Sam is a senior strategist with a unique blend of experience gathered over 15 years. In this interview, he talks about how he used the N2D Method on a digital transformation project for a charity.

You can find Sam here: https://www.linkedin.com/in/sambattams/

Transcribed by https://otter.ai

Phil Dearson 0:03

So I'm very pleased today to be talking to Sam battams. Alissa, hey, hey, Dan, I'm doing very well. And Sam's gonna tell us a little bit about who he is and what he does set a little bit of context. And then talk about how he's used the N2D method. So for any practitioners watching, this will be useful for any of you thinking about giving it a bit of a try. Hopefully, it'll be useful for you as well. Maybe it will be useful, maybe it'll just be a pointless waste of time for everybody. No, it won't. So So. Could you start off by just telling us a little bit about you know, who you are and what you do professionally?

Sam Battams 0:42

Sure. So Sam, I am a strategist, I kind of been different versions of that, working in digital, mainly and then moved from was originally kind of media marketing towards product and service, which is more I do now, our freelance kind of contracts, different consultancies, and work direct with different organisations, as we'll be talking about today. I now my focus is on still digital strategy aspects of digital transformation and certain projects within that product strategy, customer experience and service design. So the current words,

Phil Dearson 1:23

yes. Six months, it's always very similar words on my LinkedIn profile. If people wanted to get in contact with you to either ask you more questions about this kind of thing, or seek your professional advice about something? What's the best way for them to get in contact with you? Sure,

Sam Battams 1:40

yeah. LinkedIn is probably the best way. So Sam battens think I'm the only one on there are the only one working in this area anyway. So yeah, find me on there.

Phil Dearson 1:49

Okay, cool. Excellent. Right. So I know you did work on an N2D method project, or use the N2D method or parts of it, at least on a project a while ago. So can you tell us a little bit about what the purpose of that project was? First of all?

Sam Battams 2:07

Sure. So the brief was put out by a small charity. It's kind of about 30 or so people there. And then many other volunteers kind of network of volunteers. It was around digital transformation, kind of broadly. And as part of that unsurprising, I'm sure to many people, essentially work out what that was, and what would be a value for them. And that was down to kind of the proposal that the people applied for it put together so my proposal suggested they went through essentially a discovery phase to work out what is it that they need to do? What are the actual, ultimately the digital initiatives, so the actual projects that they can get started at the end of this research piece, that would have an impact on them, kind of moving in the right direction and making progress in their digital efforts. And it came from a context of like many other organisations, it was accelerated through the pandemic, they're obviously doing some of the things that are charity that deals with young people in the real world and have physical locations, and they needed to switch to digital services. So very important time, and that was the urgency behind it did come from that kind of context.

Phil Dearson 3:27

Right. Okay. Did they have any kind of idea where transformation gets bandied around a lot, and we've we've ended up working on transformation projects. And sometimes people just have no idea what they mean, they know that they need to change something, or they need to be they need to become more digital, or other times, it can be something incredibly specific. So we need to integrate these two, three different systems, we need to understand how we should go about doing it. Where was it at on that kind of scale? Did they had any kind of sense of what they wanted to do already?

Sam Battams 4:00

Yeah, the brief was pretty broad. And I think the first part of that was me trying to work out. Do they think of it as something internal focusing or external? So involving, you know, those different parties, from the people they're serving to the volunteers working for them, and to donors and so on? I kind of went back with that question. When I first saw the brief, like, Is it one or is it both? Like both? Yeah. So it really was the mass, I think, in reality, they want to get something of value. If the answer ended up being Oh, you need to look at this one internal piece first, then I think they would have recognised that and gone with that. And similarly, if it was one explain or thing that would have the most impact. Then they were faced with that too. So given the context, and there's actually a lack of urgency but find it rather than something that they had been told to do or been not they should do had a little bit of a different slant to other digital transformation projects that similarly I've been part of and feel like just a long stretch of ambiguity if you're not more focused, but it did cover both, both aspects. Yeah. Like, what should two things like? What are the how them? Should they be using digital internally? communication tools, ways of working to? What are the actual digital services we should make available externally to young people? So they, yeah,

Phil Dearson 5:40

okay, cool. So there's potentially an epically long list of options of things that you could potentially do. So how did you go about addressing this problem, then? And where where did the any of the aspects of the N2D method gameboard

