Support: the wild west of documentation

readmeheader

Earlier this year, I was listening in on the Twitter stream for #writethedocs—a conference for technical writers—when one of the  speakers mentioned turning documentation from passive to dynamic.

 


Gregory Koberger is a developer and founder of ReadMe, a documentation tool for developers. It’s intended to fill the need that developer communities have for up-to-date API documentation, but I could see a fit for DevOps in the enterprise, so I went digging some more, by way of hitting up Gregory with some questions.

 

Developers are notorious for hating on documentation. Can you explain why that is?

The biggest reason is probably that it feels like busy-work. If you think they hate writing documentation, though… it doesn’t compare to how much they hate how bad other people’s documentation is.

Programmer’s live in a very logical world. An out of place colon can bring a whole program crashing down. The API is written in a logical programming language, and it’s consumed by a logical programming language. Yet we’re forced to serialize knowledge about it in English, which is incredibly ambiguous. Lots of logic and meaning is lost or mutilated when transferring knowledge of how something works via written language.

What are the mistakes you see people making with documentation?

The biggest mistake is just dumping people into paragraphs of text, with no warning. We know so much about the user and about the API or code library, we should be able to remove everything that’s not relevant to the user. New users should get a nice high-level onboarding flow, while more experienced users probably want information on error messages or reference guides.

Taking the time to read through your documentation as though you’re a user is another big thing people don’t do. Do your best to forget all knowledge you have. Does your documentation have working examples? Does it mention if the API key should be passed as a header or a query string? Do you mention any weird edge cases? Make sure you don’t leave out details that are obvious to you but wouldn’t be to other people.

What makes documentation great, and do you have any examples to point to?

Great documentation realizes you need more than just paragraphs of text. You need to provide a cohesive experience, and that requires everyone to be on board. Documentation should be seen as the frontend for the API or code library, not relegated to an afterthought.
For example, this means that well-designed SDKs count as “documentation”. After all, they can be self-documenting. Should the API key (which I mentioned in the previous answer) be sent as a header or a query param? Should it be sent each time? Doesn’t matter! You just do “Whatever.setKey(“abc”)”, and it takes care of it for you. Sure, you still need documentation – but you can reduce the complexity of the documentation.
A good support section is also really important. For something like PHP, it’s the only reason the language exists (because someone will have had the issue already and posted an answer). Support can be the wild-west of your documentation site. Documentation should be cohesive and fit together and be structured well; support (with a good search) is your way of having unorganized questions and answers that don’t fit the main narrative.

How does ReadMe work to solve those well-known roadblocks to documentation?

One of the biggest things we do is let people deploy documentation from semantic metadata. That sounds more complicated than it is – basically, it just means that we let people sync Swagger (and other similar specs) from GitHub. This let’s us divide up the work. Humans can still write paragraphs of text, but ReadMe can do things like generating code samples and letting users test out the API inline.

Of course, we’re just getting started! Our goal is to “redefine” how people look at documentation. Look at Slack, for example – it’s a “chat app”, but it’s quickly becoming a full-fledged platform that brings everything together into one cohesive workflow. That’s what we want to do with documentation. Documentation is the center of the API ecosystem; it’s the glue that brings it all together.

What kind of outcomes can a business expect when they put time and effort into well-maintained API documentation?

Look at Stripe vs Braintree. Similar products, similar pricing, similar everything. Stripe won out, because they had a huge focus on documentation.

Your API is your best bizdev hire, and documentation is the entire user experience. Partnerships aren’t made by people in suits anymore; they’re made by developers who share information and functionality via APIs.

How do you see the way we approach documentation evolving?

I’m biased, but I think we’re going to see documentation becoming much more interactive. Look at, say, O’Reilly books. They’re static, and everyone gets the same book. We’ve really just digitalized the way documentation was done in an analog medium. Most documentation is written using Jekyll or Sphinx, and is deployed statically. We know so much about both the user and the API! We should be able to give everyone a custom-tailored experience that takes into account their skill level, programming language, time using the site, activity on the site, and more.
Are there opportunities for ReadMe to be used beyond documenting APIs? What’s on the horizon for ReadMe?
 
