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Entrepreneurship, Practical examples

Expanding a company to another country: Language

April 7, 2020

In 2018 I started the biggest challenge I’ve ever faced in my career: expanding the company I work for to the most business mature country in the world, the United States. Two years are gone, and I want to start sharing the knowledge I have so far. Maybe I’ll shorten paths to people that will read these articles. Since my roles so far have gone primarily through sales activities, this is the sight I’ll be applying to these articles. And in this first one I’ll start talking about the most essential aspect I can ever think about this:

This article at a glance:

Poor communication skills lead to a lack of trust between your team and prospects/partners/any other important stakeholder outside your company.

Cultural differences can create big issues because of how you understand phrases in each culture.

The language

Pff Guilherme, this is obvious. Yes, it is. And yet it’s underestimated.

A simple exploratory conversation

I attend several events during the year to showcase our services and products. At those fancy places, I have the chance to talk to many people. Once I’m there I interact with people from other countries doing the same I’m doing: selling and expanding their companies. In one of the events, I saw this guy. He was from Romania. I don’t know how to say “Hi” in Romanian, but I remember his accent was something close to Russian. Since he and his possible client were close to me I heard two or three sentences of the conversation:

  • Client: “(…) and do you think your team can deliver the POC within two weeks?”
  • Romanian guy: “Oh yes, about the POC, we will develop using part of the data you sent me and also the data we have from our research, like the trends for investing in 2020

The Romanian guy gave more details of the POC (Proof of Concept) instead of answering the question straight. I could notice at that time that he didn’t understand the question. He just got the acronym “POC” and started to say the first thing that came to his mind. It was not a bad intention. He didn’t want to dodge the question. He just didn’t understand. But yet…

Lack of trust

The main error here (and this is one that I’ve already committed also) is losing the opportunity to create trust with that other person. If the salesperson can’t understand what the client is asking, it’s impossible to trust that the rest of the company will do any better. And even if the rest of the company understands better, the handover from sales to the technical team will be already gone. And a problem will be created.

From my experience: it doesn’t matter if it’s a B2B relationship: people buy from people. If you can’t talk to somebody with the same eloquence you have talking to a friend in a bar about the most random subject, you have serious problems. You won’t be able to create trust simply because there will always be a doubt if you and your client are understanding each other 100% and as a consequence, being trustworthy.

Your eloquence will be needed when questions different from those you are expecting to come, get into the subject. And they will come. Describing a product or service you’ve been providing for years will be easy even in a different language. But what happens when you have to offer help amid Coronavirus situation?

Cultural differences

One simple example: In Brazil, if you finish a conversation with somebody saying “let’s talk about it next week”, it doesn’t really mean you want to talk about the subject next week. There’s just a possibility. It might happen or not. When you are on the states and say something like that, you both are automatically setting a real appointment. And you will necessarily catch up on the week after.

Another example: oriental cultures (my experience talks about just India and China) tend to never say “no”. Even when they want to say No, they will say “yes, but let’s take a look at more alternatives”. Many years ago I had one guy from India interviewing on a colleague on my team. After the interview, I called the sponsor and asked:

  • Me: “hey, so what did you think about John (person just interviewed)? Can we go ahead and set him to start working with your project?
  • The Indian client: “Yes. And I want to know more people from your team that we can evaluate”

I took John out of his project and told him to start working with the new client ASAP. When I called the client again to ask about John’s credentials the client asked me: “but what about the other people we were to interview?”. That gave me one of the biggest headaches I’ve ever had when managing people. John had already created a big expectation about the new client, was excited and also got a raise. After a few days, we solved it and John started to work with the new client indeed. But all the headache could’ve been prevented with just one more question from my side, knowing the style of communication of the other people, still during the same call of above:

  • The question that I should have asked: “So, Mr Client, actually will John start working with you guys right away or do you want to take a look at everybody and then deciding for the full team at once?”
Career, Entrepreneurship, IT is business, Practical examples

Two main errors your agile project may have right now and how to solve them

March 12, 2020

Doing agile for software development is way beyond leaving the heavy documentation behind and produce more. According to an HBR study of 2018, 25% of enterprise companies are already using agile and 55% are in the process of doing the same. The data doesn’t lie: the masters of DevOps and Agile grow and are 60% more profitable than the rest. Agile brings many benefits, but it also brings new challenges built-in. The single point of adopting agile is already a major challenge. But after them, new challenges are still there and you might not have noted them.

