Building the contact centres of the future

by Bernard Gissler & Ernest Gbehi, Sopra Steria France

The boom in digital technology (smartphones, tablets, internet of things, etc.) results in an increase in remote communication channels between customers and companies. Customer behaviour becomes almost compulsive to get a satisfactory answer in real time, regardless of the request made to customer services. Companies need to constantly rethink their positioning. How should they prepare themselves for future changes? What strategies should be implemented? How will future customer relationships be integrated into these business strategies? How will current contact centres, which are the pillars of customer relationships, evolve in order to address these changes? Two things are certain: technology will continue to evolve and customers will be increasingly more demanding.

How will a contact centre of the future look?… Let’s go back to the future

This question results in a different answer depending on the person asked.
For some, contact centres will become organisations in which processes will be fully automated and “robots” will do the work of humans. The organisation will be perfect, faultless and completely self-managed to satisfy all types of customer demands at any moment. In this way, humans will be confined to non-automated tasks or tasks without high value-added, so as not to “spoil” the fluidity and efficiency of the processes in place.

In our vision of this future, “robots” will not replace agents in contact centres (except with regard to opening hours, low value-added tasks, etc.).

The agents in place will have more advanced skills and will be immersed in a highly digital culture.

These future agents from generation Y and Z, who were born and raised to “be” digital, are extremely comfortable with the technology and are multi-taskers. Thanks to their DNA, these generations naturally have the ability to switch from one application to another or to find information quickly. They will be able to simultaneously manage, for a single customer, interactions from various channels or interactions with several customers over a single channel.

The communication channels available to agents will be considerably more developed, in line with technologies on the market, at least at the same level as the customer’s equipment.

A new generation of agents, digitization of processes, use of data interpretation tools in real-time … all of this will enable companies to anticipate customer needs.

On the other hand, contact centres will be extended and fully virtualized with the development of “home agents”, who will be capable of working from anywhere and able to be activated on request.

“Home agents” will experience a serious boom, as they enable very significant savings to be made.

Internet of Things: an ENORMOUS volume of interactions to supervise

A multitude of interactions from both customers (humans) but also, and above all, machines (as is the case of connected objects) will have to be dealt with by contact centres.

A transformation already adopted by trailblazers and which will continue to grow

In the digital age, customers have more decision-making power and the ability to discredit even the biggest of companies through comments and hashtags #. Customer services are a key way to differentiate between (offers made by) companies. Contact centres must therefore be positioned at the heart of the customer relationship and e-reputation strategy.

How can we prepare them to meet the needs of tomorrow’s customers?

The first transformation to take place relates to the tools available to agents and customers. It is no longer acceptable for agents to be obliged to “juggle” between several applications before obtaining valuable information to deal with customer requests.

  • What is the last interaction with the customer, taking all channels into account?
  • What was the customer’s experience?
  • Is there any important information that the agent should know about the customer?

Agents must be able to quickly access relevant information in order to be proactive and be different. It is important to keep in mind one basic thing: to offer a seamless customer experience, the agents’ interfaces must be accessible and fluid with up-to-date information available for all channels. The customer must have a 360° view of products and services.

In 2015, only 17% of companies offered a consistent response between several channels (email/Chat, Facebook and Twitter). In the future, companies will have to offer fully omnichannel solutions as a minimum. To achieve this, companies should already have implemented mix-channel solutions as a minimum.

Surveys show that we are still falling far short of the mark. Proposing an offer of readable, coherent, omnichannel services must provide a 360° view of customers and vice versa. This transformation requires old architectures to be abandoned in silos for the benefit of architectures more suited to the current digital revolution. The 2nd transformation concerns customer interfaces. They must be smart, rich and accessible at any moment in a secure manner.

The customer journey will be more fluid thanks to innovative interfaces, capable of incorporating the latest technological developments (video, voice biometrics, social networks, geolocation, cognitive science, etc.).