While we definitely love APIs, there’s a ton of great uses of ReadMe. A good portion of our users use it for internal documentation. (StatusPage just wrote about how they use ReadMe, here.) Another big use-case is open source code libraries.
I’m incredibly excited about the future. Making the documentation the central hub for your developer experience is our main goal. That means we want everything from support to dashboards to API statuses to have a home in ReadMe. We’re looking to become a true “developer hub”, that sits right in the middle of your entire ecosystem in a simple, beautiful way.
About Gregory Koberger:
 
Gregory Koberger is a designer and developer living in San Francisco. He founded ReadMe, which makes it simple to create beautiful documentation.

An open letter to software vendors

Dear Vendor,
I saw a tweet today and it made me think of you.

We could say this about anyone, couldn’t we? The truth is, people have limited time and as long as the new tool meets the basic business-as-usual needs, your customers are unlikely to go exploring the boundaries without provocation.

Too often, customers’ purchase decisions will be influenced by the length of your feature list or your responses to a spreadsheet. This isn’t sticky marketing, because you’re all addressing those same BAU capabilities. Where’s the magic? Where’s the value?

Remind me of those features I’ve forgotten about. Design email marketing campaigns with protips for my use case. Uncover and share those customers like me who are already doing innovative things with your solution. It doesn’t even need to be all that innovative, it just needs to be better than how I’m currently doing it. And you can see what I’m doing; you own that data.

What about your sales team? Does your product marketing team pass on that information about the goldmine of unexplored features? Do you give your account managers the ammunition to make a call to existing customers, provide value in the form of a few tips and how-tos, and potentially up-sell?

So, what do you say? I showed you my protip, why don’t you show us yours?


Hexigo pivots: from decision management to email management

still searching

 

I last wrote about Hexigo back in 2013. Back then, Hexigo was a tool for shepherding the decision making process and, ideally, capturing why particular choices were made. You can read back over the old post for an understanding of what decision management is in its truest form.

Things have changed since then. While many of us are trying to use more collaborative platforms, email is inescapable as the place where decision-making by committee happens. When it’s not face-to-face, at least. So, Hexigo have surrendered to it. Instead of fighting to get people to log into something else and use yet another tool for tracking accountability and conversations, they’re working towards making our stubborn attachment to email more efficient.

Hexigo now comes as email plugins that work with Gmail and Outlook to provide visual cues to an email’s priority. You can also track the status of an email thread where a decision or approval has been called for, and you can @ mention names to notify recipients that their particular attention is required.

Inbox popout

 

Outcomes 1

If you’d like to see how it works in Gmail, here’s a video.

We’ll be stuck with email forever, but at least there are tools out there to help us do it better.

 

This is not an ad. No money changed hands for this post.


ITIL as Dr Seuss: A challenge

ITIL as Dr Seuss

One of our biggest challenges in service management is explaining what it is and why it’s useful. The ITIL definition is dry and completely unsellable.

A set of specialised organisational capabilities for providing value to customers in the form of services.

It’s a problem ITIL has more broadly—it’s dry and bureaucratic in its worst form. It’s the nature of most best practice guidance, though, so don’t blame ITIL.

A recent thread on my Facebook wall prompted James Finister to challenge us to Seussify ITIL. Perhaps he thought it couldn’t be done, but Phil Green stepped up and posted a response. Following on nicely from my Return of Service post, here’s Phil’s representation of the definition of service, Dr Seuss style.

An outcome to achieve is what I desire,
Today, tomorrow, is what I require,
Will you help me achieve the outcome I require?
Can you, could you, should you be my provider?

I’ll help you achieve the
outcomes you require
I can, I will, exceed your desires,
I’ll facilitate the outcomes you wish to require,
I’ll be your Type III service provider.

