agilemarketing

Radical Restructures and Self-Organising Teams at TradeMe

trademe numbers

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!

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

Jenga


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.

fear


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.

Standard
agilemarketing, blogging, mobile

Will 2014 be the Mobile Only Year?

Well as 2014 edges it’s way closer I thought it would be interesting to throw this question out and see what everyone thinks. I believe there will be a new wave of businesses that won’t bother with a desktop focused website but start from scratch thinking mobile only.

Are we going to see a new tidal wave of touch, shake, app, responsive and HTML5 enabled online presences?

View this post on Instagram

Catching waves in Long Bay

A post shared by Nick Allen (@nickwallen) on

Instagram have paved the path for mobile first products, with their stellar figures and acquisition price. In part for doing one thing exceptionally well: making the most of phone cameras and SHARING instant moments.

But when I say mobile only I wonder, how many businesses can put their desktop user experience to the wayside and focus on making the most of the new mobile world. Really using the impressive data connections we are getting.

Already on my blog and other New Zealand websites (if we place tablets and the iPad in the mobile bucket) there’s over 60% accessing posts via a mobile device.
Facebook and Twitter tout similar or even more progressive numbers for users who access over a phone or tablet primarily.

Going totally mobile for me means not only having all the functionality we have come to expect on our desktops but also taking advantage of the mobile device. Not only on your website but your entire online presence.

So let’s see about the off site presence

  1. Geotargeting of advertising is the first measure. Google can now let you run campaigns down to neighbourhood level in many large cities (even in little old New Zealand). This means targeted campaigns focused on activities and people in that area. Like burger discounts to people leaving stadiums, hotels nearby or pushing people to physical stores.
  2. Making mobile friendly Facebook apps, that load ultra fast and ask little that your phone already knows
  3. Using smart urls in your advertising that serve up the right experience for device location and even operating system.

And what about your website?

Once you have made the decision to go responsive or have a mobile version of your site ensuring the basics are there like a functioning enquiry form or even better a functional shop should come next.

What I’m hoping to see are greater use of sensors and the abilities of our phones. Things like:

  • Heightened contrast in your style sheet when the device points away from the sun on sunny days
  • Shake to purchase or double your order?
  • Get your mobile “Share” buttons working, including thumbnails and short descriptions that where possible include location references
  • Guide visitors to the nearest physical store
  • Find tops or accessories that match what you’ve currently got on (using the phone)
  • Listing books you’ve brought and are happy to loan to friends
  • Prompting users to pick up milk or takeaways if your partner is running late (combining data on a family’s location)
  • Oh and my latest one from today (after sitting at the beach) – scanning your photos for potential cancer/melanoma spots

Making the most of device functionality is one part. But true winners will be looking at the data, leveraging insights to hyper customise websites based on as many useful signals as they can from devices. Then, together with the user, sharing in the creation of joint experiences, content creation, products and services. The new economic age will be the connected sharing age.

Who will really take advantage though?

There’s so much potential I can’t wait to see what we’ll get in the coming months.

Thanks followers

Happy New Year to all and I wish you and your families a fantastic, productive, challenging and rewarding 2014.



Note: Post and all content, shot, edited, written, recorded and shared from my Xperia Z1. Not as easy as my iPad, but I wanted to prove it was possible. Even the typing bit to fix the dictation errors.

Standard
agilemarketing, content marketing, social media

Tuning in to brand channels on social media

New media marketers are adamant that their platforms and channels should be treated differently to traditional media. For decades we as marketers have been placing ads, commercials and the likes into existing channels. Channels that a certain target market are interested in and follow religiously.

View this post on Instagram

Radio

A post shared by Nick Allen (@nickwallen) on

We purchase or rent slots within these channels in the hope that our messages and marketing will reach its target audience. Ads that were expected to sell you things – on a channel where feedback is indirect and can take forever.

To the untrained marketer – Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn are seen as channels themselves. When in fact they are merely the media or medium for your channel. Using the old approach you throw in advertising or content that is similar to the work created to fall between engaging prime time shows. Ads with nothing between them, thus creating a channel of sell, sell, sell.

Social media provides instant measurable qualitative and quantitative feedback to your marketing.

Your presence on social ‘media’ are true channels. Excite and entertain your audience!

It is the role of the brand to develop their pages and their @ handles into channels. Channels that would be of interest to the target audience. Channels that entertain, educate, excite and create admiration. Channels that are so engaging that people don’t mind when the odd sales piece comes through or service announcement is slotted in.

