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In October, we released Catalyst — a Postlight whitepaper on driving digital transformation within an organization. This week we release the audio from the first of our four-part series on Catalyst. In this live recording, we explain the importance of defining your mission, share some industry trends, and answer all of your questions.


Paul Ford Is this it? Is the webinar starting? [music ramps up, play alone for 15 seconds, fades out]

Rich Ziade Paul, we need to build the world’s best real time data driven online mortgage calculator. I got a memo.

PF  First of all, I haven’t seen you in six months, you just stuck your head into my office. 

RZ I know, I didn’t expect this to land in my lap either. 

PF But wait, can I can I say no?

RZ Microservices. We’re not seeing enough of them in the organization. 

PF You’re back! Why are you back asking me about microservices? I don’t know—it’s not on the roadmap. We’re going to do a monolith and I can’t do this!

RZ You need to put many little—micro means little—services on this roadmap ASAP. Our beloved CEO is decided that 15 years is long enough to wait between online product catalog refreshes. 

PF  I know but we were going to do that in 2022. I have this whole thing set up. I can’t do that. I gotta say no to this. 

RZ We have 60 different CMS’s, it seems like a lot. 

PF But yeah, I know. But again, we’re not—CMS is not the focus.

RZ I want one CMS to solve everything.

PF Then you just have 61 CMS’s, why are you doing this to me?

RZ Everyone, welcome to the Postlight Podcast live. This is based on Catalyst, a white paper we just put out that we’re going to tell you a little bit about soon. I am joined by Paul Ford, the CEO of Postlight. Say Hi, Paul. 

PF Hi!

RZ Great. And I am Rich Ziade, president of Postlight. Thank you all for joining us. I don’t know how many participants there are. Because Zoom is just a piece of shit. I’m just going to say—

PF No, no, we’re not. We’re not gonna say it. We’re just gonna live it. 

PF So a bit of housekeeping Paul. So we’re recording this live event, it will end up on YouTube soon. We might even put it on Daily Motion. I don’t know yet. We’re going to talk it through.

PF Depends on how dirty it gets. 

RZ Postlight! We are both the co founders of Postlight. Postlight, it’s just an amazing place. We’re known for our events, we were really involved in the New York tech scene. 

PF We used to throw parties where we would literally have to make people leave because it was getting to be too much.

RZ It was just—it was it’s great. We will be back there soon. Hopefully. Hope everyone if well. Thank you for putting some time aside to join us here. 

PF Yes, once we’re all vaccinated, we’re going to throw a rager.

RZ My God. We’re going to give out the ultimate swag.

PF It’s true. And you’re all going to get a laptop like just come to Postlight. That’s how much we miss human beings.

RZ Tell the people about Postlight, Paul!

PF Rich, I thought you would never ask. Postlight is a strategy and services firm. If you don’t know us, we are not the biggest company in the world. But we do a lot of very high impact work around product strategy and product delivery inside of very large, very complicated organizations. And the upside is that we know how to get software shipped inside of big things—you might call them bureaucracies, you might call them large matrix orgs. Regardless, we have a lot of experience that we want to share. 

RZ Yes. And you are listening to an episode of the Postlight Podcast, find us wherever you listen to podcasts. We’re funny, we’re smart, everything, it’s just all in one package, Paul. This is based on a white paper that we put out recently, I wrote an early version of this that was dry and just sold us and then Paul Ford gave it the words that only Paul Ford can give a white paper. It’s not as thick as it shows in this image. But the wisdom is.

PF Yeah, that’s a little marketing magic there to make that stack of paper.

RZ Exactly. So today, this is going to be the first actually in a four part series, the Catalyst paper is actually broken up into four sections. And today we’re going to focus on defining and crafting your mission. So, we started this off by kind of playing out these sort of tricky scenarios of people asking people to do stuff. And the thing we want to kind of get across here is that software is not about code. Okay, yeah, software is made up of code. But software is not—successful software—is as much about people as it is about code. That’s really kind of what we’re going to talk about today. The things that happen to the software development journey that you can try to avoid and hopefully you’ll learn a few things and take some of our advice. And let’s face it, you’re probably not shipping a cool game. You’re probably not listening to today’s live webinar, because you’re shipping a game.

PF What is this game? You’re into this game? You wanted to put this in here.

RZ This is a cool game. This is a game called moving out where you essentially, I think you’re a dwarf—

PF It’s like a lizard?

RZ A lizard. And you’re just moving, you’re moving furniture out of a house onto a truck. It’s really fun. The physics are kind of cool. It’s good, right? It’s fun. And people love to make games, right?