But what about specific costs and risks?
I don’t understand, my thoughts they whisk,
I don’t want to manage those costs and risks,
My service needs provided in a way that’s brisk.

Specific costs and risks, I’ll own them all,
I’ll own them all whether large or small,
I’ll own them today, I’ll own them tomorrow,
Providing service so great you’ll get no sorrow.

You’ll facilitate the outcomes I wish to achieve?
With service so consistent in you I’ll believe,
And you’ll own the specific costs and risks?
Let us draft up the contract and save it to disk.

And so, I challenge you: can you Seussify an ITIL concept?


The Return of Service

The return of serviceYou know, it’s funny. In this app economy we’re working in, you can buy just about anything as-a-service. And yet we—the makers, the designers, the writers, the product marketers, etc—are trying out all kinds of different marketing and pricing recipes to build a package people want to click the buy button for. Freelancers, consultants, and software developers have productised their offerings. We’ve abstracted the value of the person out of the sale, even though it’s our particular expertise and contexts that is the basis of what we’re selling. We’ve distilled what we DO down to things people can put in a shopping cart—a transaction.

You need a product

I know how this happened. It’s the revolution of the Four Hour Work Week, and the desire to make passive income; to make more money from less time/effort.

 

But, even if you’re an affiliate marketer making coin from selling the work of others, (not that there’s anything wrong with that; I do it from time to time, too), you’re kidding yourself if you think you can do it without building your reputation and influence.

 

And, you can’t do that without serving others—through sharing your expertise, your content, and your thought leadership.

It’s not about the product

So why do we still talk about product design, product management, product marketing…? Facebook declared they’d stop using the word “user”, as this article from 2014 states. I don’t know how that’s going, but the author raised this issue about that thing we do where we strip the people out of the problems these things we DO are trying to solve. Is it because we’ve got a maligned idea of what service means? Is it because the word service connotes work that’s less desirable, and the word product is somehow cooler? Is it simply because service is hard to define?

 

In the IT service management circles where I hang out, we (and ITIL®) define service as:

 

A means of delivering value to customers by facilitating outcomes customers want to achieve without the ownership of specific costs and risks.

 

Isn’t this exactly what we’re all doing?

 

To serve is noble; and we can see that in the resurgence of the phrase “servant leadership” in the modern management lexicon. It’s a term coined in the 1970s by Robert K Greenleaf, https://greenleaf.org, so it’s been around a while. But, like everything old, it’s cool again. As our very own catchphrase of the century, as-a-service, says; it’s not a product you’re designing/marketing/selling, it’s a service.

 

Put the people back in focus, and design your services to provide the best possible experiences for the people that want them.

Knowledge is not understanding

I watched a video on YouTube last week and I want to share it with you. Destin, of @smartereveryday, did an experiment that shows how those things we do every day that are just like riding a bicycle, are actually complicated. And when we introduce even a minor change, it’s hard and we won’t necessarily be able to do it straight away.

Watch this video and tell me how this backwards-bike experiment makes you feel about your organisational change initiatives.

 


How do you solve a problem like enterprise search?

Google Classic: Please Allow 30 Days for your Search Results (Original artist unknown) #Google

The final KMLF meeting of 2014 was a panel discussion about enterprise search. Brett Matson, Managing Director of enterprise search provider Funnelback, revealed some interesting insights that I wanted to capture in this interview. Brett used to work in the search industry as an engineer for the CSIRO, before starting Funnelback in 2006, so he knows a bunch about search and how people use it.

1. Where Google has succeeded, the enterprise still struggles. According to APQC research, only 53% of firms rate their enterprise search as effective or very effective. What do you think is happening with the rest?

The 53% in the APQC research relates to federated search, which is the idea of having a search engine query third-party search engines and combine the results. This is generally ineffective because it’s difficult to rank heterogeneous results against a common baseline, and you also can’t use tools such as faceted navigation.

