Category Archives: Leadership

“The Digital Channel Is in Its Infancy” Interview with Can Kekevi, Managing Director at Accenture

Can Kekevi is Managing Director at Accenture, London.

Can Kekevi is Managing Director at Accenture, London.

Can is Managing Director at Accenture, based in London. He is also one of the judges at the European Call Centre and Customer Service Awards. During his 15 years in management consulting he came across many industries and companies. Personally, I have never worked with Can, but I met him back in the UK via some friends. For sure, I can say he is very smart and has some very good sense of humour. Originally from the Western part of Switzerland, Can also has some Turkish roots. 

Can, you are a member of the UK leadership team at Accenture. What does this mean? Are you a designated role model or a mentor to others?

We have maintained a spirit of partnership whereby all the Managing Directors (or what used to be Partners) own the firm and collectively look after its people, despite becoming a public company about 10 years ago. The MDs are responsible for running the company. Some MDs have more specific internal responsibilities to develop our people while others are more clients focussed. All MDs provide formal career mentoring and have usually a number of counselees (on average a ratio of 1 to 10). This formal model is complemented with more informal mentorship as well.

You are leading internal communities at Accenture? What type of communities are they?

Accenture is a service company where through our people, we provide solutions to our clients’ issues. In this context our people may have internal alignments based on their area of speciality (e.g. risk management, organisation design, marketing) and/or client alignment (i.e. the company they advise through a project). In both cases, these people represent communities of people doing something in common (i.e. specialising in a specific industry or functional area or working at the same client). In order to support the development of our people and ensure a sense of belonging for employee engagement, we have communities led by an MD. I myself lead our community of people at my client as well as internally all the consultants that are doing management consulting work in the Financial Service industry. These are activities usually alongside client work to ensure we apply stewardship to our people and help them develop.

What is the difference between such a community and a team?

Indeed communities at Accenture are groups of people with similar skill sets. It’s a community in the sense of “a group of people living together in one place” within the Accenture organisation. This is usually not client-facing and is either purely internal or related to a client engagement. We supplement this with “Community of Practice”, which is more virtual.

Which effect do these communities have on internal communication and employee engagement? 

The grouping into communities helps in many ways and I would say is essential in big organisations. Not only does it create a sense of belonging, but it also groups experts together. From a communication perspective it helps develop more targeted messages dedicated to each community. I have personally seen the positive effect on engagement of having people aligned in the community, they feel closest to: it increases their contributing. (Note: our people tend to support their communities in extra-curricular activities by organising events such as meetings, where project work is shared, or by providing input into regular newsletters.)

We know that strongly regulated industries, such as the financial industry or the pharmaceutical industry are not particularly leaders in adapting new marketing trends. They are also very cautious in their communications. From your point of view, Can, is digital marketing something banks should embrace?

With banks gradually recovering from the financial crisis, their focus moves from remediation and balance sheet deleveraging to growth. While still being cautious, banks will need to be innovative overall and in their marketing approach to grab either market share or share of wallet. In the UK, there are great examples of clever eye-catching marketing. For example, some banks have started embracing marketing to cleverly position their new products. Two notable examples are 1) Natwest and 2) Barclays. Natwest were the first bank to launch the iPhone mobile banking app and they came up with a clever advertisement whereby they argued that it was their smallest branch. Barclays on their other side, launched their PingIt service, which is a simple peer-to-peer payment application on a mobile app. Nothing innovative as PayPal had already launched something similar, however Barclays named it cleverly (PingIt) and marketed it well.

With regards to digital marketing (especially on a rich channel like the Internet with a lot of data points banks could use), there is more that can be done. The key to success in this space is how banks are going to leverage Big Data to create new revenue streams. The digital channel is in its infancy, even if it has been around for quite some time as it has evolved enormously with the different versions of HTML and web browsers. More capabilities can be added to it not only to support better marketing efforts, but also to sell and service customers in a tailored fashion.

You are one of the judges for the European Call Centre and Customer Service Award. Did you ever come across a company that improved its customer service through Social Media? Would you know of any leading example?

Many companies are using Social Media in a very limited fashion (whether it’s directly or indirectly). The direct usage is when companies respond directly to customer queries through their social media channel (e.g. Twitter, Facebook, Google+, …). This is important, but it’s just another channel that needs to be managed alongside the other ones to address the need of your customer base.

The power of Social Media usage comes when you start using it indirectly to listen and feed back into your marketing, customer service, product development, … What do people say that should be fed back into the different parts of your company? Social Media should be seen as more than just a channel. With the trillions of data exchanged across social media application, it’s a way to collect invaluable information to better understand customer needs and issues and fine-tune your customer service.

