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Digital Velocity Podcast Hosted by Tim Curtis and Erik Martinez

60 Navigating a Digital Transformation - Jen Swanson

This week on the Digital Velocity Podcast, Jen Swanson of Tuckpoint Advisory Group joins Tim and Erik to discuss how businesses can successfully navigate a digital transformation.

Digital transformations impact all areas of a business. Jen says, “…when I talk with companies who are going through digital transformation, my definition is companies who are trying to leverage technology in every corner of their business.”

The effective integration of digital technology positively affects business from the inside out. Jen explains, “You can't deliver a great customer experience outside your four walls if your employees are suffering from outdated systems, clunky customer service, this system doesn't talk to this system, this data doesn't flow over here. If those kinds of end-to-end sort of transformations aren't tended to and prioritized as much as what's happening on the pane of glass to what's happening to the customers, you can invest all you want on what's being shown to the rest of the world, it won't matter because you will never live up to that promise of what happens outside. So, for me, that transformation has to be from like stem to stern, root to tip. You've gotta be able to pay attention to that entire stack.”

While there is no one-size-fits-all strategy when it comes to digital transformation, it’s about finding the right place to start. Jen says, “There's no one like, well, here's step one, here's step two. But here's the thing, there's always a place that you can start and the trick is finding it. And what I will tell you is that in some cases, there is a low-risk place to start.”

Listen to this week’s episode to learn more about how to improve business through digital transformation.

About the Guest:

Jen’s career spans over 25 years of roles in customer advocacy, marketing technology, and service channel operations in higher education and healthcare organizations, including the University of Minnesota, Capella University, Children’s Minnesota, and UnitedHealth Group. Her consulting career began in 2019 and in 2023 she expanded that work by creating Tuckpoint Advisory Group.

Here’s what she brings to an engagement:

She’s “practically creative” – an integrated, whole-brained thinker with strong present-moment awareness – able to hear what’s being said (or unsaid) in any room

She’s got EQ and IQ in equal measure and knows when to deploy each for maximum impact

A champion of product management and agile principals, she is experienced in applying fundamentals with context and nuanced


Tim Curtis: [00:00:00] Hello, and welcome to this edition of the Digital Velocity Podcast. I'm your co-host, Tim Curtis from CohereOne.

Erik Martinez: And I'm Erik Martinez from Blue Tangerine.

Tim Curtis: And today on the show, we have Jen Swanson, who's a Transformation Advisor and Strategic Consultant. Jen's career spans over 25 years in customer advocacy, marketing technology, and service channel operations in both higher education and healthcare organizations, including the University of Minnesota, Capella University, Children's Minnesota, and United Health Group.

Her consulting career began in 2019 and in 2023, she [00:01:00] expanded that work by creating Tuckpoint Advisory Group. Jen, it's nice to have you on the show. Welcome.

Jen Swanson: Thank you so much. Thanks for having me.

Tim Curtis: You bet. One of the things we like to do is to kind of get just a little snippet of your background for the listeners. So, you want to tell us a little bit about your story?

Jen Swanson: Sure. Well, as you talked about in the intro, I got my start actually in higher education. I started working in traditional higher ed on college campuses and pretty quickly actually made the pivot into for-profit higher ed and for-profit higher ed in the early aughts was online.

And so, everything was digital, right? So, it really didn't matter what part of the university you're working for. It was all technology and I loved it. It was so great. It had that startup feel. We were growing by leaps and bounds. Everything was innovation. Nobody knew what they were doing. We were all trying new things.

And at the time, it was really sort of the rise of the customer experience, sort of revolution. I was really lucky to be on a rocket ship at Capella University where it [00:02:00] didn't matter sort of what your credentials were. You could sort of be like, Hey, I want to go solve that problem over there. Can I go solve that problem? They were like, please go.

It was a great opportunity to sort of experiment around customer experience strategy. That's where I learned what product management was and Agile methodologies and experimentation innovation strategies. I spent about eight years there and that experience was hugely transformational for me. You'll notice I'm going to use that word probably six ways from Sunday.

