Shaun chats with Stephen Graham (Design Director at STCK), on the intersection of Strategic Design and Intelligent Automation.

 

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Shaun Leisegang:

Hey everyone. Today I’m extremely excited to welcome Steve Graham to the show. Steve is the director of design at a company called STCK, S-T-C-K. I hope I pronounce that correctly. And he’s a master in all things strategic design, human-centric design, employee experience, the future of work, digital transformation and business transformation. Steve, welcome to the show.


Stephen Graham:

Thank you. Great to be here, Shaun.


Shaun Leisegang:

Did I get it right? S-T-C-K, STCK. Is that how you would pronounce it?


Stephen Graham:

Spot on.


Shaun Leisegang:

Excellent. Well, Steve, it’s great to have you on the show today and I’m looking forward to talking all things process automation with a designer, so it’s a slightly different slam that we’ve put on the show today. But perhaps the best place to start is why. Why are you interested in process automation as a designer?


Stephen Graham:

Yeah, great place to start. When we first connected, when we started talking about these things, I think I’ve mentioned in passing that I think this is a super interesting space right now for a few reasons. And firstly organizations and people in organizations right now are really battling with this sense of overwhelm, there’s a lot going on they’re struggling to do, they’re struggling to work remote or hybrid or back and forth between the two. And with all of that going on that it’s really important that we find ways to take that pressure away, especially given that right now there’s this sort of new kind of need to transform further and to change more and to really bed down new ways of working and working differently to continue to deliver on expectations of customers and employees.


Stephen Graham:

Then when I think about this from a designer’s perspective, we’re often looking at, and what we do at STCK, we’re often looking at how we help organizations shift and change. And in doing that means we often have to go slow. I’m really interested in kind of going, “Well, great, let’s work with automation as a way to reduce a bit of that pain, so people can create that space to transform and to deliver on the new ways of being and doing.”


Stephen Graham:

And secondly, the other thing that kind of pops up for me is that when people are doing this automation and where they are kind of taking that pain away, don’t waste that opportunity, that is a huge opportunity to go, “Well, who do we need to be for the future? What is it that we need to do to be a better organization, not just a more efficient version of what we currently are, but better. Let’s not waste that opportunity.” So use that space that we create to transform into the thing we need to be.


Shaun Leisegang:

Yeah, absolutely. And I always say to customers and prospects, I always say, “Automation’s all about people and how we help people do more with less.” The whole people process, and often sometimes the biggest stickers with things that we kind of implement is actually the people it’s not the technology or how we’ve implemented the process. It’s certainly sometimes people just don’t want to change. And that’s why bringing them along for that journey is always an interesting kind of part of it. And as you quite rightly mentioned there, right?


Shaun Leisegang:

You mentioned that obviously building and the understanding of the situation is often where you start. And as I mentioned, that’s exactly when we do something like robotic process automation or digital process automation, that’s where we would start as well. But tell me a bit more, what do you guys start mapping? How do you get started on that journey from your side?


Stephen Graham:

I mean, before I jump straight into what we start mapping, I think it’s important to understand a little bit about the designer’s mindset or about a human centered mindset. And the thing that I find myself talking with clients and people about is that there’s three things that we think about in terms of building that understanding first and foremost, and that’s firstly, we want to be used user centered, so we want to put people first, technology second.


Stephen Graham:

We said user, not human, not other things. And that’s because we want to talk about who is the person interacting, who is the person that gets the value, right? So if we’re talking about a mother buying a child a birthday cake, the users of the birthday cake isn’t the mother buying, she’s the customer, the user is the person eating the cake. We kind of think about the user in the context of everything else happening. And we put them first and we understand all of them, them as an emotional being, because we all are.


Stephen Graham:

Secondly, we talk a lot about kind of wanting to be holistic in our understanding, so wanting to understand the context that that cake is going to be eaten in, for example. We often talk about, the world’s an interconnected whole, so a flap of butterflies wings on one side of the world creates a hurricane on the other. When we make a change, what are the ramifications of that change in an organization.


Stephen Graham:

And then finally sequence, so nothing happens in isolation. If we are thinking about an experience that we are going to automate or change, what’s happening before, during and after that. And before you might be going, well, if someone was doing something where they’re wearing gloves and you are now expecting them to interact with a device, are they able to do that? Do they need to take gloves off day and weather, during, kind of makes sense I think for most people. But I think afterwards is really important as well, we can actually change our memories. Part of the human disposition is we change our memories after the fact, so we want to kind of make sure that we’re reinforcing what’s happened in the right ways. I think if we take that to the mapping … So you want to jump in?


