Consulting

Drumming Up Business – When the Devils in the Detail

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Me as a DrummerI’ve played the drums since a teenager. It was a saviour for me and opened my mind to so many great aspects of creativity, collaboration and people passion. I still play today as part of my overall physical and mental health routine. Nothing quite like making a noise and holding a beat to a sweat!

I stumbled across this article and read it with great enthusiasm as you’d imagine.

 

 The Neuroscience of Drumming: Researchers Discover the Secrets of Drumming & The Human Brain

 

Me on the Drums

It got me thinking about how I have used my experiences in drumming, patterns, structures and creativity to overcome challenges personally and professionally.  How I go about organising competing tasks or managing tight deadlines. A solid backbeat and ability to recall structures and patterns managing the interruptions and distraction of obstacles, but always back to the beat.

 

 

I love the challenge of making things better for all. Sometimes competing and conflicting but that is what makes life interesting at the best and worst of times.  It can be a scary place but exhilarating.  Like an intricate beat with a dynamic drum fill at the apex of the song with a complex arrangement, and getting the pace and timing just right feels so rewarding. Reading the article enlighten me to this.

cubist-drums-russell-pierce

Now the devil is the detail – tackle that full on and get organised  – get intimate knowledge of it – as that is where we find clarity and the pace of the beat. Drumming and my passion for precision, to hear something in different ways and work the pattern (beat) differently but with an interesting rhythm has always been where I push myself.

Unbeknown to me I have been applying my drummers perspective to so many challenges in my business career without understanding why I take the approach I do.  Keep an open mind, study the detail, find the beat, play the song, not the drums.

Where do you draw your skills to fight the devil that is the detail? What other aspects of your life has subconsciously crept into your professional habits?

sticks

Many thanks to openculture and  | Permalink | for the neuroscience of drumming blog and to General Electric for the fab video on YouTube.

 

What Do You Do? Ask the Robot.

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Having a portfolio career and an amassed array of skills, experiences through a range of roles and industries, sitting on both sides of the desk and working with people of all ranges of power and persuasion can make for a challenge to laser focus on any particular item that promotes a value or resonates with a particular job description.

It is said that variety is the spice of life. I constantly see, in today’s world of disruptive commerce, shouts for innovative and dynamic entrepreneurial people. Employers are demanding the candidate to exhibit endless flexibility, continuous learning spirit, leadership (which comes from a variety of real-world experiences) and passion above and beyond the ends of the universe. Job posts full of adventurous “go-get-em” and WOW description asking for an all-rounder with specific specialisations!

Now its great to fire up candidates imagination, and entice them to want to rise to the challenge and make a difference. We all aspire to contribute and show value. Organisations want to attract the best candidates and have the best talent available to them. That is utterly right and worth the pursuit of lengthy and diligent recruitment.

However, too often in the background is an automated candidate vetting process. This word search and pattern match process leads to exclusion of the very characteristics and experiences the candidate has, and so often desired by the hiring organisation. Adding value to the role and organisation.

Maybe AI and Machine Learning will overcome this challenge with improved fine-tuning and deeper profiling. Just maybe the robots will be able to see through the pile of noise and applications to the very gem an employer requires.

The online world offers so many data points with a clear connection to leverage the intelligent mass evaluation through automation of applications and fit for the role profiles.  The danger is it will miss the person behind the logic and the personality that strikes at the very heart of what can make a company great; it’s people, not its robots.

I feel challenged by the conundrum. Putting myself in a box and meeting word pattern criteria to express who I am and what I can add. I struggle with this, as my core principle and journey through life has never been one of a closed mind or single threaded passion but an excitement to learning through new experience, the challenge of the unknown and the thrill of it all. The robots guard the gates to constructive and engaged exploration I fear.

How disciplined should one be in updating their CV and professional profiles?  When promoted or role change within their existing organisation? But how often do you really need to? What is the catalyst for this? Clearly the opportunity to seek new employment, or change of role within your current organisation. Now how do you relate your content to the robots?