1st – Involuntary blindness from POs

A day in the skin of a PO (Product Owner) is tough. They own the product! And are responsible for its evolution. Basically they are responsible for translating the company’s macro strategy for that product into the actual final product. It sounds pretty simple, but this process is where commonly things get fuzzy. A PO also:

  • Solves questions from the development team on their tasks;
  • Keeps feeding the backlog;
  • Helps the Scrum masters with decisions for prioritization;
  • Eventually, changes prioritization and delivery plans because of special requests from the management;
  • Monitors metrics of the product;
  • Is responsible for meetings with high management to discuss the metrics she’s been monitoring;

Many of the items above would require a person full time working to fulfill it successfully. But given this load of work, the PO often leaves behind one important thing: hearing what the market is saying and still staying aligned with the macro strategy. By that I mean the PO frequently doesn’t have time to think, judge and decide appropriately after a new demand came from a BA (Business Analyst) or high management. Due to lack of time, she leaves behind the most important task of his job, which is enhancing the product. Let’s go over one example to better illustrate:

A page never used in a hotel website

Years ago I was the SM (Scrum Master) leading a team developing a hotel website. I remember as if it was today. We had a big deliver at the end of 3 months and in the last week, my PO brought me the news that we missed one important page to showcase the hotel’s partnership with an entertainment channel. Guess what? We worked several hours more than planned and delivered just a small part of that page. Also kept working on the same page even after the deadline. We released the final page a few weeks later, and I was checking Google Analytics. I found out that that page had less than 5 percent of the website visits.

The summary: we spent at least one entire month of work on a page that less than 5% of our target public was actually interested in. We wasted one month of money for a team with 4 dedicated people. There was no regulatory thing and no contract binding forcing them to have that page live. It was just a request from a board member. In that situation, the PO SHOULD have argued about not doing that and going for the e-commerce system as a priority. This was actually something the users were asking strongly.

But why did the PO let it stay that way? The answer: she didn’t know that page was about so few accesses. She was so dived into the deadline and reports and monitors and tests that she just accepted the request without questioning it. If she had had time to think about it, with the appropriate information from her BAs, she would have taken a better decision.

2nd – Deficient hands-off of tasks from the PO/BAs to the delivery team

The second thing that often breaks plans is when the planning meeting is already going on and the technical team finds out a task is much bigger than the PO/BAs thought at first. When the PO is defining the next tasks for the backlog, she must be well aligned with the software architects. When a major feature (an epic) comes to the table, the technical team has to adapt the software to develop that new task accordingly. Let’s go over one more example:

The “just one more report”

This one happened during a project for one company in the manufacturing industry. The software had been running for months and was stable. We were in a phase of acting over bugs, security and small features. We were also generating some reports for gathering new metrics. When the planning started, our PO explained about the task of adding more columns and creating a new report with charts. The charts were fine, but those new columns were stored in other systems which we didn’t have control over. We had to talk to people on the other software to create an API for us to consume the data, and the simple report took more than a month to be finished.

The interesting part of this example is that the report was promised to be delivered after one week and took almost 2 months. The management had to wait for the new report to take new decisions because of the important information. The change from 1 week to ~2 months created an unneeded discussion between the project team and the management. All of that wouldn’t have happened if somebody with a brief technical vision of the project was involved during the grooming/prioritization of the backlog and had properly communicated with management.

