Leading a Digital Revolution

“We all get the exact same 365 days. The only difference is what we do with them.” —Hillary DePiano 

Cheers to 2020! 

 
We are all on a personal journey with lessons to be learned, challenges to be overcome and joys to be remembered. I find this time of year brimming with reflections and ideas about next year. 2020 starts pretty soon, as a little kid, I used to think how far away 2020 was and now here we are. My better self has been looking forward to this for a long time. 

I feel the beginning of resonance, both personally and professionally. But let me opine briefly about Tahzoo for a moment. We are built on an idea that the customer experience should improve dramatically, that technology should be an enabler to better experience and not a crushing quest for efficiency that robs consumers of their joy. How you spend your money and who you spend your money with is one of the most quintessential of human experiences. Think about all of the cities built around a town square and market. There has been a marriage between commerce and community since we became civilized.  
 
Our mission is to improve the customer experience, to build the connections between community and commerce that are the moral equivalent of the market square in the 21st century. Amazon has built an unbelievably efficient distribution engine, it’s really awesome, but recommendations alone don’t make a town square. Our challenge as a company is to figure out how do we use all the technology at our disposal to humanize the customer experience. What is super exciting to me is that the technology is more like a canvas than a set of interstitial building blocks. 

We can now actually design experiences with interaction models that customers will find pleasing and personalized. Tahzoo is a company full of great builders, in 2020 we will become great designers too. It’s all coming together, technology, data, and design to create the company I envisioned 10 years ago. 
 
So, no matter what you’re doing at Tahzoo, remember your job is to make the customer experience better. Every interaction between our client and their customer should feel like opening a present. We are the company that will lead this revolution.  
 
Let’s go be great! 
Brad 

Cinematic Design

We just wrapped up a day of video shooting for the new Tahzoo website and internal training. By all accounts, it was a very well-orchestrated and produced event, special thanks to Don Low and Bryan Fitch. It seemed a fitting conclusion to the week and in advance of my Desk of Brad this week, as I am writing about Cinematic Design. Our Experience Design Practice is grounded in a cinematic approach. It’s an approach that is unique to Tahzoo and separates us from all of the design firms that we compete with on a regular basis.

I am sure you’re asking, ‘What is Cinematic Design?’. It’s a philosophy, a methodology, and a series of techniques to guide the consumption of content. Just as a great movie director frames a shot so that you know where to look when you’re watching the movie, the cinematic design is about shaping the navigation and presentation of content so that you automatically know what to do. It’s about ‘less is more’, it’s about centering your eye on the content, and making the next step in the process obvious. It’s thinking more about the personalized experience and less about making every option available.

In contrast to the current approach to UX in which every navigational choice is made possible, the cinematic design is about creating individual journeys through content, applying contextual awareness, and the form factor in mind. Think of it as curated navigation – storytelling in a visual context. When the page opens, or the application loads on your phone, where should your eye go first? How will you know what to do next?

There is a great book called “The Design of Everyday Things” by Don Norman. It’s a fantastic read on how great design is not only aesthetically pleasing but it also informs you about how to operate a device. Think of the fixtures in a shower – it should look great, but you should also be able to easily figure out how to create the right temperature. As someone who has stayed in a lot of different hotels, there is nothing more frustrating than having to figure out how to make the shower work. A website is no different – the design and the operation of the site should be elegant.

In our case, we are tailoring an experience for each person. With dynamic navigation and menuing, cinematic design becomes even more important. We have to create ways of exploring content that are particularly pleasing and relevant. Many of the concepts developed over the last hundred years of filmmaking apply rather nicely to the design approach.

There’s a great video entitled, “David Fincher Hijacks Your Eyes”. Please take a moment to watch the video… You’ll really enjoy it and in turn, hopefully, have a better understanding of why some filmmakers give you the feeling of being in the scene and not just a spectator of the big screen – watch it here. Our approach to Cinematic design follows similar precepts; we create immersive digital experiences through visual storytelling. Even if you’re just on the site to order coffee, you should feel in the moment as the story and the experience is personally directed towards you. Over the next few weeks, Don and Bryan will be presenting our approach in more detail.