I took time out to read the recommendations I have gratefully received on Linkedin (me on Linkedin). I wouldn’t say I have a vast number of them (17) but tracking the period of time from the first to the latest gave me food for thought as to “what is it that I’m really good at, but don’t recognise?”, “what is the consistent comment that resonates across these?” and “how do I feel this has changed over time?”

Your skills should change and be influenced by new experiences; good, bad and ugly. But always to the benefit of your growth and learning.  The relevance of any comments or observations overtime may appear to become less relevant as a consequence. They all show the journey from what you used to do, to what you can do, and now what you want to do.

Linkedin Recomendations Chart-1

What’s more, would the Robots be able to interpret these in context? And does a leopard change its spots or is it that the spots just get bigger?

Clearly, I had a good run through 2010/11 and when I think about what was occurring in my professional life at the time and the market it was driven by the need to reinvent my proposition and value to find a new role to challenge me. Digging deeper into the content of the recommendations and out of the 600 words used the top 10 words were:

Linkedin Recomendations Chart-3

With that in mind, the following is the most used (para) phrases concerning activity (not a recommendation): time and on budget and attention to detail.

So how would you use this to align your CV to what you are successfully capable of achieving as value and assuredness for your next employer? Would the robots then box you into? Computer Says No! When you really are looking to reach upward to the next level of your career.

I used http://www.writewords.org.uk/word_count.asp to analyse the text in my recommendation and manipulated these as lists in Excel to contextualise them for this exercise. The full distribution of useful words is depicted below.

Was this a useful exercise? I found it helped confirm what I know I am good at. It gave me food for thought as to what I possibly really want to do, but isn’t being recognised! And also suggested that it is too easy to fall into the trap of the easy option when really to feel alive you want more.

I sincerely thank all my colleagues (past and present), business associates and acquaintances that provided a recommendation.

I’d be interested to hear how this Linkedin Recommendation Analysis process worked out for you. And to all those seeking new employment, good luck in your endeavours.

Linkedin Recomendations Chart-2.JPG

My Walk on the Wild Side

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We all strive to do the very best we can to develop deep capability in our chosen professions. We also sometimes have to dig deep to keep the motivation and belief that our contribution is valued and our legacy provides long term sustainable contribution to our chosen discipline.

We are also told to tell stories as part of any engagement; selling, describing, explaining . .  . .. consulting!

Me as a DrummerI recently had the good fortune to work with someone who in spite of his age and in spite of circumstance (business model) still shows real joy and fun in what he does. He was able to deliver wisdom, advice and stories of sheer joy of his work and accomplishments.

A confession. I was so chuffed to be asked to do this and “we” had absolutely no rehearsal prior and never played together. It was the first time I used that kit in about 5 years! But it was music to my ears.

Listen to him tell stories. Song starts about 5.50 in. Enjoy my walk on the wild side!

But what did this teach me? A team of professionals (in this instance semi-pro in my case) that all understood the part they played in the execution; their role, their responsibility, their contribution and collaboration and support all danced (played) to the same tune and pulled off an immediate and fun accomplishment. At no point did any of us doubt that the other wouldn’t do their job, deliver their part to time and beat and be there for the other.

Why isn’t work more like this more of the time? Why is it that we develop skills that are then compromised by “process” or “policies” or worse – politics and power play! Turning out a horrible tune!

If you don’t know who Herbie Flowers is check out this link http://www.herbieflowers.com/ and just think of Lou Reed Walk on the Wild Side and David Bowie Space Oddity, to name a few . . .

Herbie’s stories made me reflect on how I view my career. My contribution, my legacy and what it is that keeps me motivated irrespective of the challenges and demands that our modern work cadence places upon us. Is it creating beautiful music or wonderful stories!

So I hope you enjoy this and many thanks to Nik for providing me the opportunity to listen, learn and revisit my drumming skills for such an iconic and wonderful piece of music under the instruction of a one of the world’s greatest bass player ever. Thanks Herbie.

