Institute for Digital Business

Study Tour Silicon Valley: Digital Tapas on a sharing table – Day 3

November 21, 2019

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Reporting from the Silicon Valley Study Tour for the CAS Digital Leadership to San Francisco with Gert Christen are Claudia Roth and Andreas Glaus.

Started off the day in a neighborhood café with a hipster touch and delicate roast blends. After a looong day travelling the Valley yesterday, we were glad to be off to a later start today. Taking a quiet minute, came to the realization that what we are doing here is really a sharing table of mental “tapas”. Brief, curated insights shared with others, just as we shared plates of food over the last few days. Whereas we tend to chew down on our own plate back home, here we are freely sharing food, thoughts and experiences. And they are rendered all the richer through it.

So, in the following, we will share todays Tapas sampled. And convey share a flavor of the experience hopefully:

Tapa #1: design, client collaboration and the new face of Big Four

Tapa number one served today was a visit to Ernst&Young’s Wavespace in downtown San Francisco. Tiago Baccarelli Justino, the designer in residence readily admitted that he does not visually fit in with what you’d expect someone at a Big Four firm to look like. A firm made famous for its suited and booted auditors now shows up in lumberjacks? There’s still hope…

Wavespace was purposely created outside of the firm’s four main service lines. It has a distinctly different culture to support collaborative thinking, designing and innovating with clients. They engage in what Tiago called Participatory Design. This involves a diverse crowd of participants and different perspectives to solve a problem. Wavespace is also very much a global offering, the San Francisco space just being one of many around the world. Hosts leading workshops are however a similar mix of skills in design and analytics and a talent for facilitation obviously.

Working with big clients like Boeing, Corteva or Merck, workshops are conducted with a varying number and mix of participants. But they always follow the scan-focus-act formula. As a first step, scan for problems, cast the net wide for solutions and ideas from other industries that can be repurposed. Second, focus on the key things that need to be achieved in the workshop. Lastly, act upon the solutions designed. Tiago highlighted that that’s usually where the client and other third party take over, after all, E&Y is not quite a product design firm (yet?).

E&Y Wavespace

Tapa #2: data lakes, data protection and the trade-off between governance and agility

Using data smartly is a major competitive factor for companies in any industry now. However, use and protection of data emerging from cloud-based technology and stored in data lakes produces unique challenges. Besides the ease of accessing and using the data, there is also a justified interest in protecting confidential data.

Amandeep Khurana, CEO of Okera, put a bold statement out there, that governance and agility can be complimentary. Oftentimes there is a conflict between compliance teams and teams keen to use data as broadly as possible. Here Okera’s technology looks to come in and manage policy at scale. Granular level access rights or data obfuscation are examples of tactics combined to protect data. More recently, differential privacy is applied, which applies algorithms to dynamically change data points at random. When data is accessed unauthorizedly, the attacker can’t be sure which data point is real, which is a randomized “fake”.

A few use cases where quicker access to segmented data drove concrete business improvement were presented. Personalized workout suggestions or a protecting large amounts of client data in a bank were cited. A challenge posted back to the founder was to refine the pitch to speak to a less “techie” audience and be understood. A compliance officer with their mind then put at ease is a great asset finally…


Tapa #3: sunshine in the park, putting it out there and refining ideas

An afternoon out in Dolores park in the funky Mission district, that’s an appetizing tapa after content packed time indoors. Gert came armed with bags filled with picknick blankets, post its and choc bars. And of course a plan to get us into thinking gear again, design thinking gear to be precise. In small teams we ventured out onto the grass and started shaping our ideas.

DioM was the name of the game, or “do it on Monday”. Sketch and share three ideas is how it begins. Then share it with the team present. They in turn ask questions and add to your thoughts. Gert reminded us to skip the usual “but…. (… it doesn’t work…)” and say “yes, and…”. Coming up and phrasing three ideas felt sort of awkward at first. Suppress impulse to want to be perfectly polished and entirely realistic and it flows a bit more easily…

Half the group then changes to another blanket, now having cut down the ideas from 3 to 2. The new group adds new inputs and it gets easier. At the final blanket and down to one idea, more polishing work. It is quite amazing how, within a short space of time and with the input of just a few (friendly and positive in this case) listeners, an idea starts to take more shape. Both personal and professional project ideas came out of it and will be presented on Friday. An amazing afternoon thinking, shaping ideas and becoming at ease putting yourself out there with less than perfect stuff.

Oh yes and of course the last step in “do it on Monday” is to put the idea in action next Monday! We’ll hold each other accountable…

Park - Design Thinking


Tapa #4: fried chicken, product management and turning your customer crazy obsessed

Evening events with actual tapas – yay! Yelp’s HQ immediately impressed with an art deco lobby, free pin badges and a dinner spread. Insights on how to improve customer retention shared in front of a crowd of product managers. Make your customer obsessed, a key message for intro. Like in crazy, stalker, ceaselessly singing your praises, swinging your product around on Youtube, hugging your product in bed type of obsessed? No worries, as long as it keeps them buying s…loads of your product, never mind. Actually, you just hit the jackpot … Oh yes, and always start with step one, another tip heard tonight. And – surprise, surprise – you can’t make profits if you keep losing customers. Well, how about if you replace them faster than you lose them? PS: long days don’t necessarily increase customer retention. Customer sarcasm very much so, though…

On a more serious note, some interesting take-aways were the need to experiment with small, frequent changes and use granular data to figure out what elements work, which don’t. Reiterated a message that successful digital native companies do very frequent incremental releases to include customer feedback in product development continuously.

As with any spread, at some point you are full. Maybe that was the case with us… But really, many truisms tonight. Still, the fried chicken was pretty good!

Yelp -Productmanagement

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