PF And the reason we’re showing everyone this is because we’re saying, ”You’re not doing this. This is really cool. But that’s not what you’re doing.”

RZ Exactly. And all the fun aspects making games and the truth is a lot of the time, you know, your software efforts start off because of pain and because of trying to overcome where you’ve been in the past. So I want to talk—shift now and talk about legacy. Paul, what do you think of when you think, when you hear the word, legacy? 

PF I mean, obviously, what I think of is incredibly pretentious, black and white photographs of people who have nothing to do with our business. 

RZ That’s a good starting point. That’s fair. [Rich & Paul chuckles]

PF No, but also, sorry, it’s just too easy. What I do think about is I mean, you know, here, you think about people who have contributed greatly to culture, this wonderful significance of amazing human effort by brilliant people who kind of were ahead of their time, right? And then there’s our industry. 

RZ Then there’s our version of legacy. Right? 

PF Right. That’s a bad one. Things that are slow, bureaucratic, we have to get off PHP. Nobody ever says, let’s get on to PHP. [Rich laughs]

RZ It’s just not fair. 

PF The one to talk about is the one in the bottom right, where it’s slow and full of friction. Why is our software so bad when other people software is so good? 

RZ Yes. And look, we appreciate legacy rotting software is is the lifeblood of Postlight in some ways. But it is part of the world. I mean, software from the day it goes out starts to get stale. And look, it’s not a great starting point, right? These are kind of negative, sort of, they’re kind of complaints. I mean, it’s pain, right? And it’s pain, not because they did it wrong, the first time around, it’s pain, because software gets put out, it stays in somewhat of a static state as business moves, as things change in the world. And software has to keep up.

PF Are you able to see the live poll like I am now that we’re doing webinars? 

RZ It actually came up in front of my deck and threw me off for a second. [Paul chuckles]

PF Zoom is—we should almost pause this entire thing and just talk about Zoom for the rest of it. But we’re not going to do that. Let’s share the results. You can see everyone basically feels the same things about their legacy platform. Also good commitment to that poll, thank you team, there’s 93 of you and you got right in there. This is going incredibly well. 

RZ Paul, I have an I have an obsession with weird robot graphics that try to emphasize that your company knows technology. 

PF This is how when you go look at competitors, they love this. They love to put these terrible images. 

RZ It’s the weirdest thing. I don’t get it. Why would you create robotic fingers to enter data when you could just use the computer to take the data? Well, it doesn’t matter. Anyway. It’s creepy and weird, but it’s out there. And I’m bringing this up because I want us to talk about the term digital transformation. 

PF Hmm, that’s just the worst couple of words in the world, right? Like—

RZ Well, we went through a phase and this is kind of our vibe, right? We kind of rejected it and mocked it, right, we tend to do that initially. And then I came to appreciate sort of what it represents. And what it represents is that you’re taking a bigger step, you’re taking a bigger leap. This is it’s less about the patches, and the fixes, and the incremental improvements, and more about becoming something very, very different. Right? It’s shedding what you are and embracing something more radical, right? I would even argue that the term is actually kind of inaccurate, because really, what it’s talking about is you’re asking a business that got very comfortable with old ways of doing things to do something radically different, right? And I think that fundamentally is—but you know, business transformation, that word was used up like 50 years ago. So that’s not the term we use here. This is our tagline on our website. And the tagline is really trying to emphasize that, you know, we want to work with you. And we and many people are coping with this, taking that big jump, right? 

PF This is the world that we’re in people are doing these big, you know, the boss is sticking their head in the door and saying, ”Time for some digital transformation, get ready!” And you’re going but ”No! Ah! Ah!” and so that’s that’s a lot of the times when people pick up the phone and call us they’re like, ”Yeah, I got to actually get this thing done.”

RZ It’s exciting though. I think it’s a great moment because that means you’re gonna be given the chance to do something transformative and not just incremental. Right? Not just the little fix.

PF Well one of these works it’s a career changer right? When you get when you get the reputation as the person who can ship the software, you’re in a very good place. 

RZ Alright, so you’ve been given the money, you’ve been given the team, you’ve been given the time, let’s do this. 

RZ What could go wrong, Paul Ford? People who weren’t part of the decision will show up later. 

PF Hmm, that’s a special one right? It’s just—because if once they make that decision once they say we’re gonna give you some budget, we’re gonna get get it built. Now, only now do people notice that it’s happening and they need to get in there.

RZ As you go, people try to jam more stuff in.

