Original article was published by NAGRA Insight Team on Artificial Intelligence on Medium
How we created an AI-based solution that became crucial to our customer’s financials
By Jacques-Edouard Guillemot, Senior Vice President at NAGRA
I hate frameworks.
I hate methodologies.
I’ve always believed they were limiting the thinking and creating wrong sense of what is “signal”, and what is “noise”.
I’m a big advocate of chaos that crystallizes at one point.
But let’s face it: This works when you’re working alone, this works when you’re working in a small very cohesive team.
As the team grows, as the organization grows, as you onboard new colleagues at an increasingly faster speed, you need to ensure the quality that made your success as a small team persists. You need to ensure the tiny details of your vision get passed on beyond the founding team.
And for this you need a framework, you need methodology.
Your challenge is to ensure magic scales as the product and the team develop.
This is a fragile alchemy.
Here is our take on this, based on trial and error, long conversations with high-performance teams around the world at Spotify, Apple, and Salesforce, and a scan of our Group’s 70-year history.
1/ “Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe”
Strategy is important.
Looking at things as they are is important.
Often, especially in a tech environment, the passion for technology generates an answer before questions are formulated: ”we have this cool technology, let’s build a good product and the customers will come”
We do exactly the opposite. “Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe” said Lincoln. Here is the result of our “axe sharpening” — our strategy work.
1/ Our company’s DNA is to go all in, and we are fully committed to our customers.
This comes with a price. We therefore need to ensure that our offering is compelling and offers extraordinary value so we can make a good living out of this level of excellence.
2/ We leverage our incredible assets:
- An enviable customer base, probably the best in our industry, with more than 500 Pay-TV and Telco operators, as well as premium content distributors.
- A track record, built over 30 years, of delivering on very complex, strategic projects. From the basement to the attic, we have an unparalleled awareness of our customer’s organizations, infrastructures, and history.
- As a founding player of this industry, we know it very well
3/ We love to solve complex problems, to be unique, and to pioneer the use of new technologies to solve business problems.
4/ In an industry in deep transformation, only results sell.
What are we selling?
This is how Insight was born.
We wanted to help our customers be more relevant to their subscribers, for the benefit of the entire ecosystem: subscribers, operators and distributors, as well as content creators and producers.
We leverage our Group’s strong business knowledge, data and artificial intelligence skills, workflow management, and deep understanding of our customer’s operations.
Insight is NAGRAʼs action-oriented platform, designed to drive business and operational excellence based on data and artificial intelligence.
2/ “What to do next” on the critical topics
As operational performance is industry-specific, Insight has been built for the premium content, Pay-TV and telco industry[FM1] .
Since the beginning, Insight has generated additional revenue for some of our biggest customers and improved their bottom line by tens of millions of dollars — or euros — by helping them allocate marketing campaign budgets more effectively, optimize call center routing and personalize pricing and package offerings.
Insight provides actionable outputs on a per-subscriber basis — advising operators on “what to do next” on all key topics.
Insight customers’ internal teams benefit from a cutting-edge platform that helps them in their day-to-day work.
In a nutshell, Insight helps companies to:
- Build decision-making scenarios
- Get personalized recommendations on a per-subscriber basis
- Access all relevant data
- Monitor the impact of all initiatives
A few snapshots of Insight Platform
The four pillars of a successful telco and premium content business
Insight addresses the four components of a successful business premium content, Pay-TV or telco business.
- Boost subscriber numbers : Acquisition, Retention, Upsell
- Optimize content: Content acquisition and negotiation, Recommendations, Programming
- Enhance quality of experience: Device management and software updates, Network alerts and diagnostics, Infrastructure load and scalability
- Improve targeted advertising: Slot inventory and valuation, Audience micro-segmentation, Audience valuation
3/ Our economic engine is driven by our customer’s success
I love the concept of Flywheel coined by Jim Collins in his book “Good to Great”.
He compares companies’ business strategy to a massive flywheel that usually costs a lot of effort put in motion. However, when it find its momentum, the counter joints at the outside of the flywheel create more force and power.
As a result, the flywheel can move faster and more efficiently with less effort.
This flywheel looks like this at Insight:
We are passionate about impact. We work every day at becoming the world’s best at increasing the bottom line of Pay TV and telco operators using data. Our economic engine relies on on our customer’s success.
While many businesses claim to do that, what makes us different is the unique recommendations we deliver and the track record of the results’ impact.
