Digital Champions Club 2021 Scholarship Launch

The Digital Champions Club community is excited to be launching our scholarship program for 2021. If you work for an Australian based Not-for-Profit or other values-driven organisation and wanting help in using technology to maximise your impact, then please register for our launch event going down on Thursday 1st October.

This event will give both prospective champions and sponsors a chance to find out more about the program and the scholarship process as well as ask questions from existing scholarship recipients.

Download the 2021 Scholarship Information

Scholarship applications open on the 1st October and run through until the 31st of October. If you’re interested in applying we encourage you to start the ball rolling earlier rather than later as applicants will need the support of their CEO before applying

To make it easier for potential applicants, we’ve created an information pack that can be sent to your inbox, printed (if necessary), and shared with potential sponsors and other stakeholders.

Finally, if you don’t work for a suitable organisation but you know someone who does, I encourage you to forward this email on or use the share buttons below to help spread the word.

Let’s get this message out to the people who deserve it the most! 

Scaffolding Digital Projects

In my last post I talked about the legacy of Zoom and how, suddenly, most of our customers, suppliers and colleagues are feeling quite au fait with video conferencing. But, as I pointed out, Zoom is just one step in the journey of video. Once your organisation has mastered Zoom there are so many other, bigger, and more valuable video-driven opportunities to consider. But what are these opportunities and how do we get there?

Let’s look at this in two parts. First, I’d like to give you an example of a bigger opportunity. Second, we’ll talk a little about how we can build towards it.

So first, here’s a concrete example of a ‘sophisticated’ video project I was recently involved in.

A couple of weeks back I was involved in the delivery of an online event with the crew from Pirate TV (Dave and Mykel Dixon) for RCSA (the Recruitment and Casual Staffing Association of Australia and New Zealand). ‘ReForm’ was a live streamed online event that attracted nearly 500 (paid) attendees, 25 presenters and over five hours of live content (approximately 10% of the content was prerecorded). Although it’s challenging to quantify the value of marketing and promotion, it’s likely the event created more than $100,000 in value between ticket sales and sponsorship opportunities.

But how do you go from a Zoom call to delivering a $100,000 event? The answer is scaffolding.

In no particular order these are the other projects that the Pirate TV team have previously delivered to build the skills and knowledge required for the ReForm event.

  • Videoconferencing internally (Zoom)Videoconferencing with clients
  • Recording our own promotional videos
  • Recording promotional videos for clients
  • Setting up a personal studio
  • Setting up a studio for clients
  • Designing and running own events
  • Designing and running events for clients
  • Designing and running an online event
  • Designing and running own conference (physical)
  • Designing and running a conference for a client (physical)
  • Hosting our own events
  • Hosting events for clients
  • Speaking at client events
  • Live-streaming own physical events
  • Running a distributed online event for ourselves
  • Running a distributed online event for clients
  • Producing a TV show for ourselves
  • Running ReForm

A couple of things to note. First, I didn’t do all these projects myself, some were done by the other members of Pirate TV. Second, most of these were done before COVID. In fact, the only projects that we delivered entirely after COVID were the last four – running distributed online events for ourselves and others (where all the speakers and production crew are in different physical locations), producing a TV show for ourselves and then we ran ReForm.

In many cases, the next project was only incrementally more difficult than the one before. Even still, I imagine this list might feel a little overwhelming. But before you lose heart, the truth is, the ~$100,000 value of ReForm is DWARFED by the value that was generated in getting there. The power of scaffolding is that you don’t need to wait until the end to create value, you can create value along the way. In fact, the power of scaffolding is that you get paid to learn. Each project not only delivers value, it delivers learning and the learning then illuminates the path ahead.


If you want help in scaffolding your video projects in a way that can deliver immediate value, arrange a time to talk about the Digital Champions Club…and if you’d rather just jump to the end and want to deliver an extraordinary online event but without all the time and effort, please get in touch to discuss Pirate TV.