If a task much bigger comes with no previous preparation, it generates delay. The way to solve it is to have technical senior people checking the backlog periodically and being closer to strategic decisions. This way they will be able to anticipate such moves and tackle big tasks little by little.

At last

Agile is not exact sciences. You will have to find your own set of practices that will create your own agile. These are the two main challenges I found are often hidden and people don’t actively tackle them because they don’t hurt at first, but yes have side effects that can turn into a big mess. And what are your main challenges?

Entrepreneurship, Innovation

The new companies of the digital society

February 10, 2020

We can clearly see a difference between traditional business models so present in the entire 20th century and new business models and products pushed by several startups since the beginning of the 21st century. In a world that doesn’t look like it’s slowing down, what will be the next revolution on investors’ and entrepreneurs’ mindsets?

Let’s compare the traditional and the new business models to understand the difference, and then compare to most recent movements that can give a tip about what’s to come.

20th century: the traditional business models

For this comparison, I’ll use the Gerdau (former Ameristeel) scenario. Gerdau is a company founded in 1901 which primarily works with the Iron and Steel commodities. They produce bars, beams, rebars, semi-finished, and value-added iron. They are also vital for the production of high-quality steel for ships, oil platforms, and cars.

Their business model is B2B. They don’t focus much on the end-user. Despite recent changes, they are not on the same wave of startups and disruptive business models. Related to social impact, they do have international seals of commitment to the environment.

Very straightforward: we can say they produce the best iron in the world. That’s it. They built an empire of $11 Bi with a single source of raw material that is present in all the continents.

Gerdau logo

21st century: the current Startup business models

In the past, we had big companies excelling at broad product offers. Nowadays there are many startups we see excelling at taking one single problem of our society and solving them.

We are in the experience era. There are startups pushing banks to digitalization. Also, startups pushing old business models like taxis and hotels. There are also startups putting just a layer of experience over existing products, and making a huge success.

Duolingomade learning another language something enjoyable, simple and gave autonomy to people who want to study. All of that through a different experience of learning.

Duolingo landing page

Nest has been doing good on residential automation/control. You remember this one below?

Old thermostat

It has plenty of information and sometimes is confusing. It shows current temperature, the temperature set, the fan speed, the modes(?) in use, and more. Honestly, I’m already lost just after listing these features.

New thermostat

Now check this one from Nest. It has a futuristic appeal, but it also made controlling the air conditioner temperature simpler. All you have to do is turn clock or anti-clockwise to adjust the temperature. Then the system does the rest. It also shows you the time windows when you are saving energy and learns from your habits.

In the past, successful companies were those with broad set of products and services. For the experience era, companies growing exponentially are those focusing on the experience. But what about the future?

3rd wave to come: the new companies of the digital society

Consumers are changing their demands. Millennials are reaching profitable ages. Because of that, they are pushing companies in some directions, and we must pay attention to it.

Also, millennials are native influencers. They influence and inform their families. Teenagers and even children may not have 10 friends, but they have 10 thousand followers on YouTube and Instagram.

The new consumers are people willing to stop buying from a brand and start buying from another based on how it positions itself to social causes. Nike’s Kaepernick is a good example of a brand that stood for a social cause. Even after stocks falling and fans boycott of known products, Nike was wise enough to release the manual “how to burn our products safely” below. Watch the original full ad for Nike and Kaepernick here (you can also find more details here).

How to burn our products safely

Nike (as seen above) is one example of companies standing for social causes. Tom’s with its former “buy one give one” is another good example. Johnson & Johnson is within the companies that donate more vaccines to causes in Africa. At last, Google has been using 100% of renewable energy on its data centers and offices since 2017.

For the third wave, it won’t be enough to have a broad set of services or products. Adding experience to them will be cool, but the experience will turn into a commodity as well eventually. The successful companies of the future will be those willing to stand for real social problems, both being supported by their fans and supporting them.