Otherwise, in terms of channel (especially in banking), most banks are gradually increasing their presence by using Social Media in a more transactional fashion. In banking for instance, we have the likes of CBA in Australia or Bradesco in Latin America providing Facebook transactional banking. Otherwise, DenizBank in Turkey provides Loan application via Twitter. So gradually banks are embracing Social Media as a channel, but I haven’t yet seen banks properly embracing Social Media beyond that. Given the regulated nature of the industry and also the need for more security to fight fraud, it’s not a channel that will be as widely used as in other industries, but it’s definitely being developed to cater for the customer segment that demands it.

Social Media is certainly much easier to apply for consultancies than eg. for strongly regulated companies, and actually ideal for these types of businesses. What is Accenture doing in this field?

I wouldn’t necessarily say it’s easier to apply for consultancies as it depends very much what you are trying to get out of social media. An important aspect for consultants is having the necessary tool to be able to collaborate easier and faster to bring our global collective insight and expertise to our clients. Therefore we do have internal social media collaboration tools such as Yammer, Stream, … to easily share information. Also, we do help our people publish information through blogging. The important thing for all this is to ensure that it supports the access to information to conduct client work. At the end, we can only be successful, if everything we have internally underpins outstanding client service delivery rather than using social media just for the sake of having it.

You already mentioned the challenge of “big data” and data is probably one of the cornerstones of a business consultancy – apart from its people. How does Accenture deal with the challenges of big data?

The Big Data concept is used in many situations and often loosely. It basically emerged with new technologies that allow companies to more easily store and manipulate non-structured data (e.g. machine generated data such as web logs or a contact centre conversation that is converted into text). This is as opposed to structured data that is reliant on a data model and often supported by a front-end application. The idea is to try to make sense of that information (e.g. monetise it somehow) without the need to invest heavily in trying to structure it. A good example is the creation of insight off the back of customer interactions with any of your channels. For example, if you could follow-up with your customer after that customer hovered for a few minutes on your website looking at a specific product because your website usually logs all that activity. Often that data is simply not leveraged.

What It Means When The Forecast Is Set To “Crowdstorm”

Everyone is on. Image by Carlos Lopez-Barillas.

Everyone is on. Image by Carlos Lopez-Barillas.

One of my first posts was about “the wisdom of the crowds”. Since I know I don’t know everything, I am a big believer in consulting others and picking their brains for inspiration or advice. Well, I don’t need to tell you that the social web offers endless possibilities on exchanging ideas. It’s called “crowdstorming”. Out of curiosity, I have done some research on how it works in some greater detail.

Crowdstorming is a mix of brainstorming and the use of the wisdom of crowds. It allows engaging many more people than in a real brainstorming session, as you can use a variety of online communities. Just like in a brainstorming meeting, you need a community and a “crowdstorm manager”, who manages and organizes the participants. These communities should have a certain relation to your business or product. Be it through experts that tend to engage on this community or future customers.

If you plan crowdstorming for a new product, you should be very specific and clear on what you want. Don’t talk business jargon that no one understands, but engage people and offer them to be part of a smart crowd, where they can contribute to and gain recognition for their ideas.

According to the authors Shaun Abrahamson, Peter Ryder and Bastian Unterberg, who wrote the book “crowd storm”, there are four reasons why people engage on a crowdstorm:

  1. It might either be for altruistic reasons, because they want to feel good about it.
  2. Or they are seeking attention as a form of a reward.
  3. Money is obviously another way of motivation
  4. or they just do it for the sheer experience they have on your crowdstorming platform.

Fundamentally, crowdstorming comprises of five stages:

1. Awareness of your crowdstorming needs. Ensure proof of credibility or ask your involved employees to participate as “messengers”. People are bound to want evidence that you are serious about turning their ideas into reality.

2. Consideration and evaluation. Ask the questions you want to get answered, and offer incentives to people for their participation.

3. Participation (engage people by voting for ideas or by competing for prizes). During this stage the crowdstorming manager (or various crowdstorming managers, depending on the size) builds different groups for each idea that materializes out of all individual ideas. This way, you bring your crowd storming into the next phase.

4. Experience (develop and evaluate the results): This is the difficult stage, where you have to pick the ideas you want to follow-up on. Here’s a hint: If ideas have been proven to be good through positive feedback from community members, they are likely to set of in your target market, too.

5. Advocate: Keep your crowdstorm community alive. These people are valuable product advocates for your launch. They are – naturally – keen influencers of the ideas or products they have co-created.

Surely, managing your crowdstorm community is the biggest of all tasks and the most time consuming work. Having said this, it is crucial for your project to structure it well, interact with individuals and master the overall communication well. The better you succeed in that, the more valuable are your gains.

And your experiences with crowdstorms? Have you managed one already or participated? What did you like, what worked, what didn’t? What have been the biggest challenges and what was the outcome?