Sam Battams 5:57

show Yeah, when when I put the proposal together for them and had the kind of methodology in mind my methodology, or what I put together kind of bespoke for it. And you would be doing research and you would take a kind of not customers, but the end user centric approach to their needs. And I knew I would want to look at internal needs a bit as well. And I'd go from that research to that to get from there to some suggestions. Then as I started, as only when I started the project, and realise the parties involved, and like this, all of these different tasks and these different needs. And I was already aware of your method, but hadn't had the opportunity to kind of use it did I introduced that I realised I called on this can be useful for me. So that wasn't in the upfront proposal, it wasn't, it was kind of somewhere in my mind, but it wasn't something I realised I'd be using until I was just about to start the interviews and hold on the structure of having a method like that could both be useful for me, and will help to kind of backup the kind of output and outcomes of this this work. So I kind of quickly like let you reshuffled on my questions. And suddenly in mind, the record that I picked up on used it from that point onwards really to throughout. And it kind of provided that structure, which to be honest, looks like it's almost as useful for me as it is for them, like working solo on a project like that. And you're doing all the research. And then you're coming up with suggestions in the end, and you've got to create the link, why you've made the choices you've made. Having that to fall back on was a useful from that says MB just a way of structuring my thoughts, it was actually sort of forced me into, you know, being quite just being consistent. Yeah,

Phil Dearson 8:04

that's somebody, there's a CSO using the method who refers to the method as his strategy, buddy. I like the idea of just somebody who can kind of just go and sort of sense check things. Yeah. And how did they? How did they take it? I mean, one of the things that I've noticed is that one of the biggest leaps for the people on the organisation that's starting to use a method or something like that method for the first time is, when they're starting to do things like the relative importance of their business objectives, you know, what is it we're actually trying to achieve? You know, what is what is the purpose of our organisation? Or what what is it we're trying to accomplish? And then trying to say, well, which thing is more important than another? How did they adapt to that they go through earlier, that was fine. No problem, or was that a struggle for him at all?

Sam Battams 8:54

That I remember that meeting? Well, actually, because it went surprisingly, well surprising and surprising, and I thought, it's quite a big ask for them to you know, they don't, they don't know fully what this meeting is going to be. I've got a few of the most important kind of people together in the sense of the project, including, you know, including the CEO and the kind of main decision makers. And I didn't know if there'd be any, or what disagreement there would be between them. And, you know, I thought it was quite a lot to get done. But actually, we enjoyed that. And I think with that, and like a lot of it, to be honest, I didn't delve into the details of why I didn't try to explain the N2D method to them prior. They knew I was using data, they knew I was going to it was all going to come together and I was taking a data driven approach taking in everyone's kind of opinions and I know they liked the kind of democracy of that Yeah, you know, in general, and then in Yeah, for that meeting specifically in that pay specifically, they actually I remember them reacting well to I basically given them I'd articulated for them what I thought the objectives and target audience wire. Yeah. And I remember them really liking the simplicity of my articulation of the objectives, which, again, I was kind of encouraged to be very simple, because I knew that something that worked well, for the method, I think we've probably spoken about that. And that's you really like that, because I think, honestly, when you're within a business, when someone asks, like, what do you do, or what's important, you're probably gonna waffle on a little bit, like, waffle on about what I do. So when you get it down to four bullet points, each have two to three words. They're like, Oh, yeah, that that, that that's literally everything.

Phil Dearson 10:59

It's really refreshing, isn't it, but when you get applied it to my own business, and it can be incredibly hard to start with, because you're just so close, you're so close to it, and you just want to go into the fine grain? Yeah. So you get something simple. There's a kind of a sense of freedom at the end of it. Okay, God, thank God, it's not anywhere near as complex as we thought it was gonna be.

Sam Battams 11:24

Yeah. And I remember they agreed upon, every they agreed on, there was a bit of friction, it was kind of the right amount of friction around the priorities. It wasn't like done and dusted within a minute, there was a bit of chat, but they obviously and some things were kind of obvious, like, particularly for a charity, they all agreed that there may they're all there to meet the, you know, needs of the people that their charity is serving, it's obviously different to a profit making organisation. There's some other steps beyond that there was a bit of back and forth.