Do you see your company moving towards this direction? And how can you keep helping to turn the world into a better place?

Entrepreneurship, Innovation, Practical examples

Don’t know where to start using design in your digital products? Here’s a suggestion

January 3, 2020

Design is one of the base investments for digital products in many industries (DMI 2015; Gartner 2018; McKinsey 2019). It should be used to foundations like understanding your customers and putting him at the center of your plans, and also on the other edge to help you find differentiators. As a continuation of the article from Jan 2019, this article describes some achievements some clients had during 2019 after a simple first step: mapping the user journey.

$150k savings with IVR

$150.000,00 yearly savings after micro changes to the IVR (Interactive Voice Response) of a bank. The exciting part here is that a very short user journey mapping process achieved it. It all started with the standard order to reduce costs on the chain. A UX Researcher was designated to make an evaluation of the entire set of channels used to communicate with the client.

During the first week of work, he noticed some reports on the IVR records shown that around 25% of calls redirected to a support position were regular questions like “what is my balance?”, “what is my pre-approved credit limit for a new car?” and “where is the closest branch in my neighborhood”? This scenario is one of the shortest journeys we can draw for a user: he just wanted to know his balance! The main pain point for the phone channel was that he was taking more than 2 minutes to do so. But there was also an opportunity to optimize costs.

The UX Researcher knew those topics should be answered without needing a human anymore. He delayed his initial researches and told the story to leadership. After a week of work, he and a developer were able to address two critical questions from clients on the IVR. They pulled questions that would be redirected to a human to answer down to the automatized services. 

Decreasing around 25% of the need for a human to attend a call at that time has been saving $150k/year.

15% more sales after remodeling one node in the supply chain

This one goes the other edge in the complexity of changes in the process after journey mapping. Client 2 produces heavy machinery for farmers. He found out that one of the pain points for them to upsell more was the bureaucracy of field representatives. The farmers wanted to buy from their upsell strategies. Those products were directly related to more productivity and more profit.

But the pain point was that the representatives were slow in crucial activities of the chain: purchase and delivery processes. The purchase and delivery used to depend on much manual work involving taking the machine to a different facility to receive the software upgrade.

As an output of the journey mapping, entirely new software is now working and replaced the many old ones. This new system allows the farmers to buy the upgrades way faster than before, just like in e-commerce.

The light start

As the examples above show, mapping the journey of your user is an exciting way to start using design thinking methodologies in your company. After mapping the journey, many other tools may come like: workshops, more research, data analysis, prototyping, drawing screens, etc.

Entrepreneurship, Innovation

UX is the new black

October 27, 2019

Annually, Gartner presents its most recent findings during the October event in Orlando. During a financial panel last week, the thing that impacted me the most was the UX topic being discussed in 2019 (actually just one year after being introduced) in a more than natural way. That sounded like “what are you doing in financial if you don’t have UX as a base in your strategy?”. The analyst didn’t even dive in to show more numbers and companies that adopted. It was so easy for the message to go out.

The event

Gartner introduced the big concept called “embrace the power of the AND”. In the same event, they present technology trends and industry standards for a selection of around 10 industries. In past years I’ve been attending this, which is the biggest gathering of IT executives in the entire world, and you can find some videos on this LinkedIn page with a few of the content shared.

UX subject

Just a recap about UX here: we are close to 2020 and just a few banks around the world actually invest and have UX as a key point of their strategy. Even inside Gartner, it’s something new. The UX subject appeared for the first time in Gartner’s agenda as one of the main topics for the event just in 2018.

This term and practice/focus started to get stronger and stronger on software recently. UX is all about understanding how your customer behaves, understanding his needs, trying to solve their issues as quickly as possible and give a memorable and delighting experience. It can’t cover just the software. A good experience floats over all the channels you interact with a brand. If you have to give them a call, the support must be delightful. Or using an app, same way. For physical interactions on the brand store (or branch for banks, or any other facility), also chatbots, and everything else must be remarkable.