But that journey for me was so exciting because it was this opportunity to sort of try small wins. Take really thorny student problems, how are students going to be able to learn this thing that only was possible in a lab or in a classroom and try to figure out how to deliver it online with a teacher in California and a student in New York, and how are we going to make that work in a way that the federal education system was going to recognize as legitimate? And that was really exciting. And so, I just kept sort of [00:03:00] figuring out ways to do that over and over and over again.

After a while, I took that sort of curiosity and experimentation mindset to healthcare and did that for a while. And then, in 2019, after working for one of the biggest companies in the world, United Health Group, I decided that doing things in big companies wasn't maybe my style so much. So, I went out on my own and started taking that same sort of mindset out into my own consulting practice.

I started doing product consulting, that's really where I started, where I was going in and helping companies figure out, well, what's your customer problem and how do you want to solve it, and what's the best way to do that for both the customer and in a way that's viable and scalable for your business?

And more and more and more as we were doing that, I would come up with really great, awesome solutions with their technology team and their operations team and their business team. And we come up with a solution and the company would be like, that's awesome. This is so great. We have no idea how to implement this because this is not how our company is [00:04:00] built.

You're asking us to work across all of our silos. We're built horizontally and you want us to work vertically. We can't do this. And so, then I would come back and say, well, sure you can. Because if you start to work differently, if you assemble your teams differently, if you start thinking about working as product teams, instead of in projects, you can start to evolve the way you work, you evolve your operating model.

Companies kept saying, well, can you help us do that? And I said, sure. But that was harder and harder to do as just a solo person. And so, about a year ago, I said, all right, I need some friends. If we're going to do this, I need more people. And so that's where I really made the pivot from solo into a consultancy.

Tim Curtis: Yeah, that is the story, right? That is the evolution, the evolution of a consultant. You start out in one area, then it sort of evolves to another area and it evolves to needing to bring others in.

Jen Swanson: Product market fit, baby. That's what it's all about. Right?

Tim Curtis: That's what it's all about. Absolutely. Well, I know [00:05:00] Tuckpoint Advisory, one of the major focuses is that digital transformation, helping organizations go through that digital transformation. Digital transformation is sort of a word like contemporary. It means something a little different to everybody. Your contemporary and my contemporary would be two different styles, right?

Jen Swanson: Sure.

Tim Curtis: So, digital transformation is kind of like that. Why don't you maybe give us a little definition or describe digital transformation in your eyes?

Jen Swanson: Sure. So, for me, when I talk with companies who are going through digital transformation, my definition is companies who are trying to leverage technology in every corner of their business.

It's so much more than, Hey, we need a website, right? That was digital transformation circa probably 1990, back in the day. Although let's be honest, there's still plenty of companies that are going through that digital transformation today. It's funny, but it's not because it's true. And that's okay because we got to meet people where they're at.

But the reality is, is that digital transformation [00:06:00] has huge implications for operations, for supply chain, for service delivery. You know, the story I tell is like, let's imagine the most offline business you can imagine, right? So, let's imagine a masonry company. They're going to come out and they are gonna lay your brick patio. That is hands-on manual labor.

Except for the fact that they have to exist in a digital world to order their supplies, and they have to exist in a digital world to manage their workforce, and they have to exist in a digital world to schedule jobs with clients and to sell to customers and to get paid by customers, and to manage all of that work.

So, as much as you'd like to say, Oh, they're just a masonry company. They have to exist in a digital world and they are subject to the forces of digital transformation, as much as Netflix or Google or whatever business you [00:07:00] want to bring to me as being, you know, quote-unquote, digitally boring. So, that idea of digital transformation permeating the entire business end-to-end. That's how I think about it.

You know, when I go in and talk to clients, typically they will talk about the pressures of competing in an experienced economy, right? Their customers, their clients, whether they are B2B or B2C, have these constantly evolving digital expectations. That's really important. But you know what they're not talking about is what their employees are expecting, right? What's happening inside their four walls?

