Impossible Things with David Terrar S1 E13
DAVID TERRAR [00:00:23] Hi, this is David Terrar, for Impossible Things with David Terrar. This is Episode 13. It’s gonna be another episode that’s about collaboration and a bit about the future of work. And I’m delighted to say that I’ve got my good buddy John Glover with me and John, someone that I’ve done work for and we’ve worked with in partnership. So John Glover of Kahootz, please come onboard, introduce us a bit about Kahootz.
JOHN GLOVER [00:00:49] Okay. I’m John Glover. I’m the Sales and Marketing Director of Kahootz. Obviously, in addition to managing the sales team and managing all of our marketing activities, both online and offline, I also look after all of our central government accounts and all the health and social care agencies across the UK. Our business is primarily in UK, although we do have some international clients being a Cloud system. Kahootz is a British company. We’re based in Berkshire, not far from Newbury, and the company was gone way back in 2001 and we were born out of the dot-com bubble. Actually, some of the founders of the company originally built some cool “small” groups dot com, which “is a free server” at that time for a very large amount of money. Same time actually, that Yahoo! “Both groups that became youth groups”. So we have a long set of credentials in this area. “It’s only” for scanning for big systems that time. We then build the system again “once a month, say X” it was done. And actually then rather than giving it away for free, we started selling the product to clients and focussed primarily outside in the public sector over the years. So we got a lot of clients across sectors. But public sector is main client base for us. The product team collaboration product “sold the best service” was launched in 2003. We rebuilt it. So that’s when people say technology is today collaborating in a Cloud based, ph, this is cool. We’ve been doing it for 17 years. A long time. And in 2012, we rebranded it as Kahootz, that was to support a government programme called the G-Cloud and to help people through self-service and stop free trials and just go and use a service rather than have it set up for them. So that was ” a whack” Kahootz got introduced. Primarily, Kahootz is a Cloud based platform that enables teams to collaborate across both “drug droppers and” organisations and effectively provide secure online my workspaces that can allow people to network together and share information in a safe way.
DAVID TERRAR [00:03:06] So is that what makes it different than the fact that you’re kind of cross in silos and doing collaboration a bit differently from some of the other organisations?
JOHN GLOVER [00:03:13] Yeah, certainly. I would say it’s primarily used by our clients to help them collaborate security with team members and stakeholders in external organisations such as other agencies or partners, suppliers and clients. Because although the’ve got a clients, they’ve got things like SharePoint and other tools, they have internal systems. They’re not always easy to configure and open up to large numbers of users because of security, operational and licencing concerns. So that becomes difficult for themmsometimes, they’re not quite so agile, there was all of the type in systems. And certainly they lacked the flexibility and speed and equipment. And if people got a project started on Monday with 500 external stakeholders, they wouldn’t have to wait for I.T. to deliver our system to… Actually what normally happens, because of that, the staff get frustrated and they go off and use shadow I.T.. We see this a lot. They go on use single purpose tool where will be file sharing or surveys or tasks and they start doing things well over the place and that’s going to obviously have not only a big hit on productivity, but it’s also going to make ensure that all your information about your project is distributed across multiple silos in different products. Which certainly makes finding a single source of truth very, very difficult for teams working across organisations. So really, with Kahootz, what we try to do is provide a single platform that can easily be adapted by users. I think that’s what they like, rather than having someone built for them. They can go in at that time to meet a whole range of suitable use cases. So things like deal rooms with suppliers, like policy development team or to be a board, be a community of interest or to build knowledge sharing. So there’s this whole range of people, reasons why people come together to collaborate. And it’s not about file sharing. It’s about the context in which they do that collaboration to sort of support the business. And as with most modern Cloud technologies, now, the focus is really to empower the user. The user is used to “dwell in” Cloud apps and know that some of them might be relatively simple but they said, well, you know, why can’t I have a system if I can just do this myself? So, you know, it really Kahootz that’s where it’s so big. Some of the competitors that were more traditional collaboration problems is that they use it does a lot for themselves. And that really helps scalability. It helps the typical Cloud process of land and expand where you get something in that is worthwhile. And then people then say, I can adapt that and there’s some else with it. And then, you know, people will not only take much better ownership of the systems, but they feel that actually thought some of it is fit for purpose. And I would say that, you know, rather than therefore struck organisations struggling with multiple tools, Kahootz provides us sort of a platform which unifies features such as document management, “diary tasks”, surveys, online data stores and much more and allows everyone to be connected there.