Wasn’t that supposed to be basic?

But isn’t it basic? If a cosmetics company wants to release a new perfume… Don’t they go to the field, understand how people feel about the existing ones, what is their opinion, test, retest, discard something eventually, and then they launch. When a new toy is launched, doesn’t it goes under the same process? But what about software? Why do we still have initiatives, led by few heads inside companies that believe (for real) they already know everything their user needs and how to solve it?

Doesn’t it sound crazy to create a new product (software) without asking people at least what and how would they solve the problem before anything?

The analyst approached the UX subject in such a natural way that it made me feel good! He stimulated the thought of if you are in the financial industry is unacceptable to start any initiatives without looking for UX. Good! We are heading the right way. We will get there eventually! But what about the other industries? Their time will come. No doubts.

Entrepreneurship, 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;
Entrepreneurship, 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!

Entrepreneurship, Innovation, IT is business

If you are not investing on design, you’re being left behind

January 9, 2019

In 2015, the DMI released research saying that companies having a design-centric mindset on their strategies grew 211% more than the average of the rest of S&P 500 during the past 10 years (find details here).

In 2018 Gartner, the biggest consultancy company in the world for IT decision makers added Customer Experience as one of the main subjects for its main world-class event (find details here).

Recently, a McKinsey research revealed that companies which invest in design grow, on average, 2 times more than the leading companies of its respective industry (find details here).

Design is already proved

Design, UX, CX, etc already proven itself as something highly valuable. Few years past, it was hard to find examples, but nowadays it’s getting easier and easier to find uncountable examples:

  • Netflix didn’t break Blockbuster. It was the need to return the tapes;
  • It was not Uber who broke taxis. It was the bad service and high prices;
  • Digital banks are not “stealing” large slices of the market share of the big banks. It’s big banks’ lack of transparency and bureaucracy loosing market space for competitors;

People want to interact and will pay more for that, with transparent services. Companies who used to make things confusing so their clients don’t understand are being pushed to change. The UX is the professional who points these issues and transforms the transparency and no-bureaucracy mindset into visible things. Companies are realizing that, and UX is the fifth most demanded profession of 2019 according to LinkedIn.

 
Why is it still hard for decision-makers to find value on design and afford it?

The same McKinsey report stated that 40% of companies still don’t listen the user’s opinions on their products. It’s like selling a cookie and not asking who’s eating if it tastes good. Isn’t the 211% (by DMI) or 2x (by McKinsey) convincing?

From what I heard this far, I mention these 3 points below as the main for companies to still decide to keep design outside their projects.

Lack of knowledge

Lack of vision of what design can aggregate and lack of eager to know is the main reason. There are plenty of people on IT and business departments still thinking that the old meaning for “web-designer” is the CX professional. Their skills are very different.

DeveloperOld “web designer”CX professional
Does codeDevelops code. Backend and frontend and layoutsDoes not code
Turns layouts into softwareCreates better screens than developersExecutes a long process of research before deciding something will be solved with layouts. Creates layouts that make sense
Commonly thinks about one single application at a timeThinks about one single application at a timeIs always aware of all the interactions the user will have with the product’s brand
Turns layouts into softwareCreates beautiful applicationsCreates applications that make sense to their users and are beautiful if needed
 
Costs

Closely attached to the previous item, if people don’t understand what the UX professional will do, they won’t give value to its deliveries. Then they tend to consider the UX are just more cost on the project to develop and activity that someone else could do.

Fear of innovation

Every leader likes to say they are innovating. But it may occur they start to fear when someone else close to them is innovating more. Since the design mindset naturally brings parts of innovation just because of its existence, I’ve already seen people sabotaging user-centric initiatives.

Entrepreneurship, IT is business, 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

Entrepreneurship, 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.