14 Things you didn’t know about Cloudera

It’s fair that we can’t really start this without a little introduction to Cloudera. They were really bumped up our radar this year after topping $100 million in revenue in 2015.

Founded in 2008, Cloudera was the first, and is currently, the leading provider and supporter of Apache Hadoop for the enterprise. Cloudera also offers software for business critical data challenges including storage, access, management, analysis, security, and search.

  • Cloudera added 264 new software subscription customers in FY 2015 (which ended in January 2015) for a total customer count of 535.
  • Cloudera has over 1,400 partners, around 800 are systems integrators/professional services firms.
  • The company plans to shift is messaging away from the underlying technology and towards business use cases/outcomes. It is focusing its go-to-market efforts on two specific vertical industries – financial services and telecommunications – and on large enterprises with $1 billion-plus in annual revenue.
  • Once of the co-founders Mike Olsen is a pretty interesting fella. In a recent interview he revealed his dad has one of the very first Apple Computers “When I was growing up, my stepdad bought an Apple II computer. Serial number 125 – built by the Steves in a garage. That’s how I learned to computer program around 1976- ­77.”
  • Mike was also a Mexican chef who dropped out of Berkley – He was doing a PhD when he realised he didn’t like research half as much as he liked his team so left to join Illustra. (The Mexican Chef part came during some travels on a first break from Berkley).
  • It all started with Hadoop – Facebooks, Jeff Hammerbacher, Yahoo’s Amr Awadallah, and Google’s Christoph Bisciglia from Google all joined Mike in their excitement around Hadoop – and Cloudera was formed.
  • Hadoop is a technology invented by Google in the early 2000s. It was initially created to help sell more advertisements but quickly became transportable to other industries as a data management solution.
  • Hadoop refers to an open source file distribution system and job scheduler that distributes data analysis jobs over infinitely large numbers of small servers to process data-intensive queries at high speed. Hadoop is available free under the Apache open source license, but has also found its way into the enterprise via paid, supported distributions.
  • Cloudera announced it was launching in Australia in 2013, choosing Australia as the centre of Cloudera’s APAC efforts because the “language is easy, and the business culture, legal and financial infrastructure is the right fit”.
  • The market for big data technology is growing rapidly. In 2014, Cloudera closed a $US900 million funding round, $US740 million of it from Intel which now has an 18 per cent stake. The money was assigned to help Cloudera build its share in a highly contested and rapidly expanding market.
  • The company’s regional operations are run by Sydney-based Chris Poulos, vice president for Asia Pacific and Japan who said he already had a number of people in sales, engineering and support in Australia. He has a positive take on the Australian market: “Australia seems to be the leader in adoption of the big data, especially by large corporations. They have already done their skunkworks projects and are now moving to the next level.
  • In 2014 Cloudera, now the leader in enterprise analytic data management powered by Apache Hadoop, named to Deloitte’s Technology Fast 500™, a ranking of the 500 fastest growing technology, media, telecommunications, life sciences and clean technology companies in North America. Cloudera was ranked 36th on the list with over 4,439% growth over the past five years.
  • Cloudera expanded its partner program, Cloudera Connect, by 78% during last year, announcing partnerships with Accenture, Capgemini, Dell, EMC Isilon, Informatica, Intel, Microsoft, MongoDB, NEC, Red Hat, SAP, Teradata, and others to accelerate the deployment of Hadoop. The Cloudera partner ecosystem, the largest in the industry, expanded beyond 1,450 companies.
  • They look for unique traits in their talent. Two key principles stood out – 1) Does this person fit with the rest of the team. No matter how skilled you are, if it’s not a team fit they’re not interested. 2)  Has this person done surprising things? Olsen told the story on his blog of an interview for a sales candidate – “I interviewed a candidate who’d had a long and successful run as a salesman for large enterprise software companies. That’s our profile. We see a lot of those candidates. This person, though, stood out from the crowd easily. After several years of success and great paychecks in sales, he’d quit his job for a couple years, studied and mastered Transcendental Meditation and trekked to Pakistan to climb K2. He succeeded in summiting the mountain and continues to practice TM today. With those experiences, and somewhat short of money, he went back to work selling software – We hired him.

