This week FirstRain’s COO YY Lee gave an advanced-level class to Big Data TechCon conference attendees on how to develop and drive personalization of information experience in a Big Data world. Personalization is quickly becoming an assumed part of technology UX. These rapid advances, also affected by increased expectations set by flagship consumer apps create a need and an opportunity for enterprise software to deliver personalized experiences inside traditional applications and workflows. YY’s class covered data and analytics techniques for building user profiles, leveraging explicit and implicit factors into the process, and addressing the challenges of user behavior and expectations in order to create a highly adaptive, individualized information experience.
As part of her class, YY spoke to the fact that the application of information science techniques is core to creating a very personal mobile era user experience. She shared some of the lessons learned by the FirstRain R&D team, who are pioneers in developing and introducing our customers to an adaptive and pragmatic semantic information space model – a model that allows for the marriage of deep data science and personal business analytics. FirstRain technology understands human perspective, awareness and preferences to deliver analytics with each user in mind. YY advised what factors can be leveraged to build profiles and nuanced understanding of users including: building rationally-derived/real life characteristics; isolating real–time, structural, transient, in the moment user preferences; leveraging common personal tendencies; etc. “We are successful when a person looks at the application and thinks: Wow, this is me! This is exactly what I need to do my job today’, said YY.
She also talked about the importance of developing and applying skepticism filters to discover, for example, whether any given case ‘in-doubt’ is an opportunity for a non-linear development or if the system really got it wrong and needs to be re-educated. She also mentioned the importance of human analyst inputs in the process of building precise personalization models to further refine information and adopt it to deliver better results each time. Other methodologies in developing personalization were discussed such as correlations, pattern recognitions, network relationships, leveraging external data, etc.
During this class, YY highlighted that the best opportunity to create the user experience that says “this is about me, my job, and what I need to know at this moment” is to develop a fine balance of information space modeling and user data modeling in your apps. She wrapped up an engaging discussion by sharing her team’s advice for some simple ways to get started personalizing your data delivery:
1. Find easy ways to customize – learn and refine your work. Users often have little appetite to providing input, therefore the developer needs to carefully select their points of engagement.
2. Start with easy tricks to customize by making the UX feel personal, such as simply adding a profile picture.
3. Start with the personalization characteristics that are easy and obvious to your user and how they use your apps: what role the person is in, what place they live, etc.
4. You don’t have to start by solving really big problems
5. Moderation and balance are important in providing suggestions. Change is sometimes difficult for a user. Too many choices may be annoying. Learn the art of notification by selecting things with the right information density.
5. Minimize the mysteries to minimize risks. Explain where the content is coming from: ‘I am showing you this because of X”
6. Inject small reminders for personalizations through the whole user so that the user can be in charge.
If you are interested in having YY come to your next event to talk about driving truly personal information experiences, please contact us!
I appreciate FirstRain’s own Penny Herscher(@pennyherscher) for putting herself out there to moderate the Male Allies Panel, despite the concerns going-in about how to constructively include that perspective. The fiery reaction to that session raised the level of engagement around deep-seated systemic equity issues in our industry in a way that would not have been achieved otherwise. And in Penny’s usual way — she engaged those issues head-on, in direct personal and online exchanges with the men & women, leadership & grassroots members of the community.
Satya Nadella’s wrong-headed comment the next morning (as he has acknowledged), underscored the complacency and problems around gender-equity issues, even among the thoughtful and well-intentioned. This forced the realization that this is not an simply an issue of perception, interpretation or over-reaction. But will require a real introspection and major change — even from colleagues and leaders who are confident they are already totally on-board and acting as allies for equity.
This was the near-perfect opportunity, timing and forum to examine the truth. It is remarkable that even given the charged emotions around this, the discussion started relatively politely, and besides excessive piling on, it remained safe — this in stark contrast to the ugly violent targeting has been simultaneously unfolding around GamerGate. Which only further highlights the reality of the technology industry’s toxic differences in how men and women are treated.
It is too bad that before Nadella’s KarmaGate comment, he stated one of my favorite quotes of the whole conference —summing up why I’ve loved doing this work, nearly every day for over two decades:
“[We work with] the most malleable of our resources, software… That’s the rich canvas that we get to shape… paint…” -Satya NadellaHe nailed it. He put his finger on that the one thing that probably links all the men and women in that event. This is a deep-thinker who understands the heart of matters, which is what made his later comment so doubly surprising and disheartening.
I am encouraged to see the after-effects like Alan Eustace trying to do things differently. And honest conversations with ABI executives about their awareness and struggle with the impossible balance of growing their reach and impact while containing the inevitable, unintended side effect of corporate co-opting.
To all of you “good guys who do care” — Satya, Alan, Mike Schroepfer, Blake Irving, Tayloe Stansbury — less patronizing talk is nice, listening is refreshing, but which of you and your companies is going to commit to results?