PF Boy, do they, too. So this is like going to keep referring to this as people from down the hall which is not a very good pandemic metaphor, but people just start coming down the hall and going ”Hey, you know, did you talk to accounting about your thing or did you did marketing weight in yet?”

RZ This is a classic, right, which is you’ve been given the team. But here’s the way I would put this, business doesn’t pause and stop while you’re doing the big thing. So if your big thing is an eight month project, and it’s going to change the game, the truth is things are still happening in the business. And they still want best people, the people with knowledge and like, how can I just borrow Sally and Jim for just three weeks, when a client lands that’s like the ace, right? Like, you have a lot of power when a client lands, and they want a thing in the middle of this transformational work.

PF Well, because they’re gonna drive revenue, and they’re gonna make the money short term, and you’re like eight months out from shipping, right. So that’s a huge risk in your world. 

RZ And then there’s just classic politics, right, envy and greed. And just the games that people play. Sometimes this really kind of speaks to my own view of humanity. But we don’t need to get into that. But this is real. We see this out in the world.  

PF What happens is the people, the classic shitty people, politics part, you can spend a lot of time really like thinking about the fights you’re going to have and how you’re going to protect teams, it’s actually the well meaning stuff from the top three that are your real risk, because you can, if people are going to be terrible, and try to steal your team, you can actually manage that, like terrible is easier to manage than than the lots of little tiny cuts. Oh, you’ve drawn some circles on this. 

RZ Yeah, and this is just to emphasize what we’re not going to talk about here is bad architecture or certain technology decisions that you’re making. We’re talking about people and what people can do to your effort, right. So what can you do about it? Well, here’s the first. And I would argue, most important tip, we can share today, establish your North Star. Some call it a vision statement, a mission statement. A charter is another term I’ve heard. What it does is it succinctly describes why your project even exists, its purpose in life. And let’s give an example, is the best way to illustrate it. Project Ripple will build connections between our global team members by making it easy for anyone in the company to engage anyone else based on their skills, people will find solutions faster. Oh, here’s a better example. What I did there was the first phrase was kind of wordy and a lot to take in. So I gave a better and even better example, people will find solutions faster by finding each other faster. So what’s the point of this, right? It’s just the sentence, it doesn’t really drive a team. But it actually does. What it does is if you use it again and again, or say it over and over again, because people are going to bang away at your effort. And being able to test whatever they’re talking about against this, this North Star is hugely valuable. 

PF You know, the critical thing here too, is that it’s a product description. Not it’s not about a platform, it’s not about a technology, you’re not saying we’re going to use, you know, SAP people finder to increase synergies, you’re saying, it’s just going to make it easier for people to find each other faster. And you can measure against that actually, mentally and emotionally, you can figure out how you’re doing. 

RZ It’s hard to do. It’s worth also noting, getting it down to a few words is really hard work. It takes time to do that. So we’ve talked about this a bit and orients your team around a clear direction, envision, communicate it out, once you have it, let everyone know about it, say it again and again. It also is hugely valuable in helping you react to changes, right? Does this fit into the mission, it’s a constant amidst the inevitable choppy waters of software development. And it’s worth noting here, our contracts are by design, often deliverable based, and actually kind of loose. And the reason they’re loose is because we’re acknowledging the fluidity of software development. And that is going to be real, accept that, communicate that and use that North Star, we even included a free code name generator in the middle of the Catalyst download, Paul, did you know this?

PF I did know this because I made it up at like 1am on a Saturday, the whole point of this is stop thinking about things like code names, like just get the simplest possible mission statement, come up with a very simple code name and get going. 

RZ Alright, so we know where to go. Now let’s make some requirements happen. The meetings where you say everyone join us, we want your ideas about what the next generation thing is going to do. Right. And it’s a big meeting. I’ve been in meetings with 15, 12 to 15 people all pelting you with not just what they want, but also the pain they go through today, the struggles they have in parsing all of that, like you got to take all of that in, right?

PF Well and let’s be clear—let me interrupt—you are having that meeting, you won’t survive. If you don’t have that meeting, you need the mission, you know, and you need to get everybody in a room and you need to say as little you present your mission, you talk about your goals. And then you say almost nothing and you just you perform writing it down and getting all of the requirements. 

RZ So once they all come in, you got to decide what to do next, right? And there’s a matrix we like to use, we call it the value cost matrix and this is out there in the world I’ve seen named different things. And value means not ”is this valuable to the people who are asking for the thing?” Is this valuable to the people who are going to use your product. So get inside the head of the people are going to use it and decide if it’s going to be meaningful for them. Cost doesn’t just mean dollars, it means time. It means complexity, as well as dollars, right? And the key here is to do the cheap, great stuff first, seems obvious. But this exercise is useful prioritization exercise, really useful. And what do you punt to the end? Is the stuff that’s really lofty, but expensive, and its value is dubious, right? Push that stuff away. And this, you know, we don’t say this in this slide, but get stuff out fast, sooner. 

