Monday, November 27, 2006

Why being there makes the difference

Couple of great little lessons in the last week about the power of being there in front of an audience, and telling them stories about how you see your business unfolding.

1. I got invited by the Business Roundtable to talk to a class of 15 year olds about a month ago about what I do at Telecom, what's important to us and the future opportunities that might exist.Given most of them have been alive just barely longer than I've been working here I told a story of how technology has changed so much in the last 12 years I've been here and how I've been able to do my little bit to make a difference. I got this letter from one of the students.

There are so many lessons in here, especially when you think of the context of this

  • Megan is not an existing customer - but I reckon there is every chance she might be one day
  • As part of this chat I got asked a very direct question of when we're going to roll out broadband to more rural areas and gave a very clear 'not for a very long time!' as an answer
  • I gave this talk to 45 people (30 kids and associated parents and teachers) - it probably cost me 3 hours of time (2 hours of prep and 1 hour of delivery) which, if I was being generous, probably cost Telecom $600. That is about $7 per person in terms of marketing cost and I reckon I got better cut through from this than any of our ads. This includes any in-direct benefit I would have got from these people talking to their friends and family.
I'm not saying we should ditch the TV commercials - clearly they work - but any chance to get in front of your customers in person (current ex- and future) has to be the best way to give your business personality and let your customers know you have a vision for THEM (not for you) and how you can 'make things better for average New Zealanders' - if it's not about that, then why are you here?

2. As one of my final acts in my old role, I gave a presentation on Thursday to the TUANZ business internet conference. It was all about how we research Emerging Technologies - which of course is actually all about understanding what are the problems that people will face in the future and how we can use technology to solve them. The guys put together a great demo of this based on streamlining the order and payment process for the local cafe based on the use of RFID. Worked really well and stimulated alot of discussion. Must say that the thing that really blew me away was Ernie Newman saying, in introducing the next speaker, that he was genuinely impressed that Telecom had a team of people who were so focussed on the customer and their problems, and that he held high hope for Telecom to execute its transition to a more holistic player in the NZ market - Paul Stoddart, Neil Forster, and all of the team at the old ETS (the new R&V) take a bow - you are actively changing the perception of Telecom for the better. One small team can make a big difference...

Monday, November 13, 2006

Usability Testing

Spent all of Friday doing usability testing on Residential Gateways.

Our technical team have shortlisted a number of models for us to look at as part of our Next Generation product set. Out of the 3 models that we looked at, and the 3 people we tested on, only one of them was able to get one model successfully working. Not a good look. There were a heap of issues. This includes

1. Having instructions printed in 10 point font that outline the need to run the CD before connecting any kit up.

2. Lots of device conflicts - we are going to have to get into some software development to resolve this

3. Some terrible language used in setting up the devices - the best example was a critical setting choice which had two options (World or Any)

4. The need for the customer to know ADSL log-in names and VCI/VPI settings

5. A device with no way to set it up other than to know the local IP address. Great.

So we learned heaps! For a start

1. We picked the right people to test on - non-techo people who got really frustrated when it wasn't simple. These are our target market. This is really important as I managed to get the device to work the night before but underestimated the pain that some people would go through. The video we have captured of the process is pure gold...

2. We have learned which information customers know off the top of their head vs having to have prepared

3. We have some really good insights into the look of the device - I don't think there is a way to make this device look acceptable in a home environment so we might as well just hide it.

4. We also have a great strawman for a proposed install process - to get to this in a day is a great result. This is the speed we need to work at...

Thursday, November 09, 2006


The last 2 out of 3 years I've been involved in a work fund-raiser to grow moustaches with the noble aim of raising money for Women's Refuge (all based on the loose premise that guys with mo's get a bad rep for violence towards women that's not justified).

This year I'm taking part in Movember - a fundraiser for men's health (focussed on Men's prostrate problems). It would be fair to say that a week in I'm feeling very rough around the edges and not having nearly as much fun as we did doing this as a more localised activity. I think the cause doesn't resonate with me that much (I mean - doesn't matter how much you advertise no fella is that excited about a protrate check) but I'm hanging in there.

Pic is a doctored view of how we're coming along - if you're up for a sponsorship, Please go to Movember , enter my Rego number which is 46881 and your credit card details. All donations over $5 are tax deductible.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Coming up for air...

The last month has been pretty crazy - we've been taking a good hard look at the strategy work required to deliver our new business and how we use products and services to do this. That's driven a whole lot of design activity that we are right in the middle of. There are some really good things that we've done and some things that we've learned that will be critical for making a new business come to life. Here they are in no particular order

1. The importance of the design process

OK - This seems like a really obvious comment. Everyone these days is talking about design - as a bit of an apple fanboy (sad but true) I've been going on about how we need to design things better for customers so that they work together. By taking a good two months to design what we want from both a customer perspective and a business perspective we are having the hard conversations now as opposed to starting down a path we might not be able to get out of later. This is helping us get senior engagement early and I am certain will mean that the actual build process is shorter and tighter - we won't be holding many options open at that stage for sure.

2. External skills and diversity are critical when you are looking at a transformation project

After 3 days into this process we had an 'aha' moment. While the 4 of us were all really focussed on executing our strategy and turning ourselves into something very different to what we are at the moment (think lean, fast and delivering services that customers love and contrast to what you think of Telecom today) there is no doubt that you gradually drift back to what you are comfortable with and what you know - this is exacerbated by the fact that we're all male, middle-aged (shock!) and well above the average age. Hardly our target market. We've brought in a number of people to help us through this - some internal (mainly female and with varying backgrounds) and a Design coach from Optimal Usability - Michael Andrews. He's been superb - not only is he a very experienced design professional, he's brough a level of customer focus to what we are doing that has meant that we just don't talk about things relative to how we operate today - really refreshing!

3. Turning yourself into a design-led, customer-focussed organisation is hard

As someone who has talked about being customer focussed and got frustrated about that, I have been surprised at the extent of the change I've had to make to be able to design products, services and a business from a customer perspective. Thinking about every decision in a customer oriented way takes a level of change that our current organisation is probably not able to achieve.I say this based on the following evidence

  • I'm open to customer oriented thinking - but doing this on a decision by decision basis means putting aside your entire decision making framework based on business outcomes, technology etc. That is a massive change - I suggest you try it to see how different it is!
  • We are only just learning the way to ask questions from a customer perspective - Michael has been awesome in getting us to frame up the initial questions of how a customer would want to experience the service in language they would understand. This a new skill for us.
  • While we touch customers every day our actual interaction with them and experience of how they understand our products and services is really limited - we don't feel their pain enough. Tomorrow we're going to get some people to do some usability testing on existing products so we can see where we are starting from - I expect to take some grief...

4. Our new business model is the problem to solve - not the product set

We started off looking at this from the perspective of designing new products and services and the processes that sit around them. Seemed reasonably straight forward - the fact is the change is so big that you have to design what your new business looks like from top to bottom so you know what you're delivering to. This has been controversial - we're getting a lot of push-back on this along the lines of 'trust us - we have this under control'. The fact is - if we are finding it hard to turn ourselves into more customer oriented people and design that way in, how can we possibly trust people to design a business model who don't have that world view. Still employed this week so hoping that some of what we are saying is resonating...

5. This is not delegatable

Well - I certainly couldn't delegate it and I won't be. It's pretty easy to delegate stuff you know that's incremental or relatively low risk. This is complex, requires new skills to be learned and we're banking the business on it. Seems like something too big to be delegated 3 levels down but what do I know.

Huge month - and i reckon the next 2 will be even bigger - must do some daily updates for a change.