Let’s go be great!
Brad

The Experience Effect

The Experience Effect is changing how we do business. This is where Tahzoo comes in. No longer does one-size-fits-all content suffice. Today’s leading businesses need to consider everything they do in terms of “The Experience.” This goes for every company I know. If you make three-dimensional products; good for you, but that product is an experience. Look to the iPhone for inspiration, it’s as much an experience as a phone. If you provide a service, even better.

We live in a service economy. Services are experiences, too. Technology has allowed us the privilege of learning what our customers want, need, and desire and we can use that information and some pretty remarkable technologies to meet them on their terms. We can speak to them in their language and we can treat them to experiences they really care about. This is what the customer experience is meant to be.

For you and me as individuals, the Experience Effect means we will increasingly define our experience by our ability to share them with our families, with our friends, and with the world. For the businesses of the world, the Experience Economy will mean understanding that no matter what product or service we deliver, we are ultimately delivering an experience, some make that experience something different, something memorable. And lastly, companies must be honest and truthful about the experiences they create. Only when experiences are sharable, different, and authentic can they truly transcend.

The Experience Economy is real and it is changing the world. It has already altered every business on the planet and it will continue to do. Now, more than ever, the quality of what we experience is more valuable than the quantity of what we own.

Let’s use that knowledge—and this moment in time—to make millions of people happy.

Brad

Digital Asset Management or a CMS

“Action is the foundational key to all success.” – Pablo Picasso 

Most content management systems are designed to manage websites and web pages, not content. The reason we bet the company on SDL Tridion is that it was a component-based approach for delivering a web experience and it had a decoupled architecture, ensuring that it would be scalable. Really, when you look at the underlying premise of SDL Tridion, it’s an XML publishing engine. The genius behind this approach now – and 20 years since it was first developed – is that customer experience isn’t just delivered on websites anymore. 
 
Over the last 10 years, software vendors have been pushing CMS’ as content management solutions, which clearly, they are not… like I said earlier, they are website management tools. Hence the rise in Digital Asset Management solutions in the last few years. As we move to unified customer experience across many channels of interaction, creating, curating, and publishing the content becomes the central concern. 
 
Companies have now spent the better part of the last decade trying to solve these and other marketing-related problems with their CMS vendor of choice. We are now seeing the effects of failed implementations or situations in which the software company over-promised the capability of the software. Clients are looking to Tahzoo to provide a solution to this situation. I hope you’ve all seen the Tahzoo Content Hub slides, it’s the integration of the CMS for publishing, the DAM for managing content, the PIM for managing product information all tied to an e-commerce scenario or a personalization engine. 
 
So, what does this mean for Tahzoo? The CMS marketing is declining and quickly, the refresh cycle for these systems is extending from 3 to 5 years out to 5 to 7 years. The DAM market will be exploding over the next couple of years. Most of our clients do not have a rationalized approach to asset management and certainly have don’t have a reference architecture for implementing a content hub. We are extremely well-positioned to take advantage of the changing marketplace. Our partnerships SDL, ADAM, and Aprimo align us with market-leading software products that are going to lead this next iteration of the enterprise marketing platform. 
 
So, what does this mean for each of you? New technologies to master, new paradigms to learn, and a focus on becoming a better consultant. Everyone needs to concern themselves with being billable, and the best way to do that is to be skilled in multiple technologies. We are going to invest in a lot of training over the next couple of years to ensure we are riding the top of the wave. Kevin and his team are working on a technical reference architecture that we can leverage to deliver on our brand promise to help our clients deliver contextually appropriate and personalized experiences at scale.   
 
Let’s go be great, 
Brad

Transforming Experiences

When we started the company, our tagline was ‘Driven by Big Ideas’…

As I mentioned earlier, we live in a time of unparalleled change and opportunity. The signs of economic turmoil are ever-present, and it’s because the way in which business is conducted is changing. Over the course of history, during these transitions, companies that established themselves as a force for change and as the instrument of change have shaped the world.

I aspire to work for a company and be part of a team that changes the world. For whatever reason, I can’t and won’t rest until I’ve accomplished this… The problem I aspire to solve is changing the way business is conducted.

We live in a time in which the rise of mega-corporations, consumerism, and technology have sterilized and dehumanized the interactions between people and companies. My dad still goes to the bank to get cash rather than an ATM, and when I ask him about this, he explains that he likes to see his ‘friends’ at the bank, and then rattles off the names of all the tellers in the bank. To be clear, I don’t see us returning to some 1950’s style world in which everyone purchases from the neighborhood store… the efficiencies of globalization are too compelling to be ignored. I do see how Gabi is friends with the UPS man who delivers goods purchased online every day… we’re still able to have humanity in how we buy and sell.