Some companies have already started this transformation. This is the case for Sopra Steria who launched a prototype of a virtual assistant with IBM Watson Artificial Intelligence tools. Thanks to conversation analysis, the prototype makes it possible to capture information about the customer and how they use products and services. It also retranscribes the conversation in order to:
• Offer an advisor a qualification
• Highlight the management application (or action) responding to the context
• Go further with extended services. It reveals the dialogue with a virtual advisor up to the use of internal banking production services.

The integration of smart intelligence and increased intelligence in self-services will improve their performance and make them able to continually learn and therefore adapt to even the most complex customer demands.

These highly evolved tools know how to stand back, when necessary, to give way to human involvement providing added value.

In our vision of the future, accident reports will no longer exist. In fact, vehicles will be able to send information from their black boxes to the owner’s insurance company.

In the event of an accident, insured parties will exchange information with their insurers (contact centres) orally but also, and above all, using geolocation tools, on-board videos in smartphones, etc. To monitor these transformations, tools must be implemented in order to use the masses of customer information in real and non-real time.

New indicators such as the quality level of customer experience (and therefore its measurement) must be defined and implemented.

To conclude, we are only seeing the first signs of how tomorrow’s remote customer relations are transforming. These strategic transformations will impact all organisations at every level.

What are your thoughts? Leave a reply below or contact us by email.

Ways to turn around poor customer experience using personalisation

Personalisation – the application of data analytics to identify patterns of customer behaviour to improve their engagement or retention – traditionally focuses on enhancing positive experiences such as browsing and buying. Yet could personalisation be used to turn around a seemingly unchangeable, negative customer experience that also benefits the retailer? Here are some ideas…

Personalising the complaints process to drive better customer engagement

Making personalisation effective is challenging – it requires a high level of data integrity and can be costly to implement. When it goes wrong it can irritate customers or worse, make them feel like a retailer doesn’t know them at all – for example, consider the negative impact on customer experience of repeatedly receiving the same unwanted product recommendations when shopping online.

Could this failure be caused by a retailer’s approach to personalisation that arguably only focuses on purchasing and other positive behaviour? Whereas what is also required is a complementary understanding of an individual’s dislikes and pet hates about its brand.

For instance, rather than using a generic approach a retailer could personalise its complaints process. This could involve asking the customer who is making the complaint specific, personalised questions about the totality of this experience with the retailer (e.g. pricing, quality, service) to better understand what this individual really feels about its brand – i.e. use this moment of catharsis to gain a deeper, more rounded understanding of a customer’s expectations. The retailer can then use these hard to reach insights to dynamically inform its future engagement with this individual – complaints as a source of brand loyalty and advocacy.

However, this disruptive approach arguably feels counter-intuitive and commercially risky; it will require new types of behaviour from (and greater trust between) customer and retailer alike to be successful.

Incentivising a customer to keep an unwanted item

UK retailers are losing billions of pounds a year from managing reverse logistics costs for returned items across their physical and digital channels. Because of the multiple touch points involved margin can often deteriorate to a point where writing off the item as a loss is a better outcome than resell.

A retailer could lever cloud big data analytics to make an on the spot personalised counter offer to a customer alongside the standard return via a returns app. This could draw from the customer’s buying history and social media behaviour. The counter offer could ask the customer to keep the item in exchange for a future discount, special cross sell opportunity or third party offer (so eliminating the return cost and refund while driving future sales).

However, this disruptive approach to returns will need additional safeguards to mitigate risks of customer fraud or ‘gaming the system’ for unintended benefit.

Sharing insights with competitors to deliver unfulfilled customer orders same day

With the growing threat of digital disruptors like Amazon offering same day delivery on everything including groceries, customers are increasingly becoming more disappointed when other retailers can’t match such an experience. One example is Sainsbury’s acquisition of Argos was in part driven by a desire to access Argos’ supply chain capabilities that offer fast track delivery.