DAVID TERRAR [00:06:33] You raise an important point. Because, I mean, with the crisis that we’re all going through, lots of organisations have been shift being pushed into collaboration, solutions and doing things differently. But it’s not all about Zoom and Teams. You need different approaches, don’t you?
JOHN GLOVER [00:06:50] Yeah. And I would have said the you know, with that the things like Zoom and Teams are good because they’re quick and easy to use amongst the defining characteristics of this pandemic, it had it is people have to react up speed, the spread of the virus and how quickly some of these work from home policies came into place and has no longer optional. It’s now being mandated because of government requirements as organisations start to come together and have their meetings. They realise, actually I think, I hope that actually they need to work between meetings the synchronistic approach of Skype, Zoom and Teams and those types of products are not really conducive to work in between meetings and providing a persistent store of information, we can go in and discover that “I like to date”. It’s also not possible to get all the interested parties online any one time. So, you know, with product like Kahootz, which are what we would position as “asynchronous” people drop in and take part when they can. They might be at a different time zone, of course, and they might be busy on other projects and then add a valuable contribution actually find out what’s been said in the past. So that becomes help to them, slightly in collaboration, I think the problem with collaboration. There are lots of different tools and people “doesn’t… and not”.
JOHN GLOVER [00:08:27] Interesting. Now, you mentioned your governments, some of your customers when you introduced yourselves. And obviously with the crisis COVID-19. There’s obviously lots of activity going and things to do with that. Well, the company customers are using Kahootz for in that context.
JOHN GLOVER [00:08:49] Yeah, as I said, many of my clients are in the public sector and that may include the NHS, the Cabinet Office and Department of Health and Social Care and even the “MOD” all of which are on the front line of the Corona virus “but as such”. So they were really impacted because they had to get together very, very quickly. And not only did they find the need to engage a whole range of existing stakeholders, a lot of new ones, and unstuff also locked down at home. So this created them a lot of logistical issues that weren’t there before. Fortunately, our clients had a system in place which could be quickly scaled and that might help easier for them to react to what was happening around them. And from a business point of view, rather, looking for a lot of new clients. I don’t know. The likes of Zoom and others group or exponentially. Our focus really was to go to our phone “with clients up” and find out what is it they need to support the battle against the virus. It does, that was the important thing to us. And they needed us to react quickly. And I want to make sure our resources were properly focussed. Yes, we did protect on some other clients, but that was really where we were. The main client was trusting them with you and I have worked on in the past. A return on investment study for them. When they were obviously they found us out very, very quickly and said, oh, God, you know, what can we do? Well, fortunately, we’ve got a very scalable system and scalable licencing policy of which much of which way for three months anyway. But they were able to scale over that first several months from 75,000 to 120,000 a day. So they need a system and I get on board and deploy a whole range of new workspaces and online communities that, for example, that I use those communities for workforce planning, changes to the discharge in arrangements, manage critical care capacity, providing a set of “poetry and discussion” on analytical resources, not only nationally but globally. Developing good practise in care homes, I know there’s been some knocking on that, but I’d still have tghe, there’s a lot of as things have to go on there. It’s a learning pathway for people they were managing issues regarding to safeguarding children and “Buckleboo” adults by providing “guns, jeepneys” on video consultations and even helping move homeless from the streets into the hotels, which a lot of I heard about. All that has to be managed. And note there were no systems really in place for any of that in March. And so for them having and they did this with a very small team internally. And that’s the I think the bit slightly different with Kahootz to some technologies is because you’re can empower the user with spray simple tools. They can be up and running and providing their own communities online very, very quickly with a little bit of guidance and a bit of internal team that helped them do that. And then off you go and otherwise you’re gonna kill yourself in manpower is also trying to do this otherwise. And in a similar way, the “Kevin Elfish” use Kahootz for cross departmental task forces for hundreds of Civil servants on the classic one was obviously bringing together all the human resource directors and senior managers who needed to develop policies around, leave, planning and staff wellbeing and, you know, flexible working issues. So there’s a lot of policies that have not really had policies for this standard working practises, but they had nothing, they had nothing that was really going to fit into the Corona virus project.