Phil Dearson 11:55

Awesome. And you had like a billion jobs to be done, I think in I seem to remember that was talking about it. And we we've ramped up the ramped up the processing of systems based on that. So where can you just tell us where those came from?

Sam Battams 12:15

Yeah, it was purely the nature of something where you're dealing with. So for different kind of a significant parties, really, so the staff, the young people that serve the donors, and the volunteers, and they all have very distinct jobs to be done. So even just amongst that foreign I, because I did these interviews, so I did the interviews. I did like 20 interviews across the that those kind of groups, and then use that to inform the content I did and the surveys. But just as soon as you get into that, yeah, I did end up with I think it was, wasn't quite a billion, it was just shy, I think was about 150 to 100. And then, which, yeah, very quickly became apparent that that wasn't going to work. For me, my brain, let alone the kind of what was going to come out of that. And then also, on top of that, there was a seven or eight target audiences, distinct from those people with jobs to be done, because you had more external party yet other players and external parties. So when it's just the numbers of that, and the layers of the four significant buys the seven target audiences the difference in the jobs, you just saw, you end up with this mass. So I had to do a couple of rounds of condensing and synthesis to get it down to something, I think I got it out of 50, which was still a lot,

Phil Dearson 13:49

still quite long. What's sometimes quite well, and may may or may not have worked on this particular project, but is just going up high level up to high level jobs to be done. So just but then you've got like a needs matrix, which has got a few high level ones on it, and then you sort of start to dive into sorts. So yeah,

Sam Battams 14:12

I think that's what that's basically what I did, I mean, and the nature of me and the way I think and kind of get into the can get a bit into the detail in that sense. And so I do one round of synthesis and go like, Oh, that's good, nice deal too many I need to go higher level again. I like to say because I maybe because I started I only kind of decided to be using the method like a day before my first interview or whatever. I didn't have the Yeah, I was kind of playing back shacking and playing catch up a little bit on that aspect of like, Alright, yeah, I've had a bit more time prior I could have started with knowing that I needed to get to kind of quite, quite high level stuff. Yeah. Yeah.

Phil Dearson 14:59

Well, just Thinking about the the initiative scorecard as the final tool to the actual list of things that you're going to suggest to them? Where did where did those ideas come from? Did you have to generate some of those? Who did they supply? Did they have some in mind already, they used

Sam Battams 15:17

a bit of both. I kind of picked up some ideas in the interviews, some people had had some ideas plus a bit of like, not quite an idea. But like a thought, like, wouldn't it be great if we could do? So I could tell there was something there. They had a few things that they were kind of already in play. Kind of starting to get off the ground, but needed a bit of a push. And then and then the majority of them I came up with to be honest. So yeah, I just had time afterwards. And that's the thing. I think that's where it was useful. It kind of gives you the confidence to I mean, anytime you're generating ideas, you're still just kind of generating ideas, you know, they're coming. There's a it's not, it doesn't have to be fully formed. And it's not entirely like evidence based. But the fact the idea came from all of this research,

Phil Dearson 16:16

yeah, you've got a fairly good starting point.

Sam Battams 16:19

I've got a good starting point. It's not entirely blank canvas. Like there's some focus around. Okay, I need an idea that does this kind of thing. Yeah. I found that I found that. And, again, it depends on how much you like getting that part of it. Or that's your kind of forte, that yeah. So I came up with them at that point, kind of at the end.

Phil Dearson 16:37

And how did they How did they take it? I mean, what was their response when they once you've got a set of prioritise things you're saying like, these are like, the most appropriate things to do or the highest priority things to do? How did that go over with them? Was there any dispute or argument or do they just accept it?

Sam Battams 16:55

It was, it went really well. They, oh, I just thought that it's now actually intensive, like I gave them this priority. I mean, these are not like mega million dollar, you know, ideas. Because there's, again, there's still a lens of like, understanding and pragmatic pragmatism around, you know, what's gonna be appropriate for them. And I'm not gonna tell them to, you know, write a social network or something or whatever. They did all this prioritisation work. And then they turn around said, yeah, we want to do all of it. And I say, Oh, I mean, anytime you get a positive feedback, it's like, yes, this looks cool. It's good. Rather than this all it's terrible. You're like, great. I mean, I didn't need to do any of that.

Phil Dearson 17:45

Okay. It doesn't matter if your priority they've got.