Over Engineered – Cost of Bells, Don’t Need Whistles

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ClockWorkI have been busy exploring the varied and wonderful world of legacy solutions and modernisation compatibility.  My role has been listening, understanding and exploring business critical requirements and looking for solutions and scope from which to devise a way forward for transformation and improved efficient business practices. All at a cost! Are you willing to pay? Can you afford not to? Do you actual know what you want, what you need?

Now I really feel for the teams who after years of blood, sweat and tears and loyalty to an organisation have had to come to terms with seeing their “labour of love” criticised, or analysed as to what the future shouldn’t be like.  I hear statements like “we want to simplify”, “this is far too complex and can’t adapt”, “we over engineered this” . . . .

Having to make business wheels turn under business as usual pressures, the constant demand of changes and having to lovingly safeguarded  doing business using is a champions job and no small feat! However too often I am seeing this endeavour become a thankless task when modernisation comes into play.   I’ve been here!

We should thank these teams for the hours of devotion as it is their past innovation, solution engineering and practices that has helped a whole software consulting industry  learn what, why and the many “how” that helped develop new solutions, technologies and paradigms (Cloud/SaaS).

Decisions are made for the circumstance of the day.  Solutions built to support the needs of that era weren’t meant to last a life time and be infinitely flexible and accommodating.  At some point they will just not be able to cut the mustard any more. They will be no longer fit for purpose.  The world matched on . . .

Business moves on, commerce and industry devise new needs and opportunities, models and processes develop, opportunities demand new support models, and yet sometime the infrastructure that is built to support the legacy business model is forced under pressure to perform above and beyond in the new world model!

B-W-1I recall in another life where the development of the solution had to address the most bizarre requirements at the edge of every possible combination of circumstance and possibilities.  This is often termed “future proofing”.  Tell me who has the crystal ball and have really ever seen “that” coming”?

This leads to the classic costly over engineering and the long haul cost of ownership and maintenance change, fix and repair cycles, let alone integration, scaling and portability challenges.

I came across this coffee machine at a wonderful facilities provided by a very well established consultancy. It caught my attention in relation to this topic over engineering, bells and whistle and then the cost of ownership and maintenances. It got me thinking while waiting for my coffee.  Will it ever be able to make a good cup of tea? Was it ever meant to?

Too many moving part, accommodating people interaction experience verse their responsibility to (place the cup under the tap head), compensating for people effort and generally build complexity for more vulnerability and cost of ownership. How many times have you designed a solution around people capability over what would work simplest?

Kiss

Easier said than done when there is more than one engineer having fun!

Gee Businesses Make It Tough To Change – Change the Tune!

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avril-lavigne-1

The thing is everyone in the room is a solutions architect. But not one a pop star! There’s tension and their pain and emotional investment of a life time career is exposed and raw. There is great endeavours and knowledge experts that would score highly in Master Mind for their chosen subject, and a fascinating array of professional office politicking. But not one harmonious tune.

My role gives me great insight into many situations, sectors and cultures where change and design clash constantly and where ownership and authority dance to the tune of a different song to that which they think is playing. They need to change tune but more on that later.

I see this clash more and more as enterprises make that move from old platform to Cloud and the realisation that standardisation demands a new song that only a shared platform can sing.

In the room they are all looking for a solution; they are all trapped in a decision of the past and now embroiled in the challenge of change. What often astounds me are the players in the room, the leadership of risk taking and the real issue; “our business model is no longer fit for purpose and our operating practice broken!”

Large amounts of operational expense are maintained in maintaining the modus operandi. Large capital expense is questioned and fought for to establish “betterment” against the backdrop of legacy.  This is modern enterprise business in a world of unpredictable change and overpowering competition of new business models of “subscription”.

The intent of all in the room is to do the right thing. The opinion of what is “right” is the challenge of culture, belief, experience and legacy at odds with each other.

