Experts and Influencers

By Hau Ngo

About this podcast   English    United States

Go behind the scenes at today's largest companies
In this podcast



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Feb. 27, 2017
James Stone is an award-winning web designer and a top contributor to ZURB Foundation. I was able to land an interview with James to get his insights for streamlining complex development across teams with diverse personalities and skills. podcastData1 = {"title":"Experts & Influencers","subtitle":null,"description":"The podcast that goes behind the scenes at enterprise projects to show you how advisors and consultants help today's biggest companies","cover":"http:\/\/\/wp-content\/uploads\/2017\/02\/Experts-and-Influencers-Cover-Art-2.jpg","feeds":[{"url":"https:\/\/\/us\/podcast\/experts-and-influencers\/id1171425629?mt=2","itunesfeedid":"https:\/\/\/us\/podcast\/experts-and-influencers\/id1171425629?mt=2","format":"0"},{"type":"audio","format":"mp3","url":"https:\/\/\/us\/podcast\/experts-and-influencers\/id1171425629?mt=2","variant":"high"}]} James Shares With Us How the technology has changed over the last 15 years New challenges for teams that face increasingly complex systems How to address the communication challenge across different groups Should project managers learn to code? His take on augmenting a team’s weakness Connect with James Stone James Stone is an award-winning web designer and a top contributor to ZURB Foundation. He has written for UX Pin and ZURB University and is an Adjunct Professor of Art at Penn State’s School of Visual Art. He has presented at TEDxPSU, Harvard University Extension School, and the HTML5 Dev Conference. Free Course: Website: Twitter: LinkedIn: YouTube: Transcript Hau Ngo : Hi, and welcome back to the show. Today we have an incredible guest who will walk us through his process for streamlining development for his clients. James Stone is an award-winning web designer and a top contributor to the ZURB Foundation. He has written for UXPin and ZURB University and is an adjunct professor of art at Penn State’s School of Visual Art. He has presented at TEDxPSU, Harvard University Extension School and the HTML5 Dev Conference. Hey James, welcome to the show. James Stone: Hi Hau. Thanks for having me. Hau Ngo : So James, FYI, I used to do a bit of web development maybe 15, 20 years ago. Back then I remember the transition from writing your code in Notepad to the new thing, which is Dreamweaver. How are web projects different now than say 15 years ago? James Stone: Yeah, that’s a great question Hau. What kind of web pages were you creating back then in Dreamweaver and Notepad? Hau Ngo : Initially it was just plain one page HTML pages. At that time I was working for the California Research Bureau maintaining their website in Sacramento. I think the technology we were trying to incorporate was ColdFusion, which is the new way of incorporating dynamic content into HTML. That was just leading edge at that time. But even then I thought that was pretty complex. I can’t imagine what it’s like 15 years since then. James Stone: Yeah, totally. It’s interesting because I worked in the web a long time ago too. I started a start-up and we were doing Java stuff, and it was just a completely different beast what the early World Wide Web is to even today. Even though it’s still kind of just the page with information that links to different pages, now you have entire applications being built on the web. I think, even from just a few years ago things are really radically different, but from the early web it’s just an even bigger transition. I think the big way I like to think of that is things that used to take myself and teams of engineers weeks to do, can be done in the day, maybe half a day by a single engineer. There’s a lot of tools and processes that make this possible; MVC frameworks, VSAR frameworks also on the front-end and it just really simplifies a process. You have a lot of structure. You don’t have to spend so much time reinventing the wheel for every single project. I think that’s one of the major differences is there’s a lot more efficiency, but the downside is that it’s incredibly complex. I focus on the front-end of web development, so not doing too much of the server stuff, but everything that’s rendering on the browser. Even there, the ecosystem has gotten so complex even in the past years. Now, often you can get a lot more efficiency from that, but it means that you’re touching a lot more tools. Maybe back in the day you just had Dreamweaver and you would use that for most of what you were doing; now you have Gulp and Grunt and Command-line tools and automation. All these things are loading in the browser real-time. It’s just a lot more complex under the hood. I think the other thing that’s a really big difference today is that there’s a much higher emphasis on visual design, and I think for organizations there’s a lot more value to be gained in visual design. Of course, a great example of this is Apple Computer. Look how much emphasis they put on visual design for their website, all their products. I think everyone’s trying to emulate that. Where maybe five, 10 years ago it wasn’t so important the visual design of your website, and the user experience of your website, today it’s really critical. I think when you see a site that’s five years old, you think it’s hacked or broken or somehow accidentally still on the web. It doesn’t have a certain kind of look. There’s a higher bar for that kind of visual emphasis. I think the other thing that’s really interesting too that we didn’t have back then is a variety of different types of devices. We had pretty much everyone on the web was on a computer with a pretty standard size screen, but now you have massive screens, you have televisions, you have mobile phones, tablets, even have wearable devices, like the Apple watch. So you have to design so that you can use your application or website across a variety of different devices, and that typically on the web is mobile responsive design. Probably the final thing I would think about is just the projects are much more complex. I think that’s because when I first mentioned you can have a lot more progress with a single engineer as opposed to back in the day having to build everything and reinvent the wheel, the downside of that is now the applications are so much more complex and so much larger than they used to be that you’re back to spending two weeks with a roomful of engineers to accomplish much more, you just have a much higher expectation of what you have to accomplish. Hau Ngo : Yeah I think you hit the nail on the head right there, because I remember when I first started out in college there was only two browsers I had to worry about. Back then it was Netscape and Internet Explorer. Even then writing one bit of code renders differently in either browser. Also back then every single website looked a little bit different. I’m talking about all those miscellaneous GeoCities domain that you see, and bunch of banners and pictures everywhere of flying rainbow cats or whatever, but now it sounds like everything in terms of design hasn’t been exactly standardized but is definitely scrutinized. There’s so many UI experiments being ran on each type of minute change that I think you’re right, the bar has been raised, where instead of saying it’ll take one guy weeks and weeks and weeks to build something, a teenager or maybe a middle school student can just install WordPress by himself with the push of a button. The fact that kids are now being able to set the own domains, their own websites, their own web presence, those in the professional space have a much higher bar. Especially, I would say, the commercial space to say, “Here’s a quality product.” It’s no longer, at least from my opinion, that it’s just one or two or three guys building a website. It’s something you have to communicate and coordinate with multiple teams. You have your web developer, I’m guessing the UI person, the front-end marketing business. So how do we get all of these different groups to work together, and how can we avoid that team miscommunication on these web projects? James Stone: Yeah, that a great question Hau. Obviously the projects are getting much larger in complexity and then you’ve also got a lot of specialization. I think back in the day you didn’t have this kind of specialization on the web; back-end, front-end, UI designers, UI developers, UX developers and so on and so forth. Really what you’re looking at now is multiple teams within a web project working together. You’re asking how can you have this clear communication. Typically on web projects you have some sort product manager, project manager leading the team, and you’re going to often have a design team and an engineering team working together. Now design can mean user experience, it might mean more UI, more visual design, but because there’s such a high design emphasis what you’re finding now is