Podcast

Kyle Tuominen: Unlocking Digital Agility for a Rapidly Changing Workplace

Podcast

Kyle Tuominen: Unlocking Digital Agility for a Rapidly Changing Workplace

Podcast

Kyle Tuominen: Unlocking Digital Agility for a Rapidly Changing Workplace

Podcast

Kyle Tuominen: Unlocking Digital Agility for a Rapidly Changing Workplace

Podcast

Kyle Tuominen: Unlocking Digital Agility for a Rapidly Changing Workplace

Podcast

Kyle Tuominen: Unlocking Digital Agility for a Rapidly Changing Workplace

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Podcast

Kyle Tuominen: Unlocking Digital Agility for a Rapidly Changing Workplace

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Podcast

Kyle Tuominen: Unlocking Digital Agility for a Rapidly Changing Workplace

24
MIN
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About the Episode
Have you been forced to reimagine the way you work since the pandemic hit? You’re not alone. Kyle Tuominen of Coastal Cloud joins us on this bonus episode to dig into how organizations can adjust to the rapid workplace changes and challenges of 2020. His experience helping companies through digital transformations has made one thing clear: digital agility is the key to success. Listen now to learn more.
Episode Highlights


Talk to the front line

Digital transformation works better when guided by those working directly with customers.

Focus on empathy
Use an empathetic mindset when addressing employees who are resistant to change.

Keep things simple
Empower employees to make important decisions by keeping business processes simple and straightforward.

Meet our Guest

An early career in retail sparked Kyle Tuominen’s passion for helping companies navigate digital transformations. He’s led teams at Bose and IBM, and now serves as the Director of the West at Coastal Cloud, a Platinum Salesforce partner. After living and working all over the country, he knows how to adapt to change quickly. He thrives on helping his clients see the value of change through breaking down digital barriers.

EPISODE TRANSCRIPT

Chris Byers: Welcome to the Ripple Effect. I am Chris Byers of Formstack. And today, as a part of our bonus episodes, we are featuring Kyle Tuominen. He is the director of the West at Coastal Cloud. And we're going to discuss what digital transformation looks like today in a world that's rapidly changing. While sharing how impactful that transformation can be on company culture. What can you learn from Kyle? Let's find out.

Well, before we go deeper into this topic and kind of jump into the conversation, Kyle can you tell us your elevator pitch of what Coastal Cloud is and what your role encompasses?

Kyle Tuominen: So Coastal Cloud is a platinum Salesforce partner, and we deliver success to our customers on the Salesforce platform. Our role is to go beyond simply building Salesforce and really helping provide a cohesive strategy for our customers long term.

Chris Byers: It's safe to say that 2020, for you and for everybody listening, has forced each of us to kind of rethink our businesses, how we work, how we operate. I'm curious, when you hear the words reimagine work, what comes to mind?

Kyle Tuominen: I think for a lot of companies operating in the age of COVID, reimagining work is how can I keep my team as productive as they were in the office? And for me at least, I think that might be the wrong approach, because I think it's really about how do you drive the same culture to your earlier point about digital transformation affecting that culture? You need to have a culture that drives change and really absorbs and adopts change willingly. Change resistant organizations struggle when there's large transformational issues, like a pandemic. And I think when a lot of companies are looking at reimagining the workplace, it's not reimagining what corporate culture or reimagining how their customers experience their brand or how their employees drive sales or success, whatever that means for that company. You know, I think oftentimes they're focusing a lot more tactically. How do I get soft tones to everybody at their houses? How do I make sure that my call center agents can take these calls from home? What if it has HIPAA information or payment information? And I think it's much more tactical in nature. And in reality, we're missing an opportunity to really take this as a chance to kind of reform your company from the ground up. But without having to start a kind of step one.

Chris Byers: So I love your comment about cultural values. They really should be driving our decisions right now. Funny enough, we actually went remote back in 2012. And yet all along the way, when people would tend to ask questions like, would we ever go back to the office? Would we ever be office only? My answer was kind of always, you know, the cultural value that drove us was what we called be agile and iterate. And so for us, that just happened to be we were going to work remotely because we felt like it was the best way for us to work as a company. And if that ever changed, yeah, we would change it. It's about agility. It's about iteration in our case. And so I love that comment that we should all be thinking about our cultural values first. And none of us have a cultural value of we're going to be in an office. I'm curious, how has that changed for you? How did life look before? How have you flexed to kind of embrace today?

Kyle Tuominen: I think the biggest change for me is I used to be a road warrior. I traveled 50 weeks a year for two and a half years. And that stopped when I came to the Coastal Cloud period. But I was still maintaining some level of travel. I think the interesting thing about Coastal Cloud and our kind of corporate culture is we kind of leave it up to our team members to decide. We expect everybody in our company to have an ownership mentality. And, you know, we have an office in Denver. And it was actually really important for me that we had an office in Denver, because personally, as much as I love working from home, I'm more productive in an office environment because I need a little bit of social stimulus. And sitting in the same house all day, can get a little stale even before the pandemic, but we never require people to come into the office. We had an office available if people wanted to collaborate, if they had a reason to collaborate, you know, whether that's a customer project or a challenging technical solution, people could choose to come into the office because they got value out of it. And really, my job as a leader is to drive that value, it's to create enough value of coming into the office that they want to or that they make that decision that working from home is more effective and productive. And quite frankly, I think Coastal Cloud, at least in our in our West Coast team, is probably 50/50 on those that enjoy coming into the office and see the value and those that prefer working from home, but we're able to kind of accommodate both types of team members because our corporate culture is designed around, you know, it's really your responsibility to be effective. And, you know, whatever you need to do that, we're going to support you.

Chris Byers: So, you know, one of the things you've described is that, you know, in a lot of ways, your team really didn't even need to change that much to operate in this new world. It's already how you are operating. So a lot of that has stayed the same. Actually, for the person who is maybe at home far more than they want, like you described and not getting some of that relational time, how are you helping people overcome that mental need and desire to be around people?

Kyle Tuominen: I think it takes different forms for different people. You know, for some people it's just about fresh air. And, you know, luckily living in Colorado, they can go hiking or go mountain climbing or, you know, what have you. You know, for some people, it is really that relational piece. For me, that is what it is. And so, you know, we do a lot of, you know, kind of stand ups with our video cameras on and bring our dogs into the view of the camera and everybody says hi, happy hours. I think one of the great things about this has been we've learned a lot about our colleagues and their actual lives. We spent a lot of time learning about their skills in the workplace and being in consulting kind of their skills that they can bring to a team or project or a customer. With everybody's real life now also being that work life, you know, whether that's kids or animals or parents or family in general, there's more people in the household. There's more hustle and bustle than they're accustomed to. Right. And I've seen our teams be incredibly accepting of kids crying in the background. And I was on a video call probably two weeks ago, and one of my customers was getting his face painted by his daughter while we were doing a Zoom call. And I just think, you know, stories like that are really important to continue to drive those relationships, even if you're not in person, you know, taking moments like that and appreciating kind of the absurdity of that. That picture has been really beneficial for me.

Related: Partner Interview Series: Kyle Tuominen of Coastal Cloud

Chris Byers: You know, one of the things you're talking about is that all of us are, even if we knew how to work remotely beforehand or really embracing it in a bigger way and and finding even more comfort, maybe if we worked at home beforehand, we hid our family, we hid our you know, that we are at our home. We try to make that a non issue. And yet now it's actually acceptable to let people know. Oh, yeah. You're in your house, right? I understand the dog's going to bark or run through the back or whatever, but the same thing is changing in businesses. You know, I had a conversation with somebody last last week or two weeks ago where she works for the state that I live in, which is Oklahoma. And she said something about they've closed down the offices and they've figured out we can work remotely. And I'm like, oh, my gosh, the state chose to work remotely. Life truly did just change. And so I'm curious, as you think about digital transformation and the importance of that, or maybe let's start with some definitions, what would you say the differences between digitization and digital transformation?

Kyle Tuominen: It does. So digitization is really the process of getting data into electronic forms. So it's kind of the transition from paper to digital and digital transformation is saying what can we do with this information? What are our customers looking for? What are our team members looking for? How can we leverage this information and the new technology that's available to us to drive a better customer experience? But it's also about thinking outside the box. You know, when the first personal computers came on the market, there was not a large market for them. It was expected to be a hobbyists and enthusiasts type purchase, not an every home, every person has to have one of these. And you know, the way that, quite frankly, Steve Jobs and Windows and Bill Gates and the Bomber drove the purchase and a need for those personal computers was, they thought outside the box. And you know, I think we're seeing that type of change in areas like healthcare. You know, you talked about how the state could go work from home. And that's a pretty transformational idea, certainly. But imagine health workers working from home. You know, one really interesting trend I've seen in healthcare around COVID, has been diagnostic appointments or tests are now being done in a person's home rather than done in a hospital. You know, obviously, to reduce the risk of transmission in a healthcare setting. But that took somebody looking at the problem of how do I get to give this test if they can't come in? And traditionally, the answer to that has always been, oh, they can't drive, will have a car service, pick them up. Right. Most major cities have some type of you know, if you're elderly or disabled, you know, we'll provide a service to pick you up and drop you off at your doctor's appointment. And so the thinking has always been, well, the problem is not that I'm doing the test in this location. The problem is that this person can't get to this location. And a pandemic really forced people and administrators and planners to think, OK, well, now it is. Now the location of the test is the problem. You know, and making those mobile and remote is not an easy feat. But I think it's an example of, you know, a specific vertical saying we have to pivot and, you know, how can we do that in a digital age? What does technology enable us to do if we think differently about this problem?

Chris Byers: And you've kind of introduced a mindset shift that we all need to be thinking about to really embrace digital transformation. So what would you suggest to companies who are beginning to consider this and think about how do I really embrace digital transformation in the way we're doing things?

Kyle Tuominen: Talk to the front line team. I think the digital transformation projects that I see that are most effective are ones driven by end users or team members downstream. Those people that are talking or working with our customers, because ultimately they're the ones hearing what a customer wants or needs or what would be an incredible value proposition for that customer. And, you know, I think as companies look at this as an opportunity to transform how they do business, you know, if you're transforming how somebody works from a corner office into working in a large library home study, it's a very different environment than maybe one of your team members that spends eight hours a day on calls and how their child is in remote learning. And, you know, they're struggling with audio issues. And, you know, how you approach those two problems is very different. You know, I think that the executive level sets the strategic priorities of the organization. And I don't think that changes based on that, that end user feedback or customer feedback, whether that's a guest or an employee. But I do think that it pivots those objectives and maybe reprioritizes them at times. And, you know, I think that's really the key piece at the outset of kind of embarking on this type of journey is making the right plan. And rather than plan, maybe, maybe a framework is a better wording for that, because it's also about the flexibility that you can show as you undergo the journey. It's not a two week journey. It's not a two month journey. It's really not even a two year journey. It's a five to 10 year journey. And what the technology scene will look like in five years. None of us, I mean, we can only guess. Right. And if you build a plan that the executive team has defined and the priorities were defined by the executive team or their delegates, and you're planning out for 10 years down the road of a technology roadmap, 10 years from now you will be buying some really outdated technology. And so it's more important to kind of take that feedback and build a framework of what do I want to accomplish rather than what tool am I going to use. And then once you kind of know that problem statement, you can pivot it back to. Now, how do we solve it? How do we think outside the box to solve it? If the current solutions that we're looking at just don't don't solve it in a way that we or our customers need.

You need to have a culture that drives change and really absorbs and adopts change willingly. It’s change-resistant organizations that struggle when there's large transformational issues, like a pandemic.

Chris Byers: Yeah, I think that really initial start of the framework of what are the right paths. And because there are multiple paths, we need to kind of cover ground and a few different planes. And then let's get started. And this, to your point, is going to last a long time. We need to get a few things in motion and then we need to step back and say, how did this go? And let's iterate on that. And we can kind of move from there is great thinking. What's gotten you so passionate about digital transformation? How do you get interested in this topic?

Kyle Tuominen: To be honest with you, it came from a lot of bad customer experiences. I started working retail and customer facing jobs when I was fifteen and I worked full time and went to night college, you know, in customer facing roles and kind of retail managerial roles. And I know, you know how challenging it can be to provide an exceptional level of customer service. But I also know the value of what happens when you do. And the more and more I started working with companies and seeing how little focus there is on that customer experience, the more I've wanted to change it. And, you know, seeing companies look at their customers and react, recognizing that the revenue and the profit margin goes up if you're driving a better customer experience, even at a higher cost. And I think one of the unique things has been that a lot of companies have found that these types of transformations have really reduced their costs and increased their levels of service. For me, seeing those types of changes happen are really impactful. But I think more important for me personally is the culture shift that comes with it. It's the refocusing on the customer. If you're taking the time to say this is critical for me, that we do this right for our customer, that our customer feels taken care of or safe or excited or energized or entertained or whatever your goal is for that customer. It's really important that you get to see that happen.

Chris Byers: See, you actually mention some of the experience that maybe a customer receives via a digital transformation. But what you're speaking to is change. And so along the way, you get resistance, I think often to change. And yet you may have the title, The Greatest Idea in the World, but people like to do things sometimes how they do them. How do you overcome that and how do you help them process through that to embrace that change?

Kyle Tuominen: I think the biggest thing is empathy. And, you know, the difference between empathy and sympathy is that I think the definitions vary by the person. But for me, empathy is not necessarily saying I agree with you, but it is saying I understand you. I think I've been lucky in my life. I've moved over 20 times and I've lived in virtually every major part of the country. And that gives me the ability to kind of empathize with a variety of different mindsets. And that's something that I've been lucky to have. But I think that empathy base is really critical to driving change through resistance or, you know, driving adoption and real consumption of transformational change. You know, I had an engagement where we were talking with a customer about adoption metrics and rather than talking about logins and, you know, a wall of shame of people that haven't logged in in 60 days, or haven't logged any activity in two weeks. You know, we talked about what I call vibrancy, which is the idea of measuring what is actually important. What are you actually trying to drive with this project or with this tool or with this feature? And so a lot of companies look at things like cases created issues in the system, and they say that's a negative for me. I actually look at that as a positive for two reasons. One, it means people are in the system because for them to create cases, they have to be in the system. And then, two, it's that they care enough to create the case. You know, it's a lot easier for a team member to log in, do their work, hate 80 percent of the software that they're using, but they don't have a feedback mechanism or they don't feel valued or they don't feel heard. They don't feel that empathy from their company. And, you know, ultimately, for me, it's about driving what is the goal of this? You know, how do we get people enthusiastic about it? And I find that the biggest way to do that is just listen and have empathy, you know, hear what their concerns are and understand that for me, right. When I'm working with an executive team and I define strategic objectives for a project, when I go talk to an end user that's struggling with the four extra clicks that it added to something that they do on a daily basis. The strategic priorities don't really matter at that point. You know, and it's important for me to put that aside and say, OK, I understand these priorities and we need to make sure that we're not violating any of them by making these changes. But we need to make this change, right. We can't add four clicks to something that somebody is doing, you know, a thousand times a day. And I think, you know, those two pieces are what drives through kind of that barrier or resistance to change.

Chris Byers: Well, I know you've had some really successful stories of digital transformation. Can you talk to us about one of those and tell us kind of what happened and how you approached it and the successes that it created?

Kyle Tuominen: So I worked with a healthcare company and it was a large multi-national healthcare company. They acquired a few new firms and they were kind of entering a medical device business for the first time. And they were really struggling with, you know, this was a company that for one hundred years had sold disposables and hospital equipment and computers and software, but had never really entered kind of the medical device space. Right. In body medical devices, you know, stents and things like that. And they were talking about, you know, selling into their customers. And when they're selling things like MRI coils or, you know, hardware, the conversations happen at the administrator level. And, you know, they were talking about, you know, convincing, you know, having an LMS or, you know, a teaching type platform to drive those conversations with administrators, to teach administrators about, you know, the functionality of their products and the differentiation of their products. And we had a workshop maybe about two months into this process, and we brought in a variety of frontline salespeople. We brought in manufacturing workers and shipping workers, shipping dock workers. And we asked them, what's the most important thing in your day to day? And the shipping dock person said, I need to know the secretary or front desk receptionist's name of the person that we're shipping to. And we were all a little confused. We were like, look, I mean, that seems important. But once you ship it, you're good, right? And he said, no, that person oftentimes will call me a follow up about, you know, X, Y or Z or it's coming in four boxes when they were expecting two. When he said building a relationship with those people because these are repetitive purchases is really critical for the success of the brand and the product and the business. And so instead of approaching this new space for them, as have we always done business, we took that and we said we really need to understand what the relationships are between our customers and this brand. Right. In these products, because it is so different from what this company has been used to. And by talking to the customers themselves, we understood that the most important thing for them was not price, it was not even necessarily the relationship, although the relationships that these sales reps had with these frontline employees from the customer, what really mattered was the effectiveness of the tool. And at the end of the day, the only thing the doctor cared about was, is this better for my patient than your competitors product? And by having those conversations and introducing a new way of thinking about, you know, focusing on those kind of frontline employees rather than the executive team or the administrators, we are able to identify a completely new opportunity for us and really drive sales through differentiation of the safety of the product. We were able to narrow the market and say, you know, this product works better in X, Y, and Z ways and in X, Y, and Z circumstances. And that's when you should use this product. You know, we saw a really significant lift in sales, and that's all created by kind of the conversations of a new software platform. And how do they sell this new software platform? And it didn't just change their software, it changed how they actually sell to their customers. So for me, that's you know, that's a really impactful story.

Learn More: What is Digital Agility?

Chris Byers: I think that is a wonderful story. One of the things you keep coming back to is this idea of talking to the front line. Ask the people who do the work for feedback and how they operate. I think that's such a powerful asset. We all avoid that a lot because it sounds hard or we don't think we're gonna get the information we're looking for. And so I love that you're starting there. These are complicated processes. They often cover lots of products, tech stacks, et cetera. How can people kind of start to tie these things together and become more efficient?

Kyle Tuominen: I want to go back to a point that you just made earlier. I'll try to weave it into this answer. I think it's really critical to talk to those frontline team members because they're the ones interacting with the customers and they can have a far greater outsized impact than any piece of software can in terms of how that customer perceives the brand. The tone of their body language, the type of outreach, the consistency of outreach, the consistency of branding, all of those things are perpetuated by that employee or by that team member. And for me, driving change within those teams is critical because they are the face of the brand and the impact that they can have on those customers. Chris, I think the importance of those frontline employees that you talked about, you know, is really driven in a very similar vein to the need for data. You know, one of the most impactful digital transformations was I worked with Caesars Entertainment, the casino giant and hospitality giant. And the biggest thing that their end marketers were asking for was not I want to be able to drive really crazy offers or I want to reduce how many approvals I need to get on a marketing campaign. They just wanted more data about their customers. They wanted to be able to act on that data and to be able to do that, we had to take a tech stack, that to your point, was incredibly fragmented and deprecated in a lot of cases. And we needed to consolidate and condense the data so that it was usable by all these different teams and pieces of software. But at the end of the day, the end ask from the end users was, I want more data so that I can better market to our customers so that I better understand what they want out of this experience at one of our properties. I think as companies recognize the value of that data, we're seeing, you know, the age of data right now, where companies are doing everything they can to collect data. But the companies that are getting ahead right now did that five years ago. And right now they're focused on how do we use that data? How do we build a data lake? You know, it's really identifying potential opportunities to use that data and then using that data, identifying if it had an improved effect or not, and then trying to use another piece of data. And as every system grows more and more interconnected, and that's kind of the default expectation. Now, when I talk to a lot of customers, they don't ask if they're going to need a middleware platform. They just ask why doesn't this already have a Salesforce connector? Because Salesforce is that standard bearer in the CRM space, you know, and kind of transiting that data across those systems is an expectation and not a nice to have. And I think that's a really key change from where we were five years ago. And I think five years from now, we're going to be looking back and saying, how do we take that data that we have transiting across systems and how do we make it actionable and how do we drive value out of it?

Chris Byers: Kyle, tell us what digital agility is? That sounds like a pretty kind of advanced terms. Talk to us about it.

Kyle Tuominen: So, Chris, I think it varies by company, but for me, digital agility means how fast can you operate with your current technology? And if you had no technology constraints, how fast could you operate? I think it's being agile in the software that you're picking right now, picking something that is not going to have a huge historical cost or have a massive capital investment that is going to make it difficult to switch if a better product comes along in ten years. It's being flexible in terms of the tools that you're using. And it's also saying if I set aside the technical limitations for what I currently have, what could I accomplish? Chris, if we think about the marketing example with Caesars' earlier digital agility for them was really how do we take all these different pieces of data and deliver it to these end users that are touching our customers. But when they originally started, it was how do I get better marketing data? And those are two very different questions. And the reason that they were successful was because they were able to pivot and say, OK, we've collected this data for marketing, but we can do way more than just use this for marketing. We can use this to impact the experience. We can use it to better tailor trip planning activities to our customers. And for me, it's about the ability to pivot quickly and choose tools and partners that can drive that for you. And then it's about, you know, looking at what's possible instead of what do I need.

Chris Byers: So some of us probably here digital transformation and we think, great, I can do that pretty quickly. But if we've been around processes, big software packages we've bought, we also know that can be a really daunting task and sound really, really big. Tell us the difference between that digital transformation and digital agility.

Kyle Tuominen: Sure. I think digital agility is more of a mindset. It's you know, when we first started this conversation, Chris, we were talking about corporate culture. And I think digital agility is really the mindset about, you know, approaching problems in a new way, approaching problems and saying what can we do? Right. To my earlier point, digital transformation is more about how do we do it. For me, the agility piece is looking at problems and saying, can we solve this and how can we solve it? And not from a I need to see X piece of data right now from a user story perspective, but from an end user perspective. I need my sales rep to know what I bought last year so they can recommend what I need to buy this year. And, you know, that's a much easier change to make than saying I have to go build a data lake and I need to have Snowflake to have, you know, really accurate reporting. And, you know, I need Tablo for visualization. You know, that's really the digital transformation piece, right? That's the overhauling of how you interpret data, how you use data, how you act on data. And the agility piece is really saying we need to make this change. And how can we get there? What are the small steps that we can take immediately? And how can we start that planning for that longer term transformation?

Read Next: How Digital Agility Empowers Employees and Boosts Productivity

Chris Byers: What are some things that help make a corporation be able to make that digital shift? I think it can take a lot of energy at times. So what do you think are some things that just make that all the easier?

Kyle Tuominen: Yeah, I mean, I think from a culture perspective, you know, it's imperative that you're listening to your teams. And I know a theme for me is certainly, our kind of entry level or frontline teams, they're really critical. And I think they get overlooked because, you know, their titles aren't great or our executive teams haven't worked those roles or haven't come up. But I think, you know, ultimately culture needs to be inclusive and not exclusive. And if you're driving a culture that says I only care about a director's opinion, you're going to struggle to transform because your team is not going to give you the feedback that you need. You're going to hear about what your directors want and not what your teams need. And there's a distinct difference between those two things. So I think for me, the culture shift required for digital transformation is really about inclusiveness. And I think a lot of companies are seeing the value of an inclusive working environment the last few years and certainly the last six months or so.

Chris Byers: So there is this inertia that causes us to kind of want to just keep doing what's in front of us. How do you get people motivated to say, hey, let's get going, let's start to look at this process and figure out how to do it better?

Kyle Tuominen: I don't find it challenging to motivate people in this way, to be honest with you. I think everybody wants to have a significant change in their organization or for their customers. I think most of the time we resign ourselves to the status quo because it's a resignation. It's easier. We don't have the energy to fight for it. But I think when presented with the opportunity to have an outsized impact, I exceedingly rarely see people that have objections or become detrimental to the team. It happens, right. But I don't think it's a really common issue that I encounter.

Chris Byers: What's your number one piece of advice for embracing simplicity kind of in business processes?

Kyle Tuominen: If you can't explain it to your seven year old, it's too complex for your team. And not because I think your team, anybody's team, has the intellectual capability of a seven year old, but because your team is focused on a hundred different priorities and if what you're asking them to do is not easy to fit into one of those priorities, it's going to take them away from those priorities. And whether that's customer or internal customer serving objectives or priorities. Ultimately, you're leaving somebody high and dry. So embracing the simplicity of let's treat our team members like adults. I think we talked earlier about digital transformation in the workplace and driving that culture. I think a really key piece of that is also expecting everybody to be adults and expecting everybody to have an ownership mentality similar to what we do at Coastal Cloud. You know, if we look at call centers that transformed, if you asked a call center manager, V.P. of service two years ago, you know, let's shift your team to remote, we'll save you the office space cost. Their number one objection would have been, oh, no, that's not possible. We can't let them work from home. We don't know that they're going to be taking as many calls. But in a week or two weeks or three days for some of our customers, they flipped to a remote based call center. And it was always possible. It was just there wasn't a will to not micromanage. You know, they wanted to keep it complex. And now that they're seeing by simplifying it and allowing people to work from home, they actually have better coverage on hours that they used to struggle on. You know, nine to five was a very regular call center schedule. Well, the problem with that is that a lot of your customers, that's also their work schedule and now your busy time from five to seven and five to seven is when you're lower staffed. But if you've got team members that have a flexible schedule and obviously with a call center or any type of service, you have to kind of stagger that. But, you know, ultimately, five to seven might work better for a lot of these parents that their kids are doing remote learning and now they can spend a large portion of their day helping their kids learn. You know, they feel valued from their employer. They feel like adults. And, you know, ultimately, driving a simpler business process allows them to make those decisions about what's best for them. And I use the call center in this example, but I think it applies to sales and marketing teams. I think it applies to accounting and operational teams. Ultimately, KISS is an acronym for a reason. Right. And if you're making it more complex simply to add steps or because you want to include somebody or make somebody feel valued, you know, you're adding complexity for really no reason.

Chris Byers: Let's talk productivity for a minute. Do you have a go to productivity tip that you share with your team, with customers or whomever?

Kyle Tuominen: For me, it's take less meetings than you need. So I think one thing I find, you know, as I lead a team is I want to be in these meetings to support my team. It's not about I want to be in the meeting to know exactly what's going on. Right. I trust my team to escalate to me when I need to know about something. But I want to be on to support them, to give them a kudo's on their killing it or, you know, step in when they're struggling and kind of help them through it. What I've realized in talking to a lot of them has been, if I'm not on the call, they really own it. And I think sometimes, you know, when we're looking at our colleagues and they're on a call with us and we say, I'm not the expert in this area, but this person is. So I'm just going to completely shut down. And once you shut down, especially in a remote meeting, it's really hard to make it back right to that engaged level that you need. And, you know, for me, what I've seen is by taking less meetings and kind of having my team take a lot more of them, I'm seeing them kind of step up in new ways. And it gives me the freedom and flexibility to go pursue new objectives or strategy. You know, that we've been trying to build and haven't had the time to.

More From Coastal Cloud: Partner Perspectives on COVID-19: JoAnne King & Jim Stalder of Coastal Cloud

Chris Byers: Well, one last question. As you think about moving forward, how will you be reimagining the way that you work?

Kyle Tuominen: It's about kind of having these types of conversations with my customers and understanding. I have a restoration company right now. They're contractors that restore firewater, smoke damage. And, you know, one of the things that I found really thrilling about working with them was when we originally talked to them, our first meeting was with their CFO, CIO, CTO and then four sales reps and an IT support person and the IT director. It was not only executives and directors, it was they recognized the value of that. And in talking to them about their goals, it was really clear that they were looking at a way to drive better productivity for their sales team. And they knew that for us to be able to make those recommendations, we needed to talk to that sales team. And so I think, you know, for me about how I'm reimagining, you know, how we go to market and how we support our customers in these transformations, it's really talking them through, what's the important pieces for them? What's the important pieces for them at an executive level? What's the important pieces for them at an end user level? And then what's the important pieces for them at a customer level? The amount of customers that I have that still don't have personas of who their regular buyers are is a lot higher percentage than you think. And if we can shift the business place in general, the workplace in general, to being focused on how do we drive the type of customer experience that our customers expect? I think that's really critical. I think COVID provides a really good, clean way to show that, you know, I talked earlier about healthcare diagnostics being done remotely. You think now about how many more people now are using the Target pickup service or the Wal-Mart pickup service, Postmates for grocery delivery? Those expectations aren't going to go away. Right. Customers are really liking some of the convenient aspects of what COVID has created. You know, we all live busy lives, and if I can reduce 20 minutes of walking around a store by punching eleven things into my phone and having it ready, and I drive up and I'm on a conference call and I open my trunk and they put the bags in and I drive away. That's not going to end. Those customers are still going to want that. And so I think for me, it's about, you know, not only looking at, you know, what are your objectives right now, but what have you done to adapt for this environment? And what do your customers like and not like about that? And let's continue to drive forward on the pieces that they do like. You know, I'm seeing a lot of requests for self-service communities because customers are growing more and more self-service dependent rather than, you know, they might not want to talk to a salesperson if they can quote it themselves and buy it themselves. And guess what? That's at a higher margin for this company. That's a win all the way around. And so for me, I think it's, you know, identify what you're doing to transform, identify what your competitors are doing to transform, and then how can you leverage those same ideas or features or functionality to drive forward and really either differentiate yourself from your competitors or at least, you know, get on par with them.

Chris Byers: That was Kyle Tuominen with Coastal Cloud, and I hope what you learned from him today were a couple of really interesting things I heard from this conversation. First, if you want outsized results, which I think every single one of us in business does, digital transformation is a must. The other one was that we really need to talk to our frontline team members, our customers. That's where we're really going to learn what we need to learn to change, to transform and make their lives easier and make our lives easier. And as you're kind of digging into processes, being able to explain things in a very simple way, as he said, if you can explain it to your seven year old, I think life's gonna be good. And you know, the way I think about that, too, and talk to people is if you can't memorize something into a pretty small sentence or phrase, you're not gonna be able to repeat it over and over and over again, which is what we need to do to really convince people, get people excited about the change that we're making.

Podcast

Kyle Tuominen: Unlocking Digital Agility for a Rapidly Changing Workplace

Podcast

Kyle Tuominen: Unlocking Digital Agility for a Rapidly Changing Workplace

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EPISODE TRANSCRIPT

Chris Byers: Welcome to the Ripple Effect. I am Chris Byers of Formstack. And today, as a part of our bonus episodes, we are featuring Kyle Tuominen. He is the director of the West at Coastal Cloud. And we're going to discuss what digital transformation looks like today in a world that's rapidly changing. While sharing how impactful that transformation can be on company culture. What can you learn from Kyle? Let's find out.

Well, before we go deeper into this topic and kind of jump into the conversation, Kyle can you tell us your elevator pitch of what Coastal Cloud is and what your role encompasses?

Kyle Tuominen: So Coastal Cloud is a platinum Salesforce partner, and we deliver success to our customers on the Salesforce platform. Our role is to go beyond simply building Salesforce and really helping provide a cohesive strategy for our customers long term.

Chris Byers: It's safe to say that 2020, for you and for everybody listening, has forced each of us to kind of rethink our businesses, how we work, how we operate. I'm curious, when you hear the words reimagine work, what comes to mind?

Kyle Tuominen: I think for a lot of companies operating in the age of COVID, reimagining work is how can I keep my team as productive as they were in the office? And for me at least, I think that might be the wrong approach, because I think it's really about how do you drive the same culture to your earlier point about digital transformation affecting that culture? You need to have a culture that drives change and really absorbs and adopts change willingly. Change resistant organizations struggle when there's large transformational issues, like a pandemic. And I think when a lot of companies are looking at reimagining the workplace, it's not reimagining what corporate culture or reimagining how their customers experience their brand or how their employees drive sales or success, whatever that means for that company. You know, I think oftentimes they're focusing a lot more tactically. How do I get soft tones to everybody at their houses? How do I make sure that my call center agents can take these calls from home? What if it has HIPAA information or payment information? And I think it's much more tactical in nature. And in reality, we're missing an opportunity to really take this as a chance to kind of reform your company from the ground up. But without having to start a kind of step one.