When I am sitting in the room and layer after layer of conversation, deviation and ultimate indecision fills the air with noise and awkward body language, indifference, and/or dogma I can’t help having the tune “Complicated” pop into my head. You’re singing the chorus now aren’t you?

Chill out, what you yellin’ for?, Lay back, it’s all been done before , And if you could only let it be, You will see . . . .

I want these companies to go back to the beginning and try to find the true reason why the company and its product became. What drove it to success? Where is the value? What is the differentiator? Cling on to these and then ask:

Why do you have to go and make things so complicated?
I see the way you’re acting like you’re somebody else
Gets me frustrated
You fall and you crawl and you break
And you take what you get and you turn it into honesty
You promised me I’m never gonna find you fake it
No no no

If you fancy a sing alone try this!

Must thank Avril Lavigne fo adding to my corporate change wisdom and therophy.

Requirements to Design or “just get me there soonest” – SaaS Rapid Implementation Methodology

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Classic WaterfallThere are many tried and tested implementation methodologies and countless variations on a theme. Common practice is picking and choosing the bits that work best for a given target environment. Hybrid, aligned, adapted, call it what you will. The bottom line is we learn from every implementation and hopefully adapt.  Or do we?

Last century expectations on delivery were well matured and mostly agreed with business stakeholders.  The process that were required to deliver were mostly understood together with the expectation, speed to deploy, timeline and project management process.

Generally the sense of rapid and/or dare I say “agility” was firmly grounded or caged within the waterfall process that drove delivery in the main back then. You know how it went; Requirements definition, functional design, build, test, launch etc . . . . so last century!

Cloud computing comes along. Software as a Service explodes. The sales proposition drive speeds and agility of deployment as a key value prop and RoI. Remember Salesforce.com “Click not Code”! The rush to cultivate a successful implementation methodology to support this new paradigm and business expectation continues to march on.  But that said practices of yesteryear are definitely off the menu this century.

Sweet SpotNow the  nature of Software as a Service (SaaS) demands a healthy and growing relationship with the end user to maintain renewing subscription. This is the very foundation of the business model.  Execution of a SaaS project should start with that relationship fully in mind. Basing a project upon ridged and constrained scope and deliverable is a conflicting and contradictory engagement model for SaaS (see my earlier post, a subject dear to my heart Statement of Outcome). The need for a SaaS Rapid implementation methodology is vital.

So where is this going? In my experience running a Requirement Definition and Design stage  is now so tightly coupled that defining requirements as a blue-sky, white-sheet, blank piece of paper process is extremely dangerous to the delivery of a SaaS solution. Take the core principles of multi-tenancy SaaS and take any SaaS solutions; “the constraint is in the SaaS solution delivery model and business complexity challenges whilst working within this which, pushes projects back into classic development mode?”

A SaaS solution needs a methodology that embraces it delivery model, speaks clearly to rapid implementation and defines business requirements within it core product capability as a win/win to renewals.

In addition, the SaaS product model must exhibit sufficient functionality for complex business requirements for its space. The SaaS Implementation Methodology therefore must speak to a requirements definition that aligns directly with the design of the SaaS product.

Tag Line

Merge the Requirements Definition and the Solution Design stage to address the SaaS delivery expectation model as a SaaS Rapid Methodology and align product capability road-map to the level of customisation based on the implementation feedback at the front line. The subscription economy demands it in the SaaS application space.

Socially Face-to-Face – service through the whites of their eyes – the distance of the Internet

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SM ServiceIt’s really great this social media thing. It is such a great space for education and awareness. The sheer volume of posts, blogs, reports, info-graph and all things. All supported by the sheer weight of big data making sense of things we couldn’t prove before whilst at times tearing down our historic perceptions of our past reality. I love it. But it can become a paranoiac minefield of self-harming opinion. It is almost akin to “Death by PowerPoint”.