To combat this challenge, high street retailers could use a cloud-based platform to share local inventory information, fulfilling orders immediately for each other when the chosen retailer is out of stock – a faster, more convenient personalised customer experience than their online rivals. This approach to supply chain collaboration would also enable retailers to potentially increase the range of products they physically offer in store without needing to carry additional inventory.

However, for this form of coopetition to be successful it would need to have clear bottom line benefits for all participants given the risks to their market share involved.

If you would like more information about how Sopra Steria can help your organisation benefit from personalisation please contact the Sopra Steria Digital Practice.

Journey interrupted

Contrary to what you might expect, this blog isn’t a reflection of my experience with Southern Rail. Instead it’s a look to the future, inspired by the Sopra Steria Horizon Scanning Team’s trip to Wired 2016.

In our horizon scanning programme, Aurora, we try to look beyond the technologies that are shaping our future and include the behavioural and social changes that are also making an impact, and this is where Wired’s annual event fits in so perfectly with our interests. Though Wired 2016 takes no shame in celebrating the advancements we’ve seen in technology and imagining what may come next, it also takes account of wider sociological and environmental changes, such as mass migration, climate change and global conflict.

The running theme throughout was ‘journey interrupted’ which seemed both to reflect on the individual journeys of many speakers who had set out with what seemed like a clear direction, but ended up somewhere entirely different to what they had planned, but also the inevitable interruption in our unsustainable way of living which needs change more urgently than ever.

In the technology content, an overwhelmingly strong theme was data. Now, data is nothing new at these kinds of events, and has not been for years.  Data in this instance was framed most clearly in machine learning and AI, which again isn’t anything new to us, but what we’re beginning to see is how achievable it is becoming to us.  Historically the privilege of huge projects backed by a great deal of money, we’re now seeing machine learning in the hands of start-ups and individual people who are able to apply the same technology to problems which receive little or no funding, but are important none the less. Applications ranged from health, limiting the spread of Ebola and the Zika virus to cancer discovery and treatment, to migrant demographics, through to the future of AI and the singularity.

The most poignant moments in Wired 2016 however did not focus wholly on technology. They were about the big shifts happening to people and our environment. Predictions on climate change are looking more devastating than ever with even fairly conservative scientists predicting that we may go well beyond the 2C maximum limit for warming since pre-industrial weather reports, going as far as 7C which could wreak untold havoc on our world. The speakers at Wired 2016 were looking both at how we can change the way we live in the developed world to reduce our environmental impact, but also how we can curtail the impact of the developing world, ideally skipping straight to renewable power, in much the same way as they have largely missed out internet on PCs, experiencing the internet for the first time on a mobile device.  The refugee crisis was also a recurring theme, where the journey that people had set for their own lives has been completely torn apart, exploring how communities around the world have found ways for them to get their journeys back on track, through enabling their work and encouraging entrepreneurship.

The story from Wired 2016 is that if we continue on this express train, we’re heading to a bad place. We need to instead take a look at the journey we’re taking, or better still find an entirely new mode of transport to take us there. The technology is there, but the community and widespread adoption is not, and if we want success this is going to need to be a journey we take together.

What do you think? Leave a reply below, or contact me by email.

Learn more about Aurora, Sopra Steria’s horizon scanning team, and the topics that we are researching.

Biometrics: the death of the password?

by James Holt, Senior Consultant, Financial Services

Passwords… passwords have been around since the dawn of computing, and used even before then to allow or prevent access. The concept of a password is simple but the more our personal data is moved online, the more value this shared secret protects. In the early days of the internet, a password might have granted you access to a simple message board, but now passwords protect vast databases of your personal information: from family photos to medical records, via bank accounts and cloud storage.

Passwords… upon reading that word your brain probably jumped to fussy sign-up screens asking for an inane combination of special characters, numbers and letters, with requirements differing from website to website. You probably thought back to countless password resets and security questions which could be bypassed with a quick Google search. We have been told we shouldn’t use the same password for multiple sites, but we do. Companies mandate a password change for employees every few months, with the same stringent requirements each time.