Chris Byers: So I love your comment about cultural values. They really should be driving our decisions right now. Funny enough, we actually went remote back in 2012. And yet all along the way, when people would tend to ask questions like, would we ever go back to the office? Would we ever be office only? My answer was kind of always, you know, the cultural value that drove us was what we called be agile and iterate. And so for us, that just happened to be we were going to work remotely because we felt like it was the best way for us to work as a company. And if that ever changed, yeah, we would change it. It's about agility. It's about iteration in our case. And so I love that comment that we should all be thinking about our cultural values first. And none of us have a cultural value of we're going to be in an office. I'm curious, how has that changed for you? How did life look before? How have you flexed to kind of embrace today?

Kyle Tuominen: I think the biggest change for me is I used to be a road warrior. I traveled 50 weeks a year for two and a half years. And that stopped when I came to the Coastal Cloud period. But I was still maintaining some level of travel. I think the interesting thing about Coastal Cloud and our kind of corporate culture is we kind of leave it up to our team members to decide. We expect everybody in our company to have an ownership mentality. And, you know, we have an office in Denver. And it was actually really important for me that we had an office in Denver, because personally, as much as I love working from home, I'm more productive in an office environment because I need a little bit of social stimulus. And sitting in the same house all day, can get a little stale even before the pandemic, but we never require people to come into the office. We had an office available if people wanted to collaborate, if they had a reason to collaborate, you know, whether that's a customer project or a challenging technical solution, people could choose to come into the office because they got value out of it. And really, my job as a leader is to drive that value, it's to create enough value of coming into the office that they want to or that they make that decision that working from home is more effective and productive. And quite frankly, I think Coastal Cloud, at least in our in our West Coast team, is probably 50/50 on those that enjoy coming into the office and see the value and those that prefer working from home, but we're able to kind of accommodate both types of team members because our corporate culture is designed around, you know, it's really your responsibility to be effective. And, you know, whatever you need to do that, we're going to support you.

Chris Byers: So, you know, one of the things you've described is that, you know, in a lot of ways, your team really didn't even need to change that much to operate in this new world. It's already how you are operating. So a lot of that has stayed the same. Actually, for the person who is maybe at home far more than they want, like you described and not getting some of that relational time, how are you helping people overcome that mental need and desire to be around people?

Kyle Tuominen: I think it takes different forms for different people. You know, for some people it's just about fresh air. And, you know, luckily living in Colorado, they can go hiking or go mountain climbing or, you know, what have you. You know, for some people, it is really that relational piece. For me, that is what it is. And so, you know, we do a lot of, you know, kind of stand ups with our video cameras on and bring our dogs into the view of the camera and everybody says hi, happy hours. I think one of the great things about this has been we've learned a lot about our colleagues and their actual lives. We spent a lot of time learning about their skills in the workplace and being in consulting kind of their skills that they can bring to a team or project or a customer. With everybody's real life now also being that work life, you know, whether that's kids or animals or parents or family in general, there's more people in the household. There's more hustle and bustle than they're accustomed to. Right. And I've seen our teams be incredibly accepting of kids crying in the background. And I was on a video call probably two weeks ago, and one of my customers was getting his face painted by his daughter while we were doing a Zoom call. And I just think, you know, stories like that are really important to continue to drive those relationships, even if you're not in person, you know, taking moments like that and appreciating kind of the absurdity of that. That picture has been really beneficial for me.

Related: Partner Interview Series: Kyle Tuominen of Coastal Cloud

Chris Byers: You know, one of the things you're talking about is that all of us are, even if we knew how to work remotely beforehand or really embracing it in a bigger way and and finding even more comfort, maybe if we worked at home beforehand, we hid our family, we hid our you know, that we are at our home. We try to make that a non issue. And yet now it's actually acceptable to let people know. Oh, yeah. You're in your house, right? I understand the dog's going to bark or run through the back or whatever, but the same thing is changing in businesses. You know, I had a conversation with somebody last last week or two weeks ago where she works for the state that I live in, which is Oklahoma. And she said something about they've closed down the offices and they've figured out we can work remotely. And I'm like, oh, my gosh, the state chose to work remotely. Life truly did just change. And so I'm curious, as you think about digital transformation and the importance of that, or maybe let's start with some definitions, what would you say the differences between digitization and digital transformation?

Kyle Tuominen: It does. So digitization is really the process of getting data into electronic forms. So it's kind of the transition from paper to digital and digital transformation is saying what can we do with this information? What are our customers looking for? What are our team members looking for? How can we leverage this information and the new technology that's available to us to drive a better customer experience? But it's also about thinking outside the box. You know, when the first personal computers came on the market, there was not a large market for them. It was expected to be a hobbyists and enthusiasts type purchase, not an every home, every person has to have one of these. And you know, the way that, quite frankly, Steve Jobs and Windows and Bill Gates and the Bomber drove the purchase and a need for those personal computers was, they thought outside the box. And you know, I think we're seeing that type of change in areas like healthcare. You know, you talked about how the state could go work from home. And that's a pretty transformational idea, certainly. But imagine health workers working from home. You know, one really interesting trend I've seen in healthcare around COVID, has been diagnostic appointments or tests are now being done in a person's home rather than done in a hospital. You know, obviously, to reduce the risk of transmission in a healthcare setting. But that took somebody looking at the problem of how do I get to give this test if they can't come in? And traditionally, the answer to that has always been, oh, they can't drive, will have a car service, pick them up. Right. Most major cities have some type of you know, if you're elderly or disabled, you know, we'll provide a service to pick you up and drop you off at your doctor's appointment. And so the thinking has always been, well, the problem is not that I'm doing the test in this location. The problem is that this person can't get to this location. And a pandemic really forced people and administrators and planners to think, OK, well, now it is. Now the location of the test is the problem. You know, and making those mobile and remote is not an easy feat. But I think it's an example of, you know, a specific vertical saying we have to pivot and, you know, how can we do that in a digital age? What does technology enable us to do if we think differently about this problem?

Chris Byers: And you've kind of introduced a mindset shift that we all need to be thinking about to really embrace digital transformation. So what would you suggest to companies who are beginning to consider this and think about how do I really embrace digital transformation in the way we're doing things?

Kyle Tuominen: Talk to the front line team. I think the digital transformation projects that I see that are most effective are ones driven by end users or team members downstream. Those people that are talking or working with our customers, because ultimately they're the ones hearing what a customer wants or needs or what would be an incredible value proposition for that customer. And, you know, I think as companies look at this as an opportunity to transform how they do business, you know, if you're transforming how somebody works from a corner office into working in a large library home study, it's a very different environment than maybe one of your team members that spends eight hours a day on calls and how their child is in remote learning. And, you know, they're struggling with audio issues. And, you know, how you approach those two problems is very different. You know, I think that the executive level sets the strategic priorities of the organization. And I don't think that changes based on that, that end user feedback or customer feedback, whether that's a guest or an employee. But I do think that it pivots those objectives and maybe reprioritizes them at times. And, you know, I think that's really the key piece at the outset of kind of embarking on this type of journey is making the right plan. And rather than plan, maybe, maybe a framework is a better wording for that, because it's also about the flexibility that you can show as you undergo the journey. It's not a two week journey. It's not a two month journey. It's really not even a two year journey. It's a five to 10 year journey. And what the technology scene will look like in five years. None of us, I mean, we can only guess. Right. And if you build a plan that the executive team has defined and the priorities were defined by the executive team or their delegates, and you're planning out for 10 years down the road of a technology roadmap, 10 years from now you will be buying some really outdated technology. And so it's more important to kind of take that feedback and build a framework of what do I want to accomplish rather than what tool am I going to use. And then once you kind of know that problem statement, you can pivot it back to. Now, how do we solve it? How do we think outside the box to solve it? If the current solutions that we're looking at just don't don't solve it in a way that we or our customers need.

You need to have a culture that drives change and really absorbs and adopts change willingly. It’s change-resistant organizations that struggle when there's large transformational issues, like a pandemic.

Chris Byers: Yeah, I think that really initial start of the framework of what are the right paths. And because there are multiple paths, we need to kind of cover ground and a few different planes. And then let's get started. And this, to your point, is going to last a long time. We need to get a few things in motion and then we need to step back and say, how did this go? And let's iterate on that. And we can kind of move from there is great thinking. What's gotten you so passionate about digital transformation? How do you get interested in this topic?

Kyle Tuominen: To be honest with you, it came from a lot of bad customer experiences. I started working retail and customer facing jobs when I was fifteen and I worked full time and went to night college, you know, in customer facing roles and kind of retail managerial roles. And I know, you know how challenging it can be to provide an exceptional level of customer service. But I also know the value of what happens when you do. And the more and more I started working with companies and seeing how little focus there is on that customer experience, the more I've wanted to change it. And, you know, seeing companies look at their customers and react, recognizing that the revenue and the profit margin goes up if you're driving a better customer experience, even at a higher cost. And I think one of the unique things has been that a lot of companies have found that these types of transformations have really reduced their costs and increased their levels of service. For me, seeing those types of changes happen are really impactful. But I think more important for me personally is the culture shift that comes with it. It's the refocusing on the customer. If you're taking the time to say this is critical for me, that we do this right for our customer, that our customer feels taken care of or safe or excited or energized or entertained or whatever your goal is for that customer. It's really important that you get to see that happen.

Chris Byers: See, you actually mention some of the experience that maybe a customer receives via a digital transformation. But what you're speaking to is change. And so along the way, you get resistance, I think often to change. And yet you may have the title, The Greatest Idea in the World, but people like to do things sometimes how they do them. How do you overcome that and how do you help them process through that to embrace that change?

Kyle Tuominen: I think the biggest thing is empathy. And, you know, the difference between empathy and sympathy is that I think the definitions vary by the person. But for me, empathy is not necessarily saying I agree with you, but it is saying I understand you. I think I've been lucky in my life. I've moved over 20 times and I've lived in virtually every major part of the country. And that gives me the ability to kind of empathize with a variety of different mindsets. And that's something that I've been lucky to have. But I think that empathy base is really critical to driving change through resistance or, you know, driving adoption and real consumption of transformational change. You know, I had an engagement where we were talking with a customer about adoption metrics and rather than talking about logins and, you know, a wall of shame of people that haven't logged in in 60 days, or haven't logged any activity in two weeks. You know, we talked about what I call vibrancy, which is the idea of measuring what is actually important. What are you actually trying to drive with this project or with this tool or with this feature? And so a lot of companies look at things like cases created issues in the system, and they say that's a negative for me. I actually look at that as a positive for two reasons. One, it means people are in the system because for them to create cases, they have to be in the system. And then, two, it's that they care enough to create the case. You know, it's a lot easier for a team member to log in, do their work, hate 80 percent of the software that they're using, but they don't have a feedback mechanism or they don't feel valued or they don't feel heard. They don't feel that empathy from their company. And, you know, ultimately, for me, it's about driving what is the goal of this? You know, how do we get people enthusiastic about it? And I find that the biggest way to do that is just listen and have empathy, you know, hear what their concerns are and understand that for me, right. When I'm working with an executive team and I define strategic objectives for a project, when I go talk to an end user that's struggling with the four extra clicks that it added to something that they do on a daily basis. The strategic priorities don't really matter at that point. You know, and it's important for me to put that aside and say, OK, I understand these priorities and we need to make sure that we're not violating any of them by making these changes. But we need to make this change, right. We can't add four clicks to something that somebody is doing, you know, a thousand times a day. And I think, you know, those two pieces are what drives through kind of that barrier or resistance to change.

Chris Byers: Well, I know you've had some really successful stories of digital transformation. Can you talk to us about one of those and tell us kind of what happened and how you approached it and the successes that it created?

Kyle Tuominen: So I worked with a healthcare company and it was a large multi-national healthcare company. They acquired a few new firms and they were kind of entering a medical device business for the first time. And they were really struggling with, you know, this was a company that for one hundred years had sold disposables and hospital equipment and computers and software, but had never really entered kind of the medical device space. Right. In body medical devices, you know, stents and things like that. And they were talking about, you know, selling into their customers. And when they're selling things like MRI coils or, you know, hardware, the conversations happen at the administrator level. And, you know, they were talking about, you know, convincing, you know, having an LMS or, you know, a teaching type platform to drive those conversations with administrators, to teach administrators about, you know, the functionality of their products and the differentiation of their products. And we had a workshop maybe about two months into this process, and we brought in a variety of frontline salespeople. We brought in manufacturing workers and shipping workers, shipping dock workers. And we asked them, what's the most important thing in your day to day? And the shipping dock person said, I need to know the secretary or front desk receptionist's name of the person that we're shipping to. And we were all a little confused. We were like, look, I mean, that seems important. But once you ship it, you're good, right? And he said, no, that person oftentimes will call me a follow up about, you know, X, Y or Z or it's coming in four boxes when they were expecting two. When he said building a relationship with those people because these are repetitive purchases is really critical for the success of the brand and the product and the business. And so instead of approaching this new space for them, as have we always done business, we took that and we said we really need to understand what the relationships are between our customers and this brand. Right. In these products, because it is so different from what this company has been used to. And by talking to the customers themselves, we understood that the most important thing for them was not price, it was not even necessarily the relationship, although the relationships that these sales reps had with these frontline employees from the customer, what really mattered was the effectiveness of the tool. And at the end of the day, the only thing the doctor cared about was, is this better for my patient than your competitors product? And by having those conversations and introducing a new way of thinking about, you know, focusing on those kind of frontline employees rather than the executive team or the administrators, we are able to identify a completely new opportunity for us and really drive sales through differentiation of the safety of the product. We were able to narrow the market and say, you know, this product works better in X, Y, and Z ways and in X, Y, and Z circumstances. And that's when you should use this product. You know, we saw a really significant lift in sales, and that's all created by kind of the conversations of a new software platform. And how do they sell this new software platform? And it didn't just change their software, it changed how they actually sell to their customers. So for me, that's you know, that's a really impactful story.

Learn More: What is Digital Agility?

Chris Byers: I think that is a wonderful story. One of the things you keep coming back to is this idea of talking to the front line. Ask the people who do the work for feedback and how they operate. I think that's such a powerful asset. We all avoid that a lot because it sounds hard or we don't think we're gonna get the information we're looking for. And so I love that you're starting there. These are complicated processes. They often cover lots of products, tech stacks, et cetera. How can people kind of start to tie these things together and become more efficient?

Kyle Tuominen: I want to go back to a point that you just made earlier. I'll try to weave it into this answer. I think it's really critical to talk to those frontline team members because they're the ones interacting with the customers and they can have a far greater outsized impact than any piece of software can in terms of how that customer perceives the brand. The tone of their body language, the type of outreach, the consistency of outreach, the consistency of branding, all of those things are perpetuated by that employee or by that team member. And for me, driving change within those teams is critical because they are the face of the brand and the impact that they can have on those customers. Chris, I think the importance of those frontline employees that you talked about, you know, is really driven in a very similar vein to the need for data. You know, one of the most impactful digital transformations was I worked with Caesars Entertainment, the casino giant and hospitality giant. And the biggest thing that their end marketers were asking for was not I want to be able to drive really crazy offers or I want to reduce how many approvals I need to get on a marketing campaign. They just wanted more data about their customers. They wanted to be able to act on that data and to be able to do that, we had to take a tech stack, that to your point, was incredibly fragmented and deprecated in a lot of cases. And we needed to consolidate and condense the data so that it was usable by all these different teams and pieces of software. But at the end of the day, the end ask from the end users was, I want more data so that I can better market to our customers so that I better understand what they want out of this experience at one of our properties. I think as companies recognize the value of that data, we're seeing, you know, the age of data right now, where companies are doing everything they can to collect data. But the companies that are getting ahead right now did that five years ago. And right now they're focused on how do we use that data? How do we build a data lake? You know, it's really identifying potential opportunities to use that data and then using that data, identifying if it had an improved effect or not, and then trying to use another piece of data. And as every system grows more and more interconnected, and that's kind of the default expectation. Now, when I talk to a lot of customers, they don't ask if they're going to need a middleware platform. They just ask why doesn't this already have a Salesforce connector? Because Salesforce is that standard bearer in the CRM space, you know, and kind of transiting that data across those systems is an expectation and not a nice to have. And I think that's a really key change from where we were five years ago. And I think five years from now, we're going to be looking back and saying, how do we take that data that we have transiting across systems and how do we make it actionable and how do we drive value out of it?

Chris Byers: Kyle, tell us what digital agility is? That sounds like a pretty kind of advanced terms. Talk to us about it.

Kyle Tuominen: So, Chris, I think it varies by company, but for me, digital agility means how fast can you operate with your current technology? And if you had no technology constraints, how fast could you operate? I think it's being agile in the software that you're picking right now, picking something that is not going to have a huge historical cost or have a massive capital investment that is going to make it difficult to switch if a better product comes along in ten years. It's being flexible in terms of the tools that you're using. And it's also saying if I set aside the technical limitations for what I currently have, what could I accomplish? Chris, if we think about the marketing example with Caesars' earlier digital agility for them was really how do we take all these different pieces of data and deliver it to these end users that are touching our customers. But when they originally started, it was how do I get better marketing data? And those are two very different questions. And the reason that they were successful was because they were able to pivot and say, OK, we've collected this data for marketing, but we can do way more than just use this for marketing. We can use this to impact the experience. We can use it to better tailor trip planning activities to our customers. And for me, it's about the ability to pivot quickly and choose tools and partners that can drive that for you. And then it's about, you know, looking at what's possible instead of what do I need.

Chris Byers: So some of us probably here digital transformation and we think, great, I can do that pretty quickly. But if we've been around processes, big software packages we've bought, we also know that can be a really daunting task and sound really, really big. Tell us the difference between that digital transformation and digital agility.

Kyle Tuominen: Sure. I think digital agility is more of a mindset. It's you know, when we first started this conversation, Chris, we were talking about corporate culture. And I think digital agility is really the mindset about, you know, approaching problems in a new way, approaching problems and saying what can we do? Right. To my earlier point, digital transformation is more about how do we do it. For me, the agility piece is looking at problems and saying, can we solve this and how can we solve it? And not from a I need to see X piece of data right now from a user story perspective, but from an end user perspective. I need my sales rep to know what I bought last year so they can recommend what I need to buy this year. And, you know, that's a much easier change to make than saying I have to go build a data lake and I need to have Snowflake to have, you know, really accurate reporting. And, you know, I need Tablo for visualization. You know, that's really the digital transformation piece, right? That's the overhauling of how you interpret data, how you use data, how you act on data. And the agility piece is really saying we need to make this change. And how can we get there? What are the small steps that we can take immediately? And how can we start that planning for that longer term transformation?

Read Next: How Digital Agility Empowers Employees and Boosts Productivity

Chris Byers: What are some things that help make a corporation be able to make that digital shift? I think it can take a lot of energy at times. So what do you think are some things that just make that all the easier?

Kyle Tuominen: Yeah, I mean, I think from a culture perspective, you know, it's imperative that you're listening to your teams. And I know a theme for me is certainly, our kind of entry level or frontline teams, they're really critical. And I think they get overlooked because, you know, their titles aren't great or our executive teams haven't worked those roles or haven't come up. But I think, you know, ultimately culture needs to be inclusive and not exclusive. And if you're driving a culture that says I only care about a director's opinion, you're going to struggle to transform because your team is not going to give you the feedback that you need. You're going to hear about what your directors want and not what your teams need. And there's a distinct difference between those two things. So I think for me, the culture shift required for digital transformation is really about inclusiveness. And I think a lot of companies are seeing the value of an inclusive working environment the last few years and certainly the last six months or so.

Chris Byers: So there is this inertia that causes us to kind of want to just keep doing what's in front of us. How do you get people motivated to say, hey, let's get going, let's start to look at this process and figure out how to do it better?

Kyle Tuominen: I don't find it challenging to motivate people in this way, to be honest with you. I think everybody wants to have a significant change in their organization or for their customers. I think most of the time we resign ourselves to the status quo because it's a resignation. It's easier. We don't have the energy to fight for it. But I think when presented with the opportunity to have an outsized impact, I exceedingly rarely see people that have objections or become detrimental to the team. It happens, right. But I don't think it's a really common issue that I encounter.

Chris Byers: What's your number one piece of advice for embracing simplicity kind of in business processes?

Kyle Tuominen: If you can't explain it to your seven year old, it's too complex for your team. And not because I think your team, anybody's team, has the intellectual capability of a seven year old, but because your team is focused on a hundred different priorities and if what you're asking them to do is not easy to fit into one of those priorities, it's going to take them away from those priorities. And whether that's customer or internal customer serving objectives or priorities. Ultimately, you're leaving somebody high and dry. So embracing the simplicity of let's treat our team members like adults. I think we talked earlier about digital transformation in the workplace and driving that culture. I think a really key piece of that is also expecting everybody to be adults and expecting everybody to have an ownership mentality similar to what we do at Coastal Cloud. You know, if we look at call centers that transformed, if you asked a call center manager, V.P. of service two years ago, you know, let's shift your team to remote, we'll save you the office space cost. Their number one objection would have been, oh, no, that's not possible. We can't let them work from home. We don't know that they're going to be taking as many calls. But in a week or two weeks or three days for some of our customers, they flipped to a remote based call center. And it was always possible. It was just there wasn't a will to not micromanage. You know, they wanted to keep it complex. And now that they're seeing by simplifying it and allowing people to work from home, they actually have better coverage on hours that they used to struggle on. You know, nine to five was a very regular call center schedule. Well, the problem with that is that a lot of your customers, that's also their work schedule and now your busy time from five to seven and five to seven is when you're lower staffed. But if you've got team members that have a flexible schedule and obviously with a call center or any type of service, you have to kind of stagger that. But, you know, ultimately, five to seven might work better for a lot of these parents that their kids are doing remote learning and now they can spend a large portion of their day helping their kids learn. You know, they feel valued from their employer. They feel like adults. And, you know, ultimately, driving a simpler business process allows them to make those decisions about what's best for them. And I use the call center in this example, but I think it applies to sales and marketing teams. I think it applies to accounting and operational teams. Ultimately, KISS is an acronym for a reason. Right. And if you're making it more complex simply to add steps or because you want to include somebody or make somebody feel valued, you know, you're adding complexity for really no reason.

Chris Byers: Let's talk productivity for a minute. Do you have a go to productivity tip that you share with your team, with customers or whomever?

Kyle Tuominen: For me, it's take less meetings than you need. So I think one thing I find, you know, as I lead a team is I want to be in these meetings to support my team. It's not about I want to be in the meeting to know exactly what's going on. Right. I trust my team to escalate to me when I need to know about something. But I want to be on to support them, to give them a kudo's on their killing it or, you know, step in when they're struggling and kind of help them through it. What I've realized in talking to a lot of them has been, if I'm not on the call, they really own it. And I think sometimes, you know, when we're looking at our colleagues and they're on a call with us and we say, I'm not the expert in this area, but this person is. So I'm just going to completely shut down. And once you shut down, especially in a remote meeting, it's really hard to make it back right to that engaged level that you need. And, you know, for me, what I've seen is by taking less meetings and kind of having my team take a lot more of them, I'm seeing them kind of step up in new ways. And it gives me the freedom and flexibility to go pursue new objectives or strategy. You know, that we've been trying to build and haven't had the time to.

More From Coastal Cloud: Partner Perspectives on COVID-19: JoAnne King & Jim Stalder of Coastal Cloud

Chris Byers: Well, one last question. As you think about moving forward, how will you be reimagining the way that you work?

Kyle Tuominen: It's about kind of having these types of conversations with my customers and understanding. I have a restoration company right now. They're contractors that restore firewater, smoke damage. And, you know, one of the things that I found really thrilling about working with them was when we originally talked to them, our first meeting was with their CFO, CIO, CTO and then four sales reps and an IT support person and the IT director. It was not only executives and directors, it was they recognized the value of that. And in talking to them about their goals, it was really clear that they were looking at a way to drive better productivity for their sales team. And they knew that for us to be able to make those recommendations, we needed to talk to that sales team. And so I think, you know, for me about how I'm reimagining, you know, how we go to market and how we support our customers in these transformations, it's really talking them through, what's the important pieces for them? What's the important pieces for them at an executive level? What's the important pieces for them at an end user level? And then what's the important pieces for them at a customer level? The amount of customers that I have that still don't have personas of who their regular buyers are is a lot higher percentage than you think. And if we can shift the business place in general, the workplace in general, to being focused on how do we drive the type of customer experience that our customers expect? I think that's really critical. I think COVID provides a really good, clean way to show that, you know, I talked earlier about healthcare diagnostics being done remotely. You think now about how many more people now are using the Target pickup service or the Wal-Mart pickup service, Postmates for grocery delivery? Those expectations aren't going to go away. Right. Customers are really liking some of the convenient aspects of what COVID has created. You know, we all live busy lives, and if I can reduce 20 minutes of walking around a store by punching eleven things into my phone and having it ready, and I drive up and I'm on a conference call and I open my trunk and they put the bags in and I drive away. That's not going to end. Those customers are still going to want that. And so I think for me, it's about, you know, not only looking at, you know, what are your objectives right now, but what have you done to adapt for this environment? And what do your customers like and not like about that? And let's continue to drive forward on the pieces that they do like. You know, I'm seeing a lot of requests for self-service communities because customers are growing more and more self-service dependent rather than, you know, they might not want to talk to a salesperson if they can quote it themselves and buy it themselves. And guess what? That's at a higher margin for this company. That's a win all the way around. And so for me, I think it's, you know, identify what you're doing to transform, identify what your competitors are doing to transform, and then how can you leverage those same ideas or features or functionality to drive forward and really either differentiate yourself from your competitors or at least, you know, get on par with them.

Chris Byers: That was Kyle Tuominen with Coastal Cloud, and I hope what you learned from him today were a couple of really interesting things I heard from this conversation. First, if you want outsized results, which I think every single one of us in business does, digital transformation is a must. The other one was that we really need to talk to our frontline team members, our customers. That's where we're really going to learn what we need to learn to change, to transform and make their lives easier and make our lives easier. And as you're kind of digging into processes, being able to explain things in a very simple way, as he said, if you can explain it to your seven year old, I think life's gonna be good. And you know, the way I think about that, too, and talk to people is if you can't memorize something into a pretty small sentence or phrase, you're not gonna be able to repeat it over and over and over again, which is what we need to do to really convince people, get people excited about the change that we're making.

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Kyle Tuominen: Unlocking Digital Agility for a Rapidly Changing Workplace

Kyle Tuominen's experience helping companies through digital transformations has made one thing clear: digital agility is the key to success.
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EPISODE TRANSCRIPT

Chris Byers: Welcome to the Ripple Effect. I am Chris Byers of Formstack. And today, as a part of our bonus episodes, we are featuring Kyle Tuominen. He is the director of the West at Coastal Cloud. And we're going to discuss what digital transformation looks like today in a world that's rapidly changing. While sharing how impactful that transformation can be on company culture. What can you learn from Kyle? Let's find out.

Well, before we go deeper into this topic and kind of jump into the conversation, Kyle can you tell us your elevator pitch of what Coastal Cloud is and what your role encompasses?

Kyle Tuominen: So Coastal Cloud is a platinum Salesforce partner, and we deliver success to our customers on the Salesforce platform. Our role is to go beyond simply building Salesforce and really helping provide a cohesive strategy for our customers long term.

Chris Byers: It's safe to say that 2020, for you and for everybody listening, has forced each of us to kind of rethink our businesses, how we work, how we operate. I'm curious, when you hear the words reimagine work, what comes to mind?

Kyle Tuominen: I think for a lot of companies operating in the age of COVID, reimagining work is how can I keep my team as productive as they were in the office? And for me at least, I think that might be the wrong approach, because I think it's really about how do you drive the same culture to your earlier point about digital transformation affecting that culture? You need to have a culture that drives change and really absorbs and adopts change willingly. Change resistant organizations struggle when there's large transformational issues, like a pandemic. And I think when a lot of companies are looking at reimagining the workplace, it's not reimagining what corporate culture or reimagining how their customers experience their brand or how their employees drive sales or success, whatever that means for that company. You know, I think oftentimes they're focusing a lot more tactically. How do I get soft tones to everybody at their houses? How do I make sure that my call center agents can take these calls from home? What if it has HIPAA information or payment information? And I think it's much more tactical in nature. And in reality, we're missing an opportunity to really take this as a chance to kind of reform your company from the ground up. But without having to start a kind of step one.

Chris Byers: So I love your comment about cultural values. They really should be driving our decisions right now. Funny enough, we actually went remote back in 2012. And yet all along the way, when people would tend to ask questions like, would we ever go back to the office? Would we ever be office only? My answer was kind of always, you know, the cultural value that drove us was what we called be agile and iterate. And so for us, that just happened to be we were going to work remotely because we felt like it was the best way for us to work as a company. And if that ever changed, yeah, we would change it. It's about agility. It's about iteration in our case. And so I love that comment that we should all be thinking about our cultural values first. And none of us have a cultural value of we're going to be in an office. I'm curious, how has that changed for you? How did life look before? How have you flexed to kind of embrace today?

Kyle Tuominen: I think the biggest change for me is I used to be a road warrior. I traveled 50 weeks a year for two and a half years. And that stopped when I came to the Coastal Cloud period. But I was still maintaining some level of travel. I think the interesting thing about Coastal Cloud and our kind of corporate culture is we kind of leave it up to our team members to decide. We expect everybody in our company to have an ownership mentality. And, you know, we have an office in Denver. And it was actually really important for me that we had an office in Denver, because personally, as much as I love working from home, I'm more productive in an office environment because I need a little bit of social stimulus. And sitting in the same house all day, can get a little stale even before the pandemic, but we never require people to come into the office. We had an office available if people wanted to collaborate, if they had a reason to collaborate, you know, whether that's a customer project or a challenging technical solution, people could choose to come into the office because they got value out of it. And really, my job as a leader is to drive that value, it's to create enough value of coming into the office that they want to or that they make that decision that working from home is more effective and productive. And quite frankly, I think Coastal Cloud, at least in our in our West Coast team, is probably 50/50 on those that enjoy coming into the office and see the value and those that prefer working from home, but we're able to kind of accommodate both types of team members because our corporate culture is designed around, you know, it's really your responsibility to be effective. And, you know, whatever you need to do that, we're going to support you.

Chris Byers: So, you know, one of the things you've described is that, you know, in a lot of ways, your team really didn't even need to change that much to operate in this new world. It's already how you are operating. So a lot of that has stayed the same. Actually, for the person who is maybe at home far more than they want, like you described and not getting some of that relational time, how are you helping people overcome that mental need and desire to be around people?

Kyle Tuominen: I think it takes different forms for different people. You know, for some people it's just about fresh air. And, you know, luckily living in Colorado, they can go hiking or go mountain climbing or, you know, what have you. You know, for some people, it is really that relational piece. For me, that is what it is. And so, you know, we do a lot of, you know, kind of stand ups with our video cameras on and bring our dogs into the view of the camera and everybody says hi, happy hours. I think one of the great things about this has been we've learned a lot about our colleagues and their actual lives. We spent a lot of time learning about their skills in the workplace and being in consulting kind of their skills that they can bring to a team or project or a customer. With everybody's real life now also being that work life, you know, whether that's kids or animals or parents or family in general, there's more people in the household. There's more hustle and bustle than they're accustomed to. Right. And I've seen our teams be incredibly accepting of kids crying in the background. And I was on a video call probably two weeks ago, and one of my customers was getting his face painted by his daughter while we were doing a Zoom call. And I just think, you know, stories like that are really important to continue to drive those relationships, even if you're not in person, you know, taking moments like that and appreciating kind of the absurdity of that. That picture has been really beneficial for me.

Related: Partner Interview Series: Kyle Tuominen of Coastal Cloud

Chris Byers: You know, one of the things you're talking about is that all of us are, even if we knew how to work remotely beforehand or really embracing it in a bigger way and and finding even more comfort, maybe if we worked at home beforehand, we hid our family, we hid our you know, that we are at our home. We try to make that a non issue. And yet now it's actually acceptable to let people know. Oh, yeah. You're in your house, right? I understand the dog's going to bark or run through the back or whatever, but the same thing is changing in businesses. You know, I had a conversation with somebody last last week or two weeks ago where she works for the state that I live in, which is Oklahoma. And she said something about they've closed down the offices and they've figured out we can work remotely. And I'm like, oh, my gosh, the state chose to work remotely. Life truly did just change. And so I'm curious, as you think about digital transformation and the importance of that, or maybe let's start with some definitions, what would you say the differences between digitization and digital transformation?