Because guess what? You can't deliver a great customer experience outside your four walls if your employees are suffering from outdated systems, clunky customer service, this system doesn't talk to this system, this data doesn't flow over here. If those kinds of end-to-end sort of transformations aren't tended to and prioritized as much [00:08:00] as what's happening on the pane of glass to what's happening to the customers, you can invest all you want on what's being shown to the rest of the world, it won't matter because you will never live up to that promise of what happens outside. So, for me, that transformation has to be from like stem to stern, root to tip. You've gotta be able to pay attention to that entire stack.

Erik Martinez: Yeah, totally agree with that, Jen. I was just thinking of three or four different clients right now that I know I work with that are stuck with those exact same problems that you just described, right? They're stuck in practices that they developed 20 years ago and they're forced to compete in today's environment and compete is sometimes self-inflicted competition. We work with direct-to-consumer businesses.

Well, the newest and fastest-growing segment of direct-to-consumer is selling it on a marketplace like Amazon and who is more tech-savvy than Amazon. So, just that one thing, it's a whole realm of really [00:09:00] significant challenges when you're a teeny tiny organization competing with yourself on a platform like Amazon, not to mention all the sellers that those guys bring in.

So, as I listened to you talk and we're talking about digital transformation and this relatively broad concept of digital transformation. I think one of the challenges that business owners and leaders of these smaller organizations, and even I think in the larger organizations are struggling with is, where do we start? How do we start the process?

I'll give you an example. I've got a client. Brought in a new IT director almost two years ago now. And he came out of a larger company and he has done amazing things for them. But from an outside perspective, looking in, it's like, painfully slow because he's tackling such fundamental issues that touch the core of every single aspect of [00:10:00] their company. The way they actually operate, the way they do accounting, the way they interact with their customers at every touch point along the way.

You know, Tim and I were talking about a client of his, maybe a week ago that is living in one of those scenarios where he mentioned the operating system of this company and I'm sitting there going, I haven't heard that for 35 years and it was old then. It's such a highly customized application. Where do they start?

So, I think one of the key questions here is this is overwhelming stuff. Like you think, Hey, I got to change my retail POS system. Changing websites is relatively common these days. They're still painful, but they're common. Changing your ERP or your CRM or your ERP and your CRM and everything in between is really, really scary for a lot of companies. So, where do they start? How do you get them to sit down at the table and start thinking through this process?

Jen Swanson: So, I'm [00:11:00] going to give you, Erik, my favorite answer. It depends.

Erik Martinez: I knew you were going to say that.

Jen Swanson: No, but seriously, I know, but here's the thing. There's no one like, well, here's step one, here's step two. But here's the thing, there's always a place that you can start and the trick is finding it. And what I will tell you is that in some cases, there is a low-risk place to start.

Most of my engagements start with a discovery engagement. It's like 12 weeks. We go in and we just flip over all the rocks. We open up all the closet doors, shine flashlights in all the dark corners and we just look at everything. We're not mean about it. There's no shaming. We're just like, just tell us all of it. The good, bad, and the ugly. Let's just get it all out on the table. Empty all the pockets.

A lot of times what will happen is there's something identified that is a fairly low-risk, where we can create a walled garden, create some opportunity to try some new ways of working, maybe assemble a little bit of a tiger team of big thinkers, fast doers. [00:12:00] Maybe we bring in some people from the outside to sort of model some new ways of working, maybe some new technical skill sets, that kind of thing, where you can get some quick wins, wind in your sails to sort of start to demonstrate that this could work.

There's some low-risk because either it's the opportunity to create something where nothing exists or something is so irreparably broken that if you just could create something better, everybody's going to be happy. And sometimes when you do that sort of quick sort of assessment and you sort of sift everything out, you find that it's not low-hanging fruit like the fruit has already dropped on the ground and it is just waiting for you to pick it up. Right.

Other times there's opportunities where you find, you know what? It's going to be easier for us to basically create a new environment if you will. ERP is a good example for this. People ask me all the time, do you do ERP implementation? We're really tech agnostic. We don't do Salesforce. We don't do Oracle or whatever. It's more about the how. We help organizations sort of organize [00:13:00] around the transformation than attach ourselves to a particular technology.

But like with something like an ERP implementation, it can help creating a new opportunity and helping an organization evolve around a cutover. It's the idea that, like, you've got a train moving at speed, you're going to get a new train moving at the same speed, get everyone to sort of transfer over the cargo, and then the second train is going to move away at a faster speed, right?