Shaun Leisegang:

No. Carry on. Go for it.


Stephen Graham:

Yeah, sure. If we kind of take that to mapping, I think it’s really important to understand the user in the context of what they’re doing, so we’ll look to kind of really research and understand interviews, those sorts of things, to understand the kind of the person or the user and the other people, other stakeholders involved. If we’re looking to kind of map out what sequence things are happening and we’ll look to kind of understand not only what’s happening, but what’s enabling that to happen, so what’s happening behind the scenes, below the surface in the people process and technology run by an organization.


Stephen Graham:

And to do that as such, we kind of adopt quite detailed mapping techniques, such as service blueprinting, which might have come across before, which is a combination of mapping the journey that a user goes through, but also how that’s enabled. So you get a singular view of what’s happening. And we also draw on a bunch of other techniques that we can use from time to time as well, which might be more detailed in the moment, more of an experiential lens, things like user stories or user journeys rather than user stories.


Shaun Leisegang:

Yeah. Beautiful. And just a question on that process mapping, because we do a lot of mapping for different customers and it’s always a hot topic. Paint me a picture, what type of format is that documentation? I mean, just to pull out some random tools, is it like a visual [inaudible 00:07:13] or mirror board type style? Is it a big word document? Is it a combination of all of those? What’s the outcome that you guys get to?


Stephen Graham:

Yeah, sure. It’s funny because I’ve taught a bunch of service design courses before, and this is a common question. Really in terms of the tooling, that you can do it in any number of ways. I’ve seen these things built in Excel, I’ve seen these things built in really high visual quality with designers using illustrator and things like that. As well as recently we’ve been doing a lot in Europe, but fundamentally they are highly visual representation of what’s happening and you want that to be really clear to show almost like the stages of the journey or the stages of the life cycle that something’s happening within. And then what are those actions, so you can see that process flow as well as the emotional journey. So what’s happening to the person at those points through a process and also appreciating that process isn’t necessarily linear. So that might be kind of recursive and so on.


Shaun Leisegang:

Yeah, absolutely mate. And it’s quite funny, so once you can actually visualize and understand that process, I mean, I imagine similar to what you might see, what we often see is we ask, well, should you actually be doing that process? Not all processes are good ones, do you see that the same on your side as well where you look at stuff and go, “Guys, why are you actually doing that?”


Stephen Graham:

Yeah, absolutely. There’s this thing about why is that what you’re doing, but also using those sorts of techniques to map something and understand it and also understanding more holistically what are the macro forces? What are the external forces like political, economic, and so on that are impacting the way they’re currently operating and going, “Well, actually, is there bigger things that are happening? Are there dynamics that are impacting the organizations that are driving certain types of dysfunctions?”


Stephen Graham:

The process might be wrong, but is that process being … maybe wrong is the wrong word, but process not being the best process. Is that a symptom of a broader issue or is that the thing we should be solving right now? And I guess that ties back to the point I was making earlier, which is like, are we automating what we’re doing currently? Or can we make minor improvements or is there actually a systemic change we should be looking at having and therefore impacting a series of behaviors across an organization?


Shaun Leisegang:

Absolutely right. And I see that time and time again with customers. I mean, often what people want to do is they just want to automate exactly the way they do it today. But actually when you move from a manual to an automation world, there’s probably better ways that you can do it and there’s some stuff that you just shouldn’t be doing. And we absolutely see that on our side of the fence as well.


Shaun Leisegang:

This conversation’s a really interesting one, because you kind of sit in a bit of an adjacent field to us, but it actually makes for an interesting discussion, there’s obviously lots of overlaps that happen between maybe the worlds that we see in intelligent automation, obviously your world. Why don’t we talk a little bit more about STCK and kind of give everyone a bit of context about what you guys do and what keeps you busy on a day to day basis?


Stephen Graham:

Yeah, sure. So, so STCK’s a strategic design consultancy. We were born just prior to COVID, actually January, 2020, so just prior to COVID. I was actually abroad at the time, flew back after doing a project in France via Hong Kong in an empty airport. Yeah, super interesting times as all of that kicked off. But we’re a strategic design consultancy and really we were born out of recognizing the growing divide between organizations and their customer and employee expectations. And what we do now is we really help organizations understand the shortcomings they’re facing into, the differences between what they’re currently doing today and their ability to deliver on those expectations.