DAVID TERRAR [00:12:35] I think it’s a testament to the Cloud infrastructure that you’re sitting on. And I mean, from the report we did, we know how easy to use the platform was. So the fact that you’ve actually added 50,000 users and done all that onboarding successfully for not just the NHS is one customer. All the other things you just talked about, that’s really great. Over these last few months, is there anything you’ve seen where people have got things wrong?
JOHN GLOVER [00:13:02] No, I don’t want to be too critical because actually, given the amount of time people get to make decisions, you know, really what you want is people to go off and innovate and find new ways of workplace looking. So you do want to be too critical on that. And I think it creates great opportunity for that. I would imagine with regard to sourcing I.T., there’s been a few panic buyers. There’s lots of free systems out there as well, which I know there were some questions shortly after people started using some of those technologies about security and where things were hosted and data sovereignty and all those things that have gone by the board. So perhaps there’s an opportunity to go back and have a look at that. Under normal circumstances, you’d spend a lot more time doing your due diligence about the suppliers that you’re buying from and where your data is going to be stored and who is listening in on your chats, Zoom’s or whatever it was. I do want to spread aspersions, but, you know, that those sorts of governance issues might have been slacking somewhat. Like most people know when joining a Zoom or a Team event, I found it strange sometimes to start sharing a video feed because I’m used to teleconferencing with phones and things. But strangely enough, “we’ve done group” teleconferences in the past with people, especially with prospects if you in the sales process. I suppose my bankers that we alluded to earlier is that people are only seem to in many cases understood the as the video base sharing and chat. And in fact, Cloud collaboration can be a lot more than that. Certainly, if you’re in that sort of business as usual working environment rather than just the meetings environment, then that’s where tools like Kahootz come in, come on board. On our site, on a personal note, it’s not particularly help me being only five feet away from my fridge. I need to go and get a bit more discipline in that. I must try to find a way of operating.
JOHN GLOVER [00:15:05] You could have start to do a bit more runs around the lake that you’re next to make decide to get. Get some exercise going. I think you’d agree with me that this crisis has actually kind of accelerated, pushed forward the topic of collaboration and that, you know, the topic of transformation in terms of doing things very, very differently for lots of organisations. What do you think it means to the future of work in general?
JOHN GLOVER [00:15:34] I certainly, without a doubt, he’s accelerated that process. It’s a bit like people talk about online shopping, how that’s accelerated the demise of the high street, unfortunately, you know. it’s people have realised what they can and can’t do what they like and like not to do. So it has changed things. And I certainly think most organisations now will have much better working from home policies in place than they had before. We certainly had some staff working part time and full time. And you move to a situation where the old staff. We’re fortunate that we’re Cloud by system development, sales, support and everything can be done from home. So that’s made it relatively easy for us. And I think the people have a better understanding of the issues faced why homework with regard to IT provision and information security. So I’m talking to people, things like IT provision. The hardware side was difficult for a lot of organization, you got 3000 staff who didn’t have laptops that learnt their children. That became an issue. And there were information security issues. Why we work in the defence sector. So you can imagine there was a lot of news around that. We managed to work out a way through that. Because we got some controls already in place. NASA’s the I think people, you know, they were trying to work out the profit issues and the work life balance. I think it was my piece during the day and feel guilty. I want to go out for a bike ride, which maybe is what you should be doing. And I still struggle with that. But that’s sort of nine to five discipline done over the last 40 years. You know, I think there’s I think people were raise more questions regarding travelling. Of course. Why the need to travel? Certainly that’s going to be the main thing now. I think it was also do I really need to go into London to go to that meeting or can I just listen in? You know, we tracked down many occasions and go on with other things because really my role hasn’t been so major, some of those meetings. “Might” know what’s going on. So that has been more effective in using my time. I would say I miss the expressions. Right. The “past is” no longer in the box, “in nice shape”. I think it’s a struggle or issue. I suppose liberation. The Cloud is here to stay. And I think people will now find a better role for it in their work life balance.