We are currently working on personalization strategies; I never saw this as an endpoint – only the beginning of how we transform the customer experience. Let’s aspire to build a company that brings some humanity, some relevancy, and some good old fashion customer service to how people buy and sell goods. For me, it’s an obligation and moral imperative that we work hard to make the world a better place.

Let’s go be great,

Brad

The Culture of Experience

The culture of customer experience is upon us… although very nascent, while there have been a few companies grounded in customer service over the last 20 years they are outliers and not the norm. Most large companies are organized to serve themselves while providing a service or product to the market. Typically, one part of the organization is dedicated to the customer in the context of sales or marketing.

In the customer experience economy, the entire organization needs to be designed to serve customers and deliver a shareable experience. It must be understood throughout the organization the real value of a consumer spending their money and time interacting with a brand. I used to say that all companies are becoming publishers whether they wanted to or not because the competition and the way that all purchasing has become considered sales cycle was going to force the issue. However, I think that we are now seeing with the proliferation of connections between people and the speed of communication through technology that all companies are now experience providers.

For many years the experience, the interaction, was managed by a division within a Fortune 500 company who looked at the in-store, in-branch, or in-restaurant experience and created something that was visually appealing, memorable, pleasant, and efficient. The design, well-executed, helped consumers know where to stand in line, where to get help, or look for specific products. It was staffed with friendly people who could naturally fill in the missing details or connections but most importantly provide a personalized experience or build a personal rapport with the consumer. They made the intuitively inefficient and efficient experience; if the design wasn’t quite right the personal connection filled the gaps.

As technology has replaced many of these branches, stores, and human touchpoints, in part because it’s more cost-effective, in part because the speed of the transaction or the convenience for the consumer held sway. Large companies have inarticulately made an effort to increase the number of touchpoints or tackle the gaps in service as a series of technology and marketing projects. As with all transformations, a serialized and interstitial set of projects never provide the harmony and richness of the experience a consumer demands. Often times when I hear large companies speak about their digital transformation or customer experience projects they feel like how a symphony would be written by a series of committees each focused on the instrument they play.

It is the whole experience, in all its dimensions that need to be addressed. For a large company, this is an almost achievable amount of organizational alignment required in a short period of time. Most companies have been built over decades and the organizational division, operating principals, and culture cannot be rewired overnight. As with most disruption triggered by technology, the initial innovation is obtuse but with great promise. So while the value is well understood, the adoption model follows a standard distribution curve, the early adopters take a leap of faith, and when the point of leverage to value is understood the majority steps in. In some cases, the adoption curve can be accelerated when “killer” applications can be applied.

In the case of digital transformation, the killer application is personalization. Delivering experience in context, that is relevant and personalized is the key to moving an organization forward. In the case of customer experience and within the experience economy, the accelerant is the ability of large organizations to deliver personalized or contextualized experiences. While it may take a decade or more for a Fortune 500 company to reorganize, we can deliver value today through a more personalized experience.

As expected, the organizational changes that will take time to work their way through a company that spent decades building for and organizing around 20th-century models can recognize immediate value by through technology recreating the front line staff that helped clients find what they needed, answered questions and most importantly build a sense of intimacy between a consumer and brand.

Digital Innovation

I spoke this week at the Digital Innovation Summit in Utrecht. It was a wonderful event with over 100 attendees, including customers, prospects, and partners. My speech focused on the experience economy and how the quality and shareability of experience is a hallmark of good marketing. In the experience economy, it’s not about how much you have but how good you have it!

There are many examples of companies like Uber and Airbnb that are not only delivering exceptional technology-enabled solutions, they are also leveraging underutilized assets in innovative ways. My charge to the marketers in the audience was that they need to focus on individualized experiences and brand interactions that can be easily shared.

On my blog www.letsgobegreat.com there is a short paper that I wrote if you’re interested in having a more detailed overview of my hypothesis. I continue to focus on more public speaking engagements, building our social network, and providing more thought leadership around the experience economy and digital marketing. We are building the marketing engine across the company with a particular emphasis on partner outreach and geographically authentic experiences.