PF You’ll notice as you’re listening to us, right, it’s a lot of really abstract stuff. But we’ve, you’ve got an eight month project that actually, and now it might be a really big deal. But you are incredibly vulnerable, until you have shipped something because nobody, no one knows what you’re doing. So they’re like, can I have their people? Can I have their budget? Are they doing a good job? I could probably do a better job. So you need to get artifacts in front of human beings so that they kind of let you go. Otherwise, they’re going to just be excited and interested and wonder if they could have if they could be doing it instead. 

RZ Write like a caveman start with very basic words. Don’t be fancy. I have a legal background. I really appreciate plain English, when you’re writing anything, it is communication, right? So don’t be formal, or too legalistic. This is for the nons, the non designers, the non engineers, it is a communication tool. So what does that look like? It looks kind of like this. 

PF Wow. Wow. But yeah, I mean, look at that first one, use AWS. Now, in the beginning of my career, when I would write a PRD, it would be something like, ”We will evaluate leading cloud services in order to determine determine the optimal strategy for blah blah blah using this framework.” And then you could also just go, because you already have a giant AWS client, and you’re going to use AWS anyway, you can go, ”Use AWS, it needs to work on mobile, English and Spanish.” You’re not going to present this necessarily, but boy, take the time and get it down to the absolute bare bones, rather than trying to create a sort of legalistic, contractual style framework, because it doesn’t matter. Nobody needs you to write a contract, you need to decide what you’re going to do. 

RZ You could even argue people don’t read them, when they get when they get that eight page seven level stick bullet document. 

PF And you know, as we’ll see in the next slide, they just start, they just start adding their own concerns without even paying too much attention to what’s up there. 

RZ So you’ve got a document and you share it, you did the share button. And now there are all these little bubbles up in Google Docs with a little heads. And sometimes you can feel the people inside the document, you see cursors, and things are moving around. And they’re coming at you with all kinds of stuff. That’s okay, you made this point earlier, in the context of a meeting, listen to everything, nod a lot. For others being heard is almost as important as getting what you want. hear people out, they want to know that they’ve gotten their their two cents in. So it is important to hear people out. But then here’s where this North Star really becomes valuable, right? It you can start to test the pushback that you’re getting and the way people are expanding. Most people don’t really appreciate what is involved to get a thing done. And they’ll just ask for the thing, right? So wield that North Star. But we do need to say no, Paul, a lot. 

PF Well that’s what that’s about, right? Like it’s people are going to come in and they’re going to actively try to manipulate you to get the thing they want. It’s not bad or good. It’s just they want they need to get their thing for their team. And so you have to learn to say no, but saying no is very dangerous. So what’s this guy saying, Rich? 

RZ He’s saying ”If you do it that way, the whole thing will be under threat!”

PF Oh that’s good, ’cause that’s like, ”Oh my god, I would love to help you. But you could blow up the whole world.”

RZ You know what doesn’t work, Paul? Telling people that’s an okay idea, but not great. [Paul & Rich chuckle] That doesn’t work.

PF No, all ideas. All ideas are great. All ideas are wonderful. 

RZ What works is associating an ask with potential failure. Failure is incredibly persuasive. Avoiding failure is incredibly persuasive. This is a tricky one. This one’s hard to pull off because nobody believes you. 

PF No, this phase three is a dangerous world. 

RZ Phase three doesn’t exist for a lot of people. 

PF It’s always sad in the project as it’s going along. And you’re like, ”Oh, no, that’ll be release two.” And then release three shows up before release one is even out. That’s when you’re just lying. But it’s okay. 

RZ It is a tactic. Now, here’s, you know, this is, sometimes you just say no. Look, you’ve been given a mandate, right? You’ve been told, take us forward and you’ve actually been empowered and you’ve been empowered but there’s this weird paradox because all of a sudden you’ve got all these customers telling you that their needs are the most important. But you’ve been empowered, you have been empowered.

