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TechTalk ep20: Is BXT your cuppa tea?

Paramita: Hello. We have Armin back in our studio today. And we have somebody new. Welcome Susan.

Susan: Thank you Paramita. Very nice to be here.

Paramita: Thank you so much. Last time, Armin we spoke about user experience with you and today our topic is kind of related to it? BXT? Susan can you start?

Susan: So certainly BXT is related to user design the same way I would say that your nose is related to your face. So they are part of a bigger whole.

Paramita: OK. So what is BXT? Susan I'll ask you, first.

Susan: Sure. So BXT is... we call it an approach or a platform or a methodology. In fact, it's a new religion that we want to bring to our people and I use that term a little facetiously but we want to get our people to stop focussing on selling packages to our clients or telling our clients what's best for them. And we want our people to blend their deep business knowledge, that's the B, with our very strong technology experts, that's the T, and the glue that binds them together is the experience (the X). So what the end client benefits from the work that we do with our clients. So BXT is simply a way to help our people leverage the human element, the design element of creating solutions that make sense for real people.

Paramita: OK.

Susan: Want to break that down a bit?

Paramita: Yes. Just a quick question because you know some people might say that oh yes another jargon. We spoke of CX and UX. Now PwC comes up with another new thing BXT. Is it just another you know of those buzzwords or there's substance behind it?

Susan: There's substance and there's science behind it. And I would say that like all good sales people, you have to make it easy for people to engage with it. So that's why we've bundled it in this BXT package to help our people understand what it is and how it works. But at the end of the day it doesn't have to be more complicated than, like a good design thinker like Armin always does, is put the client at the centre. Put the human at the centre of whatever it is you're trying to achieve. So I'll give a few examples. If we have an airline company client who is trying to figure out a way to build a new app, instead of thinking about how much it costs or what's the technology, about all our legacy systems, what we're trying to help them do is put the client who actually flies on their aeroplanes at the centre of all of the solution that we build. The same thing if you look at our accounting clients. So we have a lot of clients here in Luxembourg in the financial services space. Well they really are struggling with bringing clients onto their platforms. It's called KYC - know your client. And this element they always try to solve it in ways that are less than human. So all we're trying to do is add an element of humanity to the work that we're bringing and it doesn't matter whether we're talking about an accounting project or a tax project or an advisory project. They all need to start with the end client at the centre.

Paramita: OK. So is it right if I say that the X is probably the most important in BXT, Armin?

Armin: I wouldn't say that it's the most important thing. I wouldn't say that one is more important than the other. I think they all contribute equally to let's say a great value add in terms of having the diverse perspectives integrated into the approach. So what it means that is we would get diverse people in the room. So business experience and technology people and we will get them to talk and to share their you know pain points, to share their opinions and suggestions. And what would be the best way to move forward. But of course the X element is important because we always keep human in the centre of the process. So everything starts and ends with the end customer in mind. And business and technology they are all part of this journey as well.

Paramita: So before going in to B, X and T individually, because I would really like to know how these three components intervene, why BXT? Why did we start thinking about something human centric in the first place?

Susan: I would love to say we started doing it because it's the right thing to do. The bottom line is there's lots of data that demonstrates that clients have a diversity of choice today that they have never had before. And we know that there's about a 16% price premium on good experience. So like products, if you have a better experience you can charge more.

Paramita: Yeah we spoke about it actually Armin, didn't we?

Armin: Yeah exactly. We had some bottom and top line impacts. And we had this discussion around how it also increases the loyalty. So not only that the price premium but also that customers keep coming back for more because they want to have that same great experience again. So it's like a gift that keeps on giving.

Susan: And you know I love Jeff Bezos from Amazon, he has some amazing quotes. He's such a good theatrical speaker. But one of the things he says is you know your clients love you right up to the moment that they leave you for a competitor. Because the competitor has a lower price or a better offer, better service. And what we're finding today is that churn is happening much faster and the barriers to exit for customers are much lower. So if our clients don't put the customer first they risk coming in second.

Paramita: Coming back to the question of B, X and T individually, do you have any concrete examples of how these three components come in and how does it work?

Susan: So my favourite analogy of why the three need to be balanced together and I think Armin said it very well that they all you know... If you study Gestalt... The sum of the parts is... the sum of the whole is greater than the sum of the parts or something like, that something esoteric like that. But think about... favourite example. Rory Sutherland from Saatchi & Saatchi, he talks about the building of the Channel Tunnel. It took eight years, it took five billion pounds and it decreased the travel time by 23 minutes. And what he says is that is a triumph of business and technology over experience. So he says the right-brain people won that argument. They built something that cost the taxpayer five billion pounds when in fact, they could have spent a small percent of that money, hired the world's male and female top models and have them serving Château Pétrus in the alleys of the train and they would have saved money. The experience would have been much better and people would have been very happy to stay on the train much longer. So that's where the experience side can bring a whole other chapter, a whole other lens to a business problem.

Armin: Or they could have just installed the Wi-Fi.

Paramita: Yeah that too.

