Sky’s the limit with cloud EPC

The Infomedia team celebrated a very important win recently. We proudly announced that after a global competitive tender, Infomedia was selected to be a technology partner to Nissan Motor Company.

We signed an exclusive agreement with Nissan to supply our Microcat Electronic Parts Catalog software (EPC) to Nissan’s global dealership network.

Nissan’s General Manager of Global Service Engineering, Mr. Shigeru Narita, said: “We are very excited to have selected Infomedia as our partner. We believe that they have the best technology, people and organisation for our global rollout, and we look forward to implementing their EPC throughout our business to drive the business change needed to get us onto a world leading platform.”

We think some of the reasons our customers select Infomedia are:

  • Established global operations – Ability to deliver a localised EPC in 29 languages, to over 180 countries, and provide regional support in 16 languages.
  • Trusted Partner – Simple, all-inclusive business model.
  • Fast, accurate and intuitive EPC – Easy to learn, easy to use EPC.
  • Solution for the entire Parts Supply Chain – Capabilities to extend parts selling beyond the Dealer to Collision and Trade customers.
  • Technology leadership – Industry leading SaaS infrastructure that supports 150,000 users.

In terms of our technology leadership, we have the ability to replace their legacy system with a next-generation cloud-based EPC, with automated data updates and ‘always on’ infrastructure.

Some automakers like Nissan, have established a clear direction for their cloud strategy, backed by a deep understanding that cloud is a powerful enabler for innovation and brand growth. For other automakers, the clock is ticking, as the rate of vehicle technology change increases and customer attitudes towards dealership service evolve.

Cloud-based technology offers automakers and dealerships new capabilities to not only improve employee productivity, but limitless potential to improve customer service and satisfaction.

My view is that new consumer and competitive requirements are creating a perfect storm that will place even more importance for dealerships to adopt cloud applications.

Cloud LinkedIn

Next generation technology – easy, with no fuss

Here at Infomedia, we were the first to have a 100% online, commercially released EPC. So why do we believe in cloud so strongly? Because we can remove the hassle, risk and cost associated with fixed dealership technology.

My philosophy is: systems and processes should only be implemented if they reduce the complexity of a process, reduce cost, and speed things up – and that’s exactly what cloud technology does.

For a busy parts counter at a dealership, removing the need to install, update and manage catalogue data means more time can be spent with the customer. Our Microcat software provides affordable technology with an always on, always up-to-date solution that allows dealerships to focus on business growth.

For automakers, cloud technology empowers hassle-free data updates with self-serve tools that publish parts pricing information in real-time. Our automaker customers tell me this is a very powerful and big competitive advantage for them.

Increasing business agility for the fast-paced world

When I speak with our key OEM customers, I hear a common story: dealerships are under constant pressure from aftermarket competitors. Customer expectations are evolving, and I believe cloud technology and comparable retail experiences are playing a key part in defining those new customer expectations; eBay and Amazon make it so simple!

To customers, fast delivery times are a standard expectation – the sooner the part is delivered to the workshop, the faster the customer can pick up their car. Therefore, ordering the right repair part, the first time, is crucial for a dealership’s parts department. This is where I believe cloud EPCs like Microcat have the advantage. Faster cycle times in this industry means a tangible impact on customer satisfaction and profitability, and cloud technology is the enabler.

With cloud-based applications, users have more business agility and flexibility. This is backed by a study from Harvard Business Review, where 64% of respondents reported that the use of cloud has increased their organization’s agility. Cloud applications mean instant access to information, better customer experience and potential for harnessing actionable insights in real-time.

Flexibility to work anytime, anywhere

Cloud devicesBeing someone who is constantly travelling and on the move, it’s imperative for me to be able to work remotely, as and when I like. All my files, data, information and detail is stored online in the cloud. I don’t need to be tied to a single computer or laptop, and I can switch between multiple devices.