Thanks to Jen Adamski-Torres for getting up at the crack of dawn to live tweet some sketches that linked to my speech. Check them out on Twitter if you are interested.

Let’s Get Social!

“What would you do if you believed you only had a few minutes to live? Don’t look back. Don’t be afraid. Don’t give up. Don’t Look Down.”       
-Sir Richard Branson 

Getting Social: Share and Share Alike  

 
I’ve been talking a lot recently about The Experience Economy my perspective on how I think the world of business has shifted over recent years from one of consumption to one based on experience. That is, doing things is much more important than owning stuff. As I say, it no longer matters how many goods you have; it matters how good you have it. 
 
As a leader in digital transformation, Tahzoo is at the forefront of all of this change. We are continually helping our clients, even the oldest of old-school ones, reimagine their businesses as experiences rather than as collections of products and services. 
 
One of the key drivers of this shift has been the proliferation of social/mobile media, but, more to the point, it’s about sharing. With Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Snapchat I could go on and on our ability to share our experiences with our friends, family and the world has driven our need for bigger, better, more distinctive experiences. How many times have you seen blurry images of someone’s latest meal roll across your Facebook newsfeed? People want to share what they are doing with their lives. 
 
To that end, I would love for everyone at Tahzoo to become more social. (Speaking both digitally and personally, of course.)  
 
I’m planning to get more social with increased attention to my twitter feed and a new Tahzoo Instagram account, where I can post images from my travels to all those great Tahzoo locations around the world. I would love it if those of you with Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn accounts would friend, follow, or connect with me and Tahzoo’s growing number of social entities. I will do the same for you if I don’t already. 
 
I’m likewise proud to announce the launch of letsgobegreat.com my new personal blog and the addition of Desk of Brad to the Tahzoo website. Through these social channels, I can muse about the topics that are most important to me (and, by extension, Tahzoo). This means core values, things I’ve learned along the way, experiences that have shaped me and my thinking, and, of course, lots of talk of technology and personalization and how they are reshaping business. 
 
Linking In 


I would also appreciate it if, in your LinkedIn profiles, you would use some of our branded language to describe Tahzoo and what we do: 


“Tahzoo is the company of smart and happy people who are passionate about personalizing the relationships between brands and their customers. We are one of the largest and fastest-growing customer experience (CX) agencies in the world. ” 
 
Also and this is really important if you have personal blogs or websites, it is especially helpful if you could crosslink to the Tahzoo website and to posts on our blogs. As you know, search engines and especially Google highly value crosslinks from other websites in their algorithms and it would help build some valuable search equity to get these efforts off on the right foot. It would also be a big boost for Tahzoo’s social standing as a thought leader. The more we share with and about each other, the better we all do. 
 
Here are some valuable social handles and addresses to add your lists of likes and follows. 
Twitter:    @brad_heidemann         @tahzoo 
Facebook:    Tahzoo 
LinkedIn:     Tahzoo 
Instagram:     @tahzoosocial 
Tahzoo blog:     http://blog.tahzoo.com 
Let’s Go Be Great! blog: letsgobegreat.com 
Desk of Brad blog: deskofbrad.tahzoo.com 
 
Let’s go be (socially) great! 
 
Brad 

Our Mission

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed 
by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. 
So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. 
Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”               
– Mark Twain 

Our Inspiration, Our Values, Our Mission… 

This is the last of my three-part return to the three things that drive Tahzoo to be great. Our Inspiration. Our Values. And today. 
 
Our Mission 
 
As I mentioned in previous emails, we are in a time of change, business is fundamentally changing. It is during such periods of transition that companies who are forces for change come to shape the world. 
 
IBM (International Business Machines) led the world with the practical application of mainframe computing. For a long time, they have been one of the largest and most powerful technology companies in the world. Early on, they recognized the impact that technology could have not just on science, but also on business hence the name. It was this understanding that drove the company to greatness and, while they’ve had challenges over the years, they are still leading the market through innovation. 
 
During the late fifties and sixties another technology, television, hit the market. TV led to the creation of many large and powerful companies. In particular, Madison Avenue was a product of, more than anything, television. 
 
