About the Episode
Have you ever felt stuck during a project? Whether you’re about to start or are already in the trenches, lots of challenges can completely stall progress, like a lack of collaboration or getting distracted by one-off requests. But there are things you can do to avoid these issues from the get-go. Amanda Wodzenski, Principal at innovation consultancy HIKE2, joins us on this episode to discuss how alignment, governance, and vision can keep teams working efficiently towards accomplishing big goals. Discover ways to power your team through those stuck moments, no matter how difficult the project.
Meet Our Guest
Amanda Wodzenski ensures organizations thrive in this modern market by guiding them through digital transformations. As Principal at HIKE2, she leads one of the most innovative and collaborative digital consultancies in the Salesforce ecosystem. Her 20 years of experience in CRM systems like Salesforce have earned her the title of CRM mastermind. This digitization expert is known for providing high value and considerable business impact.
Lindsay: Something we've been reflecting on a lot this season is how innovation is really easy to dream about, but really hard to execute. The path usually isn't paved perfectly and the roadblocks are real, but the good news is that this episode is all about how to get over, around, and through those roadblocks so that you can continue to innovate within your organization. Amanda Wodzenski is a principal at HIKE2 an innovation consultancy that helps organizations overcome those challenges and roadblocks that may get in the way of their innovation and process improvement efforts.
AKA, she's heard it all and she's got the answers for how you can overcome some common roadblocks or just avoid them all together. Here's Amanda. Amanda, thank you so much for taking time to talk with us today on practically genius.
Amanda: Oh, you're so welcome. I'm thrilled to be here and thank you for having me. It's a real honor.
Lindsay: Tell me a little bit about HIKE2. What do you do? And what is your day to day in your role?
Amanda: Here at HIKE2, we're an innovation consultancy. We have an amazing team of consultants that has just an incredible variety of backgrounds. One of the things that's most exciting about our team is that everyone comes from different industries and has very different skill sets.
So we have some members of our team that are designers. They focus on human centered design. They focus on user experience design. We have others that are deeply technical that are. Focused on development skills, architecture skills, platform skills. And then we have others that focus more on change management and training.
So we pull all of those skills and teams together to really be able to deliver and provide an exceptional experience for our clients that are looking to innovate.
Lindsay: And speaking of your clients, when do they usually bring you in, what is their breaking point and what is your process for getting them started?
Amanda: Ideally, our clients are bringing us in at the very beginning. When they're thinking about a transformation, they have a big problem to solve, but often we're brought in because somebody's stuck and they either have a very specific project in mind that they don't have the expertise that their bandwidth to get done, or they need deep in a project and it needs a rescue.
So lots of different scenarios where we come to the table.
Lindsay: You said the ones who need to be rescued, can you paint the picture of what does that usually look like for you? What are some common situations or processes or projects you see people struggling with in that situation?
Amanda: Sometimes a client just doesn't have enough time or resources, or it was harder than they thought it would be from the very beginning.
So they're really looking for somebody that can dig in, figure out why they're stuck and what the right next best steps or actions are really taking a step back on a project plan. And looking at that to make sure that we're set up for success and success can mean a lot of different things, but these problems are.
Rarely technical. It's usually an issue of alignment or underinvestment in time and resources to get something done.
Lindsay: I like that you brought up the alignment piece. I think that is crucial, especially with any large-scale project, because you're not aligned on exactly what you're trying to do once you're trying to accomplish you're 99% of the time gonna fail.
So can you speak a little bit about that alignment? What should people be thinking about when beginning a project and finding that alignment across teams and people and resources.
Amanda: So it's really initially aligned on the vision in terms of what is the real vision for the business, but also what are we trying to achieve?
What outcomes are we looking for? If we're thinking about this from our client's perspective, they wanna continue to differentiate themselves and really provide the best possible buying and serving experience for their clients. So having a clear definition of what that looks like, and then what exactly is the.
That we're going to carve out and work on together as a team right now to make that happen. So having everybody on the same page in terms of what we're here to achieve and when we're gonna achieve it, what does a roadmap look like? Those types of things, and then also defining those roles and responsibilities throughout the organization and throughout the initiative.
So these are things like product owners, project managers, solution, architects, development teams, QA training, and change manage. really having those clearly marked in terms of who is responsible for what, who owns what, and that's gonna help you get to that vision.
Lindsay: In speaking of project managers, what are some skills that project managers should have, or if they don't have, should be trying to hone.
