Radical Restructures and Self-Organising Teams at TradeMe

Responsible for 2/3rds of New Zealand’s local internet traffic and with 3.4 million members (3/4 of the local population), TradeMe is New Zealand’s second largest internet company. So strong that eBay can’t edge into their space. Most amazing of all is their ability to sell 3000 chickens on the website each day!

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Despite using Agile project management and all the latest technology to build their platforms in a customer centric manner, they still face all the problems of any other internet based business does, in terms of developing their software teams.

The Self-Organising Organisation – Total Squadification at TradeMe

On Wednesday I heard from David Mole @molio and Sandy Mamoli @smamol who described their story and the steps they took to scale their teams using a self organising approach.

TradeMe we’re starting new stories to create features regularly but not shipping at the rate they expected

Last years they were in a situation that might be familiar to some of us. Despite their best estimates and efforts, they struggled to release incremental changes on a regular basis. Deployment wasn’t an issue, they had two deployments a day but team members were being stretched across multiple teams and dependencies and bottlenecks were developing.

Coupled with the odd “I need x by tomorrow” feature that would appear form their CEO, the core original developers were being pulled from teams to work on a specific new feature. Entire new teams were hired to help them do it. This method of growth meant an expert was involved, but that the team went through Tuckman’s phases on a regular basis.

Portfolio cards on the wall showed all the projects going on but still new features were being prioritised and there were bottlenecks with testing, design and acceptance.

Management brought us these “just get it done” jobs and they took someone from the roots of our organisation with knowledge to the top of this new project. If we were playing Jenga – our team was starting to look like this. ~ David

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Clearly, dictating ‘who works on what and how’ wasn’t working, but what could?

Their FedEx Hackathon days provided inspiration for a solution

FedEx day: A 24 hour build to push out something cool. FedEx days were about getting stuff done in a fun way. Enjoying working with your teammates on something cool. And of course the question arose: why can’t it be FedEx day every day?

If we were privy to a FedEx day we’d see:

  • All participants wanted to be part of a cross functional team.
  • Teams were small. The biggest had 6 members.
  • Nobody is multitasking.
  • Nobody was worrying about being idle.

Much like a great team building day.

Could squads be the answer and could they scale it?
It was Scrum at its finest and it got them thinking of Squads. Small stable teams who work sequentially on one thing. The evils of multitasking never cuts in!

Others had led the way but TradeMe needed to do it on a much larger scale

Spotify have written an amazing white paper and selection of accompanying video presentation about how they structure their development team. Have a look at the white paper tribes, squads, chapters and guilds from Spotify.

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Of course fear of change kicked in. There’s a big difference between being agile and doing agile. They were adamant that the process shouldn’t be at the detriment of creativity. So rather than tackling the most resistant part of the organisation which might seem like a good move, they decided to take 20 of the most shining team members and polish them to a diamond.

Then they’d bring others along quickly!

Total Squdification, a pilot and then all in!

After meticulous preparation, in a single day they brought the group of twenty together and asked them to self organise into squads.

Product Owners pitched the steam of work that each squad would work on and despite their fears, the team behaved like trusted professionals and self selected three squads. Fully skilled and with all the team members required. Ready to work with people they enjoyed working with on a project they were interested in.

With a successful pilot as proof of concept, they they implemented Total Squadification across the entire 100 plus member team. Creating 10 of their required 11 squads in a single day.

Sandy has a great write up on the process here and a Team self selection kit to help others wanting to implement a similar model.
It’s a spectacular feat that had many pitfalls along the way. A single blog post wouldn’t do the intricacies of their preparation justice.

It’s also the results that excite me.

Self organising teams upped productivity, morale, retention and business results

When Sandy and David began their squadification day, they asked that the team think not only of what is right for the but also what’s best for TradMe. Thinking of their needs and that of the business has meant that six months in and all metrics are up and continue to rise.

Understanding that people know themselves best and that they know themselves better than their manager, was proven. The squads are still intact and working well. The process has also identified the projects no one wants to touch, which has helped them recruit specialist for those projects.

Could this work in your organisation?