Check out Mike’s full profile here.

Follow stories from the latest tech brands here. 

How to know if you’re the right fit for a fast growth company.

There’s a lot of buzz, myth and speculation around what it’s like to work in a fast growth or start-up company.

I came across a lot of material around culture, but not so much about career experience. So I had a dig around to get some real insight on working for a company that’s growing pretty fast.

The experience.

Without a doubt you’ll learn heaps – A common theme from everyone that’s worked in a start-up, whether they’ve enjoyed it or not, they’ve learnt loads. By loads I’m talking more in two months than the previous five years.

A start-up forces you to adopt new skills and responsibilities to make up for the big challenges that come with building a really successful business.

The pay-off – experience in all areas of the business and much more responsibility – you can find yourself in a powerful position when it comes time to move on.

No longer a small cog in a large machine – everything you do has impact, but this means it’s time to say goodbye to having a safety blanket. Want to contribute to success or even failure? Small companies will help you focus and push yourself – helping you to become a real problem solver and thinking of creative ways to get there.

The pay-off: you’ll often get to see results first-hand and share in the rewards and glory.

Surrounded by bright sparks – Perhaps one of the most often overlooked rewards is the team that you’ve joined. How many people work with passionate and enthusiastic team players every single day? This can spark inspiration on every level, leading to truly innovative ideas that helps the business stand out against competitors in the greater industry.

The pay-off: The opportunity to work alongside an entrepreneur is a big one — they identify a problem and find a new efficient way to solve it – you’d be part of that.

It’s not forever – If you’re looking for a comfy job with routine and regularity then you’re looking in the wrong place. It’s important to think about the day to day nature of the above and think about whether it’s for you. Joining a company that’s growing quickly gives you the opportunity to start learning what it takes to be your own boss.

Joining a start-up gives you the opportunity to start learning what it takes to be your own boss.

The pay-off: Working in a start-up is the ideal place to educate yourself on how to set goals, execute strategies, take your product to market and implement strong business operations.

Knowing if you have the right skills.

So you’re still weighing up if these organisations are right for you? I spoke to some of our top talent in Australia and they shared these traits needed to thrive:

Inquisition – Explore your options to find the exact best match for you. Fast growth organisations are not all the same and often have different models and very different products – take your time to find the perfect match as you’ll need to be passionate about the job you’re about to take on.

Judgment: Chances are you’re going to be figuring out a lot for yourself so you need to like making decisions that sometimes shooting in the dark. You show up for work and can sense what needs to be done without being told, and you do it.

Communication: Email, phone, face to face, pressure, sometimes chaos – You maintain calm poise and find a way forward. You aren’t alarmed by people throwing things in your direction – you can motivate yourself and teach others to join you.

Curiosity: You like to give things a go and test outcomes outside of your (and often your teams) comfort zone. You seek out the opportunity to learn. You avoid boredom and routine. You’re willing to keep trying and failing.

Courage: You’re going to stand up for what you believe is right – if you think the company is going in a direction that conflicts with it’s shared values, you’re going to voice your concerns and communicate your argument. On the other side of the coin – you’ll also be able to push forward when you don’t always agree with a day-to- day decision.

Passion: You’ll be signed up to publications and build networks of the industry you’re working in. You’ll be out and about at events when you can and reading the latest trends reports because you want to – not because you need to. It’s this passion that will help you identify problems in your own day to day operations and inspire to create industry leading solutions.

Do you work in a fast growth or start up company? I’d be keen to hear your experiences in the comments below.

Keep yourself in the know over the coming month as we’ll be following the hottest brands launching in Australia and sharing exclusive career insights with you. Sound like your cup of tea?

Yes please. 

Is this the hottest brand hitting Australia right now?

There aren’t many growth stories quite like Qualtrics.

In January 2010 they had 37 employees, by December 2013 there were 260 employees and now (Oct 2014) there are over 550 employees. They’re going through hyper-growth and there are no plans to slow down.

The Utah-based start-up, which produces cloud-based survey software, recently secured $150 million in venture capital. The new stream of funding has been allocated to product development and overseas expansion.