So what do we do? We make patterns, we reuse or – whisper it – we write down. All behaviours which might make life easier for us but which circumvent the very thing complicated password requirements are trying to create – security.

In their current form, passwords give the illusion of security; it is something we know, something we are familiar with. The starred out field cloaking our favourite sports team, the asterisks covering our last holiday destination. But what else is that field hiding… it is hiding an uncomfortable truth – passwords are hard for us to remember, but easy for computers to guess.

Hackers can attempt to crack passwords using dictionary words and previously leaked passwords to speed up the process. To make matters worse, most passwords are not unique – from a survey by SplashData in 2015 the most popular were “123456” and “password”.

Even if a strong password is chosen, advances in computing power mean they can be cracked in a diminishing period of time. We are playing into the hands of the hackers. But there is another way, a better way…

Biometric authentication is the process of controlling access using something you are: something you always carry with you and something that is unique to you. This could be your face, your voice or your fingerprint, or a combination of these.

Signing in using a biometric identifier is quick, taking a second or two. This is especially relevant in a mobile environment, where typing out a password on a small or virtual phone keyboard can often be slow and inaccurate. Biometrics also offer flexibility to the user – different identifiers can be used in different situations. You wouldn’t want to use voice recognition on a crowded train, and you wouldn’t be able to use face recognition in a darkened room, so by offering multi-modal biometrics, the user can stay secure without any inconvenience.

Multifactor authentication is the process of using more than one identifier to log-in. This is often implemented as a password plus a one-time code sent to your device. This approach significantly improves security and is increasingly being adopted by online services and corporations. Biometrics can integrate perfectly into this multi-factor approach – with a biometric being either the primary or secondary authentication factor. In addition, thanks to the speed of the biometric authentication process, customers could be asked to ‘step-up’ security to perform certain functionality. For example, a customer could log-in to online banking using a 4 digit PIN, which would provide only simple functionalities: the account balance and last transactions. However, to make a payment or set up a new payee, the customer could be prompted for a fingerprint, voice or face sample to provide the required additional security.

A customer’s biometric can also be combined with behavioural analytics to further strengthen security. Behavioural analytics takes user metadata like location and typical log-in times to determine the likelihood that an action is genuine. But more on that in another post…

Biometric authentication has applications beyond simple integration into a mobile application. A voice recognition function could be introduced in a call centre environment to verify customers before they are put through to an advisor, removing the need for lengthy security questions. This technology is smart too: analysing different aspects of a customer’s voice – pitch, emphasis, pronunciation, even throat and mouth shape. In addition, this technology can detect if the caller is speaking under duress or panic. It can be implemented in a passive and non-intrusive way – a customer is authenticated in the background whilst having their conversation with an advisor.

Biometric technology also has a significant use-case for authorising online payments. Currently, just knowing the card details can be enough to defraud a consumer, with a ‘3D Secure’ password prompt like SecureCode (MasterCard) and Verified by Visa only happening in certain situations. According to a MasterCard survey of 10,000 people, 53 percent of shoppers forget crucial passwords more than once a week, losing more than 10 minutes while they reset their accounts. As a result, more than a third of people abandon an online purchase, while 60% said that having to reset a password led to missing a time-sensitive transaction like buying concert tickets. More than half of people want to see passwords replaced by something more convenient, but which still delivers the same levels of protection and peace of mind.

As verifying your identity using a biometric is so quick, it is a natural fit for online transactions. Furthermore, with many modern phones featuring biometric hardware such as a fingerprint sensor, consumers are already comfortable with the process. MasterCard has recently announced their ‘IdentityCheck’ app which authenticates payments using either facial or fingerprint biometrics. Pilots in August last year proved successful with a global rollout happening early 2017.

When new technology reaches consumers, is it often adopted by the young, tech-savvy demographic who are more accustomed to learning abstract interfaces and complex operations. However, with biometrics, the process is intuitive and simple, making life easier whatever your age group or background. There is also the equality and accessibility angle – biometric identifiers provide options for those who are unable to remember passwords or struggle to type on their mobile devices.