On of the greatest benefits I see of self organising is that beyond getting to work with people you prefer to work with on things you prefer the culture changes. I think these type of changes would occur:

  • Not being told what to work on allows teams to follow their passion.
  • Members will feel more inclined to speak up about their ideas for improvements.
  • They will think of the team and the company more than their individual goals.
  • If squadification day became regular, or if trading windows were opened like in football for people to shift squads, then the idea of guilds and chapters would prosper.
  • Chapters of designers would meet regularly to share insights and techniques. Guilds of a specific industry or sector would share knowledge and ideas for how to make each squad function better.

All and all it was an insightful evening and I’m still thinking through this and it’s ramifications on job structure and the sharing economy. A blog post to come soon.

So to wrap up, could this work in your organisation? Are there team members and projects you’d love to work on or instigate? Are there team members that might not make the cut, or some you’d like to buy in from other teams? Let me know in the comments.

Driveway moments – how podcasts capture listeners in a content-laden world

With so much digital content competing for our attention in multiple social networks how do brands connect with their audience. What is the key?

In this era of disposable content, memes, vines, snaps, whispers, secrets and now ‘YO‘s, many brands are swinging to the polar extreme to keep users attention and to keep them interested. Thankfully there’s light at the end of the tunnel, in fact it’s an illuminated journey.

There is a resurgence of long format content and a lot of it is supported by rich media like interactive graphics, videos and podcasts.

With a relatively short bus commute as part of my morning journey I have been consuming a lot of podcasts. Although not as rich as video, the format means I can tune in with a single sense and still go about my morning/evening commute and not feel too guiltily about mobile data charges. It’s a format that thanks to Soundcloud is simple to do with your phone, laptop or iPad.

A number of the podcasts I subscribe to really bring a rich narrative to their existing blog posts and or a closer look at a topic. Often, hearing about something is also a lot easier to digest than reading about it.

The luxury of a podcast is that you can compile segments as and when you get time. You have time to form a holistic narrative and unlike with video you don’t have to worry too much about matching sections, cutting intros and outros etc. There’s no other conflicting posts. Scheduled news, announcements and down time messages don’t interrupt it – you can focus on a singular message, or two.
The art is in creating enough value and keeping users entertained, hopefully creating a driveway moment.

What’s a Driveway Moment?

Hopefully I’ve encouraged you, if only just a little, to think about podcasts and consider them in your digital mix. If not, then maybe this list and their inspiring long standing podcasts will help.

Here are 5 exemplary podcasts that I find really interesting. Their topics challenge and I think improve my digital marketing knowledge, and help me grow. I’m on a journey too.

99percentinvisible.org
I have a lot of time for @romanmars and the crew at 99percent. Their mixture of informative and eclectic topics has me hooked and I get excited when their latest release appears in my soundcloud feed. Covering everything from walled cities to shoe design and the Chrysler vs Empire State building feud.

thewebpsychologist.com
Nathalie Nahai is the Nigella Lawson of the web theory, UX and UI design space. Her sultry voice and the amazing guests she has talking all things digital come psychology are awesome.

cc-chapman.com
C C picks me up and motivates me. He’s all about doing the right work and valuing connections. He’s also the source of my favourite content marketing quote. The miniskirt philosophy for content: Long enough to cover the essentials, but short enough to keep it interesting.

forimmediaterelease.biz
Although a long listen The Hobson & Holtz report is digital from a PR perspective. Two very smart minds from either side of the Atlantic cover the latest developments in the digital and online space. Seeing a UK and USA perspective in one is insightful.

newrainmaker.com
Brian Clark of @copyblogger fame also talks of the Hero’s Journey and explains well why we should not be social sharecropping – building your digital home base on land you don’t own.

I’d love to hear what podcasts you like or your Soundcloud / iTunes address so we can connect!

Three pillars to a great online presence

Yesterday I visited New Zealand’s first 6 Green Star Office – Geyser, in Auckland.

Geyser is created as 6 separate parts with courtyards to let natural light into each area. It has a thermal chimney façade that heats and cools the building. It does this by circulating fresh air through an outer layer that can open and close in response to the ambient temperature. It has a rainwater collection system and an automated “stacker” car park that make use of the limited space underneath the building. In all an impressive building and in my eyes – it looks wonderful.

The building and its architect think of a wider audience than just tenants, addressing how it fits and improves the lives of the community around it.

What does this have to do with digital and online marketing – or social networks for that matter?

Last night I watched the architect Andrew Patterson talk a little bit more about the project as part of his TEDx presentation. He talked of the origins of Western Architecture Principles and how his buildings embody them.