Kyle Tuominen: It does. So digitization is really the process of getting data into electronic forms. So it's kind of the transition from paper to digital and digital transformation is saying what can we do with this information? What are our customers looking for? What are our team members looking for? How can we leverage this information and the new technology that's available to us to drive a better customer experience? But it's also about thinking outside the box. You know, when the first personal computers came on the market, there was not a large market for them. It was expected to be a hobbyists and enthusiasts type purchase, not an every home, every person has to have one of these. And you know, the way that, quite frankly, Steve Jobs and Windows and Bill Gates and the Bomber drove the purchase and a need for those personal computers was, they thought outside the box. And you know, I think we're seeing that type of change in areas like healthcare. You know, you talked about how the state could go work from home. And that's a pretty transformational idea, certainly. But imagine health workers working from home. You know, one really interesting trend I've seen in healthcare around COVID, has been diagnostic appointments or tests are now being done in a person's home rather than done in a hospital. You know, obviously, to reduce the risk of transmission in a healthcare setting. But that took somebody looking at the problem of how do I get to give this test if they can't come in? And traditionally, the answer to that has always been, oh, they can't drive, will have a car service, pick them up. Right. Most major cities have some type of you know, if you're elderly or disabled, you know, we'll provide a service to pick you up and drop you off at your doctor's appointment. And so the thinking has always been, well, the problem is not that I'm doing the test in this location. The problem is that this person can't get to this location. And a pandemic really forced people and administrators and planners to think, OK, well, now it is. Now the location of the test is the problem. You know, and making those mobile and remote is not an easy feat. But I think it's an example of, you know, a specific vertical saying we have to pivot and, you know, how can we do that in a digital age? What does technology enable us to do if we think differently about this problem?

Chris Byers: And you've kind of introduced a mindset shift that we all need to be thinking about to really embrace digital transformation. So what would you suggest to companies who are beginning to consider this and think about how do I really embrace digital transformation in the way we're doing things?

Kyle Tuominen: Talk to the front line team. I think the digital transformation projects that I see that are most effective are ones driven by end users or team members downstream. Those people that are talking or working with our customers, because ultimately they're the ones hearing what a customer wants or needs or what would be an incredible value proposition for that customer. And, you know, I think as companies look at this as an opportunity to transform how they do business, you know, if you're transforming how somebody works from a corner office into working in a large library home study, it's a very different environment than maybe one of your team members that spends eight hours a day on calls and how their child is in remote learning. And, you know, they're struggling with audio issues. And, you know, how you approach those two problems is very different. You know, I think that the executive level sets the strategic priorities of the organization. And I don't think that changes based on that, that end user feedback or customer feedback, whether that's a guest or an employee. But I do think that it pivots those objectives and maybe reprioritizes them at times. And, you know, I think that's really the key piece at the outset of kind of embarking on this type of journey is making the right plan. And rather than plan, maybe, maybe a framework is a better wording for that, because it's also about the flexibility that you can show as you undergo the journey. It's not a two week journey. It's not a two month journey. It's really not even a two year journey. It's a five to 10 year journey. And what the technology scene will look like in five years. None of us, I mean, we can only guess. Right. And if you build a plan that the executive team has defined and the priorities were defined by the executive team or their delegates, and you're planning out for 10 years down the road of a technology roadmap, 10 years from now you will be buying some really outdated technology. And so it's more important to kind of take that feedback and build a framework of what do I want to accomplish rather than what tool am I going to use. And then once you kind of know that problem statement, you can pivot it back to. Now, how do we solve it? How do we think outside the box to solve it? If the current solutions that we're looking at just don't don't solve it in a way that we or our customers need.

You need to have a culture that drives change and really absorbs and adopts change willingly. It’s change-resistant organizations that struggle when there's large transformational issues, like a pandemic.

Chris Byers: Yeah, I think that really initial start of the framework of what are the right paths. And because there are multiple paths, we need to kind of cover ground and a few different planes. And then let's get started. And this, to your point, is going to last a long time. We need to get a few things in motion and then we need to step back and say, how did this go? And let's iterate on that. And we can kind of move from there is great thinking. What's gotten you so passionate about digital transformation? How do you get interested in this topic?

Kyle Tuominen: To be honest with you, it came from a lot of bad customer experiences. I started working retail and customer facing jobs when I was fifteen and I worked full time and went to night college, you know, in customer facing roles and kind of retail managerial roles. And I know, you know how challenging it can be to provide an exceptional level of customer service. But I also know the value of what happens when you do. And the more and more I started working with companies and seeing how little focus there is on that customer experience, the more I've wanted to change it. And, you know, seeing companies look at their customers and react, recognizing that the revenue and the profit margin goes up if you're driving a better customer experience, even at a higher cost. And I think one of the unique things has been that a lot of companies have found that these types of transformations have really reduced their costs and increased their levels of service. For me, seeing those types of changes happen are really impactful. But I think more important for me personally is the culture shift that comes with it. It's the refocusing on the customer. If you're taking the time to say this is critical for me, that we do this right for our customer, that our customer feels taken care of or safe or excited or energized or entertained or whatever your goal is for that customer. It's really important that you get to see that happen.

Chris Byers: See, you actually mention some of the experience that maybe a customer receives via a digital transformation. But what you're speaking to is change. And so along the way, you get resistance, I think often to change. And yet you may have the title, The Greatest Idea in the World, but people like to do things sometimes how they do them. How do you overcome that and how do you help them process through that to embrace that change?

Kyle Tuominen: I think the biggest thing is empathy. And, you know, the difference between empathy and sympathy is that I think the definitions vary by the person. But for me, empathy is not necessarily saying I agree with you, but it is saying I understand you. I think I've been lucky in my life. I've moved over 20 times and I've lived in virtually every major part of the country. And that gives me the ability to kind of empathize with a variety of different mindsets. And that's something that I've been lucky to have. But I think that empathy base is really critical to driving change through resistance or, you know, driving adoption and real consumption of transformational change. You know, I had an engagement where we were talking with a customer about adoption metrics and rather than talking about logins and, you know, a wall of shame of people that haven't logged in in 60 days, or haven't logged any activity in two weeks. You know, we talked about what I call vibrancy, which is the idea of measuring what is actually important. What are you actually trying to drive with this project or with this tool or with this feature? And so a lot of companies look at things like cases created issues in the system, and they say that's a negative for me. I actually look at that as a positive for two reasons. One, it means people are in the system because for them to create cases, they have to be in the system. And then, two, it's that they care enough to create the case. You know, it's a lot easier for a team member to log in, do their work, hate 80 percent of the software that they're using, but they don't have a feedback mechanism or they don't feel valued or they don't feel heard. They don't feel that empathy from their company. And, you know, ultimately, for me, it's about driving what is the goal of this? You know, how do we get people enthusiastic about it? And I find that the biggest way to do that is just listen and have empathy, you know, hear what their concerns are and understand that for me, right. When I'm working with an executive team and I define strategic objectives for a project, when I go talk to an end user that's struggling with the four extra clicks that it added to something that they do on a daily basis. The strategic priorities don't really matter at that point. You know, and it's important for me to put that aside and say, OK, I understand these priorities and we need to make sure that we're not violating any of them by making these changes. But we need to make this change, right. We can't add four clicks to something that somebody is doing, you know, a thousand times a day. And I think, you know, those two pieces are what drives through kind of that barrier or resistance to change.

Chris Byers: Well, I know you've had some really successful stories of digital transformation. Can you talk to us about one of those and tell us kind of what happened and how you approached it and the successes that it created?

Kyle Tuominen: So I worked with a healthcare company and it was a large multi-national healthcare company. They acquired a few new firms and they were kind of entering a medical device business for the first time. And they were really struggling with, you know, this was a company that for one hundred years had sold disposables and hospital equipment and computers and software, but had never really entered kind of the medical device space. Right. In body medical devices, you know, stents and things like that. And they were talking about, you know, selling into their customers. And when they're selling things like MRI coils or, you know, hardware, the conversations happen at the administrator level. And, you know, they were talking about, you know, convincing, you know, having an LMS or, you know, a teaching type platform to drive those conversations with administrators, to teach administrators about, you know, the functionality of their products and the differentiation of their products. And we had a workshop maybe about two months into this process, and we brought in a variety of frontline salespeople. We brought in manufacturing workers and shipping workers, shipping dock workers. And we asked them, what's the most important thing in your day to day? And the shipping dock person said, I need to know the secretary or front desk receptionist's name of the person that we're shipping to. And we were all a little confused. We were like, look, I mean, that seems important. But once you ship it, you're good, right? And he said, no, that person oftentimes will call me a follow up about, you know, X, Y or Z or it's coming in four boxes when they were expecting two. When he said building a relationship with those people because these are repetitive purchases is really critical for the success of the brand and the product and the business. And so instead of approaching this new space for them, as have we always done business, we took that and we said we really need to understand what the relationships are between our customers and this brand. Right. In these products, because it is so different from what this company has been used to. And by talking to the customers themselves, we understood that the most important thing for them was not price, it was not even necessarily the relationship, although the relationships that these sales reps had with these frontline employees from the customer, what really mattered was the effectiveness of the tool. And at the end of the day, the only thing the doctor cared about was, is this better for my patient than your competitors product? And by having those conversations and introducing a new way of thinking about, you know, focusing on those kind of frontline employees rather than the executive team or the administrators, we are able to identify a completely new opportunity for us and really drive sales through differentiation of the safety of the product. We were able to narrow the market and say, you know, this product works better in X, Y, and Z ways and in X, Y, and Z circumstances. And that's when you should use this product. You know, we saw a really significant lift in sales, and that's all created by kind of the conversations of a new software platform. And how do they sell this new software platform? And it didn't just change their software, it changed how they actually sell to their customers. So for me, that's you know, that's a really impactful story.

Learn More: What is Digital Agility?

Chris Byers: I think that is a wonderful story. One of the things you keep coming back to is this idea of talking to the front line. Ask the people who do the work for feedback and how they operate. I think that's such a powerful asset. We all avoid that a lot because it sounds hard or we don't think we're gonna get the information we're looking for. And so I love that you're starting there. These are complicated processes. They often cover lots of products, tech stacks, et cetera. How can people kind of start to tie these things together and become more efficient?

Kyle Tuominen: I want to go back to a point that you just made earlier. I'll try to weave it into this answer. I think it's really critical to talk to those frontline team members because they're the ones interacting with the customers and they can have a far greater outsized impact than any piece of software can in terms of how that customer perceives the brand. The tone of their body language, the type of outreach, the consistency of outreach, the consistency of branding, all of those things are perpetuated by that employee or by that team member. And for me, driving change within those teams is critical because they are the face of the brand and the impact that they can have on those customers. Chris, I think the importance of those frontline employees that you talked about, you know, is really driven in a very similar vein to the need for data. You know, one of the most impactful digital transformations was I worked with Caesars Entertainment, the casino giant and hospitality giant. And the biggest thing that their end marketers were asking for was not I want to be able to drive really crazy offers or I want to reduce how many approvals I need to get on a marketing campaign. They just wanted more data about their customers. They wanted to be able to act on that data and to be able to do that, we had to take a tech stack, that to your point, was incredibly fragmented and deprecated in a lot of cases. And we needed to consolidate and condense the data so that it was usable by all these different teams and pieces of software. But at the end of the day, the end ask from the end users was, I want more data so that I can better market to our customers so that I better understand what they want out of this experience at one of our properties. I think as companies recognize the value of that data, we're seeing, you know, the age of data right now, where companies are doing everything they can to collect data. But the companies that are getting ahead right now did that five years ago. And right now they're focused on how do we use that data? How do we build a data lake? You know, it's really identifying potential opportunities to use that data and then using that data, identifying if it had an improved effect or not, and then trying to use another piece of data. And as every system grows more and more interconnected, and that's kind of the default expectation. Now, when I talk to a lot of customers, they don't ask if they're going to need a middleware platform. They just ask why doesn't this already have a Salesforce connector? Because Salesforce is that standard bearer in the CRM space, you know, and kind of transiting that data across those systems is an expectation and not a nice to have. And I think that's a really key change from where we were five years ago. And I think five years from now, we're going to be looking back and saying, how do we take that data that we have transiting across systems and how do we make it actionable and how do we drive value out of it?

Chris Byers: Kyle, tell us what digital agility is? That sounds like a pretty kind of advanced terms. Talk to us about it.

Kyle Tuominen: So, Chris, I think it varies by company, but for me, digital agility means how fast can you operate with your current technology? And if you had no technology constraints, how fast could you operate? I think it's being agile in the software that you're picking right now, picking something that is not going to have a huge historical cost or have a massive capital investment that is going to make it difficult to switch if a better product comes along in ten years. It's being flexible in terms of the tools that you're using. And it's also saying if I set aside the technical limitations for what I currently have, what could I accomplish? Chris, if we think about the marketing example with Caesars' earlier digital agility for them was really how do we take all these different pieces of data and deliver it to these end users that are touching our customers. But when they originally started, it was how do I get better marketing data? And those are two very different questions. And the reason that they were successful was because they were able to pivot and say, OK, we've collected this data for marketing, but we can do way more than just use this for marketing. We can use this to impact the experience. We can use it to better tailor trip planning activities to our customers. And for me, it's about the ability to pivot quickly and choose tools and partners that can drive that for you. And then it's about, you know, looking at what's possible instead of what do I need.

Chris Byers: So some of us probably here digital transformation and we think, great, I can do that pretty quickly. But if we've been around processes, big software packages we've bought, we also know that can be a really daunting task and sound really, really big. Tell us the difference between that digital transformation and digital agility.

Kyle Tuominen: Sure. I think digital agility is more of a mindset. It's you know, when we first started this conversation, Chris, we were talking about corporate culture. And I think digital agility is really the mindset about, you know, approaching problems in a new way, approaching problems and saying what can we do? Right. To my earlier point, digital transformation is more about how do we do it. For me, the agility piece is looking at problems and saying, can we solve this and how can we solve it? And not from a I need to see X piece of data right now from a user story perspective, but from an end user perspective. I need my sales rep to know what I bought last year so they can recommend what I need to buy this year. And, you know, that's a much easier change to make than saying I have to go build a data lake and I need to have Snowflake to have, you know, really accurate reporting. And, you know, I need Tablo for visualization. You know, that's really the digital transformation piece, right? That's the overhauling of how you interpret data, how you use data, how you act on data. And the agility piece is really saying we need to make this change. And how can we get there? What are the small steps that we can take immediately? And how can we start that planning for that longer term transformation?

Read Next: How Digital Agility Empowers Employees and Boosts Productivity

Chris Byers: What are some things that help make a corporation be able to make that digital shift? I think it can take a lot of energy at times. So what do you think are some things that just make that all the easier?

Kyle Tuominen: Yeah, I mean, I think from a culture perspective, you know, it's imperative that you're listening to your teams. And I know a theme for me is certainly, our kind of entry level or frontline teams, they're really critical. And I think they get overlooked because, you know, their titles aren't great or our executive teams haven't worked those roles or haven't come up. But I think, you know, ultimately culture needs to be inclusive and not exclusive. And if you're driving a culture that says I only care about a director's opinion, you're going to struggle to transform because your team is not going to give you the feedback that you need. You're going to hear about what your directors want and not what your teams need. And there's a distinct difference between those two things. So I think for me, the culture shift required for digital transformation is really about inclusiveness. And I think a lot of companies are seeing the value of an inclusive working environment the last few years and certainly the last six months or so.

Chris Byers: So there is this inertia that causes us to kind of want to just keep doing what's in front of us. How do you get people motivated to say, hey, let's get going, let's start to look at this process and figure out how to do it better?

Kyle Tuominen: I don't find it challenging to motivate people in this way, to be honest with you. I think everybody wants to have a significant change in their organization or for their customers. I think most of the time we resign ourselves to the status quo because it's a resignation. It's easier. We don't have the energy to fight for it. But I think when presented with the opportunity to have an outsized impact, I exceedingly rarely see people that have objections or become detrimental to the team. It happens, right. But I don't think it's a really common issue that I encounter.

Chris Byers: What's your number one piece of advice for embracing simplicity kind of in business processes?

Kyle Tuominen: If you can't explain it to your seven year old, it's too complex for your team. And not because I think your team, anybody's team, has the intellectual capability of a seven year old, but because your team is focused on a hundred different priorities and if what you're asking them to do is not easy to fit into one of those priorities, it's going to take them away from those priorities. And whether that's customer or internal customer serving objectives or priorities. Ultimately, you're leaving somebody high and dry. So embracing the simplicity of let's treat our team members like adults. I think we talked earlier about digital transformation in the workplace and driving that culture. I think a really key piece of that is also expecting everybody to be adults and expecting everybody to have an ownership mentality similar to what we do at Coastal Cloud. You know, if we look at call centers that transformed, if you asked a call center manager, V.P. of service two years ago, you know, let's shift your team to remote, we'll save you the office space cost. Their number one objection would have been, oh, no, that's not possible. We can't let them work from home. We don't know that they're going to be taking as many calls. But in a week or two weeks or three days for some of our customers, they flipped to a remote based call center. And it was always possible. It was just there wasn't a will to not micromanage. You know, they wanted to keep it complex. And now that they're seeing by simplifying it and allowing people to work from home, they actually have better coverage on hours that they used to struggle on. You know, nine to five was a very regular call center schedule. Well, the problem with that is that a lot of your customers, that's also their work schedule and now your busy time from five to seven and five to seven is when you're lower staffed. But if you've got team members that have a flexible schedule and obviously with a call center or any type of service, you have to kind of stagger that. But, you know, ultimately, five to seven might work better for a lot of these parents that their kids are doing remote learning and now they can spend a large portion of their day helping their kids learn. You know, they feel valued from their employer. They feel like adults. And, you know, ultimately, driving a simpler business process allows them to make those decisions about what's best for them. And I use the call center in this example, but I think it applies to sales and marketing teams. I think it applies to accounting and operational teams. Ultimately, KISS is an acronym for a reason. Right. And if you're making it more complex simply to add steps or because you want to include somebody or make somebody feel valued, you know, you're adding complexity for really no reason.

Chris Byers: Let's talk productivity for a minute. Do you have a go to productivity tip that you share with your team, with customers or whomever?

Kyle Tuominen: For me, it's take less meetings than you need. So I think one thing I find, you know, as I lead a team is I want to be in these meetings to support my team. It's not about I want to be in the meeting to know exactly what's going on. Right. I trust my team to escalate to me when I need to know about something. But I want to be on to support them, to give them a kudo's on their killing it or, you know, step in when they're struggling and kind of help them through it. What I've realized in talking to a lot of them has been, if I'm not on the call, they really own it. And I think sometimes, you know, when we're looking at our colleagues and they're on a call with us and we say, I'm not the expert in this area, but this person is. So I'm just going to completely shut down. And once you shut down, especially in a remote meeting, it's really hard to make it back right to that engaged level that you need. And, you know, for me, what I've seen is by taking less meetings and kind of having my team take a lot more of them, I'm seeing them kind of step up in new ways. And it gives me the freedom and flexibility to go pursue new objectives or strategy. You know, that we've been trying to build and haven't had the time to.

More From Coastal Cloud: Partner Perspectives on COVID-19: JoAnne King & Jim Stalder of Coastal Cloud

Chris Byers: Well, one last question. As you think about moving forward, how will you be reimagining the way that you work?

Kyle Tuominen: It's about kind of having these types of conversations with my customers and understanding. I have a restoration company right now. They're contractors that restore firewater, smoke damage. And, you know, one of the things that I found really thrilling about working with them was when we originally talked to them, our first meeting was with their CFO, CIO, CTO and then four sales reps and an IT support person and the IT director. It was not only executives and directors, it was they recognized the value of that. And in talking to them about their goals, it was really clear that they were looking at a way to drive better productivity for their sales team. And they knew that for us to be able to make those recommendations, we needed to talk to that sales team. And so I think, you know, for me about how I'm reimagining, you know, how we go to market and how we support our customers in these transformations, it's really talking them through, what's the important pieces for them? What's the important pieces for them at an executive level? What's the important pieces for them at an end user level? And then what's the important pieces for them at a customer level? The amount of customers that I have that still don't have personas of who their regular buyers are is a lot higher percentage than you think. And if we can shift the business place in general, the workplace in general, to being focused on how do we drive the type of customer experience that our customers expect? I think that's really critical. I think COVID provides a really good, clean way to show that, you know, I talked earlier about healthcare diagnostics being done remotely. You think now about how many more people now are using the Target pickup service or the Wal-Mart pickup service, Postmates for grocery delivery? Those expectations aren't going to go away. Right. Customers are really liking some of the convenient aspects of what COVID has created. You know, we all live busy lives, and if I can reduce 20 minutes of walking around a store by punching eleven things into my phone and having it ready, and I drive up and I'm on a conference call and I open my trunk and they put the bags in and I drive away. That's not going to end. Those customers are still going to want that. And so I think for me, it's about, you know, not only looking at, you know, what are your objectives right now, but what have you done to adapt for this environment? And what do your customers like and not like about that? And let's continue to drive forward on the pieces that they do like. You know, I'm seeing a lot of requests for self-service communities because customers are growing more and more self-service dependent rather than, you know, they might not want to talk to a salesperson if they can quote it themselves and buy it themselves. And guess what? That's at a higher margin for this company. That's a win all the way around. And so for me, I think it's, you know, identify what you're doing to transform, identify what your competitors are doing to transform, and then how can you leverage those same ideas or features or functionality to drive forward and really either differentiate yourself from your competitors or at least, you know, get on par with them.

Chris Byers: That was Kyle Tuominen with Coastal Cloud, and I hope what you learned from him today were a couple of really interesting things I heard from this conversation. First, if you want outsized results, which I think every single one of us in business does, digital transformation is a must. The other one was that we really need to talk to our frontline team members, our customers. That's where we're really going to learn what we need to learn to change, to transform and make their lives easier and make our lives easier. And as you're kind of digging into processes, being able to explain things in a very simple way, as he said, if you can explain it to your seven year old, I think life's gonna be good. And you know, the way I think about that, too, and talk to people is if you can't memorize something into a pretty small sentence or phrase, you're not gonna be able to repeat it over and over and over again, which is what we need to do to really convince people, get people excited about the change that we're making.

EPISODE TRANSCRIPT

Chris Byers: Welcome to the Ripple Effect. I am Chris Byers of Formstack. And today, as a part of our bonus episodes, we are featuring Kyle Tuominen. He is the director of the West at Coastal Cloud. And we're going to discuss what digital transformation looks like today in a world that's rapidly changing. While sharing how impactful that transformation can be on company culture. What can you learn from Kyle? Let's find out.

Well, before we go deeper into this topic and kind of jump into the conversation, Kyle can you tell us your elevator pitch of what Coastal Cloud is and what your role encompasses?

Kyle Tuominen: So Coastal Cloud is a platinum Salesforce partner, and we deliver success to our customers on the Salesforce platform. Our role is to go beyond simply building Salesforce and really helping provide a cohesive strategy for our customers long term.

Chris Byers: It's safe to say that 2020, for you and for everybody listening, has forced each of us to kind of rethink our businesses, how we work, how we operate. I'm curious, when you hear the words reimagine work, what comes to mind?

Kyle Tuominen: I think for a lot of companies operating in the age of COVID, reimagining work is how can I keep my team as productive as they were in the office? And for me at least, I think that might be the wrong approach, because I think it's really about how do you drive the same culture to your earlier point about digital transformation affecting that culture? You need to have a culture that drives change and really absorbs and adopts change willingly. Change resistant organizations struggle when there's large transformational issues, like a pandemic. And I think when a lot of companies are looking at reimagining the workplace, it's not reimagining what corporate culture or reimagining how their customers experience their brand or how their employees drive sales or success, whatever that means for that company. You know, I think oftentimes they're focusing a lot more tactically. How do I get soft tones to everybody at their houses? How do I make sure that my call center agents can take these calls from home? What if it has HIPAA information or payment information? And I think it's much more tactical in nature. And in reality, we're missing an opportunity to really take this as a chance to kind of reform your company from the ground up. But without having to start a kind of step one.

Chris Byers: So I love your comment about cultural values. They really should be driving our decisions right now. Funny enough, we actually went remote back in 2012. And yet all along the way, when people would tend to ask questions like, would we ever go back to the office? Would we ever be office only? My answer was kind of always, you know, the cultural value that drove us was what we called be agile and iterate. And so for us, that just happened to be we were going to work remotely because we felt like it was the best way for us to work as a company. And if that ever changed, yeah, we would change it. It's about agility. It's about iteration in our case. And so I love that comment that we should all be thinking about our cultural values first. And none of us have a cultural value of we're going to be in an office. I'm curious, how has that changed for you? How did life look before? How have you flexed to kind of embrace today?

Kyle Tuominen: I think the biggest change for me is I used to be a road warrior. I traveled 50 weeks a year for two and a half years. And that stopped when I came to the Coastal Cloud period. But I was still maintaining some level of travel. I think the interesting thing about Coastal Cloud and our kind of corporate culture is we kind of leave it up to our team members to decide. We expect everybody in our company to have an ownership mentality. And, you know, we have an office in Denver. And it was actually really important for me that we had an office in Denver, because personally, as much as I love working from home, I'm more productive in an office environment because I need a little bit of social stimulus. And sitting in the same house all day, can get a little stale even before the pandemic, but we never require people to come into the office. We had an office available if people wanted to collaborate, if they had a reason to collaborate, you know, whether that's a customer project or a challenging technical solution, people could choose to come into the office because they got value out of it. And really, my job as a leader is to drive that value, it's to create enough value of coming into the office that they want to or that they make that decision that working from home is more effective and productive. And quite frankly, I think Coastal Cloud, at least in our in our West Coast team, is probably 50/50 on those that enjoy coming into the office and see the value and those that prefer working from home, but we're able to kind of accommodate both types of team members because our corporate culture is designed around, you know, it's really your responsibility to be effective. And, you know, whatever you need to do that, we're going to support you.

Chris Byers: So, you know, one of the things you've described is that, you know, in a lot of ways, your team really didn't even need to change that much to operate in this new world. It's already how you are operating. So a lot of that has stayed the same. Actually, for the person who is maybe at home far more than they want, like you described and not getting some of that relational time, how are you helping people overcome that mental need and desire to be around people?

Kyle Tuominen: I think it takes different forms for different people. You know, for some people it's just about fresh air. And, you know, luckily living in Colorado, they can go hiking or go mountain climbing or, you know, what have you. You know, for some people, it is really that relational piece. For me, that is what it is. And so, you know, we do a lot of, you know, kind of stand ups with our video cameras on and bring our dogs into the view of the camera and everybody says hi, happy hours. I think one of the great things about this has been we've learned a lot about our colleagues and their actual lives. We spent a lot of time learning about their skills in the workplace and being in consulting kind of their skills that they can bring to a team or project or a customer. With everybody's real life now also being that work life, you know, whether that's kids or animals or parents or family in general, there's more people in the household. There's more hustle and bustle than they're accustomed to. Right. And I've seen our teams be incredibly accepting of kids crying in the background. And I was on a video call probably two weeks ago, and one of my customers was getting his face painted by his daughter while we were doing a Zoom call. And I just think, you know, stories like that are really important to continue to drive those relationships, even if you're not in person, you know, taking moments like that and appreciating kind of the absurdity of that. That picture has been really beneficial for me.

Related: Partner Interview Series: Kyle Tuominen of Coastal Cloud

Chris Byers: You know, one of the things you're talking about is that all of us are, even if we knew how to work remotely beforehand or really embracing it in a bigger way and and finding even more comfort, maybe if we worked at home beforehand, we hid our family, we hid our you know, that we are at our home. We try to make that a non issue. And yet now it's actually acceptable to let people know. Oh, yeah. You're in your house, right? I understand the dog's going to bark or run through the back or whatever, but the same thing is changing in businesses. You know, I had a conversation with somebody last last week or two weeks ago where she works for the state that I live in, which is Oklahoma. And she said something about they've closed down the offices and they've figured out we can work remotely. And I'm like, oh, my gosh, the state chose to work remotely. Life truly did just change. And so I'm curious, as you think about digital transformation and the importance of that, or maybe let's start with some definitions, what would you say the differences between digitization and digital transformation?

Kyle Tuominen: It does. So digitization is really the process of getting data into electronic forms. So it's kind of the transition from paper to digital and digital transformation is saying what can we do with this information? What are our customers looking for? What are our team members looking for? How can we leverage this information and the new technology that's available to us to drive a better customer experience? But it's also about thinking outside the box. You know, when the first personal computers came on the market, there was not a large market for them. It was expected to be a hobbyists and enthusiasts type purchase, not an every home, every person has to have one of these. And you know, the way that, quite frankly, Steve Jobs and Windows and Bill Gates and the Bomber drove the purchase and a need for those personal computers was, they thought outside the box. And you know, I think we're seeing that type of change in areas like healthcare. You know, you talked about how the state could go work from home. And that's a pretty transformational idea, certainly. But imagine health workers working from home. You know, one really interesting trend I've seen in healthcare around COVID, has been diagnostic appointments or tests are now being done in a person's home rather than done in a hospital. You know, obviously, to reduce the risk of transmission in a healthcare setting. But that took somebody looking at the problem of how do I get to give this test if they can't come in? And traditionally, the answer to that has always been, oh, they can't drive, will have a car service, pick them up. Right. Most major cities have some type of you know, if you're elderly or disabled, you know, we'll provide a service to pick you up and drop you off at your doctor's appointment. And so the thinking has always been, well, the problem is not that I'm doing the test in this location. The problem is that this person can't get to this location. And a pandemic really forced people and administrators and planners to think, OK, well, now it is. Now the location of the test is the problem. You know, and making those mobile and remote is not an easy feat. But I think it's an example of, you know, a specific vertical saying we have to pivot and, you know, how can we do that in a digital age? What does technology enable us to do if we think differently about this problem?

Chris Byers: And you've kind of introduced a mindset shift that we all need to be thinking about to really embrace digital transformation. So what would you suggest to companies who are beginning to consider this and think about how do I really embrace digital transformation in the way we're doing things?

Kyle Tuominen: Talk to the front line team. I think the digital transformation projects that I see that are most effective are ones driven by end users or team members downstream. Those people that are talking or working with our customers, because ultimately they're the ones hearing what a customer wants or needs or what would be an incredible value proposition for that customer. And, you know, I think as companies look at this as an opportunity to transform how they do business, you know, if you're transforming how somebody works from a corner office into working in a large library home study, it's a very different environment than maybe one of your team members that spends eight hours a day on calls and how their child is in remote learning. And, you know, they're struggling with audio issues. And, you know, how you approach those two problems is very different. You know, I think that the executive level sets the strategic priorities of the organization. And I don't think that changes based on that, that end user feedback or customer feedback, whether that's a guest or an employee. But I do think that it pivots those objectives and maybe reprioritizes them at times. And, you know, I think that's really the key piece at the outset of kind of embarking on this type of journey is making the right plan. And rather than plan, maybe, maybe a framework is a better wording for that, because it's also about the flexibility that you can show as you undergo the journey. It's not a two week journey. It's not a two month journey. It's really not even a two year journey. It's a five to 10 year journey. And what the technology scene will look like in five years. None of us, I mean, we can only guess. Right. And if you build a plan that the executive team has defined and the priorities were defined by the executive team or their delegates, and you're planning out for 10 years down the road of a technology roadmap, 10 years from now you will be buying some really outdated technology. And so it's more important to kind of take that feedback and build a framework of what do I want to accomplish rather than what tool am I going to use. And then once you kind of know that problem statement, you can pivot it back to. Now, how do we solve it? How do we think outside the box to solve it? If the current solutions that we're looking at just don't don't solve it in a way that we or our customers need.

