Listen to the full episode below:
Cutting Edge startups in fortune 500 all in one room talking about how emerging technologies are changing our world.
Swish: Today I'm here with Steven Megett and Diana Goodwin.
Stephen is the executive strategy director at EY Design Studio Toronto, EY is obviously a very big financial firm, but the design studio specifically specializes in research, designing and developing human centered and compelling digital experiences.
Welcome to the show, Stephen.
Stephen: You're very welcome.
Swish: Diana, on the other hand, is the founder and CEO of MarketBox, a Shopify-like B2B SaaS product that streamlines and automates sales, people management and customer management all in one place. Welcome to the show, Diana.
Diana: Thanks for having me, happy to be here.
Swish: Awesome. So to set up some context, before we go deeper into your daily work, Stephen, obviously, a lot of your work is around creating great digital experiences. How would you define that?
Stephen: Well, I think a great digital experience, first and foremost has to meet the users needs. And for me, the simple definition around design thinking is what the business has, what the user needs, and where that overlap exists. You design it so it really doesn't need to take into account the business goals and what the user goals are and start creating a path towards designing with them rather than for them. If you go down that path and you have methodologies and ways of creating alignment with the business in a way of surfacing what the users need, so that everyone buys in, you have a really, really good chance of actually creating a great user experience. And so I think from there, you just need to align all of the right things, the right content, the right time, the right audience that ultimately just makes them feel like a genius.
Swish: Then Diana, how do you define automation, obviously a very trendy topic in today's news cycle.
Diana: Automation is all about leveraging systems and technology to minimize the amount of human input required to get something done. On the flip side of that it could also be used to get a maximizing result with the minimal human touches on things. So you're right. It's super trendy right now, but it's something that is huge because that's how we can empower businesses to grow.
The debate around how to efficiently manage your teams and departments has been going on for years. The two biggest challenges I have when managing teams is:
When thinking about automation, there's the question of authenticity. Does automation enhance or diminish relationships within your teams? What effect does it have on corporate culture?
Swish: What are some misconceptions that both of you have experienced when it comes to your jobs? Diana, let's hear from you first.
Diana: That's funny because my mother just the other day, she said, can you just remind me again what it is? Being an entrepreneur, she's always constantly worried, you know, that I left the perceived safety of a corporate job to start my own corporation. You know, my friends who are in the tech community, they probably have a deeper understanding and that's probably also two ways in the sense that I've also gone deep with them to explain, where maybe with some of my other friends and family members that are not in that ecosystem, I've just tended to not describe to them in as much detail, more surface level just because I talk about business all the time. It's just nice to have other people to talk to where you don't have to go deep and tell them the inner nuances of your business and so forth.
Swish: God knows I have not told my mom like my value prop quote on quote for my business. What about you, Stephen? Any misconceptions around your job? Or how do your friends and family react to what you do?
Stephen: Riffing on what Diana just said about her mother, when my firm joined EY in July, there was a large advisory sort of conference Introducing the new solution and new capabilities that the former filament team could bring now to EY. And the idea that we had in order to make that introduction sort of dead simple was actually, we brought my mom and we filmed my mom explaining what it is that we do. So my mom is like a 74 year old Jewish woman talking about digital transformation and experience design and then we throw in sort of the examples and the concrete work that we've done with my mom as the voiceover. And so it actually really hit home. If it's simple enough for my mom to explain, then it should be good enough for the rest of the organization. So my mom is pretty much on point with what we do and how to explain it.
I think one of the common misconceptions is that the job is easy. And there's a quote that I learned from and I’m dying because I can't remember who actually said it to me, but someone said, simple is a word you use to describe someone else's job. And when you don't understand the details that go into producing something, it's very easy to look at the output and go, “oh, that's easy”, but the analogy that I sometimes use with clients is it takes a really long time for a master tailor to create a suit that looks absolutely perfect and made for you and you'll pay top dollar for that master tailors experience and work to make something look simple, but is really complex to do.
And so simple is super hard. And I'm glad that people have that impression that the work that we produce looks simple. But the work that goes into it is so, so complex. And it seems like a lot of top financial firms, whether it's EY or PwC, they're endeavoring into this world of marketing and design.