Armin: I think when we think of the customer, we are usually focussing on how we want them to act. So but here it's turning it around and saying what are the kinds of behaviours that the customer would like himself. And so the question is more around what are the motivations of the people and client and working with the business and technology to fulfil that for the end customer. So even on a philosophical level, it's a more nuanced approach with the BXT. So it's not simply about let's say a different way of delivering projects but it's also a different way of looking at us as human beings and understanding that we are all unique, that we have different needs, that we have different wants in our life. And looking how can businesses play a more meaningful role in the lives of the customers by designing the solutions that you know are at the right price, that have a superb experience and that are just technologically enabled.

Paramita: And, because for our listeners, for some of our listeners it can be really you know the process, or just BXT, it can be kind of abstract. So that's why when I say concrete examples maybe... when you pitch the idea how do you go about it? What happens?

Susan:  So let me not speak so much about the pitch of it but let me talk about a project. So when we're running a project what are some of the things we do to help everybody get on the same page.

One that I love is we bring the three teams together. So the business people, the technology people and the user experience people and we have the business and technology people role play clients. So we help them understand who is a typical client. We use archetypes. So you know here's Paramita and she's a career person and she's short on time. So we help them understand who their clients are and there's lots of good research below that. We talk about a customer journey with them, help them understand how the customer engages with it. But then we say to them OK now you technology guy are going to role play Paramita to Armin who's the business guy. And we have them get under the skin or into the skin of the client experience. And you get these wonderful aha moments. Because you'll get the business guy saying to the technology guy, "well I tried to log in today and it still didn't work". So you get the human elements that come forward. We play lots of games with them. So people come into our sessions knowing that it's something, it's business as unusual. So they don't get to sit in normal chairs. We try not to keep them sitting for long. We make them play games like party planner, one of my very favourites, that teaches them to use the vocabulary, "yes, and..." instead of "yes, but..." when doing creation work or ideation work. So it's a very different kind of environment but we come out at the end... we generally do one or two day sessions, we generally come out at the end I think with a very efficient view of the roadmap and where we need to go. And generally feedback from our clients is this was faster and a hell of a lot more fun than what they're used to from PwC.

Paramita: OK. So if I understand correctly, we have the client who wants a certain kind of an improvement, an outcome of some sort. And they come to us and we organise these a day long or two day workshops, if I may call them workshops, where you have these games and role plays and after that you design a roadmap based on whatever came out during those sessions.

Susan: That's exactly right. And that roadmap then forms the basis for the different phases of work that we need to do. So we could use this work to redesign an app for an application for a financial services client. We could use this work to think about what are the future service offerings say that an insurance company wants to propose. We could use this work in all kinds of different ways.

We're looking at the data that our asset management clients have and how they might use this data in different ways. So the different use cases, there are a gazillion of them out there, that's very technical term, but you know the approach that we use fundamentally rests on this combination of the business concerns, the technology as an enabler and the experience of the end client as sort of the light that guides us to the future.

Armin: And I think that's even beyond the roadmap and certain deliverables that they come up with which you know are very accelerated during these two days for example. They come out with a refreshed mind-set and they're focussed on their customer. I think this is the biggest takeaway because when they go back to their day to day job, apart from the deliverables, that they continue working on, they're always thinking of the customer first and putting the customer at the centre of every decision that they have to make.

And in that way it also helps focus in organisations around really where they deliver most of the value. And that usually comes from the insights on the lives of their customers.

Paramita: And what happens after? Do we accompany them? There are follow-ups?

Susan: Absolutely. So the project starts with those sessions but then it could go on and it depends on the size of the project that we're doing. Some of them last a few months, some of them last a few years. But we do these kinds of sessions at regular intervals to bring everyone back together to reset, to make sure that we're on the right path, that nothing's changed, keeping in mind that customers change every freaking day which makes it very difficult for our clients to keep responding to their needs. But to Armin's point, what we love is that you know we'll be six months into a project and we'll be dealing with a specific roadblock and we'll get you know the chief technology officer who will say, "oh yeah but don't forget Paramita. She needs this in her everyday". So those archetype clients that we've taught them to think about that they talk about them as if they're real people. Now in our case you are a real person but we give them names, we give them lives and they become real to our clients and they use them to remind themselves of what's important as we need to make decisions.

Armin: And often you would see the change in culture at the client's. So they would have kind of personas even put up on the walls. And then they would say for example look at this persona is very tech savvy. So what can we do for this persona in our project. Well we have the other one which is the complete opposite. So keeping in mind that not all the clients are the same. Also putting the name and as Susan said the lives around makes them feel so much more present that everybody who is involved in the project feels like they're really solving an issue here that is important to their customers. So they feel really fulfilled in their work as well. So I'm always coming back to that human element, maybe I have my designer hat on still.

But I think this is extremely important because if we want to be real, it's not that often that you see in the companies that people are so much dedicated and motivated to actually making a positive change in the lives of their customers. And this methodology helps bring the client I would say the customer closer together.

Paramita: How is it different, what is the differentiator of this methodology than any other design thinking methodology?