Zoom’s legacy

As social isolation restrictions start to ease across Australia, there are many who are looking forward to getting back to the office…or perhaps more accurately, getting out of the house. There has been much talk about the impact of Zoom (or Teams/Skype/Meet if your organisation is otherwise inclined) on how we work. Most recently, that talk has turned to Zoom fatigue. The feeling that we are all Zoomed out and looking forward to meeting people ‘face to face’ again…or perhaps more accurately ‘body to body’ (as Zoom does faces quite well).

But before we collectively throw away our webcams and relegate our virtual backgrounds to the bin (Mac) or recycling (Windows) let us pause for a moment and consider the legacy that Zoom will leave.
Over the last couple of months everyone has suddenly become very comfortable with videoconferencing. They’ve done it because COVID-19 required flexibility in terms of where people can work from, but its legacy will be much greater than that. Organisations are realising that apart from flexibility, videoconferencing can dramatically reduce travel cost. This is less evident when we talk about getting coworkers together when we could have used the meeting room down the hall but incredibly evident when we think about meeting with geographically dispersed customers or running training workshops for a sales team.

Zoom’s adoption might have been driven by a need for flexibility but its legacy for organisations will be reduced cost, better customer service, and more timely conversations (there is also the potential for a positive legacy for employees, the ability to work remotely and yet still maintain the ability to effectively communicate and collaborate has meant improved work life balance and greater autonomy).

So far, most organisations have been happy to deliver an MVP-Q (Minimum Viable Production Quality) when it comes to videoconferencing. This can be excused because of the operational scramble of the last few weeks, but don’t confuse a proof of concept with the final product. If your business wants to tap into the huge lead generation and cost saving opportunities that videoconferencing can deliver, they will need to lift their game. We have all been inundated with low quality Zoom webinars (I spoke to one colleague who is currently getting 20 invitations a week) and organisations are going to have to get good quickly if they want to stand out.

And if you want to get good at video quickly, you might be interested in the Digital Champions Club. We’ve helped a bunch of organisations get self sufficient in video building the in-house capability for high quality video conferencing, webinars, live training events and content marketing. If that sounds interesting you should get in touch.

Your IT team’s most embarrassing statistic

On Wednesday I sat in on a round table discussion with some of Australia’s top CIOs at ADAPT’s CIO Edge event. Hosted by VMWare, the event started with one of their directors, Andrew Fox, sharing the following statistic:

  • 95% of IT people think they provide employees with the digital tools they need to be successful in their job
  • Only 58% of their employees agree

The problem here isn’t that people can’t always get the latest, shiniest new tech. The problem here is that one group of people think they’ve done their job…and yet the people they serve think they clearly haven’t.

So how can this be so? How can it be that there is such a disconnect? Well I dug up the research report this statistic came from. In it I found another, more embarrassing statistic:

  • 83% of IT people think they give employees a voice when it comes to which digital technologies they can use at work
  • Only 36% of employees agree

WHAT?

First, why don’t 100% of IT people feel they give people a voice? You would think that the person doing the job they’re paid to do would be well qualified to provide input on what tools they need to do it.

Second, if you’re wondering why IT isn’t treated like partners in the business, it’s because close to two thirds of people don’t think you listen. The basis of any partnership, or any meaningful relationship is communication.

Unfortunately, as I sat in this round table I noted there was almost a complete lack of embarrassment on the faces of these CIOs. Even though half of them were statistically doing worse than the figures noted above.

The problem here doesn’t lie with IT people, it lies with the way IT people get trained and developed. As pointed out by Julia Steel at the same event, IT people get trained in cables and code, not in how to have effective conversations. And perhaps a decade ago that was acceptable. The IT people did the IT and the operational people did what they were told. But we now live in a world where employees are more tech savvy than ever and job mobility is at an all time high. Now if you don’t give people the tech they need they leave (or don’t take a job with you in the first place).

It’s no longer enough for IT people to be technically competent. The ability to communicate and collaborate with end users and the ability to work in a team needs to be part of every modern IT person’s skill set.