That takes a lot of effort and thoughtfulness and you have to prepare for that. You do that on a project basis, but then you convert it fairly quickly to like a life cycle of a product that you're going to continue to evolve over time because that train has to run now in perpetuity. So, that's one way of doing it.

And other times, you have to sort of start to like create a hybrid where you're going to say okay, on one track, we're going to kind of create this cutover opportunity. We're going to create some walled gardens and we're going to sort of like place some bets about what's going to work and what isn't.

And so, really what it is, is [00:14:00] about having some outside expertise of having been to that particular rodeo. Having seen this before, we can kind of look at it and go, these are kind of your opportunities. What would you like to prioritize? Where's the greatest pain that you have?

And honestly, the third category is sometimes what it takes is people are so convinced that their world is on fire, but when you really get them to sit down and look on it, they realize the world is not on fire, that actually nothing is burning. But they're so used to sitting around and complaining about it and not doing anything about it, that when you sit down and you actually look at it and you say, okay. Great. I understand. Everything's terrible. Everything's broken. What would you like to fix first?

They actually can't tell you. There's no willingness to actually be a part of a solution. They just really like complaining. And as soon as you start forcing people into prioritization of, all right, I get it. Everything's [00:15:00] terrible. Nothing works. Where would you like to start? What's most important? What are your priorities? What are the outcomes you're trying to drive to? Is it growth? Is it margin? Is it employee satisfaction? Is it customer satisfaction? What is the most important thing for you to work on right now?

And then we go hunting for the opportunities that align to that and we say, great, then we're just going to work on these things first. All of a sudden, people go, Oh, okay, let's do that. And then everything else starts to fall away and you start to see that those opportunities come. And it's just another word for prioritization, right?

And a lot of times companies will find that they're so comfortable complaining that they realize they haven't really put any muscle behind figuring out what they want to do about it. And as soon as someone shows up and says, well, let's do something about it? They sort of wake up out of that stupor and they're ready to move. So, that's what we end up kind of coming in to do is say, okay, well, what do you want to do about it? They go, Oh, you mean we actually can choose something different? Okay, let's do that. You know?[00:16:00]

Erik Martinez: That makes a ton of sense. It's always overwhelming to look at the mountain of complaints. Identifying the one or two things that you can focus on is a really, really good strategy to employ. Let's shift to a little bit of a broader perspective. What do you think, Jen, are the most significant trends shaping digital? And we would insert the word marketing typically in here, but I think you've opened their eyes to a bigger concept of digital. What are the most significant trends shaping digital today? And how should businesses adapt to those changes to stay competitive?

Jen Swanson: Well, I think I lose my street cred if I don't start with AI, right? Do you have to kick me off the podcast?

Tim Curtis: Pretty much. There's a trap door.

Jen Swanson: Right. You just hit the eject button. If I don't start with AI.

Tim Curtis: Exactly.

Jen Swanson: That's the 800-pound gorilla right now. I'm a little bit of a curmudgeon when it comes to AI. Mostly because I like to think of myself as well-seasoned. Okay. Not old. I'm well-seasoned. I have [00:17:00] been around long enough that I have been asked some really ridiculous questions in my career by executives who don't know what they're talking about. And they come to me and they're like, we don't have a, you know, fill-in-the-blank strategy.

I once got asked by somebody, if I had a Snapchat strategy who had no idea what Snapchat was. And we were at a company that didn't need a Snapchat strategy. I, at the time was too young to know that I should have just laughed in his face and walked away. I was like, Oh, I mean, I can put one together for you. You know, because I was a little naive in my career. Now I would have just rolled my eyes and walked away.

I think that there are still some people walking around asking for AI strategies with no idea what they're asking for AI strategies to do. So, let me start with the fact that if you are asking someone for an AI strategy, it should be followed by a statement of what problem you are trying to solve with AI. So, that's my first question. AI is a tool, just like any technology, but it is a very powerful [00:18:00] tool, and it's an exciting tool.