In addition to the HQ in Utah, last year saw expansion to Dublin; the office grew from 3 to 50 employees in a year – next year the aim is to be around the 100 mark.

They’re now about to take on the same mission is Sydney.

Bill McMurray is the man tasked with the job.

Starting out as just a team of just three renting out office space in the Sydney CBD.

However, that’s all going to change pretty quickly.

“I’m currently in the process of securing 8,000 sq ft of office space in Sydney. We’re unlike most organisations that taper at around the $100 million mark – Qualtrics is still going through rapid growth.

“We’re aiming to be over 50 employees in Australia within 12 months and then we’ll start building out local operations in key APJ countries.” Explained Bill.

But the team aren’t starting from scratch, deployment has been years in the making and they already have an impressive 250 active customers here in the region.

Bill explained how people have been at the core of the organisation’s success and are consistently provided opportunity at the same rate as business growth:

“It’s the people that have really driven this business. They’ve been tapping away and built up a great base before we even arrived. Opportunities are passed down to the people in the organisation, I’m a firm believer in promotion from within.”

Tim’s story

The man behind the mission…. And it’s not who you’d expect.

Tim Pales was a man with a plan. It started back when he had one year left of his course studying Chinese and Business at BYU. Like most students Tim took a part time job.

It was 2008 when Tim joined Qualtrics – as employee number 29. He’d be at school all day and on the phones all night. The night calling was a very deliberate decision for Tim “My interest was always APAC. I had lived and studied in Asia and coupling that experience with my focus on business in school it seemed like a good fit. Seeing how rapidly the economies in Asia were growing, I knew there would be good opportunities there.”

“We first focused on academics and we successfully managed to land pretty much all of the major universities in Australia and New Zealand.”

The last three years have been spent managing his own sales team whilst building business in Australia, without so much as an office space here.

With continued success year on year, it wasn’t long till Tim became a senior manager. The mission never faltered “The goal has always been to create a problem so we had to come here. It got to a point where (after pushing it for three years) there was enough of a customer base in APAC. The appetite was there, the time was now – it was time to go.”

Whilst excelling quota for both him and his team members, Tim and John developed a full business plan for launch here in Australia. Part of that plan – hire an exec: “Qualtrics needed executive leadership on the ground in Australia. I have been fortunate to manage teams but I wasn’t the guy to strategically launch Qualtrics here. I found myself in the unique position of helping our executive team hire my new boss.”

Sitting with the team of three in their temporary rented office in Sydney, you wouldn’t be mistaken for thinking you were chatting to a group of guys about to start their own business. Bill McMurray jokes “We see this as we’ve just started private school and have our parents financing – we’re all so interested in this region, it’s exciting to lead the launch here.”

Coming soon…. John’s story

This was John’s first role out of university. Like most he started in entry level sales 3 and a half years ago.

Over the course of the last 21 months he’s had 4 promotions.

How? The company has a really clear development path, it’s not based on politics or people leaving – it’s based purely on performance.

Every quarter you’re given a quota. Hit the quota of the level above you for 2 quarters, you get promoted. It’s that simple.

John played a big role in developing the business plan and now as part of the landing team, is a big part of leading the roll out in the region.

Article published on behalf of Salient Group, we connect great talent to fast growth brands. If you’re interesting in hearing more about brands like Qualtrics sign up here.

8 lessons learnt from dredging projects

There’s no shortage of hold-ups when it comes to dredging projects, with such a big industry, Australia is full of them. Ahead of Dredging and Reclamation 2014, I caught up with a few project leaders to see where mistakes have been made. Some key areas stood out that I wanted to share with you:

Mapping is key

Financial considerations are hard to overestimate in any project. Developers can often be unwilling to spend money on mapping and monitoring, instead opting for the simplest possible technique. Unfortunately, as you go down the line with this approach, there’s still some surprise when the approvals get rejected. Without the right equipment, the operation tends to go over thresholds or other similar measurements. In the field, the simplest technique doesn’t give you the answer all the time. You’ll only end up having to spend your money on fines and delays instead. Be one step ahead of the regulators and the public.