If the user experience is slick and easy, customers are more likely to use a service and access it more frequently. With registration/signup commonplace on many websites, users have lots of passwords to remember: this represents a substantial opportunity for a biometric authentication solution.

At the end of 2014, USAA – a Fortune 500 company – offered biometric authentication to 1.4 million customers and by October of the following year, over 1 million had registered to use it. Their headline statistic shows how popular the option has become – 80% of customers have now chosen to authenticate using a biometric identifier over a PIN.

User expectations of banking are changing. Consumers expect functionality to be available using mobile apps, without the need for traditional, face-to-face banking. Security guards and vaults provide peace of mind in the physical world, but maintaining security in the digital world is more challenging. Biometrics provide the means, the assurances and the simplicity for better authentication, safeguarding our future.

What do you think?  Leave a reply below or contact James by email.

Read more about Sopra Steria’s Biometrics offering.

 

Innovation: it’s at the heart of Sopra Steria’s DNA

by Eric Maman, Innovation Management, Sopra Steria

Thanks to a robust innovation policy, Sopra Steria devises innovative solutions for its customers using cutting-edge technologies. This policy fulfils two main missions: to anticipate new uses of technology and expand our range of offers. To achieve this, Sopra Steria deploys numerous resources both internally and in collaboration with its partners.

An innovative ecosystem

We provide daily support to our colleagues in the field of innovative research and development. Through investment, internal events and competitions, the group develops increasingly novel products and services. All of our colleagues are at the centre of the design thinking process.

Thanks to a policy of heavy investment in new technologies, Sopra Steria has the essential funds required to promote innovation. Furthermore, all of our colleagues work on researching and developing innovative technologies and services on a daily basis.

The creation of Digilabs supports the development of innovative projects within the group. Following the work undertaken by the teams, innovative projects are launched every year in various fields related to the digital transformation. We encourage colleagues to develop new projects which are awarded at internal events.

Each year, colleagues within the group are able to take part in competitions in order to present their ideas and projects. Thanks to the Innovation Awards, for example, teams have the possibility of presenting novel projects in terms of processes, services or products. A panel of judges determines the three most innovative projects and offers teams the option of developing and incorporating their project into the group’s solutions.

We also organise the “Innovation Crossroads” where colleagues from all countries and all professions are invited to discover and participate in discussions focusing on the group’s latest innovations. At each gathering, a Sopra Steria business unit or a country is honoured in front of colleagues from across the globe; one of our customers is also asked to present an innovative project conducted in collaboration with the Sopra Steria teams. In addition, one or our strategic partners is invited to present their latest innovations.

Numerous collaborations with our strategic partners and/or with start-ups are also created to share expertise on innovation. In the interest of offering an innovation with high added value, we forge partnerships with innovative companies in a variety of sectors. Thanks to these available resources, Sopra Steria is committed to offering state-of-the-art services and products.

Adding value through innovation

Because innovation adds value, our innovation policy also focuses not only on using technology, but also on reinterpreting processes and methods of working. Our sense of innovation today enables us to advise our customers both on strategic priorities in professional development and on processes.

Co-innovation and co-creation are concepts implemented on a daily basis in partnership with our customers to create value and invent the solutions of the future. Thanks to the sharing of knowledge, experience and resources, this method of co-creation enables both parties to develop innovative products.

Personalised customer support

Our colleagues are at the centre of the group’s innovation. The various actions and investment policy or events organised internally enable Sopra Steria to employ a large population of engineers and to deploy innovative projects.

Innovation is not only a question of technological breakthroughs. The company’s structure, its business model and its various operating processes are impacted. Professional knowledge and the co-creation process between Sopra Steria and its customers is the source of innovation and consequently the source of value.