These principles form a tripod that supports great architecture and I would argue serve well as points for a good online presence.
Western Architecture Principles

Attitude – Utilitas – fit for purpose

Use the right tools for the right job.

  • Customers or clients should immediately see how your website brings them value and meets their needs. Make it all about them.
  • When creating a new website have clear goals around the user experience and what you ultimately want to accomplish. Strip out distractions and ambiguity in user journeys.
  • If you want to blog, install a blogging platform. Don’t hack your content management system (CMS) or retrofit a forum as a workaround. If you want to sell things online implement a fully fledged eCommerce platform or leverage one run by experts in that area.
  • Use a CMS that befits the scale of your website and ensure you support it with adequate hardware. WordPress is fine for blogging but not for running Amazon or eBay. End users are the main focus of a website, but a good architect and web build thinks of longevity and maintenance as well.
  • Know your audience on each social network you use. Covering live events is Twitter’s space and photography looks fantastic on Google plus for example.

Concept – Firmitas – permanency

  • Single page websites or empty websites don’t instil confidence. Show that your website is robust and in for the long haul.
  • Ensure you have depth of content, products and services on your website and a stream of future content ready for the first few months. Content that addresses as many buyer personas and stages of the purchase cycle as possible.
  • If you’re building a community consider renting a crowd or launching in beta. Yelp, before launching in a new country, hire people to rate and recommend local businesses. That way the first real users see value from day one in being part of the community.

Communication – Venustas – as beautiful as the natural world

  • The concept for a building is that it should delight more than the natural world it is taking away. This isn’t a push to Skeuomorph design, rather that your website should be a delight to use.
  • If you can purchase online it should be super simple, far less stressful than standing at a counter waiting.
  • Time spent in your networks should delight more than competing TV channels and offline experiences.
  • Your audience should be excited to see your next alert, push notification or email in their inbox because it’s providing value they don’t get elsewhere. That value may be insights or knowledge to make their lives better but could equally be entertainment.

The combination of these three pillars should always support the end goal of delighting your audiences. Be they clients, employees or the community.

4 tools to help you master B2B social media sales

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Earlier this year LinkedIn celebrated reaching 1 million users in New Zealand – or around a quarter of the population. Their growth globally is also impressive at over 277 million members and 2 new members a second.

It is no wonder LinkedIn profiles are fast becoming the preferred source of truth – from tradespeople, right through to global enterprises – that are struggling to maintain their CRM.

Coupled with this mass adoption, I’ve also heard some startling statistics from the folks at LinkedIn. 75% of B2B purchases are influenced by social media and 57% of the buying process is complete before sales reps are involved. That really hit home the necessity to get social media sales working efficiently for you. A personal brand on LinkedIn and regular engagement with your audience and clients is a must.

You’ve no doubt got more than the basics mastered for B2B sales. But what about some of the advanced features LinkedIn offers, or the many other free tools available, to open and maintain relationships with clients?

LinkedIn Sales Navigator lets you mark a target and tells you when a new person enters the role

What if instead of searching for someone at X company in X industry you could save a search and narrow it right back. Sales Navigator lets you add: job function, shared groups and seniority level. You can save that search and be alerted when a new person enters and meets that criteria.

Better still, filter back the search to a company name and limit the results to the CXO you’re targeting. You can save it as an alert so when that CXO leaves – you can target their replacement. You could use this for gatekeepers as well, or for leads into brand new organisations if a great contact moves on.

TeamLink as part of Sales Navigator lets you see any contacts to leads from within your team

The short description sounds like sales utopia, the place where everyone is a brand ambassador and making sales for the business. TeamLink, when connected, allows you to see any person in your organisation that has a first or second degree connection to the potential client you’re searching for. You can leverage them for a warm lead or better insights into your next pitch. If you are using sales navigator you could also include interests to see if a team member plays golf or sails with the potential client or is a supporter of the same philanthropic cause.

Salesforce and Sales Navigator can show latest LinkedIn updates and Tweets from a select group

This allows you to create a group that you may be targeting within an organisation. Say the digital marketing team to sell them your analytics tool. You can monitor updates and tweets from the whole team or narrow to a specific contact. If they have questions or are posting about an area you have expertise in, why not flick them a copy of your research or a relevant white paper.