Typically the project managers are exceptionally organized. They're the ones who are ultimately accountable for the work getting done and the success of the project. So it's their job every single day to understand blockers and to remove blockers. So these are people that have very good and very strong communication skills that are well.
Did. And they had the ability to really look deep, to understand what the root cause of a problem is as well as the ability to see future problems that have not yet arisen so that the smaller problems don't become bigger problems down the road.
Lindsay: I really like the term ultimately accountable. I think that's an incredible term to use because it makes me think about how a manager should function across any team or department or role they're the ones who can have those tough conversations, can find those barriers and move them outta your way for you and make sure everyone's sticking to the right timeline.
Amanda: Going back to the discussion of when clients come to you with a new process or project or problem, what are some of the biggest roadblocks that you're seeing people facing?
When we lack that clear vision roadmap and a governance structure, there's pressure to move quickly in the absence of a much more strategic roadmap.
So what you find is businesses, they need results. They want outcomes. They want them quickly. So they tend to jump in just to try to fix the near term problem. Then you end up with a series of disparate point solutions and products that are all spun up so quickly. It turns into a very messy spider web, and it can overwhelm the technical teams and the it teams.
So there's much better ways to be effective and to be fast in the current environment right there, you just spend so much time trying to undo things and getting them to work well together.
Lindsay: I really like that you brought up undoing things. So what are some tips for identifying when that might be the thing to do?
Like undoing a process?
Amanda: Taking that time to really understand current state what that looks like today versus the future state. So, you know, there's existing technology platforms and technology, stacks, and integrations that are there today that clients are already using. They can be incredibly business critical.
The business needs to keep running throughout a transformation initiative. So how do you fix the car while you're still driving it? You wanna minimize business disruption while you're still achieving the outcomes. These are gonna be vital to your long-term business success. So a lot of times you're really taking that step to take a look at the processes that exist in place today.
And when you step back and you review those from the persona of either the end-user or the customer themselves, some of the things can be very obvious that you need to fix to increase efficiencies, et C.
Lindsay: What are some of those obvious moments you've seen time and time again with your clients that you think people would be able to just identify off the.
Amanda: I think sometimes it's just one more step. You might be in one particular solution and things work pretty well there. Somebody is looking to solve a slightly different problem. It doesn't necessarily mean you need to build a whole new app. You could just have one more step in what they're doing. That's working well today.
I think that's something that comes up all the time. Like you're already doing this over here. If you just add this one thing, but you'll have your entire app that you were looking to build over.
Lindsay: Yes, don't reinvent the wheel. Right. and I think you also bring up a point that I've seen of people kind of getting in this mindset that like, oh, I have to build something or, oh, I have to create an app or, oh, I have to build a new system that doesn't exist when it doesn't necessarily have to be that way.
There are plenty of systems, like you said, even within your own organization that might need a tweak or two and you can fix and modify to that new need. You've identified.
Amanda: I think you nailed it. It's absolutely a balance. Just understanding what you have today. What's working, what's not working and where there's some gaps.
Lindsay: And speaking of balance, I wanna talk about balancing tools and people. I think you've already made it a little clear that really comes down to the people and the processes before the tools. But I want you to speak a little bit about the balance between having the right people in place and enough people in place, but also the right tools, whether that's a new tool or one that already.
Amanda: Yeah. When we think about tools and deciding if we're bringing in a new platform or a new tool, just having some governance in place, whether that's a center of excellence or a governance structure that you have another set of eyes that is really looking at the whole technology stack so they can best determine, okay, well, do we need a new tool here?
Or do we already have three tools that might accomplish the same thing? And can we use one of the ones that we have and just extend. Form slightly or doesn't make sense to bring in a new tool. And for that new tool that we're bringing in, how does it fit with the other pieces of our technology stack?
Can it be integrated? Is it native to one of the tools that we have? Those are some of the things that teams should be going through. So you don't have dramatically different platforms that don't speak easily to each other. How do we make decisions that are driving toward our roadmap that we're looking to build as an organization.
Related: 3 Crucial To-Dos Before Beginning a Project
Lindsay: Governance that can kind of be like a scary word to some people. I think, especially if you might work in a role that is fringe to those more technical or tech-heavy roles for myself. I don't think about governance often, but I would love for you to dig into that. Just a little bit of explaining high level what governance is, what should be within that realm of that tech governance.
You bring up.