rather than purely marketing teams working with developers directly, you’re actually having a mix. It might be a marketing team PM, the design team and the engineering team. Now, a lot of the miscommunication I think happens because there are just very different people that fall into those roles. Someone who’s in marketing, versus someone who’s in engineering, versus someone who’s in design, they are very different people. They went to school and probably studied this for quite some time, and had a lot of emphasis in their particular area. I think what happens is that when you bring all these people together they have a different set of cultures, a different set of ideas, sometimes a different way of talking about things, and overall they might even have just a different agenda about what they’re seeing a successful project be. Everyone want to have a successful project, but if you ask those three or four groups of people, “What is success in this project look like to you,” I think it’s likely you’re going to get radically different answers. Hau Ngo : Got you. Yeah, I think that’s true with a lot of the projects I’ve been on also. I would say on a lot of the legacy projects I worked on, I say legacy in the sense that it’s not this leading-edge SAP products but more of the bread-and-butter SAP ECC business warehouse, where you had a project manager who is focused on making sure the project is completed on time, under budget. You have your analytics architect like me who wants to make sure that we may have to burn budget, we may have to work longer hours, but we want to deliver a quality product for the business, so my goal is different. Of course, you have the business who says unless this report runs and shows him the metric that he’s looking for and is usable; it doesn’t work no matter how well the report is designed or however we finish a project. So that’s true. When you’re talking with different groups of people with different agendas or different definitions of success, how do you get them all on the same page? For example, should a project manager learn how to do data modeling? Should designers learn how to code? Should the coders learn how to design? How do you get everyone on the same page and smooth out the miscommunication bumps? James Stone: Yeah, it’s a great thing to bring up. I always think in terms of like a design team or designers, sometimes they really care about the visual nature or the aesthetics, and a user experience person might care more about having empathy for the user and having the experience be really fantastic, but then you go over to the side of the engineers and they’re going to care more about code quality and maintainability of the project. These things are sometimes in opposition to each other. Now, I think that that’s not like the end of the road, sorry, everyone doesn’t get along, but I think what you need is something to bridge the gap. What I think helps to do that is to have a set of clear documentation and processes that bring these teams together on some common ground so that they’re still feeling like they’re accomplishing their agenda or their goals as a team, but then there’s more continuity in what the team is achieving overall. Hau Ngo : Got that. James Stone: Yeah, no problem. I know you said should engineers start designing or should designers code. I think you’re saying the product manager, right? Hau Ngo : Yeah. James Stone: Should the project manager learn to code? I don’t know. Sometimes it seems like every day I look online and there’s somebody telling somebody else to learn to code. It’s interesting for me because I actually teach at Penn State in the School of Visual Arts; I actually teach a beginning coding class for designers and artists who have no experience coding whatsoever. It’s a very challenging subject to teach. I’m not saying that people shouldn’t learn to code because I think it’s a really valuable skill to have in today’s world, and I think it’s very good for a deeper understanding of computation or how computers are working, but I don’t think that a product manager going to like a coding boot camp so they can better understand the engineers, I don’t think that that really solves a problem. I think the problem is really being able to communicate ideas clearly and efficiently, and have this common language and common way that you can flow through your process. It’s not about really the product manager becoming an engineer. I think probably the important thing to think about is when you have a team of people and when you have specialization, you don’t want to start de-specializing everyone. You really want to play to people’s strong suits. For example, if you have your team of engineers, and you’re like we’re going to teach all of our engineers design, and you sent them to some boot camp or class for a few days. What are you going to do then? What are they going to be designing? Because you’re putting them up against designers who have spent probably most of their working lives, if not their educational life, focused in design and aesthetics, and they’re just not going to be able to compete. I think more importantly, it’s probably not what they want to do. I would imagine if I was an engineer and I went to school took computer science, got really good at my craft, I certainly wouldn’t want to learn something that’s in opposition of perhaps my personality, perhaps my interests. If I had an interest for it, sure. But I think what’s happening is people are pushing this on employees, they’re pushing it on teams, and they’re trying to solve this problem of efficiency and miscommunication because people are not understanding fundamentally how to communicate with each other. Now, in the case of visual design and web projects, there is this kind of intermediary space where you can kind of smooth the communications. That’s kind of a space I’m interested in in where I work. It’s really about solving those problems outside of the realm of engineering and basically taking ideas from design and trying to keep the design intent strong, but also provide a quality tool set that engineering can expand upon. Hau Ngo : I think that’s the most valuable thing I’ve seen on projects to be honest, because I see clients make this mistake over and over where they would hire for the skill set and they assume that anyone with that skill set is interchangeable. It’s really a commodity in their mind. They almost always pick the lowest price commodity. You get into these situations where the engineer has one way of looking at it and the business has one way of explaining the problem, and there’s that gap, and they just cannot reach each other over that gap. Fortunately, I have my foot in both spaces where can I help coordinate the business requirements and delivery to the engineer to the programmer. But I’ve seen usually after a failed project that you this could’ve been avoided had they had that either set of processes or templates in place, or have someone like you who can actually bridge that gap for them. I would a second point you brought up, which is really, really true, is that coding is not easy. I remember my first coding class in college. It was my first year, first quarter, and I was pretty much crying the entire quarter because this stuff does not make sense. I wasn’t interested for the first, I would say, year and a half until I took that web development position in Sacramento, when I had to solve these real world problems. The course I happen to have been taking was about efficient programming, and it just solves so many things that I could apply to my afterschool job that I immediately became more interested in trying to figure out what else I can do with programming. But I would say you’re right it’s not for everybody and it’s a very steep learning curve. James, I think we’re about to hit the 20 minute mark. We can probably go for another 20 minutes, but I don’t want to take up it too much your time. I think what you’ve touched upon in terms of having a very strong set of guidelines, or what I consider guideposts for the entire team and making sure everyone’s on the same page at the beginning of the project is crucial. For the listeners, if they want to learn more about you and design system engineering where can they find you? James Stone: The best thing for them to do is to go to, and they can sign up for a free email course and learn a little bit more about the benefits, and what I call design systems engineering which is kind of this intermediary space in which occupies design and engineering, and how you might start with that in your organization to try and realize some better communication and some efficiencies. If they do that they’ll get a three day email course, but more importantly they’ll be on my list. I use my list a little differently. I use it more like a laboratory. Here they’re going to learn a little bit more about me, what I’m all about, and how I operate. This is really the best way. All they need to do is go and give their email address and we can start a longer relationship, and then later if you decide I’m not worth paying attention to you can just unsubscribe. That’s what I encourage people to do. Go to, sign up for that free email course. Hau Ngo : Okay, awesome. Thanks James for joining the show, and thank you again for your time. James Stone: Thanks Hau. It’s great to be here. Great talking to you today. Speaker 1: Thanks for listening to the Experts and Influencers podcast. Learn how problems are solved at the biggest companies and apply to your project at The post 015: Design Systems Engineering w/ James Stone appeared first on Summerlin