PF 90% of people can’t say no, it’s very hard. And that’s how they get you. So one of the moves that really works well, as you are, you notice we haven’t written a line of code. Somebody says, like, ”Hey, I need this thing, to actually, I need a live bird to come out of my iPad when I want to use this app.” And you’re like, don’t go, ”That’s terrible. You could never do that. Only a like, you’d have to be broken in some way to even ask that question.” No matter how ridiculous it is, run to the whiteboard. That’s always my advice, run to the whiteboard and go, ”How are we going to get you a live bird to fly out of your iPad?” And then you scribble and you don’t go like, ”No, that’s really dumb” after a minute, you actually start to plan it out. And you go, ”The problem is that Apple doesn’t support live birds. So that is really going to be tricky for us, we’d have to spend billions and billions of dollars changing physical reality in order to have live birds. I’d love to get it for you. But we can’t do it.” And they go, ”Well, boy, but you really tried hard to get me my thing.” Right? And that is, that’s key. 

RZ You’re engaging, you’re having a conversation, you’re not just flipping people off and saying, ”Sorry, next time.” 

PF Always believe before you say no, it’s one of the great skills. 

RZ Alright, so the doc is ready. Now we’re working, this is sort of peering into some of the future live events that we’re going to have. But it’s one worth sharing here. Surface early and often, do not disappear. It is one of the most dangerous things you can do to your effort. Because when there is quiet and silence and dead air, they fill it with anxiety and doubt, that is inevitable. So over communicate, gather people, the more the better, and share progress. Show the work as it evolves, early designs, wireframes prototypes. Listen to the outsiders, right, keep listening, even though the ships kind of sailed, you’ve already built the stairs in the house, you’re not going to move them from the east side of the house to the west. But keep listening. And tell them what they can expect next, set expectations going forward. So surfacing early and often is hugely valuable as an effort is happening.

PF But while we’re talking, we asked in the poll, have you ever worked on a project that didn’t ship? 80% said yes. 10% said no. 10% said sort of.

RZ That’s something. So listen, hey, if that’s true, you can reach us at [Rich laughs]

PF No, I mean, that’s why we’re trying to do this, right. Like we actually did set an ethos when we started the firm, like, literally week one, we’re like, what are we going to do? We’re always going to ship. I would say we have, like I there are no projects that didn’t—even if they limped, they got there. 

RZ That’s a sad moment, right? When you’re like, ”You know what? Enough bleeding. Kill it.” Right? That isn’t a moment. 

PF You felt it. I felt it. We actually worked on a project before we started Postlight that got the big axe. And it’s, it’s heartbreaking. The community’s gone, the work disappears. It’s awful. It’s not how human beings should spend their time. 

RZ So to recap, Paul, let’s take turns even though we didn’t rehearse this. Establish your North Star, reduce the mission behind what you’re doing down to a sentence and communicated a lot. 

PF Do the cheap, great stuff first, with the focus on getting things in front of people. Don’t try to solve the world’s problems or build the big platform so everything will go faster later, even though that might in some ways be the right way to do things. Make sure that you’re getting good, optically sound artifacts into the world so that people know that they can stop thinking about you and you’re actually doing the work. 

RZ Write simply, it’s communication, for the same for the same reason you want to reduce down your North Star mission statement to something that everyone can echo and digest quickly. Write clearlym communicate clearly and let that drive things. 

PF And yeah, finally, avoid death by 1000 opinions, which doesn’t mean ignoring or not seeking opinions. It’s very important to keep both going at once. You’re always gathering feedback.

RZ It does sound like we’re telling people to ignore. [Rich laughs]

PF Yeah, no, no, no, go keep getting the opinions. Look, they’re valuable. They’re the most valuable if the individuals and player is your actual end users, right? Now, that’s where 1000 opinions are worth, you know, worth a million dollars. There’s a lot of other people who will want to integrate your system into their world for arbitrary reasons having to do with legacy. Those you just need to capture and really care about deeply but maybe they’re not the highest priority. But again, like this is official permission from Postlight to listen, write it down and then move on. 

RZ You touched on this a bit in your earlier point, do the cheap grade stuff first. I mean, show up a lot, engage a lot, give people updates on progress. When you don’t update, it’s usually anxiety inducing and people start doubting what’s going on. ”What’s going on over there?” Right? Because they just see the meter running. They just see money getting spent right without seeing output. And software is hard, right? It takes time. But there’s always artifacts that you can show early and often. 

PF Don’t just wait, don’t just wait also for like that meeting two months from now with the big boss. You know, start start floating things around so that they’ve all—in a perfect world, they’ve already heard it’s going well, before the meeting. 

RZ Yes, that’s right. So take these tips, take them onward. Now we’re going to take questions, I’m going to try to figure out how to use Zoom, to see if there are questions. 