Transferring risk can end up costing big bucks

Dredging project owners are always looking to reduce their risk, trying to create contracts that transfer risk to the dredging contractor and it doesn’t work. A contractor can decide at some point that they haven’t made enough money, pick an area of AS 2124 and attack it and make a claim. If multiple contractors operate within a wharf or similar structure at the same time, this can cause access issues and lead to further claims.

There’s an illusion in the current way contracts are done that risk can be transferred from the project owner. Whilst this may save short term costs, it can lead to substantial cost and time delays down the line.

Owners still have a lack of experience in terms of practical dredging knowledge. Most teams have a procurement unit working in isolation and independently of everyone else, which leads to a single vision. Risk becomes points on a paper inside a contract that becomes transferred rather than dealt with from a practical view.

Communication is top priority

It seems obvious, but it’s still an area that leads to many issues throughout the dredging process. This is crucial both for contract relationships and to avoid delays and disputes from stakeholders.

Collaboration, partnership, and being able to see another person’s perspective is key. Building a rapport builds confidence and trust that the contract and project is being handled responsibly – work together early and often, both at the project level and more broadly.

Good planning up front and a robust assessment of baseline environmental conditions needs to be locked in. Have a very well defined project description early on and don’t change it. All of those things will help approvals, stakeholder communication and consultation.

The ‘unforeseen’ can be avoided

If you’re acting for the Principal, start thinking about the likelihood of unexpected conditions at the early feasibility stage of a project right up to when you select a tenderer. After selecting a tenderer and the Contractor is working on site, you lose much of the power to influence. Take steps to identify possible latent conditions at any early stage, before you’re confronted with them during project execution.

Latent conditions need to be managed

If a Principal is faced with a more complex project with varying soil and rock types, then it is well advised to carry out a more thorough investigation to lower the risk of not detecting a latent condition. Obviously there is a cut off; a Principal can’t investigate every cubic meter for the planned Project.

Any site investigation can only be a representation of anticipated subsurface conditions. Principals should always aim to reduce the risk to an acceptable degree. Consider Early Contractor Involvement with the scope of the planned site investigation.

Geotechnical modelling has huge potential

 

Both the Principal and the Contractor should formulate a robust 3D geotechnical model of the likely subsurface conditions. The model can determine what materials you are likely to encounter in different types and categories.

The Principal’s consultant and the Contractor’s production estimator can then calculate the derived productions fairly accurately. If a latent condition is encountered, a geotechnical model can provide the parties with a benchmark to calculate where the differences are. Be wary of interpretation – different biases can lead to issues.

Take proactive measures

A proactive way of dealing with disputes as they arise is needed. A dispute board can be selected for their knowledge and expertise before any dispute has arisen. By undertaking an on-going relationship and regular site visits, the dispute board will acquire a good working knowledge of the project. When a dispute arises, the dispute board will have a much better understanding than a court or arbitral tribunal, which will only be appointed after a dispute has arisen.

Keep learning and evolving

The fundamental of dredging is that you dig the stuff up out of the ground and put it somewhere – that hasn’t changed. What has changed is the way that you do it, and that’s driven from environmental approvals.

The management of reclamation areas has improved enormously, and understanding how to minimise the amount of turbidity or sediments that get back into the environment. That’s going to become much more important as work is done in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. Innovation will be dealing with the conditions and coming up with the best outcome using all of your knowledge and resources available to come up with a solution.

The Dredging and Reclamation conference has been developed as a value creation forum where knowledge, new ideas, best practice and real world learning experiences can be shared amongst other dredging professionals. Providing key case studies from leading practitioners, the conference will share insight into Australia’s most exciting dredging projects in the planning, design or development stages.

Find out more by visiting www.dredgingandreclamation.com.au or call 02 9229 1090.

Facebook on a quest to revolutionize financial services marketing

With 12 million users in Australia, Facebook has developed into a core marketing platform to help organisations achieve their business objectives.

The organisation has been through a bit of a transformation of late, with the initial focus being the social networking customer experience – adding features to revolutionise the way we communicate and share with each other. Now though, the spotlight is well and truly on the business world, to leverage the wealth of information Facebook holds to drive efficiency and experience for financial services.