Feb. 13, 2017
Royann Dean, Strategic Communication Consultant, help companies uncover narratives and key messaging. She shows us how to apply these same principles for the one-person consulting company. podcastData1 = {"title":"Experts & Influencers","subtitle":null,"description":"The podcast that goes behind the scenes at enterprise projects to show you how advisors and consultants help today's biggest companies","cover":"http:\/\/\/wp-content\/uploads\/2017\/02\/Experts-and-Influencers-Cover-Art-2.jpg","feeds":[{"url":"https:\/\/\/us\/podcast\/experts-and-influencers\/id1171425629?mt=2","itunesfeedid":"https:\/\/\/us\/podcast\/experts-and-influencers\/id1171425629?mt=2","format":"0"},{"type":"audio","format":"mp3","url":"https:\/\/\/us\/podcast\/experts-and-influencers\/id1171425629?mt=2","variant":"high"}]} Royann Shares With Us What solopreneurs should do to earn trust and communicate their value How much of your personality to incorporate into your branding What to consider when crafting your message The essential parts of communicating your brand on social media The difference ways to engage your audience online Connect with Royann Strategic Communication at the Intersection of Business + Creativity Royann Dean is a strategic communication consultant with more than 15 years of entrepreneurial and corporate experience in marketing, branding and PR that connects communication to business objectives. Royann specializes in brand narrative development and connecting design to visual and written communication for private and public sector clients. Selected as a ‘Top 40 under 40’ in The Bahamas, Royann is a former member of the Competitiveness and Innovation committee at The Bahamas Chamber of Commerce and Employers’ Confederation, and an alumna of the Caribbean Canadian Emerging Leaders Dialogue (CCELD). Currently, she is a member of the Caribbean Institute of Certified Management Consultants and a director and charter member of the Bahamas chapter. Royann is also an active Rotarian, serving as the director of PR for two years. Royann developed and moderated tmg* Talks, the country’s first panel discussion on design, business and the creative economy and is a committee member at two non-profit cultural organizations — the Dundas Theatre and Transforming Spaces, a visual arts tour. She holds an undergraduate business degree in marketing from the University of Georgia and a masters degree (Honours) in design management from University of the Arts London. Royann also has a certificate in project management from the Association of Project Managers in the United Kingdom and certificates in Art as a Global Business and Art as an Alternative Investment from the Sotheby’s Institute of Art. Website: Twitter: LinkedIn: The post 014: Strategic Communication & Branding w/ Royann Dean appeared first on Summerlin
Feb. 1, 2017
Mojca Marš, a social media consultant, shows us how to use social media to market our expertise, broaden our reach, and find better clients. Mojca Shares With Us What Not To Do – You’ll be surprised how many very smart people trip over the same mistake when it comes to using Twitter or LinkedIn for the first time. What To Do Instead – How to engage on the social media channels and “building the right follower base” by using the 3 pillars strategy. How To Stand Out On LinkedIn – Mojca tells you what specific actions to take that make others take notice. Growing From Nothing – How to build your follower base with this one specific action Connect With Mojca Mojca Marš, a social media consultant, founded her consultancy called Super Spicy Media after losing a job at an advertising agency. Her work focuses on helping companies develops and manage their Facebook Advertising Strategy so they can devote their time to other aspects of their businesses. She’s also been helping consultants with generating more leads and creating more profits through effective Facebook Ads. Mojca published a book called Facebook Ads Manual: Everything You Need To Know To Get Started and is the maker of Master Facebook Marketing: Weekly Video Series. Follow Mojca on Twitter Resources Mentioned Matt Inglot’s “Freelance Transformation” podcast ep. 38  Andy Baldacci’s “Agency Advantage” podcast ep. 07 Facebook Ads Manual: Everything You Need To Know To Get Started Facebook Marketing: Weekly Video Series The post 013: Building Engagement on Social Media w/ Mojca Marš appeared first on Summerlin
Jan. 12, 2017
Paul Modderman, Senior Product Architect & Technology Evangelist, joins that show and shares his passion for Artificial Intelligence and some cool applications. Paul Shares With Us Consumer-Grade A.I. You’ll be surprised how much intelligent technology is powering your everyday routines, from working out to scheduling meetings. Three Stage of A.I. Paul maps out from where we are to where he expects us to be with this emerging technology, from the Amazon Echo(s) of today to future applications. Business Applications – From writing better job descriptions to optimizing your sales prospecting, there are startups building AI to help you with your job. Resources Mentioned – Your A.I. Personal Assistant for scheduling meetings crystal – Personality Insights for people in your network Connect with Paul From software architecture to public speaking, companies engage Paul for his forward thinking insights. (I periodically check in with Paul to see if certain SAP products are worth the time learning about them). Connect with Paul on LinkedIn Follow Paul on Twitter The post 012: Artificial Intelligence w/ Paul Modderman appeared first on Summerlin
Nov. 7, 2016
Why does it seem like job offers only come when you’re busy on a project? Alex Jones, Managing Director of Mindset Consulting, shares his experience as a hiring manager along with his surprisingly effective prospecting tips. The post 010: Overcoming the Resource Challenge w/ Alex Jones appeared first on Summerlin
Sept. 12, 2016
Over the past year, I’ve connected to more freelancers that ever before and one thing that’s common among the people that I’ve spoken to is this we are all struggling with some aspect of our business. And it doesn’t matter where your expertise may be. I’ve spoken to programmers, data migration specialists, owner of web agencies, and they are all working to climb up onto that next platform in the ladder of success. One friend, in particular, has had phenomenal growth in this transition from a technical worker to one who is moving onto a higher level of consulting where he is helping large companies think more strategically about their ERP systems. In this podcast, Anthony flips the question on it’s head and asks “Is the fear of success that’s holding back your business”? So expand that idea some and what you can do about it. Here’s my conversation with Anthony English. Connect with Anthony Web LinkedIn Twitter   The post 009: Do You Secretly Fear Success? w/ Anthony English appeared first on Summerlin
Aug. 29, 2016
  How do work with clients who are afraid to upgrade their systems and how do you break through that inertia barrier? In this episode of Experts and Influencers, Tristan Bailey, Anthony English, and I share our ideas on how to have that conversation to get the stakeholders on board. It’s important to articulate what are the fears around making some technical change and address their concerns around the risk of making changes to a website, the infrastructure, or a business process. As technical people, we may be very comfortable speaking from the technical angle, but the more deeply we understand the business and personal motives of the decision makers, the more likely it is that we can create a result that will be better suited for them. Here’s my conversation with Tristan Bailey and Anthony English Connect with Anthony & Tristan Anthony Web LinkedIn Twitter Tristan Web LinkedIn Twitter The post 008: Breaking Through Corporate Inertia w/ Anthony English and Tristan Bailey appeared first on Summerlin
July 5, 2016