However, there is a general dissatisfaction with enterprise search technology and it’s these kinds of statistics that have led Funnelback to adopt a new approach. We believe the top three causes of dissatisfaction are:

  • Lack of Ongoing Investment in Enterprise Search
    Organisations too often consider enterprise search to be a fixed-duration project, rather than an ongoing investment. Users change, needs change, and information changes. Search engines can cope with this to an extent, but the can’t offer the same effectiveness as a human assessing business needs. Organisations need training and guidance on where the quick wins are in ongoing investment in optimising enterprise search. Google only succeeds on the global Web because it has thousands of people doing this constantly.
  • Re-inventing the Wheel
    Enterprise search budgets are often consumed in developing complex search interfaces and applications from scratch, instead of focusing on configuring off-the-shelf solutions to fit business needs. An enterprise search product should have pre-assembled, best-practice templates for a range of different search requirements (e.g. eCommerce search vs. events search vs. courses search) to allow implementation effort to focus on the business aspects of the solution.
  • Only Solving Part of the Problem
    Most enterprise search products attempt to rank information with respect to its relevance to a text query, but ignore other significant factors that detract from search effectiveness.

A holistic enterprise search solution should include:
Bird’s-eye view metrics of all content, showing where it’s stored (e.g. web vs. enterprise vs. social media), how much exists in each repository, how old it is, missing metadata, poor quality titles, duplication, accessibility metrics, and the link graph. This provides information managers with a means to prioritise organisational investment in managing information, and thereby enhancing search effectiveness.
Intelligent guidance on how to make content more visible/findable. Search engines generally attempt to hide the internals of their ranking systems and this makes it difficult for customers to learn how to make content more findable. An enterprise search engine should use its internal ranking knowledge to show content authors why pages rank the way they do and provide guidance on how to increase each page’s findability.
The ability to surface and promote content based on user context with simple rules such as “User is in Department A”, “User is located in New Zealand”, “User is in the finance industry”, “User works for LexisNexis”. These rules can then be overlaid to form more sophisticated rules, without the need to create rules for every distinct possibility. Funnelback goes even further by allowing these rules to be applied to anonymous users by looking up their IP address in an internal database and inferring information based on the organisation that owns the IP address.

2. Do you think an enterprise taxonomy is important?

We don’t often come across organisations that have enterprise taxonomies. If done well, they can provide benefit to many aspects of knowledge management, including making better use of technologies such as text analytics. However, it’s a significant investment that can fail to pay off if implemented ineffectively. The two main problems are:

The taxonomy is not aligned with how the organisation uses information. This can be a result of the taxonomy classifications not reflecting the way people attempt to find information. It can also be due to an onerous system for classifying content.
Information systems, such as enterprise search tools, being unable to leverage the taxonomy effectively.

Instead, we recommend organisations invest in a behavioural taxonomy. This includes assessing:

What are people commonly searching for? (i.e. the top search queries)
What information is being accessed? (i.e. which search results are being clicked?)
Which searches produce no search results?
Which searches cause people to click through to the second page of search results?
What feedback are people providing in response to a search query (i.e. using a feedback form on the search results page)

It’s this kind of information that informs smart decisions around:

What information needs to be created that doesn’t currently exist?
What search promotions (i.e. best bets) would save people time?
What hard-coded search auto-suggests would make people more productive by preventing them from needing to see a search results page?
What synonyms would help people find what they’re looking for?

Following the Pareto principle, if you can ensure that 20% of searches work effectively then 80% of the information needs are addressed. This small amount of effort pays large dividends.

3. After I’d read Weinberger’s book, I was convinced tagging and faceted search in the enterprise was in our future. So, I was surprised to hear you say at our KMLF meeting that most Funnelback users don’t tag documents. Why is that?

I suspect it’s a cultural issue rather than a technology one. The ability to tag content in enterprise search is powerful because it’s not limited to a single data store; users can tag content whether it’s in an EDRMS, file share, social media channel, intranet, or third-party website. Funnelback provided a means to do this, but users didn’t see any immediate value in tagging content, so chose not to.