You need to have a culture that drives change and really absorbs and adopts change willingly. It’s change-resistant organizations that struggle when there's large transformational issues, like a pandemic.

Chris Byers: Yeah, I think that really initial start of the framework of what are the right paths. And because there are multiple paths, we need to kind of cover ground and a few different planes. And then let's get started. And this, to your point, is going to last a long time. We need to get a few things in motion and then we need to step back and say, how did this go? And let's iterate on that. And we can kind of move from there is great thinking. What's gotten you so passionate about digital transformation? How do you get interested in this topic?

Kyle Tuominen: To be honest with you, it came from a lot of bad customer experiences. I started working retail and customer facing jobs when I was fifteen and I worked full time and went to night college, you know, in customer facing roles and kind of retail managerial roles. And I know, you know how challenging it can be to provide an exceptional level of customer service. But I also know the value of what happens when you do. And the more and more I started working with companies and seeing how little focus there is on that customer experience, the more I've wanted to change it. And, you know, seeing companies look at their customers and react, recognizing that the revenue and the profit margin goes up if you're driving a better customer experience, even at a higher cost. And I think one of the unique things has been that a lot of companies have found that these types of transformations have really reduced their costs and increased their levels of service. For me, seeing those types of changes happen are really impactful. But I think more important for me personally is the culture shift that comes with it. It's the refocusing on the customer. If you're taking the time to say this is critical for me, that we do this right for our customer, that our customer feels taken care of or safe or excited or energized or entertained or whatever your goal is for that customer. It's really important that you get to see that happen.

Chris Byers: See, you actually mention some of the experience that maybe a customer receives via a digital transformation. But what you're speaking to is change. And so along the way, you get resistance, I think often to change. And yet you may have the title, The Greatest Idea in the World, but people like to do things sometimes how they do them. How do you overcome that and how do you help them process through that to embrace that change?

Kyle Tuominen: I think the biggest thing is empathy. And, you know, the difference between empathy and sympathy is that I think the definitions vary by the person. But for me, empathy is not necessarily saying I agree with you, but it is saying I understand you. I think I've been lucky in my life. I've moved over 20 times and I've lived in virtually every major part of the country. And that gives me the ability to kind of empathize with a variety of different mindsets. And that's something that I've been lucky to have. But I think that empathy base is really critical to driving change through resistance or, you know, driving adoption and real consumption of transformational change. You know, I had an engagement where we were talking with a customer about adoption metrics and rather than talking about logins and, you know, a wall of shame of people that haven't logged in in 60 days, or haven't logged any activity in two weeks. You know, we talked about what I call vibrancy, which is the idea of measuring what is actually important. What are you actually trying to drive with this project or with this tool or with this feature? And so a lot of companies look at things like cases created issues in the system, and they say that's a negative for me. I actually look at that as a positive for two reasons. One, it means people are in the system because for them to create cases, they have to be in the system. And then, two, it's that they care enough to create the case. You know, it's a lot easier for a team member to log in, do their work, hate 80 percent of the software that they're using, but they don't have a feedback mechanism or they don't feel valued or they don't feel heard. They don't feel that empathy from their company. And, you know, ultimately, for me, it's about driving what is the goal of this? You know, how do we get people enthusiastic about it? And I find that the biggest way to do that is just listen and have empathy, you know, hear what their concerns are and understand that for me, right. When I'm working with an executive team and I define strategic objectives for a project, when I go talk to an end user that's struggling with the four extra clicks that it added to something that they do on a daily basis. The strategic priorities don't really matter at that point. You know, and it's important for me to put that aside and say, OK, I understand these priorities and we need to make sure that we're not violating any of them by making these changes. But we need to make this change, right. We can't add four clicks to something that somebody is doing, you know, a thousand times a day. And I think, you know, those two pieces are what drives through kind of that barrier or resistance to change.

Chris Byers: Well, I know you've had some really successful stories of digital transformation. Can you talk to us about one of those and tell us kind of what happened and how you approached it and the successes that it created?

Kyle Tuominen: So I worked with a healthcare company and it was a large multi-national healthcare company. They acquired a few new firms and they were kind of entering a medical device business for the first time. And they were really struggling with, you know, this was a company that for one hundred years had sold disposables and hospital equipment and computers and software, but had never really entered kind of the medical device space. Right. In body medical devices, you know, stents and things like that. And they were talking about, you know, selling into their customers. And when they're selling things like MRI coils or, you know, hardware, the conversations happen at the administrator level. And, you know, they were talking about, you know, convincing, you know, having an LMS or, you know, a teaching type platform to drive those conversations with administrators, to teach administrators about, you know, the functionality of their products and the differentiation of their products. And we had a workshop maybe about two months into this process, and we brought in a variety of frontline salespeople. We brought in manufacturing workers and shipping workers, shipping dock workers. And we asked them, what's the most important thing in your day to day? And the shipping dock person said, I need to know the secretary or front desk receptionist's name of the person that we're shipping to. And we were all a little confused. We were like, look, I mean, that seems important. But once you ship it, you're good, right? And he said, no, that person oftentimes will call me a follow up about, you know, X, Y or Z or it's coming in four boxes when they were expecting two. When he said building a relationship with those people because these are repetitive purchases is really critical for the success of the brand and the product and the business. And so instead of approaching this new space for them, as have we always done business, we took that and we said we really need to understand what the relationships are between our customers and this brand. Right. In these products, because it is so different from what this company has been used to. And by talking to the customers themselves, we understood that the most important thing for them was not price, it was not even necessarily the relationship, although the relationships that these sales reps had with these frontline employees from the customer, what really mattered was the effectiveness of the tool. And at the end of the day, the only thing the doctor cared about was, is this better for my patient than your competitors product? And by having those conversations and introducing a new way of thinking about, you know, focusing on those kind of frontline employees rather than the executive team or the administrators, we are able to identify a completely new opportunity for us and really drive sales through differentiation of the safety of the product. We were able to narrow the market and say, you know, this product works better in X, Y, and Z ways and in X, Y, and Z circumstances. And that's when you should use this product. You know, we saw a really significant lift in sales, and that's all created by kind of the conversations of a new software platform. And how do they sell this new software platform? And it didn't just change their software, it changed how they actually sell to their customers. So for me, that's you know, that's a really impactful story.

Learn More: What is Digital Agility?

Chris Byers: I think that is a wonderful story. One of the things you keep coming back to is this idea of talking to the front line. Ask the people who do the work for feedback and how they operate. I think that's such a powerful asset. We all avoid that a lot because it sounds hard or we don't think we're gonna get the information we're looking for. And so I love that you're starting there. These are complicated processes. They often cover lots of products, tech stacks, et cetera. How can people kind of start to tie these things together and become more efficient?

Kyle Tuominen: I want to go back to a point that you just made earlier. I'll try to weave it into this answer. I think it's really critical to talk to those frontline team members because they're the ones interacting with the customers and they can have a far greater outsized impact than any piece of software can in terms of how that customer perceives the brand. The tone of their body language, the type of outreach, the consistency of outreach, the consistency of branding, all of those things are perpetuated by that employee or by that team member. And for me, driving change within those teams is critical because they are the face of the brand and the impact that they can have on those customers. Chris, I think the importance of those frontline employees that you talked about, you know, is really driven in a very similar vein to the need for data. You know, one of the most impactful digital transformations was I worked with Caesars Entertainment, the casino giant and hospitality giant. And the biggest thing that their end marketers were asking for was not I want to be able to drive really crazy offers or I want to reduce how many approvals I need to get on a marketing campaign. They just wanted more data about their customers. They wanted to be able to act on that data and to be able to do that, we had to take a tech stack, that to your point, was incredibly fragmented and deprecated in a lot of cases. And we needed to consolidate and condense the data so that it was usable by all these different teams and pieces of software. But at the end of the day, the end ask from the end users was, I want more data so that I can better market to our customers so that I better understand what they want out of this experience at one of our properties. I think as companies recognize the value of that data, we're seeing, you know, the age of data right now, where companies are doing everything they can to collect data. But the companies that are getting ahead right now did that five years ago. And right now they're focused on how do we use that data? How do we build a data lake? You know, it's really identifying potential opportunities to use that data and then using that data, identifying if it had an improved effect or not, and then trying to use another piece of data. And as every system grows more and more interconnected, and that's kind of the default expectation. Now, when I talk to a lot of customers, they don't ask if they're going to need a middleware platform. They just ask why doesn't this already have a Salesforce connector? Because Salesforce is that standard bearer in the CRM space, you know, and kind of transiting that data across those systems is an expectation and not a nice to have. And I think that's a really key change from where we were five years ago. And I think five years from now, we're going to be looking back and saying, how do we take that data that we have transiting across systems and how do we make it actionable and how do we drive value out of it?

Chris Byers: Kyle, tell us what digital agility is? That sounds like a pretty kind of advanced terms. Talk to us about it.

Kyle Tuominen: So, Chris, I think it varies by company, but for me, digital agility means how fast can you operate with your current technology? And if you had no technology constraints, how fast could you operate? I think it's being agile in the software that you're picking right now, picking something that is not going to have a huge historical cost or have a massive capital investment that is going to make it difficult to switch if a better product comes along in ten years. It's being flexible in terms of the tools that you're using. And it's also saying if I set aside the technical limitations for what I currently have, what could I accomplish? Chris, if we think about the marketing example with Caesars' earlier digital agility for them was really how do we take all these different pieces of data and deliver it to these end users that are touching our customers. But when they originally started, it was how do I get better marketing data? And those are two very different questions. And the reason that they were successful was because they were able to pivot and say, OK, we've collected this data for marketing, but we can do way more than just use this for marketing. We can use this to impact the experience. We can use it to better tailor trip planning activities to our customers. And for me, it's about the ability to pivot quickly and choose tools and partners that can drive that for you. And then it's about, you know, looking at what's possible instead of what do I need.

Chris Byers: So some of us probably here digital transformation and we think, great, I can do that pretty quickly. But if we've been around processes, big software packages we've bought, we also know that can be a really daunting task and sound really, really big. Tell us the difference between that digital transformation and digital agility.

Kyle Tuominen: Sure. I think digital agility is more of a mindset. It's you know, when we first started this conversation, Chris, we were talking about corporate culture. And I think digital agility is really the mindset about, you know, approaching problems in a new way, approaching problems and saying what can we do? Right. To my earlier point, digital transformation is more about how do we do it. For me, the agility piece is looking at problems and saying, can we solve this and how can we solve it? And not from a I need to see X piece of data right now from a user story perspective, but from an end user perspective. I need my sales rep to know what I bought last year so they can recommend what I need to buy this year. And, you know, that's a much easier change to make than saying I have to go build a data lake and I need to have Snowflake to have, you know, really accurate reporting. And, you know, I need Tablo for visualization. You know, that's really the digital transformation piece, right? That's the overhauling of how you interpret data, how you use data, how you act on data. And the agility piece is really saying we need to make this change. And how can we get there? What are the small steps that we can take immediately? And how can we start that planning for that longer term transformation?

Read Next: How Digital Agility Empowers Employees and Boosts Productivity

Chris Byers: What are some things that help make a corporation be able to make that digital shift? I think it can take a lot of energy at times. So what do you think are some things that just make that all the easier?

Kyle Tuominen: Yeah, I mean, I think from a culture perspective, you know, it's imperative that you're listening to your teams. And I know a theme for me is certainly, our kind of entry level or frontline teams, they're really critical. And I think they get overlooked because, you know, their titles aren't great or our executive teams haven't worked those roles or haven't come up. But I think, you know, ultimately culture needs to be inclusive and not exclusive. And if you're driving a culture that says I only care about a director's opinion, you're going to struggle to transform because your team is not going to give you the feedback that you need. You're going to hear about what your directors want and not what your teams need. And there's a distinct difference between those two things. So I think for me, the culture shift required for digital transformation is really about inclusiveness. And I think a lot of companies are seeing the value of an inclusive working environment the last few years and certainly the last six months or so.

Chris Byers: So there is this inertia that causes us to kind of want to just keep doing what's in front of us. How do you get people motivated to say, hey, let's get going, let's start to look at this process and figure out how to do it better?

Kyle Tuominen: I don't find it challenging to motivate people in this way, to be honest with you. I think everybody wants to have a significant change in their organization or for their customers. I think most of the time we resign ourselves to the status quo because it's a resignation. It's easier. We don't have the energy to fight for it. But I think when presented with the opportunity to have an outsized impact, I exceedingly rarely see people that have objections or become detrimental to the team. It happens, right. But I don't think it's a really common issue that I encounter.

Chris Byers: What's your number one piece of advice for embracing simplicity kind of in business processes?

Kyle Tuominen: If you can't explain it to your seven year old, it's too complex for your team. And not because I think your team, anybody's team, has the intellectual capability of a seven year old, but because your team is focused on a hundred different priorities and if what you're asking them to do is not easy to fit into one of those priorities, it's going to take them away from those priorities. And whether that's customer or internal customer serving objectives or priorities. Ultimately, you're leaving somebody high and dry. So embracing the simplicity of let's treat our team members like adults. I think we talked earlier about digital transformation in the workplace and driving that culture. I think a really key piece of that is also expecting everybody to be adults and expecting everybody to have an ownership mentality similar to what we do at Coastal Cloud. You know, if we look at call centers that transformed, if you asked a call center manager, V.P. of service two years ago, you know, let's shift your team to remote, we'll save you the office space cost. Their number one objection would have been, oh, no, that's not possible. We can't let them work from home. We don't know that they're going to be taking as many calls. But in a week or two weeks or three days for some of our customers, they flipped to a remote based call center. And it was always possible. It was just there wasn't a will to not micromanage. You know, they wanted to keep it complex. And now that they're seeing by simplifying it and allowing people to work from home, they actually have better coverage on hours that they used to struggle on. You know, nine to five was a very regular call center schedule. Well, the problem with that is that a lot of your customers, that's also their work schedule and now your busy time from five to seven and five to seven is when you're lower staffed. But if you've got team members that have a flexible schedule and obviously with a call center or any type of service, you have to kind of stagger that. But, you know, ultimately, five to seven might work better for a lot of these parents that their kids are doing remote learning and now they can spend a large portion of their day helping their kids learn. You know, they feel valued from their employer. They feel like adults. And, you know, ultimately, driving a simpler business process allows them to make those decisions about what's best for them. And I use the call center in this example, but I think it applies to sales and marketing teams. I think it applies to accounting and operational teams. Ultimately, KISS is an acronym for a reason. Right. And if you're making it more complex simply to add steps or because you want to include somebody or make somebody feel valued, you know, you're adding complexity for really no reason.

Chris Byers: Let's talk productivity for a minute. Do you have a go to productivity tip that you share with your team, with customers or whomever?

Kyle Tuominen: For me, it's take less meetings than you need. So I think one thing I find, you know, as I lead a team is I want to be in these meetings to support my team. It's not about I want to be in the meeting to know exactly what's going on. Right. I trust my team to escalate to me when I need to know about something. But I want to be on to support them, to give them a kudo's on their killing it or, you know, step in when they're struggling and kind of help them through it. What I've realized in talking to a lot of them has been, if I'm not on the call, they really own it. And I think sometimes, you know, when we're looking at our colleagues and they're on a call with us and we say, I'm not the expert in this area, but this person is. So I'm just going to completely shut down. And once you shut down, especially in a remote meeting, it's really hard to make it back right to that engaged level that you need. And, you know, for me, what I've seen is by taking less meetings and kind of having my team take a lot more of them, I'm seeing them kind of step up in new ways. And it gives me the freedom and flexibility to go pursue new objectives or strategy. You know, that we've been trying to build and haven't had the time to.

More From Coastal Cloud: Partner Perspectives on COVID-19: JoAnne King & Jim Stalder of Coastal Cloud

Chris Byers: Well, one last question. As you think about moving forward, how will you be reimagining the way that you work?

Kyle Tuominen: It's about kind of having these types of conversations with my customers and understanding. I have a restoration company right now. They're contractors that restore firewater, smoke damage. And, you know, one of the things that I found really thrilling about working with them was when we originally talked to them, our first meeting was with their CFO, CIO, CTO and then four sales reps and an IT support person and the IT director. It was not only executives and directors, it was they recognized the value of that. And in talking to them about their goals, it was really clear that they were looking at a way to drive better productivity for their sales team. And they knew that for us to be able to make those recommendations, we needed to talk to that sales team. And so I think, you know, for me about how I'm reimagining, you know, how we go to market and how we support our customers in these transformations, it's really talking them through, what's the important pieces for them? What's the important pieces for them at an executive level? What's the important pieces for them at an end user level? And then what's the important pieces for them at a customer level? The amount of customers that I have that still don't have personas of who their regular buyers are is a lot higher percentage than you think. And if we can shift the business place in general, the workplace in general, to being focused on how do we drive the type of customer experience that our customers expect? I think that's really critical. I think COVID provides a really good, clean way to show that, you know, I talked earlier about healthcare diagnostics being done remotely. You think now about how many more people now are using the Target pickup service or the Wal-Mart pickup service, Postmates for grocery delivery? Those expectations aren't going to go away. Right. Customers are really liking some of the convenient aspects of what COVID has created. You know, we all live busy lives, and if I can reduce 20 minutes of walking around a store by punching eleven things into my phone and having it ready, and I drive up and I'm on a conference call and I open my trunk and they put the bags in and I drive away. That's not going to end. Those customers are still going to want that. And so I think for me, it's about, you know, not only looking at, you know, what are your objectives right now, but what have you done to adapt for this environment? And what do your customers like and not like about that? And let's continue to drive forward on the pieces that they do like. You know, I'm seeing a lot of requests for self-service communities because customers are growing more and more self-service dependent rather than, you know, they might not want to talk to a salesperson if they can quote it themselves and buy it themselves. And guess what? That's at a higher margin for this company. That's a win all the way around. And so for me, I think it's, you know, identify what you're doing to transform, identify what your competitors are doing to transform, and then how can you leverage those same ideas or features or functionality to drive forward and really either differentiate yourself from your competitors or at least, you know, get on par with them.

Chris Byers: That was Kyle Tuominen with Coastal Cloud, and I hope what you learned from him today were a couple of really interesting things I heard from this conversation. First, if you want outsized results, which I think every single one of us in business does, digital transformation is a must. The other one was that we really need to talk to our frontline team members, our customers. That's where we're really going to learn what we need to learn to change, to transform and make their lives easier and make our lives easier. And as you're kind of digging into processes, being able to explain things in a very simple way, as he said, if you can explain it to your seven year old, I think life's gonna be good. And you know, the way I think about that, too, and talk to people is if you can't memorize something into a pretty small sentence or phrase, you're not gonna be able to repeat it over and over and over again, which is what we need to do to really convince people, get people excited about the change that we're making.

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Authorize.Net
Bambora
Chargify
First Data
PayPal
PayPal Pro
PayPal Payflow
Stripe
WePay
ProPay
Monthly Fees
$25
$25
$149+
Contact First Data
$0
$25
$0-$25
$0
$0
$4
Transaction Fees
$2.9% + 30¢
$2.9% + 30¢
N/A
Contact First Data
$2.9% + 30¢
$2.9% + 30¢
10¢
$2.9% + 30¢
$2.9% + 30¢
$2.6% + 30¢
Countries
5
8
Based on payment gateway
50+
203
3
4
25
USA
USA
Currencies
11
2
23
140
25
23
25
135+
1
1
Card Types
6
13
Based on payment gateway
5
9
9
5
6
4
4
Limits
None
None
Based on payment gateway
None
$10,000
None
None
None
None
$500 per transaction
Form Payments
Recurring Billing
Mobile Payments
PSD2 Compliant

EPISODE TRANSCRIPT

Chris Byers: Welcome to the Ripple Effect. I am Chris Byers of Formstack. And today, as a part of our bonus episodes, we are featuring Kyle Tuominen. He is the director of the West at Coastal Cloud. And we're going to discuss what digital transformation looks like today in a world that's rapidly changing. While sharing how impactful that transformation can be on company culture. What can you learn from Kyle? Let's find out.

Well, before we go deeper into this topic and kind of jump into the conversation, Kyle can you tell us your elevator pitch of what Coastal Cloud is and what your role encompasses?

Kyle Tuominen: So Coastal Cloud is a platinum Salesforce partner, and we deliver success to our customers on the Salesforce platform. Our role is to go beyond simply building Salesforce and really helping provide a cohesive strategy for our customers long term.

Chris Byers: It's safe to say that 2020, for you and for everybody listening, has forced each of us to kind of rethink our businesses, how we work, how we operate. I'm curious, when you hear the words reimagine work, what comes to mind?

Kyle Tuominen: I think for a lot of companies operating in the age of COVID, reimagining work is how can I keep my team as productive as they were in the office? And for me at least, I think that might be the wrong approach, because I think it's really about how do you drive the same culture to your earlier point about digital transformation affecting that culture? You need to have a culture that drives change and really absorbs and adopts change willingly. Change resistant organizations struggle when there's large transformational issues, like a pandemic. And I think when a lot of companies are looking at reimagining the workplace, it's not reimagining what corporate culture or reimagining how their customers experience their brand or how their employees drive sales or success, whatever that means for that company. You know, I think oftentimes they're focusing a lot more tactically. How do I get soft tones to everybody at their houses? How do I make sure that my call center agents can take these calls from home? What if it has HIPAA information or payment information? And I think it's much more tactical in nature. And in reality, we're missing an opportunity to really take this as a chance to kind of reform your company from the ground up. But without having to start a kind of step one.

Chris Byers: So I love your comment about cultural values. They really should be driving our decisions right now. Funny enough, we actually went remote back in 2012. And yet all along the way, when people would tend to ask questions like, would we ever go back to the office? Would we ever be office only? My answer was kind of always, you know, the cultural value that drove us was what we called be agile and iterate. And so for us, that just happened to be we were going to work remotely because we felt like it was the best way for us to work as a company. And if that ever changed, yeah, we would change it. It's about agility. It's about iteration in our case. And so I love that comment that we should all be thinking about our cultural values first. And none of us have a cultural value of we're going to be in an office. I'm curious, how has that changed for you? How did life look before? How have you flexed to kind of embrace today?

Kyle Tuominen: I think the biggest change for me is I used to be a road warrior. I traveled 50 weeks a year for two and a half years. And that stopped when I came to the Coastal Cloud period. But I was still maintaining some level of travel. I think the interesting thing about Coastal Cloud and our kind of corporate culture is we kind of leave it up to our team members to decide. We expect everybody in our company to have an ownership mentality. And, you know, we have an office in Denver. And it was actually really important for me that we had an office in Denver, because personally, as much as I love working from home, I'm more productive in an office environment because I need a little bit of social stimulus. And sitting in the same house all day, can get a little stale even before the pandemic, but we never require people to come into the office. We had an office available if people wanted to collaborate, if they had a reason to collaborate, you know, whether that's a customer project or a challenging technical solution, people could choose to come into the office because they got value out of it. And really, my job as a leader is to drive that value, it's to create enough value of coming into the office that they want to or that they make that decision that working from home is more effective and productive. And quite frankly, I think Coastal Cloud, at least in our in our West Coast team, is probably 50/50 on those that enjoy coming into the office and see the value and those that prefer working from home, but we're able to kind of accommodate both types of team members because our corporate culture is designed around, you know, it's really your responsibility to be effective. And, you know, whatever you need to do that, we're going to support you.

Chris Byers: So, you know, one of the things you've described is that, you know, in a lot of ways, your team really didn't even need to change that much to operate in this new world. It's already how you are operating. So a lot of that has stayed the same. Actually, for the person who is maybe at home far more than they want, like you described and not getting some of that relational time, how are you helping people overcome that mental need and desire to be around people?

Kyle Tuominen: I think it takes different forms for different people. You know, for some people it's just about fresh air. And, you know, luckily living in Colorado, they can go hiking or go mountain climbing or, you know, what have you. You know, for some people, it is really that relational piece. For me, that is what it is. And so, you know, we do a lot of, you know, kind of stand ups with our video cameras on and bring our dogs into the view of the camera and everybody says hi, happy hours. I think one of the great things about this has been we've learned a lot about our colleagues and their actual lives. We spent a lot of time learning about their skills in the workplace and being in consulting kind of their skills that they can bring to a team or project or a customer. With everybody's real life now also being that work life, you know, whether that's kids or animals or parents or family in general, there's more people in the household. There's more hustle and bustle than they're accustomed to. Right. And I've seen our teams be incredibly accepting of kids crying in the background. And I was on a video call probably two weeks ago, and one of my customers was getting his face painted by his daughter while we were doing a Zoom call. And I just think, you know, stories like that are really important to continue to drive those relationships, even if you're not in person, you know, taking moments like that and appreciating kind of the absurdity of that. That picture has been really beneficial for me.

Related: Partner Interview Series: Kyle Tuominen of Coastal Cloud

Chris Byers: You know, one of the things you're talking about is that all of us are, even if we knew how to work remotely beforehand or really embracing it in a bigger way and and finding even more comfort, maybe if we worked at home beforehand, we hid our family, we hid our you know, that we are at our home. We try to make that a non issue. And yet now it's actually acceptable to let people know. Oh, yeah. You're in your house, right? I understand the dog's going to bark or run through the back or whatever, but the same thing is changing in businesses. You know, I had a conversation with somebody last last week or two weeks ago where she works for the state that I live in, which is Oklahoma. And she said something about they've closed down the offices and they've figured out we can work remotely. And I'm like, oh, my gosh, the state chose to work remotely. Life truly did just change. And so I'm curious, as you think about digital transformation and the importance of that, or maybe let's start with some definitions, what would you say the differences between digitization and digital transformation?

Kyle Tuominen: It does. So digitization is really the process of getting data into electronic forms. So it's kind of the transition from paper to digital and digital transformation is saying what can we do with this information? What are our customers looking for? What are our team members looking for? How can we leverage this information and the new technology that's available to us to drive a better customer experience? But it's also about thinking outside the box. You know, when the first personal computers came on the market, there was not a large market for them. It was expected to be a hobbyists and enthusiasts type purchase, not an every home, every person has to have one of these. And you know, the way that, quite frankly, Steve Jobs and Windows and Bill Gates and the Bomber drove the purchase and a need for those personal computers was, they thought outside the box. And you know, I think we're seeing that type of change in areas like healthcare. You know, you talked about how the state could go work from home. And that's a pretty transformational idea, certainly. But imagine health workers working from home. You know, one really interesting trend I've seen in healthcare around COVID, has been diagnostic appointments or tests are now being done in a person's home rather than done in a hospital. You know, obviously, to reduce the risk of transmission in a healthcare setting. But that took somebody looking at the problem of how do I get to give this test if they can't come in? And traditionally, the answer to that has always been, oh, they can't drive, will have a car service, pick them up. Right. Most major cities have some type of you know, if you're elderly or disabled, you know, we'll provide a service to pick you up and drop you off at your doctor's appointment. And so the thinking has always been, well, the problem is not that I'm doing the test in this location. The problem is that this person can't get to this location. And a pandemic really forced people and administrators and planners to think, OK, well, now it is. Now the location of the test is the problem. You know, and making those mobile and remote is not an easy feat. But I think it's an example of, you know, a specific vertical saying we have to pivot and, you know, how can we do that in a digital age? What does technology enable us to do if we think differently about this problem?

Chris Byers: And you've kind of introduced a mindset shift that we all need to be thinking about to really embrace digital transformation. So what would you suggest to companies who are beginning to consider this and think about how do I really embrace digital transformation in the way we're doing things?

Kyle Tuominen: Talk to the front line team. I think the digital transformation projects that I see that are most effective are ones driven by end users or team members downstream. Those people that are talking or working with our customers, because ultimately they're the ones hearing what a customer wants or needs or what would be an incredible value proposition for that customer. And, you know, I think as companies look at this as an opportunity to transform how they do business, you know, if you're transforming how somebody works from a corner office into working in a large library home study, it's a very different environment than maybe one of your team members that spends eight hours a day on calls and how their child is in remote learning. And, you know, they're struggling with audio issues. And, you know, how you approach those two problems is very different. You know, I think that the executive level sets the strategic priorities of the organization. And I don't think that changes based on that, that end user feedback or customer feedback, whether that's a guest or an employee. But I do think that it pivots those objectives and maybe reprioritizes them at times. And, you know, I think that's really the key piece at the outset of kind of embarking on this type of journey is making the right plan. And rather than plan, maybe, maybe a framework is a better wording for that, because it's also about the flexibility that you can show as you undergo the journey. It's not a two week journey. It's not a two month journey. It's really not even a two year journey. It's a five to 10 year journey. And what the technology scene will look like in five years. None of us, I mean, we can only guess. Right. And if you build a plan that the executive team has defined and the priorities were defined by the executive team or their delegates, and you're planning out for 10 years down the road of a technology roadmap, 10 years from now you will be buying some really outdated technology. And so it's more important to kind of take that feedback and build a framework of what do I want to accomplish rather than what tool am I going to use. And then once you kind of know that problem statement, you can pivot it back to. Now, how do we solve it? How do we think outside the box to solve it? If the current solutions that we're looking at just don't don't solve it in a way that we or our customers need.

You need to have a culture that drives change and really absorbs and adopts change willingly. It’s change-resistant organizations that struggle when there's large transformational issues, like a pandemic.

Chris Byers: Yeah, I think that really initial start of the framework of what are the right paths. And because there are multiple paths, we need to kind of cover ground and a few different planes. And then let's get started. And this, to your point, is going to last a long time. We need to get a few things in motion and then we need to step back and say, how did this go? And let's iterate on that. And we can kind of move from there is great thinking. What's gotten you so passionate about digital transformation? How do you get interested in this topic?

Kyle Tuominen: To be honest with you, it came from a lot of bad customer experiences. I started working retail and customer facing jobs when I was fifteen and I worked full time and went to night college, you know, in customer facing roles and kind of retail managerial roles. And I know, you know how challenging it can be to provide an exceptional level of customer service. But I also know the value of what happens when you do. And the more and more I started working with companies and seeing how little focus there is on that customer experience, the more I've wanted to change it. And, you know, seeing companies look at their customers and react, recognizing that the revenue and the profit margin goes up if you're driving a better customer experience, even at a higher cost. And I think one of the unique things has been that a lot of companies have found that these types of transformations have really reduced their costs and increased their levels of service. For me, seeing those types of changes happen are really impactful. But I think more important for me personally is the culture shift that comes with it. It's the refocusing on the customer. If you're taking the time to say this is critical for me, that we do this right for our customer, that our customer feels taken care of or safe or excited or energized or entertained or whatever your goal is for that customer. It's really important that you get to see that happen.

Chris Byers: See, you actually mention some of the experience that maybe a customer receives via a digital transformation. But what you're speaking to is change. And so along the way, you get resistance, I think often to change. And yet you may have the title, The Greatest Idea in the World, but people like to do things sometimes how they do them. How do you overcome that and how do you help them process through that to embrace that change?

Kyle Tuominen: I think the biggest thing is empathy. And, you know, the difference between empathy and sympathy is that I think the definitions vary by the person. But for me, empathy is not necessarily saying I agree with you, but it is saying I understand you. I think I've been lucky in my life. I've moved over 20 times and I've lived in virtually every major part of the country. And that gives me the ability to kind of empathize with a variety of different mindsets. And that's something that I've been lucky to have. But I think that empathy base is really critical to driving change through resistance or, you know, driving adoption and real consumption of transformational change. You know, I had an engagement where we were talking with a customer about adoption metrics and rather than talking about logins and, you know, a wall of shame of people that haven't logged in in 60 days, or haven't logged any activity in two weeks. You know, we talked about what I call vibrancy, which is the idea of measuring what is actually important. What are you actually trying to drive with this project or with this tool or with this feature? And so a lot of companies look at things like cases created issues in the system, and they say that's a negative for me. I actually look at that as a positive for two reasons. One, it means people are in the system because for them to create cases, they have to be in the system. And then, two, it's that they care enough to create the case. You know, it's a lot easier for a team member to log in, do their work, hate 80 percent of the software that they're using, but they don't have a feedback mechanism or they don't feel valued or they don't feel heard. They don't feel that empathy from their company. And, you know, ultimately, for me, it's about driving what is the goal of this? You know, how do we get people enthusiastic about it? And I find that the biggest way to do that is just listen and have empathy, you know, hear what their concerns are and understand that for me, right. When I'm working with an executive team and I define strategic objectives for a project, when I go talk to an end user that's struggling with the four extra clicks that it added to something that they do on a daily basis. The strategic priorities don't really matter at that point. You know, and it's important for me to put that aside and say, OK, I understand these priorities and we need to make sure that we're not violating any of them by making these changes. But we need to make this change, right. We can't add four clicks to something that somebody is doing, you know, a thousand times a day. And I think, you know, those two pieces are what drives through kind of that barrier or resistance to change.