Swish: So for EY in particular, why did they decide to create their own Digital Studio? And how does that fit into the broader EY ecosystem?
Stephen: I'm fairly new to the firm, but the mission and the vision really does resonate with me, which is one of the reasons why I went down this path transitioning from small agency to EY and that's creating a better working world. And so much of that is about the employee experience, the customer experience and the clients that we work with. So it's not just taxes, it's not just audit, it's not just management, consulting, all of that is meant to have an impact on the employee experience or the customer experience of the clients that we serve. And so the next evolution of understanding what our client challenges are, is really how can we create a strategy, but then how can we implement that strategy? How can we carry it forward and actually solve the challenges that you have. And a lot of those challenges are around the employee experience or the customer experience and carrying that strategy all the way through to the end. And so having the ability to capitalize on that with the capabilities and expertise that we bring is something that seemed pretty valuable to the firm.
Swish: And then Diana, with MarketBox, what problem did you see that you want to be able to solve?
Diana: The good news is that I had to solve the problem for myself first, and then once I'd solved it, other companies started approaching me wanting to know, hey, who built your software? Where did you get it from? Because they couldn't find anything like that on the market. And so the problem that we were really trying to solve is a good way for companies that have traveling service providers, how to manage them, the logistics and therefore then the scheduling and sales of those workers. Because right now there's so many software's that have gone so deep on specific verticals. So if you have yoga studios, or if you've got a CrossFit gym, if you've got nurses or hospitals, they've got all these specific software's, but they forgot the piece of the puzzle where there's workers that travel to different locations. So there's so many businesses out there that were manually doing this. And when you're doing these manual activities, you can't scale and automate your business online because how could you possibly allow a customer to book and pay for something online when you have to manually figure out who you're going to put on their schedule and at what time?
Swish: Have you seen any of your clients have reservations right off the bat, especially larger brands have reservations around trying to automate processes that were traditional and especially around client processes.
Diana: A lot of them know that they need to change in order to survive in the future. But there's definitely that scary part where they're stuck between this world of, they've got their systems in place even though they're antiquated, and they're causing problems, it can be very costly. But a couple different points on that, it can be very difficult to want to make change. It’s like being in a bad relationship, you know it's not good for you, but it's comfortable. And so therefore, you can tend to stay in that longer. And so it's hard to hold on to the old and add automation into your business. But to your point about larger brands, you're right, I think usually with the smaller brands, there might be a little bit more of that fear or maybe even budget concerns with the larger brands, it tends to be less about budget and really more about can they get enough of the key stakeholders to come on board in a timely manner. More is at stake because there could be systems in place that mesh together and they don't serve the company anymore, but they need to be changed and those take time to ensure that you have a smooth transition and nothing breaks in the meantime because having a smooth process to transition is key to success.
Swish: But when it comes to automating customer management, for example, as MarketBox becomes bigger, as more brands decide to try to come on and do this, Stephen, are you afraid that it might make customers feel as if the service that you guys are offering them feels less personal?
Stephen: I think if the customer is unaware that it's automated, then there's very little difference. But again, that comes down to creating and curating a really compelling experience. So technology or automation is just a platform and it's how you wield that tool that's really going to be the difference between something that is so obviously automated that has so many things that are attached to it, like that's not a great brand experience. But if someone has taken the time to actually understand what this automation process could be, and design the experience or create the experience so that customers are unaware that it is automated, then that's really a great use of automation. A good example that is in wealth management, advisors are really there to manage expectations for clients and make sure that they're sticking to a plan and informing their clients about, you know, new strategies. The advisor doesn't necessarily have to spend their time scouring the internet for really interesting articles, you can automate that, bring it into a queue, where content can be surfaced to their clients, depending on their specific client objectives.
So I mean, that is a very, very easy case for automation, where the client thinks that this content is coming from the advisor, but really, it's an automated process based on the client profile.
Swish: And Stephen, do you think that bigger organizations are reluctant or hesitant to try out new technologies?