PF Now, we don’t have any questions yet. But we did have a remarkable comment. At least the robot isn’t an overly feminized, isn’t overly feminized. Soldiers in Afghanistan used to say we haven’t been here for X years. We’ve been here for one year,  X times. Seems like a similar point to what happens when people show up later. That’s right. It’s the eternal recurrence, every project is always starting. Alright, so here we have a first question. I’m going to read it, Richard, and then you, you respond. And I’ll jump in. And we won’t say names unless you tell us you want us say your name out loud. ”When you move away from the legacy product, what is better: upgrade bits piece by piece, or build a version two from scratch with core features and slowly poured over functionality over time?”

RZ That’s a great question. In my experience, I’ve seen that if you can get people to start to fall in love with the new thing, even though it does a little bit, only a small set of the functionality of the legacy platform, what happens is they start to become advocates for it, right? So you’re sort of like saying, ”Hey, come play over here, you know, that one task that’s so annoying, we solved that first. And we want you to just use this tool, because it’s going to eliminate hours of your time, it’s gonna be so much easier.” And what happens is, people are like ”Okay, give me more, keep going” right? And now you’ve effectively recruited a silent army to gain momentum there.

PF I gotta say, too, there is when when people have been using legacy, whatever, and it’s sort of 2006 era interface. And you show up with something using a modern widget toolkit that looks like it was created in the last couple of years. They just go bananas. They’re like, ”Oh, we could live like this.” You know, you look at those old interfaces. And they look like episodes of hoarders, right? Like, you’re just like, ah, and you show them this nice, organized kind of IKEA style app. And almost everything is forgivable after that. 

RZ Yep. That’s right. Got another question. 

PF So you start with the great fast stuff, your velocity is high, Rich, you’re running, efficient, one week sprints, not two weeks, one week, then the team wants to move to two week sprints to reduce overhead overhead. You do it and your velocity goes down, because you’re now working on the harder stuff, what to do? And I think what to do here means like, you know, how do I keep my my sort of public profile up, when I’m working on really hard problems that are kind of boring? You know, that are not, let’s say, not boring to my team, but maybe not that interesting to the, the eventual consumers of this product? 

RZ Yeah, what I’m hearing is that this person’s worried about drag, right? Like, we’re going good. And I guess I, what I would ask back to the, to this person, or anyone who’s in this situation is why are you changing your process? You’re doing good, you’re releasing stuff often. But here’s the thing. If you release stuff often, and you’ve built and you’ve banked goodwill, and people are feeling good about you, you now have the confidence of the population to say, ”Guys, you can see what we’re capable of. Now, we’re gonna hold up for a bit, because the next bit is a little trickier. So we need more time.” It’s essentially, it’s like a currency, right? As you get that goodwill, you can then say, ”I’ll see you in a couple months. Because we’re going to do like one of the most like, we’re going to do Search now. So we need time. Give us a minute.” And people are like ”Yes, of course. Do you do your thing.” We have other questions. 

PF Well, I would say, there’s one that’s brutal, which is: ”Mainly joking here. But Paul, when are you going to finish your book?”

RZ Well, that’s a great question, Paul!

PF [Paul sighs] The good news is that we’ve recently—Postlight as it’s grown, it has gotten a structure whereby Rich and I don’t have to spend quite as much time on the day to day operations. So in theory, I could sit down and start working on it any time, but I’m just in, I’m in pain now. Now that we’ve said that. 

RZ I have to tell you, the editor of Paul’s publisher, works in the area, and there’s a few, there are a few things more awkward than running into him randomly around Postlight. [Rich laughs] It’s happened like numerous times. And it’s pretty funny thing. 

PF I mean, the good news for people that don’t know, I’m about five years late on a book and Postlight was kind of my the ultimate way to procrastinate, I’m like, I can’t write about technology without starting a technology company. [RIch laughs] And so now that we’ve done it, and it’s working pretty well, and actually, you know, we should pause here for one second. If there’s any more questions, hit them or we’ll wind up pretty soon but we are definitely hiring. We’re growing. We’re it’s it’s an awkward thing to say in a pandemic, but we are, we’re seeing a lot of opportunity in front of us. And in particular designers and engineers, product managers, but especially design engineering, if you hit the website and hit careers, we’d love to talk to you. Just wanted to get that out there before before I forget. That is it. Anybody got anything else? Oh, this is actually a great one. ”You’ve mentioned your loose contract a few times, would you be willing to share a version of it?”

RZ Wow. Yeah, absolutely.

PF This is deep. This is a deep cut. Okay.

RZ Absolutely. Email, email us asking for a template. Actually, that’s an interesting request. Yeah, why not? 