Here in Australia, Paul McCroy joined the Facebook team 12 months ago and his role as Head of Travel and Finance tasked him with the objective to build a team that can work closely with financial services to use Facebook. Paul explains: “It started with the team we created. We’ve hired a group of people to really understand the problems industry is faced with; we have people who worked in finance now working for us. It’s a constant focus to understand the problems faced by industry and build our Facebook platform to solve those problems. From there we want to work closely with financial services here in Australia to help them use Facebook in the best way possible.”

Whilst some of the big four were initially sceptical about the potential threat of Facebook in the financial services arena, the social networking giant has insisted they want to grow new users and enhance experience, rather than create banking services of its own.

Mobile

There’s a huge focus on mobile and it’s clear to see why. Digital advertising overtook traditional advertising for the first time last year, drive mainly by the onset of mobile. With 10 million active daily users and 85 per cent accessing via mobile devices – it’s easy to see where the potential lies for many a marketing team. Paul explains:

“Digital has overtaken television and mobile is the new upstart. Facebook became a mobile first business two years ago, transforming from desktop. Here in Australia, there’s a higher mobile percentage than any other developed country. Facebook represents an opportunity to take advantage of the fact that more people are consuming media on mobile phones.”

It’s this drive to mobile that’s seen a surge in app development over recent years, with the finance industry among the top performers for app engagement, providing customers with ease of access like never before. But with many banks allocating huge resources to develop their own assets, is there really any need to tap into the Facebook pool? Paul explained where the potential lies:

“One of the immediate benefits is the opportunity to capitalise on the trend. Mobile Banking was developed to service the customers where they are. It is also the most cost efficient way to service customers and has been quoted by Mckinsey as 1/8 the cost of servicing via the call centre.

“One in every five minutes on a mobile phone is spent on Facebook properties. When you want to speak to people who are on a phone, Facebook is where you should go. Our biggest growth area is banks taking their apps to our platform and promoting their advert in front of their customers. Customers then go and install that app unit. In terms of results, we’re the most cost effective for getting apps installed – 30 to 40 per cent of app installs come from Facebook.”

“Phase two is where the banks have people with the app installed, but they’re not necessarily engaged. We have developed a tool that helps with app engagement. Essentially, once it’s installed, you continuously re-engage them so that they use it as a utility. By them frequently engaging on the app, it takes the pressure off the contact centre and service channels, so the overall experience has been a success.”

Easing data concerns

There are some real alarm bells that often get triggered thanks to some serious spotlight on large data companies like Facebook and Google. Naturally an integrated banking service would lead to some data concerns, an area Paul insists is at the core of that they do:

“We don’t give anybody data. We have 12 million Australian users who do a lot of things on our platform. What we do is provide a targeting interface to enable advertisements to people that fit their interest behaviour. That data is never given back to an advertiser, it stays with us. Our primary goal is privacy. We’re one of the largest data companies the world has and will ever see. Everything we do is about keeping our site secure. It works well with banks, as it’s exactly the same as what they do. Whilst some people see data as a problem, we see it as a really nice fit.”

 Driving experience and efficiency

The team at Facebook are already seeing results creating unique experiences by targeting the right people, with the right content, on the right platform.

“When it’s done well, the conversions are huge. There are key challenges facing industry right now – efficiency, scalability and profitability.

We know certain media channels are becoming more expensive, every company in the world wants to achieve their goals in a more efficient manner. Where in the world is there more scale and engagement than Facebook? Our users are very engaged and it’s a huge opportunity to reach your customers and prospects at scale.”

Paul will be speaking at Digital Financial Services 2014: “I want to impart some of that knowledge to the audience and provide real life examples. A big thing we want to bring is what we see trending and how we can work with you to capitalise on some of those trends. We’ll also take a look at what we’re developing in the future.”

Visit www.digitalfinancialservices.com.au or follow @digifinance for more information on the event.