  This a challenge that I’ve seen my colleagues struggle as they consider moving from full-time employment to freelance work and one that I’ve faced myself as I transition from project implementation to selling. In this episode of “Experts and Influencers“, I welcome back my good friends Anthony English, an Enterprise Installation and Data Migration Expert from Sydney, Australia, and Tristan Bailey, owner of a Web Development Agency from Brighton in the United Kingdom to share their thoughts on … Their Transition from Implemention to Selling Networking tips to understand business challenges How to overcome the Imposter Syndrome How to convince yourself to charge more Here’s my discussion with Anthony and Tristan … Resources Mentioned How do you convince yourself to charge more? Brennan Dunn on How to Overcome Imposter Syndrome Connect with Anthony & Tristan Anthony Web LinkedIn Twitter Tristan Web LinkedIn Twitter Transcript Hau: Welcome back to our podcast. Today we have Anthony English and Tristan Bailey. This podcast will be more introspective. We’re going to look at how we deal as consultants, as freelancers, as we transition from hands-on keyboards, developers and technology strategists to a bit more of the marketing and selling side of the house. Anthony, I think you had a recent win that I think is very interesting. Would you mind sharing that with us? Anthony: I did, yeah. Hau and Tristan, welcome. Yeah, look, pricing, and value, and fear, and confidence, it seems to be the flavor of the month. Because we all are aware that we’re probably underpricing, and it’s really difficult to break through the barrier, isn’t it? Hau: Oh, definitely. Anthony: Tristan? Tristan: Indeed. Trying to fill that number, trying to find the right number is always a wonder when you move into a new client’s work. Anthony: I had a win recently where I was able to demonstrate the value even before discussing pricing. I was able to demonstrate the value, and that was so important to me. Demonstrating the value to the client, while I was actually on site speaking to them about things that were way outside my field but speaking about their pain in terms that they understood. That really positioned me in a great way to feel very, very confident to, shall we say, push the envelope a little bit when it came to the price, because the client was able to see the value extremely clearly. Hau: Got you. Have you noticed that the more conversations you have with stakeholders at these companies, do you find your confidence growing in terms of your value proposition and communicating what you can bring to the table, and then later on justifying that with a number? Anthony: Yes, it’s really been extraordinary, because I’m there just trying to heal their pain, trying to absorb their pain. Understanding that, even if it’s not an actual hands-on technical look that I’m doing, it’s been very liberating because they … I’m simply mirroring back. It’s just like good copy-writing. I’m mirroring back to them the exact concerns and pains that they’re having, and they’re sort of saying, “This guy gets us. He understands.” Hau: Got you. One thing I’ve struggled with, this is with a former client where I’ve demonstrated value previously and I worked in the capacity of I’m their temporary for-hire architect where I provide guidance, and support, and direction. This former client came back almost two to three years later. They’re now moving into an upgrade project where they need to revamp their systems, and they’re looking for additional guidance and support. The trouble I had, even though I’ve demonstrated value with them before, has always been the pricing of it. I’ve seen what other larger agencies charge, and because I’m a smaller, independent consultancy, maybe with an additional resource, I don’t feel as comfortable asking for that dollar monetary amount. Anthony, how you get around that uncomfortable discussion when it comes to money? Have you found one approach, or have you found that through repetition does it get easier when you do that? Anthony: It gets easier, but it’s a totally different mindset. Tristan, you run an agency I think, so you’ve got a few people working with you. Is that right? Tristan: Indeed. I have a couple of people who work for me. I mean I still did have the mindset of, “Look, I’m independent, I can just price out my own rate. I’ve worked out my hourly rate, and that’s what I feel like I price out.” I’ve been reevaluating that this year, and thinking when I’ve worked with agencies I’ve known that they’ve priced out at sort of three or four times a multiple per worker, because that’s their running cost for the show, because it’s got to cover other things. I think I’ve transitioned to that as working out my own multiple for the business, because if you do only run on this lean hourly rate that you have of your own, you don’t get anywhere and you don’t get the growth, and you’re not really returning the value to the customer. Once you’re a consultant, you are Xing up that value for them and you should represent that in your own communications too. Hau: That’s really interesting what you’ve just said about representing the value to the customer. This is the mindset shift that I have been through extremely recently, which is instead of saying, “Well, my costs are not that high, and I’m struggling, and I’m waiting for the next invoice to get paid, that sort of thing,” instead of that, I’ve convinced myself that I need to charge more. We can post in the show notes an article from Andy Adams, a friend of mine who said, “Look, you really need to talk yourself into charging more, and here’s how to do it.” It’s a very interesting article in getting through that mindset of how do I convince myself that I should charge more and I shouldn’t just be, “Oh, well I don’t have these big expenses, these big offices and so on.” Also, the big mindset shift is to say instead of how much my cost is and add something on, or instead of looking at market rates and saying, “Now I’m going to add something or be a little bit less than the other guys,” you’ll stop talking about yourself and start talking about the client and what’s the value to them. Because you’re never going to outprice the value. If you convince yourself that you are providing value, then you can charge more. Hau: I think you hit on a very important key part is that it’s hard to convince yourself when you don’t have the next opportunity or set of projects in your pipeline, when you’re going through that famine phase of the cycle. I think that’s something that a lot of people like myself struggle with. That’s where we ignore the need for building up that pipeline. We don’t maybe network as much or do our outreach as often as we should, and then you put yourself in that position. Wouldn’t you agree? Anthony: Oh, yeah. One of the difficulties is that if you’ve only got one option then that’s really an ultimatum. That’s the same thing with pricing. If I say to you how I’m going to charge you $100 for this book or for this service that I’m providing you, that’s an ultimatum. If I give you some options and you can clearly see the difference in value between option one, and two, and three, then it’s easier for you. You don’t feel constrained. The same thing with one client. If you’ve got only one client then you’re bound to that. If you’ve got other options, if you know that you’ve got other clients who are knocking on your door, then it’s so much easier to say no. Hau: I agree. This may be more of a Tristan question, just because he’s running a group, a consultancy. Tristan, I’ve always in my last I would say 15 years, I’ve done 100 percent consulting where I’ve been at one client at a time, and I’ve run into the feat and famine cycle consistently. Of course, after a while you get tired of that, and you want to transition and get off of that track. How do you juggle? Not only are you managing multiple clients I’m assuming, but also multiple employees. How do you juggle that situation? Tristan: I think I was sort of more used to this internally when there was other people, that it’s not your responsibility, but moving in and the last few years running my own shop it did take an internal process of growth to get to that point that I felt that I was actually taking it on. Because I took in a lot of projects that I would maybe have two or three running at the same time, but they’d be different time schedules so that maybe not all the work was needed at the same time. There’s this concept of you can only wear one hat at a time. I had a good discussion with another consulting friend, and he persuaded me of this fact that you can only be the business owner, or the salesperson, or the person doing the work. In my case, the developer. You can’t be both of those at the same time. There are two reasons. One, if you talk to the customer they will have the concept that you are one of these things, and they will talk to you in that way and they will present things in that way. If you try and put the other hat on while you’re talking to them, in the same sort of conversation, they will get confused or they will think you’re trying to play them off against different things, because obviously the business owner and the project manager is trying to get more work in, is trying to generate business or maybe allocate work out as a project manager type role, whereas