In hindsight, we would have benefited from complementing the technology with a cultural program of educating users on the benefits of tagging and sharing, and optionally gamifying the experience to reward and incentivise.

On the other hand, in the last 10 years, faceted search has evolved from a technology used almost exclusively on eCommerce sites, to an out-of-the-box feature in every Funnelback deployment, including intranets, databases, and enterprise search. It’s popular because it’s intuitive and provides immediate value.

4. What are the first important steps for any large organisation embarking on a new search strategy?

The first question every organisation should ask is:

Who are the stakeholders affecting the success of our organisation and what information do they need to maximise our success?

At a more practical level, this includes questions like:

What are the personas in our organisation? (i.e. the archetypes that represent the different roles)
What information do they need in order to maximise productivity and make better decisions?
What are our customer personas?
What information do they need in order to maximise engagement and have a positive customer experience?

Without asking these questions, organisations sometimes assume that searching everything with a single query (access controls permitting) is the answer. Sometimes it is the answer, but it can be a more complicated and costly exercise than necessary. For example, do users want to use an enterprise search tool to search their own email, or would they prefer to use the search on their mail client?

5. When an organisation proceeds with implementing an enterprise search solution, what sort of management and maintenance resources, if any, should the organisation be prepared to commit?

At a minimum, search analytics should be checked monthly with the following questions in mind:
What information is needed that doesn’t currently exist?
What search promotions (i.e. best bets) would save people time?
What hard-coded auto-suggests would make people more productive by preventing them from needing to see a search results page?
What synonyms would help people find what they’re looking for?

We also recommend having an expert conduct an annual or bi-annual health check to assess all aspects of the search system, including crawl scope, ranking quality, search filters, etc., as well as ensuring the system is aligned with changing business needs.

 

— Thanks for your time, Brett!

 

Brett Matson has contributed to a scientific paper on document-level security and developed Funnelback’s Contextual Navigation system.

 


The cloud has screwed you

Subscription software has been hailed the hero of the enterprise. There’s “best in class’ everything, promising freedom from vendor lock-in and infrastructure upkeep; savings in time and money; clever integrations and exciting roadmaps. But all this freedom of choice has screwed the enterprise up in one significant way.

Modern enterprises have information assets in places like this:

Google Apps for mail, calendar, docs, chat/hangouts
Box or Dropbox for storage
Subscription apps to solve a particular problem
Subscription apps that solve a particular problem plus parts of other ones
Some legacy software hosted in-house
A collaborative platform like Confluence or Basecamp
An enterprise social network like Jive or Yammer
Communication apps like Slack and Flowdock
Local computer storage
People’s heads

It’s not uncommon for organisations to have all of these, where many of them double-up on functionality found in others. This is a problem. Because in most cases, the native search engine is a bit crap; and if I can’t remember where I was when I read or used that phrase or document I’m searching for now, do I really have to check each and every repository? I don’t know about you, but I ain’t got time for that.

We’ve had problems searching in the enterprise forever, but thanks to the cloud, our information and knowledge assets are fractured and dispersed in more ways than ever.

Gartner say:

We estimate that revenue in the enterprise search market came to $1.7 billion in 2013 and predict that it will reach $2.6 billion in 2017, a compound annual growth rate of 11.2%

I’m willing to bet, it’ll be more.


From customer experience to employee engagement

Recently, I was lucky enough to be a voluntary participant for a customer experience study at a cafe. (The things one can do when one is between contracts.)

I hadn’t been to a STREAT cafe before, so I was the ultimate “potential customer”—able to play the role of the person who was walking in for the first time. STREAT want their customers to understand how every mouthful helps youth homelessness and disadvantage, but they also want their customers to keep coming back and to know about their other services. As a first-time customer, there’s a lot of information STREAT would like me to take in—the difference I could make to a young person’s life by buying my coffee there, the locations of other stores, where the food is sourced, how the program works, how I can contribute more, catering services, the cook book I could buy, and the menu.

