Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Back from the brink

Posted: June 4, 2014 in Uncategorized

3 years on and I’m pleased to say that I’m back to share ramblings on all things digital, marketing and product. The good news is that the intention to grace this place is truly there, the bad news is that the next blog post is still being pressed.  Watch this space.

In the meantime, I might entertain you with some writing ventures for my employers over the past couple of years:

The Top 5 Digitalmom-wake-up- Marketing Trends – avoiding the Creep factor and the case of real-time results for real-time impact

Data Decisions: what to do with it – data driven decisions to automate your engagement activities

Driving Success with your Marketing pursuits – customers, keep on top of your performance, and know the ultimate customer experience

(source: Salmat Digital’s blog)

Enjoy!

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It’s been a while since I’ve blogged, and boy have I missed doing so! Since starting a new job with a larger remit and more work to conquer, keeping in tune with happenings in digital media has been fleeting at best.

 The past 5 months have left me pondering the topic of modern leadership and what makes a great (and sustaining) leader. To me, an inspiring leader must not only articulate the purpose of any venture or project clearly and in a way that makes sense for me, they must also connect and relate to my job at hand, the challenges faced and seek to then give constructive advice on the best mode of action.

What I’ve also noticed is that the digital world has significantly influenced what others expect from a leader. The interactive nature of the social web has meant any individual irrespective of skillset and experience has equal right to voice their opinion and be heard. In the same way, the next generation breed of up and coming managers who live and breathe with an online presence will demand instantaneous gratification: this means finding direct access to a discussion that has traditionally taken place behind closed doors. Gone are the days of effective dictatorship (which might I point out is very different to taking a directive stance – proven useful particularly in times of uncertainty and constant change).

To be truly collaborative, modern leadership is about incorporating typical elements of the social web: being accessible any time by your team, involving people on big ticket items right from the start (rather than after the event) and aligning your approach using the available tools these days (eg. Creating a Yammer community dedicated to sharing ideas) that encourages creative contributions on a daily basis.

Social leadership isn’t a new phenomenon (see Charlene Li’s briefing at SXSW last year), it’s here to stay as long as we humans are!

Test to Impress

Posted: January 21, 2011 in product testing, Uncategorized

I find it a little disturbing when people challenge the traditional notion of testing products or business models before they are launched. Whilst the most obvious response is to verify functionality against a set of requirements, in reality this is possibly the least of anyone’s problem. Sure, testing mitigates the risk that what we think our target market wants may not match reality, but usually we’d have a pretty good hunch, by way of conducting preliminary research on the web or talking to family and friends to verify that gap in the market.

The answer could be a host of other potential reasons:

~ It builds brand awareness:  sites branded ‘Beta’ typically signal a work-in-progress product, a type of status that brings in technology enthusiasts who in turn are most vocal about their product experiences. Free press!

~ It enables collaboration and buy-in: anyone who’s worked in large corp will know that you’d be sentenced to a life-of-foolishness if you don’t first test with your stakeholders. By stakeholders I refer to not only customers (who could ultimately become advocates of your product), but also senior management whose influencing power will help keep your business idea or product alive in a large organisation.

~ It could help you win more moolah: venture capitalists take calculated risks, and would potentially view your actions as sensible, building a pretty solid and measurable case to consider investing in your product or business model.

Test just enough though, then move on quickly. There’s definitely the need for speed…or else you might see the opportunity dissipate or be taken by an unforeseen rivalry.

I hopped along to the Digicitz event tonight, themed around 3 Social Media Experts taking the stage with advice for specific social media related challenges being experienced by two organizations – Nexus and Reach Out Australia.

Great ideas were in flight across 3 clear strategy streams: the creative strategist (@michaelwatkins from Mudomedia), the strategic consultant (@paulalexgray from Brainmates), and the strategy executor (@katydaniells from DaemonTWO) –  all of which might I say are important perspectives to consider when seeking success in a campaign or project. And yes, strategy is also about execution – business fundamentals since the Kaplan/Norton days!