the worker is trying to go from A to B and get the work finished. They sometimes find that confusing as to that you maybe are trying to pull a fast one on them or something. The personal transition that I had, so this is the conversation that I had with the customers but also taking on that yourself internally, if you’re working … It was very easy for me to sit down and plan out all the projects, and go, “All right, I’ve got these two projects on, and this needs to be done and this needs to be done.” It would be the end of the day, and I’d realized I hadn’t done any of the work. You can’t wear those two hats for yourself too. You’ve got to plan the work or you’ve got to do the work. That transition came when I took the effort to employ someone, because then I had the faith and therefore that reassured me that was someone was still working. I could take the time to the project management, because that didn’t mean that everything else stopped. Hau: That’s fascinating, Tristan. You know that the engine is still running, even though you’re getting out to look at the map or something else. Wow. Tristan: Mm-hmm (affirmative), but I did have to feel that I had to structure the project in my own sense and my own time scales, and I do have to consider it in a slightly different way to have this other person working for me, but it definitely allows having multiple projects running or time to do planning and time to do work, and you don’t feel like you’re chasing the rate. Hau: It sounds like once you made that transition, Tristan, you weren’t switching your hats in the same conversation with the clients at this point. Is that correct? Or you would come in only as the business owner or the project manager? Tristan: Yeah, so I’d had visibility of that a little bit before. When I’d been working with one agency I was always paired with a technical project manager when we’d go to client meetings. It was so much more efficient, and the level of stress and the planning dropped when we were in these meetings, because if me as the [inaudible 00:13:22] worker, the developer, we sat there and the client asked, “Can we have this changed?” It was very hard for me to say, “No, I can’t do that this week,” because obviously I’m the one who was going to do it, so it sounds like I’m just saying I won’t do it. Compared to when the technical manager was there, he would say, “I’d have to look at the schedule, I’ll schedule it,” type thing, and they were totally accepting of that. I get that same feeling now doing that myself, is I can just be talking to them and we just have the concepts that other people are going to be working on it. It’s not just me. It makes the conversation more natural. I’m talking to them as a business person and they’re a business person, rather than they feel they need to manage me. That’s probably the key thing. Anthony: Yeah, isn’t that significant, because our tendency as technical people, maybe as creative people is that we tend to be measuring things on how fast we’re typing and how much we can get done in that sense, but there is a huge value to many clients in terms of strategy. Strategy sounds like all very abstract and so on, but being able to say, “Actually, I think that maybe we shouldn’t even be doing this in the first place. I know I’m actually going to get like bucket loads of money from you if we take on this project,” but to have the confidence to say, “Look, I’m so convinced of your value I’m willing to…” In fact, this is what I do now when I meet clients, is I try and talk them out of giving me a job. That’s a fascinating conversation. Tristan: How so there, with that, Anthony? Anthony: I stole this from Jonathan Stark, on value-based pricing. I talk myself out of … I try and talk them out of giving me a job. I say, “Look, couldn’t you do this yourselves? Can’t you go to or to some recruitment agency? Do you really need to do this in the first place? Do you really need to do this now? Is it really that urgent?” Really drilling down to find out why this project needs to be done now, and that very quickly turns into a, “We really, really need to do this. We need to do it now, and you are the only person in the world who can do this.” That obviously affects pricing and all sorts of things. It’s a wonderful conversation to have, is to have somebody talk your way out of giving you the job and then they basically beg you to stay. Tristan: Are you sort of creating a sense of urgency and raising that value? Anthony: I’m raising the value; I wouldn’t call it a sense of urgency. It’s not like I’m walking away like I do with my children and say, “I’m walking away. I’m leaving the park now. You better come.” No, it’s not so much that. It’s more really getting to the heart of the matter, getting to find out what the real pain is and the real problem is that they may not have realized themselves. Hau: I was going to say, Anthony, for the folks listening, most of my audience is technical in nature and most of our colleagues are very technical in nature. When you talk about talking to the business or talking in business terms in ways that they understand, we’re very comfortable knowing what we know, but how do you make that transition from the technical side to the business side without feeling like you’re an impostor? How do you get comfortable in that shell? Anthony: This has been an extremely recent development for me, as in just the last maybe six weeks, where I’m now aiming not for technical people reaching out to my peers but for reaching out to the decision makers. Once again, it comes down to understanding their pain and articulating their pain rather than focusing on my technical skills, or how we’re going to get there, or speaking of my technical experience. It’s a very different conversation, but basically in short I would say just don’t talk technically. Hau: I think you hit a good point. In a previous conversation I think you suggested to me this is not a technical interview. You’re not going in there as an interview, you’re going in there to understand their business pains. Maybe, if I could relate this to something that Tristan has done recently with his I think manufacturing conference, where I think you were there to network but not in the traditional sense, Tristan. You went there to understand what business challenges most of these companies were facing. Is that right? Tristan: Yeah, indeed. I went around the floor at the conference they had on the side and then the show floor. There was many directors and sales managers were operating the stands, rather than just sort of hired PR staff. I took my five questions with me and surveyed the floor, as much as interviewing people for potential business, and also using that as a way of striking up conversations with people. It’s quite interesting how open and clear people would be with their strategy or their plan for the rest of the year as to whether they were into larger volumes of orders or [inaudible 00:19:31]. Hau: That’s great. Can I ask you to share maybe one or two of those five questions for the folks listening? I know networking itself is a topic that strikes fear into a lot of technical people’s souls. Anthony: [inaudible 00:20:04]. Hau: Sure. It sounds like Anthony might have some advice to give. Tristan: Also, with the networking, I had not done any networking at all up until maybe six weeks ago. Nothing in terms of face-to-face. It was a huge change, a huge benefit for me to be able to meet business owners, and sometimes for very small businesses and really not my market at all, but because I happened to bamboozle them by doing something really magic like look up their website on my iPhone, it just blew them away. “Wow, this guy’s an IT guru,” because I looked it up on the spot while I was there, when they said, “We’ve got a problem with our website.” Now, I don’t do websites, but I just looked it up while I was there, on my phone, and they were shocked. They were just, “Wow, this is the guy to go to for computer problems.” I couldn’t believe it. That was enough then to say, “Look, tell me what’s your biggest challenge. Do you use Excel, Outlook?” Everybody’s got a problem with cutting and pasting from email to Excel. Some tiny little thing that has got nothing to do with my field, because I work on the big IBM back-end systems for really big companies. Still, it built an enormous amount of trust in a very short time. Did that actually lead to sales? Indirectly, yes, because I met somebody then who introduced me to somebody else, who I’ve not networked with and we’ve spoken about different clients. Anyway, it has led to it, but indirectly and not directly. Hau: That’s awesome. Tristan: Yeah. Hau: It’s funny how things work, because I think early on I felt a lot of pressure networking, because I was operating under the pretense that you’re supposed to pass out business cards and out of so many business cards you might hit one sale. I think that there was a lot of pressure if you try to close the deal in the