Stephen: Well, I think there's two ways of thinking about it. I think a large organization has a greater potential to be disrupted by digital incumbents and digital natives. So that's something that they have to deal with. And so if you're a large brand, I think you're more acutely aware of some of the repercussions of not evolving then if you're a smaller brand. So it's very easy for a larger brand to just sort of turn around one day and go, how did this happen, but I think it takes a really, I wouldn't say forward looking brand, it takes a really customer or employee centric brand to really understand where their value is coming from, and where it's being pushed to. Because if the value is inherently on, like legacy technology systems, and that's good for keeping the organization operational, then that's ripe for disruption. But if you're a brand that focuses on empowering employees, making sure that they're aware of the changing landscape and how they fit into it, as well as how you're going to be serving your customers in a better way, or enabling teams to serve customers in a better way through new technologies and new services and new offerings, then I think most employees and most organizations think that that's a no brainer to start testing new technologies.
Diana: One of my concerns in what I'm seeing is you've got these smaller brands or even business owners that want to start a business and if they're not with the mentality of automation and leveraging technology just because it's something that they've never been taught, or they don't have that skill set, a couple things happen, we run the risk of fewer businesses actually making it to market, that gives all us consumers less variety. And the second concern is when these smaller companies that are going to kind of slowly burn and die out if they don't embrace technology, it's not going to affect 10s of thousands of jobs right away but it's still a very real risk if they think they can keep going on and keep a nice steady income for that family. Unfortunately, without embracing technology, there's real concern that these businesses over time in the next few years can just really be taken off the market by you know, a new entrant who's already embracing technology from day one, and maybe they've got deep pockets that they can just come and take over an industry in a large scale. Like data specifically within small businesses, for example, education then becomes a very important piece of what you do, right? Educating small businesses on automation, what it looks like and how it's actually going to affect your business.
Swish: How do you go about telling that story, convincing small businesses that this is worth it?
Diana: Multiple ways. So one of them is, you know, within MarketBox, we've got years and years of knowledge built up, and we're continuing to evolve and build that knowledge base. So it's really getting out there and sharing, creating content that will help these business owners understand why it's important to embrace technology or some of the different software types. That's definitely a big thing for us. Another thing is showing case studies helping especially small businesses identify with one of our case studies so that they can see, okay, this home healthcare business started, you know, with this many service providers and this much revenue and then then six months on our platform, they were able to double the number of service providers and expand into new services and new geography, so really helping them try and understand.
So far we've chatted about the challenges companies are facing when it comes to team management and the impacts that automation has on a brand and its corporate culture.
One thing we're really proud about is even if you signed up for a $24 per month plan with Trufan, or if you signed up for a $5,000 per month plan on Trufan, you're given a customer service representative that will walk you through our platform. And we'll hear from you specifically on what your marketing needs are and why you decided to use the platform. I think it's a great way of being able to make customers feel that the solution that they're getting is a tailored fit for them.
Thinking about this left me with a question for Diana, as a brand, how do you make customers comfortable with new technologies when you implement them?
Diana: It's a multi-step process for sure. Having proper documentation and training, that's something actually you know, internally, we're always constantly evolving, a company will ask us a question, and we’ll say, oh, you're right… that's a little unclear here or when we build out a new feature, we'll update our documentation. So that's a huge thing and it has to be in a way especially today more than ever can't just be this long, written 50 page book that you've put together for them, people won't read it. So it has to be in bite sized pieces of information, highly visual and having the right people training the companies as well is a big help.
Stephen: I personally feel that digital transformation or business transformation that is just going headlong without taking into consideration any sort of change management is going to fail, you know, digital transformations, 7 out of 10 of them fail anyway. And to do so without taking into account the impact on employees and the impact on customers that are going to be dealing with this transformation, I think is sort of not the best approach. The technology is always going to be the technology and training will always have to ensue.
But I think understanding why we're making this change and the impact to your day to day life and the value that it will bring to you and how you go about business. This, I think creates really a much better alignment between the people that are doing the work and the organization. And then when you have that alignment, and you stop thinking about units within the organization as like a series of bowling lanes, and you just change up the sports analogy or metaphor to everyone on a rowing team, that is sort of what can happen when you have good change management is that you get people out of those bowling lanes, and they're all wearing the same bowling shirt. But they're not necessarily playing the same game.