And so, whether or not it's marketing, or it's service operations or it is supply chain, anything in the AI and machine learning, if you're not investigating and playing and experimenting in that space, I think, you're missing out. I do think that it's a scary place to be right now for some companies, especially companies that are in highly regulated industries. It feels really dangerous right now. I mean, you just look at what's happening with lawsuits.

Tim Curtis: Copyright issues. Yeah, you name it.

Jen Swanson: Copyright issues. People submitting briefs in lawsuits that have been drafted in ChatGPT. I mean, there is some common sense that should be exercised here. But I mean, I use it as like thought starters when I'm stumped with I don't even know how to like write a question or start a sentence on a blog post. Or, you know, when I'm really just feeling stuck, ChatGPT is a great way to get me unstuck.

Now, do I copy it word for word? Heck no. You gotta again, use some common sense. Thinking [00:19:00] about how AI and machine learning can augment human judgment is a really exciting space to be right now. That should be on everybody's mind this year. So, that's my first one.

My second trend is not a trend because I feel like we've been talking about this for forever, but I keep coming around to data. I mean, I guess it's the other side of AI, right? A good AI is built on good data. So, even if you want to start to think about how your company is going to create a closed AI system, it's all going to be predicated on how good your data is, how well it's structured, how well you've governed that data, all of that kind of stuff.

Many companies are continuously running headlong into how poorly they have tended their data gardens over the years. I think that is going to continue to be a problem for companies, not just this year, but again, and again, and again. I say this all the time. Anybody I work with regularly listens to this podcast, they're going to laugh, but it's not a toaster. You don't plug in [00:20:00] your data infrastructure and it doesn't just crank out toast for the next 12 years. It is something you have to tend to day in day out technology in general is not a toaster.

You guys are close enough in my age that you'll understand. Like, do you remember, we used to talk about out-of-the-box software? Like, literally you would go to the store and you would buy software out of a box and there would be a disc and you would plug it into your computer. That was called out-of-the-box software. You didn't have to do anything to it. It was a toaster. You just plugged it in and it worked.

That just doesn't exist anymore. Everything is configured and customized and APIed within an inch of its life to make it work within your context, and you can't just plug it in anymore. It's got to be contextualized, and same with data. I think years of ignoring that is coming home to roost for many companies. So, those are kind of my two big ones. And they're probably more of an A side, B side than anything.

Tim Curtis: Yeah. When we talk about trends, AI, not a trend, right? It's a revolution. We [00:21:00] have these things that come along in history that are so seismic in terms of the impact. The Internet, for example. When the Internet came in place, it was a revolution. It changed everything about the way we do business. Ai is the same.

But I'm kind of going back and harking on a little bit of what you said, and when I'm sitting here, observing client for client for client, what I tend to observe is that trends oftentimes drives the change in the organization.Something comes out. Maybe it's Instagram shopping or something like that. And then they realize, oh, gosh, we can't facilitate that currently, we got to get that solved for.

Or there's other trends that are coming into place and new technologies, new social channels, et cetera, and clients don't have the ability to turn that on within their current system. So, they go about creating workarounds or Frankenstein something and add it on to their current technology. But they never really stop to take an approach, and I do think it's trend-driven.

But I think when you take a step back and you look, they've never really taken the approach of a customer-centric approach. What are we solving for? At the end of the day, [00:22:00] are we solving for expedited commerce? Are we facilitating the ability to provide feeds and take that, you know, out across the internet in terms of new shopping opportunities,?But they don't ever get to that.

And you talked about Snapchat strategy. Well, it's very similar. A lot of times you'll hear from businesses, we've got to be on LinkedIn. Okay. What are you doing on LinkedIn? Because LinkedIn is full of people and businesses that have no idea what they're doing. They're just posting stuff. It's really frustrating because we have to dial back and really focus on again, what are we solving for. What's the roadmap here? That's what I just get frustrated with.

Jen Swanson: Yes. I have often said, if I get a tattoo anytime soon, it's going to be right on my forearm, what problem are we solving and who are we solving it for? Because that is what I ask multiple times a day. Can you just remind me, what are we trying to do here and who are we trying to do it for?