Chris Byers: Well, I know you've had some really successful stories of digital transformation. Can you talk to us about one of those and tell us kind of what happened and how you approached it and the successes that it created?

Kyle Tuominen: So I worked with a healthcare company and it was a large multi-national healthcare company. They acquired a few new firms and they were kind of entering a medical device business for the first time. And they were really struggling with, you know, this was a company that for one hundred years had sold disposables and hospital equipment and computers and software, but had never really entered kind of the medical device space. Right. In body medical devices, you know, stents and things like that. And they were talking about, you know, selling into their customers. And when they're selling things like MRI coils or, you know, hardware, the conversations happen at the administrator level. And, you know, they were talking about, you know, convincing, you know, having an LMS or, you know, a teaching type platform to drive those conversations with administrators, to teach administrators about, you know, the functionality of their products and the differentiation of their products. And we had a workshop maybe about two months into this process, and we brought in a variety of frontline salespeople. We brought in manufacturing workers and shipping workers, shipping dock workers. And we asked them, what's the most important thing in your day to day? And the shipping dock person said, I need to know the secretary or front desk receptionist's name of the person that we're shipping to. And we were all a little confused. We were like, look, I mean, that seems important. But once you ship it, you're good, right? And he said, no, that person oftentimes will call me a follow up about, you know, X, Y or Z or it's coming in four boxes when they were expecting two. When he said building a relationship with those people because these are repetitive purchases is really critical for the success of the brand and the product and the business. And so instead of approaching this new space for them, as have we always done business, we took that and we said we really need to understand what the relationships are between our customers and this brand. Right. In these products, because it is so different from what this company has been used to. And by talking to the customers themselves, we understood that the most important thing for them was not price, it was not even necessarily the relationship, although the relationships that these sales reps had with these frontline employees from the customer, what really mattered was the effectiveness of the tool. And at the end of the day, the only thing the doctor cared about was, is this better for my patient than your competitors product? And by having those conversations and introducing a new way of thinking about, you know, focusing on those kind of frontline employees rather than the executive team or the administrators, we are able to identify a completely new opportunity for us and really drive sales through differentiation of the safety of the product. We were able to narrow the market and say, you know, this product works better in X, Y, and Z ways and in X, Y, and Z circumstances. And that's when you should use this product. You know, we saw a really significant lift in sales, and that's all created by kind of the conversations of a new software platform. And how do they sell this new software platform? And it didn't just change their software, it changed how they actually sell to their customers. So for me, that's you know, that's a really impactful story.

Learn More: What is Digital Agility?

Chris Byers: I think that is a wonderful story. One of the things you keep coming back to is this idea of talking to the front line. Ask the people who do the work for feedback and how they operate. I think that's such a powerful asset. We all avoid that a lot because it sounds hard or we don't think we're gonna get the information we're looking for. And so I love that you're starting there. These are complicated processes. They often cover lots of products, tech stacks, et cetera. How can people kind of start to tie these things together and become more efficient?

Kyle Tuominen: I want to go back to a point that you just made earlier. I'll try to weave it into this answer. I think it's really critical to talk to those frontline team members because they're the ones interacting with the customers and they can have a far greater outsized impact than any piece of software can in terms of how that customer perceives the brand. The tone of their body language, the type of outreach, the consistency of outreach, the consistency of branding, all of those things are perpetuated by that employee or by that team member. And for me, driving change within those teams is critical because they are the face of the brand and the impact that they can have on those customers. Chris, I think the importance of those frontline employees that you talked about, you know, is really driven in a very similar vein to the need for data. You know, one of the most impactful digital transformations was I worked with Caesars Entertainment, the casino giant and hospitality giant. And the biggest thing that their end marketers were asking for was not I want to be able to drive really crazy offers or I want to reduce how many approvals I need to get on a marketing campaign. They just wanted more data about their customers. They wanted to be able to act on that data and to be able to do that, we had to take a tech stack, that to your point, was incredibly fragmented and deprecated in a lot of cases. And we needed to consolidate and condense the data so that it was usable by all these different teams and pieces of software. But at the end of the day, the end ask from the end users was, I want more data so that I can better market to our customers so that I better understand what they want out of this experience at one of our properties. I think as companies recognize the value of that data, we're seeing, you know, the age of data right now, where companies are doing everything they can to collect data. But the companies that are getting ahead right now did that five years ago. And right now they're focused on how do we use that data? How do we build a data lake? You know, it's really identifying potential opportunities to use that data and then using that data, identifying if it had an improved effect or not, and then trying to use another piece of data. And as every system grows more and more interconnected, and that's kind of the default expectation. Now, when I talk to a lot of customers, they don't ask if they're going to need a middleware platform. They just ask why doesn't this already have a Salesforce connector? Because Salesforce is that standard bearer in the CRM space, you know, and kind of transiting that data across those systems is an expectation and not a nice to have. And I think that's a really key change from where we were five years ago. And I think five years from now, we're going to be looking back and saying, how do we take that data that we have transiting across systems and how do we make it actionable and how do we drive value out of it?

Chris Byers: Kyle, tell us what digital agility is? That sounds like a pretty kind of advanced terms. Talk to us about it.

Kyle Tuominen: So, Chris, I think it varies by company, but for me, digital agility means how fast can you operate with your current technology? And if you had no technology constraints, how fast could you operate? I think it's being agile in the software that you're picking right now, picking something that is not going to have a huge historical cost or have a massive capital investment that is going to make it difficult to switch if a better product comes along in ten years. It's being flexible in terms of the tools that you're using. And it's also saying if I set aside the technical limitations for what I currently have, what could I accomplish? Chris, if we think about the marketing example with Caesars' earlier digital agility for them was really how do we take all these different pieces of data and deliver it to these end users that are touching our customers. But when they originally started, it was how do I get better marketing data? And those are two very different questions. And the reason that they were successful was because they were able to pivot and say, OK, we've collected this data for marketing, but we can do way more than just use this for marketing. We can use this to impact the experience. We can use it to better tailor trip planning activities to our customers. And for me, it's about the ability to pivot quickly and choose tools and partners that can drive that for you. And then it's about, you know, looking at what's possible instead of what do I need.

Chris Byers: So some of us probably here digital transformation and we think, great, I can do that pretty quickly. But if we've been around processes, big software packages we've bought, we also know that can be a really daunting task and sound really, really big. Tell us the difference between that digital transformation and digital agility.

Kyle Tuominen: Sure. I think digital agility is more of a mindset. It's you know, when we first started this conversation, Chris, we were talking about corporate culture. And I think digital agility is really the mindset about, you know, approaching problems in a new way, approaching problems and saying what can we do? Right. To my earlier point, digital transformation is more about how do we do it. For me, the agility piece is looking at problems and saying, can we solve this and how can we solve it? And not from a I need to see X piece of data right now from a user story perspective, but from an end user perspective. I need my sales rep to know what I bought last year so they can recommend what I need to buy this year. And, you know, that's a much easier change to make than saying I have to go build a data lake and I need to have Snowflake to have, you know, really accurate reporting. And, you know, I need Tablo for visualization. You know, that's really the digital transformation piece, right? That's the overhauling of how you interpret data, how you use data, how you act on data. And the agility piece is really saying we need to make this change. And how can we get there? What are the small steps that we can take immediately? And how can we start that planning for that longer term transformation?

Read Next: How Digital Agility Empowers Employees and Boosts Productivity

Chris Byers: What are some things that help make a corporation be able to make that digital shift? I think it can take a lot of energy at times. So what do you think are some things that just make that all the easier?

Kyle Tuominen: Yeah, I mean, I think from a culture perspective, you know, it's imperative that you're listening to your teams. And I know a theme for me is certainly, our kind of entry level or frontline teams, they're really critical. And I think they get overlooked because, you know, their titles aren't great or our executive teams haven't worked those roles or haven't come up. But I think, you know, ultimately culture needs to be inclusive and not exclusive. And if you're driving a culture that says I only care about a director's opinion, you're going to struggle to transform because your team is not going to give you the feedback that you need. You're going to hear about what your directors want and not what your teams need. And there's a distinct difference between those two things. So I think for me, the culture shift required for digital transformation is really about inclusiveness. And I think a lot of companies are seeing the value of an inclusive working environment the last few years and certainly the last six months or so.

Chris Byers: So there is this inertia that causes us to kind of want to just keep doing what's in front of us. How do you get people motivated to say, hey, let's get going, let's start to look at this process and figure out how to do it better?

Kyle Tuominen: I don't find it challenging to motivate people in this way, to be honest with you. I think everybody wants to have a significant change in their organization or for their customers. I think most of the time we resign ourselves to the status quo because it's a resignation. It's easier. We don't have the energy to fight for it. But I think when presented with the opportunity to have an outsized impact, I exceedingly rarely see people that have objections or become detrimental to the team. It happens, right. But I don't think it's a really common issue that I encounter.

Chris Byers: What's your number one piece of advice for embracing simplicity kind of in business processes?

Kyle Tuominen: If you can't explain it to your seven year old, it's too complex for your team. And not because I think your team, anybody's team, has the intellectual capability of a seven year old, but because your team is focused on a hundred different priorities and if what you're asking them to do is not easy to fit into one of those priorities, it's going to take them away from those priorities. And whether that's customer or internal customer serving objectives or priorities. Ultimately, you're leaving somebody high and dry. So embracing the simplicity of let's treat our team members like adults. I think we talked earlier about digital transformation in the workplace and driving that culture. I think a really key piece of that is also expecting everybody to be adults and expecting everybody to have an ownership mentality similar to what we do at Coastal Cloud. You know, if we look at call centers that transformed, if you asked a call center manager, V.P. of service two years ago, you know, let's shift your team to remote, we'll save you the office space cost. Their number one objection would have been, oh, no, that's not possible. We can't let them work from home. We don't know that they're going to be taking as many calls. But in a week or two weeks or three days for some of our customers, they flipped to a remote based call center. And it was always possible. It was just there wasn't a will to not micromanage. You know, they wanted to keep it complex. And now that they're seeing by simplifying it and allowing people to work from home, they actually have better coverage on hours that they used to struggle on. You know, nine to five was a very regular call center schedule. Well, the problem with that is that a lot of your customers, that's also their work schedule and now your busy time from five to seven and five to seven is when you're lower staffed. But if you've got team members that have a flexible schedule and obviously with a call center or any type of service, you have to kind of stagger that. But, you know, ultimately, five to seven might work better for a lot of these parents that their kids are doing remote learning and now they can spend a large portion of their day helping their kids learn. You know, they feel valued from their employer. They feel like adults. And, you know, ultimately, driving a simpler business process allows them to make those decisions about what's best for them. And I use the call center in this example, but I think it applies to sales and marketing teams. I think it applies to accounting and operational teams. Ultimately, KISS is an acronym for a reason. Right. And if you're making it more complex simply to add steps or because you want to include somebody or make somebody feel valued, you know, you're adding complexity for really no reason.

Chris Byers: Let's talk productivity for a minute. Do you have a go to productivity tip that you share with your team, with customers or whomever?

Kyle Tuominen: For me, it's take less meetings than you need. So I think one thing I find, you know, as I lead a team is I want to be in these meetings to support my team. It's not about I want to be in the meeting to know exactly what's going on. Right. I trust my team to escalate to me when I need to know about something. But I want to be on to support them, to give them a kudo's on their killing it or, you know, step in when they're struggling and kind of help them through it. What I've realized in talking to a lot of them has been, if I'm not on the call, they really own it. And I think sometimes, you know, when we're looking at our colleagues and they're on a call with us and we say, I'm not the expert in this area, but this person is. So I'm just going to completely shut down. And once you shut down, especially in a remote meeting, it's really hard to make it back right to that engaged level that you need. And, you know, for me, what I've seen is by taking less meetings and kind of having my team take a lot more of them, I'm seeing them kind of step up in new ways. And it gives me the freedom and flexibility to go pursue new objectives or strategy. You know, that we've been trying to build and haven't had the time to.

More From Coastal Cloud: Partner Perspectives on COVID-19: JoAnne King & Jim Stalder of Coastal Cloud

Chris Byers: Well, one last question. As you think about moving forward, how will you be reimagining the way that you work?

Kyle Tuominen: It's about kind of having these types of conversations with my customers and understanding. I have a restoration company right now. They're contractors that restore firewater, smoke damage. And, you know, one of the things that I found really thrilling about working with them was when we originally talked to them, our first meeting was with their CFO, CIO, CTO and then four sales reps and an IT support person and the IT director. It was not only executives and directors, it was they recognized the value of that. And in talking to them about their goals, it was really clear that they were looking at a way to drive better productivity for their sales team. And they knew that for us to be able to make those recommendations, we needed to talk to that sales team. And so I think, you know, for me about how I'm reimagining, you know, how we go to market and how we support our customers in these transformations, it's really talking them through, what's the important pieces for them? What's the important pieces for them at an executive level? What's the important pieces for them at an end user level? And then what's the important pieces for them at a customer level? The amount of customers that I have that still don't have personas of who their regular buyers are is a lot higher percentage than you think. And if we can shift the business place in general, the workplace in general, to being focused on how do we drive the type of customer experience that our customers expect? I think that's really critical. I think COVID provides a really good, clean way to show that, you know, I talked earlier about healthcare diagnostics being done remotely. You think now about how many more people now are using the Target pickup service or the Wal-Mart pickup service, Postmates for grocery delivery? Those expectations aren't going to go away. Right. Customers are really liking some of the convenient aspects of what COVID has created. You know, we all live busy lives, and if I can reduce 20 minutes of walking around a store by punching eleven things into my phone and having it ready, and I drive up and I'm on a conference call and I open my trunk and they put the bags in and I drive away. That's not going to end. Those customers are still going to want that. And so I think for me, it's about, you know, not only looking at, you know, what are your objectives right now, but what have you done to adapt for this environment? And what do your customers like and not like about that? And let's continue to drive forward on the pieces that they do like. You know, I'm seeing a lot of requests for self-service communities because customers are growing more and more self-service dependent rather than, you know, they might not want to talk to a salesperson if they can quote it themselves and buy it themselves. And guess what? That's at a higher margin for this company. That's a win all the way around. And so for me, I think it's, you know, identify what you're doing to transform, identify what your competitors are doing to transform, and then how can you leverage those same ideas or features or functionality to drive forward and really either differentiate yourself from your competitors or at least, you know, get on par with them.

Chris Byers: That was Kyle Tuominen with Coastal Cloud, and I hope what you learned from him today were a couple of really interesting things I heard from this conversation. First, if you want outsized results, which I think every single one of us in business does, digital transformation is a must. The other one was that we really need to talk to our frontline team members, our customers. That's where we're really going to learn what we need to learn to change, to transform and make their lives easier and make our lives easier. And as you're kind of digging into processes, being able to explain things in a very simple way, as he said, if you can explain it to your seven year old, I think life's gonna be good. And you know, the way I think about that, too, and talk to people is if you can't memorize something into a pretty small sentence or phrase, you're not gonna be able to repeat it over and over and over again, which is what we need to do to really convince people, get people excited about the change that we're making.

EPISODE TRANSCRIPT

Chris Byers: Welcome to the Ripple Effect. I am Chris Byers of Formstack. And today, as a part of our bonus episodes, we are featuring Kyle Tuominen. He is the director of the West at Coastal Cloud. And we're going to discuss what digital transformation looks like today in a world that's rapidly changing. While sharing how impactful that transformation can be on company culture. What can you learn from Kyle? Let's find out.

Well, before we go deeper into this topic and kind of jump into the conversation, Kyle can you tell us your elevator pitch of what Coastal Cloud is and what your role encompasses?

Kyle Tuominen: So Coastal Cloud is a platinum Salesforce partner, and we deliver success to our customers on the Salesforce platform. Our role is to go beyond simply building Salesforce and really helping provide a cohesive strategy for our customers long term.

Chris Byers: It's safe to say that 2020, for you and for everybody listening, has forced each of us to kind of rethink our businesses, how we work, how we operate. I'm curious, when you hear the words reimagine work, what comes to mind?

Kyle Tuominen: I think for a lot of companies operating in the age of COVID, reimagining work is how can I keep my team as productive as they were in the office? And for me at least, I think that might be the wrong approach, because I think it's really about how do you drive the same culture to your earlier point about digital transformation affecting that culture? You need to have a culture that drives change and really absorbs and adopts change willingly. Change resistant organizations struggle when there's large transformational issues, like a pandemic. And I think when a lot of companies are looking at reimagining the workplace, it's not reimagining what corporate culture or reimagining how their customers experience their brand or how their employees drive sales or success, whatever that means for that company. You know, I think oftentimes they're focusing a lot more tactically. How do I get soft tones to everybody at their houses? How do I make sure that my call center agents can take these calls from home? What if it has HIPAA information or payment information? And I think it's much more tactical in nature. And in reality, we're missing an opportunity to really take this as a chance to kind of reform your company from the ground up. But without having to start a kind of step one.

Chris Byers: So I love your comment about cultural values. They really should be driving our decisions right now. Funny enough, we actually went remote back in 2012. And yet all along the way, when people would tend to ask questions like, would we ever go back to the office? Would we ever be office only? My answer was kind of always, you know, the cultural value that drove us was what we called be agile and iterate. And so for us, that just happened to be we were going to work remotely because we felt like it was the best way for us to work as a company. And if that ever changed, yeah, we would change it. It's about agility. It's about iteration in our case. And so I love that comment that we should all be thinking about our cultural values first. And none of us have a cultural value of we're going to be in an office. I'm curious, how has that changed for you? How did life look before? How have you flexed to kind of embrace today?

Kyle Tuominen: I think the biggest change for me is I used to be a road warrior. I traveled 50 weeks a year for two and a half years. And that stopped when I came to the Coastal Cloud period. But I was still maintaining some level of travel. I think the interesting thing about Coastal Cloud and our kind of corporate culture is we kind of leave it up to our team members to decide. We expect everybody in our company to have an ownership mentality. And, you know, we have an office in Denver. And it was actually really important for me that we had an office in Denver, because personally, as much as I love working from home, I'm more productive in an office environment because I need a little bit of social stimulus. And sitting in the same house all day, can get a little stale even before the pandemic, but we never require people to come into the office. We had an office available if people wanted to collaborate, if they had a reason to collaborate, you know, whether that's a customer project or a challenging technical solution, people could choose to come into the office because they got value out of it. And really, my job as a leader is to drive that value, it's to create enough value of coming into the office that they want to or that they make that decision that working from home is more effective and productive. And quite frankly, I think Coastal Cloud, at least in our in our West Coast team, is probably 50/50 on those that enjoy coming into the office and see the value and those that prefer working from home, but we're able to kind of accommodate both types of team members because our corporate culture is designed around, you know, it's really your responsibility to be effective. And, you know, whatever you need to do that, we're going to support you.

Chris Byers: So, you know, one of the things you've described is that, you know, in a lot of ways, your team really didn't even need to change that much to operate in this new world. It's already how you are operating. So a lot of that has stayed the same. Actually, for the person who is maybe at home far more than they want, like you described and not getting some of that relational time, how are you helping people overcome that mental need and desire to be around people?

Kyle Tuominen: I think it takes different forms for different people. You know, for some people it's just about fresh air. And, you know, luckily living in Colorado, they can go hiking or go mountain climbing or, you know, what have you. You know, for some people, it is really that relational piece. For me, that is what it is. And so, you know, we do a lot of, you know, kind of stand ups with our video cameras on and bring our dogs into the view of the camera and everybody says hi, happy hours. I think one of the great things about this has been we've learned a lot about our colleagues and their actual lives. We spent a lot of time learning about their skills in the workplace and being in consulting kind of their skills that they can bring to a team or project or a customer. With everybody's real life now also being that work life, you know, whether that's kids or animals or parents or family in general, there's more people in the household. There's more hustle and bustle than they're accustomed to. Right. And I've seen our teams be incredibly accepting of kids crying in the background. And I was on a video call probably two weeks ago, and one of my customers was getting his face painted by his daughter while we were doing a Zoom call. And I just think, you know, stories like that are really important to continue to drive those relationships, even if you're not in person, you know, taking moments like that and appreciating kind of the absurdity of that. That picture has been really beneficial for me.

Related: Partner Interview Series: Kyle Tuominen of Coastal Cloud

Chris Byers: You know, one of the things you're talking about is that all of us are, even if we knew how to work remotely beforehand or really embracing it in a bigger way and and finding even more comfort, maybe if we worked at home beforehand, we hid our family, we hid our you know, that we are at our home. We try to make that a non issue. And yet now it's actually acceptable to let people know. Oh, yeah. You're in your house, right? I understand the dog's going to bark or run through the back or whatever, but the same thing is changing in businesses. You know, I had a conversation with somebody last last week or two weeks ago where she works for the state that I live in, which is Oklahoma. And she said something about they've closed down the offices and they've figured out we can work remotely. And I'm like, oh, my gosh, the state chose to work remotely. Life truly did just change. And so I'm curious, as you think about digital transformation and the importance of that, or maybe let's start with some definitions, what would you say the differences between digitization and digital transformation?

Kyle Tuominen: It does. So digitization is really the process of getting data into electronic forms. So it's kind of the transition from paper to digital and digital transformation is saying what can we do with this information? What are our customers looking for? What are our team members looking for? How can we leverage this information and the new technology that's available to us to drive a better customer experience? But it's also about thinking outside the box. You know, when the first personal computers came on the market, there was not a large market for them. It was expected to be a hobbyists and enthusiasts type purchase, not an every home, every person has to have one of these. And you know, the way that, quite frankly, Steve Jobs and Windows and Bill Gates and the Bomber drove the purchase and a need for those personal computers was, they thought outside the box. And you know, I think we're seeing that type of change in areas like healthcare. You know, you talked about how the state could go work from home. And that's a pretty transformational idea, certainly. But imagine health workers working from home. You know, one really interesting trend I've seen in healthcare around COVID, has been diagnostic appointments or tests are now being done in a person's home rather than done in a hospital. You know, obviously, to reduce the risk of transmission in a healthcare setting. But that took somebody looking at the problem of how do I get to give this test if they can't come in? And traditionally, the answer to that has always been, oh, they can't drive, will have a car service, pick them up. Right. Most major cities have some type of you know, if you're elderly or disabled, you know, we'll provide a service to pick you up and drop you off at your doctor's appointment. And so the thinking has always been, well, the problem is not that I'm doing the test in this location. The problem is that this person can't get to this location. And a pandemic really forced people and administrators and planners to think, OK, well, now it is. Now the location of the test is the problem. You know, and making those mobile and remote is not an easy feat. But I think it's an example of, you know, a specific vertical saying we have to pivot and, you know, how can we do that in a digital age? What does technology enable us to do if we think differently about this problem?

Chris Byers: And you've kind of introduced a mindset shift that we all need to be thinking about to really embrace digital transformation. So what would you suggest to companies who are beginning to consider this and think about how do I really embrace digital transformation in the way we're doing things?

Kyle Tuominen: Talk to the front line team. I think the digital transformation projects that I see that are most effective are ones driven by end users or team members downstream. Those people that are talking or working with our customers, because ultimately they're the ones hearing what a customer wants or needs or what would be an incredible value proposition for that customer. And, you know, I think as companies look at this as an opportunity to transform how they do business, you know, if you're transforming how somebody works from a corner office into working in a large library home study, it's a very different environment than maybe one of your team members that spends eight hours a day on calls and how their child is in remote learning. And, you know, they're struggling with audio issues. And, you know, how you approach those two problems is very different. You know, I think that the executive level sets the strategic priorities of the organization. And I don't think that changes based on that, that end user feedback or customer feedback, whether that's a guest or an employee. But I do think that it pivots those objectives and maybe reprioritizes them at times. And, you know, I think that's really the key piece at the outset of kind of embarking on this type of journey is making the right plan. And rather than plan, maybe, maybe a framework is a better wording for that, because it's also about the flexibility that you can show as you undergo the journey. It's not a two week journey. It's not a two month journey. It's really not even a two year journey. It's a five to 10 year journey. And what the technology scene will look like in five years. None of us, I mean, we can only guess. Right. And if you build a plan that the executive team has defined and the priorities were defined by the executive team or their delegates, and you're planning out for 10 years down the road of a technology roadmap, 10 years from now you will be buying some really outdated technology. And so it's more important to kind of take that feedback and build a framework of what do I want to accomplish rather than what tool am I going to use. And then once you kind of know that problem statement, you can pivot it back to. Now, how do we solve it? How do we think outside the box to solve it? If the current solutions that we're looking at just don't don't solve it in a way that we or our customers need.

You need to have a culture that drives change and really absorbs and adopts change willingly. It’s change-resistant organizations that struggle when there's large transformational issues, like a pandemic.

Chris Byers: Yeah, I think that really initial start of the framework of what are the right paths. And because there are multiple paths, we need to kind of cover ground and a few different planes. And then let's get started. And this, to your point, is going to last a long time. We need to get a few things in motion and then we need to step back and say, how did this go? And let's iterate on that. And we can kind of move from there is great thinking. What's gotten you so passionate about digital transformation? How do you get interested in this topic?

Kyle Tuominen: To be honest with you, it came from a lot of bad customer experiences. I started working retail and customer facing jobs when I was fifteen and I worked full time and went to night college, you know, in customer facing roles and kind of retail managerial roles. And I know, you know how challenging it can be to provide an exceptional level of customer service. But I also know the value of what happens when you do. And the more and more I started working with companies and seeing how little focus there is on that customer experience, the more I've wanted to change it. And, you know, seeing companies look at their customers and react, recognizing that the revenue and the profit margin goes up if you're driving a better customer experience, even at a higher cost. And I think one of the unique things has been that a lot of companies have found that these types of transformations have really reduced their costs and increased their levels of service. For me, seeing those types of changes happen are really impactful. But I think more important for me personally is the culture shift that comes with it. It's the refocusing on the customer. If you're taking the time to say this is critical for me, that we do this right for our customer, that our customer feels taken care of or safe or excited or energized or entertained or whatever your goal is for that customer. It's really important that you get to see that happen.

Chris Byers: See, you actually mention some of the experience that maybe a customer receives via a digital transformation. But what you're speaking to is change. And so along the way, you get resistance, I think often to change. And yet you may have the title, The Greatest Idea in the World, but people like to do things sometimes how they do them. How do you overcome that and how do you help them process through that to embrace that change?

Kyle Tuominen: I think the biggest thing is empathy. And, you know, the difference between empathy and sympathy is that I think the definitions vary by the person. But for me, empathy is not necessarily saying I agree with you, but it is saying I understand you. I think I've been lucky in my life. I've moved over 20 times and I've lived in virtually every major part of the country. And that gives me the ability to kind of empathize with a variety of different mindsets. And that's something that I've been lucky to have. But I think that empathy base is really critical to driving change through resistance or, you know, driving adoption and real consumption of transformational change. You know, I had an engagement where we were talking with a customer about adoption metrics and rather than talking about logins and, you know, a wall of shame of people that haven't logged in in 60 days, or haven't logged any activity in two weeks. You know, we talked about what I call vibrancy, which is the idea of measuring what is actually important. What are you actually trying to drive with this project or with this tool or with this feature? And so a lot of companies look at things like cases created issues in the system, and they say that's a negative for me. I actually look at that as a positive for two reasons. One, it means people are in the system because for them to create cases, they have to be in the system. And then, two, it's that they care enough to create the case. You know, it's a lot easier for a team member to log in, do their work, hate 80 percent of the software that they're using, but they don't have a feedback mechanism or they don't feel valued or they don't feel heard. They don't feel that empathy from their company. And, you know, ultimately, for me, it's about driving what is the goal of this? You know, how do we get people enthusiastic about it? And I find that the biggest way to do that is just listen and have empathy, you know, hear what their concerns are and understand that for me, right. When I'm working with an executive team and I define strategic objectives for a project, when I go talk to an end user that's struggling with the four extra clicks that it added to something that they do on a daily basis. The strategic priorities don't really matter at that point. You know, and it's important for me to put that aside and say, OK, I understand these priorities and we need to make sure that we're not violating any of them by making these changes. But we need to make this change, right. We can't add four clicks to something that somebody is doing, you know, a thousand times a day. And I think, you know, those two pieces are what drives through kind of that barrier or resistance to change.

Chris Byers: Well, I know you've had some really successful stories of digital transformation. Can you talk to us about one of those and tell us kind of what happened and how you approached it and the successes that it created?

Kyle Tuominen: So I worked with a healthcare company and it was a large multi-national healthcare company. They acquired a few new firms and they were kind of entering a medical device business for the first time. And they were really struggling with, you know, this was a company that for one hundred years had sold disposables and hospital equipment and computers and software, but had never really entered kind of the medical device space. Right. In body medical devices, you know, stents and things like that. And they were talking about, you know, selling into their customers. And when they're selling things like MRI coils or, you know, hardware, the conversations happen at the administrator level. And, you know, they were talking about, you know, convincing, you know, having an LMS or, you know, a teaching type platform to drive those conversations with administrators, to teach administrators about, you know, the functionality of their products and the differentiation of their products. And we had a workshop maybe about two months into this process, and we brought in a variety of frontline salespeople. We brought in manufacturing workers and shipping workers, shipping dock workers. And we asked them, what's the most important thing in your day to day? And the shipping dock person said, I need to know the secretary or front desk receptionist's name of the person that we're shipping to. And we were all a little confused. We were like, look, I mean, that seems important. But once you ship it, you're good, right? And he said, no, that person oftentimes will call me a follow up about, you know, X, Y or Z or it's coming in four boxes when they were expecting two. When he said building a relationship with those people because these are repetitive purchases is really critical for the success of the brand and the product and the business. And so instead of approaching this new space for them, as have we always done business, we took that and we said we really need to understand what the relationships are between our customers and this brand. Right. In these products, because it is so different from what this company has been used to. And by talking to the customers themselves, we understood that the most important thing for them was not price, it was not even necessarily the relationship, although the relationships that these sales reps had with these frontline employees from the customer, what really mattered was the effectiveness of the tool. And at the end of the day, the only thing the doctor cared about was, is this better for my patient than your competitors product? And by having those conversations and introducing a new way of thinking about, you know, focusing on those kind of frontline employees rather than the executive team or the administrators, we are able to identify a completely new opportunity for us and really drive sales through differentiation of the safety of the product. We were able to narrow the market and say, you know, this product works better in X, Y, and Z ways and in X, Y, and Z circumstances. And that's when you should use this product. You know, we saw a really significant lift in sales, and that's all created by kind of the conversations of a new software platform. And how do they sell this new software platform? And it didn't just change their software, it changed how they actually sell to their customers. So for me, that's you know, that's a really impactful story.

Learn More: What is Digital Agility?

Chris Byers: I think that is a wonderful story. One of the things you keep coming back to is this idea of talking to the front line. Ask the people who do the work for feedback and how they operate. I think that's such a powerful asset. We all avoid that a lot because it sounds hard or we don't think we're gonna get the information we're looking for. And so I love that you're starting there. These are complicated processes. They often cover lots of products, tech stacks, et cetera. How can people kind of start to tie these things together and become more efficient?