Newsle monitors and alerts you of press mentions of your contacts

As a backup to monitoring them on LinkedIn, why not plug your LinkedIn and Facebook profiles into Newsle. Scraping the public internet, Newlse sends you a notification and snippet when a contact is featured in the news. A fantastic opener for meetings or to rekindle a lead.

If you’re on Gmail – Use Rapportive to show latest posts from that email contact

In a similar vein to Newsle, Rapportive, allows you to see the latest social media posts from your contacts, again a great opportunity to garner insights into their world.

What do you use?

There a number of other tools I am sure to have missed. I would love to hear what helps you find leads, nurture relationships and ultimate win business for your organisation.

Mark Schaefer and CONTENT SHOCK courtesy of Social@Ogilvy

Well this morning I had the pleasure of hearing Mark Schaefer talk about the future of digital and social media in his eyes.  Having dragged him away from his holiday of hot pools in Rotorua and Waiheke Island they managed to get him around the royal entourage in Wellington. Mark presented over a live feed from the capital.

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Mark’s blog businesses grow is a great source for all things social and he began the presentation with two mega trends online.

The selfie and cats. Culminating in! Wait for it. The cat selfie – Boom.

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NOT!

So after this opening gag, Mark walked us through 3 digital revolutions we have all been part of and a 4th we are approaching. The first three we know as:

Presence – which is the online brochureware we all saw at the beginning of the internet.

Search – Which was getting your content found and tricking google to be in the first SERPs.

Utility – Which is engaging fans through content on social (our current phase) and the volume of this content is overwhelming. Data will increase 600% by 2020. And it’s not all from IoT. It will also be user generated, like the #catselfie.

On average adults in the western world consume around 10 hours of content a day. Already the web is our major provider of this content. As brands we are finding it hard to cut through the competing content and I like Mark believe will hit the limit of content consumption soon.

Mark then quoted Richard Simms from Facebook ~ “Organic reach is dropping as there’s 1500 odd possible stories we can show a user each day”. Hence the need for the edge rank algorithm. But as seen here, Facebook will be charging more and more to reach your fan base, to enhance their revenues.

So how do we get around this as we move to a new era? Well here are three options.

1. Create a niche and OWN it! Be the best source of information on a specific topic so that search engines can’t ignore you. Relate to your audience so that you’re top of mind in your niche.

Mark talked of a Knoxville cosmetic surgery clinic that moved from sell, sell, sell – to educating people.

They used the doctor as a face and voice of the clinic to answer weekly questions on YouTube and Facebook then blogging for SEO.

They went a step further creating ebooks for those that didn’t want to post questions publicly. The ebooks were so successful that even competitor clinics wanted to buy them. They then wrote cookbooks for their fans. The book was so good that it was a talking point at Christmas time at Mark’s house (brand recognition and top of mind).

2. Borrow a bigger pipeline. Create sponsored content, do some brandscaping (combining with a brand in a niche you’re targeting) or get newsjacking.

One area that Mark believes will get very interesting (he’s written a book on it) is leveraging Influence marketing – through simple publishing tools and mobile technology, influence is democratised now. Think how powerful Robert Scobleizer.com is or Jamie’s World!

But to succeed in influence marketing you need to remember the content plan and the network plan. HOW WILL IT SPREAD? What’s your share of conversation in your niche?

Mark mentioned a recent conversation with Coke execs and how Coke look to create great content. Content so great, fans will wear it on their shirts, and they will have a majority share of youth culture. As we know, Redbull are of course beating them to it…

Power on the internet is who can move your content (so find a bigger pipeline for your content).

3. Think of content as currency. Is it cool enough that people will feel proud of sharing, is it relevant to their peers or will it make them look smarter.

You’ll share content if by association you look cool.

Mark asks, to really get a feel if you’re into the digital space, as a brand take a napkin and finish this sentence on your own. “Only we…” ITs surprising the insights this gives to what is your niche, what is the message you need to share and to who!

Mark also offered up a great filter for compelling content. R.I.T.E.

Relevant 

Interesting 

Timely

Entertaining (the most important)

The key to breaking through the noise is being entertaining. Mark cited Chipotle creating entertainment to sell burritos. See the case study here.

Now to the new 4th age.

Immersion

Which is all about wearables, augmented reality and filters. The future.