If they aren’t teaching these skills at university (and a quick review of current IT degrees suggests they aren’t) then this needs to be a priority for the people running IT in every organisation.

Regardless of the size of the business, people need to be able to influence the technology they get.

Three ways technology can help grow your business

It’s no accident that small and medium sized businesses are investing in digital technology. Research by Xero shows businesses who spend the most on technology grow 3x faster than those that spend the least.

These are the three benefits of technology that can help you grow your business:

1. Technology drives productivity. As the production line drove down the cost of making cars, digital is driving down the cost of doing business. Information is the lifeblood of any organisation. It is how we know who is doing what work, for whom and by when. Digital technology streamlines information flows by making it easier to edit, copy, move, use and share.

This means more work can get done faster without increasing the workforce. This drives down costs, improves competitiveness and increases profitability.

2. Technology improves quality and service. Do you remember when you used to wonder if your taxi would come? And now you use Uber. As a general rule people like to get a) what they asked for and b) as soon as possible.

As well as streamlining, digital also means you need to automate information flows. This allows for a more timely, customised, and consistent customer experience. And a better customer experience is key to attracting more customers.

3. Technology means better decisions. We would all agree that more informed decisions are almost always better decisions. And making good business decisions is instrumental in driving growth. Unfortunately, collating all the information you need to make a good decision has a cost. The harder it is to find and analyse the data you need, the less likely you are to do it.

As pointed out above, digital information is easy and fast to edit, copy, move, use, and share. This means business owners can bring together the information they need, when they need it to make smart decisions that will drive growth.

What other ways have you used technology to drive growth in your business?

How small changes create big value

In 2008, UPS upgraded its routing software to discourage drivers from turning right across traffic (or left in the US). It was a small change that created massive savings in time, fuel, car accidents and money. In fact, UPS estimates this one change saves them more than $300 million per year.

You might not run a courier business or invest as much in technology as UPS but the same principles still apply. Using technology, small changes can create big improvements in efficiency and service quality.

Through the Digital Champions Club (DCC) we help growing businesses use a ‘small changes’ mindset to take their technology to the next level. And each quarter a small number of guests get to come and experience the program first hand. The next opportunity is on Friday, March 6 in Melbourne.

“The hardest part was making it think more like a driver and less like a computer.”
– Jack Levis, UPS Senior Director of Process Management.

You do not have to be a technology expert to join the DCC. We support both business people to get technology and technology people to get business.

If 2020 is the year you want to move your business from an ad-hoc to systematised approach to technology please get in touch.

And the 2020 Digital Champions Club Scholarship winners are…

Each year the Digital Champions Club offers three 12-month scholarships to amazing organisations doing wonderful things in the community. This years winners are…

…drum roll please…

FirstChance, a Newcastle based not-for-profit who provides early intervention and support for children with disabilities or developmental delay, and their families.

and

Campbell Page, a national not-for-profit who provides employment support and services to people struggling to find and keep long term jobs.

We are incredibly excited to have both these wonderful organisations join the program in 2020.

You might have picked up that there were three scholarships but only two winners. Although we hoped to award three scholarships we couldn’t. Unfortunately we didn’t have a third applicant that measured up to our expectations in terms of preparation and commitment. And it’s what you say no to that ultimately determines success.

Which leads us on to this week’s blog.

The value of doing one thing well.

A year or so ago we did a bit of DIY around our house, one of the jobs on the list was repainting our staircase. We went and got the undercoat, the paint, brushes, and drop sheets and one weekend we started painting. Like with most jobs you do the easy bits first. On the first day we started with the undercoat, we painted the treads and the uprights but didn’t get around to cutting in around fittings and the bits close to the wall.

On the second day, well actually, we haven’t got to the second day yet. Our half painted stairs have sat in the same state for the last 12 months. We haven’t found time to finish the undercoat and we found out that the top coat needs four days without use to fully cure. We keep meaning to do it right before we go away for a weekend but then we get busy and it gets postponed until next time.