traditional sense, but I’m now finding out… Anthony: You might as well… Hau: Go ahead. Anthony: You might as well take a box of engagement rings with you and just keep asking people until one of them decides to marry you. Hau: Tristan, what’s your thought on networking? Tristan: I think I’ve taken it from a different point of view. It may be a younger person’s thing or something. I find myself being very social, social media and stuff, or just that sense of reaching out, because you’re working with technical people and it’s good to reach out to other people or just learn new things. I feel moving to consultancy definitely benefited from all those connections I’d made, the thinking of doing it for four or five years before that, just sort of local user groups, and conferences, and different pieces, just going and just adding people as friends, and growing that. Things take a long time. My advice to other people and the learning that I took from doing it myself is when you are doing consulting and doing the networking sort of thing, or even cold outreach to different clients, meetings and things you’ve had, they may pay off in the short term but usually it will take an average of six months or maybe even a year or more before the things will pay back off. People don’t usually have an instant need for a project, or a thing, or something else, and most of the referrals I’ve actually got are friends of friends. That’s the thing that I value. You talk to a person at a meet-up, they’ll then think of you when they’re talking another time and bring the lead back to you. Hau: Awesome. Anthony: Yeah, that’s exactly it. I’d agree with that, Tristan, is that they will think of you because there is some angle, something they felt that you understood and that probably nobody else in the world understands. I think Pat McKenzie, pattyo11 his name is online, I think he says he belonged to an elite group of one. That really comes back down to my point of talking your way out of a job. Really, that seems almost sneaky and seems counterproductive, but in fact what you’re doing is you’re eliminating your fear. You’re focusing on the value, and what you’re doing is you’re trying to say, “Let us really, really focus, let us really hone in on the problem that we’re trying to solve here,” and then your pricing, and then your confidence, it all sort of comes together that I’m willing to say, “This is what I do, this is what I don’t do, are we actually a good fit? Do you really need this done? Why do you really need it done? I really want to understand, even better than you do, I want you to articulate for yourself what problem we’re solving here.” It’s been extremely liberating and extremely effective. I had even just a one-hour session with somebody on the phone yesterday, and it was easily the best amount of networking I’ve done in a month. Hau: Wow. That sounds like a great topic for another podcast. If I could somehow tie all this together, it sounds like maybe this is something a lot of the listeners can relate to. In terms of confidence, whether it’s approaching a new client with a pricing sheet or reaching out to new folks at a networking event, it sounds like confidence is the underlying theme here. I think, Anthony, you mentioned this before, and it was a great quote. The first person you have to convince is yourself, in terms of your value, in terms of what you can bring to the table. Is that right? Anthony: Yeah, very much. Look, we’ll post also in the show notes a video from Brennan Dunn, the founder of, and we’re all members of that. Brennan speaks about impostor syndrome, and having that confidence to charge really some amazing … It’s not big-noting yourself, it’s saying, “Look, even in spite of my lack of confidence, I can tell you the value for your business and that’s why I’m willing to charge this much.” Hau: Tristan, is that something similar to what you discovered once you transitioned from say the developer technical person speaking to the client but now you’ve elevated yourself to the business project manager role? Have you found that also to help in terms of reaching out to new customers or at least proposing pricing to these customers? Tristan: I think, yeah, going back to the point from a little bit earlier, just having that. I’ve raised my own personal confidence by having employees, even though in a sort of small scale, that I know I’ve got capacity, I’ve got an understanding of what’s going on. Then that concept of if you are the best target market of one, it’s because you’ve niched down. If you can niche down in your own self, you can have a confidence, you’re repeating a pattern, and you’re showing that the value is the best that you can offer. That’s certainly given me a sort of personal confidence to have these conversations with people, because I know the end result I’m looking for, I know the yes or the confirmation at the end of the conversation I’m looking for, and therefore I know where I can go with pricing that to get out the other side with success for them. Hau: Yeah, that’s awesome. I think it’s incredible how although the three of us work in three different capacities and different technologies, we’re still dealing and we’re still working through the same issues and challenges that other folks who haven’t been on the consulting side or are at least thinking to move from full-time employment to consulting, that’s something they have to work through also. I think that’s great. Thank you for sharing with us. Tristan: We’re all putting our businessman hats on. We’re all becoming businessmen. We’re not technical specialists, we’re meeting the customer and the client on their playing field, as we are fellow business people that can offer this skill. We have a product that we’re selling, but we’re meeting them on their side. Anthony: Yeah, that’s exactly right, Tristan. When I as a technical person wanted to jump into, “Well, I suppose I better learn something new technical, where the world is going now.” I’ve stopped doing that and I’m now focusing on the business side, and it’s been extremely valuable, liberating, and good for the client, good for myself, everything. We’ve covered a lot today, haven’t we? It’s been a wonderful topic. Are we going to tell our listeners that we basically picked this topic with about a minute to go? Tristan: Well, it’s obviously dear to our hearts. Hau: Yes, exactly, and I think this is a great way to end the show on a great note, the fact that once you make that transition to yourself, the mindset shift, the opportunities unlock and you’re no longer racing and chasing with other competitors to the bottom of the pricing well. Thank you for sharing your thoughts, guys. I really appreciate it. Anthony: Thank you, Hau. Tristan: Yeah, thanks very much. The post 007: Networking To Understand Business Challenges with Anthony English and Tristan Bailey appeared first on Summerlin
June 25, 2016
In a follow-up to his article, Anthony walk us through the 2 must-have components in your IT disaster recovery plan. The post 006: Disaster Recovery w/ Anthony English appeared first on Summerlin
June 21, 2016
There’s a growing interest in Predictive Analytics in the Enterprise space so I reached out to an innovator in this field. In this episode of the “Experts and Influencers”, I speak to Gauthier Vasseur, Vice President of Trufa (a cloud application company) and Teacher at Stanford University about Predictive Analytics. Specifically, what is predictive analytics and how does it play a role in improving a company’s bottom line. Gauthier not only explains the concept but shares a lot of information on where you can learn more on this emerging topic. I certainly learned a lot in the short time that we spoke and I hope you enjoy this conversation. Here’s my discussion with Gauthier. Resources Mentioned What Drives Your Performance: Stats and Entropy: Guenther’s Blog: Useful website: Nate Silver: Connect with Gauthier LinkedIn: Twitter: Transcript Hau: Gauthier, welcome to the podcast. Can you please tell us about yourself? Gauthier: Yes, absolutely. Good morning and afternoon everyone. For the topic of today, if I were to describe myself, I would probably give you three words, data sharing, surfing and astronomy. Hau: Surfing and astronomy. Gauthier: Yes, which I put together concatenated. Data first, I think that’s probably what brought me here today is the passion I have for data. It’s really not a passion that was born with this whole craze about big data, it was before. I think days from my younger stay with my dad who was this statistician and engineer and who rapidly showed to me how data was helping him in his daily job. How simulation and statistics made from data would dramatically enhance the way he was making decisions. Ever since, I’ve always looked for data in my jobs, whether it was finance, treasury or audit. I rapidly found out that when you master data, when you know how to process it properly and efficiently, you gain a lot of time. You actually