course? Or are you prioritizing other things with this money and kept telling yourself you don’t have money enough?
  2. Have you found a sport? Or are you still complaining about pain on the back, which will never go away because you don’t do sports?
  3. Have you at least downloaded Duolingo and invited that old friend, who you haven’t seen in a while but speaks arabic, to a bar? Or you kept speaking your own language avoiding contact to people who speaks the new one because you are too shy?
  4. Have you found a book about techniques to speak for big crowds? Or did you ask for a colleague to present that teamwork at the university?

 

Do you want the result or the barrier?

During your own retrospective, try those regular questions: 1) what went well during your last cycle? 2) What went wrong during the last cycle? 3) What else could be done? After analyzing the answers, you will find out that some of the tasks were achieved, and for some of them you managed to create a barrier.

For each one of your goals, if the answer for a question (as the examples above) were ‘the barrier’, two things may have happened: either you don’t have discipline enough yet, or maybe you created tasks too hard to achieve (you will know the right answer). The fact is that if you are not well motivated to get those tasks’ results, you will build/find yourself a barrier. Are you pretty comfortable with your current motivations? Is it challenging enough and makes you feel guts?

So if you are finding them too hard to complete, try to break it into smaller steps. If it continues to be a challenge, you can replace the goals and save those replaced for some time in the future where you have more discipline, or are more motivated to get those tasks’ results.

 

Remember that if you stop improving yourself and wining over the goals, the biggest chase won’t come from your girlfriend neither from your family or your boss. The biggest chase will come from yourself.

Customers, Digital transformation, Entrepeneurship

The innovation wave we’re not surfing well

October 1, 2017

During the last few years, we have seen many new and disruptive companies appearing around us. They are called “Startups”. They are understanding the trends and the new possibilities the market and the technology are providing, finding spaces to establish themselves, and staying untouched for some time, what allows them to keep innovation, growing and pushing the old companies.

The wave

This very fast innovation and market disruption is a no turning back movement, and the companies and people will innovate even faster on the next years. But the successful companies we have seen, such as Contabilizei, Guia Bolso, Love Mondays, Movile and Nubank, who managed to grow, are just a very small group of a horde of companies. By the start of 2016, Brazil had 4151 startups (which was a big number for us). But on that same time, just the Silicon Valley area, on the US, had more than 23000 startups.

So why Brasil, one of the most creative countries in world, counting with the sixth biggest population number, has a very short number of startups being created and succeeding? Do we have the ideias? Are they being well explored?

 

Where we are stopping

It’s well known that Brasil has the bureaucracy within its culture, and this data from the World Bank Group shows that, compared to the US, its 15 times harder to do business here:

Source: World Bank Group

 

But is it just the bureaucracy that forbids us to create new business, markets and innovate in large scale? Maybe our way to approach problems are not well mature as other countries’.

As an known example, we have the factories of hair nets: by the 1910’s decades, the business were to produce more and more hair nets so the women on that time could hold their hair to keep the hairstyle. The factory owner kept that in mind and couldn’t see the real question. The demand were not about hair nets. The demand were about holding hair. Then the hair fixative came and the industry of hair nets went bankrupt. But why the hair net’s industry owner didn’t see the market change? His mindset were adjusted to the product, not to the demand. Not to the customer.

Mindset has to be “customer first”

Now approaching the same issue with a service-oriented view. A regular hair style shop hierarchy would be something like:

On this diagram, who is the most important actor TO THE CUSTOMER? Many would say the manager or even the owner is the most important. They have autonomy to solve any issues, and they know best how to treat customers and how to make them happy, because they already have much experience. But the reality is that, since our customer is getting more and more demanding, the owner AND the manager are just useless. The attendants are the most important part here! They have a key behavior to the whole system. Let’s think about the customer getting to the hair style shop and having problem with the attendant. The manager will be called and the problem will be solved. Alright! It’s solved but it was a reactive movement. Depending on the stress level caused to the customer, it is very probable he won’t get back to the hair style shop. He will manage to find a better service.

 

Business strategy

So a better approach can be to think about the attendants as the most important part of the system.

But the owner and managers still are bosses… what changes here? The mindset has to change. The attendant who is interacting with all the customers must understand the company goals and all of it’s responsibilities. He has to have the power and autonomy to solve any issues, so no customer would want to talk to someone else. All of its demands would be solved as fast as possible. The manager role is simplified as someone who knows the whole company and can think about the strategies and make changes and fixes when they are needed.

