Employee Communications

Andy on Bloomberg West: Working with Steve Jobs and Which Current CEO's Remind Her of Steve

Andy on Bloomberg West: Working with Steve Jobs and Which Current CEO's Remind Her of Steve

Yesterday, Emily Chang from Bloomberg West interviewed Andy about her work with Steve Jobs. Of all the CEO’s that Andy has worked with, there are three in particular that left a deep impression, “I’ve worked with hundreds of CEOs in my lifetime but only two that I’ve worked with that I think embody some of the traits that he had. I think one is John Chambers from Cisco, and I think the other is Reid Hastings from Netflix. And there’s a third CEO, Brian Chesky, whom I’ve never worked with, from Airbnb, whom I have great admiration and respect for. They all do those three things well; they inspire their workforce, they stretch people beyond their limits, and they are really bold and really brave. They don’t care what other people think about them.

Why In-Company Incubators Aren't Working… Yet (Part 3)

239px-Brown_Leghorn_rooster_in_Australia This is part 3 of a 3-part series.  <<Part 1      <Part 2

In this three-part series, I'm addressing the topic of why in-house incubators don't necessarily work, and specifically answering the question about whether organizations should entrust innovation to their entire organization or just to an elite team, incubator style.  The answer is, it depends on where your organization is in the three-part innovation process.

In my first post I explained this concept, and covered the first phase, Ideation.  A few days ago I covered the second phase, Validation.  Today, I'll tackle the one that seems to be most comfortable for enterprises and startups, and yet also the failure point for  many of them: Execution.

Once your idea has been validated, it's time to start thinking of bringing that idea to market like building business. Here is where a lot of organizations make the mistake of putting the nascent product or service in a current business unit and letting them run with it. After all, now that it's a product with a defined market, you should just treat it like every other product in your portfolio, right?

Well, sort of.

Sometimes, your new innovation will inherently play by a new set of rules, a set that doesn't apply to your existing products.  These new rules need to be identified and dealt with -- through permissions, process, skill sets, etc -- as the innovation is developed and delivered.

To explain this more clearly, I'll offer a story from my own experience, when I was at PeopleSoft managing the eProcurement product. There definitely was a market (thanks to Ariba and CommerceOne), and there was traction in the growing number of customers that we had. However, there was a lot of catching up to do with what the market expected, but we were constrained by product development processes designed for maintaing something like Accounts Payable and General Ledger in a 12-18 month product cycle, while our more nimble competitors were able to ship in less than half that time. It felt like we were competing with the proverbial one hand tied behind our back.

To get around our constraints, we had to break the rules and ship new functionality when we weren't' supposed to (long-time customers may recall version 8.0 SP2) and make PeopleTools dance in ways it wasn't designed. I credit the engineering team and the creativity of their manager, MJ Guru (now at Workday) for making this all work. He had just enough of a rebellious edge to make it work without getting fired.

The lesson here is that this innovative product had to iterate and add functionality faster than our more mature products like AP and GL. It also was a new kind of solution for PeopleSoft - one meant for all employees to use without training, not just people in the back office. It was different, and playing by the rules set by a more mature product line would have killed the product if it weren't for the team that wanted it to succeed.

Of course, every new product can't require a new organization to be created. It wouldn't work. What companies should consider doing is creating some sort of "half-way house" for products that are still in the early stage to allow them to iterate quickly for the first year or two. Just because you have traction and have validated the solution does not mean that you have a complete product and are finished learning. Far from it. In fact, from my experience, the amount of learning grows exponentially as you get more customers and start receiving more pointed feedback from people using your product every day.

In the end, every product and solution has its development "supply chain" and its point on its lifecycle in addition to having an affinity to other products that have the same economic buyer and market. For companies looking to launch new products and become innovative, it's not only about coming up with the next great idea, but also knowing how to make it work with the organization that you have.

<< Part 1: Ideation      < Part 2: Validation


Get in touch with SeriesC to talk with us about how we help clients navigate the innovation process: team@seriesc.net

The Future of Branding isn't just IT... it's HR

A lot has been written about how marketing and IT are coming closer together.  With social media, customer behavior can be tracked, vast quantities of data can be mined for patterns and correlation, and marketing can become more of a science than it has ever been.  This is both welcome and undeniable.  Quant rules! But wait.  There is a corollary to this change.  And it, too, is based on the rapid adoption of social media.  And, ironically, it is almost the opposite of "Quant rules!"   It's about the soft stuff.  Yes... the future of brand management is one much more co-mingled with human resources.  Yes, HR.


Because, with social media comes much greater transparency. And, in a world of increasing transparency, more touchpoints.  More employees are now in a position to engage directly with customers.  Brand impressions increase exponentially.  And managing these impressions becomes increasingly complex.