So how did we translate these ideas into a concrete platform that runs continuously?
4/ The 9 labors of Hercules
Here is the 9-step process we use. It is iterative and non-linear, even if it looks sequential on paper.
Step 1: Personas
- Identify the personas that with will be involved with Insight
- Understand their roles, tasks, success criteria, KPIs and challenges
As Insight is a transversal platform, some of our modules can serve as many as 14 different personas, who have different goals, challenges, roles, responsibilities and KPI’s.
Step 2: User journey, headaches, opportunities
- Create a common view of the domain to which we want to provide a solution
- Understand where Insight will have to integrate
- Understand the current practices and what needs to evolve or change with the introduction of Insight
- Identify the pains and the opportunities
Insight needs to be able to be tailored to the needs of all users, while addressing organizations of different sizes, structures, markets, and focus.
Step 3: Diagnosis + actions + impacts
- Business analysis and data science investigation using the core Insight platform
- Build a model of the business and associated workflow
- Understand the data availability and quality
- Generate a business diagnosis
- Identify hypotheses and scenarios
- Build data science models
- Simulate personalized actions
- Analyze business impact
This is when we rank solutions based on expected impact
Step 4: Value/ Cost
- Define the solutions at a macro level
- Assess the development, data science, and business analysis costs
- Identify the risks
- Identify the value based on market opportunity, financial impact for the customer, revenue opportunity for Insight, go-to-market, and perceived value.
- Map solutions based on these criteria
This step is essential to ensure that development money is well spent.
Step 5: Story mapping
- Identify the functionalities
- Organize them in a user flow with personas
- Identify releases based on priorities
This is when we start to step in the shoes of our users. Insight needs to be well-designed and convenient to use, a place of reference for our users. Offering business-relevant workflows and features is key.
Step 6: Information architecture
- Identify the organization and the hierarchy of the information
- Make the navigation natural and organic
- Enable users to find easily what they need
- Reveal complexity progressively to users
Hierarchizing information and functionalities is key in creating a platform that is intuitive and enjoyable to use.
Step 7: Existing paradigms analysis
- Get inspiration
- Analyze best practices
- Understand the reasons, pros and cons of existing paradigms
- Identify the paradigm we’ll use for Insight
We spent time understanding what makes other paradigms successful and how they may apply in our case before creating the Insight’s user experience “grammar”.
Step 8: Wireframe
- Get an overview of the Insight platform, its navigation paradigms, the location of each features
- Get a clear and shared vision of the platform
- Create an impression of “The power behind the simplicity”
- Get a visual sense of the modularity and extensibility of the platform
- Focus on personas, outcomes, workflow states, impact metrics
This really is the storyboard of our platform, screen by screen.
Step 9: Mood board & User interface
- Analyze the look & feel of Internet services that reflect the Insight spirit
- Define our visual language
- Wire Frames with our visual language
- Create the mockups of the platform
This step is about creating a visual identity that appeals to our users and reinforces our core values of efficiency, ego-less-ness and fun. This is the final stage of this process that then pass on development. This process is done with small iterations.
5/ Sanity principles
The behavior of each team member, each stakeholder is very important to making this methodology successful. Here are a few golden principles.
The team leader’s work is to go back to the vision
The best enemies of product development are procrastination and deviation. Procrastination because it is very easy to waste time on things that are either already decided or have a limited importance for success.
Deviation because it is extremely easy to get dragged away from the vision and end up with a product that has lost its edge.
This is why the role of the team leader is to constantly remind the vision and bring back the team in the right direction, with the right priorities.
All main stakeholders need to be under one roof
We have never been so digital, especially after these past months. Yet product development is a very innovative activity. It combines very different knowledge, from different people who understand the market, software development, the latest of data science and the operations of our clients. Many diverse people who need to interact at lightspeed to innovate. That is why it needs physical presence.
On top of that, as Insight aims at reducing frictions and the effect of silos at our clients, being extremely collaborative on our end make the product feel like it !
Be results-oriented, not means-oriented, to deliver value from day 1
We are in the business of selling results, and that must be felt everywhere in the product.
That is why everything we do is measured, so we understand our impact in real time. This can be harsh at the beginning, but it becomes a very powerful habit with time.
Thanks for your attention — if you are still reading this, it means you’re fascinated by great product development. Don’t hesitate to share with us your tips, good practices and surprises: email@example.com
Reference: Jim Collins, Good to great, Harper & Collins, 2001