In November 2013, Jadu took the decision to re-organise our business and remove the entire 'traditionally' modelled sales team. We also terminated our contract with our PR agency and re-defined our approach to marketing.
Since then, we have had our most successful 3rd quarter results ever - and we are headed for a record year. We’re busier than ever, growing our customer base and we’re hiring. We have started a massive investment in training and skills for Jadugars (the Jadu team) and we now provide £2000 min personal improvement budgets for *every* Jadugar. We’re also making a new Cloud based CRM and Case Management system called ‘Q’ which we launched on G-Cloud as a G-Cloud only service (we also have a new dedicated service manager for Q). Most importantly, we have revolutionised how we service customers.
Why and How:
We set ourselves 4 goals (more like a manifesto) that would become the basis for our change:
- Re-shaping Jadu to be more responsive to User Needs and Customer Service
- Radically shortening the time to solution and resolution by starting the conversation with knowledgeable, technical experts
- Revolutionising the technology we use to communicate in real time across all geographies
- Increasing our openness and transparency about ideas, product development and the challenges that we, our users and our customers face
Support driven development
One of the biggest sources of innovation, quality and feedback are User Groups, and it's our community of users who speak to us everyday in our support system where we get the most value. It's one of the core areas where we can understand user needs along with user testing and actually having face to face conversations about how our customers are using our software.
It's essential that any software company engages with its users - to ensure we are iterating the right features, interfaces and ensure our software remains easy to use and relevant.
Through support, customers tell us what works, and critically, what does not. They also explain why and how they use features. Now, all our engineers read and respond to support tickets. So the people who make Jadu software, support it too. We use Agile team rotations to ensure diversity and cross pollination of skills.
Accepting that this means we write less software, it does mean we write better, more relevant software. We simply aren't about shipping feature after feature - it's simplicity and quality that drives us everyday.
The word transformation is overused and over-rated. All businesses have to change in order to grow and / or adapt to changing user needs and markets.
Change can either be deliberately gradual, or carefully implemented in a very short time frame. The later is much harder on the team, but means you can look back on the business and iterate over the mistakes.
Changing gradually renders results over a much longer time - and sometimes, you don't have the luxury of time. For a rapidly growing business, the change has to show results usually inside of a single quarter.
At Jadu, we took a blended approach, making significant changes quickly, and introducing cultural change a little more gracefully. Most of our team are looking forward to meeting customers - engaging directly and understanding their user needs. Importantly, we have replaced "traditional sales" with competent, technical solutions oriented Jadugars who only have our users needs in mind.
Our whole team bought into the idea of change and supported each other as well as our customers.
The issue for Jadu, was that Account and Sales Managers were commissions based traditional 'sales people' and hadn't written a line of code in decades, if ever. That meant that they could not easily 'move' a customer forward or a problem to being solved. We want knowledgable experts helping our customers - delivering solutions in the shortest possible timeframe.
Read Dan Pink's excellent book, and the notion of 'moving' becomes clear.
The salespeople needed a lot of support from our devs and designers to answer questions. When your team is really busy creating amazing things - they need to balance the responses to those questions with, well, doing great things. As an Agile business, we have to trade in high priorities over lower, but still important priorities, adding to a long backlog. So they respond to queries and hand responses back to Account managers, who process the information so they can understand it (I.e. then they call and ask a bunch more questions) before going back to a customer, who then asks a bunch more questions.
The salespeople were also well paid and on commissions. This created some discomfort in my mind as a CEO. I wanted to reward my whole team financially, and not just my account sales team ( who after all 100% relied on our PM's, engineers and designers ). Removing non-technical account managers with limited competency has shorted the time from conversation to solution by an order of magnitude, now our customers speak directly to highly trained, highly expert designers, developers and product managers. They were doing this work anyway.