View the full interview with Paul here: http://youtu.be/t196-WP4_8U

Old Aussie buildings… Don’t write them off just yet

The spotlight is well and truly on retro & refurb as Australia is poised to reduce energy emissions, operational costs and get smarter with space. But why is it so important now? How can technology help? Where do we keep making mistakes? And what can be done to make sure our older buildings stand out? We sought the expert’s insight from Caimin McCabe, Director, Cundall Australia ahead of his presentation at Retrfit & Refurb 2014

What would you say are the key drivers prompting property owners and investors to start thinking about retrofitting their own buildings?

There are a few key areas here:

  • In the building owner’s mind is asset repositioning or increasing asset value. They want to create a better asset and establish a point of difference from the competition.
  • The asset valuation might be done as a direct result of current operational costs to try and reduce the running costs of those buildings.
  • Retention is an increasing driver for retrofitting. Particularly in Grade B, C and D buildings where there’s a lot more competition for tenants. When their leases come up for renewal, they start to reflect upon whether they want to stay or if they’ll get a better deal elsewhere.
  • Flexibility is another area we’re seeing as a driver. There are increasing numbers of smaller entities who want smaller space in good locations, leading to a need to accommodate multiple (small) tenancies on each floor – particularly within Grade B, C & D buildings.
  • In the back of people’s mind whilst doing this are issues like NABERS Energy performance to see if it can be improved.

How are technologies and new approaches being used to improve environmental and operational performance of existing buildings?

I’d say the best bang for buck is actually looking at control upgrades and getting the building management system to actually do what it should be doing. Look at sub-metering to actually monitor where energy is being used; target reduction rather than assumptions.

The market is obviously seeing a lot of new technologies emerge, as well as enhancements to existing buildings including classic co-generation and tri-generation. In reality though, existing buildings can often find this difficult to accommodate as they don’t tend to have plant rooms available…

What’s quite important to us is it’s not just doing it for the environmental sake; the economics of decision making is equally important. Greater equipment efficiency and operation need to be considered..

Engaging the ‘right’ technical advisor or engineer to work alongside building or facility management in terms of the operational tuning is also key. The trick is to ensure this happens on an on-going basis in lieu of a one-off assessment.

We’re also seeing consultants and facility managers use big data analytics software to assess controls and trend log profiles in real-time to identify ‘rogue’ systems and control issues.

We’ve also found (and this is probably part of the whole-of-life approach) that there’s a tendency to ignore the façade. We’ve had some really good success on buildings where we’ve taken a step back and looked at the building as a whole and said: ‘Rather than just going in there and doing the engineering, we’ll check the whole façade.

We recently took this approach in a project that was focused on the chiller, in which we made many changes to the façade. This resulted in no need for a replacement chiller.

We re-commissioned and put in some new technology components, like diffusers to improve the air quality – we moved the pot of money around. In the end we got the building from its one star NABERS to a four star NABERS. We also significantly improved the indoor environmental quality of the building, so now the building is actually liked, not hated.

You might have an efficient building, but if you don’t want to work there, it doesn’t really matter.

Property owners of B, C and D grade buildings are under pressure to evaluate cost benefits. What are the key areas that need to be addressed during business case development to ensure ROI?

The interesting thing is, embarrassingly to some of the newer buildings, some of the older buildings actually have better performance. Just because they’re old doesn’t mean they’re bad. There is a trend in industry generally that new is good and actually sometimes old is better.

A lot of the old buildings are designed more with passive design in mind. The level of glazing, for example, in an existing building is generally a lot lower than on a new building. Our own office here has only 25 per cent glass, but we’ve got more daylight in our office than we would have if we were actually in a new building. This is because of how it’s introduced and how it’s used. The are a lot of advantages to those buildings which are not traditionally marketed or sold, which is why I talk about the whole building approach. It’s stepping back and asking: ‘What are the attributes? What are the benefits? How do I enhance them and connect the tenant to those benefits relative to other buildings?’

It’s important to realise there’s no silver bullet – if somebody’s trying to tell you that there is, don’t believe them. Every building is unique – there isn’t one size fits all. You have to judge each building on its own in terms of what’s there, but the approach needs to reflect the energy efficiency, indoor environmental quality and the attributes that the building actually has.