And this is where the art of the community manager / channel manager / producers and marketers comes into play. Balancing the content calendar, scheduling upcoming content and insuring that the programming of the channel is as good as the leading TV channels.

They use data to be agile. They chop features with low ratings and iterate winning posts. They create content with twists and turns that keep them coming back. Storytelling, content marketing, an empathy and true understanding of their audience are key to their art.

That art of creating a seamless blend of content that forms a channel that no one can resist following.

Standard
agilemarketing, content marketing, social media, Strategy

Scaling and measuring social media success

KAIZEN

Reporting on incremental improvements to your marketing and focusing on Kaizen, or continuous improvement, should be top of mind for marketers.

View this post on Instagram

Kaizen. Ganbatte!

A post shared by Nick Allen (@nickwallen) on

Recently I discussed measuring the right thing and establishing KPIs for your digital marketing. Having a clear idea of success and to what degree you have accomplished it will drive you forward. But it is also prudent to review your measurements and their relevance to your business goals regularly.

With a large organisation that has multiple locals, regions and even countries to cover establishing core metrics becomes paramount to quantify improvements. Setting up a central pool of best practice and a guide to your channels is the best way to ensure consistency in the way you measure success. Social media measurement is no exception and it can also ensure you’re prepared for the best and worst case scenarios.

Here are some points you may wish to include in your best practice lists to ensure you’re comparing apples with apples or manzana or Я́блоко. Cross platform, cross country comparisons are possible with the right processes in place. I’ve also included some items to promote brand consistency, legal, security and crisis management.

  • Google Analytics campaign codes and syntax for country or campaign specific tracking for each social network. Or equivalent for your website analytics tool.
  • Preferred posting tool – Hootsuite, Cotweet, Sprout social, Buddy media etc.
    • Define reporting templates.
    • Delegate access through a master account for security.
  • URL shortener if different from above.
  • Preferred monitoring/listening tool and defined reporting templates.
  • Promoted posts protocol.
  • Tone and style guides for imagery, videos and text.
  • Social visual brand guidelines.
  • Templates for infographics.
  • Video intro and outro snippets.
  • Developers notes for meta data (Twitter cards, preview thumbnails etc).
  • Preferred social sharing buttons and provider.
  • PR and social media crisis protocol, plan and contacts.
  • Copyright and licensing database for third part content.
  • Contracts, admin accounts and account managers list for all tools.
  • Additional employment contract amendments for social media.
  • Social Media Strategy summary.
  • Training documents, budgets and contacts.
  • CONTENT calendar and schedule.

Like your KPIs, these best practice documents should be revisited regularly. In a learning organisation they could even be collaborative documents with comments areas to record what works regionally. Any adjustments should be trialled, a/b tested and asserted as the new best practice.

Let me know what I’ve missed in the comments!


Standard
agilemarketing, content marketing, social media

Are you listening brands? Really listening?

Customers are communicating. are we listening?

As marketing makes a slow progression from campaign based messaging to constant engagement in social media via mobile devices – we need to revisit our communication techniques.

Social is bringing us back to one-to-one communcation. People can now talk to people as faces of a brand. We can get resolution and great customer service from a mere tweet. Heck even two years ago Four Season Palo Alto set the bar for customer service on social media and (some) brands have kicked it up a level from there already.

And maybe they are being selective – responding to customers based on their status/connections/influence – but they’re listening and responding.

Monitor you brand mentions for free, at least!

Google alerts are a great first step for any brand to monitor brand mentions and what people are saying. socialmention.com lets you take it a little further and can also give you sentiment analysis. Get Agile! These alerts can give you a window on potentially sensitive news, disgruntled clients and maybe opportunities to take advantage of in your sector. News jacking when done right is highly effective.

Yet anyone who has featured on Interbrands top brands list or has thousands of engaged fans on Facebook MUST start thinking about Radian 6, Brandwatch, SM2 (more info on social media monitoring) or Sysomos. Tools that index and record every mention and can filter share of voice on topics and rank influencers. With these tools you can also build out a picture and backlog of issues, pain points, problems and hopefully delights your customers are mentioning. Understanding and prioritising these for action in terms of research and development is the goal of many big data buffs.

For us as marketers

  • we have feedback on our messages
  • we have topics for blogging
  • we can mitigate issues and educate the confused
  • we have data to support our strategy and formulate tactics

Listening to comments online ensures content marketing resonates.