Amanda: It can be as lightweight or as heavyweight as is appropriate for your organization, depending on what your needs are right here. But basically what it does mean is that there is a committee or a person that is looking at proposed solutions, proposed new pieces of technology. They understanding the big vision, understanding what's in place today and making recommendations.
It's another set of. That can absolutely look at what is proposed and see if it makes sense. If it fits into the roadmap. If we're buying things that we don't need, if we're building things that are in conflict to the strategy, many organizations have something like a center of excellence where there's committees that look at different things.
Like there could potentially be an architecture committee that sits within a center of. That has maybe a weekly board where new things are presented and reviewed, and feedback is given. It could be more of a technical code review before anything is placed into production. Through that center of excellence, lots of different ways to set that up for an organization, something we help our clients with all the time.
Lindsay: For people who are in organizations that it's just difficult to get approval for any kind of new technology. Do you have any advice for those people about how they can encourage the leaders and the managers of those departments to be a little bit more flexible?
Amanda: Taking that step back, I think is what's important.
If you find that you're just having the same conversations over and over again, and you're missing the mark because things aren't approved or the process is too slow. Look at that whole process itself for what it takes to get something approved.
Lindsay: So you talk about the process and looking at the whole process from me.
And one thing that we've talked about quite a bit this season, this show is the importance of auditing and be able to audit a process. So do you have any kind of guidelines or advice or tips and tricks on the best way to audit a process?
Amanda: I think looking at it from a day in the life of a customer a day in the life of the user, having them walk you through doing what sometimes is called a ride along where you're really looking at, okay, well, what are they doing?
And then is the technology achieving those goals? And through that process, it'll be amazing what you see. And I think it really helps inform a roadmap and what the highest impact most fruitful next best steps and actions would be for an organize.
Lindsay: And what's at stake. If you don't get into a system of auditing your processes or performing these health checks, I think what you find over time is people do things just because that's the way we've always done it.
The data is really at risk. People are forcing a system to do what it needs to do, just so they can get the next. Step and you can overemphasize. And that's the importance of having very high quality data. If you want to be able to make good business decisions with the data that you have, and you want to ensure adoption.
If people can't rely on a system or solution, because they know it's not always right, they're not going to use it. So over time, that data. Quality really degrades. And it'll become apparent in the fact that the users won't be relying on the solution and your business decisions that you make, you might be going outside the system or the solution to make those.
And they just might not be the right decisions.
Lindsay: I know you work a lot in change management and being able to bring really innovative processes to all sorts of clients. So do you have any advice on how those people can convince people to get on board with it's time to change or there's a necessity to change and just because we've always done it this way doesn't mean it's always right.
Amanda: It's gotta be that what's in it for me, there has to be something in it. There has to be some real value there and they have to see the change and they have to know that when they give you their opinion and they show you things, they have to see results from it. This is the type of stuff that we see all the time.
Maybe somebody's going into a system to do something very particular. And because they have some domain knowledge, they've been doing it for a long time. They'll say, well, this is what pops. But I know this is wrong. So I delete this part and I keep this part. Nobody else is gonna know how to do that. But those are the types of things you hear in these conversations all the time.
You need to say, well, that's ridiculous. Nobody should have to do that. Let's fix that. And then they need to see the follow through that happens and quick follow through. And then they're bought in to, oh my gosh, just organization just listened to me. They made something easier for me. It made sense. Now the data's right.
And we're on this path to true innovation.
Lindsay: I know one thing that you speak about with HIKE2, and the work you do is experience led digital solutions. So can you talk a little bit about what that means?
Amanda: Experience is becoming so important. What we continue to hear is that buyers are no longer buying something because it has the best features or the best price, but they're buying because the experience is better working with another organization.
So what is that experience all the way from the very top of the funnel, where someone is becoming just aware of your organization to where they're. Some research about the organization to where they're actually clicking a button to buy or picking up the phone to buy whatever that is, but then the service experience as well.
So really thinking about this from a customer's perspective, what is it like to do business with this company? And if you're a user you're also that customer. So as a user, what is my experience in using this solution? So it's always putting the humans and people first creating kind of special moments.
Delighting them every day would be the aspirational goal for most organizations.
Lindsay: And so I think we've talked a little bit about inefficiencies and being able to identify inefficiencies and processes, but where are some areas of inefficiencies that org may not be aware of or some issues that are just underneath the surface that people should be more aware of as they're doing these process audits, trying to optimize for EF.
