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The Rope Team of a Product Manager

October 29, 2014

IMG_0810While I’m watching a parade of success stories at our 2014 Operational Review, here’s another guest post by Lynne Levy. I’m thankful Lynne is courageously answering my call for guest bloggers, so if you’re a Kronos customer, employee, or partner, please let me know if you want to blog! Lynne is our Director of Product Management in the Workforce Talent Acquisition organization and is passionate about building innovative products that engage the multi-generational workforce.

By Lynne Levy, MBA

While listening to a motivational speech by Erik Weihenmayer …..A key question he asked the audience resonated with me. “Who is your rope team?” Who is your team with whom you can walk into a storm, have complete trust, and together, have the courage to face adversity?

With a rope team, everyone has a different role, a different way to see the situation, and is tied together with a common vision. It’s these key elements along with trust the enables a rope team to walk into the storm. They are only successful when they work together, leveraging each other’s strengths in the group.

In the world of Product Management, who is the rope team? The most successful rope teams in my Product Management journey have been a wide range of stakeholders. They have included strategic customers, engineers, architects, services, sales, and support. Each member of the rope group gives a different perspective to the vision. In fact, it’s the rope group that can help you, as a product manager, both adjust the vision and make the vision real. It’s my various rope teams during my career that have helped shape an idea or a thought into a product. It’s the rope teams that have enabled me to look at a customer business challenge from a completely different angle, enabling the team to build a better product.

Many product managers are Type A personalities and love to be in control and lead the group. I initially struggled with working in collaborative groups (aka rope teams). However, after working with some amazing leaders over the years, I have learned the value of being a MEMBER of the rope team. I have learned that if one element of the rope is broken or falls, the entire group is impacted. Each element of your rope group is tied together and dependent on each other. There is no one formal leader in a rope group. Each member is interdependent with each other to solve the problem. As product managers, we need to embrace rope teams as the key to building successful products.

Who is your rope team?

A cautionary (services) tale from IBM

October 28, 2014

ibm think

Monday, October 20th was the 10th anniversary of the Boston Red Sox epic comeback win on the ALCS over the New York Yankees. The day didn’t get any better for New Yorkers at IBM’s NY headquarters as the company announced their 3rd quarter results:

  • Sales decreased 4%, the 10th consecutive quarter of flat or declining sales
  • Profits down sharply

Since a close of $182.05 on 10/15, the venerable IBM ticker is currently $161.89, a decline of 11%

The aftermath was telling.

During the company earnings conference call, Senior Vice President and CFO, Martin Schroeter said IBM would “remix its portfolio to target higher customer value,” and “accelerating the use of automation in our data centers and being more aggressive in our use of global delivery skills and intellectual property across our service lines.”

Huh? Not a word about people, although that seems to be a huge issue. Disengaged employees can’t provide a great service experience, and many industry pundits point to “the services problem” as the problem, and since many services are delivered by people, one financial analyst wrote:

“A stakeholder considering an investment – or a current stakeholder before reinvesting – should ask IBM to discuss, publish and benchmark its customer satisfaction and employee morale measurements.”

As the software industry races to the “as a service” model, the “service” may be more important than the “software,” and at Kronos, we’re focused on making both great. So when we receive customer satisfaction awards and recognition as a “Best Place to Work,” it’s no coincidence that Kronos “as a service” offerings continue to “grow exponentially.”

In his article, Mr. Robert X. Cringely put it simply for IBM and any other “as a service” provider:

“As goes Services, so goes the whole corporation.”

What do you want from life… and KronosWorks?

October 27, 2014

pokerBy now, many of our customers are dutifully studying and plotting their KronosWorks agenda, mapping out their assault on the Expo Hall, scheduling education workshops, and planning to document their every move via social media

No they’re not!

In reality, many of the 2,500 customer, partner and employee attendees are:

  • dutifully studying and plotting their Vegas agenda
  • mapping out their assault on the casinos
  • scheduling spectacular dinners
  • and planning to make sure their every move stays in Vegas!

This will be my 15th KronosWorks as an employee, although I won’t celebrate my 15th anniversary until April… Math is weird sometimes. Anyway, here are my tips for getting the most out of KronosWorks sessions and Vegas, baby!

KronosWorks is a great place to get some training, so check out our education workshops happening Mon, Tue and Wed.

Monday

  • If you’re a Workforce Central customer, and not on version 7, you should check out Workforce Central 7: Workforce Management Made Easier at 11:15 on Monday. Remember, it’s now 78% java-free!
  • Every year, Find Support Answers and More on the Kronos Customer Portal is a popular and highly-rated session. It’s Monday at 2:15.
  • At 3:15, 7 More Options to Drive an Optimized Kronos Solution will open your eyes on how to improve your Workforce Central system, and use it more effectively.
  • Monday night, dinners are by industry.