PF Yeah, I mean, there’s really there, we wouldn’t mind other people using it. The critical thing—I would this, I say this a lot. But if you ever start a business, do it with a lawyer, because all the things that you think about the law that you’re afraid of, or like, I’m gonna get sued, or I’m gonna remember blah, blah, blah. Or like, we have to get everything buttoned down in a contract. If you actually have a lawyer sitting to your left, which is what I do when I’m at Postlight. I sort of joke and refer to Rich’s counsel, but counsel tends to go like, yeah, it’s fine. Like counsel doesn’t care. Counsel’s like, yeah, we have to do a good job, or we won’t, they won’t pay us. So we should do a good job. Like it’s, it’s actually much more meat and potatoes and simple. Oh, we got a few more questions. So let’s, let’s keep going with our questions. And also, by the way, we see that you are answering the poll about the webinar, we are totally glad to hear feedback about this, about how it could be more productive looks like we’re going to be at home until a little bit into 2021. So we’ll do it. We’re doing more of these and we’d love we’d actually love and welcome to feedback, is a good way to reach us, if you want to go beyond the poll. So ”What are some patterns that you see across the industries that you don’t think others see?” That’s a light little question. That’s an easy one to answer. I have a few ideas. 

RZ I just find humans screw up consistently across industries and societies and cultures and languages.

PF It’s universal.

RZ It’s kind of universal. You know, the friction often isn’t around the technology, it’s often around the people, you know, I’m over generalizing here. But I think people don’t pay enough attention to the sort of the social aspects of delivering something great, and the work that has to be put in and it’s kind of a cop out answer. 

PF No, no, it’s all good. I’ve got four trends, that I’ll throw out because I’m gonna thought lead this. One, low code, incredibly simple interfaces for building relatively complex applications, things like Air Table on the consumer side, databases as API’s on the on the more sort of enterprise side, I think you’re gonna see a world in which, like, SAP creates the, you know, systems for really easily building whole new pieces of software. That’s one, I think that climate is becoming a huge source of inbound for consulting and technology services firms, I’m seeing more climate inbound overall, people want to talk about different things they can do around Geo Data in around sort of optimizing their sort of larger platforms. And a couple of things. We have a few more questions. So we won’t have time. But there’s a there’s a few other things that I think are definitely evolving. It’s still a very dynamic space. ”How do you measure feedback when you’re building something on the back end? And the mission is sort of ‘Are these five teams using your thing happy?”’ This is great. This is life. This is wheeew. You live with them. You go, you have to have friends on all five teams. I think, is there anything else? I mean, that’s it. Right? Like you just—

RZ There’s a few more questions. Should we answer them real quick? We’ll we’ll answer real quick.

PF ”Thanks for the live event. Great stuff.” Absolutely. Praise is so exciting. Don’t you love a little praise? ”Can you talk a bit about the challenges of doing the bigger transformations for clients in the current crisis?” So yeah, digital transformation in a pandemic.

RZ The single biggest challenge we’ve we’ve found is not being there, physically. A lot of our stakeholders, the people that have sort of asked us to partner with them to do something big, are dealing with their own challenges internally in an organization that is distracted, that is distributed. And one of the things I like to do as a partner, and by partner I mean client partner is to go there and meet people and say, pull me into meetings. I’ve been in situations where people, you know, will preview a deck with me—

PF So much of work is actually informal, right? It’s the tricky thing about the pandemic, is it has reduced a lot of work to a formal system of interactions where things are scheduled, you talk and so on. And in some ways that’s been really interesting. I think it’s gotten more people connected to more parts of the organization in some ways, but ultimately, that kind of ambient connectivity was work and it wasn’t quantified. It was just taken for granted. And so they’re, they’re struggling through it as well, like they’re dealing with the same set of challenges and they’re not able to, they’re having trouble building their stuff. What is happening is they’re coming to firms like ours and saying, ”Okay, we’re here, we are going to have to do these three or four digital things. Let’s go.” So right now, I think there’s a sense of everybody biting the bullet doing this. And then probably about a year from now, we’ll know what this really meant in terms of organizational change. But frankly, everybody has hit a point of like, no one knows what’s coming, right? We’re just sort of like figuring out as we go. Another one! ”Do these ideas translate what culturally to the foreign office?” And I think that’s, you know, so in terms of our foreign office in Beirut, I think really well, like we have a good there’s, it’s through constant communication, like, but if you think about foreign based clients, you know, it’s been interesting, because I think everyone in the US has been incredibly distracted and worried about the pandemic and the federal government and the election, right. So it’s, it feels like when we talk to people internationally, they’re less focused on that, because it’s not their government. And and they’re sort of finding, and also, they’re not as locked out a lot of people. 