Advertising agencies, recognizing the power of a mass-market medium like TV, and understanding how to use the technology, created lasting strategic advantages for their clients. The ads they created are now part of our collective conscience Madison Avenue has shaped the world we live in. 
 
Now, we’ve entered a new time. The rise of mega-corporations, consumerism, and technology have sterilized and dehumanized the interactions between people and companies. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the way Madison Avenue has applied mass marketing principals to the digital experience. We hold Amazon and Netflix in great esteem because they can suggest products that other people have been interested in and we call that great user experience. 
 
Tahzoo is founded on the idea that we can do better. 
 
My dad still goes to the bank to get cash rather, not the ATM. When I ask him why he explains that he likes to see his friends and then rattles off the names of all the tellers in the bank. An important part of the human experience is the connection with our community and between one another. From the beginning, humans have built marketplaces in the center of town so we could purchase from our favorite merchants, but also establish a sense of community and to fully participate in our culture. Unfortunately, the poor implementation of technology has diminished our culture and our communities. 
 
I don’t see us returning to some 1950s-style world in which everyone purchases from the neighborhood store the efficiencies of globalization are too compelling to be ignored. I do, however, see how Gabi is friends with the UPS man who every day delivers the many goods we’ve purchased online.  It’s good to see that we are still able to have humanity in how we buy and sell. Technology can create rich and meaningful interactions between consumers and companies. If Tahzoo can innovate and lead to a new and better way of doing business, we can shape and change the world. 
 
Tahzoo aspires to build a company that brings some humanity, some relevancy, and some good, old-fashion customer service back to how people buy and sell goods. 
 
That is our mission. 
 
Let’s go be great! 
Brad 

Our Inspiration

“All things are difficult before they are easy” – John Norley 

Our Inspiration, Our Values, Our Mission… 

In contemplating what to write about this week for the Desk of Brad, I was thinking back a few years and I recalled a three-part series I’d written back in 2012 called Our inspiration, our values, our mission. 
 
It’s always good to revisit such things from time to time. You can learn a lot about the true purpose of a company by examining how closely it still adheres to core principles years down the road. It’s a check and balance of one’s commitment to what one believes (or believed as the case may be).  Ideally, the ideas the bound the company together then will still apply today. In Tahzoo’s case, what I wrote four years ago is perhaps even stronger than it was then if that’s possible. That’s a good sign. I thought it would be worth updating and republishing all three pieces, which I plan to do over the next three weeks. 
 
This week, we return to part one: 
Our Inspiration 
 
Tahzoo is not just a job for me, it’s a labor of love. I have been fortunate to work for some great companies and I’ve seen the impact a great company can have on the world. My inspiration comes from seeing what a group of committed and determined people can accomplish. That’s why we started Tahzoo. 
 
We are in a time of unparalleled change and opportunity. Technology is recreating the way companies and their customers engage. We haven’t seen a time like this since the early 1950s with the advent of TV, well before any of us were born. During such periods of change, only a handful of companies rise to lead the way. Tahzoo is one of those companies. 
 
I think we all want to work for a company that is both inspirational to others and which inspires change in the way business is done. 
 
A business can be inspirational in many ways.  It might be in how we work together to tackle difficult and challenging problems. This means that we are a group of smart, happy people who proactively provide cutting-edge solutions to our customers. In return, we get to do meaningful and rewarding work. 
 
Tahzoo is inspirational in the sense that we inspire our clients to take actions that they might not otherwise have taken so that they can change the world. Often, that means our clients are betting their careers on our ability to deliver for them. That takes a lot of inspiration. 
 
In times of change, people need leadership. We are a company that provides such leadership. This is about caring enough about your clients to take the time to proactively solve their problems. 
 
Inspiration is a way of systematically exceeding our clients, each other’s, and even our own personal expectations. For each of us, this is a time to ask: what could we be doing for one another and our clients that makes a real difference in their business and in the world? 
 
I recognize that this may seem lofty or noble and, perhaps, beyond what you’d expect from most jobs. And you’re right. If you work for Tahzoo, you seek to be a part of something bigger than yourself, to be part of a community, and to work every day with a group of people who expect more of themselves and more of each other. 
 
I hope you decided to come to Tahzoo for precisely these opportunities, to work for a great company, and to inspire your colleagues and your clients with your thoughtfulness, innovation, and determination. 
 
Let’s go be great! 
Brad