As business strategy we must think like what is the real customer demand. Does he really needs a hair cut? Or does he wants to look handsome? Maybe when the biggest part of Brazil entrepeneurs change their mindset to this, we will start having a largest number of companies being created.

Avoiding problems, Customers, Entrepeneurship

Customer health check

September 23, 2017

Customers and profitability probably are one of the most important things to a company development. If you have profit, you will be able to expand, hire new people, invest on research, make your company visible, create new products and services and constantly increase your quality and brand relevancy to the market.

Your customers are the key to achieve that. Finding new customers and keeping your old partners must be the main concern of every entrepreneur and maybe yours, as an employee of any kind of company.

 

Keep the clients

Keeping old customers is way cheaper than advancing through the whole sales cycle in a new prospect, as Forbes states. Since we know that, let’s try to understand how can we be sure that all of our customers “are healthy” and that we can focus some of our energy on finding new logos.

So the main question we want to answer can be: “How is customer X doing?”. If the answer is “fine”, then we are good. Let’s say you have a good relationship with all of your customers. Then one good point could be just ask them! But even if he’s in love with your product/service (aka “completely satisfied”) and be 100% transparent with you, this question is not enough.

We want to go deeper and really measure the customer health status. Keeping a tracking of this data could be very useful to check if one minor/major change on your company is being well received by the most important part (talking about profitability here only), as instance. You could also use that to a) check if a change on people of the team that supports this customer was a right decision or not. b) a change on the team’s process (changing from SCRUM to DevOps as instance) that affects the customer was good as planned and expected. c) a change in an internal process, such as your financial area bills transmission, was well received or just created more bureaucracy.

 

Measuring

Measuring and analyzing specific questions of each customer will create the data you want to analyse and take important decisions about each of them. Setting a number of questions and then getting the customer answer for each of them in different ways can be the start of this measurement.

Each company will have its own way to set what would be the best questions to find the health metric. The questions below are a suggestion of different ways to talk about your customer. Set a weight to each of them, and let the sum of all of them be 100. If the result is below 60 you have a HUGE problem there. Something between 61 and 90 will deserve a yellow sign. Above 91 is where you want to stay.

I list here a set of questions that can be an inspiration to create your own set:

  • Regarding your daily relationship to the customers:
    • Is the customer taking too long to answer you? Yes it may mean this is their way to conduct their work. But it also can mean you are far below in their list of priorities.
    • The tasks quantity or contact frequency have been decreasing? It can mean that they are stabilizing the thing you take care. But it also can mean they are giving the regular work to someone new.
    • How many pieces of business do you take care? If the number is big, it means this customer trusts you. Otherwise its easier to get rid from you.
    • How many pieces of business you know besides those that are your responsibility? If this number if big, then the customer trusts a lot on you. Good sign.
  • Your overall relationship:
    • Satisfaction surveys. What was the result of the last surveys you sent to the customer? Focus on the points the customer said he’d want an improvement.
    • Does this customer buys your whole portfolio? Those who buy everything are more likely to be more satisfied and trust you more than others who just buy one small piece from you.
    • How frequently the customer engages with marketing and branding actions? Does the customer speaks on your behalf and says good things about your company wherever he goes?
    • Does this customer buys your core product? It will mean that they really got the main message of the company, and are using you the best way they can.
    • Who uses/has contact with your products? Does the C-level know about you? Having someone with good power of decision as your ally is always important.
    • Does this customer has non-recurrent contracts with you besides the regular recurrent ones? If yes, it may mean they feel comfortable to trust their initiatives, such as innovation or new products, on you.
    • Do they have problems with your administrative areas? Besides the delivery area, problems with billing or any communication to the “right” person can be a big headache.
  • Regarding the customer itself:
    • Is the customer growing? If the customer is growing, its safer to consider that your contract is at least stable. It can even get a raise soon. If the customer is not growing, have a closer look here: will the customer have money to pay you next month?
    • Has the customer been increasing your contract extension on the last six months? Its the perfect measure to know if he’s really satisfied this far. The contracts will be increased if everything is doing well.
    • How long have the customer been with you? A long term relationship MAYBE means less tendency to make a change on the supplier.

 

The work can start on setting the questions and the weight to each of them. Find those who best fits to your reality.

Reaching the answers for some of them can be tough, but the results will be incredible. Based on that you will have very clear data to focus on a problematic customer, or to approach another one to try to rescue the relationship. Everybody who interacts with this customer in your company must know about this initiative. Make sure the administrative, commercial, delivery and marketing areas are well enrolled to this approach, can help you on finding the answers and setting action plans for each bad thing that may come up.