Want to know more? Read on at:

Marketing Crime Series: Is Your Marketing not Converting? – Crime #1: Structure

Sherlock Holmes

Being Sherlock Holmes on marketing crime scenes

In one of my last posts I promised to share with you some of my experiences as a Marketing Consultant. So here we go. Welcome to crime #1 from a series of four of typical crimes that companies committed and still commit. As a result, these crimes prevented marketing departments from performing to expectations, let alone achieving any conversion rates.

Back in the UK, I was hired as a Marketing Consultant by a British mid-sized IT company that had huge problems. The biggest problem, next to employee engagement and continuity, was identity and sluggish sales. Curious though, the market was ready and the company offering was very innovative and competitive. However, no matter what their sales people did, how hard they tried, they only had little success.

People were coming and going

It took me many conversations with different employees and observations, until I found out why. They simply had entirely different views on what their company was all about and what they sold. Many of them were fairly new to the company, since others had been laid off. People were coming and going. “Very strange”, I thought, and felt like Sherlock Holmes just without my Doctor Watson. I had to question the management for further investigations. Very quickly, I realized they had the same disagreements about their business.

I found the dead body

Okay, they needed someone to give them a sharp, competitive profile. So I did, based on all the interviews I had done. I also developed a marketing strategy and drew up a plan on how to deliver it. After a couple of weeks, I realized, nothing happened. Not even a single decision. After more investigations, I worked out that – even though they hired me to help them – marketing had no stake in this company. No one believed in it. I don’t think all my predecessors did such a bad job. I started investigating again. And then, I found the dead body that stirred up all the problems. The lack in feedback and decisions for all marketing aspects had just one crime scene: The management board. On this board you could find all functions represented. Apart from anyone from marketing. The guy responsible for sales was also a COO and had an IT background. He believed in trainings called “The Samurai” and in number or word plays as the key to sales success. But marketing was as foreign for him, as IT was for me. Hence, no one on the board really presented the marketing point of view. No voice, no decisions, no solutions.

Once the crime scene was secured and studied, the lack in structure could be sorted quickly with a matching job profile for the management board.

Companies aren’t successful if there is a gap

Well, it is a fact: leading brand focused companies are marketing-centered. Their marketeers are close to top management and help them shaping their business strategy, develop brand strategies and enable the company to follow their vision. Some of these companies have even introduced the long time missing CMO position among their chiefs in recent years. They had realized, too, companies aren’t successful, if there is a gap between the management board and the marketing department. However, they must be analytical and strategic thinking. If they have good business acumen and are entrepreneurial driven, with a solid understanding of the market, the clients and the competitors, these marketeers are valuable consultants at the top. And you? Would you agree to that?

“Many Woman Make Good Mentors” Interview with Ann Bonner on Leadership

Ann Bonner, Director at PFB Recruitment

Today, I spoke to Ann Bonner, Director at PFB Recruitment about leadership. She has worked successfully in leading marketing roles. I have known her for many years now, and have secretly been watching and admiring her on her successful collaborations and networking abilities, even in very challenging environments. Many people, including me, have learned from her leadership and mentoring abilities.

Ann, from your experience as a successful woman in leading marketing roles – what are the most distinctive characteristics that make “real leaders”, meaning “charismatic role models”?

In my experience, I was always motivated by leaders who were honest, had the ability to communicate clearly and succinctly and there was a mutual trust in the relationship. One will always be inspired and motivated by a leader to lead by example, does not discriminate, empowers, listens, encourages and recognises successes.

Do you think, engaging leaders are natural talents or rather that everyone can be a leader?

I do believe that some people are more charismatic than others naturally, but this doesn’t necessarily make them good leaders. I think you can learn to be a good leader. Life’s experience is a great teacher and if you are lucky enough to work with an inspirational leader you can learn a lot from a good mentor.

Are there differences between woman leading a team and men leading a team? What do men better than women or the other way round?

I think it depends on the individual man or woman. My own experience, in very male dominated industries, found some women to be more creative, better at empowering staff, defining job expectations and providing constructive feedback. I think many women make good mentors because they encourage openness, are more accessible and have a tendency to express appreciation more easily. They are also greater calculated risk-takers.

Many businesses are still very male-dominant. Women in leading positions are still an exception, no matter what the newspapers say. From your point of view, Ann, what is important for women to be perceived and appreciated as a leader among men?

In my opinion, the leadership qualities described above are equally important to both men and women. However, to be seen as equal among men, women tend to have to work harder at projecting their leadership qualities. Until this changes, it is very important to connect with the right network within the specific organisation in order to gain some strong sponsorship and inclusion.

How can women best network among men?

Collaboration networks already exist in any organisation – both formal and informal. By establishing relationships with the decision makers as well as the guys who have the knowledge and the power, you will soon build a collaborative network. Find a situation where you can talk to them about something they are interested in, or discuss a project that you know is their priority and offer help if you can. It may be that you need introduction by someone, who is already in your network, or if there is a social event or project team where you have an opportunity to introduce yourself and build on the initial introduction. One contact may lead to another contact.

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