Death by PowerPoint a common fatality of many a great and important message. That said pictures paint a thousand words and ShowTime can be fun. Thinking back on the multitude of events I have attended, the presentations that resonated most have to be those that told a personal story. A story you could relate. Not the slide or statistic that you had to jot down. I guess it is dependent on all having a shared experience – speaking to the masses! Data would suggest this is more often the case than not in our modern overly monitored, categories and processed lives.

I attended an event on customer service back in 2011 that had a lot of case studies and statistics on where, why and how to manage and deliver it supported by copious amounts or diagrams/slides showing best practice, architecture, tools etc. All very useful, informative but I have to confess with a retention score of Zero in creating a call to action or influencing me past the next speaker.

Funny I am in the midst of setting out an initiative and find I am producing copious number of slides to help galvanise my thoughts! A tool or a communication medium? That’s another blog! Where’s my mind-map?

Returning to this event and one particular presentation, well more like story-time.  A futurologist (I kid you not) working at BT, a Dr Nicola Millard delivered such a poignant and relevant message of the future of service engagement that it basically put to shame 80% of the previous days speeches, industry advice and undermined most of the solutions presented and best practices pitched.

She explained that the rate of change and the speed of consumer opinion is overwhelming and unstoppable in this connected social mobile Smartphone App futurologist .  That the reality is that no matter how hard companies try to perfect engagement they can only do so retrospectively which is often too late, too behind the curve to satisfy and putting at risk customers retention or limit any damage to the brand.

What made Dr Millard presentation so impactful was her delivery of this dilemma and the fact that she reached out to the audience by using the whole stage and not standing behind a lectern or referred to slides as the main delivery.

You could see the whites of her eyes the passion in her beliefs. She instilled confidence and therefore commanded attention. She spoke directly and enthusiastically and put “us” in the story recalling our everyday activities in relation to the proposition of “how to control the un-controllable” which was overly oopinionated customers using smartphone/social app at the point of service delivery –  a queue that was way too long against the backdrop of unattended service booths. #poorservice

BA TweetAnd the picture she painted is one that I have experienced personally. In situations where I have required assistance from some large organisations I have used social media (mainly Twitter) to achieve success. In most cases this has worked far better than traditional channels (LG, British Airways to name a few good ones).

Her positioning of this dilemma still resonates with me.  I hear in so many conversations I experience in business to this day. The need to change, modernise, and deliver “world class” customer service and perform better.  A constant challenge and at times struggle for most organisations. “It’s all about the platform” cries out a stressed out management team; “If we had a single view of the customer with all channels captured and . . . . .”

So how does Social Media and customer service close the gap, crosses the divide between the post, the like, the comment and shows the whites of it eyes? It must give that personal touch, that empathy or a call to actions that changes the nature of the broadcast to really be a service offering.

Do I have the answer? I guess Social Media fundamentally promotes tailored service and breaking the call centre-all script. Why? Because the transparency and collaboration that can develop from a single post or a single tweet can be immense and lasts forever in the Social Cloud. The conversation can become global quickly so containment and direct help is imperative to rescue the experience to maintain reputation and relevance with a customer.  But it can’t be one of process as that is not a good experience and this is very public.

SM SPSince that event way back in 2011 I am seeing and experiencing companies taking Social Media so much more seriously, not for the “Likes” alone, but for supportive interactions and turning this into positive, global and fully transparent PR opportunity of what a great company does when it needs to support its customers.

Great service will always starts with a personal touch, an experience, a human touch at the end of the post or send button. So I wouldn’t bet on transformational cost savings in service delivery through the transition into Social Media Customer Service practice. After all it is just another channel to manage! A ferociously public one which will require the good old Service Agent to manage as much as any “one on one” experiences on traditional channels. The existing internal training, couching and product/service training and CRM practices as is standard in any good service organisation will still be demanded and expected by your customers. So don’t look to save using Social Media as a “cheaper channel”, but look to improve your return creating a Social Media Service experience that shows them the whites of your eye and gets the word out that your a great Brand to work with.