Our cloud applications also bring this freedom of movement to dealership staff – we empower them to go beyond the parts counter and be innovative with their sales strategies. A cloud EPC can easily be used on location by field staff when selling parts to collision and mechanical trade customers.

Exposing the dealership catalogue information to trade customers is also made easy by using cloud applications. Self-service and digital transformation of the sales process can mean a gigantic leap in dealership efficiency, and we are seeing increased interest in our Trade EPCs by OEMs who want to transform their retail parts environment.

Collaboration & insights

Not only do we build great cloud applications, but we are also fearless adopters of cloud technology for our internal organisation. One of the most challenging things about leading a global company is consistency. We might have multiple office locations around the world, but we are ‘One Infomedia’, and the cloud enables us to collaborate seamlessly.

With all data and information being stored centrally, and available 24/7, it’s much easier to communicate, collaborate and draw insights.

I believe collaboration is an area of opportunity for automakers and dealerships. During the past year, I have seen many examples of vehicle and customer data being stored on automaker network silos. However, dealerships will not capitalise on this information until OEMs invest in cloud applications.

Our Microcat EPC platform is designed to scale, and we implement a large volume of local parts information at country level. This not only assists dealerships with more relevant and faster sales transactions, but it also creates potential for OEMs to use analytics via the cloud to monitor and improve supply chain processes.

The cloud and its silver lining

These reasons are precisely why Nissan has chosen to implement our cloud-based Microcat EPC to their global dealership network. With automatic online updates, dealerships will have access to the latest automaker parts data, right at their fingertips, 24/7.

Having easy and instant access to accurate parts information means Parts Managers also have greater insight and control. They are more agile, and are empowered to act on the information and implement actions in a shorter turnaround time. This benefit extends to Nissan’s customers, who will be able to get their car repaired in a timelier manner.

We’re delighted to have Nissan onboard, and we’re confident that our technological innovations will continue to reinvent their parts operations into the future.

Given the significant opportunities presented by cloud technology, I expect more OEMs to adopt cloud-based EPCs to keep up with fundamental shift in user experiences, customer expectations and competitive pressures.

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Our Values, Our DNA

Here at Infomedia, we’ve recently refreshed our company core values. The reset in values comes at a time when our company is transforming from being a publishing company to a truly global SaaS business. Our core values have been synchronised to align with the type of performance culture we want to create, and they are a part of our DNA to support growth.

Below are Infomedia’s new values:

  • Accelerating Performance
  • Driving Innovation & Service
  • Navigating Global, Steering Local
  • Having Fun in the Fast Lane

Some might discount corporate values as fluffy sentiments, used to build the perfect, glossy, corporate brand. However, our corporate values are not just meaningless words written on our website, they embody our desire to drive business performance, staff satisfaction and grow shareholder value.

We believe that having values is essential and an integral part of our organisation. Why?

It strengthens corporate identity
The technology industry is often disruptive and chaotic. In a world where things are constantly changing and evolving, full of noises and uncertainty, our core values will always guide our decisions, actions and growth aspirations.

Values shape our identity, act as a unique differentiator that sets us apart from our competitors, and guide how we interact with those around us. Our values will be used to impart the ethos of our company to our Automaker and Dealership partners; informing them about who we are, what the company stands for, and what they can expect from us; our DNA!

values-image

When an organisation is rapidly growing and expanding, it can be easy to lose sight of their unique identity. Core values can be used to ensure that there is no brand dilution. Being a global company with multiple offices around the world, it’s essential for us to have consistent core values, to help unite us all and remind us about the standards that we hold – irrespective of geographic location or language.

This drive for consistency in brand and values also aligns with our Automaker partners who are actively pursuing the ‘One World’ ethos for their brands.

It inspires us to be better
Having corporate values is just as important as setting corporate goals. It aligns and moulds the overall behaviour of how our staff think, behave and work. If your staff don’t know what the company goals are, how do they achieve them? Similarly, if they don’t know what the company values are, how will they behave and conduct themselves?