But have we really not had the time? Since starting the staircase we’ve managed to complete a whole bunch of other jobs around the house. We’ve gardened, weeded, moved bedrooms around, moved other furniture around, washed walls, cleaned gutters, put up shelves, washed windows, and moved more furniture (yes there is a pattern).

The world is full of half completed and poorly implemented projects because we’d rather find new easy things to do than finish the hard things in front of us.

For members of the Digital Champions Club there is rarely a shortage of improvements they could make, but if we try to do them all at the same time we won’t do any of them well. We will eventually succumb to human nature and stop doing the hard work that’s needed to finish projects. And unlike my half painted stairs that are still usable (just not very attractive) a half completed technology project has very little use at all.

That’s why we teach Champions to only take on two projects at a time and push back if they want to start a new one before the old ones are complete. There is far more value in doing one thing well than doing multiple things badly…just as there’s value in being able to heed your own advice.

The Paradox of Growth

Alongside profitability, growth is seen as a cornerstone of organisational success. Growth implies market fit — it indicates that the world wants more of what you do. Growth is generally seen as a desirable objective for CEOs and business leaders but there is an underlying paradox to business growth: the more you grow the harder it becomes to grow.

Initially, growth makes things easier. Organisations gain certain benefits as they scale (sometimes referred to as economies of scale). For example, materials can be bought cheaper, machinery and people can be better used, and overhead costs such as rent and utilities can be spread across greater output. All these factors serve to lower the cost of doing work, which in turn makes an organisation more competitive and, as a result, improves profitability.

These benefits generally kick in quickly but then slowly dissipate (you might get a 20% discount if you double an order but you don’t get a 40% discount if you quadruple it). On the other hand, the challenges of growth start slowly but then rise rapidly. These challenges (sometimes referred to as diseconomies of scale) include maintaining communication as an organisation grows, the problems of coordinating the work of more people, more layers of management and slower decision making, and the need for more reporting, checks and balances to ensure the right work is being done in the right way.

Research suggests that as organisations grow, they reach a tipping point where complexity starts growing faster than revenue which leads to decreasing productivity, falling profits, overworked employees, and growing frustration for business owners. Eventually, they reach a point where the cost is greater than what people will pay and there is no point in the organisation growing further.

Unless…

…it can push out the point where things get harder. Obviously some organisations grow very big and very profitable, but they don’t achieve this using the same systems and processes they used when they were small. If an organisation wants to grow to its full potential it will eventually need to rethink how it does its work. Key to this renewal is bringing in the technology solutions that automate, simplify, and streamline work, allowing for further growth without increased headcount and the complexity and challenges it brings with it.

Ideally, this isn’t done when everything is already broken but done on a continual basis. Rather than identifying and fixing the things that are already broken, a continuous approach allows organisations to prepare in advance for the processes and tools they might need in the future. Perhaps the biggest challenges for growing organisations is finding the time and resources to do this proactively. This can be a real challenge when people are already feeling stretched, but committing the time up front is almost always less costly than dealing with the consequences later.

If your organisation is experiencing growing pains and you want to do something about it, consider the benefits of joining The Digital Champions Club, a community of practice that shows you all the tools you need to leverage growth through better technology use.

How complexity kills communication

The network effect is generally seen positively. It refers to the idea that as a network gets bigger it becomes more valuable.

The value of owning the first fax machine is effectively zero because there is no one to send a fax to. But add a second fax machine and there are two faxes that can now be sent (A to B and B to A).  Add a third and it goes up to six, add a fourth and it increases to 12. By the time you add a fifth fax machine there are 20 different faxing possibilities. Buying a fax machine when there is already a large network of fax machines is far more valuable than buying the first. The value of the network grows as it gets bigger.

But there is a flip side  to the network effect. As networks grow in size and complexity, maintaining communication and coordinating activity becomes harder. If we were to frame this in terms of business, by the time you reach the status of ‘medium sized business’ and hire your 20th member of staff, you have created the potential for 380 different one on one interactions within your organisation. This means that for every message that is sent there are 379 opportunities for another message to conflict with yours.