The customer experience team had a small group of us consider two different scenarios and talk about the customer journey from the street, to the counter, to the table, and back out again. Where would the opportunities be to show customers what they need to know? What changes could be made to improve turnover for the management team? And how would any of these changes improve the experience of the trainees the program actually benefits?

It’s the kind of journey we don’t often, if ever, take in the corporate world and it’s impacting employee engagement.

Next time you feel like doing a little management-oriented research, walk out of your building and go and get your coffee, (from STREAT, if there’s one nearby. 😉) Then, retrace your steps with open eyes and a fresh perspective. What does it feel like to walk in the front door—is it welcoming or intimidating? If you’re the hiring manager, do you make sure you’re there to show your new team member around? After all, your face will be familiar from the interview. What’s your process for explaining the logistics of a role to new staff—is the information all in one place and easy to find and navigate? Do you have buddies/mentors/senseis to smooth out that awkward new employee phase? Do all your employees feel connected to the purpose of your organisation? Because if they don’t, they’ll move on.


205 year old organisation meets the future head-on

Coming up this week in Melbourne is the Innovating IT Service conference. The final interview in this series is with Cameron Gough, General Manager of Australia Post’s Digital Delivery Centre. Cameron will be appearing on the discussion panel and delivering one of the opening keynotes on Wednesday. He’s been with AusPost since 2012 and brings extensive experience with agile and lean methodologies to an organisation under pressure to find new ways of providing value.

 

1. As the General Manager of the Digital Delivery Centre for Australia Post, can you describe what your typical day looks like and the kinds of projects you’re involved in?

Someone recently told me that they saw my role simply as food, water and alignment.  I was at first a little offended but when I thought it through, it kind of made sense.  Most of my time is about ensuring our teams in the DDC are set up to be successful.  This means ensuring funding is in place, a healthy backlog of work exists, we have the right staff and our operating model is working smoothly.  I guess this is the food and water part.  We are heavily focused on enabling our teams to become more and more autonomous over time.  But this can be dangerous if multiple teams are misaligned in their overall purpose. So the alignment bit is about driving our strategic direction in digital and sharing this with teams to ensure we are all aligned and working to a common purpose.

On the question of projects – we’re steadily moving away from the traditional project model where we have a start, middle and an end and deliver a defined piece of scope.  The market and our customers are simply moving too fast for this model – especially in digital. Over the past couple of years we’ve been shifting to a model where we identify opportunities and allocate delivery capacity (and funding) to chase those opportunities.  The teams work in an iterative manner, deploying as often as they can, learning through customer feedback and research and adjusting course based on this.  I haven’t checked our recent mix but late last year around 75% of our work was done using some form of this model.

The work we do is surprisingly varied and quite exciting.  Around 50% of our desktop and mobile traffic relates to parcel tracking so we are always looking to improve that experience. An example is our recent roll out of MyPost Deliveries – a free service that provides more convenient parcel delivery options through parcel lockers and Post Office pickup.  This is just the start with many planned enhancements coming in the next few months.  Beyond that, we are continuing to invest in our digital mailbox, travel related products, a cool postcards mobile app, our developer centre, a parcel lodgement capability for merchants, new consumer and business portals and much more.

2. Australia Post’s traditional business model has been significantly disrupted by technology and the online economy. What are some of the unexpected opportunities that have come from that, and how are you changing the way people manage mail and interact with other Australia Post services?

Digital disruption has had a profound impact on our core letters business which has been in decline since 2008.  However digital has also been a key driver of growth in other parts of our business – especially our parcels business which has grown well off the back of a booming online economy.

I think one of the profound shifts we will start to see is a move to delivering to people rather than addresses.  This means building services and capability to deliver to the place and time that is most convenient to customers.  Smartphones and other technology leaps have started to open up many opportunities in this area.

It is hard to predict all the ways that digital will help our future business and customers and in many ways we don’t want to lock ourselves into a few narrow bets.  We are therefore taking a platform path where we expose capability through APIs and then free teams up to reimagine the experiences we can offer.  This is extending now to third parties and customers who can explore our available APIs through our Developer Centre (developers.auspost.com.au).