Gosh, it was probably seven years ago, with the healthcare company I was working for, we were starting to [00:23:00] investigate chatbot was what we were calling it then, but it was an automated chat assistant, right? It was an AI chat assistant. And at the time, the motivating factor was we needed a way to serve more people through automated means so that we could reduce call volumes. Okay. That's great. That's a very company-centric kind of way, we were not thinking about the customer. We were thinking about ourselves.

Ultimately, we looked at a bunch of different vendors. Now, that's seven years in the history, right? And so, the technology has come along a long ways, but realizing what it was going to take for us to be able to train a machine learning engine at that time to be able to adequately answer questions safely, compliantly, intelligently, that bar was so high, it wasn't tenable.

Now I think about it and I think if we were coming at that problem differently of like, realistically, how could we have used other aspects of machine learning and AI to decrease call volume, might it not have been a chatbot at [00:24:00] all? Might it have been something totally different from a digital interaction? Right.

And so, I just think like, that's when you really do have to get down to not just what's the problem the company needs solved, but I always think in terms of a Venn diagram, right? What's the Venn diagram of company problem, customer problem? There's always overlap there. And then, what's the tool, the data tool, the AI tool, the digital tool that can solve that elegantly?

I'm an eternal optimist, so I always believe there is a tool, there is an experience that can solve that place of overlap in an elegant way, and that's the excitement for me in customer experience strategy and product strategy that you go after. Right.

Tim Curtis: Yeah. I remember a few years back and it was also in the healthcare field. It was the question of what are they solving for. And you're right, it was really operationally, how do we solve for our issue internally? And that was call volume coming in primarily to the nurses. The triage on [00:25:00] that was impossible. It was too many phone calls. Not enough people. Right?

So, it wasn't until the strategy was to take a step back. What are they calling about? What are they needing that they're having to reach out to us to call for? When you flip that on its head and you started solving for it, along came patient portals with secure logins, all the technology you need to make it secure, but an automatic posting of medicine refills. That was the number one reason people were calling. The second one was test results.

So, what are the two things that immediately went into the patient portal? Test results. You see the test results almost before your doctor does, and in some cases, you do see them before your doctor does. So, it eliminated the need for a phone call. And so, all of a sudden when they flipped it on its head, they begin this customer-centric approach. They begin to really understand, how they impact that.

And whether or not you're a business-to-consumer, E-commerce company or your healthcare, you've got to have some kind of roadmap for them to start a customer-centric journey. what does that look like for [00:26:00] you? What do you do? Do you hand them a sheet of questions? What's that look like?

Jen Swanson: Oh, my gosh. There's so much that I was thinking about while you're talking about that. Ultimately, that's the work of the customer journey mapping, where you really start to unpack that work of understanding the customer journey, understanding the service journey. There's elements of service design in this.

Credit to many of my clients, a lot of our clients have already done elements of this work. A lot of what we will end up coming in to do is knitting it together. And we'll say, okay, well, let's look at what we know. What customer research have you done? And they've got reams of customer research. They've got employees chomping at the bit for someone to listen to them to say, we know what the problems are, we just need someone to tell.

And they've got all this information and you start to see where some of these pieces sort of line up. And then oftentimes what you have is you have the business leaders coming through and saying, we have got to get our costs under control. We have got to get call times under control or call [00:27:00] volumes under control. We can't possibly just keep throwing people at this problem. They've got their pressures that they've got.

And you've got technology leaders saying, we can't scale fast enough, the platforms we're on are outdated, we're on platforms that have been out of service for two years, and it's going to take us another two years to get onto a new platform, you know, we're just not scaling fast enough. You've got this mountain of problems and you're not quite sure which thread to pull on first.

Look at the problem in totality. You can start to see the roadmap forward. And that's really where clear eyes from outside can sometimes come in and look and see what that path forward is. I think the other thing, Tim, though, that was really standing out as you were talking was sometimes they can't see the forest for the trees on this.

On that call volume piece. Many times what will happen is we come in and we hear all of those competing pressures and what we realize is that one part of that story is really focused on the wrong thing, and it's causing the whole house of [00:28:00] cards to just get tangled up.