The G-Cloud revolution
In addition last year, nearly 50% of new business sales came from G-Cloud. These projects we're based on our 'Universe Cloud' offerings - products and services specifically designed and created for fully managed and subscription based services - both single and multi tenancy. None of these deals we're made by sales managers. They were made by our team.
For our UK Government business at least - G-Cloud is our default and we're betting on cloud strategically as a business. All new projects, both commercial and open source - will be G-Cloud first.
Human to Human
The sales organisation we are making now, reflects the times we live in. We want to offer value and demonstrate the power of our platform. So the most experienced of us will work directly with customers to solve problems and build solutions, not fronted by enterprise sales executives, but by knowledgable, experienced web professionals. We are looking for entrepreneurs. We will hire them, we will make them.
Better ways to say 'hi' and listen
Now, our entire team is empowered to speak directly with a customer, using Google Hangouts, instant chat, the phone and in person. By finding new ways of working, we are cutting the time to get a customer a conversation by an order of magnitude.
It takes time to shift the culture of any organisation, so we aren't expecting anything to happen overnight. We are starting to change tools and inviting in ideas. We make sure that everyone who wants to be involved in every step of the sales process is involved - in fact, many of our designers and developers actively pitch for work. We are now much more selective therefore, on the type of work we want to take on. After all, you can only deliver world class work, when you are enjoying it, challenged by it and see the overall vision for why you are working on it in the first place.
Developers and designers speak directly to customers and we now see every team member as though they were investors - not employees. In fact, 6% of all turnover (not just profit) goes into a return fund for all employees.
Here's to a much more open future
Jadu is largely an open source company. We love the tools we work with and build great software with it. Whilst we build a digital services platform, we also build tooling to help that process. We are now going to make that tooling open source and on GIT. We are also building open source products as traditionally, because we work in the enterprise and government, our platform has had to be proprietary. Government is starting to change now though, and we are more ready than ever to start making open source tools as well as proprietary tools. It's always been this way in HigherEd and we are excited to be able to disrupt the staid and dull way of things.
We are also not committing to huge road maps. Instead, we are showing customers our broad direction of travel and iterating our products based on user need.
We have started talking about our early experiments too. Although we work in a fiercely competitive environment and generally, we are copied extensively by competitors - we have started to care a lot less about protecting ideas - and a lot more about crowd sourcing them. Iteration is essential in this modern web economy and product development and R&D has to mirror that. So, we will share anything that we think provides customers value - particularly our more technical and developer oriented customers.
PR is dead, long live PR
Something all organisations need to do more of, is building honest and open relationships with the journalists they expect to cover their stories. PR teams are great at the traditional model of pitching out stories, but much like design and digital agencies, once they have your account - the enthusiasm and innovation naturally falls into 'business as usual' and starts to flat line. Why? Because the innovation in these agencies is usually based on 'new business' - the new client gets most of the creative attention, because the business need is to encourage them into retainers. Once on retainer, more junior or less experienced interns move into the account.
So just as we cut the time to conversation and solution with our customers (by removing sales) we also cut the time to conversation and ideas to the press. I've met more amazing people as a result - super Intelligent and switched on journalists who really understand the market and know a good story when they see one. We feel better for it.
We also decided that, as a marketing business (I am a marketeer and web designer by trade) we need to re-invent some rules. We no longer live in the corporate event and exhibition world - it's case study, social content and the zero moment of truth that has become our model. It's value. Deliver value and innovation to customers and the rest becomes much easier. You don't have to try quite so hard to build those successful stories, because every story is a case study.
Jadu Marketing now runs Agile and everyone is invited to the party, including our customers - who are part of our team.
We are growing internationally and considering our options carefully, iterating as we go and we have started ramping up our obsession with customer service and support and we have started the conversation with our customers and users.
Importantly, we have started winning and delivering the kind of work that makes us sing and our customers happy.
It's going to be some months before these changes really see radical change - but we are super excited, busy implementing some amazing apps and websites, making great new products and extremely focused.