Stephen Graham:

And we kind of work with them, so we say we do with, not to address and change those. How do we first build understanding of what the situation is, based on evidence and then really strategically help them address ways that they can deliver change iteratively. We often talk about what’s the first increment of value that we can deliver to prove we’re on the right trajectory and then continue to deliver in small increments of value. We’re doing that real sort of agile value proven delivery approach.


Shaun Leisegang:

Yeah, beautiful. And again, so many similarities in our world in terms of how we do it and using that agile approach to get as much value as we can as quick as possible. And then obviously that allows us to pivot and change along kind of the journey as we go through and we implement some of that stuff.


Stephen Graham:

And I’m sure like, no surprise to you at all that a huge amount of this is streamlining ways of working and processes and improving how organizations work in those ways. But at the heart of that, are we addressing a symptom of the pain or are we addressing the cause of those pains or the kind of the greater system as a whole?


Shaun Leisegang:

Yeah. Brilliant. And let’s make it a little bit more tangible. Tell us a bit more about kind of some of the clients that you’re working with, how you get involved with them, what the journey is that you take them on. Talk us a little bit through that.


Stephen Graham:

Yeah, sure. Over the last couple of months then, for example, we’ve been fortunate enough to work with a number of brands that you would’ve heard of, so young brands which includes KFC and Pizza Hut. We’ve worked with QBE, Organon. Also Organon is a pharma company. Right now working across all levels of government in respect to digital and health. So working with the local LHD on how they improve the learning around their technology, we’re working with one of the state government, New South Wales state government’s eHealth department on streamlining and improving how they deliver technology. And we’re also helping address that at a federal government level with ADHA or Australian Digital Health Agency.


Shaun Leisegang:

Awesome.


Stephen Graham:

Making that real, thinking about what’s a good recent example of this work. Recently we did a piece of work with a large property management organization with thousands of employees in Australia without saying specifically who they are, so we can speak about it for a moment. I think that really interesting, highly complex environment that really they are looking at how we can help them with their service management practices, how we can streamline and improve some of those, how we can understand what’s happening.


Stephen Graham:

And looking into that space with them, we decided to kind of first focus our efforts on looking at the onboarding experience. We spent quite a bit of time understanding the complexity of that space. At the heart of that they had three groups of employees. They had kind of a property management group of employees. They had a development group of employees, and then they had a head office group of employees. And we focused in on the property management group there. And we looked through interviewing with a bunch of the people that have recently been onboarded into the organization.


Stephen Graham:

We did research and interviews with the hiring managers and the recruitment team and the IT professionals to build up a holistic view of what’s happening. We use that to develop a really clear map of what we were seeing happening across all those, and then connecting that to what’s happening behind the scenes. So what were the recruitment tools that they were using? What are the processes that exist? What policies are in place to support them? Where did they have automation? Where was data flowing or not flowing between tools? Which was kind of a problem for them, I’ll just say.


Shaun Leisegang:

A problem for them, an opportunity for us is what I [inaudible 00:15:18].


Stephen Graham:

Yeah. And of course these sorts of things when we go through building up a clear view of it, we could see there wasn’t a clear owner of that onboarding experience from start to end, it kind of shift. There was a lot of passing the buck between teams. And that was also the point where a lot of the disconnects were emerging.


Shaun Leisegang:

Yeah. I mean, it’s such a common one we see. And I’d say, honestly, having done automation for the best part of 20 years, one of the most common processes we automate is around onboarding because it spans multiple departments. It touches multiple people. It’s a really good one, but it’s always so interesting to hear your side of the story in terms of how you got started with them. While technology and what we may do may help that solution or help that problem rather, really what you need to do is understand that problem first and understand where the pain points are, what’s happening, all of those types of things, right?


Stephen Graham:

Yeah.


Shaun Leisegang:

And in that project, so you go through and you’ve obviously identified some of the issues and you’ve got visibility into everything that’s kind of happening in that specific scenario. What happens next in your world after that?


Stephen Graham:

Yeah, sure. I guess in that case where we’d identify a number of shortcomings in the system in terms of what was happening in recruitment from a lack of visibility, where a candidate was across the process, and what’s been said and not said, and who’s owning it and some disconnects in the technology. And we definitely noticed a lack of gathering of information. So one of the things I found was making sure the person had the right equipment on day one was a kind of a shortcoming they had in delivering the onboarding experience.