==> Here my question to all the “good guys” out there as well as my fellow female leaders: Who is going to set and deliver specific targets for ratios of women and minorities that reflect the real population — in technical leadership by a specific date… 2016? 2017? Who is going to hack their orgs & companies to solve this problem, rather than running feel-good, look-good “programs”?
The Grace Hopper Celebration is an inspiring, important and high-quality gathering in an industry that is littered with mediocre PR-flogging events.
“The Asian community owes a lot to the black community. They opened a lot of doors for us [in the fight for equality].” -Barb Gee
I will share just one final favorite conference quote, which is how this gathering makes me feel every time I attend:
“… at #GHC14… Just not enough space to desc. Wow. Much women. So much brain” -@michelesligerIt is our industry and companies that need to be fixed, not the women in it. I have to believe it is becoming increasingly obvious to our leaders, managers and co-workers that under-valuing this incredibly intellectual resource is idiotic, bad business, and just plain wrong.
- YY Lee (@thisisyy), COO of FirstRain
Our headquarters has an open floor layout with no executive offices, so you will often see our CEO Penny Herscher sitting at a different desk depending on who and what she is working on. However this weekend the New York Times ‘Corner Office’ was reserved for her!
Each week, New York Times journalist Adam Bryant talks with top executives about the challenges of leading and managing in his Sunday column “The Corner Office”. This week his column highlighted some of Penny’s core leadership principles. The interview covers the reality of being a first time CEO, what good mentors bring to the table, how to hire, and even how parenting skills are transferrable to being a CEO. And yes, in case you were wondering, Penny’s drive is an unmatched source of energy for all of us at FirstRain!
Click to read the full New York Time Corner Office column Penny Herscher of FirstRain: What Parents Can Teach a C.E.O.
Learn More about FirstRain Dreamforce 2014 Activities here Still not registered? Use our promo code EC14FRSTRN for a $100 discount!
Tips: Getting Into the Sessions I Want
Plan. Plan. Plan.
This year registering for sessions at Dreamforce will be a bit different, as only 50% of the available seats will be open for pre-registration. The others will be on a first come first serve basis. So if there are sessions that you must get into:
1. Make a list of the sessions you are interested in so you can quickly find them when the agenda builder opens up.
2. Create a calendar with all your personal travel, scheduled meetings and networking events. Have an overview of this and all other main events and conference timelines available for when you start selecting your sessions. Use this handy guide that we have put together to get started!
3. Do not stress out if a session fills up! Check back every day or so- attendees switch sessions all the time. Push comes to shove, you can go wait in line right before the session starts!
Schedule Time for Expo Hall
The Cloud Expos are the best way to get the most out of Salesforce products and solutions. Make sure you schedule some time to make your way to the Salesforce Campground to get your hands on all the Salesforce products and solutions. FirstRain is a Silver Partner again this year and we look forward to meeting you. We will be in Moscone North Booth 2128 and have a lot of fun activities planned, so come on by to get a demo, visit our Drink Serving Robot and meet the FirstRain Team!
Attend our FirstRain Sessions!
There are over 1,100 sessions currently available to pick from! Join our sessions and learn why FirstRain salesforce.com solutions are used by some of the world’s largest Salesforce customers.
GE Capital: Driving More Sales Opportunities with Personal Business Analytics
Date & Location: Monday October 13th 12:00pm-12:40pm, Club Room, Marriott Marquis
JDSU: Drive Salesforce Adoption and Custom Engagement with Just In Time Analytics
Date & Location: Wednesday October 15th – 3-3:40pm, Yerba Buena, Salon 10-11-12
Flextronics: Increasing Customer Value and Sales Productivity
Date & Location: Wednesday October 15th 4:30pm-5:10pm, Century Theater 7
Want to learn more about FirstRain? Meet with us at Dreamforce!
I am Fjorela, a student of Masters of Entrepreneurship and Innovation at the Free University of Bolzano in Italy. As part of a project funded by the European Social Fund, I was given the unique opportunity to visit Silicon Valley for six weeks in order to get an insight into ways of doing business in the world leading hub for high-tech innovation.
In particular, I had the chance to do a month-long internship in the Marketing department at FirstRain. From the very beginning, I was warmly accommodated and walked through the team’s overall responsibilities and upcoming projects. What really impressed me was how much people cared to make sure my experience in this start-up would be as beneficial as possible. They involved me in different meetings and group activities and were always asking about what I was doing in Italy, curious to hear about my impressions on the differences between European and American culture.