get on top of things faster. You get more comfortable, which gives you the ability to do more and progress in your life and in your career. Data is definitely a part that defines my professional career. The second word was sharing and that’s something also that came pretty quickly, as I started to recruit people back in my finance days and more recently in my software days. I realized that very few students interns or young professional knew about data. The last thing I wanted is to see them wasting their timing on useless tasks, manual tasks. I really thought that this has to be changed. I started to teach, I started to write articles, I started to share about all the things I had learned on data to make sure my employees, my interns, my students would be able to take it from there and then spread the gospel in turn. You might wonder at this stage why surfing and astronomy come into play. I think they are a big drive for me because I love my job. I’ve always liked my job. I’ve been pretty lucky about that but still I want to find time to do my other passions. I get my butt kicked in the waves and that takes four hours, five hours out of my weekend. If I want to go out there in the mountains doing some astro-photography, that’s going to take a whole night. Processing the pictures is going to take probably another six to eight hours. Where do I find the time? The only way I can find that time is to be faster, more efficient, more in control of what I’m doing during the day and mastering data, learning from my students and teaching back et cetera, really enable me to save that time, to be able wrap up my days faster, hence these two passions that are really for me drivers to keep on learning about data and in return sharing more about data. Hau: Got you. You actually hit on a lot of good points. I still have to go back to that surfing and the astronomy because I have a model of the silver surfer on my desk right now. If you read comic books. Gauthier: I love comic books. Hau: [inaudible 00:04:19] throughout the cosmos. What you brought up is really interesting, you are not only teaching and working in the data space but you are also applying that to your personal life when you mentioned that to make room or make space for your other activities and interests, you have to find ways to work faster or get the work done in a more timely fashion, right? Gauthier: Absolutely. I would add one element to that is, it was not on purpose but maybe that’s the way I’m wired. Whether it’s data, surfing, astronomy, astro-photography. All these disciplines are journey, you never see the end of them, there is always something you can learn, you can do better. There is always a new technique that you are looking forward to mastering. I think that’s all the people I’ve seen around me being successful at data or astro-photography, all know they are on the journey and they never stopped learning. That’s why I was very happy to participate to this webcast because I think it’s part of this continuous learning we all have to do on this stuff to doing more or getting better with data. Hau: Thank you for making your time. Speaking of learning. I know a lot of folks in SAP SPACE, they saw a customer looking backwards in terms of what data and what things happened. It takes them a while to process the information, package it so they can make sense out of it. When you talk about learning. There is a new, I would say, how do I put it? There is a new interest in predicting future actions based on past events. That’s where you talk a lot about predictive analytics. For the folks who’ve been in this space similar to me fifteen years or more, where you are still used to the old ways of doing things, the old way of packaging data. How does predictive analytics fit into this journey of moving forward to the future with new tools and memory computing, how do we adapt to this new way of consuming and packaging data? Gauthier: Actually, talking about the journey, that’s another page you described right there that is being open. Does this mean that predictive analytics is brand new? Absolutely not, it’s been around for centuries, except that tools and processing means were much weaker. Right now they’ve become accessible to business teams. Finally, we can achieve what science used to do for research. We can achieve that for domains such as accounts receivable, for domains such as stock analysis. If we go back a little bit, predictive analytics always sounds like a big buzz word. Overall it doesn’t have to be that complex. I think you hit it pretty well is, it’s basically taking past and present element pieces of insights and being able to derive prediction and you can leave it at that. The thing is, these predictions, the way they bring value is, as you consistently create this prediction, you’ll find out that they will beat your hunches. They will be better than the crystal ball. You’ll find out that even if they don’t have to be perfectly right, they will always be slightly better than anything you have. Predictive analytics for me is both math and statistics and it’s also an approach to solving problems that if applied consistently will end up being positive overall. Something that, I usually explain it this way to my student using actually an example in a great book, The Signal and the Noise by Nick Silver. Which really shows that predictive analytics are a game changer. They can be a matter of life and death actually in the example I’m going to mention. At the same time they are not magical, it’s not looking in the future, it’s taking the best we have, and the best math and statistics to predict something. The example that Nick Silver brings up is predicting where a hurricane is going to hit. We know there are a lot of hurricanes in the Mexican gulf hitting Texas, Florida. Twenty years ago, the prediction level was pretty much a 350 miles radius, which means, whenever a hurricane was coming up the coast, the local authorities had a 350, miles radius margin of area to evacuate. At the end of the day if you take your favorite map and you look at how much that radius is. It will pretty much cover the entire coast from Texas all the way to Florida. Which means any time a hurricane would hit, you’d say, “Evacuate all these coastlines,” which are millions and millions of people. With a better predictive tool you can say, you can predict accuracy at a hundred mile radius, which still sucks a little a hundred miles, come on. Guess what? A hundred miles radius narrows down the number of people, the zone to evacuate to a big metropolitan area. We are not talking about entire state coastlines. We are talking about large cities. That completely changes the game in how to evacuate people and work two focused resources in order to prevent big disasters. That’s the lesson we learn from weather forecasting and all the sciences. Predictive analysis is giving organization the ability not to have a crystal ball but to make decisions always be better than pure random or pure get feeling and that’s what pays off in the long run. Hau: It sounds like you hit on two really important points with your last answer. For folks like myself who are not as familiar with predictive. The buzz term predictive analytics. The connotation at least in me is a black box that triggers scenes from minority report, where there are trying to see into the future. The way you described it as math and statistics is less scary, is more concrete, is more grounded in science. The takeaway that I’ve had from you is, even though it’s not a perfect guess or estimation of the future, you are really connecting the dots to making more accurate, what’s a better word for prediction? Gauthier: More robust. Hau: More robust plan for action in case events like the hurricane happens, right? Gauthier: Absolutely. Hau: Taking that into the business realm, what are the common business challenges or business questions that a tool like a predictive tool can help answer? Because a lot of the clients I work with, they have tons and tons of data. We are talking about twenty five, fifty million data record points. How does a predictive tool help them to see one month, three months into the future for mundane tasks such as demand planning or forecasting? Gauthier: Before hitting that very point, one thing that needs to happen from zero to getting this prediction. There are a few things that need to take place and they should not be underestimated. To build these predictive models, companies are going to need tremendous amounts of data and not the aggregating kind. They need it at the lowest granular level, with every single little detail. That’s what statistical model we’ll use to derive this prediction. You mentioned earlier the notion of black box. I think for all of us, the different steps are quite simple but there is indeed within this other creation of this prediction. There is a bit of heavy duty science that is brought in. That’s why we all dream of doing predictive analytics. Unless