Stephen Graham:

And when we looked at all of that holistically, we kind of said, “Well, actually there’s a number of things that you could do right now that would start to deliver on to reduce or improve that experience for the onboarding participants and also the people working within the process.” So we made a series of recommendations of what’s that do now.


Stephen Graham:

And then we also had a series of like, well, actually there’s some things we should think you should do next as well, so don’t wait for us to do the more strategic things, which they do next, talked about. Well, actually we think that you should redesign the experience holistically and you should do that in a co-design process with involving all of the relevant parties. So yeah, let’s figure out who should own this onboarding experience end to end. What are the roles of the other people? How do we make sure that we are looking at this through the lens of the person being onboarded, not just technology or not just recruitment or something else.


Shaun Leisegang:

Yeah. Well, it’s so interesting. And when you present this back to kind of, I guess the stakeholders that you’ve engaged with, I mean, what is their immediate reaction and perception to it? I mean, I can imagine sometimes there’s like, do we really do that? What does everyone … are they aware of some of the issues or?


Stephen Graham:

I feel like you’ve played this game before. That’s exactly the response we frequently get. And I mean, we find two things. Because I think we’re looking more broadly than just if you think there’s the process and we’re kind of going, “What’s happening behind the scenes?” We often find two things happen. Firstly, it’s like, really we do that? And really they do that. And there’s a bit of that.


Stephen Graham:

And sometimes there’s some questions like, “Are you sure that that’s really?” And then we’ll go, “Yeah, what we found was,” and we’ll bring up often anecdotal examples of where things have happened in a moment. This person on their first day, they got given a laptop that didn’t have a D key. They were trying to write emails without using the letter D. And you kind of really go, yeah, and that wasn’t isolated, we’ll tell that it also … Bringing those things to life definitely makes that process feel real and is something we hear a lot.


Stephen Graham:

But the second thing is we often find by sharing and presenting these things and getting executives or senior people across departments in the room, we can kind of go, “This is happening in the experience.” And then behind the scenes in the people, the process, the technology, there’s disconnect, or might be ownership, there’s a disconnect here and we believe that’s causing that because we can see in that moment that’s where there’s meant to be a handoff from recruitment to the property management team or whatever it might be. And that’s also another thing that we see comes up really calmly, because it’s really difficult for people that you own a siloed part of delivering something to recognize where they’re causing dysfunction in another team and vice versa.


Shaun Leisegang:

Right. Absolutely. I always say to people like, “Sometimes you are just a cog in the wheel of a process. You don’t have context about, hey, if I gave someone a piece of information in a slightly different format that might make their life a bazillion times easier.” Very, very interesting. Now that you’ve kind of got visibility in some of these processes, let’s bring it back to automation. I imagine sometimes the answer, and I’m not saying all the time, I imagine sometimes like how you can solve parts of these challenges is through using something like intelligent automation. Tell me a bit about, I mean, obviously more often than not, you get to that stage, but what do you see as the opportunities or challenges around automation?


Stephen Graham:

Yeah, sure. I think just to go back to the last example first, then I’ll talk a little bit about something that comes to mind for me, which is forms and apps from a past life. But when we look at the sort of thing that we were doing with that organization, in automating the onboarding experience, there is definitely in terms of gathering more insight into what someone needs to be effective when they start their job so that you can automatically have set off all of those workflows and things to kind of get a laptop or get a laptop repaired, or make sure that all of that person’s information they’ve been given access to all of the systems they’re going to need. There is absolutely in my eyes a real wealth of things we can automate in terms of getting that onboarding experience right.


Stephen Graham:

And I think that example repeats itself in different permutations across almost everything we do. And that’s why I think there’s such a huge, such fertile ground for improvement and time saving especially. So then if we talk about where I think the challenges or the opportunities in automation are, well, that’s clearly an opportunity that I see. But I can’t help but think back to kind of forms and apps. So yeah, a decade ago, I was doing quite a bit of work in transport for London over in the UK. I was working on the mobile program over there. And I was involved almost from the inception of the program, right from device selection. And we ended up rolling out 14,000 or 15,000 devices, 50 or odd bespoke forms and apps over a couple of years. And in doing that, we were able to make huge impacts.


Stephen Graham:

And one of the things that we did during that process was we went down the process of building applications from the ground up. And those were bespoke apps to deliver things like fault reporting, and that was really important because in a fault reporting app, you want to capture video and photos and contextualize the information you’re capturing and pull that in. But in a lot of other circumstances, we’re using forms to do things like, well, actually we can quickly create a form and we don’t need to go through that discovery and design and build process. We can basically just put the questions in and tell someone to fill that form out at the right time and automate the workflow.