DAVID TERRAR [00:18:01] I totally get what you’re saying very, very much. I mean, we’re just coming into a new phase. I mean, the lockdown’s being relinquished and things are changing. What sort of things do you think people ought to be thinking about in this next phase of the what’s gonna work?
JOHN GLOVER [00:18:16] Well, I think the you know, now we’re getting back to the new normal, we call it that. The first thing the organisation should do is do a formal review and I think I should, they should look at their technologies, software and hardware used by the staff during the lock down and gather learning experiences for them as to what worked and what didn’t work. They should certainly look at information governance to make sure they can establish what footprint is left being left behind in the Cloud and clean up if required. And create stronger policies and technologies. You know, we’ve had to do things in a bit of a rush maybe some things got missed. Certainly question how meetings might be better conducted in the future. I think, you know, I’d still want to go to face to face meetings. So I’ve missed the opportunity to network with people at conferences because that’s where you’ve got off the off the record “intelligence agents” where my role. And I think certainly people will look at their office spaces a bit better and say, do we need all of this? So, you know, some of the expensive office space isn’t really needed. And many organisations have already done that. So if you’ve not already done it, if you’re a medium sized organisation, I’ll put in place and appoint a smarter working lead who looks at flexible working office space and technology all in the round. And then because there are lots of guidance on that out there on the Web, that’s what I would really take as a strong point on that perhaps I can bring all that learning together for you.
DAVID TERRAR [00:19:53] Now, “all good” messages, “all good” learning there. “Kahootz itselff” what’s coming up in the future for you? What’s next for Kahootz in what in terms of the product? in terms of the company? What where you going?
JOHN GLOVER [00:20:04] Yeah, probably I mean, the the product is continuously being updated. That’s the nice thing now with these types of Cloud solutions, you don’t take them down. “You just add continuity” so you know, every month we add several new features or improvements as we get feedback from our clients. Even during the lockdown, you know, we upgraded all of our services, believe it or not… Yeah, we had 300% growth in that first couple of weeks. That was quite a shock to the system and some of the NHS. Well, NHS workspace now, which has got documents, that’s got a hundred and ten thousand users in it. So as they start communicating with each other on a frequent basis, that creates a lot more load. And so, you know, we’re able to put some things in place that release speedy boarding of people during that process as well. Going forward, you know, we’ve got an Office 365 integration coming along, which is using the what the online integration with Cloud document systems so that you can get it online.
DAVID TERRAR [00:21:08] I think it’s very interesting, actually, because obviously Office 365 is becoming a very much a standard.
JOHN GLOVER [00:21:13] Yeah, absolutely. And certainly doing more integrations, is it’s gonna be good for us. And I certainly think things like Teams and whatever will feature in that going forward. And suddenly organisations like the “MOD” currently looking at that and have to do that in a proper, safe and secure way. So we’re discussing that with our clients. But that’s gonna help a lot of people, I think, say you’re having all the applications on your laptop and you can use your iPad now and edit documents using the tools you’re familiar with.
DAVID TERRAR [00:21:43] And play nicely with “that family…”
JOHN GLOVER [00:21:47] Absolutely. And you know, others as I come along. But certainly Microsoft is the first hit for us. And what we do, there’s a lockdown integration already, but also we integrate with the desktop applications. We’re just doing it through the Cloud based ones as well so that you don’t actually need the applications as I said on your on your desktop, the other thing is of course, we’re gonna start. We’re starting to introduce solution templates. So we’ve been trying one on bid management, some of our defence supply chain clients.
DAVID TERRAR [00:22:19] So that’s gonna make it easier to set up when I set up a new workspace for any project that’s gonna make it easier to you know, “have to configure it all?”