we are PhD mathematicians, we might find ourselves a bit short. That’s why pieces of software, that’s why software is there is willing to help us. That’s why applications are designed. If you look at, you have an SAP, ERP, how far are you from getting predictive analytics? You are going to have to go through a series of simple steps that you may or may not be able to do. The first one is gather the data. You need to secure that data because you need a sample to generate your predictions from. Once you have your data you need to be able to articulate this information in meaningful business format because stat is stat but data is data. If you don’t know what the data means, statistics won’t know much more than you do. You need to get the business being the business orientation to that data and then apply the statistic correctly on the data. It means you need to set up your statistics so that they comprehend what it’s all about. This is where the black box really comes in. There is a very specific. We talked about the data but business data has some very strange specificities and you need to use robust statistics and this is a great pickup line if you want to shine at business dinners. The concept of maximum entropy. These are concepts you need to apply to your predictive models so that outliers in your business data don’t influence too much so that the results of the prediction can really be reliable. That is the layer of black-boxing you absolutely need to have in statistics. At the end of the day, we all agree, this is terrific to predict demand, to predict machine breaks down, inventory level, but you still need the people to be able to understand that data and interact with it. There is a need for strong UI, strong graphical capabilities to make all that work. Hau: I know, one of the strengths with SAP, at least on the, business warehouse side of things is that it comes I would say prepackaged with generic solutions that they can get or at least use or get up and running fairly quickly. Does a predictive tool like Trufa bridge that gap for business users who don’t have a PhD in statistics to at least apply some rudimentary models against that data? Gauthier: Yes, and I think more than bridges the gap. It addresses the problem and creates the solution. Basically the like that SAP ERP companies have is that their ERP has captured every single bit of data at the transactional level, which means you have the most complete transactional readers that you could have. Once you have that, then we can go back to simple concepts. All it takes is pick that data up, bring it to a place where it’s going to be organized, where every data is going to be interpreted the way it should be. Every piece of information is going to be put part of a process of the transactional process. Then you let the calculation power, the math power, the statistical power get started and you display all this in a UI, a user experience that guides any one of us, business people through different steps where you are pointed to opportunities, you are guided through simulation and then you can really predict what your actions will create in terms of economic impact. Actually and that goes into your earlier question about the biggest challenges. The biggest challenges we saw. I think predictive analysis is already a big challenge. The reason why I joined this company is we are actually pushing it one notch further to a concept that we call the efficient business frontier. If you recall decades ago, the concept of the efficient frontier was created in the world of stock management, investment management, where for a given risk you would assess how much yield you could have. The frontier would be actually the perfect curve where you have the maximum yield for the minimum risk. If you’ll be under the curve it would mean, you have a risk for given risk, you don’t yield as much as you could. That line would be the efficient frontier. That line exists in business, it’s called the efficient business frontier. What it shows you is that you can strike balance between all the drivers that define performance. To give you an example, a very classic one. Actually I’ve run into that very case when I was in treasury and I could never solve it. You want to reduce working capital. You are going to see what impacts working capital. You are going to look at rebates, you are going to look at yelling at your customers, yelling at your vendors, you might change your operational processes. You would see result in working capital. Now you flip the page and you look at profitability and you realize that everything you did, just hindered, just hurt your profitability. Rebates have taken down revenue. Pushing customers have done great in quality of service and they are not renewing their commitments. Pressing vendors has degraded the quality of the pieces you are being served. At the end of the day you push on one side of the scale and the other side went the other way. By identifying and measuring the impact of these drivers when they move, where there is some profitability or working capital. By doing it on both sides, you can define that efficient business frontier. I think that is the ultimate challenge in predictive analytics. Hau: I think in about twenty minutes you just got me really excited about what predictive is. Open the can a little bit to see what’s actually happening behind the scenes? All the things that you pointed to, it sounds, like you said not a magic bullet but it does give a forward perspective on what you can do without spending too much time building and testing models to see if it works. I think for those of us who now have a renewed interest in finding more about predictive analytics. Where can we find more information or innovations with that you are doing with predictive and where can we learn more about what the tool has to offer for business users who are just trying to maximize working capital, either in the treasury or at least in the space I’m interested in, logistics and supply chain? Gauthier: I could give you a few pointers, on the fun side, there is a great website called This website is a treasure of daily life examples of predictive analytics, whether it’s for election, whether it’s for NBA games, it’s full of easy to read, easy to grasp predictive analytics. is a great resource. The book I mentioned earlier The Signal and the Noise by Nick Silver is also a very easy read, perfect for the beach and gives you tons of great stories that will make you look good at dinners. On a more serious standpoint, talking about what I do, definitely the website, website also contains many examples on how predictive analytics and the concept of efficient business frontier applies to organizations. There are actually a couple of pages I love a lot. One is Guenther’s blog. Guenther Tolkmit is our chief delivery officer. He is the developer behind the machine. He has a great way of explaining how this changes the world. I love his tone. Very European German tone, ready to ruffle feathers and I think that’s the way things should be in that space. If you have a little bit more courage but still very easy read, two great papers from our chief scientist, Professor Andreas Mielke about maximum entropy and the concept of robust statistics. Just the first page will really illuminate you on how simple the base concepts of predictive analytics can be. Then on the second page how heavy duty mathematics it’s all about. That also tells you that, these things are great but let’s not forget, this is serious math. If it’s not as part of the integrated application, get ready for a lot of fun with some PhDs. The last thing I would definitely offer and this is really sincere and sometimes it surprises my students. I’m always up for a coffee, I’m always up for a call and say, “How come you have time?” I want to have that time. The last resource is just through you or directly, just connect with me. Contact me and let’s have a chat. I am passionate about what I study, I’m passionate about the domain and I’m also passionate about learning how other people address these issues. For me, it’s part of this journey I described at the very beginning of this interview. It’s a never ending journey of learning, sharing and I’ll be always happy to discover new opinions and new domains on calls like this. Hau: Gauthier, I want to say thank you for freely sharing all your knowledge. I know those resources will be added to the show notes. Personally I would take up you offer on the coffee just because I grew up in the Bay Area and I visit my parents at least once a year to say hi. Gauthier: That’d be okay. Hau: I might be stopping by. With that, I want to say thank you and we’ll talk to you in a future podcast hopefully. Gauthier: That would be with pleasure. Thank you for having me. Hau: Thank you again. The post 005: Behind The Predictive Analytics Curtain w/ Gauthier Vasseur appeared first on Summerlin
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