On Friday, I shared across my social media platforms a few images accompanied with a caption that encapsulated a few wins from my engagements from the week. One of the reasons why I do this, is to highlight what typically goes on in a week in my career, and the kind of work spectrum from what I like to call Vuyolwethu As A Service (we’ll explain this shortly), as well as with my newly founded company, InnovTel comprises of.
It was overwhelmingly received with great positivity encouraging more of these kinds of post, and as a follow up to my question (which came with a resounding yes) on whether I should unpack what happens in my day/week, I thought it fit so share with you how I manoeuvre being remote.
Over the past few months, I’ve become intentionally aware of the kind of work I do, and the challenge and opportunity that this has presented in separating the offerings and services of my business and that from my personal brand. InnovTel provides services in Innovation Strategy and Monitoring and Evaluation, while Vuyolwethu As a Service (VaaS) is strictly focused on Corporate Moderation, Strategy Consulting and Brand Influence. This has been super helpful in accepting conflicting invitations, and even internal conversations of which umbrella the service desired can be delivered under.
So, with all that said, how does a week in my life really look like?
I’ve segmented this outlook into two verticals (VaaS and InnovTel) with three highlights each of a scenario that will hopefully provide you with a lens of how I spend my week.
Let’s take a look.
Vuyolwethu As A Service (VaaS):
1. Campaign Paused: One of the three ways that I provide a service to clients, is through brand influence with partnerships that are aligned to my verticals of startup advisory, business innovation, gender parity and the lines in between. About a week ago, I was approached by an agency that lead a campaign for a financial services group and once the engagement started, with rates approved on, it was time to send content and get it approved. Unfortunately, a few days earlier before the campaign went live, the client took a decision to put the campaign on pause.
2. Panel Discussion: A client, global technology firm has just launched a partnership with an enterprise technology solution that is seeking to engage on the importance of transformation. Scheduled 5-6 weeks prior, this week was time to shoot and engage on the processes and investments that I have made in InnovTel to insulate and ready it from the COVID-19 pandemic by being a digital business. Using tools like Sage, Payfast and banking with Standard Bank has assisted.
3. Renegotiating a Rate: Everyone wants to get a good price for their service, and beyond that transaction, I focus on the value that can be provided. I recently onboarded a new client who wanted to negotiate my moderating rate, mostly attributed to the fact that they would have to incur costs of taking me out of my home and put me in studio. In keeping with the theme of value creation and exchange, they’ll now also be coming onboard as clients of InnovTel.
1. Competition Preparation: I consulted as a selection committee member from the hundreds of entrants of the student entrepreneurship competition, and this resulted in an invitation to be one of the judges at the invitation of the vice-chancellor of the university. One of the reasons why I love working with universities is the great opportunity to contribute to levelling the playing field in giving all students to exercise the viability of their ideas, as well as an enabling environment and safe culture to cushion failure.
2. Client H2 Expansion Meeting: One of most exciting words that I had heard this week was a client that expressed that they wanted to take our relationship to the next level – and that was to expand our services to them, capacity as well as the region in which they’ll be operating in in 2021. An introductory hour-long conversation that has led to weekly series of mapping and planning the next few years. To say this meeting was the highlight of the week, would be an understatement.
3. Payment, Vendor loading: Business isn’t always sexy, and one of the things that isn’t sexy about business is the payment period and prior to that, the onboarding back and forth of document submission and form refilling. And this week, was filled with a client whom I engaged with doing that for two days (luckily a few minutes in total).
And there you have it, a brief executive summary of what goes on in my week – some highlights, important lowlights and some tactics employed to ensure that value creation is achieved.
How does your week look like, and what services and conversations do you engage in to ensure that you make the most of the value that you trade?
I’d love to hear from you.
Time flies when you’re innovating, and doing so at the intersection of user (customer) experience, business and (emerging) technology. Integrating into the system of product management is more than processes, data and advanced technologies, it’s the people that essentially ensure that there’s strategy for elimination decisions, de-risking and development for new products. And I’ve been fortunate to do this in an environment that is, as we’ve termed in the Labs, “inno-positive” for all this innovation to take place.
I joined the company as a contractor, specifically in the innovation and enterprise space. When I came on board, I did so as a project manager, the first one being the Land Hackathon that looked at how we can use emerging technology to create transparency with land administration and digitization of processes. The successful outcome of this project lead me to take on one of the biggest projects I’ve ever done, which was to lead the launch of the Thomson Reuters Labs™ - Cape Town in October 2016 with an incredible team and the support from our other global network of Labs. With the growth of the Labs, meant that so did the work, relationships, content and responsibility, and so did my role.
I then transitioned into the role of Innovation Programme Manager which leveraged on my experience in working with startups, being a dot connector with the network of the business to the data and innovation Labs and ensuring that we have a community that we can collaborate with when a particular customer-led opportunity came along, this across sub-Sahara Africa.
My expansive role now as Ecosystem Manager requires me to manage and build relationships that we have with customers, partners, ecosystem stakeholders and startups; being the connective tissue in engaging the business with Africa’s startup and technology and innovation ecosystem. With these relationships, comes the architecture of business innovation strategies that'll engage the work that we do, this externally and internally. Once these relationships are forged and the excitement of kickstarting to build a new product gets underway, it’s at times easy to get lost in the enthusiasm of it all.
Scope and Defining at High Level
Coming up with an idea can take a few minutes, days or hours of light bulb moments, connecting opportunities and challenges to existing products or product development is where product management begins. From the conversations, the idea needs to be defined, and usually organisations want a high level overview of the deliverables without scoping the project’s life cycle, but understandably, because cost and schedule for stakeholders involved is on the line. To work from this point of perspective (high level to granular) has usually worked in most cases, but each case is as unique as the innovation.
With the unique positioning of the Labs being to develop products that are customer led, engaging and gathering the voice of the customer is part and parcel of what drives impactful and creative business solutions. Corporate innovation requires a high frequency of customer centricity so as to experience and determining the feasibility of the product being worked on. Once the right customer representative is brought into the conversation and ideas are birthed, engaging them in (every) step of the process is ideal to having a successful proof-of-concepts proven.
Evangelise within the Company
The one thing that I’ve learnt with corporate innovation and working inside a large company, is that you cannot do it alone, especially in a network that’s over 45000 strong, globally. You need to know which departments, executive sponsors and in my case, Labs buddies (connecting with someone in other Thomson Reuters Labs across the work) to network and connect to. You cannot do it alone!
Product management is a team effort. It takes a corporate innovation village in order to ensure that we’re connected to the right markets, holding conversations with the right customer departments, partnering with the right internal teams, and so much more. It’s been an awesome year in product management, one with a couple of successes paired with failures that you learn to do very fast and pick yourself up again.
Here’s another year of innovation!