For example, I was in a very similar situation in that we had all of those kind of competing pressures, but one of the parties, the business side said, we have got to get call times down. We have got to get call times down. Well, when we dug in and we looked at all of the data, we realized call times were not the issue. The issue was the pipeline of calls was being tied up with the minutiae of unimportant calls. Where's this form? What's the status of my lab? Can I get a prior authorization? Whatever it is.

And so, what we did is we prioritized all of these low-value calls that were taking 90 seconds or less. They were just like quick calls. And as soon as they were taken care of, those were high volume, but it was a huge pig in a Python. It was just this huge volume of calls. They were actually helping average call time. And when we got rid of those calls because we had a new quick fix answers that we moved up on the website that [00:29:00] helped people move through those low-value calls, call times went up.

Because then what was happening was the nurses, these high-value people that were on the calls were spending more time on high-value, hard, complex calls, but the volume was such that they didn't have the pressure. NPS scores went through the roof because people were getting through to nurses to have high-value, high-touch calls. And all of a sudden the execs were like, Oh, we're cool with call times if that's what they're working on.

You start to see this and you start to say, you're measuring the wrong stuff. You're measuring the wrong thing. And when you can start to do that and you realize you're alleviating a different pressure valve, that's the stuff that all of a sudden you go, Oh, well, then we don't care. We're happy, And so, that's where I think sometimes fresh eyes from outside can really help. It's like flipping magnets where all of a sudden things just sort of line up and click and you can solve a problem that you didn't even know you were trying to solve.

Erik Martinez: I think it's really interesting as I listen to the whole [00:30:00] conversation. We've been talking digital transformation, but you're really talking about transformation and evolution. We're still going back to the basics of what is important to our business. What are the key problems that we solve? And then, what are the different tech tools available to help me solve that problem?

It's not digital for digital sake. It's digital as an amplifier or a simplifier or some middle part of the equation. It isn't the end itself. As the agencies were bombarded by technology companies. Our clients are bombarded by the technology companies and us, right? And everybody's trying to sell something. The next great piece of software that's going to whatever. You know, we're digital marketers, right? It's the next great LinkedIn advertising tool, whatever it is, someone's trying to shove that down your throat and say, this is the answer to your problems. Where really [00:31:00] what I'm hearing you say is, the answer to the problem starts with what problem are we solving, what's the plan to solve that problem, and then how do we attack it?

Jen Swanson: Yes. And honestly, back to the earlier question you had, Erik, like 9 times out of 10, prioritizing your problems is the hardest part.

Erik Martinez: And it often does involve an outside person. So, even those of us who we're at least forward-thinking in terms of some of these things, we have those same struggles, same struggles all of our clients have within our businesses. While we may have solved the problem over here and that's working great, you know what? It's like playing Whack-a-Mole sometimes. There's problems to solve over here.

As we think about this and we kind of move towards the closing, we want to shift a little bit and talk a little bit about the evolution of advisory services. Because I think you've hit on something that's really, really important for our clients. Growing up as a young [00:32:00] marketer in the nineties and early two thousands, one of the things philosophically I had held was, Hey, I can do that better than somebody else.

And so, I've always had this default setting to I can do this internally. We've got good people. We can solve these problems. But with the complexity of today's environment, and I'm not saying it was any less complex than it just felt less complex. But I think the rapid evolution of technology, of messaging, and all the things that we're bombarded with, I really do believe that today's workers have a lot more on their plates to think about than they used to.

The idea of bringing an outside resource in to help is something that's really important to do as long as you, in my opinion, understand again, what it is that you're trying to get out of that engagement. Because I think you have the ability as an outside person to come [00:33:00] in and shed some light and help change people's thinking even about some really common things that they think they know really well and to say, hey, have you thought about it from this perspective? How do you have that conversation when you're talking to people? What does that discussion look like when you're talking about advisory services and this increasing reliance on technology?

Jen Swanson: I lead with it because it's the whole reason why we're there, right? Like, we're not trying to like pretend otherwise. I think that there are plenty of people who have had not great experiences with consultants. I'm just gonna be super honest with you. I think there's plenty of people out there that have worked with consultants that have given the profession a bad name. We charge a lot of money. We go off in dark rooms. We put together pretty PowerPoints and we come back and tell you things that you already know and again, charge you a pretty penny to tell you what you already know.