The topics however had me pondering over the following:

1. Deciding if social media is an appropriate activity to undertake requires common sense

Once you decide on your business objectives, use common sense to derive your plan: understand how your customers tick – where they spend their time, who they hang out with and what they like/dislike and understand your options in targeting them with your product or campaign.

2. It also requires humility

Head honchos within enterprises also need to recognise that social media is a playing field that can’t be learned unless you actively play in it (again common sense). As Jye quotes Katie Chatfield, it’s an ‘emergent discipline,’ in which ‘we’re all still making up the language as we go.’ This involves letting down one’s guard, and acknowledging that there is room to learn (this is what makes social media so enthralling!).

So, as social media evangelists who preach versatility and untapped potential in this space, we need to:

1. Educate and gain buy in from the top

Start with educating C-level management about the benefits of social networks. Success stories such as that from Deloitte and their adoption of Yammer across the employee network signifies that CEO’s can be convinced about radical proposals. It’s the CEO who will have the authority to infuse adoption throughout the organisation once they’re sold on the idea. [For Deloitte, the useful life of email has apparently been set to 5 years since Yammer’s rollout].

2. Be thoughtful with the pitch

C-level management are concerned about the bottom line, shareholder return, and corporate reputation. Elements of a social strategy can provide benefits in all these elements. Measuring changes in brand sentiment, dollars spent on listening and conversing with online communities (labour and systems) can all be directly attributed back to net profit.

3. Respect where they’ve come from

Tonight there were a few throw away comments on bureaucratic government organizations and cagey staff unwilling to trial new things. Accept these as fact and use it to your advantage. There’d be a valid reason explaining why there is process to follow and resistance to change – understand their motivations and take them head on.

Before Agile Australia 2010, Agile to me meant taking a modern approach in developing and launching products quickly to market. Since the conference, I’ve had a sort of tip-of-the-iceberg moment, quickly realising that Agile as a methodology is overwhelmed in practice with the importance of bringing the right mix of culture, leadership and people together in order to achieve an Agile state in an organisation.

Source: Slatteryit.com.au

Agile Australia 2010 was a solid, intensive 2 day workshop themed around delivering business value with Agile, consisting of an eclectic group of speakers from blue chip organisations and specialist consulting firms.

So much great insight was wrapped into the two days (the only conference I’ve been to where all 450 or so attendees stayed until the final workshop!), that it warrants three separate blog posts – here’s the first: successfully adapting Agile practices require a new mindset (and sometimes new blood).

Firstly, I should make it clear that Agile in the context of project management and product or software development is based around short cycle releases (we’re talking weeks as opposed to months), frequent feedback loops with customers and quick iterations that tweak and improve an output to address this feedback. A good place to learn more about the principles behind Agile is the Agile Manifesto site and Martin Fowler’s New Methodology digital handbook on the topic. To this point comes the following key takeouts:

  1. Don’t underestimate the difficulty of unlearning habits and rituals. Ben Hogan of Agile Coach refers to the power of one’s comfort zone and the rather arduous process of moving from current status quo to a new desired state.  Transforming an idea for change to one that is accepted and realised by staff requires leaders rather than managers, and investment in change management. This ensures staff is embedded with a genuine belief and commitment that the change is for the better.
  2. Being Agile puts people first, rather than process first. The infamous  Martin Fowler does a frank comparison of Agile against traditional waterfall to demonstrate the fallacies that is the latter:
  • Waterfall demands predictive behaviour, whereas Agile requires adaptive behaviour. Agile recognizes that accurate crystal balling is impossible to achieve (otherwise we’d all be millionaires!).
  • Documentation and planning is still central, but only if it finetunes your development needs. Possibly my favourite point as it knocks down the popular myth that Agile follows a chaotic, freeform structure. As Jay Jenkins from Renewtek puts it, ‘Agile strips away waste, not documentation.’
  • Success of a Waterfall approach is measured by an ‘according to plan’ mentality, whereas Adaptive’s success is measured by business value: was customers happy with what they were given and has it evolved from what was originally in plan? Change is encouraged rather than opposed by the business (shock horror!).
  • Hence, recruiting small teams of people who are aspirational, highly skilled and self organizing are key ingredients to making this transition. Establishing an ‘A-Team’, as Craig Smith calls it, touches on teachings from Dan Pink’s Drive (a brilliant book I might add!) – the notion of an individual being given autonomy, seeking mastery and finding purpose in what they do as ways to drive high levels of motivation. Reference to Atlassian and Thoughtworks hackathon style days demonstrate just that.