We’re also exploring some interesting opportunities where digital can enhance the physical experience.  For example, a more integrated in-store experience through use of iBeacons and using smartphones to streamline access to Parcel Lockers.

3. You are known as an advocate for the Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe). How does that differ from the Agile methods some of us may already be familiar with?

To me, Agile methods work well at a team level.  They provide a great way for a business to iteratively evolve a solution and arrive at an outcome that is a better match to customer needs than more traditional methods.  I think the mistake many of us made was to then believe we could simply scale the team model to work at a broader organisational level. The better path was to get back to the underlying principles of Lean and Agile – principles of flow, small batch sizes, iterative evolution of solutions, delivery cadence, multi-functional teams, etc – and then see how these could be applied at an organisational level. SAFe does a really good job of describing a cohesive model that aims to do just that. Using an industry framework has provided us with a common model, language and consistent base to work off.

Most large organisations are complex and achieving organisational agility spans well beyond delivery teams. There is often a desire for some level of structure and process around any new way of working before it is accepted.  Simply saying you are going to “scale agile” won’t get far as it doesn’t satisfy this need and can be a high risk approach. The structure and discipline that SAFe outlines is a powerful way to communicate a different way of working that covers how work is organised, funded and governed. It actually provides direct line of sight from portfolio planning through to the features teams are working on that will be delivered to customers. Having said that, we couldn’t say we follow SAFe to the letter. For us it is more a reference model that we have used to guide us but we are really carving our own path.

4. Gartner calls for enterprises to embrace a Bimodal approach to IT services. This combination of slow and fast development, (also called 2-speed IT), can be a challenge for large organisations. How is Australia Post managing it?

I haven’t delved into this deeply but am familiar with the idea.  I guess the starting point is to work out whether your organisation is pursuing 2 speed IT as a strategy, or whether it is a stage you go through as you change to a more nimble IT organisation.  I’m keen on the latter approach.  It is easier to speed up things in Digital relative to other parts of the IT organisation. We have invested in “cloudifying” our digital applications, automating integration and deployment capability, and building a highly adaptive and flexible delivery model.  This is paying significant dividends now in terms of delivery speed, flexibility and customer outcomes.  Moving beyond digital, our recent enterprise investments in new data centres, networks, cloud, automation and orchestration capabilities, are now supporting significant improvements in other areas as well.  We have also been working successfully to a model called “Differentiated Delivery” that provides a way to bring digital and backend teams together to deliver software in an iterative manner with all the benefits that provides.

5. Andrew Walduck, your CIO, has talked a lot about digital disruption and how this is fundamentally changing Australia Post’s business and the relationship it has with its customers.  How does the Digital Delivery Centre fit into this picture and the longer-term vision for the organisation?

Digital disruption is continuing to drive rapid changes in customer behaviour and Australia Post’s challenge is to evolve our 205 year old organisation to meet the needs of today whilst ensuring it drives sustainable growth in new products and services.  Improving the way the organisation creates and executes new ideas, whether that is from our front-line customer facing staff or our staff based in headquarters, is an important area of focus.

This results in improvements in how we serve and enable our customers and communities. One area is through our customer connect platform which is a suite of API’s and a support community that enables our customers and third parties to explore and innovate around new products, services and customer experiences. Our digital teams have been at the heart of these changes and continue to work hard to bring these and many other solutions to life.

6. If you could say one thing to prepare IT managers and CIOs for the changing paradigm, what would that be?

Disruption is happening at an ever increasing pace and it is no longer enough for organisations to respond by simply reorganising around the next set of profitable products and services.  Successful organisations will be those where innovation and adaptation are an inherent part of their culture and way of working.  IT needs to be part of this.  So if there was one thing I’d leave with IT managers and CIOs, it would be this: “build a culture and environment where the creative capacity of your staff and organisation can be set free”.

 

Cameron, thanks so much for taking the time!


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