Kyle Tuominen: I want to go back to a point that you just made earlier. I'll try to weave it into this answer. I think it's really critical to talk to those frontline team members because they're the ones interacting with the customers and they can have a far greater outsized impact than any piece of software can in terms of how that customer perceives the brand. The tone of their body language, the type of outreach, the consistency of outreach, the consistency of branding, all of those things are perpetuated by that employee or by that team member. And for me, driving change within those teams is critical because they are the face of the brand and the impact that they can have on those customers. Chris, I think the importance of those frontline employees that you talked about, you know, is really driven in a very similar vein to the need for data. You know, one of the most impactful digital transformations was I worked with Caesars Entertainment, the casino giant and hospitality giant. And the biggest thing that their end marketers were asking for was not I want to be able to drive really crazy offers or I want to reduce how many approvals I need to get on a marketing campaign. They just wanted more data about their customers. They wanted to be able to act on that data and to be able to do that, we had to take a tech stack, that to your point, was incredibly fragmented and deprecated in a lot of cases. And we needed to consolidate and condense the data so that it was usable by all these different teams and pieces of software. But at the end of the day, the end ask from the end users was, I want more data so that I can better market to our customers so that I better understand what they want out of this experience at one of our properties. I think as companies recognize the value of that data, we're seeing, you know, the age of data right now, where companies are doing everything they can to collect data. But the companies that are getting ahead right now did that five years ago. And right now they're focused on how do we use that data? How do we build a data lake? You know, it's really identifying potential opportunities to use that data and then using that data, identifying if it had an improved effect or not, and then trying to use another piece of data. And as every system grows more and more interconnected, and that's kind of the default expectation. Now, when I talk to a lot of customers, they don't ask if they're going to need a middleware platform. They just ask why doesn't this already have a Salesforce connector? Because Salesforce is that standard bearer in the CRM space, you know, and kind of transiting that data across those systems is an expectation and not a nice to have. And I think that's a really key change from where we were five years ago. And I think five years from now, we're going to be looking back and saying, how do we take that data that we have transiting across systems and how do we make it actionable and how do we drive value out of it?

Chris Byers: Kyle, tell us what digital agility is? That sounds like a pretty kind of advanced terms. Talk to us about it.

Kyle Tuominen: So, Chris, I think it varies by company, but for me, digital agility means how fast can you operate with your current technology? And if you had no technology constraints, how fast could you operate? I think it's being agile in the software that you're picking right now, picking something that is not going to have a huge historical cost or have a massive capital investment that is going to make it difficult to switch if a better product comes along in ten years. It's being flexible in terms of the tools that you're using. And it's also saying if I set aside the technical limitations for what I currently have, what could I accomplish? Chris, if we think about the marketing example with Caesars' earlier digital agility for them was really how do we take all these different pieces of data and deliver it to these end users that are touching our customers. But when they originally started, it was how do I get better marketing data? And those are two very different questions. And the reason that they were successful was because they were able to pivot and say, OK, we've collected this data for marketing, but we can do way more than just use this for marketing. We can use this to impact the experience. We can use it to better tailor trip planning activities to our customers. And for me, it's about the ability to pivot quickly and choose tools and partners that can drive that for you. And then it's about, you know, looking at what's possible instead of what do I need.

Chris Byers: So some of us probably here digital transformation and we think, great, I can do that pretty quickly. But if we've been around processes, big software packages we've bought, we also know that can be a really daunting task and sound really, really big. Tell us the difference between that digital transformation and digital agility.

Kyle Tuominen: Sure. I think digital agility is more of a mindset. It's you know, when we first started this conversation, Chris, we were talking about corporate culture. And I think digital agility is really the mindset about, you know, approaching problems in a new way, approaching problems and saying what can we do? Right. To my earlier point, digital transformation is more about how do we do it. For me, the agility piece is looking at problems and saying, can we solve this and how can we solve it? And not from a I need to see X piece of data right now from a user story perspective, but from an end user perspective. I need my sales rep to know what I bought last year so they can recommend what I need to buy this year. And, you know, that's a much easier change to make than saying I have to go build a data lake and I need to have Snowflake to have, you know, really accurate reporting. And, you know, I need Tablo for visualization. You know, that's really the digital transformation piece, right? That's the overhauling of how you interpret data, how you use data, how you act on data. And the agility piece is really saying we need to make this change. And how can we get there? What are the small steps that we can take immediately? And how can we start that planning for that longer term transformation?

Read Next: How Digital Agility Empowers Employees and Boosts Productivity

Chris Byers: What are some things that help make a corporation be able to make that digital shift? I think it can take a lot of energy at times. So what do you think are some things that just make that all the easier?

Kyle Tuominen: Yeah, I mean, I think from a culture perspective, you know, it's imperative that you're listening to your teams. And I know a theme for me is certainly, our kind of entry level or frontline teams, they're really critical. And I think they get overlooked because, you know, their titles aren't great or our executive teams haven't worked those roles or haven't come up. But I think, you know, ultimately culture needs to be inclusive and not exclusive. And if you're driving a culture that says I only care about a director's opinion, you're going to struggle to transform because your team is not going to give you the feedback that you need. You're going to hear about what your directors want and not what your teams need. And there's a distinct difference between those two things. So I think for me, the culture shift required for digital transformation is really about inclusiveness. And I think a lot of companies are seeing the value of an inclusive working environment the last few years and certainly the last six months or so.

Chris Byers: So there is this inertia that causes us to kind of want to just keep doing what's in front of us. How do you get people motivated to say, hey, let's get going, let's start to look at this process and figure out how to do it better?

Kyle Tuominen: I don't find it challenging to motivate people in this way, to be honest with you. I think everybody wants to have a significant change in their organization or for their customers. I think most of the time we resign ourselves to the status quo because it's a resignation. It's easier. We don't have the energy to fight for it. But I think when presented with the opportunity to have an outsized impact, I exceedingly rarely see people that have objections or become detrimental to the team. It happens, right. But I don't think it's a really common issue that I encounter.

Chris Byers: What's your number one piece of advice for embracing simplicity kind of in business processes?

Kyle Tuominen: If you can't explain it to your seven year old, it's too complex for your team. And not because I think your team, anybody's team, has the intellectual capability of a seven year old, but because your team is focused on a hundred different priorities and if what you're asking them to do is not easy to fit into one of those priorities, it's going to take them away from those priorities. And whether that's customer or internal customer serving objectives or priorities. Ultimately, you're leaving somebody high and dry. So embracing the simplicity of let's treat our team members like adults. I think we talked earlier about digital transformation in the workplace and driving that culture. I think a really key piece of that is also expecting everybody to be adults and expecting everybody to have an ownership mentality similar to what we do at Coastal Cloud. You know, if we look at call centers that transformed, if you asked a call center manager, V.P. of service two years ago, you know, let's shift your team to remote, we'll save you the office space cost. Their number one objection would have been, oh, no, that's not possible. We can't let them work from home. We don't know that they're going to be taking as many calls. But in a week or two weeks or three days for some of our customers, they flipped to a remote based call center. And it was always possible. It was just there wasn't a will to not micromanage. You know, they wanted to keep it complex. And now that they're seeing by simplifying it and allowing people to work from home, they actually have better coverage on hours that they used to struggle on. You know, nine to five was a very regular call center schedule. Well, the problem with that is that a lot of your customers, that's also their work schedule and now your busy time from five to seven and five to seven is when you're lower staffed. But if you've got team members that have a flexible schedule and obviously with a call center or any type of service, you have to kind of stagger that. But, you know, ultimately, five to seven might work better for a lot of these parents that their kids are doing remote learning and now they can spend a large portion of their day helping their kids learn. You know, they feel valued from their employer. They feel like adults. And, you know, ultimately, driving a simpler business process allows them to make those decisions about what's best for them. And I use the call center in this example, but I think it applies to sales and marketing teams. I think it applies to accounting and operational teams. Ultimately, KISS is an acronym for a reason. Right. And if you're making it more complex simply to add steps or because you want to include somebody or make somebody feel valued, you know, you're adding complexity for really no reason.

Chris Byers: Let's talk productivity for a minute. Do you have a go to productivity tip that you share with your team, with customers or whomever?

Kyle Tuominen: For me, it's take less meetings than you need. So I think one thing I find, you know, as I lead a team is I want to be in these meetings to support my team. It's not about I want to be in the meeting to know exactly what's going on. Right. I trust my team to escalate to me when I need to know about something. But I want to be on to support them, to give them a kudo's on their killing it or, you know, step in when they're struggling and kind of help them through it. What I've realized in talking to a lot of them has been, if I'm not on the call, they really own it. And I think sometimes, you know, when we're looking at our colleagues and they're on a call with us and we say, I'm not the expert in this area, but this person is. So I'm just going to completely shut down. And once you shut down, especially in a remote meeting, it's really hard to make it back right to that engaged level that you need. And, you know, for me, what I've seen is by taking less meetings and kind of having my team take a lot more of them, I'm seeing them kind of step up in new ways. And it gives me the freedom and flexibility to go pursue new objectives or strategy. You know, that we've been trying to build and haven't had the time to.

More From Coastal Cloud: Partner Perspectives on COVID-19: JoAnne King & Jim Stalder of Coastal Cloud

Chris Byers: Well, one last question. As you think about moving forward, how will you be reimagining the way that you work?

Kyle Tuominen: It's about kind of having these types of conversations with my customers and understanding. I have a restoration company right now. They're contractors that restore firewater, smoke damage. And, you know, one of the things that I found really thrilling about working with them was when we originally talked to them, our first meeting was with their CFO, CIO, CTO and then four sales reps and an IT support person and the IT director. It was not only executives and directors, it was they recognized the value of that. And in talking to them about their goals, it was really clear that they were looking at a way to drive better productivity for their sales team. And they knew that for us to be able to make those recommendations, we needed to talk to that sales team. And so I think, you know, for me about how I'm reimagining, you know, how we go to market and how we support our customers in these transformations, it's really talking them through, what's the important pieces for them? What's the important pieces for them at an executive level? What's the important pieces for them at an end user level? And then what's the important pieces for them at a customer level? The amount of customers that I have that still don't have personas of who their regular buyers are is a lot higher percentage than you think. And if we can shift the business place in general, the workplace in general, to being focused on how do we drive the type of customer experience that our customers expect? I think that's really critical. I think COVID provides a really good, clean way to show that, you know, I talked earlier about healthcare diagnostics being done remotely. You think now about how many more people now are using the Target pickup service or the Wal-Mart pickup service, Postmates for grocery delivery? Those expectations aren't going to go away. Right. Customers are really liking some of the convenient aspects of what COVID has created. You know, we all live busy lives, and if I can reduce 20 minutes of walking around a store by punching eleven things into my phone and having it ready, and I drive up and I'm on a conference call and I open my trunk and they put the bags in and I drive away. That's not going to end. Those customers are still going to want that. And so I think for me, it's about, you know, not only looking at, you know, what are your objectives right now, but what have you done to adapt for this environment? And what do your customers like and not like about that? And let's continue to drive forward on the pieces that they do like. You know, I'm seeing a lot of requests for self-service communities because customers are growing more and more self-service dependent rather than, you know, they might not want to talk to a salesperson if they can quote it themselves and buy it themselves. And guess what? That's at a higher margin for this company. That's a win all the way around. And so for me, I think it's, you know, identify what you're doing to transform, identify what your competitors are doing to transform, and then how can you leverage those same ideas or features or functionality to drive forward and really either differentiate yourself from your competitors or at least, you know, get on par with them.

Chris Byers: That was Kyle Tuominen with Coastal Cloud, and I hope what you learned from him today were a couple of really interesting things I heard from this conversation. First, if you want outsized results, which I think every single one of us in business does, digital transformation is a must. The other one was that we really need to talk to our frontline team members, our customers. That's where we're really going to learn what we need to learn to change, to transform and make their lives easier and make our lives easier. And as you're kind of digging into processes, being able to explain things in a very simple way, as he said, if you can explain it to your seven year old, I think life's gonna be good. And you know, the way I think about that, too, and talk to people is if you can't memorize something into a pretty small sentence or phrase, you're not gonna be able to repeat it over and over and over again, which is what we need to do to really convince people, get people excited about the change that we're making.

EPISODE TRANSCRIPT

Chris Byers: Welcome to the Ripple Effect. I am Chris Byers of Formstack. And today, as a part of our bonus episodes, we are featuring Kyle Tuominen. He is the director of the West at Coastal Cloud. And we're going to discuss what digital transformation looks like today in a world that's rapidly changing. While sharing how impactful that transformation can be on company culture. What can you learn from Kyle? Let's find out.

Well, before we go deeper into this topic and kind of jump into the conversation, Kyle can you tell us your elevator pitch of what Coastal Cloud is and what your role encompasses?

Kyle Tuominen: So Coastal Cloud is a platinum Salesforce partner, and we deliver success to our customers on the Salesforce platform. Our role is to go beyond simply building Salesforce and really helping provide a cohesive strategy for our customers long term.

Chris Byers: It's safe to say that 2020, for you and for everybody listening, has forced each of us to kind of rethink our businesses, how we work, how we operate. I'm curious, when you hear the words reimagine work, what comes to mind?

Kyle Tuominen: I think for a lot of companies operating in the age of COVID, reimagining work is how can I keep my team as productive as they were in the office? And for me at least, I think that might be the wrong approach, because I think it's really about how do you drive the same culture to your earlier point about digital transformation affecting that culture? You need to have a culture that drives change and really absorbs and adopts change willingly. Change resistant organizations struggle when there's large transformational issues, like a pandemic. And I think when a lot of companies are looking at reimagining the workplace, it's not reimagining what corporate culture or reimagining how their customers experience their brand or how their employees drive sales or success, whatever that means for that company. You know, I think oftentimes they're focusing a lot more tactically. How do I get soft tones to everybody at their houses? How do I make sure that my call center agents can take these calls from home? What if it has HIPAA information or payment information? And I think it's much more tactical in nature. And in reality, we're missing an opportunity to really take this as a chance to kind of reform your company from the ground up. But without having to start a kind of step one.

Chris Byers: So I love your comment about cultural values. They really should be driving our decisions right now. Funny enough, we actually went remote back in 2012. And yet all along the way, when people would tend to ask questions like, would we ever go back to the office? Would we ever be office only? My answer was kind of always, you know, the cultural value that drove us was what we called be agile and iterate. And so for us, that just happened to be we were going to work remotely because we felt like it was the best way for us to work as a company. And if that ever changed, yeah, we would change it. It's about agility. It's about iteration in our case. And so I love that comment that we should all be thinking about our cultural values first. And none of us have a cultural value of we're going to be in an office. I'm curious, how has that changed for you? How did life look before? How have you flexed to kind of embrace today?

Kyle Tuominen: I think the biggest change for me is I used to be a road warrior. I traveled 50 weeks a year for two and a half years. And that stopped when I came to the Coastal Cloud period. But I was still maintaining some level of travel. I think the interesting thing about Coastal Cloud and our kind of corporate culture is we kind of leave it up to our team members to decide. We expect everybody in our company to have an ownership mentality. And, you know, we have an office in Denver. And it was actually really important for me that we had an office in Denver, because personally, as much as I love working from home, I'm more productive in an office environment because I need a little bit of social stimulus. And sitting in the same house all day, can get a little stale even before the pandemic, but we never require people to come into the office. We had an office available if people wanted to collaborate, if they had a reason to collaborate, you know, whether that's a customer project or a challenging technical solution, people could choose to come into the office because they got value out of it. And really, my job as a leader is to drive that value, it's to create enough value of coming into the office that they want to or that they make that decision that working from home is more effective and productive. And quite frankly, I think Coastal Cloud, at least in our in our West Coast team, is probably 50/50 on those that enjoy coming into the office and see the value and those that prefer working from home, but we're able to kind of accommodate both types of team members because our corporate culture is designed around, you know, it's really your responsibility to be effective. And, you know, whatever you need to do that, we're going to support you.

Chris Byers: So, you know, one of the things you've described is that, you know, in a lot of ways, your team really didn't even need to change that much to operate in this new world. It's already how you are operating. So a lot of that has stayed the same. Actually, for the person who is maybe at home far more than they want, like you described and not getting some of that relational time, how are you helping people overcome that mental need and desire to be around people?

Kyle Tuominen: I think it takes different forms for different people. You know, for some people it's just about fresh air. And, you know, luckily living in Colorado, they can go hiking or go mountain climbing or, you know, what have you. You know, for some people, it is really that relational piece. For me, that is what it is. And so, you know, we do a lot of, you know, kind of stand ups with our video cameras on and bring our dogs into the view of the camera and everybody says hi, happy hours. I think one of the great things about this has been we've learned a lot about our colleagues and their actual lives. We spent a lot of time learning about their skills in the workplace and being in consulting kind of their skills that they can bring to a team or project or a customer. With everybody's real life now also being that work life, you know, whether that's kids or animals or parents or family in general, there's more people in the household. There's more hustle and bustle than they're accustomed to. Right. And I've seen our teams be incredibly accepting of kids crying in the background. And I was on a video call probably two weeks ago, and one of my customers was getting his face painted by his daughter while we were doing a Zoom call. And I just think, you know, stories like that are really important to continue to drive those relationships, even if you're not in person, you know, taking moments like that and appreciating kind of the absurdity of that. That picture has been really beneficial for me.

Related: Partner Interview Series: Kyle Tuominen of Coastal Cloud

Chris Byers: You know, one of the things you're talking about is that all of us are, even if we knew how to work remotely beforehand or really embracing it in a bigger way and and finding even more comfort, maybe if we worked at home beforehand, we hid our family, we hid our you know, that we are at our home. We try to make that a non issue. And yet now it's actually acceptable to let people know. Oh, yeah. You're in your house, right? I understand the dog's going to bark or run through the back or whatever, but the same thing is changing in businesses. You know, I had a conversation with somebody last last week or two weeks ago where she works for the state that I live in, which is Oklahoma. And she said something about they've closed down the offices and they've figured out we can work remotely. And I'm like, oh, my gosh, the state chose to work remotely. Life truly did just change. And so I'm curious, as you think about digital transformation and the importance of that, or maybe let's start with some definitions, what would you say the differences between digitization and digital transformation?

Kyle Tuominen: It does. So digitization is really the process of getting data into electronic forms. So it's kind of the transition from paper to digital and digital transformation is saying what can we do with this information? What are our customers looking for? What are our team members looking for? How can we leverage this information and the new technology that's available to us to drive a better customer experience? But it's also about thinking outside the box. You know, when the first personal computers came on the market, there was not a large market for them. It was expected to be a hobbyists and enthusiasts type purchase, not an every home, every person has to have one of these. And you know, the way that, quite frankly, Steve Jobs and Windows and Bill Gates and the Bomber drove the purchase and a need for those personal computers was, they thought outside the box. And you know, I think we're seeing that type of change in areas like healthcare. You know, you talked about how the state could go work from home. And that's a pretty transformational idea, certainly. But imagine health workers working from home. You know, one really interesting trend I've seen in healthcare around COVID, has been diagnostic appointments or tests are now being done in a person's home rather than done in a hospital. You know, obviously, to reduce the risk of transmission in a healthcare setting. But that took somebody looking at the problem of how do I get to give this test if they can't come in? And traditionally, the answer to that has always been, oh, they can't drive, will have a car service, pick them up. Right. Most major cities have some type of you know, if you're elderly or disabled, you know, we'll provide a service to pick you up and drop you off at your doctor's appointment. And so the thinking has always been, well, the problem is not that I'm doing the test in this location. The problem is that this person can't get to this location. And a pandemic really forced people and administrators and planners to think, OK, well, now it is. Now the location of the test is the problem. You know, and making those mobile and remote is not an easy feat. But I think it's an example of, you know, a specific vertical saying we have to pivot and, you know, how can we do that in a digital age? What does technology enable us to do if we think differently about this problem?

Chris Byers: And you've kind of introduced a mindset shift that we all need to be thinking about to really embrace digital transformation. So what would you suggest to companies who are beginning to consider this and think about how do I really embrace digital transformation in the way we're doing things?

Kyle Tuominen: Talk to the front line team. I think the digital transformation projects that I see that are most effective are ones driven by end users or team members downstream. Those people that are talking or working with our customers, because ultimately they're the ones hearing what a customer wants or needs or what would be an incredible value proposition for that customer. And, you know, I think as companies look at this as an opportunity to transform how they do business, you know, if you're transforming how somebody works from a corner office into working in a large library home study, it's a very different environment than maybe one of your team members that spends eight hours a day on calls and how their child is in remote learning. And, you know, they're struggling with audio issues. And, you know, how you approach those two problems is very different. You know, I think that the executive level sets the strategic priorities of the organization. And I don't think that changes based on that, that end user feedback or customer feedback, whether that's a guest or an employee. But I do think that it pivots those objectives and maybe reprioritizes them at times. And, you know, I think that's really the key piece at the outset of kind of embarking on this type of journey is making the right plan. And rather than plan, maybe, maybe a framework is a better wording for that, because it's also about the flexibility that you can show as you undergo the journey. It's not a two week journey. It's not a two month journey. It's really not even a two year journey. It's a five to 10 year journey. And what the technology scene will look like in five years. None of us, I mean, we can only guess. Right. And if you build a plan that the executive team has defined and the priorities were defined by the executive team or their delegates, and you're planning out for 10 years down the road of a technology roadmap, 10 years from now you will be buying some really outdated technology. And so it's more important to kind of take that feedback and build a framework of what do I want to accomplish rather than what tool am I going to use. And then once you kind of know that problem statement, you can pivot it back to. Now, how do we solve it? How do we think outside the box to solve it? If the current solutions that we're looking at just don't don't solve it in a way that we or our customers need.

You need to have a culture that drives change and really absorbs and adopts change willingly. It’s change-resistant organizations that struggle when there's large transformational issues, like a pandemic.

Chris Byers: Yeah, I think that really initial start of the framework of what are the right paths. And because there are multiple paths, we need to kind of cover ground and a few different planes. And then let's get started. And this, to your point, is going to last a long time. We need to get a few things in motion and then we need to step back and say, how did this go? And let's iterate on that. And we can kind of move from there is great thinking. What's gotten you so passionate about digital transformation? How do you get interested in this topic?

Kyle Tuominen: To be honest with you, it came from a lot of bad customer experiences. I started working retail and customer facing jobs when I was fifteen and I worked full time and went to night college, you know, in customer facing roles and kind of retail managerial roles. And I know, you know how challenging it can be to provide an exceptional level of customer service. But I also know the value of what happens when you do. And the more and more I started working with companies and seeing how little focus there is on that customer experience, the more I've wanted to change it. And, you know, seeing companies look at their customers and react, recognizing that the revenue and the profit margin goes up if you're driving a better customer experience, even at a higher cost. And I think one of the unique things has been that a lot of companies have found that these types of transformations have really reduced their costs and increased their levels of service. For me, seeing those types of changes happen are really impactful. But I think more important for me personally is the culture shift that comes with it. It's the refocusing on the customer. If you're taking the time to say this is critical for me, that we do this right for our customer, that our customer feels taken care of or safe or excited or energized or entertained or whatever your goal is for that customer. It's really important that you get to see that happen.

Chris Byers: See, you actually mention some of the experience that maybe a customer receives via a digital transformation. But what you're speaking to is change. And so along the way, you get resistance, I think often to change. And yet you may have the title, The Greatest Idea in the World, but people like to do things sometimes how they do them. How do you overcome that and how do you help them process through that to embrace that change?

Kyle Tuominen: I think the biggest thing is empathy. And, you know, the difference between empathy and sympathy is that I think the definitions vary by the person. But for me, empathy is not necessarily saying I agree with you, but it is saying I understand you. I think I've been lucky in my life. I've moved over 20 times and I've lived in virtually every major part of the country. And that gives me the ability to kind of empathize with a variety of different mindsets. And that's something that I've been lucky to have. But I think that empathy base is really critical to driving change through resistance or, you know, driving adoption and real consumption of transformational change. You know, I had an engagement where we were talking with a customer about adoption metrics and rather than talking about logins and, you know, a wall of shame of people that haven't logged in in 60 days, or haven't logged any activity in two weeks. You know, we talked about what I call vibrancy, which is the idea of measuring what is actually important. What are you actually trying to drive with this project or with this tool or with this feature? And so a lot of companies look at things like cases created issues in the system, and they say that's a negative for me. I actually look at that as a positive for two reasons. One, it means people are in the system because for them to create cases, they have to be in the system. And then, two, it's that they care enough to create the case. You know, it's a lot easier for a team member to log in, do their work, hate 80 percent of the software that they're using, but they don't have a feedback mechanism or they don't feel valued or they don't feel heard. They don't feel that empathy from their company. And, you know, ultimately, for me, it's about driving what is the goal of this? You know, how do we get people enthusiastic about it? And I find that the biggest way to do that is just listen and have empathy, you know, hear what their concerns are and understand that for me, right. When I'm working with an executive team and I define strategic objectives for a project, when I go talk to an end user that's struggling with the four extra clicks that it added to something that they do on a daily basis. The strategic priorities don't really matter at that point. You know, and it's important for me to put that aside and say, OK, I understand these priorities and we need to make sure that we're not violating any of them by making these changes. But we need to make this change, right. We can't add four clicks to something that somebody is doing, you know, a thousand times a day. And I think, you know, those two pieces are what drives through kind of that barrier or resistance to change.

Chris Byers: Well, I know you've had some really successful stories of digital transformation. Can you talk to us about one of those and tell us kind of what happened and how you approached it and the successes that it created?

Kyle Tuominen: So I worked with a healthcare company and it was a large multi-national healthcare company. They acquired a few new firms and they were kind of entering a medical device business for the first time. And they were really struggling with, you know, this was a company that for one hundred years had sold disposables and hospital equipment and computers and software, but had never really entered kind of the medical device space. Right. In body medical devices, you know, stents and things like that. And they were talking about, you know, selling into their customers. And when they're selling things like MRI coils or, you know, hardware, the conversations happen at the administrator level. And, you know, they were talking about, you know, convincing, you know, having an LMS or, you know, a teaching type platform to drive those conversations with administrators, to teach administrators about, you know, the functionality of their products and the differentiation of their products. And we had a workshop maybe about two months into this process, and we brought in a variety of frontline salespeople. We brought in manufacturing workers and shipping workers, shipping dock workers. And we asked them, what's the most important thing in your day to day? And the shipping dock person said, I need to know the secretary or front desk receptionist's name of the person that we're shipping to. And we were all a little confused. We were like, look, I mean, that seems important. But once you ship it, you're good, right? And he said, no, that person oftentimes will call me a follow up about, you know, X, Y or Z or it's coming in four boxes when they were expecting two. When he said building a relationship with those people because these are repetitive purchases is really critical for the success of the brand and the product and the business. And so instead of approaching this new space for them, as have we always done business, we took that and we said we really need to understand what the relationships are between our customers and this brand. Right. In these products, because it is so different from what this company has been used to. And by talking to the customers themselves, we understood that the most important thing for them was not price, it was not even necessarily the relationship, although the relationships that these sales reps had with these frontline employees from the customer, what really mattered was the effectiveness of the tool. And at the end of the day, the only thing the doctor cared about was, is this better for my patient than your competitors product? And by having those conversations and introducing a new way of thinking about, you know, focusing on those kind of frontline employees rather than the executive team or the administrators, we are able to identify a completely new opportunity for us and really drive sales through differentiation of the safety of the product. We were able to narrow the market and say, you know, this product works better in X, Y, and Z ways and in X, Y, and Z circumstances. And that's when you should use this product. You know, we saw a really significant lift in sales, and that's all created by kind of the conversations of a new software platform. And how do they sell this new software platform? And it didn't just change their software, it changed how they actually sell to their customers. So for me, that's you know, that's a really impactful story.

Learn More: What is Digital Agility?

Chris Byers: I think that is a wonderful story. One of the things you keep coming back to is this idea of talking to the front line. Ask the people who do the work for feedback and how they operate. I think that's such a powerful asset. We all avoid that a lot because it sounds hard or we don't think we're gonna get the information we're looking for. And so I love that you're starting there. These are complicated processes. They often cover lots of products, tech stacks, et cetera. How can people kind of start to tie these things together and become more efficient?

Kyle Tuominen: I want to go back to a point that you just made earlier. I'll try to weave it into this answer. I think it's really critical to talk to those frontline team members because they're the ones interacting with the customers and they can have a far greater outsized impact than any piece of software can in terms of how that customer perceives the brand. The tone of their body language, the type of outreach, the consistency of outreach, the consistency of branding, all of those things are perpetuated by that employee or by that team member. And for me, driving change within those teams is critical because they are the face of the brand and the impact that they can have on those customers. Chris, I think the importance of those frontline employees that you talked about, you know, is really driven in a very similar vein to the need for data. You know, one of the most impactful digital transformations was I worked with Caesars Entertainment, the casino giant and hospitality giant. And the biggest thing that their end marketers were asking for was not I want to be able to drive really crazy offers or I want to reduce how many approvals I need to get on a marketing campaign. They just wanted more data about their customers. They wanted to be able to act on that data and to be able to do that, we had to take a tech stack, that to your point, was incredibly fragmented and deprecated in a lot of cases. And we needed to consolidate and condense the data so that it was usable by all these different teams and pieces of software. But at the end of the day, the end ask from the end users was, I want more data so that I can better market to our customers so that I better understand what they want out of this experience at one of our properties. I think as companies recognize the value of that data, we're seeing, you know, the age of data right now, where companies are doing everything they can to collect data. But the companies that are getting ahead right now did that five years ago. And right now they're focused on how do we use that data? How do we build a data lake? You know, it's really identifying potential opportunities to use that data and then using that data, identifying if it had an improved effect or not, and then trying to use another piece of data. And as every system grows more and more interconnected, and that's kind of the default expectation. Now, when I talk to a lot of customers, they don't ask if they're going to need a middleware platform. They just ask why doesn't this already have a Salesforce connector? Because Salesforce is that standard bearer in the CRM space, you know, and kind of transiting that data across those systems is an expectation and not a nice to have. And I think that's a really key change from where we were five years ago. And I think five years from now, we're going to be looking back and saying, how do we take that data that we have transiting across systems and how do we make it actionable and how do we drive value out of it?

Chris Byers: Kyle, tell us what digital agility is? That sounds like a pretty kind of advanced terms. Talk to us about it.

Kyle Tuominen: So, Chris, I think it varies by company, but for me, digital agility means how fast can you operate with your current technology? And if you had no technology constraints, how fast could you operate? I think it's being agile in the software that you're picking right now, picking something that is not going to have a huge historical cost or have a massive capital investment that is going to make it difficult to switch if a better product comes along in ten years. It's being flexible in terms of the tools that you're using. And it's also saying if I set aside the technical limitations for what I currently have, what could I accomplish? Chris, if we think about the marketing example with Caesars' earlier digital agility for them was really how do we take all these different pieces of data and deliver it to these end users that are touching our customers. But when they originally started, it was how do I get better marketing data? And those are two very different questions. And the reason that they were successful was because they were able to pivot and say, OK, we've collected this data for marketing, but we can do way more than just use this for marketing. We can use this to impact the experience. We can use it to better tailor trip planning activities to our customers. And for me, it's about the ability to pivot quickly and choose tools and partners that can drive that for you. And then it's about, you know, looking at what's possible instead of what do I need.

Chris Byers: So some of us probably here digital transformation and we think, great, I can do that pretty quickly. But if we've been around processes, big software packages we've bought, we also know that can be a really daunting task and sound really, really big. Tell us the difference between that digital transformation and digital agility.

Kyle Tuominen: Sure. I think digital agility is more of a mindset. It's you know, when we first started this conversation, Chris, we were talking about corporate culture. And I think digital agility is really the mindset about, you know, approaching problems in a new way, approaching problems and saying what can we do? Right. To my earlier point, digital transformation is more about how do we do it. For me, the agility piece is looking at problems and saying, can we solve this and how can we solve it? And not from a I need to see X piece of data right now from a user story perspective, but from an end user perspective. I need my sales rep to know what I bought last year so they can recommend what I need to buy this year. And, you know, that's a much easier change to make than saying I have to go build a data lake and I need to have Snowflake to have, you know, really accurate reporting. And, you know, I need Tablo for visualization. You know, that's really the digital transformation piece, right? That's the overhauling of how you interpret data, how you use data, how you act on data. And the agility piece is really saying we need to make this change. And how can we get there? What are the small steps that we can take immediately? And how can we start that planning for that longer term transformation?