Depending on the asset location and target market, the argument isn’t about ROI, but more towards differentiation from competing Grade B, C & D buildings.

Building owners are typically looking only at rent; they’re not considering the quality of the environment they’re in. That’s where I suppose our role is, along with other colleagues, to try and highlight what the building could be for them.

The real risk is what happens if the landlord decides on doing nothing. The danger for the landlord is that they are then left with looking at costly incentives for tenant’s attraction or attention. They’ve potentially got higher vacancy and operating costs weighing down the asset value. They could even be breaching bank covenants as they’re not actually getting the returns. In our mind, doing nothing for an asset owner of a B, C or D grade building in the marketplace is not really an option any more – they just need to sit back and determine how they want to do this and how to reposition the asset.

A major retrofitting and refurbishment project will encounter many challenges across the design and delivery phases. From your experience, what would you say are the main barriers that prevent people from achieving their aspirations on a re-lifting project?

A few areas here also:

  • Existing site or services infrastructure might not be sufficient to achieve required outcomes – there could be limitations inherent within the building.
  • Working around existing tenants can also be problematic and might limit the extent or timing of works that can be done to retain a ‘live’ building.
  • Availability of financing will always be an issue. There’s also a lack of understanding on the alternative funding mechanisms, such as an Environmental Upgrades Agreement (EUA).
  • The return on investment could also be perceived to be too low to actually do the work. In terms of guaranteeing better rents, it’s impossible to do that. We find there’s a tendency to jump in legs first without spending enough time doing the upfront assessment and design stated. When you start to do the actual work, you expose issues you weren’t aware of because the due diligence wasn’t done at the beginning. This in turn might result in costly mistakes (affecting overall budget) and subsequent cut backs or reduction in scope as part of a value engineering response.

Too many insurers focusing on process, not experience

There’s a bit of an issue with in the claims industry if this is the case, according to KPMG’s 2013 General Insurance Industry Survey, only 33% of insurers feel their distribution network generates a consistent positive customer experience across all channels. Perhaps even more worryingly, results show 72% of insurers still do not feel their firm’s digital strategy adequately supports building trust with suppliers.

The claims experience is pretty unique; perhaps one of the most emotional many people will go through. When you make a claim, many customers are experiencing a time of trauma. It can be quite difficult to match service levels, procedures and experience. One way to adapt to this is by building trust and rapport between claims representatives and the customer. There are a few different areas that need to be addressed. I recently turned to one of Australia’s leading insurance providers, Allianz, to get some insight.

Engagement and culture

Allianz is continuing to drive employee engagement as a key focus. Allianz was named as the Large General Insurance Company of the Year for the last three years running. Commenting on the most recent award, Niran Peiris, Managing Director said “Allianz’s focus is on delivering a tailored, flexible and competitive service. When it comes to our customers, our philosophy is to deliver a service that builds loyalty, particularly when it comes to delivering on our promise to help them in the event of a claim.”

In addition, the Life Claims area of the business also recently won the 2013 ‘Product of the Year’ at the Australian Banking and Finance’s 2013 Insurance Awards. Praise included ‘The Allianz Life claims experience, which offers customers dedicated specialist Life claims officers ensuring exceptional service.’

Linda Broady, Head of Customer Focus explains the on-going journey across the organisation:

“Developing a strong customer culture and high levels of employee engagement requires sustained focus and attention over the long haul. You can never take your eye off the ball. Creating a truly customer focussed culture is something that only comes from relentless and long term effort and attention, from the top down, and across every part of the organisation. We approach this in a very deliberate way through an ongoing cycle of measurement, action planning, communication, execution and line management accountability.

“Aligned with our focus on building a service culture, creating an engaged workforce is equally important if we are to maintain consistent and exceptional service levels. In addition to driving this via line management accountability, we have Regional Leadership Teams in every geographical location responsible for developing and executing engagement action plans aimed at addressing local opportunities. As a result, our engagement levels continually improve and are well above the Australian norm.”

Recognition is another important lever in creating an engaged workforce and driving service culture. We have local and enterprise recognition programs that recognise and reward customer focussed behaviour, by both internally and externally focussed employees.