In filters, Mark mentioned Zite, which after two years of use is really starting to learn more about the content I like and filter my consumption back to preferred brands, or blogs in my case.

He also talked of Watson at IBM, a supercomputer that is learning and consumes content as fuel. They predict Watson may well be on your wrist in coming years.

Google may not be the source of all info in the future so do we need to optimise to invite people OUT of their filters and to come spend time with our brand.

Understanding and being first movers in content on Wearables and AR will give significant competitive advantage.

The question I’m asking myself is – when there’s a digital layer between us and everything, how do we dominate it? What will digital marketing look like when there no boundaries like cables, screens or WiFi needed?

He believes being entertained and wanting to play will be our focus. Sounds about right.

Finally Marks parting note was -

 Be more human.

A fantastic motto to live by. We buy from people we know and relate to irregardless of digital advancements. We should be switching to ongoing engagement, developing communities of interest and earning loyalty!

Well with many an idea floating around my head now I’m off to brainstorm – What do you think will be the future of digital and social media?

How can my business keep up with new social media channels?

For many the growth of new social networks, online channels and apps can be hard to keep up with. Worse still is figuring out how to make the most of them in your communications and marketing.

There is a neat clip from an obscure film The 13th Warrior that sums up the best approach to communicating in new networks.

Listen, learn how to communicate and adapt to the community.

But that’s jumping ahead into getting a flavour for community norms. A first step would be to ask is it worth it? Some top level questions I ask about new networks are:

  1. How can this network or channel reach my target audience?
  2. Is there something uniquely different about it, compared to existing networks, that I can take advantage of?
  3. How quickly is it scaling?

There are various other questions I’ll ask about: frictional costs to support a new channel; content requirements and support; and  risks. But the above can give a traffic light view on the initiative.

A channel that have been exploring recently is Snapchat. If I ask the above three questions I get:

  • A large demographic of younger users on this network.
  • Messages that only exist for 10 seconds at the most.
  • User growth that is surpassing Facebook and Twitter at a similar age both globally and here in New Zealand.

At first glance it’s a tool that doesn’t fit with my main online plans. Content marketing is about creating long tail ever green content for clients to find on search engines. Creating content that disappears in seconds sounds totally wrong.   But what it does support is hyper focused moments with your audience. A chance to excite and delight. A chance to have fun.

Snapchat takes you from the real world and into your phone where you’re focused in case you miss what’s happening. With that in mind it was a great tool to connect with students online and drive interactions in real life. At Vodafone we’ve used it so far for orientation weeks at both the Otago and Canterbury University campuses.

While I wouldn’t say it is a large step change from our existing channels, it has allowed us to gather a new targeted audience / following in the local geographic area.

We’re listening and learning for now, adapting our messages as we go.  I’d love to hear of any unique new channels you’re using or hacking of existing ones.

Does your company need a CEO?

Well by that I mean – Chief Editorial Officer!

With so many messages to convey to so many audiences and with such varied media to communicate with, does a brand or company need a senior leader to keep the overall message resonating?

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Having a big shepherd muster your content and corral it into the right areas is already a reality for most big online publishers and for many brands that are understanding the benefits of content “marketing”. This analogy doesn’t extend to profit sheering or trimming daggy content, but it could!

But back to the CEO. Whose role is that of curator and oversight of an ongoing content calendar, balancing the messaging and keeping a stock of content at the ready for consistency, news jacking or the unfortunate piece of bad press. The CEO knows not only the stakeholders and their messaging goals, but also mechanisms available.

Spots like:

  • Above the line radio spots for brand awareness.
  • Google Adwords for key recruitment needs.
  • Hyper targeted Facebook messaging for mid funnel sales.
  • Front loaded videos for YouTube pre-roll and back loaded stories for Facebook engagement.
  • Hand written letters to your biggest fans.
  • Snapchat behind the scenes glimpses for brand ambassadors.
  • Or some fun education pieces for your customers.

It’s their job together with their VPs of storytelling to get the right messages heard, seen and remembered.

Generation Y, Generation C or millennials – however you wish to call them – are looking for your Y (spelt WHY). Much more willing to give to a good cause than to give to the man, Gen Y want to hear your story and check its transparent before they fork over their cash.

And with volumes of content ever growing, all ages are looking for fresh content the can trust and admire. So here’s to the CEO and their battle. It’s a new title, but one I hope catches on quickly.