Here are some things to think about:

  • Real-time brand experiences - Like contact centers, social media engagement is creating impressions in real-time. More ‘real-time’ translates to less controllable and more instinctive.  Hiring for consistent personality types will become more important than training.
  • Deeper engagement - As the number  of employees with direct customer access expands, so does the toolkit made available to each of these employees by IT.  What might begin as a webclick can easily migrate to a webchat, to a direct conversation and perhaps even a videoconference.  Each level requires more competency and certainly more subtle training in order to keep the engagement a positive one.
  • More third-party impressions - Of course, social media adoption has already expanded the gross impressions generated about your brand.  The challenge is that most of this growth has come in the area of others talking about you.  How can you better influence things that are happening or being discussed outside your walls?

Managing your brand moves from managing marketing materials to managing employee behaviors.  Ultimately, brand management will be about hiring, promoting and incenting the right types of people to deliver the right experiences consistent with your brand.  In short, managing your brand will be about managing your culture.

Implications for marketing going forward:

  • Monitoring and managing employee engagement will be a critical leading indicator of brand success
  • Customer service training will go well beyond message management to include examination of verbal and visual cues and eventually behavioral and psychological training
  • Attracting and keeping the right people will become as important to brand management than training and incentives

Can you think of some companies that are already behaving this way?  Are you already moving in this direction?  If so, what are you doing?  What's working... and what hasn't worked?

Bring Your Innovation to Market in 2013 - Let's Talk

After decades of running PR and marketing communications firms and helping to bring some of today's most household-name innovations to market, Andy Cunningham had a vision.  She was seeing too many brilliant engineers, scientists, and finance leaders struggling to reach their deserved tipping points because they were misdiagnosing their marketing problems as "PR problems" or "Web site problems," when in fact they faced fundamental strategi marketing problems. She knew there was a better way to scale these promising CEOs with the right strategic marketing focus. In 2012 she transformed her vision into a new kind of marketing consultancy -- one that marries the rigor and leadership of management consulting with the strategic marketing function of technology companies.  Meet SeriesC.  Our team of veteran technology marketing strategists helps companies bring their innovations to market through experienced leadership in business strategy, positioning, product strategy, customer development, market segmentation, go-to-market planning, and more.

Get in touch with us to talk about how SeriesC can help get your innovation to its deserved tipping point.

SeriesC in 2012

For a Fortune 500 company, we reorganized the worldwide marketing department, helped hire the right CMO, simplified a large and diverse brand naming architecture, and helped build a market feedback loop into the product development process.

For a growing multinational consumer internet company, we crafted new positioning to prepare for international expansion, and led misaligned executives into alignment around a new strategy for international growth.

For a start-up technology platform, we led development and launch of a critical developer program, educating leadership on best practices for building the program and developer community.

For a start-up consumer software application company with four years and four products launching, we counseled on product launch and made introductions to right-fit launch partners to fuel growth.

For an early start-up, we authored a business plan that resulted in $5M in venture capital financing.

For a stealth start-up with a disruptive big-data technology, we developed detailed product use cases, and crafted a simplified positioning architecture and a relatable narrative of the value proposition.

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Dogs are Colorblind, Executives Are Busy - Communicating Effectively to Stakeholders

Are you communicating to your stakeholders the way you should be, to ensure they know what they need to know? Doing so is critical in taking your innovation to market. Here are two stories that illustrate why it matters: 63964_10150099790541756_4217314_nMy husband and I recently moved from our apartment into a home with a giant backyard covered in lush green ivy. Our dogs are in heaven. Hugo, the playful one, is all about chasing his favorite toy, a bright red bouncy bear named “Bear.”

I’ve heard before that dogs are colorblind, but it didn’t really register until I started tossing Bear in the yard, and noticing that when it bounced into the green ivy, Hugo couldn’t find it. Bright red Bear stood out so obviously to me, but Hugo would scan it from inches away and still miss it.

I Googled dogs and colorblind, and confirmed that indeed dogs see a much more limited color spectrum than humans, and cannot distinguish red from green the way humans can. Yellow and Blue do stand out for dogs from other colors. So why is Bear red?

It’s because red stands out most for humans.  Humans buy dog toys, not dogs! But humans will also only buy a red dog toy once. Bear was the last red toy we bought; now we look for yellow and blue ones.

Now, consider a team of PR leaders I know, working for a C-level executive who was dissatisfied with the amount of earned media coverage he was seeing, and hired consultants to turn the situation around.  The PR team was perplexed; they had been doing significant good work garnering global media attention, and they had been sending him their coverage updates by email weekly like clockwork. What wasn’t he seeing?

They were throwing a red bear into a patch of green ivy for a colorblind dog.

When under the guidance of the CEO’s hired consultant the PR team shifted its reporting to be more brief, more visual, more selective, grouped by key message theme, and delivered in person rather than by email, the executive said he was seeing a lot more momentum from the group. Their work hadn’t changed. The way they communicated to their intended audience had.

To a savvy dog owner and loyal dog toy buyer, yellow and blue matter. To an employee who wants an executive to be informed and a communicator to executives? What matters is what the executive wants to see, how they want to see it, and how often.

Do your stakeholder communications meet the goal? Or is it time to ask some smart questions?

PS, The omniscient master question answerer Cecil Adams wrote a great “The Straight Dope” column on cats’ and dogs’ colorblindness. Worth a read, for the omnicurious.