 

 

Always-on, always prepared: the cyber security questions Financial Services organisations need to ask

Financial institutions continue to grapple with the ever increasing complexities of cyber security. As online services across all channels grow, so does the security risk. The underlying questions are – how do organisations modernise the legacy platforms that were not designed for the open, connected world of today’s demanding consumer base, and provide the services and interfaces in a secure manner?

The continual growth and competitiveness in digital services continues to disrupt the market. Whether they like it or not, financial firms and their customers will always be seen as targets and those that take this lightly, or avoid the gravitational pull of online services due to security concerns, will be left behind.

That being said, many organisations are trying to put the right protection in place. The key responses to any security incident are monitoring, reacting and remediating. We have seen from recent breaches that the way that a financial institution reacts and addresses its customers that have been affected can make all the difference. Admitting that a security breach has happened is never easy but your customers are more likely to stay loyal to your brand if you openly discuss the security breach, what information or even money was taken and the remedial activities that you are promptly taking.

Open Banking is getting closer – are you ready?

This August, the Competition and Markets Authority published the final report on its retail banking market investigation. By requiring banks to implement Open Banking by 2018, it has reinforced the UK’s transition to a transformed banking landscape based upon a foundation of Open Banking. While certainly a positive step, Open Banking raises more questions around security. Financial institutions need to look at the security around their APIs, covering both internal and external protection layers – what data is exposed through the APIs, and who may be calling the API? In moving to this new world, what competencies in the organisation exist to create and test these new services? The IT organisation that was designed around creation of services for a customer must now address service management and governance of an estate that exists in a digital always-on connected ecosystem of consumer and business relationships.

Data and information are new focal points for the industry, and this is being highlighted by the new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) which will be introduced in 2018. The days have gone where we have one, two or three front doors. We now have multiple connections in and out of networks with services being hosted in cloud, hybrid and SaaS services.

Do you know where your information assets sit – especially your most critical and vital assets?

General Data Protection Regulation – honesty and openness

Looking to 2017 and 2018, notification of breaches will look quite different for a large number of financial institutions. Unlike the directive in the Data Protection Act which was silent on the issue of data breach, GDPR contains a definition of “personal data breach,” and notification requirements to both the supervisory authority and affected data subjects.

This notification to the authority must “at least”:

  1. Describe the nature of the personal data breach, including the number and categories of data subjects and personal data records affected;
  2. Provide the data protection officer’s contact information
  3. Describe the likely consequences of the personal data breach
  4. Describe how the controller proposes to address the breach, including any mitigation efforts.If not all information is available at once, it may be provided in phases.

The last sentence will undoubtedly give some pause for consideration and needs to be thought through. Whilst being open and honest with customers following a breach is essential, how much information is satisfactory to release, and under what circumstances should some information be held until the precise nature of method and impact is understood?

We find ourselves in an information conundrum. We know that open and honesty following a breach are important, but that full clarity on a situation is not always instantly available. Security breaches can take place and it can take time before a complete story is put together – but the longer it takes, the greater the concerns from customers that a security breach is not being effectively managed. It’s why it is essential to prepare in advance and have processes in place in the event of a breach. Testing of these plans and creating play books of certain scenarios is something a lot of organisations are doing.

Criminals work at Christmas

Financial organisations have had to adjust to the requirements of their customers who want services online 24/7. We have seen high street financial institutions opening at weekends, evenings and even Sundays. The world of internet banking allows customers to access financial systems all day, every day.

On the other side of the coin, cyber criminals don’t mind at working weekends, holidays or Christmas Day. An organisation’s incident plan needs to be able to react to whatever, whenever, and in a way that is adequate to develop one or a number of alternative approaches. The Security Operations Centre (SOC) needs to be sufficiently resourced with access to on-call technical expertise, and they in turn need to be able to have access to evidence and activities.

Most people feel confident that their SOC is 24/7 – but it goes further than this. Imagine that you have had a breach on Christmas Day. Can you pull together a legal representative, someone who can talk to the press, the CEO and other important members of staff within your organisation?