Read Next: How Digital Agility Empowers Employees and Boosts Productivity

Chris Byers: What are some things that help make a corporation be able to make that digital shift? I think it can take a lot of energy at times. So what do you think are some things that just make that all the easier?

Kyle Tuominen: Yeah, I mean, I think from a culture perspective, you know, it's imperative that you're listening to your teams. And I know a theme for me is certainly, our kind of entry level or frontline teams, they're really critical. And I think they get overlooked because, you know, their titles aren't great or our executive teams haven't worked those roles or haven't come up. But I think, you know, ultimately culture needs to be inclusive and not exclusive. And if you're driving a culture that says I only care about a director's opinion, you're going to struggle to transform because your team is not going to give you the feedback that you need. You're going to hear about what your directors want and not what your teams need. And there's a distinct difference between those two things. So I think for me, the culture shift required for digital transformation is really about inclusiveness. And I think a lot of companies are seeing the value of an inclusive working environment the last few years and certainly the last six months or so.

Chris Byers: So there is this inertia that causes us to kind of want to just keep doing what's in front of us. How do you get people motivated to say, hey, let's get going, let's start to look at this process and figure out how to do it better?

Kyle Tuominen: I don't find it challenging to motivate people in this way, to be honest with you. I think everybody wants to have a significant change in their organization or for their customers. I think most of the time we resign ourselves to the status quo because it's a resignation. It's easier. We don't have the energy to fight for it. But I think when presented with the opportunity to have an outsized impact, I exceedingly rarely see people that have objections or become detrimental to the team. It happens, right. But I don't think it's a really common issue that I encounter.

Chris Byers: What's your number one piece of advice for embracing simplicity kind of in business processes?

Kyle Tuominen: If you can't explain it to your seven year old, it's too complex for your team. And not because I think your team, anybody's team, has the intellectual capability of a seven year old, but because your team is focused on a hundred different priorities and if what you're asking them to do is not easy to fit into one of those priorities, it's going to take them away from those priorities. And whether that's customer or internal customer serving objectives or priorities. Ultimately, you're leaving somebody high and dry. So embracing the simplicity of let's treat our team members like adults. I think we talked earlier about digital transformation in the workplace and driving that culture. I think a really key piece of that is also expecting everybody to be adults and expecting everybody to have an ownership mentality similar to what we do at Coastal Cloud. You know, if we look at call centers that transformed, if you asked a call center manager, V.P. of service two years ago, you know, let's shift your team to remote, we'll save you the office space cost. Their number one objection would have been, oh, no, that's not possible. We can't let them work from home. We don't know that they're going to be taking as many calls. But in a week or two weeks or three days for some of our customers, they flipped to a remote based call center. And it was always possible. It was just there wasn't a will to not micromanage. You know, they wanted to keep it complex. And now that they're seeing by simplifying it and allowing people to work from home, they actually have better coverage on hours that they used to struggle on. You know, nine to five was a very regular call center schedule. Well, the problem with that is that a lot of your customers, that's also their work schedule and now your busy time from five to seven and five to seven is when you're lower staffed. But if you've got team members that have a flexible schedule and obviously with a call center or any type of service, you have to kind of stagger that. But, you know, ultimately, five to seven might work better for a lot of these parents that their kids are doing remote learning and now they can spend a large portion of their day helping their kids learn. You know, they feel valued from their employer. They feel like adults. And, you know, ultimately, driving a simpler business process allows them to make those decisions about what's best for them. And I use the call center in this example, but I think it applies to sales and marketing teams. I think it applies to accounting and operational teams. Ultimately, KISS is an acronym for a reason. Right. And if you're making it more complex simply to add steps or because you want to include somebody or make somebody feel valued, you know, you're adding complexity for really no reason.

Chris Byers: Let's talk productivity for a minute. Do you have a go to productivity tip that you share with your team, with customers or whomever?

Kyle Tuominen: For me, it's take less meetings than you need. So I think one thing I find, you know, as I lead a team is I want to be in these meetings to support my team. It's not about I want to be in the meeting to know exactly what's going on. Right. I trust my team to escalate to me when I need to know about something. But I want to be on to support them, to give them a kudo's on their killing it or, you know, step in when they're struggling and kind of help them through it. What I've realized in talking to a lot of them has been, if I'm not on the call, they really own it. And I think sometimes, you know, when we're looking at our colleagues and they're on a call with us and we say, I'm not the expert in this area, but this person is. So I'm just going to completely shut down. And once you shut down, especially in a remote meeting, it's really hard to make it back right to that engaged level that you need. And, you know, for me, what I've seen is by taking less meetings and kind of having my team take a lot more of them, I'm seeing them kind of step up in new ways. And it gives me the freedom and flexibility to go pursue new objectives or strategy. You know, that we've been trying to build and haven't had the time to.

More From Coastal Cloud: Partner Perspectives on COVID-19: JoAnne King & Jim Stalder of Coastal Cloud

Chris Byers: Well, one last question. As you think about moving forward, how will you be reimagining the way that you work?

Kyle Tuominen: It's about kind of having these types of conversations with my customers and understanding. I have a restoration company right now. They're contractors that restore firewater, smoke damage. And, you know, one of the things that I found really thrilling about working with them was when we originally talked to them, our first meeting was with their CFO, CIO, CTO and then four sales reps and an IT support person and the IT director. It was not only executives and directors, it was they recognized the value of that. And in talking to them about their goals, it was really clear that they were looking at a way to drive better productivity for their sales team. And they knew that for us to be able to make those recommendations, we needed to talk to that sales team. And so I think, you know, for me about how I'm reimagining, you know, how we go to market and how we support our customers in these transformations, it's really talking them through, what's the important pieces for them? What's the important pieces for them at an executive level? What's the important pieces for them at an end user level? And then what's the important pieces for them at a customer level? The amount of customers that I have that still don't have personas of who their regular buyers are is a lot higher percentage than you think. And if we can shift the business place in general, the workplace in general, to being focused on how do we drive the type of customer experience that our customers expect? I think that's really critical. I think COVID provides a really good, clean way to show that, you know, I talked earlier about healthcare diagnostics being done remotely. You think now about how many more people now are using the Target pickup service or the Wal-Mart pickup service, Postmates for grocery delivery? Those expectations aren't going to go away. Right. Customers are really liking some of the convenient aspects of what COVID has created. You know, we all live busy lives, and if I can reduce 20 minutes of walking around a store by punching eleven things into my phone and having it ready, and I drive up and I'm on a conference call and I open my trunk and they put the bags in and I drive away. That's not going to end. Those customers are still going to want that. And so I think for me, it's about, you know, not only looking at, you know, what are your objectives right now, but what have you done to adapt for this environment? And what do your customers like and not like about that? And let's continue to drive forward on the pieces that they do like. You know, I'm seeing a lot of requests for self-service communities because customers are growing more and more self-service dependent rather than, you know, they might not want to talk to a salesperson if they can quote it themselves and buy it themselves. And guess what? That's at a higher margin for this company. That's a win all the way around. And so for me, I think it's, you know, identify what you're doing to transform, identify what your competitors are doing to transform, and then how can you leverage those same ideas or features or functionality to drive forward and really either differentiate yourself from your competitors or at least, you know, get on par with them.

Chris Byers: That was Kyle Tuominen with Coastal Cloud, and I hope what you learned from him today were a couple of really interesting things I heard from this conversation. First, if you want outsized results, which I think every single one of us in business does, digital transformation is a must. The other one was that we really need to talk to our frontline team members, our customers. That's where we're really going to learn what we need to learn to change, to transform and make their lives easier and make our lives easier. And as you're kind of digging into processes, being able to explain things in a very simple way, as he said, if you can explain it to your seven year old, I think life's gonna be good. And you know, the way I think about that, too, and talk to people is if you can't memorize something into a pretty small sentence or phrase, you're not gonna be able to repeat it over and over and over again, which is what we need to do to really convince people, get people excited about the change that we're making.

EPISODE TRANSCRIPT

Chris Byers: Welcome to the Ripple Effect. I am Chris Byers of Formstack. And today, as a part of our bonus episodes, we are featuring Kyle Tuominen. He is the director of the West at Coastal Cloud. And we're going to discuss what digital transformation looks like today in a world that's rapidly changing. While sharing how impactful that transformation can be on company culture. What can you learn from Kyle? Let's find out.

Well, before we go deeper into this topic and kind of jump into the conversation, Kyle can you tell us your elevator pitch of what Coastal Cloud is and what your role encompasses?

Kyle Tuominen: So Coastal Cloud is a platinum Salesforce partner, and we deliver success to our customers on the Salesforce platform. Our role is to go beyond simply building Salesforce and really helping provide a cohesive strategy for our customers long term.

Chris Byers: It's safe to say that 2020, for you and for everybody listening, has forced each of us to kind of rethink our businesses, how we work, how we operate. I'm curious, when you hear the words reimagine work, what comes to mind?

Kyle Tuominen: I think for a lot of companies operating in the age of COVID, reimagining work is how can I keep my team as productive as they were in the office? And for me at least, I think that might be the wrong approach, because I think it's really about how do you drive the same culture to your earlier point about digital transformation affecting that culture? You need to have a culture that drives change and really absorbs and adopts change willingly. Change resistant organizations struggle when there's large transformational issues, like a pandemic. And I think when a lot of companies are looking at reimagining the workplace, it's not reimagining what corporate culture or reimagining how their customers experience their brand or how their employees drive sales or success, whatever that means for that company. You know, I think oftentimes they're focusing a lot more tactically. How do I get soft tones to everybody at their houses? How do I make sure that my call center agents can take these calls from home? What if it has HIPAA information or payment information? And I think it's much more tactical in nature. And in reality, we're missing an opportunity to really take this as a chance to kind of reform your company from the ground up. But without having to start a kind of step one.

Chris Byers: So I love your comment about cultural values. They really should be driving our decisions right now. Funny enough, we actually went remote back in 2012. And yet all along the way, when people would tend to ask questions like, would we ever go back to the office? Would we ever be office only? My answer was kind of always, you know, the cultural value that drove us was what we called be agile and iterate. And so for us, that just happened to be we were going to work remotely because we felt like it was the best way for us to work as a company. And if that ever changed, yeah, we would change it. It's about agility. It's about iteration in our case. And so I love that comment that we should all be thinking about our cultural values first. And none of us have a cultural value of we're going to be in an office. I'm curious, how has that changed for you? How did life look before? How have you flexed to kind of embrace today?

Kyle Tuominen: I think the biggest change for me is I used to be a road warrior. I traveled 50 weeks a year for two and a half years. And that stopped when I came to the Coastal Cloud period. But I was still maintaining some level of travel. I think the interesting thing about Coastal Cloud and our kind of corporate culture is we kind of leave it up to our team members to decide. We expect everybody in our company to have an ownership mentality. And, you know, we have an office in Denver. And it was actually really important for me that we had an office in Denver, because personally, as much as I love working from home, I'm more productive in an office environment because I need a little bit of social stimulus. And sitting in the same house all day, can get a little stale even before the pandemic, but we never require people to come into the office. We had an office available if people wanted to collaborate, if they had a reason to collaborate, you know, whether that's a customer project or a challenging technical solution, people could choose to come into the office because they got value out of it. And really, my job as a leader is to drive that value, it's to create enough value of coming into the office that they want to or that they make that decision that working from home is more effective and productive. And quite frankly, I think Coastal Cloud, at least in our in our West Coast team, is probably 50/50 on those that enjoy coming into the office and see the value and those that prefer working from home, but we're able to kind of accommodate both types of team members because our corporate culture is designed around, you know, it's really your responsibility to be effective. And, you know, whatever you need to do that, we're going to support you.

Chris Byers: So, you know, one of the things you've described is that, you know, in a lot of ways, your team really didn't even need to change that much to operate in this new world. It's already how you are operating. So a lot of that has stayed the same. Actually, for the person who is maybe at home far more than they want, like you described and not getting some of that relational time, how are you helping people overcome that mental need and desire to be around people?

Kyle Tuominen: I think it takes different forms for different people. You know, for some people it's just about fresh air. And, you know, luckily living in Colorado, they can go hiking or go mountain climbing or, you know, what have you. You know, for some people, it is really that relational piece. For me, that is what it is. And so, you know, we do a lot of, you know, kind of stand ups with our video cameras on and bring our dogs into the view of the camera and everybody says hi, happy hours. I think one of the great things about this has been we've learned a lot about our colleagues and their actual lives. We spent a lot of time learning about their skills in the workplace and being in consulting kind of their skills that they can bring to a team or project or a customer. With everybody's real life now also being that work life, you know, whether that's kids or animals or parents or family in general, there's more people in the household. There's more hustle and bustle than they're accustomed to. Right. And I've seen our teams be incredibly accepting of kids crying in the background. And I was on a video call probably two weeks ago, and one of my customers was getting his face painted by his daughter while we were doing a Zoom call. And I just think, you know, stories like that are really important to continue to drive those relationships, even if you're not in person, you know, taking moments like that and appreciating kind of the absurdity of that. That picture has been really beneficial for me.

Related: Partner Interview Series: Kyle Tuominen of Coastal Cloud

Chris Byers: You know, one of the things you're talking about is that all of us are, even if we knew how to work remotely beforehand or really embracing it in a bigger way and and finding even more comfort, maybe if we worked at home beforehand, we hid our family, we hid our you know, that we are at our home. We try to make that a non issue. And yet now it's actually acceptable to let people know. Oh, yeah. You're in your house, right? I understand the dog's going to bark or run through the back or whatever, but the same thing is changing in businesses. You know, I had a conversation with somebody last last week or two weeks ago where she works for the state that I live in, which is Oklahoma. And she said something about they've closed down the offices and they've figured out we can work remotely. And I'm like, oh, my gosh, the state chose to work remotely. Life truly did just change. And so I'm curious, as you think about digital transformation and the importance of that, or maybe let's start with some definitions, what would you say the differences between digitization and digital transformation?

Kyle Tuominen: It does. So digitization is really the process of getting data into electronic forms. So it's kind of the transition from paper to digital and digital transformation is saying what can we do with this information? What are our customers looking for? What are our team members looking for? How can we leverage this information and the new technology that's available to us to drive a better customer experience? But it's also about thinking outside the box. You know, when the first personal computers came on the market, there was not a large market for them. It was expected to be a hobbyists and enthusiasts type purchase, not an every home, every person has to have one of these. And you know, the way that, quite frankly, Steve Jobs and Windows and Bill Gates and the Bomber drove the purchase and a need for those personal computers was, they thought outside the box. And you know, I think we're seeing that type of change in areas like healthcare. You know, you talked about how the state could go work from home. And that's a pretty transformational idea, certainly. But imagine health workers working from home. You know, one really interesting trend I've seen in healthcare around COVID, has been diagnostic appointments or tests are now being done in a person's home rather than done in a hospital. You know, obviously, to reduce the risk of transmission in a healthcare setting. But that took somebody looking at the problem of how do I get to give this test if they can't come in? And traditionally, the answer to that has always been, oh, they can't drive, will have a car service, pick them up. Right. Most major cities have some type of you know, if you're elderly or disabled, you know, we'll provide a service to pick you up and drop you off at your doctor's appointment. And so the thinking has always been, well, the problem is not that I'm doing the test in this location. The problem is that this person can't get to this location. And a pandemic really forced people and administrators and planners to think, OK, well, now it is. Now the location of the test is the problem. You know, and making those mobile and remote is not an easy feat. But I think it's an example of, you know, a specific vertical saying we have to pivot and, you know, how can we do that in a digital age? What does technology enable us to do if we think differently about this problem?

Chris Byers: And you've kind of introduced a mindset shift that we all need to be thinking about to really embrace digital transformation. So what would you suggest to companies who are beginning to consider this and think about how do I really embrace digital transformation in the way we're doing things?

Kyle Tuominen: Talk to the front line team. I think the digital transformation projects that I see that are most effective are ones driven by end users or team members downstream. Those people that are talking or working with our customers, because ultimately they're the ones hearing what a customer wants or needs or what would be an incredible value proposition for that customer. And, you know, I think as companies look at this as an opportunity to transform how they do business, you know, if you're transforming how somebody works from a corner office into working in a large library home study, it's a very different environment than maybe one of your team members that spends eight hours a day on calls and how their child is in remote learning. And, you know, they're struggling with audio issues. And, you know, how you approach those two problems is very different. You know, I think that the executive level sets the strategic priorities of the organization. And I don't think that changes based on that, that end user feedback or customer feedback, whether that's a guest or an employee. But I do think that it pivots those objectives and maybe reprioritizes them at times. And, you know, I think that's really the key piece at the outset of kind of embarking on this type of journey is making the right plan. And rather than plan, maybe, maybe a framework is a better wording for that, because it's also about the flexibility that you can show as you undergo the journey. It's not a two week journey. It's not a two month journey. It's really not even a two year journey. It's a five to 10 year journey. And what the technology scene will look like in five years. None of us, I mean, we can only guess. Right. And if you build a plan that the executive team has defined and the priorities were defined by the executive team or their delegates, and you're planning out for 10 years down the road of a technology roadmap, 10 years from now you will be buying some really outdated technology. And so it's more important to kind of take that feedback and build a framework of what do I want to accomplish rather than what tool am I going to use. And then once you kind of know that problem statement, you can pivot it back to. Now, how do we solve it? How do we think outside the box to solve it? If the current solutions that we're looking at just don't don't solve it in a way that we or our customers need.

You need to have a culture that drives change and really absorbs and adopts change willingly. It’s change-resistant organizations that struggle when there's large transformational issues, like a pandemic.

Chris Byers: Yeah, I think that really initial start of the framework of what are the right paths. And because there are multiple paths, we need to kind of cover ground and a few different planes. And then let's get started. And this, to your point, is going to last a long time. We need to get a few things in motion and then we need to step back and say, how did this go? And let's iterate on that. And we can kind of move from there is great thinking. What's gotten you so passionate about digital transformation? How do you get interested in this topic?

Kyle Tuominen: To be honest with you, it came from a lot of bad customer experiences. I started working retail and customer facing jobs when I was fifteen and I worked full time and went to night college, you know, in customer facing roles and kind of retail managerial roles. And I know, you know how challenging it can be to provide an exceptional level of customer service. But I also know the value of what happens when you do. And the more and more I started working with companies and seeing how little focus there is on that customer experience, the more I've wanted to change it. And, you know, seeing companies look at their customers and react, recognizing that the revenue and the profit margin goes up if you're driving a better customer experience, even at a higher cost. And I think one of the unique things has been that a lot of companies have found that these types of transformations have really reduced their costs and increased their levels of service. For me, seeing those types of changes happen are really impactful. But I think more important for me personally is the culture shift that comes with it. It's the refocusing on the customer. If you're taking the time to say this is critical for me, that we do this right for our customer, that our customer feels taken care of or safe or excited or energized or entertained or whatever your goal is for that customer. It's really important that you get to see that happen.

Chris Byers: See, you actually mention some of the experience that maybe a customer receives via a digital transformation. But what you're speaking to is change. And so along the way, you get resistance, I think often to change. And yet you may have the title, The Greatest Idea in the World, but people like to do things sometimes how they do them. How do you overcome that and how do you help them process through that to embrace that change?

Kyle Tuominen: I think the biggest thing is empathy. And, you know, the difference between empathy and sympathy is that I think the definitions vary by the person. But for me, empathy is not necessarily saying I agree with you, but it is saying I understand you. I think I've been lucky in my life. I've moved over 20 times and I've lived in virtually every major part of the country. And that gives me the ability to kind of empathize with a variety of different mindsets. And that's something that I've been lucky to have. But I think that empathy base is really critical to driving change through resistance or, you know, driving adoption and real consumption of transformational change. You know, I had an engagement where we were talking with a customer about adoption metrics and rather than talking about logins and, you know, a wall of shame of people that haven't logged in in 60 days, or haven't logged any activity in two weeks. You know, we talked about what I call vibrancy, which is the idea of measuring what is actually important. What are you actually trying to drive with this project or with this tool or with this feature? And so a lot of companies look at things like cases created issues in the system, and they say that's a negative for me. I actually look at that as a positive for two reasons. One, it means people are in the system because for them to create cases, they have to be in the system. And then, two, it's that they care enough to create the case. You know, it's a lot easier for a team member to log in, do their work, hate 80 percent of the software that they're using, but they don't have a feedback mechanism or they don't feel valued or they don't feel heard. They don't feel that empathy from their company. And, you know, ultimately, for me, it's about driving what is the goal of this? You know, how do we get people enthusiastic about it? And I find that the biggest way to do that is just listen and have empathy, you know, hear what their concerns are and understand that for me, right. When I'm working with an executive team and I define strategic objectives for a project, when I go talk to an end user that's struggling with the four extra clicks that it added to something that they do on a daily basis. The strategic priorities don't really matter at that point. You know, and it's important for me to put that aside and say, OK, I understand these priorities and we need to make sure that we're not violating any of them by making these changes. But we need to make this change, right. We can't add four clicks to something that somebody is doing, you know, a thousand times a day. And I think, you know, those two pieces are what drives through kind of that barrier or resistance to change.

Chris Byers: Well, I know you've had some really successful stories of digital transformation. Can you talk to us about one of those and tell us kind of what happened and how you approached it and the successes that it created?

Kyle Tuominen: So I worked with a healthcare company and it was a large multi-national healthcare company. They acquired a few new firms and they were kind of entering a medical device business for the first time. And they were really struggling with, you know, this was a company that for one hundred years had sold disposables and hospital equipment and computers and software, but had never really entered kind of the medical device space. Right. In body medical devices, you know, stents and things like that. And they were talking about, you know, selling into their customers. And when they're selling things like MRI coils or, you know, hardware, the conversations happen at the administrator level. And, you know, they were talking about, you know, convincing, you know, having an LMS or, you know, a teaching type platform to drive those conversations with administrators, to teach administrators about, you know, the functionality of their products and the differentiation of their products. And we had a workshop maybe about two months into this process, and we brought in a variety of frontline salespeople. We brought in manufacturing workers and shipping workers, shipping dock workers. And we asked them, what's the most important thing in your day to day? And the shipping dock person said, I need to know the secretary or front desk receptionist's name of the person that we're shipping to. And we were all a little confused. We were like, look, I mean, that seems important. But once you ship it, you're good, right? And he said, no, that person oftentimes will call me a follow up about, you know, X, Y or Z or it's coming in four boxes when they were expecting two. When he said building a relationship with those people because these are repetitive purchases is really critical for the success of the brand and the product and the business. And so instead of approaching this new space for them, as have we always done business, we took that and we said we really need to understand what the relationships are between our customers and this brand. Right. In these products, because it is so different from what this company has been used to. And by talking to the customers themselves, we understood that the most important thing for them was not price, it was not even necessarily the relationship, although the relationships that these sales reps had with these frontline employees from the customer, what really mattered was the effectiveness of the tool. And at the end of the day, the only thing the doctor cared about was, is this better for my patient than your competitors product? And by having those conversations and introducing a new way of thinking about, you know, focusing on those kind of frontline employees rather than the executive team or the administrators, we are able to identify a completely new opportunity for us and really drive sales through differentiation of the safety of the product. We were able to narrow the market and say, you know, this product works better in X, Y, and Z ways and in X, Y, and Z circumstances. And that's when you should use this product. You know, we saw a really significant lift in sales, and that's all created by kind of the conversations of a new software platform. And how do they sell this new software platform? And it didn't just change their software, it changed how they actually sell to their customers. So for me, that's you know, that's a really impactful story.

Learn More: What is Digital Agility?

Chris Byers: I think that is a wonderful story. One of the things you keep coming back to is this idea of talking to the front line. Ask the people who do the work for feedback and how they operate. I think that's such a powerful asset. We all avoid that a lot because it sounds hard or we don't think we're gonna get the information we're looking for. And so I love that you're starting there. These are complicated processes. They often cover lots of products, tech stacks, et cetera. How can people kind of start to tie these things together and become more efficient?

Kyle Tuominen: I want to go back to a point that you just made earlier. I'll try to weave it into this answer. I think it's really critical to talk to those frontline team members because they're the ones interacting with the customers and they can have a far greater outsized impact than any piece of software can in terms of how that customer perceives the brand. The tone of their body language, the type of outreach, the consistency of outreach, the consistency of branding, all of those things are perpetuated by that employee or by that team member. And for me, driving change within those teams is critical because they are the face of the brand and the impact that they can have on those customers. Chris, I think the importance of those frontline employees that you talked about, you know, is really driven in a very similar vein to the need for data. You know, one of the most impactful digital transformations was I worked with Caesars Entertainment, the casino giant and hospitality giant. And the biggest thing that their end marketers were asking for was not I want to be able to drive really crazy offers or I want to reduce how many approvals I need to get on a marketing campaign. They just wanted more data about their customers. They wanted to be able to act on that data and to be able to do that, we had to take a tech stack, that to your point, was incredibly fragmented and deprecated in a lot of cases. And we needed to consolidate and condense the data so that it was usable by all these different teams and pieces of software. But at the end of the day, the end ask from the end users was, I want more data so that I can better market to our customers so that I better understand what they want out of this experience at one of our properties. I think as companies recognize the value of that data, we're seeing, you know, the age of data right now, where companies are doing everything they can to collect data. But the companies that are getting ahead right now did that five years ago. And right now they're focused on how do we use that data? How do we build a data lake? You know, it's really identifying potential opportunities to use that data and then using that data, identifying if it had an improved effect or not, and then trying to use another piece of data. And as every system grows more and more interconnected, and that's kind of the default expectation. Now, when I talk to a lot of customers, they don't ask if they're going to need a middleware platform. They just ask why doesn't this already have a Salesforce connector? Because Salesforce is that standard bearer in the CRM space, you know, and kind of transiting that data across those systems is an expectation and not a nice to have. And I think that's a really key change from where we were five years ago. And I think five years from now, we're going to be looking back and saying, how do we take that data that we have transiting across systems and how do we make it actionable and how do we drive value out of it?

Chris Byers: Kyle, tell us what digital agility is? That sounds like a pretty kind of advanced terms. Talk to us about it.

Kyle Tuominen: So, Chris, I think it varies by company, but for me, digital agility means how fast can you operate with your current technology? And if you had no technology constraints, how fast could you operate? I think it's being agile in the software that you're picking right now, picking something that is not going to have a huge historical cost or have a massive capital investment that is going to make it difficult to switch if a better product comes along in ten years. It's being flexible in terms of the tools that you're using. And it's also saying if I set aside the technical limitations for what I currently have, what could I accomplish? Chris, if we think about the marketing example with Caesars' earlier digital agility for them was really how do we take all these different pieces of data and deliver it to these end users that are touching our customers. But when they originally started, it was how do I get better marketing data? And those are two very different questions. And the reason that they were successful was because they were able to pivot and say, OK, we've collected this data for marketing, but we can do way more than just use this for marketing. We can use this to impact the experience. We can use it to better tailor trip planning activities to our customers. And for me, it's about the ability to pivot quickly and choose tools and partners that can drive that for you. And then it's about, you know, looking at what's possible instead of what do I need.

Chris Byers: So some of us probably here digital transformation and we think, great, I can do that pretty quickly. But if we've been around processes, big software packages we've bought, we also know that can be a really daunting task and sound really, really big. Tell us the difference between that digital transformation and digital agility.

Kyle Tuominen: Sure. I think digital agility is more of a mindset. It's you know, when we first started this conversation, Chris, we were talking about corporate culture. And I think digital agility is really the mindset about, you know, approaching problems in a new way, approaching problems and saying what can we do? Right. To my earlier point, digital transformation is more about how do we do it. For me, the agility piece is looking at problems and saying, can we solve this and how can we solve it? And not from a I need to see X piece of data right now from a user story perspective, but from an end user perspective. I need my sales rep to know what I bought last year so they can recommend what I need to buy this year. And, you know, that's a much easier change to make than saying I have to go build a data lake and I need to have Snowflake to have, you know, really accurate reporting. And, you know, I need Tablo for visualization. You know, that's really the digital transformation piece, right? That's the overhauling of how you interpret data, how you use data, how you act on data. And the agility piece is really saying we need to make this change. And how can we get there? What are the small steps that we can take immediately? And how can we start that planning for that longer term transformation?

Read Next: How Digital Agility Empowers Employees and Boosts Productivity

Chris Byers: What are some things that help make a corporation be able to make that digital shift? I think it can take a lot of energy at times. So what do you think are some things that just make that all the easier?

Kyle Tuominen: Yeah, I mean, I think from a culture perspective, you know, it's imperative that you're listening to your teams. And I know a theme for me is certainly, our kind of entry level or frontline teams, they're really critical. And I think they get overlooked because, you know, their titles aren't great or our executive teams haven't worked those roles or haven't come up. But I think, you know, ultimately culture needs to be inclusive and not exclusive. And if you're driving a culture that says I only care about a director's opinion, you're going to struggle to transform because your team is not going to give you the feedback that you need. You're going to hear about what your directors want and not what your teams need. And there's a distinct difference between those two things. So I think for me, the culture shift required for digital transformation is really about inclusiveness. And I think a lot of companies are seeing the value of an inclusive working environment the last few years and certainly the last six months or so.

Chris Byers: So there is this inertia that causes us to kind of want to just keep doing what's in front of us. How do you get people motivated to say, hey, let's get going, let's start to look at this process and figure out how to do it better?

Kyle Tuominen: I don't find it challenging to motivate people in this way, to be honest with you. I think everybody wants to have a significant change in their organization or for their customers. I think most of the time we resign ourselves to the status quo because it's a resignation. It's easier. We don't have the energy to fight for it. But I think when presented with the opportunity to have an outsized impact, I exceedingly rarely see people that have objections or become detrimental to the team. It happens, right. But I don't think it's a really common issue that I encounter.

Chris Byers: What's your number one piece of advice for embracing simplicity kind of in business processes?

Kyle Tuominen: If you can't explain it to your seven year old, it's too complex for your team. And not because I think your team, anybody's team, has the intellectual capability of a seven year old, but because your team is focused on a hundred different priorities and if what you're asking them to do is not easy to fit into one of those priorities, it's going to take them away from those priorities. And whether that's customer or internal customer serving objectives or priorities. Ultimately, you're leaving somebody high and dry. So embracing the simplicity of let's treat our team members like adults. I think we talked earlier about digital transformation in the workplace and driving that culture. I think a really key piece of that is also expecting everybody to be adults and expecting everybody to have an ownership mentality similar to what we do at Coastal Cloud. You know, if we look at call centers that transformed, if you asked a call center manager, V.P. of service two years ago, you know, let's shift your team to remote, we'll save you the office space cost. Their number one objection would have been, oh, no, that's not possible. We can't let them work from home. We don't know that they're going to be taking as many calls. But in a week or two weeks or three days for some of our customers, they flipped to a remote based call center. And it was always possible. It was just there wasn't a will to not micromanage. You know, they wanted to keep it complex. And now that they're seeing by simplifying it and allowing people to work from home, they actually have better coverage on hours that they used to struggle on. You know, nine to five was a very regular call center schedule. Well, the problem with that is that a lot of your customers, that's also their work schedule and now your busy time from five to seven and five to seven is when you're lower staffed. But if you've got team members that have a flexible schedule and obviously with a call center or any type of service, you have to kind of stagger that. But, you know, ultimately, five to seven might work better for a lot of these parents that their kids are doing remote learning and now they can spend a large portion of their day helping their kids learn. You know, they feel valued from their employer. They feel like adults. And, you know, ultimately, driving a simpler business process allows them to make those decisions about what's best for them. And I use the call center in this example, but I think it applies to sales and marketing teams. I think it applies to accounting and operational teams. Ultimately, KISS is an acronym for a reason. Right. And if you're making it more complex simply to add steps or because you want to include somebody or make somebody feel valued, you know, you're adding complexity for really no reason.

Chris Byers: Let's talk productivity for a minute. Do you have a go to productivity tip that you share with your team, with customers or whomever?