Core values can be a great source of motivation in the office. When we truly believe in something, we spark the interest of those around us, and inspire everyone to work together to achieve shared goals.

driving-innovationFor example, one of our core values is ‘Driving innovation & service’. This empowers and inspires everyone in the Infomedia team to push their creativity limits. We encourage staff to be open-minded and to think differently, and they are constantly striving to build cutting-edge software that empowers our customers.

It shapes the organisational culture and environment
Values are the heart of our culture at Infomedia; it has a strong influence on our culture, sets the tone of the office environment and influences the work that we produce. Here at Infomedia, we have designed our offices and working space to reflect and foster our values.

fast-laneOne of our core values is ‘Having fun in the fast lane’. Our new Sydney office has a fun and vibrant campus type environment that welcomes and inspires people. By providing an open and conducive work environment, we are happier, we produce better work, and we flourish as both professionals and individuals.

How we expand the Infomedia family
Our care values guide our decisions on recruiting new hires, developing our people, recognising and rewarding success.

We select candidates who are not just skillful and talented, but the best suited for the organisation’s corporate culture. When hiring new staff, we look at candidates who are aligned with our company values. You can always train skills, but it may be challenging to work with someone who doesn’t share the same values.

It strengthens the organisation
Having a set of shared values, beliefs and mindset helps to grow and create a strong organisation. Collaboration and team work builds a strong organisation, and having shared values empowers individuals and teams to innovate in the way they collaborate.As a business, we can only succeed when everyone is on board and aligned in our thinking – that is what gives us the edge and makes us stronger, at all levels of the organisation.

We have found that values can be very powerful and have a huge, positive impact on our organisation as a whole. We embed and embody our core values globally, and they are part of our growth DNA. Infomedia wouldn’t be what it is today, without it.

It is Better to do it The Hard Way

tufekciIn an echo of Malcolm Gladwell’s 2010 “the revolution will not be tweeted”, techno-sociologist Zeynep Tufekci unveiled at TEDGlobal 2014 in Rio de Janeiro last week her thesis that when it comes to using social media to affect lasting change, achievements are not proportional to the energy they inspire. This is a lesson entrepreneurs ignore at their peril.

Zeynep Tufekci is an assistant professor at the University of North Carolina and opened Session 2 at this year’s TED Global in Brazil. Session 2 set out to explore the dichotomy between the opportunities that technology offers us, such as affecting social change; and its dangers, such as how it compromises our privacy.

While many pointed to the Arab Spring as proof that Gladwell was wrong, Tufekci brought a different lens of reality to the belief that social media can topple governments. Just because it is “easier to mobilise does not mean it is easier to get outcomes,” she said. To illustrate her point, while alluding to the Arab Spring and set against the backdrop of the withering efforts in Hong Kong today, Tufekci pointed to the Occupy Movement which she said has not delivered on any of its promises despite its worldwide appeal.

This isn’t to say that these viral movements are not valid. The lesson of the Arab Spring uprisings during 2011 was that while the censored media was impotent amid government atrocities, Social Media was able to blow the lid on it. While “editors sat in their newsrooms and waited for the government to tell them what to do,” activists in Iran, Egypt and Libya were able to use Social Media to collect images of police brutality and violence and get them out to the world’s media via Facebook and Instagram with the use of just a mobile phone. Organisers could mobilise many thousands of demonstrators at just the click of a Tweet-button. The role of modern technology in these historic phenomena should not be under-estimated, but as the rapid dispersion of crowds in Hong Kong this week proves, “all these good intentions and bravery and sacrifice by themselves are not going to be enough” says Tufekci.

By way of contrast, she looked back at the Civil Rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s in the US. Following the arrest of Rosa Parks in Alabama in 1955, supporters mimeographed 52,000 leaflets and distributed them by hand – an effort unfathomable today given our powerful social media technologies, let alone the far more prolific printing technologies available to everyone. While a gargantuan effort, the key lesson Tufekci highlighted was that the activists met face-to-face and bonded. “They created the kind of organization that could think together, create consensus, innovate, keep going together through differences.”