Sam Battams 17:49

No, I think the the narrative of how I present it to them, the ideas was obviously was was the story of how I got to them. And all of the people I was presenting to had been part of the research as well. So they've been exposed a lot. So I've no doubt that they The reason they kind of nodded and that they were like, yeah, was because because of that process and goes to the already been part of it as well, I think that's a key is key to and also the other thing I'd add there is I, I also said as much as I kind of used the method, I also said, well, as with any method, as well as with any researchers still, like it does speak to a lot of people want to serve it a lot of people, but it's still you're not presenting something as kind of gospel or you know, not to have to do there is still an element of like, we should have a critical, I've done all this research to get here. But by all means, like, let's have like, critical view and all of that. And like if you if the research says do that, but your experience of running this organisation for 10 years tells you this other reason, like, let's talk about that. Right,

Phil Dearson 18:59

exactly. And it's it's a, it's a guide, I mean, they're just a tool Exactly. And

Sam Battams 19:03

I was very upfront about that, like in the presentation of it, which is why as well, I didn't labour, like the method are talking about it too much as well, because I'm using this thing as a guide, I think it's useful, I'm going to show you some of the data along the way. And here's the output. And that and that was kind of it.

Phil Dearson 19:22

I think it's a really good tip, actually, that we find actually sometimes the, you know, if you're going all in to try and explain a something which is you know, under the hood as complex as the method, it can actually get in the way it can get in the way because people think just slightly intimidated or off put by the idea that there's a complex tool. If you just say, look, this is what the outputs are going to be. And everybody seems to be an awful lot happier. So, wrapping it up. If there was somebody like you watching this, or someone in your circumstances or a current practitioner or would be practitioner And they had a similar sort of project with a bunch of people trying to figure out, you know what to do next for a transformation in inverted commas? What would you say the main benefits of using the method tools or put you on the spot? But what were some of the positive? the positives? They contribute to the fee?

Sam Battams 20:21

Yeah, I think. Yeah, the one I mentioned earlier about it, particularly working on your own, that it kind of helping you in that sense, I can see why the other person you mentioned, described as a bit of a buddy, it's like something you're, you have an idea, and then you're kind of testing it against the data, and you're kind of getting some feedback. So it kind of works. In that sense. It also gives you that kind of structure. I think, that leap that I've, we've talked about from Alright, how do you go from the research, to say to generally do research in some form in the projects or working together that researches suggestions or to like the ideas, actually something that ideas workshop or forum? Beyond? You know, you can use anecdotal, you can use research anecdotally very well or very easily be how you want to use it and what circumstance you're in. Yeah, well, one person quoted said, these three words that we're going to, we're going to jump on that. But for me, I think I liked it, that it felt a bit more, it felt more, you know, there's actually more substance than that. So it provides that that kind of bridge between the research and the ideation. The other specific thing I found, I remember finding interesting I wouldn't necessarily have done along the similar lines is looking really looking at the gap between how satisfied people were with a service to be a product in that case, and how important it was. Which, again, like you would you would normally research and ask people how satisfied they were you but you get some feedback, perhaps. And maybe separately, you would get some feedback on their needs, right there. You wouldn't necessarily so kind of definitively, like tie those two things together to see the gap between, okay. People aren't very satisfied with that. But it's also not very important, or people aren't very satisfied with that. And it is very important. There's a main distinction between how I would normally like, work in terms of I wouldn't be doing that like in my head. But I wouldn't necessarily be doing that in a way that I could show people the numbers.

Phil Dearson 22:45

Yeah.

Sam Battams 22:46

I thought that was. Yeah, I think that was like key to the actual method, actually, because that's the pit I looked at, I looked at the gap between those two things to understand and to say that would I'm sure that happens as part of the process normally. But it's more a case of everybody genuinely agreeing, what they're doing well, and everybody generally agreeing what the needs are. And when it's for this is a key part of the work. Yeah,

Phil Dearson 23:15

that's good. So then everybody can just say, yeah, here are some opportunities. Here's some opportunities worth pursuing. Let's come up with some ideas. Yeah. That All right, cool. Excellent. All right. Fantastic. Thanks ever so much for taking the time for an interview. So if you want to find some, it's LinkedIn. Go and look for some battams ba w VA s on LinkedIn, and good luck with everything. Thanks very much. Cheers. Yes.

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