Amanda: I think if you're looking for a low hanging fruit, there's really a couple of areas that always have some hot buttons in them. I would say onboarding when you have a new client, that onboarding process can be disconnected and clunky in almost all situations and service. What is that? First, second, third service interaction.
How well when you call, do they know you and have your information in front of them? How quickly and how easily and through what channels are they able to service?
Lindsay: Are there any trends that you've seen also over maybe the past year or two as more organizations bring in digitization and they're looking for ways to service their customers or clients quickly be able to have more digital channels.
Are there any trends that you've been seeing that your clients are coming to you with? Hey, I have this problem. What's the.
Amanda: Personalization is something that's really key. And what really does personalization mean? It certainly is in the very initial stages, just knowing somebody's first name, but then really understanding their preferences and knowing more about them is gonna allow you to really deliver.
The right message at the right moment. So a lot of this really comes down to getting to know their client, getting to collect the right data about them, and then really delivering a very personalized experience that is going to just hit the mark with them.
Lindsay: So, do you have any advice or stories or just things that people should be thinking about of once you have created a new system or process?
What does it look like? Six months after that? A year after that,
Amanda: I think it comes back to that continuous feedback loop. Once you are live, your introduction and people are using it continuously coming back, asking those questions, what's going well, what's not going well. Where's the greatest opportunity for improvement and taking those into.
Level of enhancement or sprint cycle. Also asking for feedback, asking for feedback and ideas from both the users internally, as well as your customers and incorporating those, having a way to prioritize ideas and putting them into your product.
Lindsay: And speaking of prioritizing, when organizations are trying to tackle a really big problem that they think is gonna take years to achieve two, three plus years to create a new solution.
Is it best to do that in phase?
Amanda: Absolutely. I think so sometimes it's easier to do than others. Sometimes you're replacing something that's legacy and there's gonna be a real cutoff date. So you have to decide, okay, well, what is that minimal viable product that you can start with, but starting with that, and then really prioritizing what needs to be in as your phase one phase two, and then ultimately getting to more of a regular release cycle is what's gonna allow for that continuous innovation and continuous improve.
Lindsay: How do you then decide? Okay. Here's my huge big scope. Here are all the things we're trying to achieve. Here's the big dream end stage. How do you then try to funnel that down into here are the top three to five priorities for phase one, cuz it can get really difficult, especially if you have a lot of cooks in the kitchen.
So any advice.
Amanda: Yeah, I think there's a lot of great ways to do that. There's design thinkers, there's different types of charts and graphs that you can put up right there, but pulling people together into a work stop style session and using one of those methodologies is incredibly helpful where you're looking at level of effort versus business impact.
And sometimes just putting those up there, the solution becomes then really clear, really fast, and you'll be able to. Concern from that. What makes sense and what needs to be there, what needs to be first, and then what is really considered that nice to have that can come a little bit later.
Lindsay: So is design thinking your favorite way to do that?
Or any other suggestions for that?
Amanda: I think that's the most impactful because it really takes into account the team because you need ownership and you need buy-in for some of these decisions. And if people are collectively making these together, I think you're gonna have that. Buy-in a lot easier.
Lindsay: So I have one last question to close out our conversation.
As you know, the show is called practically genius. And the reason behind that is that we believe that ingenious ideas are found all throughout organizations. So what are some of these attributes of people who are the change makers in an organization, or if someone is thinking that they want to become a change maker, what are some things that they might be able to introduce into themselves or their day-to-day work, to be able to uncover these genius ideas on more of a day to day basis?
Amanda: These are your problem solvers right here. They're not willing to take the status quo as it is. They tend to question the why, like why do we do it this way and encouraging those folks to bring those ideas forward, having the structured way to collect those ideas and bring them forward and understand them.
give the person who gave the idea an opportunity to explain it and why that's good. And I think that's genius. just, you know, being in a position to collect them, understand them and implement them.
Lindsay: Oh, that was a great way to say that. Amanda, thank you so much for joining us today. It was great.
Amanda: Uh, thanks so much for having me really appreciate it.
Lindsay: Thank you so much for joining us for this great conversation with Amanda. If you wanna keep the conversation going, join me and my co-host Ryan for next week's episode of practically speaking, where we'll be diving in with some data-driven insights around how the most optimized organizations remove roadblocks to their innovation.
And as always, you can find your next practically genius idea at form sec.com/practically-genius.