When I started doing this work, I kind of decided I was going to be on a [00:34:00] mission to disabuse people of that perception of consultants sort of one client at a time. I've purposely chose the word advisory because I believe that the idea of being a trusted advisor to somebody is someone you call when you're like, I don't have the slightest clue what I'm doing, and you trust somebody to be honest about that.

To be vulnerable with them to say, I don't think I have the experience, the skills, the wherewithal to navigate this particular path and I need a friend. I need somebody who has been through it before, or if they haven't been through it before, have been through something similar, or been through enough other things that they could be a good companion on this journey with me, kind of a thing. So, for me, it's those two things together, someone you trust and somebody who gives good advice that I believe in, that I can put my faith in.

There are more and more of us that have that point of view of the work of I've done [00:35:00] this. The team I've put together, I am very particular about who I deploy on consulting gigs. Everybody we have has been in corporate. So, everybody we put into a project has been where my client has been. They've been in that seat, right? They've been the one that has gotten called into the CIO's office to present their plan on like a, Hey, you have to justify your existence kind of a thing.

So, that we can come in and be behind them and be like, we're going to make you look great. We're going to give you confidence. We're going to help you feel like a million bucks going into that presentation and you know, you've got your stuff together. It's a matter of just like knowing that you've got people who have been to the rodeo, got the t-shirt. They know how to talk the talk, walk the walk, and that advisory work really is truly advisory.

It's not consulting. You're just going to ask us questions. We'll tell you answers and you take it or leave it. It really is that idea of like, we have skin in the game with you. We're sitting next to you. We're doing it with you, not to [00:36:00] you. That is a really important evolution of the work.

Not to say that consulting is not going to continue to be a billion-dollar industry. I mean, certainly it is. I just think that there's different ways that people are approaching it now, and certainly, that's how we're coming at it is much more of being a part of your team versus again, swooping in, dumping a PowerPoint and swooping out. You have to think about what you want out of that engagement, not just at the end, but how you want to feel along the path, and then find the partner that is going to suit you on that path.

Tim Curtis: In kind of watching the shift, how I've described it is blindness or input on a lot of the subjects that we're talking about. Where that seems to be coming from is a lot of the key executives feel very unsettled. They feel as if the foundation has been shook a little bit. It's no longer the traditional business aspects that we operated under. And it's more than just COVID. We were headed this direction. COVID just accelerated it.

And so, it's kind of one of those things where, as I started going through it, I was [00:37:00] realizing that's one of the changes I'm seeing. And so, you know, what you're saying is ringing true. I think it's both and it's positioning us to be able to deliver those kind of insights and advisory services in a way that they're openness now to hear that and to hear it from an external, objective thought partner or trusted advisor is really key.

Jen Swanson: We say it all the time that what got them here is not what's going to get them to the next level. And so, having someone just lob ideas at you with no sense of consultation and meaningful dialogue isn't helpful. They need a thought partner. That idea of advising and that conversation is so essential today in ways that I don't know that it was five or 10 years ago.

Tim Curtis: As we wrap up here? What's a good way for folks to get ahold of you?

Jen Swanson: Easiest ways. One is at the website, www.tuckpoint. com. And it's tuck, like tuck someone into bed and point at them. So, that's one. Then the other is just on LinkedIn. I am JGSwanson. It's very easy. I'm assuming [00:38:00] both of those things will go into show notes. So, hopefully, we can link up both of those things.

Tim Curtis: Thanks for making it easy. I really appreciate the dialogue. I think it's one of those things that people are going to find value of as we continue to kind of talk through this.

Jen Swanson: Thank you so much for having me. I really appreciate it.

Tim Curtis: You bet.

Erik Martinez: Yeah. Thanks for being on the show.

Tim Curtis: Well, that's it for the Digital Velocity Podcast. This is Tim Curtis, cohost from CohereOne

Erik Martinez: And Erik Martinez from Blue Tangerine. Have a great day, everybody. ?

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