And here is the punchline: “Are we overlooking some of the benefits of doing things the hard way?” she asks.

What does this mean for entrepreneurs and startups looking to quickly create growth to attract investors. Tufekci’s lesson is beautiful in its simplicity: “todays movements feel like startups that get very big quickly”.

Essentially the ability to create the appearance of scale at great speed using powerful communication techniques can be deceptive. Unless startups are able to create sustainability beneath that, they have essentially taken the easy road to what looks and feels like success but ultimately is not enduring and can quickly dwindle. The ‘hard yakka’ of Rosa Parks’ supporters bonded them tightly in an endeavour to which they became deeply dedicated.

The experience of Groupon perhaps exemplifies Tufekci’s message. In 2011 the darling of the group-buying revolution declined a USD$6 Billion acquisition offer from Google before its IPO debut at USD$20. Today, its share price is just USD $6 and its market capitalisation is USD$2 billion less than the Google offer its now much-maligned CEO Andrew Mason snubbed. Most commentators agree Groupon’s mistake was to focus on rapid new customer acquisition rather than sustainable customer retention. In building a lasting business – just as with affecting permanent social change – it is important to take the long view. The apparent might of social media to collect a huge audience can be a dangerous mirage. As Tufecki warns: “the way technology empowers social movements can paradoxically weaken them.”

“We’re working in Dog Years”

smartcompanysquare-useI spoke with Smartcompany Magazine recently about my business, how I grew it to be Australia’s largest Oracle consulting practice. It was a useful opportunity to reflect on what I’ve learnt along the way. You can read the whole article here but I thought I’d pull out and highlight some of the key points:

  • From a leadership perspective, I think the style of carrot and stick doesn’t work anymore.
  • You need three things to motivate people: autonomy, mastery and purpose. People need to feel autonomous, they need to master a skill capability or technology and they need to feel a personal purpose that is aligned to the organisation’s.
  • If people are motivated, they do incredible things.
  • A business has a responsibility to its shareholders to make money, but in making money, other stakeholders might also benefit. I can make money and improve the world I live in, or I can take it a step further and also make it a nice environment for all stakeholders.
  • We have to think about the ripple effect. We live in a world of finite resources and destroying those resources to become more profitable is not necessarily a good thing.
  • It’s much faster to release a minimally viable product, test it and then refine it until it works. Timelines have changed. Twenty years ago you may have spent a year looking at strategy and execution, but in that time you haven’t done any testing. We no longer have that luxury. We’re working in dog years, six or seven times faster.

TED: Davos for Optimists

Hello, my name is Jonathan Rubinsztein and I am a TEDdict. A TEDaholic. A TED junkie. But I suspect I will never be cured, and don’t want to be.

TEDLike any dependence, I crave the high I receive from TED conferences. As I sit on the plane to Rio for my 6th conference in as many years, I mind drifts back to my first. Unlike many addictions, the high I receive from each hit is as good as that first one.  Also, unlike most dependencies, the elation I derive from the profound insight, inspiration and – most importantly – ideas is worth every penny I spend… I have no regrets.

For those who have never been to a TED conference, I hope to share with you some of the experience. Most of you would be familiar with the TED videos on you Tube – there have been more than a billion views – and almost everyone who has must have been touched in some meaningful way by a TED idea. For me, for instance, this video by simon simek profoundly changed the way I view my own business. And yes, that is an important point. I am a managing director of a multi-million dollar IT consultancy employing hundreds of people across Asia and I have no problem prioritising 5 days in Brazil for this conference. The value I can contribute back to my business as a result will be immeasurable in terms of return on investment.