Swish: And you mentioned change management, for anyone listening that doesn't know what that is, how would you define it, Stephen? And what's your take on it?
Stephen: It's pretty basic. In its definition, humans don't like change and if you are bringing about a new way of doing things, people have built their careers on the way that we've done it in the past. And all of a sudden, if you're introducing new methodologies and new ways of doing things, people have a tendency to maybe get their back up a bit. So taking that knowledge into account, and creating a context for, this doesn't mean that you are out of a job, this doesn't mean that you are going away, this doesn't mean that the way that you've built your career is, you know, going to be drastically different. But it shows them how they fit into the new way of doing things and shows how their value is really not about the old process, but it's about serving customers or serving the organization in different ways, then I think that becomes easier. So it's just helping people transition from past and prior context to future context and where they fit in.
Swish: And then with MarketBox Diana, you talked about how you guys can work with pretty much a company of any size, how does your technology keep up with a brand as it continues to grow and as it continues to get bigger?
Diana: I think we've got a great team, great technical team led by an amazing CTO, Blair Taylor, and you know, one of the things from day one that he set up with MarketBox was to make sure that we had a sound architecture in place so that we can handle businesses with a few users to 10s of thousands of users and above. And part of that is we've built MarketBox using a cloud based serverless architecture and that's really what allows the scaling. So I won't go too deep into the technology but this is something that 10 years ago would have been much more difficult and much more costly to do.
Swish: Right. And then Stephen at EY, what kind of design techniques do you employ that makes your team so special?
Stephen: From a hands on keyboard and actually designing? I don't think there's anything there that makes us special. I mean, anyone can learn sketch. And so from that perspective, the delivery of design, I don't think should be the thing that sets people apart. I think there's really two reasons that make projects fail. One, I think, is a lack of awareness, which is an nice way of saying stupidity. And then poor communication within work communication, I think really at the heart of that is alignment. So I think one of the things that makes us really special, and you know, I've had close to 20 years of experience with this, is actually creating the alignment between all of the different stakeholders, you know, from CEO down to the design team that's going to be designing this experience.
And so what we bring to the table is an outside perspective. And with our own outside perspective, we bring the users motivations, frustrations and pain points, we design the experience with them. And then we bring that to the C-Suite. And we can say, look, this isn't our opinion, this isn't our ego that's pushing for this, this is what your users want your outputs and your KPIs for this engagement is, you know, an increase in basket size on your ecommerce site or an increase in lead generation or an increase in your net promoter score, whatever it may be. Be that's really what we're shooting for, and to create the alignment. And the way to get there is really what makes us special.
Swish: That's what I was about to ask because I know that at larger companies alignment can be a bit tricky. So was there something you actively did when you got to be like, this is how I want to think about alignment, this is how I'm going to foster this culture?
Stephen: You learn from so many different people anyway. And that's the benefit of me coming from my past experience at a smaller scale agency and coming into a large organization, is I get to learn from so many incredibly smart people that have had experience in management, consulting, working with massive stakeholder groups. We've had our own experience working with massive stakeholder groups. And so I think the benefit really comes down to learning from them, taking what has made us successful, is marrying the two and then having, you know, an engagement where the consulting practice understands what we're driving at, and that we understand what the customer consulting practice really is quite good at.
Swish: Got it. What is one big obstacle that you guys are facing right now? And how are you guys thinking about solving it? I mean, I know there's a lot of obstacles both of you guys are probably facing but what's really taking up the most time right now?
Diana: I work very closely with the product team at MarketBox and one of the things that we're going deeper and deeper on in terms of solving is we don't want MarketBox just to be solving the scheduling and the surface level logistics problems really, we want to be taking the data and we want to start guiding the companies and making their decisions. So you know, helping them understand, you know what, you need more workers in Oakville on Tuesdays and Thursdays because we're seeing demand come in from the customers and you don't have enough supply to fill that demand.