Kyle Tuominen: For me, it's take less meetings than you need. So I think one thing I find, you know, as I lead a team is I want to be in these meetings to support my team. It's not about I want to be in the meeting to know exactly what's going on. Right. I trust my team to escalate to me when I need to know about something. But I want to be on to support them, to give them a kudo's on their killing it or, you know, step in when they're struggling and kind of help them through it. What I've realized in talking to a lot of them has been, if I'm not on the call, they really own it. And I think sometimes, you know, when we're looking at our colleagues and they're on a call with us and we say, I'm not the expert in this area, but this person is. So I'm just going to completely shut down. And once you shut down, especially in a remote meeting, it's really hard to make it back right to that engaged level that you need. And, you know, for me, what I've seen is by taking less meetings and kind of having my team take a lot more of them, I'm seeing them kind of step up in new ways. And it gives me the freedom and flexibility to go pursue new objectives or strategy. You know, that we've been trying to build and haven't had the time to.

More From Coastal Cloud: Partner Perspectives on COVID-19: JoAnne King & Jim Stalder of Coastal Cloud

Chris Byers: Well, one last question. As you think about moving forward, how will you be reimagining the way that you work?

Kyle Tuominen: It's about kind of having these types of conversations with my customers and understanding. I have a restoration company right now. They're contractors that restore firewater, smoke damage. And, you know, one of the things that I found really thrilling about working with them was when we originally talked to them, our first meeting was with their CFO, CIO, CTO and then four sales reps and an IT support person and the IT director. It was not only executives and directors, it was they recognized the value of that. And in talking to them about their goals, it was really clear that they were looking at a way to drive better productivity for their sales team. And they knew that for us to be able to make those recommendations, we needed to talk to that sales team. And so I think, you know, for me about how I'm reimagining, you know, how we go to market and how we support our customers in these transformations, it's really talking them through, what's the important pieces for them? What's the important pieces for them at an executive level? What's the important pieces for them at an end user level? And then what's the important pieces for them at a customer level? The amount of customers that I have that still don't have personas of who their regular buyers are is a lot higher percentage than you think. And if we can shift the business place in general, the workplace in general, to being focused on how do we drive the type of customer experience that our customers expect? I think that's really critical. I think COVID provides a really good, clean way to show that, you know, I talked earlier about healthcare diagnostics being done remotely. You think now about how many more people now are using the Target pickup service or the Wal-Mart pickup service, Postmates for grocery delivery? Those expectations aren't going to go away. Right. Customers are really liking some of the convenient aspects of what COVID has created. You know, we all live busy lives, and if I can reduce 20 minutes of walking around a store by punching eleven things into my phone and having it ready, and I drive up and I'm on a conference call and I open my trunk and they put the bags in and I drive away. That's not going to end. Those customers are still going to want that. And so I think for me, it's about, you know, not only looking at, you know, what are your objectives right now, but what have you done to adapt for this environment? And what do your customers like and not like about that? And let's continue to drive forward on the pieces that they do like. You know, I'm seeing a lot of requests for self-service communities because customers are growing more and more self-service dependent rather than, you know, they might not want to talk to a salesperson if they can quote it themselves and buy it themselves. And guess what? That's at a higher margin for this company. That's a win all the way around. And so for me, I think it's, you know, identify what you're doing to transform, identify what your competitors are doing to transform, and then how can you leverage those same ideas or features or functionality to drive forward and really either differentiate yourself from your competitors or at least, you know, get on par with them.

Chris Byers: That was Kyle Tuominen with Coastal Cloud, and I hope what you learned from him today were a couple of really interesting things I heard from this conversation. First, if you want outsized results, which I think every single one of us in business does, digital transformation is a must. The other one was that we really need to talk to our frontline team members, our customers. That's where we're really going to learn what we need to learn to change, to transform and make their lives easier and make our lives easier. And as you're kind of digging into processes, being able to explain things in a very simple way, as he said, if you can explain it to your seven year old, I think life's gonna be good. And you know, the way I think about that, too, and talk to people is if you can't memorize something into a pretty small sentence or phrase, you're not gonna be able to repeat it over and over and over again, which is what we need to do to really convince people, get people excited about the change that we're making.

EPISODE TRANSCRIPT

Chris Byers: Welcome to the Ripple Effect. I am Chris Byers of Formstack. And today, as a part of our bonus episodes, we are featuring Kyle Tuominen. He is the director of the West at Coastal Cloud. And we're going to discuss what digital transformation looks like today in a world that's rapidly changing. While sharing how impactful that transformation can be on company culture. What can you learn from Kyle? Let's find out.

Well, before we go deeper into this topic and kind of jump into the conversation, Kyle can you tell us your elevator pitch of what Coastal Cloud is and what your role encompasses?

Kyle Tuominen: So Coastal Cloud is a platinum Salesforce partner, and we deliver success to our customers on the Salesforce platform. Our role is to go beyond simply building Salesforce and really helping provide a cohesive strategy for our customers long term.

Chris Byers: It's safe to say that 2020, for you and for everybody listening, has forced each of us to kind of rethink our businesses, how we work, how we operate. I'm curious, when you hear the words reimagine work, what comes to mind?

Kyle Tuominen: I think for a lot of companies operating in the age of COVID, reimagining work is how can I keep my team as productive as they were in the office? And for me at least, I think that might be the wrong approach, because I think it's really about how do you drive the same culture to your earlier point about digital transformation affecting that culture? You need to have a culture that drives change and really absorbs and adopts change willingly. Change resistant organizations struggle when there's large transformational issues, like a pandemic. And I think when a lot of companies are looking at reimagining the workplace, it's not reimagining what corporate culture or reimagining how their customers experience their brand or how their employees drive sales or success, whatever that means for that company. You know, I think oftentimes they're focusing a lot more tactically. How do I get soft tones to everybody at their houses? How do I make sure that my call center agents can take these calls from home? What if it has HIPAA information or payment information? And I think it's much more tactical in nature. And in reality, we're missing an opportunity to really take this as a chance to kind of reform your company from the ground up. But without having to start a kind of step one.

Chris Byers: So I love your comment about cultural values. They really should be driving our decisions right now. Funny enough, we actually went remote back in 2012. And yet all along the way, when people would tend to ask questions like, would we ever go back to the office? Would we ever be office only? My answer was kind of always, you know, the cultural value that drove us was what we called be agile and iterate. And so for us, that just happened to be we were going to work remotely because we felt like it was the best way for us to work as a company. And if that ever changed, yeah, we would change it. It's about agility. It's about iteration in our case. And so I love that comment that we should all be thinking about our cultural values first. And none of us have a cultural value of we're going to be in an office. I'm curious, how has that changed for you? How did life look before? How have you flexed to kind of embrace today?

Kyle Tuominen: I think the biggest change for me is I used to be a road warrior. I traveled 50 weeks a year for two and a half years. And that stopped when I came to the Coastal Cloud period. But I was still maintaining some level of travel. I think the interesting thing about Coastal Cloud and our kind of corporate culture is we kind of leave it up to our team members to decide. We expect everybody in our company to have an ownership mentality. And, you know, we have an office in Denver. And it was actually really important for me that we had an office in Denver, because personally, as much as I love working from home, I'm more productive in an office environment because I need a little bit of social stimulus. And sitting in the same house all day, can get a little stale even before the pandemic, but we never require people to come into the office. We had an office available if people wanted to collaborate, if they had a reason to collaborate, you know, whether that's a customer project or a challenging technical solution, people could choose to come into the office because they got value out of it. And really, my job as a leader is to drive that value, it's to create enough value of coming into the office that they want to or that they make that decision that working from home is more effective and productive. And quite frankly, I think Coastal Cloud, at least in our in our West Coast team, is probably 50/50 on those that enjoy coming into the office and see the value and those that prefer working from home, but we're able to kind of accommodate both types of team members because our corporate culture is designed around, you know, it's really your responsibility to be effective. And, you know, whatever you need to do that, we're going to support you.

Chris Byers: So, you know, one of the things you've described is that, you know, in a lot of ways, your team really didn't even need to change that much to operate in this new world. It's already how you are operating. So a lot of that has stayed the same. Actually, for the person who is maybe at home far more than they want, like you described and not getting some of that relational time, how are you helping people overcome that mental need and desire to be around people?

Kyle Tuominen: I think it takes different forms for different people. You know, for some people it's just about fresh air. And, you know, luckily living in Colorado, they can go hiking or go mountain climbing or, you know, what have you. You know, for some people, it is really that relational piece. For me, that is what it is. And so, you know, we do a lot of, you know, kind of stand ups with our video cameras on and bring our dogs into the view of the camera and everybody says hi, happy hours. I think one of the great things about this has been we've learned a lot about our colleagues and their actual lives. We spent a lot of time learning about their skills in the workplace and being in consulting kind of their skills that they can bring to a team or project or a customer. With everybody's real life now also being that work life, you know, whether that's kids or animals or parents or family in general, there's more people in the household. There's more hustle and bustle than they're accustomed to. Right. And I've seen our teams be incredibly accepting of kids crying in the background. And I was on a video call probably two weeks ago, and one of my customers was getting his face painted by his daughter while we were doing a Zoom call. And I just think, you know, stories like that are really important to continue to drive those relationships, even if you're not in person, you know, taking moments like that and appreciating kind of the absurdity of that. That picture has been really beneficial for me.

Related: Partner Interview Series: Kyle Tuominen of Coastal Cloud

Chris Byers: You know, one of the things you're talking about is that all of us are, even if we knew how to work remotely beforehand or really embracing it in a bigger way and and finding even more comfort, maybe if we worked at home beforehand, we hid our family, we hid our you know, that we are at our home. We try to make that a non issue. And yet now it's actually acceptable to let people know. Oh, yeah. You're in your house, right? I understand the dog's going to bark or run through the back or whatever, but the same thing is changing in businesses. You know, I had a conversation with somebody last last week or two weeks ago where she works for the state that I live in, which is Oklahoma. And she said something about they've closed down the offices and they've figured out we can work remotely. And I'm like, oh, my gosh, the state chose to work remotely. Life truly did just change. And so I'm curious, as you think about digital transformation and the importance of that, or maybe let's start with some definitions, what would you say the differences between digitization and digital transformation?

Kyle Tuominen: It does. So digitization is really the process of getting data into electronic forms. So it's kind of the transition from paper to digital and digital transformation is saying what can we do with this information? What are our customers looking for? What are our team members looking for? How can we leverage this information and the new technology that's available to us to drive a better customer experience? But it's also about thinking outside the box. You know, when the first personal computers came on the market, there was not a large market for them. It was expected to be a hobbyists and enthusiasts type purchase, not an every home, every person has to have one of these. And you know, the way that, quite frankly, Steve Jobs and Windows and Bill Gates and the Bomber drove the purchase and a need for those personal computers was, they thought outside the box. And you know, I think we're seeing that type of change in areas like healthcare. You know, you talked about how the state could go work from home. And that's a pretty transformational idea, certainly. But imagine health workers working from home. You know, one really interesting trend I've seen in healthcare around COVID, has been diagnostic appointments or tests are now being done in a person's home rather than done in a hospital. You know, obviously, to reduce the risk of transmission in a healthcare setting. But that took somebody looking at the problem of how do I get to give this test if they can't come in? And traditionally, the answer to that has always been, oh, they can't drive, will have a car service, pick them up. Right. Most major cities have some type of you know, if you're elderly or disabled, you know, we'll provide a service to pick you up and drop you off at your doctor's appointment. And so the thinking has always been, well, the problem is not that I'm doing the test in this location. The problem is that this person can't get to this location. And a pandemic really forced people and administrators and planners to think, OK, well, now it is. Now the location of the test is the problem. You know, and making those mobile and remote is not an easy feat. But I think it's an example of, you know, a specific vertical saying we have to pivot and, you know, how can we do that in a digital age? What does technology enable us to do if we think differently about this problem?

Chris Byers: And you've kind of introduced a mindset shift that we all need to be thinking about to really embrace digital transformation. So what would you suggest to companies who are beginning to consider this and think about how do I really embrace digital transformation in the way we're doing things?

Kyle Tuominen: Talk to the front line team. I think the digital transformation projects that I see that are most effective are ones driven by end users or team members downstream. Those people that are talking or working with our customers, because ultimately they're the ones hearing what a customer wants or needs or what would be an incredible value proposition for that customer. And, you know, I think as companies look at this as an opportunity to transform how they do business, you know, if you're transforming how somebody works from a corner office into working in a large library home study, it's a very different environment than maybe one of your team members that spends eight hours a day on calls and how their child is in remote learning. And, you know, they're struggling with audio issues. And, you know, how you approach those two problems is very different. You know, I think that the executive level sets the strategic priorities of the organization. And I don't think that changes based on that, that end user feedback or customer feedback, whether that's a guest or an employee. But I do think that it pivots those objectives and maybe reprioritizes them at times. And, you know, I think that's really the key piece at the outset of kind of embarking on this type of journey is making the right plan. And rather than plan, maybe, maybe a framework is a better wording for that, because it's also about the flexibility that you can show as you undergo the journey. It's not a two week journey. It's not a two month journey. It's really not even a two year journey. It's a five to 10 year journey. And what the technology scene will look like in five years. None of us, I mean, we can only guess. Right. And if you build a plan that the executive team has defined and the priorities were defined by the executive team or their delegates, and you're planning out for 10 years down the road of a technology roadmap, 10 years from now you will be buying some really outdated technology. And so it's more important to kind of take that feedback and build a framework of what do I want to accomplish rather than what tool am I going to use. And then once you kind of know that problem statement, you can pivot it back to. Now, how do we solve it? How do we think outside the box to solve it? If the current solutions that we're looking at just don't don't solve it in a way that we or our customers need.

You need to have a culture that drives change and really absorbs and adopts change willingly. It’s change-resistant organizations that struggle when there's large transformational issues, like a pandemic.

Chris Byers: Yeah, I think that really initial start of the framework of what are the right paths. And because there are multiple paths, we need to kind of cover ground and a few different planes. And then let's get started. And this, to your point, is going to last a long time. We need to get a few things in motion and then we need to step back and say, how did this go? And let's iterate on that. And we can kind of move from there is great thinking. What's gotten you so passionate about digital transformation? How do you get interested in this topic?

Kyle Tuominen: To be honest with you, it came from a lot of bad customer experiences. I started working retail and customer facing jobs when I was fifteen and I worked full time and went to night college, you know, in customer facing roles and kind of retail managerial roles. And I know, you know how challenging it can be to provide an exceptional level of customer service. But I also know the value of what happens when you do. And the more and more I started working with companies and seeing how little focus there is on that customer experience, the more I've wanted to change it. And, you know, seeing companies look at their customers and react, recognizing that the revenue and the profit margin goes up if you're driving a better customer experience, even at a higher cost. And I think one of the unique things has been that a lot of companies have found that these types of transformations have really reduced their costs and increased their levels of service. For me, seeing those types of changes happen are really impactful. But I think more important for me personally is the culture shift that comes with it. It's the refocusing on the customer. If you're taking the time to say this is critical for me, that we do this right for our customer, that our customer feels taken care of or safe or excited or energized or entertained or whatever your goal is for that customer. It's really important that you get to see that happen.

Chris Byers: See, you actually mention some of the experience that maybe a customer receives via a digital transformation. But what you're speaking to is change. And so along the way, you get resistance, I think often to change. And yet you may have the title, The Greatest Idea in the World, but people like to do things sometimes how they do them. How do you overcome that and how do you help them process through that to embrace that change?

Kyle Tuominen: I think the biggest thing is empathy. And, you know, the difference between empathy and sympathy is that I think the definitions vary by the person. But for me, empathy is not necessarily saying I agree with you, but it is saying I understand you. I think I've been lucky in my life. I've moved over 20 times and I've lived in virtually every major part of the country. And that gives me the ability to kind of empathize with a variety of different mindsets. And that's something that I've been lucky to have. But I think that empathy base is really critical to driving change through resistance or, you know, driving adoption and real consumption of transformational change. You know, I had an engagement where we were talking with a customer about adoption metrics and rather than talking about logins and, you know, a wall of shame of people that haven't logged in in 60 days, or haven't logged any activity in two weeks. You know, we talked about what I call vibrancy, which is the idea of measuring what is actually important. What are you actually trying to drive with this project or with this tool or with this feature? And so a lot of companies look at things like cases created issues in the system, and they say that's a negative for me. I actually look at that as a positive for two reasons. One, it means people are in the system because for them to create cases, they have to be in the system. And then, two, it's that they care enough to create the case. You know, it's a lot easier for a team member to log in, do their work, hate 80 percent of the software that they're using, but they don't have a feedback mechanism or they don't feel valued or they don't feel heard. They don't feel that empathy from their company. And, you know, ultimately, for me, it's about driving what is the goal of this? You know, how do we get people enthusiastic about it? And I find that the biggest way to do that is just listen and have empathy, you know, hear what their concerns are and understand that for me, right. When I'm working with an executive team and I define strategic objectives for a project, when I go talk to an end user that's struggling with the four extra clicks that it added to something that they do on a daily basis. The strategic priorities don't really matter at that point. You know, and it's important for me to put that aside and say, OK, I understand these priorities and we need to make sure that we're not violating any of them by making these changes. But we need to make this change, right. We can't add four clicks to something that somebody is doing, you know, a thousand times a day. And I think, you know, those two pieces are what drives through kind of that barrier or resistance to change.

Chris Byers: Well, I know you've had some really successful stories of digital transformation. Can you talk to us about one of those and tell us kind of what happened and how you approached it and the successes that it created?

Kyle Tuominen: So I worked with a healthcare company and it was a large multi-national healthcare company. They acquired a few new firms and they were kind of entering a medical device business for the first time. And they were really struggling with, you know, this was a company that for one hundred years had sold disposables and hospital equipment and computers and software, but had never really entered kind of the medical device space. Right. In body medical devices, you know, stents and things like that. And they were talking about, you know, selling into their customers. And when they're selling things like MRI coils or, you know, hardware, the conversations happen at the administrator level. And, you know, they were talking about, you know, convincing, you know, having an LMS or, you know, a teaching type platform to drive those conversations with administrators, to teach administrators about, you know, the functionality of their products and the differentiation of their products. And we had a workshop maybe about two months into this process, and we brought in a variety of frontline salespeople. We brought in manufacturing workers and shipping workers, shipping dock workers. And we asked them, what's the most important thing in your day to day? And the shipping dock person said, I need to know the secretary or front desk receptionist's name of the person that we're shipping to. And we were all a little confused. We were like, look, I mean, that seems important. But once you ship it, you're good, right? And he said, no, that person oftentimes will call me a follow up about, you know, X, Y or Z or it's coming in four boxes when they were expecting two. When he said building a relationship with those people because these are repetitive purchases is really critical for the success of the brand and the product and the business. And so instead of approaching this new space for them, as have we always done business, we took that and we said we really need to understand what the relationships are between our customers and this brand. Right. In these products, because it is so different from what this company has been used to. And by talking to the customers themselves, we understood that the most important thing for them was not price, it was not even necessarily the relationship, although the relationships that these sales reps had with these frontline employees from the customer, what really mattered was the effectiveness of the tool. And at the end of the day, the only thing the doctor cared about was, is this better for my patient than your competitors product? And by having those conversations and introducing a new way of thinking about, you know, focusing on those kind of frontline employees rather than the executive team or the administrators, we are able to identify a completely new opportunity for us and really drive sales through differentiation of the safety of the product. We were able to narrow the market and say, you know, this product works better in X, Y, and Z ways and in X, Y, and Z circumstances. And that's when you should use this product. You know, we saw a really significant lift in sales, and that's all created by kind of the conversations of a new software platform. And how do they sell this new software platform? And it didn't just change their software, it changed how they actually sell to their customers. So for me, that's you know, that's a really impactful story.

Learn More: What is Digital Agility?

Chris Byers: I think that is a wonderful story. One of the things you keep coming back to is this idea of talking to the front line. Ask the people who do the work for feedback and how they operate. I think that's such a powerful asset. We all avoid that a lot because it sounds hard or we don't think we're gonna get the information we're looking for. And so I love that you're starting there. These are complicated processes. They often cover lots of products, tech stacks, et cetera. How can people kind of start to tie these things together and become more efficient?

Kyle Tuominen: I want to go back to a point that you just made earlier. I'll try to weave it into this answer. I think it's really critical to talk to those frontline team members because they're the ones interacting with the customers and they can have a far greater outsized impact than any piece of software can in terms of how that customer perceives the brand. The tone of their body language, the type of outreach, the consistency of outreach, the consistency of branding, all of those things are perpetuated by that employee or by that team member. And for me, driving change within those teams is critical because they are the face of the brand and the impact that they can have on those customers. Chris, I think the importance of those frontline employees that you talked about, you know, is really driven in a very similar vein to the need for data. You know, one of the most impactful digital transformations was I worked with Caesars Entertainment, the casino giant and hospitality giant. And the biggest thing that their end marketers were asking for was not I want to be able to drive really crazy offers or I want to reduce how many approvals I need to get on a marketing campaign. They just wanted more data about their customers. They wanted to be able to act on that data and to be able to do that, we had to take a tech stack, that to your point, was incredibly fragmented and deprecated in a lot of cases. And we needed to consolidate and condense the data so that it was usable by all these different teams and pieces of software. But at the end of the day, the end ask from the end users was, I want more data so that I can better market to our customers so that I better understand what they want out of this experience at one of our properties. I think as companies recognize the value of that data, we're seeing, you know, the age of data right now, where companies are doing everything they can to collect data. But the companies that are getting ahead right now did that five years ago. And right now they're focused on how do we use that data? How do we build a data lake? You know, it's really identifying potential opportunities to use that data and then using that data, identifying if it had an improved effect or not, and then trying to use another piece of data. And as every system grows more and more interconnected, and that's kind of the default expectation. Now, when I talk to a lot of customers, they don't ask if they're going to need a middleware platform. They just ask why doesn't this already have a Salesforce connector? Because Salesforce is that standard bearer in the CRM space, you know, and kind of transiting that data across those systems is an expectation and not a nice to have. And I think that's a really key change from where we were five years ago. And I think five years from now, we're going to be looking back and saying, how do we take that data that we have transiting across systems and how do we make it actionable and how do we drive value out of it?

Chris Byers: Kyle, tell us what digital agility is? That sounds like a pretty kind of advanced terms. Talk to us about it.

Kyle Tuominen: So, Chris, I think it varies by company, but for me, digital agility means how fast can you operate with your current technology? And if you had no technology constraints, how fast could you operate? I think it's being agile in the software that you're picking right now, picking something that is not going to have a huge historical cost or have a massive capital investment that is going to make it difficult to switch if a better product comes along in ten years. It's being flexible in terms of the tools that you're using. And it's also saying if I set aside the technical limitations for what I currently have, what could I accomplish? Chris, if we think about the marketing example with Caesars' earlier digital agility for them was really how do we take all these different pieces of data and deliver it to these end users that are touching our customers. But when they originally started, it was how do I get better marketing data? And those are two very different questions. And the reason that they were successful was because they were able to pivot and say, OK, we've collected this data for marketing, but we can do way more than just use this for marketing. We can use this to impact the experience. We can use it to better tailor trip planning activities to our customers. And for me, it's about the ability to pivot quickly and choose tools and partners that can drive that for you. And then it's about, you know, looking at what's possible instead of what do I need.

Chris Byers: So some of us probably here digital transformation and we think, great, I can do that pretty quickly. But if we've been around processes, big software packages we've bought, we also know that can be a really daunting task and sound really, really big. Tell us the difference between that digital transformation and digital agility.

Kyle Tuominen: Sure. I think digital agility is more of a mindset. It's you know, when we first started this conversation, Chris, we were talking about corporate culture. And I think digital agility is really the mindset about, you know, approaching problems in a new way, approaching problems and saying what can we do? Right. To my earlier point, digital transformation is more about how do we do it. For me, the agility piece is looking at problems and saying, can we solve this and how can we solve it? And not from a I need to see X piece of data right now from a user story perspective, but from an end user perspective. I need my sales rep to know what I bought last year so they can recommend what I need to buy this year. And, you know, that's a much easier change to make than saying I have to go build a data lake and I need to have Snowflake to have, you know, really accurate reporting. And, you know, I need Tablo for visualization. You know, that's really the digital transformation piece, right? That's the overhauling of how you interpret data, how you use data, how you act on data. And the agility piece is really saying we need to make this change. And how can we get there? What are the small steps that we can take immediately? And how can we start that planning for that longer term transformation?

Read Next: How Digital Agility Empowers Employees and Boosts Productivity

Chris Byers: What are some things that help make a corporation be able to make that digital shift? I think it can take a lot of energy at times. So what do you think are some things that just make that all the easier?

Kyle Tuominen: Yeah, I mean, I think from a culture perspective, you know, it's imperative that you're listening to your teams. And I know a theme for me is certainly, our kind of entry level or frontline teams, they're really critical. And I think they get overlooked because, you know, their titles aren't great or our executive teams haven't worked those roles or haven't come up. But I think, you know, ultimately culture needs to be inclusive and not exclusive. And if you're driving a culture that says I only care about a director's opinion, you're going to struggle to transform because your team is not going to give you the feedback that you need. You're going to hear about what your directors want and not what your teams need. And there's a distinct difference between those two things. So I think for me, the culture shift required for digital transformation is really about inclusiveness. And I think a lot of companies are seeing the value of an inclusive working environment the last few years and certainly the last six months or so.

Chris Byers: So there is this inertia that causes us to kind of want to just keep doing what's in front of us. How do you get people motivated to say, hey, let's get going, let's start to look at this process and figure out how to do it better?

Kyle Tuominen: I don't find it challenging to motivate people in this way, to be honest with you. I think everybody wants to have a significant change in their organization or for their customers. I think most of the time we resign ourselves to the status quo because it's a resignation. It's easier. We don't have the energy to fight for it. But I think when presented with the opportunity to have an outsized impact, I exceedingly rarely see people that have objections or become detrimental to the team. It happens, right. But I don't think it's a really common issue that I encounter.

Chris Byers: What's your number one piece of advice for embracing simplicity kind of in business processes?

Kyle Tuominen: If you can't explain it to your seven year old, it's too complex for your team. And not because I think your team, anybody's team, has the intellectual capability of a seven year old, but because your team is focused on a hundred different priorities and if what you're asking them to do is not easy to fit into one of those priorities, it's going to take them away from those priorities. And whether that's customer or internal customer serving objectives or priorities. Ultimately, you're leaving somebody high and dry. So embracing the simplicity of let's treat our team members like adults. I think we talked earlier about digital transformation in the workplace and driving that culture. I think a really key piece of that is also expecting everybody to be adults and expecting everybody to have an ownership mentality similar to what we do at Coastal Cloud. You know, if we look at call centers that transformed, if you asked a call center manager, V.P. of service two years ago, you know, let's shift your team to remote, we'll save you the office space cost. Their number one objection would have been, oh, no, that's not possible. We can't let them work from home. We don't know that they're going to be taking as many calls. But in a week or two weeks or three days for some of our customers, they flipped to a remote based call center. And it was always possible. It was just there wasn't a will to not micromanage. You know, they wanted to keep it complex. And now that they're seeing by simplifying it and allowing people to work from home, they actually have better coverage on hours that they used to struggle on. You know, nine to five was a very regular call center schedule. Well, the problem with that is that a lot of your customers, that's also their work schedule and now your busy time from five to seven and five to seven is when you're lower staffed. But if you've got team members that have a flexible schedule and obviously with a call center or any type of service, you have to kind of stagger that. But, you know, ultimately, five to seven might work better for a lot of these parents that their kids are doing remote learning and now they can spend a large portion of their day helping their kids learn. You know, they feel valued from their employer. They feel like adults. And, you know, ultimately, driving a simpler business process allows them to make those decisions about what's best for them. And I use the call center in this example, but I think it applies to sales and marketing teams. I think it applies to accounting and operational teams. Ultimately, KISS is an acronym for a reason. Right. And if you're making it more complex simply to add steps or because you want to include somebody or make somebody feel valued, you know, you're adding complexity for really no reason.

Chris Byers: Let's talk productivity for a minute. Do you have a go to productivity tip that you share with your team, with customers or whomever?

Kyle Tuominen: For me, it's take less meetings than you need. So I think one thing I find, you know, as I lead a team is I want to be in these meetings to support my team. It's not about I want to be in the meeting to know exactly what's going on. Right. I trust my team to escalate to me when I need to know about something. But I want to be on to support them, to give them a kudo's on their killing it or, you know, step in when they're struggling and kind of help them through it. What I've realized in talking to a lot of them has been, if I'm not on the call, they really own it. And I think sometimes, you know, when we're looking at our colleagues and they're on a call with us and we say, I'm not the expert in this area, but this person is. So I'm just going to completely shut down. And once you shut down, especially in a remote meeting, it's really hard to make it back right to that engaged level that you need. And, you know, for me, what I've seen is by taking less meetings and kind of having my team take a lot more of them, I'm seeing them kind of step up in new ways. And it gives me the freedom and flexibility to go pursue new objectives or strategy. You know, that we've been trying to build and haven't had the time to.

More From Coastal Cloud: Partner Perspectives on COVID-19: JoAnne King & Jim Stalder of Coastal Cloud

Chris Byers: Well, one last question. As you think about moving forward, how will you be reimagining the way that you work?

Kyle Tuominen: It's about kind of having these types of conversations with my customers and understanding. I have a restoration company right now. They're contractors that restore firewater, smoke damage. And, you know, one of the things that I found really thrilling about working with them was when we originally talked to them, our first meeting was with their CFO, CIO, CTO and then four sales reps and an IT support person and the IT director. It was not only executives and directors, it was they recognized the value of that. And in talking to them about their goals, it was really clear that they were looking at a way to drive better productivity for their sales team. And they knew that for us to be able to make those recommendations, we needed to talk to that sales team. And so I think, you know, for me about how I'm reimagining, you know, how we go to market and how we support our customers in these transformations, it's really talking them through, what's the important pieces for them? What's the important pieces for them at an executive level? What's the important pieces for them at an end user level? And then what's the important pieces for them at a customer level? The amount of customers that I have that still don't have personas of who their regular buyers are is a lot higher percentage than you think. And if we can shift the business place in general, the workplace in general, to being focused on how do we drive the type of customer experience that our customers expect? I think that's really critical. I think COVID provides a really good, clean way to show that, you know, I talked earlier about healthcare diagnostics being done remotely. You think now about how many more people now are using the Target pickup service or the Wal-Mart pickup service, Postmates for grocery delivery? Those expectations aren't going to go away. Right. Customers are really liking some of the convenient aspects of what COVID has created. You know, we all live busy lives, and if I can reduce 20 minutes of walking around a store by punching eleven things into my phone and having it ready, and I drive up and I'm on a conference call and I open my trunk and they put the bags in and I drive away. That's not going to end. Those customers are still going to want that. And so I think for me, it's about, you know, not only looking at, you know, what are your objectives right now, but what have you done to adapt for this environment? And what do your customers like and not like about that? And let's continue to drive forward on the pieces that they do like. You know, I'm seeing a lot of requests for self-service communities because customers are growing more and more self-service dependent rather than, you know, they might not want to talk to a salesperson if they can quote it themselves and buy it themselves. And guess what? That's at a higher margin for this company. That's a win all the way around. And so for me, I think it's, you know, identify what you're doing to transform, identify what your competitors are doing to transform, and then how can you leverage those same ideas or features or functionality to drive forward and really either differentiate yourself from your competitors or at least, you know, get on par with them.

Chris Byers: That was Kyle Tuominen with Coastal Cloud, and I hope what you learned from him today were a couple of really interesting things I heard from this conversation. First, if you want outsized results, which I think every single one of us in business does, digital transformation is a must. The other one was that we really need to talk to our frontline team members, our customers. That's where we're really going to learn what we need to learn to change, to transform and make their lives easier and make our lives easier. And as you're kind of digging into processes, being able to explain things in a very simple way, as he said, if you can explain it to your seven year old, I think life's gonna be good. And you know, the way I think about that, too, and talk to people is if you can't memorize something into a pretty small sentence or phrase, you're not gonna be able to repeat it over and over and over again, which is what we need to do to really convince people, get people excited about the change that we're making.

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