We all have business continuity plans and disaster recovery plans, but it’s time we started thinking about security incident response plans that are truly organisational wide.

If you’re interested in finding out more about our Cyber Security offerings you can visit our website, or email us at info.uk@soprasteria.com.

This blog was first published on Finextra.com, 11 November 2016

Building an Agile Organisation: lessons learned from Lean Agile Scotland 2016

I was lucky enough to attend Lean Agile Scotland last month, a 3-day conference in Edinburgh crammed full of fantastic key notes, talks and workshops covering all things Agile: from Value Streams to Cynefin, from TDD and BDD to Neuro-diversity, and from meeting culture to dark collaboration – #LAScot16 had it all.

Trying to summarise in one blog post all the lessons and thinking I took away has been tough, so I’ve focused on some interesting ideas from the conference which can help organisations build/maintain their Agile culture:

The role of management in an Agile organisation

The subject of management was touched upon by several speakers during the 3 days, including Marc Burgauer’s Eupsychian  Manager talk and Julia Wester’s Let’s (Not) Get Rid of Managers talk.

Marc Burgauer introduced many of the conference attendees to the idea of Maslow’s Eupsycian Manager (pronounced “you-sigh-key-un”), human-oriented management generated by self-actualised people (Eupsychian is defined as having or moving towards a good mind/soul). Marc highlighted that in age where most organisations strive for conformity and “same-ness”, there is not one right way to manage everyone. Each employee needs to be managed specifically to their needs in the moment and in a way fitting of their current context – in Eupsychian Management, one size definitely does not fit all.

Eupsychian managers make it easy for their employees to say No to them – this allows your employees to make you aware of anything you may currently be blind to in your organisation and so learn valuable information.

Euphysian managers also ask their employees, “What can I do to help you do your job better?”. This question clearly sets out from the beginning how the relationship between manager and employee will function.

Mirroring many of the sentiments of Marc’s talk, Julia Wester thoughtfully discussed how as more teams move to an Agile way of working (self-organising, no hierarchy), the traditional role of managers must move too. We still need managers in Agile environments but Agile management should focus on ignoring hierarchy and having managers just be part of the team – being seen as “one of the team” encourages feedback from your team members.

In an Agile environment, we should value individuals and interactions over processes and tools, therefore managers should treat their team as people, not just resources. One example of an organisation moving away from seeing their people as just resources is Google – they have renamed their Human Resources department to People Ops. When you value your people, you foster cognitive safety and create relationships based on trust which allows you not to micromanage.

Julia finished her talk with this important quote from Peter F. Drucker:

“Management is about human beings. Its task is to make people capable of joint performance, to make their strengths effective and their weaknesses irrelevant.”

The importance of Communities of Practice in an Agile (any!) Organisation

At Emily Webber’s Communities of Practice, The Missing Piece of Your Agile Organisation talk, highlighting the importance & value of having communities of practice in your organisation, I found myself nodding along in agreement at everything she said. Fortunately, Sopra Steria already recognises the importance of Communities of Practice, demonstrated by our adoption of a Community model earlier this year with communities ranging from Agile to Architecture.

So what makes a good community? Having Membership and Influence, while providing a Fulfilment of Needs and Emotional Connection. And why are they essential? People need to feel supported in their roles. We learn better when we learn together. Collaboration creates collective intelligence which is greater than individual intelligence.

When thinking about how you can get the most from your Community of Practice, use it as an opportunity to get together and:

  • Give presentations to one another and/or invite external speakers in to present on new thinking/innovation in your area
  • Practice new skills in a safe environment
  • Visit other organisations, if possible, with similar challenges and share learning

Many more lessons can be learned from Lean Agile Scotland 2016 and if you would like to learn more then all talks from the 3 days will be made available online – follow @LeanAgileScotland on Twitter or check www.leanagile.scot for updates.

If you have any thoughts on these topics, please leave a reply blow or contact me by email.