We want to start moving to the next level beyond just scheduling and logistics. That's more like providing intelligence, even you know, guiding consumers coming to the website, helping to guide them towards maybe certain time slots. So really making our system more and more smart.
Swish: What about you Stephen? What's like the big obstacle that you're going through right now?
Stephen: I think from our side, it's really creating a succinct and tight narrative around the value of design driven organizations. There's a great article in Fast Company about the rise of the Chief Design Officer and how some CEOs have no idea what that CDO role is supposed to do. You know, you pair that with the context of the design index, where it shows design led organizations are performing better than those that don't employ any sort of design thinking processes or methodology.
So I think the largest obstacle is really communicating and understanding the value of what a design thinking brain can bring to an organization much in the same way that I think we all at this point, understand or at least I hope that we understand that diversity and perspective creates much better outcomes.
Throughout this episode, Stephen and Diana shared valuable information about managing teams, implementing new technologies into your organization, and how to scale your technology with your clients as they grow.
In order to keep your team productive, you absolutely need to efficiently implement new technologies. You specifically heard in the podcast, that automation is all about getting the max results with a minimal amount of human interaction. So if you're an organization that wants to stay ahead from your competitors, you absolutely need to look at new technologies and look into ways to efficiently implement them. In my personal opinion, the future of team management comes down to a balance between automation and human interaction. I don't want a software that is entirely automated, where I am not able to interact with my team as a human being. I also don't want a platform where I need to go through and manually do everything and make sure that my team and an ever growing team, by the way, is constantly feeling good, feeling productive and feeling motivated.
Swish: We're getting into the final segment of this podcast, which is the rapid fire round.
First question, what do you want to see invented in the next 10 years, get creative.
Diana: Something to help combat climate change.
Swish: Second question, what technology should be feared?
Diana: I don't know if it's the technologies that should be feared or if it's the people using the technologies.
Swish: And what technology would those people likely be using?
Diana: Artificial intelligence when it comes to things like cybersecurity, it really comes down to these are tools that can help civilization but when put in the wrong hands, they can really cross lines and who knows what else.
Swish: What is your definition of success?
Diana: It's really about what are you creating out there? What are you creating that's having a positive impact on the world and if you're happy doing what you're doing and adding value to other people's lives, I think you should feel like you're a success.
Swish: And then obviously being an entrepreneur is tough. What do you do to stay normal? Like how do you balance your life and you know, chill out?
Diana: Definitely create space in my life to just decompress.
Swish: Alright, that is your rapid fire. Thank you very much, Diana.
Stephen, you are on the hot seat, first question similar to Diana, what do you want to see invented in the next 10 years, get creative?
Stephen: To riff off Diana, it has impacts on climate change. I'd love to see animal protein created from a lab at a mass market, rather than from animals.
Swish: Perfect, what technology should be feared?
Stephen: I don't think any technology should be feared. Again, it's a tool. It's a platform asking why we're wielding this tool and for what purpose I think is the better question. I think that building trust into how technology is leveraged is where we really should be starting the conversation, not necessarily around the technology itself.
Swish: What companies or technologies are exciting you?
Stephen: Tesla is super exciting. I mean, Elon Musk, developing the Hyperloop, or the plans for the Hyperloop and then just sort of open source it. I mean, anyone who's got ideas like that, where he can just toss them out into the market, and hopefully someone will take it the rest of the yards. That's a pretty exciting personality to keep an eye on.
Swish: And then obviously, you've gone from being an entrepreneur to an intrapreneur. What are some of the lessons you've learned from being an entrepreneur for 18 years,
Stephen: Just really, really know what it is that you're really good at. Passion without vision is poor execution, passion with vision creates a highly overdeveloped sense of resilience that allows you to keep going over, under and through whatever obstacles are going to get in front of you.
So if you have that good idea, you better be passionate about that good idea so that you can drive it forward and create that vision that you see possible and just go for it. Because if you don't have the passion around the idea, you're never going to get that there.
You guys have been listening to The Tech Haus podcast where we bring cutting edge startups and Fortune 500s to the table to talk about their contrasting views on how tech is changing our world. Stay tuned for our next episode. This is your host Swish, signing off.
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