“One of our key leadership values is ‘Building mutual trust and feedback’. As part of this we conduct an annual Internal NPS program aimed at generating constructive dialogue and measuring internal service levels. A healthy customer focussed organisation must have a strong service ethic at all levels and across all functions. Employees and managers delivering service to external customers rely on receiving excellent service themselves to be effective.

“In insurance, you get limited opportunities to get it right with the customer, as interactions are typically irregular. Therefore, it’s vitally important we leverage those opportunities when we get them. Having employees who are able to genuinely engage with customers is an essential ingredient in the creation of loyalty and trust. The link between engaged employees, willingness to apply more discretionary effort, and improved service levels is well established, and is central to our beliefs at Allianz.

“It’s widely understood that a claim experience can be a moment of truth for a customer. The circumstances surrounding a claim can often be stressful and associated with heightened emotions. As such, the customer’s experience has the potential to be one of delight or dissatisfaction.

“Employees managing claims need a combination of technical skill and emotional intelligence. Targeting people with a strong service ethic has been a key ingredient in our hiring practices for a number of years, not only within Claims but across the whole organisation. The ability to engage with and have genuine conversations with our customers at every touchpoint and interaction is essential in creating strong relationships.

“The most important time of all is during a claim. Claims specialists need to have a finely tuned antenna to respond with the appropriate amount of empathy and apply good judgement and common sense. For example, a customer calling from a motor accident scene may not be in the right frame of mind to respond to questions that enable us to complete claim lodgement. There are more important issues at stake – for example, is the customer and their passengers OK? Would they simply like reassurance that they can get their car towed away without getting our approval? And, yes, that it’s fine to call back or lodge the claim online or via our Claims app later.”

Nowhere was the importance of having the right people to manage claims more clearly demonstrated than in the case of last year’s NSW Bushfires, where over 200 properties were devastated, and the lives of those impacted were irrevocably changed.

Allianz has an experienced, specially trained team and a robust Event Response Plan that is mobilised into action when these type of catastrophic events occur, including a Mobile Office to ensure we can base our operations wherever they are needed.

However it’s the people that make the difference in times like these. One of our employees involved in working with customers who had been impacted by the NSW Bushfires said, “I noticed [I could] speak with a customer one day and they [hadn’t] retained much of the conversation a few days later. They [were] dealing with the fact that they will need to rebuild their homes and lives and for those doing repairs, they feel guilty for still having a house when others have nothing left. … Some had lost their home, special trinkets, family heirlooms and even pets. All they were left with were memories of their lives. I realised I would have a direct impact on their lives and this was a very powerful and emotional thought for me personally – I formed a connection with all the customers I spoke with”

Build supportive systems

Allianz operates a complex business model, servicing B2B (brokers, motor dealers, mortgage brokers and financial institutions), B2C (direct business) and B2B2C (end customer of intermediaries).

This presents challenges in managing claims, acting on behalf of our partners as well as ourselves.

When a claim is lodged, it is allocated to a Claims Specialist, who is responsible for the smooth and efficient management of the claim. Allianz ensures that other members of the team can assist with enquiries should the customer or a third party (such as repairer or assessor) call when they are unavailable. Linda explains how consistency is ensured:

“We have clear service delivery and behavioural standards and metrics to ensure quality and consistency in execution.

“At the end of the day, the most efficient process is one that suits the customer. If your people practices, systems and processes don’t align with delivering an experience that works for the customer then, not only does it drive a poor experience, it creates inefficiencies and reduces productivity.

One of the areas we’re focusing on right now is end-to-end experience design to ensure we are delivering experiences that fit customer needs and expectations. This starts with understanding the service attributes that define satisfaction at specific touchpoints. Along with redesign, building metrics and methodologies to measure experience from the customer’s perspective and link them to employee accountabilities, is essential to a healthy customer experience ecosystem.

Join Linda Broady during Claims Experience Management 2014 where she will be delivering the Case Study: Embedding a Culture of High Performance: Using Voice of Customer to Reduce Customer Effort and Optimise Service Quality and Consistency.