RZ Depending on where you are on the earth. Yeah, that’s true. Last question!

PF Got two more, and then we’re done. We’ll do the second one first, and then we’ll do—anonymous attendee. ”How do you listen to the client but shepherd them away from their bad ideas that you know, will lead to the failure of a project? They keep pushing and bringing it up again, even after you tell them, it might not be the best thing for the project, make them feel heard, but do what’s best for them, especially when they think they know better, even though they hired you for the project.” I’m going to tell you, I’m not quite sure what Rich is gonna say. Being a for hire agency, gives us a tremendous advantage here compared to an internal delivery organization, because when the client asks for something like that, and it’s out of scope, and they’re going to not hit the goal, and you know, it, you can say ”You’re out of scope, you’re not going to hit the goal, it’s going to cost you more money, and I won’t be able to guarantee success, and then you’re probably going to fire me. So I don’t want to do it for you.” And you can look him in the eye and say that because you are a vendor, you can have that relation, you can have that conversation, because you’re actually vulnerable. You’re not saying no, you’re saying, ”Oof, if we do that a relationship is gonna break.”

RZ Yeah, this goes back to the point in the deck around saying, look, if you do this, you might fail. Nobody wants to fail, like, as ambitious and aggressive as people are, we’ve turned away a lot of business where they came to us and then gave us constraints, whether it be time or people or money, and said, ”I want this and I want to spend this much. And I want it in three months” and where we would just look at look them in the eye and say that’s not possible. And if anyone tells you it is because you’re not going to go with us, because we just told you it’s not possible. If anyone told you it is they’re going to take you down a bad path, right? And that is incredibly effective to say that, right? Most people hire us to get promoted, right? And so—

PF Or to build or to build their business because they want to thrive in some other way. I mean, that you call an agency, because you need to get to the next step in your career, whether it’s your business, or it’s your inside of a larger org. The last question is a great one to close on. ”What resources do you all follow for additional learning?” You know, it’s funny is there is no like product managers monthly, there’s no, there’s nothing like that. So it’s a lot of like, what the client is thinking about. And it’s a, it’s a lot of, for me, it’s a lot of puzzling out the bigger world. So what is happened—like someone came someone were talking to has a lot of business work that is related to the Office of the Chief Risk Officer in their consulting practice. And so it’s just like, now I have to go learn what a Chief Risk Officer is. And then you start to go and you see that there are multiple standards for enterprise chief risk management officer being produced by, you know, industry trade groups. And so it’s actually a lot of the things that I end up going and learning are just what ridiculousness the giant corporate world has gotten up to, in order to define basic processes. And understanding that because ultimately, we’re going to have to build something that works inside of that world. And it’s the same if it’s finance, or an NGO or you know, case management for healthcare, like all of those things, you just have to go into their world of ridiculous standardization. That’s where most of my reading happens. What you’re saying is go and understand their world and feel their pain and learn about what they worry about, right? And learn about what their anxieties are. And that’s it. That’s a big part of this. And you don’t hear that kind of talk when it comes to like, ”Oh, this is gonna help your software succeed.” [music fades in] It’s now it’s not your typical software stuff. Right? 

PF You know what I love is when you hit the Wikipedia page for the discipline, and you see that like, five different working groups have tried to—like enter risk management actually, if you go it’s like clear that the enterprise risk management people versus the ISO risk management people, they’re at war. They have been wrestling. 

RZ That sounds incredibly riveting. I gotta tell you, that sounds just so damn exciting. [Paul laughs]

PF I know, I don’t talk about this very much. I’m actually pretty excited just to have an opportunity to say it out loud. 

RZ This was a lot of fun. Paul, I like talking to you. We don’t talk to each other enough, all day long. So it’s really great to talk to you.

PF It’s usually only six hours a day and we got a whole seven. So that’s pretty exciting. [Rich laughs]

PF You’ve been a great audience, and we really appreciate the feedback, we welcome all the feedback that you’d want to leave us. Like I said, we’re gonna do more of these. And even once we’re back in the office, we’ll do more them. It’s nice to connect more broadly. So but yeah, anything anybody needs, we’re always here. We really are. We like to hear and thank you for coming to our webinar. 

RZ We’re going to do more of them! Reach out,, check out the podcast. Stay safe, everyone. Thank you! Take care!

PF Yeah, stay safe. We’ll see you in the office when we can. We’ll see you back here soon. Thank you! [music ramps up, plays alone for 3 seconds, ends]