Susan: So I don't think necessarily it has to be different. I think that there are different ways to achieve the same end. For us, what has changed is we've broken down the silos. And that's really... It sounds easy but it's culturally extremely difficult to have the technology and business and experience people sharing the same views or agreeing the path forward. So that's one thing that's fundamentally different. The other thing I think that's different is the speed of change. This is a really efficient way to work. So we do you know sprints. So if you think about the agile methodology and technology, we've applied a lot of those principles to the way that we've deployed BXT so that as changes happen in the client base, you can react faster to them without saying, “oh this is an 18 month piece of work”, because you know we've got all this legacy technology to deal with. So there are good and bad ways to break down barriers. For me this methodology works for our firm and our clients because it brings the best of what everyone can offer but into one bundle.

Armin: I just wanted to say that I agree completely. And what I can say from real life experience is that when we work sometimes with the clients, we have some of them that come to us and they say, “well in the 10-15 years that we've been working or that I've been working with the firm, we've never been in the same room together”. Because they're really so isolated with the B, X and T within their organisation that they've never been in the actual room together, apart from maybe a Christmas Ball, to do some thinking on the customer and to make so many decisions in such a short time that really you know redefine the value proposition.

And once they leave from those sessions they have kind of a redefined sense of purpose for them as an organisation because now they can see the bigger picture and how all of them as individuals but also their departments are playing together to fulfil this value proposition that the client is paying for.

Paramita: If I'm not mistaken it started around 2015, right, BXT?

Susan: BXT was rolled out in the US firm in 2015. And then the UK firm took it on. We're here in Luxembourg among the first in Europe but there is like this big push now across the firm because people use it in an engagement and it works. And that I think it makes it so much easier to adopt a new methodology when you try it. And clients say well that was fun. And that was efficient. And that got us where we needed to go.

Paramita: And so if I ask you, do you see the future? What's the future? Because things are changing so fast and evolving so rapidly like you said customers they change every freaking day you know...

Susan: So I have a bunch of ideas on that. So let me share a few and then I'll let Armin speak up. But for me where I see things going is that we're going to leverage technology to give us that client feedback loop in real time.

And I'll give you a for instance of that. So we're working with a banking client, a retail bank and we are road testing, recording client conversations. Those conversations, this is with the client's approval and acceptance obviously, those conversations go from voice to text. That text is analysed with a machine-learning loop and it sends back to the tablet of the customer service officer in front of the client prompted scripts. So if the client is unhappy about something, the machine learning will actually prompt here's how to solve for that problem. If the client is asking questions about a mortgage product or a credit card product, the machine learning will send prompted scripts on how to deal with those requests. And all of the transcripts of those conversations will then be analysed from a client service perspective, from a regulatory perspective, from a compliance perspective. And this is all happening real time. So this is what we're road testing now.

So for me the future you know where we're saying well clients change every freaking day well then it'll go down to the hour and then to the minute. And so technology is the enabler to let us understand real time what the client in front of us really wants.

Pretty cool, huh?

Paramita: I see Armin all smitten by Susan...

Armin: Because I thought I was the crazy one you know dreaming but she's actually doing it. I'm so happy that we are doing this podcast with Susan because she's so full of... she's like a Sahara of knowledge you know.

I think the future of BXT is yet to be written. So we are just at the beginning of this story. A lot of our firms are adopting it across the network. So as more and more of them adopt it I would say the more and more than the movement spreads like wildfire and then the more it spreads, the more impact we see across our clients from different territories because we have many global clients. And then the more it spreads we also have the more of a customer focus and I think the example that Susan just made is a perfect example of how the B, X and T played together to deliver a unique value proposition.

So you know if you've been to the bank yourself asking for a mortgage well it's not usually that you're going to get a lot of information on the first interview and it's usually like OK and can we get some input here and then come back and so on. But these kind of instant real time response and that is also 100% tailored to you is something that was unthinkable years ago but maybe the technology was already there. I mean if you think of smart assistance and so on, Siri has been around for many years. Why has nobody thought of this use case per se. It's because they have not got the B, X and T together in the same room to do a kind of a BXT session to actually come up with a with better solution.

Susan: Last thing I would say one of the fundamental pillars of what we do is this notion of collaboration. So having people working together. So I would just say if as a result of the podcast if any of your listeners have questions or would like to know more, need some help from us, we're very happy to share and collaborate and see if we can help with others who are trying to do something similar.

Armin: Yeah I would really love to hear of BXT success stories. I mean we had so many but every time and it's just unbelievable what people come up with. Every time I hear of some success story I'm like wow you know that I couldn't I couldn't have thought of that by myself. That's just you know impossible.

So I'm very keen to see what the community will do with the BXT and where will they take it from here. Certainly, Susan is a very good promoter here both in Luxembourg and in the UK and we had our own success stories but I think the best is yet to come.

Paramita: Well perfect I see you know two very passionate BXTers with me. And you heard them, if you have any questions, if you'd like more information, you can always write to us.

Armin: Now we have the official name BXTers for lovers of the BXT religion.

Paramita: Exactly. Guys thank you so much for being here, for enlightening me about BXT and I hope I get to talk to you soon another time.

Susan: Thank you very much. Thank you.

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