• Written by Alvaro de Salvo
    8 August 2017

In the past few weeks, we’ve introduced a new way to improve how different people from various teams at Akvo work together. We founded Akvo ‘Tripod’ teams and they focus on the roll out, (re)positioning, and evolution of our tools and services.

Tripod teams were initially triggered by one specific necessity: the need to better coordinate the soon to be launched Akvo Lumen: our new data analysis, transformation, visualisation and publishing tool. Product launches are a perfect example of how multiple team members from across the organisation come together to make things happen in a timely manner. Different teams need to closely interact from multiple areas like product management, software development, marketing and communications, customer support, business development and sales, accounting, finance, and others as needed. It is not only coordination that make launches challenging, but the fact that usually individuals and teams have their own agenda and goals and sometimes fall into a silos working culture, in which it’s easy to loose sight of the bigger picture, thus impacting the work of other teams. Tripod teams were born to improve co-creation and collaboration, to double check everyone is on the same page, and make sure things get delivered on time for the common big objective(s).

Above: Akvo Tripods. By Linda Leunissen.

Inspired by my passion for photography and follow up conversations with Linda, we thought the metaphor of the tripod would fit perfectly to illustrate what the Tripods aim for.

“A portable three-legged frame, used as a platform for supporting the weight and maintaining the stability of some other object. A tripod provides stability against downward forces and horizontal forces and movements about horizontal axes. The positioning of the three legs away from the vertical centre allows the tripod better leverage for resisting lateral forces.”

How do the Tripod teams work? (Our five principles)

  • Small but involving: We keep the number of tripod members to a maximum of three people. One person from marketing and communications, one from product management and one from our partner team. This way a small group of people is fit to get things done and to ensure information flows easily. There are specific reasons we brought the product and partnership representatives to work closely with marcomms. The product teams create the value in our tools and we need to understand how to package it in exciting ways, what’s ready to market and what are the things that set us apart from others. For the partnership team we are one of their main support pillars, providing them with storytelling materials that make their job easier. They bring user feedback back to our organisation that incorporate to better market our work. We see ourselves as the bridge to help things move fluently, create systems and processes that help everyone provide their input timely, we’ve introduced the Tripods.
  • Anticipate: Tripod members understand the importance of anticipation and avoiding tight deadlines. It’s all about getting better at prioritisation and estimating workloads for everyone. They discover needs from colleagues and deliver the goods on time. This could be a product page, marketing and comms collateral, product usage stats, financial updated, proposal materials etc.
  • Keep momentum: Tripod members meet weekly, either for sessions of 15, 30 or 60 min to solve problems, produce content or communicate milestones and keep each other in the loop. They support each other’s work and make sure they are on top of things.
  • Focus: Tripods define and act upon weekly Objectives and Key results to keep each other accountable and keep moving forward.
  • Be social: Tripods make sure they also facilitate good relationships with other areas, like finance, hub managers, management team, services team etc.

Above: How Tripod teams interact with other teams across Akvo. Image by Linda Leunissen

Replicable tripods

While working on our first Tripod for Akvo Lumen, we soon realised the benefits of having teams better aligned and we decided that the Tripod structure could easily be replicated for existing products like RSR and Flow. During those first Tripod meetings, we were able to clearly identify that each of them stands at different product lifecycle stage, which brings different objectives and key results for each Tripod to achieve. For the coming months, we’ve set out to work on four different projects (see below) and achieve specific objectives and key results in each one of them. We’re doing this for Lumen, RSR and Flow.

Setting the success criteria in four key projects

This short overview will give you an idea on the things we are aiming for:

Project 1:  The Marketing Audit

A comprehensive examination of how our partners currently use our tools, within the context of the actual market. A thorough review of the different segments of partners, understanding what problems they are facing and why they partner with us. A look to different distribution channels and communication lines. We look at how we could be of more value to them. We also perform a situation analysis of the status of contracts, processes and systems within Akvo to keep everyone within the organisation aligned and anticipate what we should be doing next. 

Project 2: The delight plan

We always strive to go beyond enough. The invitation is this: let’s get obsessed with our partner’s problems and help them solve them, where ever possible. The marketing audit will give us a good overview of where we need to put our focus to help our partners achieve the maximum impact and how they can make the most out of our tools.

Project 3: The growth vision

We ask ourselves a series of questions to determine how to further develop a product or service: where do we go next? How to we provide more value? How can we better solve problems? What’s the position for our products within our own portfolio and within the market? How to we develop processes that can help us get the most feedback to help both Akvo and our partners grow together into solving pressing issues?

Project 4: Monitoring success

Tripods are already starting to put in place structural frameworks to monitor certain indicators of how our tools are being used, how different segments of partners behave, and have some dashboards that can showcase the progress of our activities in terms of marketing and sales.

We are now in the final stage of finalising Project 1. We are at a moment when there are actually more questions than answers, which is really good, in my opinion. We are confident we are heading in the right direction, as we start to see the benefits of such structure.

Our ultimate goal is to bring enough information, knowledge, experiences and insights from different teams in the organisation so we can all, as a whole, improve how our tools are being used. It’s the tripods aim to get really good at talking to the right people in the right order at the right time, so we can all  better support our partners and an improve the way we market Akvo to the people in organisations that need our services the most. More to come soon.

Alvaro de Salvo is Head of Marketing and Communications at Akvo. He is based in Amsterdam and you can follow him on Twitter @aj_desalvo.

Alvaro de Salvo was Comms executive, Marketing Manager, Head of Marketing and Communications, and a member of the Management team at Akvo. You can connect with him via LinkedIn or Twitter.