FirstRain is characterized by a very flat organizational structure and the team appears to be enthusiastically committed to a common goal while making the working environment a great and fun place to be in. I felt that particular attention was given to diversity, which is seen as a valuable component and is reflected in the team composition. I was unexpectedly invited to celebrate the end of their financial quarter, which offered me the unique opportunity to witness how much passion and love people can feel for what they are doing while still finding time to have fun among colleagues. During the party, I had the chance to eat and drink with the whole company, getting to meet people from all over the United States. I even got involved in a Sumo Wrestling match! “It’s an intern tradition” – they said…
Overall I consider this experience to have been extremely valuable and positive both from an educational and personal perspective. I had the opportunity to learn new tools such as Salesforce, which may turn out to be useful for my future career, and got an extensive picture of how start-ups work in the Bay Area. Moreover I was able to get some insights and real life examples of management in highly innovative environments as start-ups tend to be, where the decision making process is very quick and people have to constantly adapt to new circumstances. I consider myself very lucky for having been part of such a great and motivated team and for having had the occasion to create contacts and discover potential future career opportunities.
We’re all moved into our new office! Even though some of us are still getting lost in the hallways, you can feel the positive energy in the building.
More space for us also means space to add more people. We have a bunch of open positions; if you think you’re a good fit, send us your resume! Check them out here
Time is money, and salespeople often find themselves with too little of both. They are constantly trying to figure out how to become more efficient and shorten their sales cycle, in order to win more deals and meet (or exceed) their quota faster. It is a huge task, but there are a few ways you can, at least, make the most of your time.
1. Target the right people
Though salespeople wish that everyone would buy from them, that’s unfortunately not the case. So don’t waste time targeting the wrong people. Understand who and what teams in the organization would most benefit from your solution, given their particular business needs and challenges. And keep a pulse on critical changes affecting them: did they miss their revenue goals? Are they getting eaten alive by their competition? Find the person or people who oversee these goals, and increase your own sales productivity by not wasting time with someone who really won’t be interested in what you provide.
2. Aim high
According to Mark Suster for Inc., instead of pitching your product to a lower-level employee, you can increase your sales productivity by cutting out the time you’d have to spend giving demos and repeating yourself to many different levels of the organization by going as high up as possible. People higher up in the organization have buying authority, or direct access to the person who does. If you’re pitching to a senior executive, they may even send you down to the person who actually does the purchasing—and you’ll have executive endorsement.
Having a champion is invaluable, but if you’re pitching to an executive, you must make sure that you’ve done your research so you don’t waste their time. Executives are busy people, and if you don’t wow them on your first shot, the odds are that you won’t get another. Prepare by using a personal business analytics solution that will help you align your value proposition to exactly how it will solve their specific business challenges.
3. Create value
A salesperson’s job is to sometimes lead the customer to the correct conclusion. In order to do that, you need to truly understand their business. If you point out challenges and opportunities that they may not have even realized and then suggest a solution to address them, they will see you as a trusted advisor. Because there is so much information out there about your customer and their markets, only with access to personal business analytics can you truly understand how your solutions can benefit them, based on their particular customers, competitors and market.
A recent David Williams Forbes article, Why You Should Fill Your Company With Athletes, highlighted seven traits to look for when hiring. David didn’t mean that you should hire only real athletes, but rather, try to hire employees that have “athlete traits that make any individual an exceptional hire.” With the winter games off to an exciting start, and many of our own fiscal years starting up, sales teams are looking to be fast out of the gate. There are many lessons sales teams learn from the best winter athletes in the world.
What traits do athletes have that can translate to sales? Quite a few, actually. Athletes, especially Olympic-caliber ones, are very driven. They know that they have to put in the work at practice to see results in the games—and sometimes that means practices every day, or twice a day. Moreover, they have a never-say-die attitude, and they know how to work through adversity to see results. Managers should try to find salespeople who put in the time and work to prepare for client meetings. Chances are, they’ll be more successful.
The best athletes focus on the smallest aspects of their sport. They know, for instance, that anything that isn’t streamlined during the ski jump can subtract precious tenths of a meter. They have impeccable timing, whether it’s changing positions mid-air, or releasing the puck. And world-class curlers know exactly how much force to put behind the stone. Salespeople have to show the same attention to detail in their accounts. To be truly successful, they should strive to be intimately acquainted with every aspect of their accounts. The smallest event, or hint of an emerging trend, can be the key to making or losing the sale.
Lastly, the best athletes have the best equipment available. In fact, they need the top-of-the-line gear so they don’t fall behind their competition. Even if one person is an inherently better athlete than another, a slight edge in aerodynamics can mean the difference between the gold medal and 10th place.
Of course, the same is true in sales. How can you expect your salespeople to be the best and achieve world-class results if you don’t equip them with good tools—or any tools at all? In order to succeed, they need to be able to have a deep view of their clients’ business and markets. They need to be given the opportunity to react to a management change, or a market shift, and if they have to sift through all of the noise that’s on the Web, there’s a good chance they’ll miss it, or never get to it at all.
As a hiring manager, you need to look for salespeople who are driven and dedicated, but are also creative, detail-oriented, and have finesse. Once you’ve assembled your team, you have a responsibility as a manager to give them the tools they need to be successful. The right people will use the right tools wisely and move the needle for your business.
What can each of the winter sports teach your sales team? Check out the infographic below to find out!