Tuesday

  • On Tuesday at 9, get a demo and your questions answered on Kronos KnowledgePass, our education portal.
  • Many time-slots have tough competition, and Tuesday at 10 is a toughie for me. I’m torn between Workforce Central Operational Reporting for the Business Analyst and The Affordable Care Act – Kronos Delivers. I guess it depends on whether you are a data geek or want to comply with the law…
  • At 11, definitely check out The Kronos Workforce Central Cloud: Ask the Experts. This panel Q&A was my idea, so although I don’t get a commission on it, go.
  • At 1:45, I’d do the double session, Roundtable: Change Doesn’t Have to Be Hard. The moderator is outstanding, and managing change applies to more than just your Kronos system.
  • At 7:00 on Tuesday is the big customer event that makes those Wednesday morning sessions so challenging.

Wednesday

  • At 8:45, Workforce Timekeeper Tips and Tricks for the New User is always popular. We also have T&T sessions for the “superuser,” IT administrator, plus a T&T session for Workforce HR/Payroll system administrators.
  • If your users aren’t really, um, using your system, then attend Increasing User Adoption to Maximize ROI at 9:45.
  • Finally, as you stagger toward the marathon finish line, finish strong with Integration: Ask the Experts. It’s a panel that will entertain questions and share tips on Workforce Integration Manager.

Now, for the tips you really want:

  • This should be the only tip I need to share, but the hottest band in the land plays the Hard Rock Café Casino on the 7th, 8th, and 12th. You’re welcome.
  • Sushi Samba in the Pallazzo Hotel should be experienced. You give the waiter a per-head budget, then tell him or her what you like and don’t like. The food then arrives in waves. Like tsunami waves of deliciousness. Don’t miss the sea bass.
  • Carnaval Court Bar & Grill – Just go.

Finally, I wish I could recommend the Bellagio Gallery of Fine Art, but it’s closed for renovations through November 14, 2014. Instead, save your pennies and dine at their fantastic Picasso restaurant. And yes, they have real Picasso works adorning the walls…

6 lasting images from Technology Services World

October 24, 2014

Before these get too far back in my rear view mirror, here are key learning’s for me from TSW:

Live Chat
Live chat can drive customer satisfaction and revenue. I just had an excellent chat experience with Build.com regarding a product return, and now I’m telling all of you about it. It was that good. Here’s what one presenter at TSW showed for the impact of live chat on their organization:

Chat

Electronic Performance Support

I love this, and hope it will someday be a part of all Kronos products. EPS provides product guidance when a user needs it, as they are using the product. Of course, I want ours to have ESP, and be able to predict when a user will have a problem, then provide guidance before they know they need it. Here’s a quick primer slide on EPS by ANCILE:

EPS

Thinking about Outcomes

Evolving to outcome-based services from a product/services approach requires a new way of thinking about solving customer problems. This slide captures the transition nicely:

Outcomes

EMC, EMC, EMC…

I continue to be amazed at their use of technology to enhance their customer experience. Recently, they revamped their public, partner, and employee online properties with fantastic results:

EMC online experience

Net Promoter Score is Dead

This was mentioned in the keynote by TSIA CEO, J.B. Wood. I missed it, of course, but in conversations with my co-workers, it’s not the idea of measuring customer loyalty that’s dead, but the fact that it’s a look-back. Today, service providers have to react real-time in solving customer issues, not later after a survey.

NPS is Dead

 

We’re #1!

But we should always think like #2. Tom Fishburne – Marketing Guru… Hmmm… Sounds familiar.

remain number 1

KronosWorks 2014… There’s an app for that!

October 23, 2014

IMG_20141022_165418A “Northeastah” is a helluva storm whether it’s rain or snow, but I prefer the liquid version. The one currently churning off Massachusetts made yesterday an interesting travel day:

  • 3:56pm departure from Las Vegas delayed to 5:45, but I did strike gold in the terminal!
  • That recalibrated our arrival time from 11:59pm to 1:41am.
  • JetBlue had issues with the toilets, and the TV’s weren’t working, but free Wi-Fi was!
  • Our landing in Boston wasn’t bad, in spite of 40 knot gusts…
  • …but we had to wait for a gate.
  • Then a baggage ramp broke, so baggage was delayed.
  • Hey, in spite of the downpour, I was in the garage… Um, check that. I was on the roof of the garage.
  • At 2:20am or so, the Mass Pike heading West from the airport was reduced to one lane… clogged with cars.
  • It was a slow slog home, but I made it safely at 3:30am…

kw 2014I’m doing the Vegas thing again for KronosWorks November 9-12, and apparently so are many of you! Right now we’re pushing 2,500 customers, partners, employees, and Adam Savages, an all-time high, so the app will get a workout, but you can start planning with it now. Just hit our download page and choose Android, iOS, or HTML5 to use it on a laptop.

Follow me and I will follow. Wow! They were young!