Imagine a fully packed schedule from early in the morning to late at night with 22 minute presentations crammed into the every space of the day. Music, performance, conversation, food and incredible conversations that constantly pushing and stretching the status quo and challenging your world view. The presenters and audience are both as fascinating as each other and you’re immersed in this pool of amazing, talented, interesting, people having dinner, lunch and breakfast with you; interacting, discussing the previous presentation or insane event. After five days of such creative binging I usually come back exhausted and yet exhilarated; with enough intellectual and emotional fuel to last me  months. It takes even longer to fully digest or integrate the insights and ideas

Why not just watch it on You Tube? Because the real benefit of the experience is as much about the audience as the speakers. While the calibre of speakers  extends to such luminaries as as Bill Clinton, Jane Goodall, Malcolm Gladwell,Al Gore, Gordon Brown, Richard Dawkins, Bill Gates, Bono, Mike Rowe, Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin, and many Nobel Prize winners – they also make up the audience!. It is the discussions after the presentations that are as valuable as the presentations themselves. To only watch the presentations on You Tube is as deficient as watching a concert on mute. For instance, one of my more lasting memories is a thoroughly scintillating business discussion with Jeff Bezos in LA that helped to revolutionise my business. I cannot think of another event that could afford me that kind of access to brilliance.

I have often heard TED described as Davos for optimists, and although the tagline is “ideas worth spreading” this is often much more than ideas and it really is about the people who are changing the world for the better. Throughout the coming week I will try to download some of that experience here. I hope you can join me and maybe even become fellow addicts yourselves!

Five “Bezos-isms” that Inspire me

Anyone that knows me knows I’ve always been very influenced and inspired by Amazon CEO, Jeff Bezos. I was lucky enough to meet him once, which is a story I told in my recent Keynote presentation to the Red Rock Leadership Forum in March – which you can view here:

In it I speak mainly about the importance of corporate values (a favourite topic of mine) and how – as Simon Simek explains in this TED video – while companies are usually focussed on telling customers about the what and the how of their business, those customers only want to buy the “Why”. That why is “Purpose” and is my addition to the previously Five Ps of Marketing. That business of Purpose is why we have invested so much in our Corporate Culture and Values .

JR 5 P's

But I also tell the story about how I once had the opportunity to speak with Jeff Bezos at a TED conference in Oxford a few years ago. After some initial clumsiness by me, we got talking and I happened to mention to him during our conversation that my team had coincidentally been in negotiations with his people to secure a licensing agreement and that the process was slow. Before I awoke the next morning, I had been copied on an email from Jeff to his Head of Corporate Services requesting an update.

JR at TED

This inspired me not only because of the excellent responsiveness it displays, but at a broader level it was a great example of a Leader “walking the talk”. Putting the Customer First is an essential Amazon value and it was clearly one Jeff himself personified.  In fact, I have learnt that Customer-centricity is obsessive at Amazon and Jeff used to bring empty chairs into early Amazon meetings to represent the unheard voice of the customer. The company now employs trained specialists who role-play innovation scenarios on behalf of the customer.  From that develops the first of 5 other important “Bezosisms” that have inspired me, and I hope inspire others:

  • Determine what your customer needs, and work backwards” – as a thought process this is a fantastic model to help strategy development. It has driven us in many of our most successful directions, including our recent move onto Jeff’s own Amazon Web Services platform to host cloud services for our customers.
  • Have backbone: disagree and commit” – Amazon is famous for its adversarial culture but any friction is purely in a good cause – to not accept too easily, to question everything and not to agree merely for the sake of being agreeable. As Business Insider describes it: “Bezos can’t stand ‘social cohesion,’ the cloying tendency of people who like to agree with each other and find consensus comfortable.” I’m a contrarian by nature, but agree wholeheartedly with this maxim!
  • Be Patient – “If everything you do needs to work on a three-year time horizon, then you’re competing against a lot of people”; the point being that very few people take the longer view and by so doing you are competing with far fewer people”. We certainly believe in playing the long game at Red Rock and are already looking to the next 5 years in our business planning.
  • Your margin is my opportunity” – Another way he has put it (as quoted in Forbes – number 4 ) is: “There are two kinds of companies: those that try to charge more and those that work to charge less. We will be the second.” With the business environment more dynamic today than it has ever been it is crucial not only to continually question your own model to ensure it offers the best value to your customer; it is also important to always scrutinise your competitor. Unless they are doing the same they will leave opportunity on the table ripe for the taking.  This ethic of constant scrutiny has definitely sharpened our approach.
  • Embrace failureI’ve written before about the problem that Australia has with failure. We have to learn to process it better. Jeff Bezos has famously said: “If you want to be inventive, you have to be willing to fail.” To understand this better, it is worth reading this blog post by Tren Griffen  about how Amazon practices “Optionality” as a rule – that small potential downside is worth massive potential upside. As Griffen puts it, “Harvesting optionality *requires* failure. It can’t be avoided since failure provides information that enable success.”

Which “Bezosism” have influenced you? If not Jess Bezos, which leader has the most impact on the way you do business?

 

Do you have the X-factor?

smhThis week the Sydney Morning Herald published an article I wrote about values. Anyone that has worked with me knows that I am a strong believer in values and their role in business success.  I wanted to summarise these beliefs for the wider business community in the hope that it might provide some balance to the picture, because I feel that far too often there is too much talk about measurement and data and KPIs when there are some other less tangible factors that are harder to measure but nevertheless important to doing well.  Here is the article:

“We’re told running a successful business is all about growth, profit, measurement and accountability. ROI, KPIs and Big Data mean that everything we do is measured to the enth degree and constant reviews of the business and our performance within it are critical to staying on track.

For the most part this has made us focused and disciplined, which is a good thing. But along the way there are some elements that we’ve forgotten: I call it the X-Factor. As Albert Einstein said, “Not everything that counts can be counted; and not everything that can be counted, counts”. As a result of this obsessive focus on numbers, we tend to measure everything, even if it isn’t really an indicator of anything worthwhile. But at the same time, there are some aspects of business we don’t and can’t measure, but which deliver a huge degree of intrinsic value.

We have learned intangible and mercurial aspects of business, we call the X-factor, can deliver huge benefits. I am advocating an approach that encourages people’s passion and it’s really working for us. There are three aspects to creating a winning X-Factor culture:

The first is around values. When we articulated what our culture had become we didn’t realise it would be so important. We have found it to be very powerful as it has become ever-present in everything we do. It started when we expanded across the country and wanted to make sure who we were wasn’t being diluted or distorted across our national and regional offices. We spent time thinking about what lexicon best reflected the organisation we thought we were, what we wanted to be and how we wanted to be perceived.

The second aspect is your environment. When we moved into new offices – a refurbished warehouse space in Sydney’s CBD – architectural design firm Rolf Ockert created a space that reflected our values. We tried not to provide too tight a brief, except to say the overall effect should be “funky” and consistent with our values. The result has been an environment people feel inspired by, which has won awards and is an instant talking point.

Finally, there is attitude. We identified in the creation of our X-Factor that our team was overwhelmingly committed to caring about the customer. Not in a way that could be measured by customer satisfaction surveys; and not even in a way that could be tracked in customer retention dashboards or other metrics.

You can retain your customers by simply staying ahead of your competition – in price or in customer service. But we discovered our people wanted to commit to something above and beyond that. We defined this in terms of seeking to always delight our customers. Our customers appreciate it, and it is borne out in our revenue figures and overall success.

But more important than all of this the pride my colleagues have in the workplace, its professionalism and passion.

I was surprised how much the X-Factor has impacted our business. Nowhere in my MBA studies was this kind of “fluffy stuff” recognised as powerful and differentiating. We weren’t taught how to create it or cultivate it as leaders and managers but I now know that our company wouldn’t be what it is without it. It seems today we lean so heavily on the left side of our brain, we forget how much the right side can contribute.”