Providing content, entertainment, news, information and services that have percieved value to our customers will keep them engaged and build their afinity with our brands. We’re becoming their favorite TV show or news source but instead of just broadcasting we can listen and make an informed response.

Bloomberg thinks ‘Jeff Bezos Can Make Newspapers Profitable’ – http://bloom.bg/197BN1Y
My take is that this is an aquire-hire. He’s gearing up for the future and brand journalism. Jeff knows we want more from our brands than their product or service.

Content marketing can also build a valuable resource of information on getting the most out of our products and services. Amassing a wealth of valuable information on a variety of topics means potential clients will find you first on Google. It promotes self service and lowers the dreaded reliance on automated phone customer services. “Press one, if you’re already more irate hearing this message”. Although they’re ‘recorded for training purposes’ I CAN’T GOOGLE THEM!

But getting back to listening, we need to find the correct balance between one-to-one responses and providing value to as many customers as possible.

We can prioritise a backlog and calendar of maketing communications. One that addresses them at each stage of the customer journey and their hottest topics. Continuous communication that ultimately adds value to our customers, stakeholders, partners and community.


Standard
agilemarketing, content marketing, SEO, social media

5 sources of innovation for your digital marketing

Now as a digital marketer or online marketing specialist, there’s a lot of innovations I need to keep up with.

There are technical updates in the various fields of the role: SEO, SEM, social media, content marketing, PR, email marketing and mobile marketing that I need to monitor so that I’m optimising and measuring efforts correctly.

But beyond that, how can you keep a competitive advantage in the online space?

Can we look at different perspectives, emulating competitors, extrapolating on someone else’s technique? Here’s some options you might wish to explore.

View this post on Instagram

Reflecting. Still Sunday in NZ

A post shared by Nick Allen (@nickwallen) on

  1. I’m starting to think more seriously about my photography and one method I use to create new shots is to emulate a technique that someone has used on a totally different subject. Maybe there’s methods that you use in web development that could help your content marketing?
  2. Attend a conference but look outside your industry when choosing break out sessions. If you market to consumers throw a B2B presentation into your mix. Very rarely will a competitor share the big secret to their online marketing, but someone in a different industry might.
  3. Learn a language or switch continent. I google a topic in Spanish and Portuguese to see if there’s experts there that are doing things differently. Sure, most of the SEO and PPC innovation comes from the US, but there’s quite a few Chilean and Brazilian startups doing innovative stuff in the Mobile and location (checking into locations) space.
  4. Think about external sources for your content like your supplier or resellers. Ozone Coffee Roasters tell their suppliers back story very well. Discussing suppliers can often lead to great long tail SEO.
  5. In your A/B testing, do something counterintuitive occasionally. OK, I’m not saying do something that will alienate your customers completely, but try sending out a new article at 8pm instead of 8am, just to see…

These are some of the ways I innovate. What do you do to keep ahead?


Some thoughts on different perspectives and using tactics from other specialities or industries to spice things up.

Standard
agilemarketing, content marketing

Focus on what works, cut what doesn’t

Over the last months I’ve talked about using Agile Project Management techniques and various other tips for getting MORE content onto your website, more posts on your walls and generally more marketing everywhere. My impending move to New Zealand and the efforts we are taking to ditch what we don’t need, means doing and keeping what what matters is forefront of my mind.

In Agile retrospectives at the end of a sprint we ask three poignant questions:

  1. What worked?
  2. What didn’t work?
  3. What will we do different next time?

The later questions are often the most difficult to answer – yet can provide you with scope to grow AND help you free up time to focus on what did work.

Growing your marketing also involves ensuring you’re doing the right thing.  Having a clear high level product vision for your website and online presence means you can cross check activities with your end goal.

Content marketing campaigns, video series, or podcasts that are not performing  should all be reviewed for effectiveness on a regular basis.  This also extends to social networks. Ditch the ones  that your target audience does not use or has left. Re evaluate the money you’re putting into adwords or paid advertising on social networks. Perhaps spending that money on evergreen media rich content is of more value.

Although not web specific there a couple of famous quotes I have read over the past weeks that ring true in our world of marketing.

“Before you leave the house, look in the mirror and take one thing off.” ~ Coco Chanel

“He who dies with the least toys wins. Because the more you know, the less you need.” ~ Yvon Chouinard, CEO of Patagonia.

Podcast: Focusing on what matters

Standard