Take a look around to help your customers

October 22, 2014

IMG_0805It’s tough for me to focus when my brain is swirling like a smoothie in a blender, but that’s what Technology Services World has done to me. I’m learning about so many ways for Kronos to leverage the Nexus of Forces, or the 3rd platform, depending on whether you follow Gartner or IDC. I’m There are so many ways we, and other technology providers can improve the customer experience, and things are moving faster than ever. In one wonderful presentation, I learned to first understand the end business outcome the customer wants, then work backward from there to figure out how best to help them. Sessions on live chat and performance support blew me away, then I saw this slide in a session on learning communities… Then I had a Ferris Bueller moment. For organizations and individuals, this is so simple, but a key to maintaining and increasing our relevance:

“Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”

Trust in Your Team

October 21, 2014

Dan AhrensIt’s day 2 in Vegas for Technology Services World, so of course I woke up at 4:38… I think I’ll go to the gym while you enjoy this excellent guest blog by Dan Ahrens. Dan has been with Kronos and in the cloud for almost 3 years and is a manager responsible for customer relationship management. His team provides customer advocacy and ensures cloud customer satisfaction. Prior to coming to Kronos, Dan was on both sides of the table as both the guy buying and the guy selling software systems and support services. 

By Dan Ahrens

I had the privilege last week to attend the Kronos Global Sales Kick Off held this year in Atlanta, GA. While every Kronos event is fresh, exciting and invigorates me to push further to exceed previous bests, the keynote speaker this year motivated and challenged me more than anyone I could previously recall.

Erik TimeErik Weihenmayer spoke to our group of over 1,000 for an hour with no notes, teleprompter, PowerPoint slides or other visible assistance. Now for most of us, even those moderately comfortable with public speaking, this is more than we would choose to tackle, but this was not by choice. Erik is blind. He proceeded to amaze us with truly astonishing stories of accomplishment. Erik has climbed to the summit of Mt. Everest. Stop there. That alone is a feat completed by probably less than 1 in a million people. Ok, let’s continue. Erik has also climbed to the summit of the tallest mountain on all seven continents. Wow! As if that wasn’t enough, he has climbed rock faces that require an elite level of physical and technical ability, like Yosemite’s 3,000+ ft El Capitan (look it up, it will give you chills) and a number of other difficult ascents that would give even the most sure footed adventurer a nasty case of vertigo. Erik’s not done. Most recently he kayaked the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon which has some of the most treacherous, unpredictable, and deadly rapids in the world. Just in case you forgot, let me remind you: Erik is blind.

Erik explained to us how we can transform adversity into an opportunity for growth and greatness, and he pulled from his experiences to make an emotional connection and hopefully – light a spark of transformation in us. One of the things he credited with allowing him to achieve the seemingly impossible was trust. He didn’t just jump in a kayak and start paddling downstream on the Colorado; he had a trusted advisor and river guide that was paddling in a kayak behind him, talking to him via a specially designed waterproof headset to help him navigate the dangerous eddies, hidden rocks and other perils. On his climbs, he had trusted team mates who helped him compensate for a lack of sight by providing necessary details, instilling confidence, and keeping him pointed in the right direction. Even fellow climbers with perfect vision rely on experienced guides, like Everest’s Sherpas, to set the best way ahead.

How many times in life do we feel like we are blind? Not literally blind, but faced with a number of choices and no clear way forward. We find ourselves desperately seeking the ability to see beyond the fog, with a vision that allows one path to shine forth as the best. This is when we often turn to our team; our trusted advisors that we have chosen to help us navigate uncertain waters.

bm010710When it comes to workforce management (you knew I’d eventually have to steer it this way, right) many organizations feel blinded by the challenges and myriad of options ahead of them. Technology is moving faster than ever, presenting options never before conceived and all with potential for hidden dangers. Some get analysis paralysis and opt for the “safe” option of staying put, “camping out” with paper timekeeping practices or outdated information systems. At Kronos, we encourage employers everywhere to reach ahead, but that takes trust. Our sales team (and all the amazing folks that support them) helps organizations make sense of the options, guide them to solutions that make the most sense. Our services teams provide assurance and leadership, like seasoned Sherpas, guiding our customers through a successful implementation, while helping them avoid potential pitfalls that could keep them from reaching the summit of “go-live.” Our technical support and cloud professionals are ever present and available (they wear headsets, just not waterproof ones) to advise and guide through the changing waters of long-term ownership of the system, always doing their best to navigate customers on the path with least risk.

Erik couldn’t have done the great things he has achieved (and will achieve) without a team he can trust. Similarly, our customers need a Kronos team of people they can trust. So the next time a customer needs guidance taking the next step, or a fellow Kronite could use help with a challenge ahead of them, or someone in our personal lives is seeking guidance on a difficult decision, be there for them – guide, advise, lead, inform, encourage, motivate. Erik Weihenmayer is a shining example of what can be accomplished when we embrace the concept of trust and team.

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