All this from what I can see boils down to two things: accepting continuous improvement in development, integration and delivery of product as the only means to delivering value to our customers, and placing trust in your people to make critical decisions on the fly. Both of these are rationally easy to comprehend and agree to, but in practice very difficult to realise.

Which is a nice segue into my next post on Agile Australia: the importance of teams, collaboration, trust and adaptive leadership.

It seemed an appropriate time to stumble upon @swankins blog post the other day about Happiness. This along with recent events in my life has prompted this short post.

How we choose to live boils down to perspective and attitude. As human beings we experience the joys and hardships that shape us to become who we are. And in moments of dystopia where we can only see how bad a situation might be, it’s worth reminding oneself that these trying times bring great opportunities to  grow as an individual. I experienced that with my recent Laser Eye Surgery, which failed to correct my eyesight in the 2nd round of operation. Feeling like it was the end of the world, I learned a week later that a once very healthy friend of mine had developed Scotoma which will eventually impair vision across both eyes.

This coupled with an open minded approach to hearing, seeing and adapting to your surrounds also help create opportunities that might not be there in the first place. The digital world is made of twenty-something, energetic, creative entrepreneurs who thrive on experimentation. This can be as natural to any older person if we took on the same tenacity as these young-bes. My 62 year old dad is an excessive iPad/iPod consumer, who has a love for BitTorrent (he will remain anonymousJ) yet also persists with playing one of 100 vinyl records each night.

Life also involves being bold with making choices. Whether it’s right or wrong is only a matter of opinion and not the point – it’s the fact that you make a calculated decision that helps you take that one step forward in knowledge, experience and character is what counts.

So, what are we waiting for? Embrace every moment and proactively seek new opportunities to learn!

Upcoming Events in Sydney

Posted: July 22, 2010 in Uncategorized

After Tuesday night’s amazing line up of speakers at Digicitz (see a replay of the Twitter stream on Crisis & Reputation Management here), I’m pleased to say that there are more events to look forward to in the following weeks:

22 July, 6.30pm (tonight!): Continuing the ASR debate on online measurement.

Venue:  The Supper Club in Darlinghurst. Hosted by Media Monitors. Overview of topics and registrations are here.

27 July, 8pm: Shhh Sydney – launch!! Its premise is built on the belief that a meaningful experience can be discovered when a group of people share a space in a silent way.

Venue: 655A Darling St, Rozelle. Created by Alan and Miles. To register, click here.

14 Aug, 10.30-5.30pm: Social Innovation BarCamp. An un-conference about social innovation related topics from an unplanned set of speakers (love the free-form approach!).

Venue:  College of Fine Arts, Oxford St & Greens Rd, Paddington. Created by Michelle Kate. To register, click here.

Another good source for digital media, marketing and technology centric events is the Digital Ministry Events page.

A final plug: Regular Product Maven meet ups in Sydney (Twitter hashtag: #pmms) will also continue on the first Wednesday of each month at Cook & Archie. Updates on these events are found at our Posterous site.

If I’ve missed any event, add them in the Comments field. Hope to see you at one of these events soon! <Ciao for now>