Complexity grows exponentially as your business grows and as complexity increases communication suffers. That’s why we end up spending so much time in email and (often pointless) meetings. Research by organisations such as McKinseys and Harvard Business School indicate that in larger organisations, less than 45% of the average employee’s time is spent doing the work that matters to customers.

The rule of three and 10

Hiroshi Mikitani, the CEO of Japanese online retail giant Rakuten, came up with a rule that elegantly captures the challenge of growth. The rule of three and 10 simply stated is ‘Every time a company triples in size – Everything breaks’.

The processes and systems that work well for a sole operator won’t suit a team of three. What works for a team of three will be ultimately unsuitable for a team of 10, and if that team of 10 grows to 30 everything will break again.

Although the organisation only got three times bigger, at each point it becomes 10 times more complex and difficult to manage. This means that as the organisation grows, each member of staff spends more time managing (or being managed) and less time doing the work that matters.

The digital advantage

Thankfully, just as the industrial revolution created new ways to scale production, the digital revolution is creating solutions to address these information challenges.

The digital revolution is a broad shift away from people using predominantly analogue technologies such as pens, paper, typewriters and Australia Post to using Information Technologies such as apps, tablets, keyboards and email.

These Information Technologies, or I.T., have three distinct advantages over analogue technologies in terms of speed (information can be shared faster), cost (common processes can be automated), and accuracy (information is less likely to be misunderstood).

Put another way, digital is the antidote to things that are either slow, expensive or potentially wrong. All of which are considerable barriers to future growth.

If you represent a Not-for-Profit or values-driven business dealing with the challenges of growth, you might be interested in applying for the 2020 Digital Champions Club scholarships. The Digital Champions Club is where I help SMEs find and implement digital solutions to growth problems. If you don’t represent one of these types of organisations you might be interested in checking out the program anyway.

Altruism is dead. Long live altruism.

There’s not a lot I remember from my first year of university but one thing that stuck is our inability to prove altruism. Altruism is the idea we could do something that is completely selfless. Yet when we act selflessly there is almost always a potential benefit that flows back to us, whether it be reputation, respect or just the release of brain chemicals that make us feel good about ourselves.

I most recently experienced this at an event I was speaking at last week in Vietnam. The Genesys CX Leaders Council event had C Suite executives fly in from across the Asia Pacific region to share stories and ideas on how to create great customer experience. Yet the whole afternoon on the first day of the event was spent working on community based CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) activities. These activities had delegates either constructing play equipment and painting at a nearby children’s community centre or building bicycles to be donated to a local charity that supported children saved from human trafficking. Participating in these activities felt great and provided a nice change from the normal ‘action packed’ conferences I speak at.

Although their generosity is not to be understated, it is also true that Genesys doesn’t run these activities for completely altruistic reasons. These activities provide delegates the chance to talk and build relationships in a way that most conferences don’t provide. In doing so, they provide the opportunity for more open and valuable business conversations to take place, which in turn resulted in value to delegates. The value to delegates ultimately reflects well on Genesys who enabled all this to take place. Although perhaps not intended to be altruistic, Genesys’s approach highlights that we can do well by doing good.

A little closer to home, I have seen a similar pattern play out with the Digital Champions Club scholarships we launched last year. Initially intended as a way of providing help and support to Not-For-Profits and other values-driven organisations, the scholarships have also resulted in significant benefit to the rest of the digital champions community. I think the whole community has wanted to see the scholarships recipients succeed and in turn the recipients have sought to provide value and energy back to the community. Without a doubt, the energy and culture within the program is the best it’s ever been.

Applications for the 2020 scholarships open next week and I’d encourage you to help out deserving organisations by sharing this with your network. Not for altruistic reasons obviously, but because we are all selfish, self-centred scoundrels who only do things that benefit ourselves.

Now click share and feel that oxytocin hit kick in!

Get your copy of the 2020 Scholarship Information Pack by signing up at www.digitalchampionsclub.com.au/scholarship and learn more details to guide you through your application process.