JOHN GLOVER [00:22:25] Yeah, absolutely. I mean, some of my clients already use those, like, you know, they can go and configure a template on their site so they can have a go to design ready. And then they can evolve it if it needs a change. But so we’re we’ve been working with because we’ve got a lot of supply chain plants in a defence industry, been working with them to come up with an idea on how on that was gonna look. And I think they’ve liked it really. Again, it’s not trying to overcomplicate these things because I think the more you put into them, sometimes, the less they hit you. So it’s a Ockham’s Razor challenge that we all face and know. Other enhancements that we’ve planned around improve information governance with different people working from home is gonna be very important. Working with external agencies and the workload at the pool. But, you know, the day to day, you put him in the Cloud to make sure it’s going to the right places, in the right time, because that’s going to enable better productivity for the teams and information governance going forward.
DAVID TERRAR [00:23:25] Excellent, I know you had a lot of new defense contractor firms as well as the government ones that, you know, I guess you can’t say very much about them.
JOHN GLOVER [00:23:34] No, no. I mean, it’s partly because I suppose part of that is the administrative defense. About five years ago a critique of our system, one of the few public Cloud systems to get the accreditation up to what they call official sensitive information. And that accreditation then enables some of those big brand names in the defense industry to have confidence that what we’re doing and they can put their assets into a Cloud collaboration system as well. And what they’ve been looking for is the same thing as “MOD” was, is as an agile, flexible tool that was convenient to use and easy to use for that distributed teams. Because they’ve all all got these big I.T. systems behind their networks for obvious reasons, very protected and very secure. But they still want to work business to business. And that was the challenge. So that’s been really good for Kahootz to get the “MOD” and then leverage that to go off and provide solutions into the defense supply chain. I mean, our benefit is we don’t need to sell big. We can sell 50 users and then grow to thousands if necessary. And we’ve got clients that range from 10,000 like 10 users to, as I said, over a 120,000 in the NHS. So that’s the beauty of the Cloud, isn’t it?
DAVID TERRAR [00:24:49] It’s absolutely the beauty of the Cloud, the scalability. And you’re talking agile and flexibility and team. So you’re talking my language, John, it’s all good stuff. This has been a really great story. If anybody wants to find out more about Kahootz, where to go?
JOHN GLOVER [00:25:04] Well the best place of course is kahootz.com that’s where we keep all our resources and our contact information. You can obviously look me up on LinkedIn and send me connection requests. I’ll connect with you. That’s not a problem. I do some post there from time to time. And if you want to try the system, there’s a free trial as well. Our price and as transparent as the online calculator. You know everything. There’s no hidden issues here. You know, just go and try it. And if it fits the purpose, then you can deploy it. And that’s really where we like to be. It keeps us honest as well.
DAVID TERRAR [00:25:39] One of the things I like about your licencing is that it’s based on the usage of the product rather than the number of users that I happen to have signings for, isn’t it?
JOHN GLOVER [00:25:49] Yeah. Also, on the larger, larger deployments, we have a thing called an active use, a pricing policy which the NHS used, which means that they’re only paying for the people that use it on a month by month basis rather than registered. And certainly if you got stakeholders, central stakeholders are less interested. The least you can involve them. And if they’re not using they’re not paying for it. So it’s a real value based model. And I think our clients like that. It’s like electricity. You wouldn’t pay your electricity supplier money in case you want to use your electricity for the year ahead. You pay for what you use and then you feel you’re getting value. And if you can’t afford it, “shut it down a bit”
DAVID TERRAR [00:26:29] So why I should be? That’s been absolutely fantastic. Thanks for coming on the show today. It’s been really good to hear about it.
JOHN GLOVER [00:26:36] Okay, thank you, David.
DAVID TERRAR [00:26:38] Good talking to you. So that’s John Glover of Kahootz. And a really interesting story around collaboration and how the future of work is changing. And this is actually, you know, told us a bit about how NHS and government departments are using those kind of collaboration tools to do some good, really good stuff. If you want more content like this, if you come to my Twitter, handle “@D.T.” to Disruptive LIVE’s Twitter, @DisruptiveLive and their LinkedIn page. And if you go to impossiblethings.fyi you’ill find more like this. See “on episosde 14 next week”. Thank you.