Transparency is a verb
- Posted by Hans De Leenheer
When we started building the 6 pillars of JOINT INNOVATION about a year ago, transparency came up as one of the first building blocks. If we want to acknowledge that we can only build a good product and a good technology with other people, we’ll have to incorporate transparency in order to earn trust.
But transparency is hard. It’s an ever changing state of actions and consequences. And although it is technically not a verb, it does have a past, present and future tense! By putting it in the core of our corporate DNA, we are forcing ourselves to constantly evaluate if we have been transparent enough, can we do better today and what is our end goal?
Transparency is also not an on-off switch. It’s not that either you are or you are not. In this post I’ll show how we started by looking at ourselves, moved on to to our customers and ultimately to the public audience. Because in the end; if you cannot be transparent internally, how could you be to someone you don’t even know (yet).
One of the things that has made a big difference in our organization, was the introduction of SLACK as our internal platform for communication. Gone are the days of using email as a collaboration or conversation platform. Email limits the transparency of communication to the receivers whom are chosen by the sender. And we all know about that “I didn’t get that memo” excuses after things go bad.
On SLACK we have about 20 channels, which everyone in the company can join if they want to. This ranges from sales, marketing or development where we have team conversations to big data, competition or media articles where we discuss broader topics. The idea is here that everyone can get a feeling about different aspects of the company outside their day-2-day activities.
Other internal initiatives worth mentioning are monthly company briefings (with Belgian beer of course) and a company bootcamp every 6 months.
In a market dominated by behemoths that have been around for decades, earning the trust of a customer is extremely hard for new challengers like TrendMiner. This is one of the reasons –other than just being good practise– that we focus hard on treating our existing customers as kings and queens. We know that if we treat them well, they will vouch for us when someone asks for it.
We have started a lot of small initiatives and made larger strategic decisions. One of them is ‘the answer to any question a customer can ask, should be available online‘. This of course with the exception of our core IP (intellectual property). This comes in a simple F.A.Q, the online Wiki (installation & user guide) or training video’s for every single feature.
We also try to be as open as possible to our roadmap. The last thing we want customers to think is that we’ll stop innovating once they bought the software. We have done feature priority polls in the past after which we shared the results and the implementation plan. But we’ll go even further; in the (not so distant) future we’ll be able to share the current state of each feature request for every customer continuously.
preview of the feature requests page per customer – click for large view
When I say ‘the answer to any question a customer can ask, should be available online‘ this should actually say potential customer. And this is where transparency gets harder to be consistent. Knowing that there are companies out there (old & new), copying some of our methods, it would not be very wise to throw all of our current head-start in the game. This is why we keep some information for end-users only.
But we do want to find a balance in building trust with that potential customer. This is why we created the reverse roadmap on our vision page for example. Or why we share our strategic thinking in these blogposts. But we also want to show our product so they know we’re not shooting with blanks. As a new customer I would feel that if your website doesn’t show your product, you are hiding something. So in order to do this we have started to open up some of the feature deepdives that are part of the end-user training videos.
Click here to go to the playlist.
You will notice a play icon () for the public video’s and a lock icon () for the ones that are limited views for end-users. People who are not end-users but still want to see the product in full detail can always request a custom DEMO here.
The past, present and future tense of transparency
Are we a fully transparent company? Definitely not. For example: we are not sharing HR matters internally or externally (ie Buffer) , we try to keep away from talking too much about financials and as mentioned in the last section; there is still some road ahead for us to be able to share everything about the software publicly.
But by putting it top of our list in the company culture, we will make sure that we at least question it in our daily actions. Can we do better? Of course! None of these aforementioned programs are (ever going to be) finished. Just share us your thoughts and I promise you it will be raised and addressed.