Stephen Graham:

And I can’t help but think that it’s kind of the same with where we’re now at. Do you need to do something where you’re redesigning the whole of the kind of the interaction and everything else, therefore do you need to think about transforming or can you go straight in and do a form and go, “Can we just automate what we’ve currently got with some slight tweaks?” I think you should absolutely be sensible and look at the process, but it’s kind of that.


Stephen Graham:

And I think that gives you the two bites of the cherry is, one, should we be doing some of that work up front? Can we kind of reduce some of the pain in organizations and give them a bit of … really use it as a pressure valve for organizations and how they operate. And then two, once we know what should be automated and what should be streamlined, some things are going to be, well, the return on investment should be, we just go straight into automation. We don’t need to redesign it all, it’s broadly right or it’s 80% of the way there, so let’s not spend on doing bespoke things for that part. And I think those are the two big opportunities I see with automation right now.


Shaun Leisegang:

So interesting. Number one, I used to work for transport for London as well and I worked-


Stephen Graham:

Really?


Shaun Leisegang:

Oh, yeah. [inaudible 00:24:20]. I was trying to think, when you said that, it must have been like 2002, 2003, when I first got to London and funny enough in those days I worked for the new media team. And I’m not sure if that team’s still around, but in those days, what we did is the custom communication board. So like on the platform when a train was about to arrive and it gave you the countdown, I mean, there was these old boards on the district line that we had to convert to XML feeds in those days and then put them on mobile devices. But the problem you spoke about there is exactly, it’s a very similar problem.


Shaun Leisegang:

And one of the things we often do now inside the recommendation world is we create a lot of digital forms or mobile devices sometimes, and specifically mobile apps where we actually allow people to kind of capture all of those things. And as you said there, I mean, sometimes you don’t need to go look and redesign the process. Ones we’ve just done now is for, funny enough, also a big construction company and we’re rebuilding an app for them, which is a health and safety app, where while they’re on sites, if someone, firstly, they can use their mobile device to check in and check out of site, so you know who’s on site at any given time.


Shaun Leisegang:

But going back to your point really, if you’re in the moment and I don’t know, you see a risk on site, you want to be able to snap that, take a video of it, share it straight away from your mobile device. Sometimes that’s just capturing the data. Sometimes it’s driving a process. Sometimes it’s alerting someone. But absolutely right, we see that time and time again, and it comes back to those forms and apps. And that’s why it’s a beautiful overlap between what you guys do and what we do as well.


Stephen Graham:

Absolutely. And I mean, I think that it’s really important to kind of understand what we’re all great at and kind of focus in on that. And I think understanding complex challenges and helping figure out the right path forward and what the experience needs to be is definitely where we play and where we specialize and have deep skills in. But how do you actually deliver on automating those things? Not us, just to be really clear. I definitely lean on the expertise of others for those things like yourself.


Shaun Leisegang:

Absolutely right. And I guess in the automated world, let’s discuss something else and let’s discuss kind of the concept of distraction. And you and I just before we jumped on, we were like, “Okay, make sure your Slack’s turned off and your mobile device and this and that and whatever.” What do you see kind of in the distraction side of things from technology?


Stephen Graham:

It’s such an interesting … I was thinking of writing a blog post this week. My head’s kind of in this space of exploring, but we find we spend a lot of time speaking with organizations around the future of work and how you create time and space for people to make the right decisions like, should you go to a meeting? Should you not? And helping people understand how they should think about those things is a small skill, but so important or how do you kind of make sure you are creating habits around how you spend your time? So intentionally moving from having to-do lists to time boxing. I’m not sure if you’re familiar with that, where you put time in your diary to do things intentionally rather than putting a list in your notepad.


Stephen Graham:

Because that creates the time and the habit around going and intentionally spending that time, doing that thing with focus. But then kind of the challenge for that and why I think those sorts of skills are important right now is because we’re finding ourselves constantly in meetings, which is a kind of distraction from deep concentration and not allowing us to get into those focus times of work.


Stephen Graham:

And also we’re seeing that we’re getting a huge amount of distractions from email, from phone calls still, from Slack. Especially teams that use Slack actually are more distracted and find it harder to get into that concentration space than others. And definitely a space that I’m really passionate about kind of how we help organizations and individuals on scale, organizations to kind of work better and be more effective because right now it’s creating dysfunction and stress.


Shaun Leisegang:

Yeah, absolutely right. And again, my automation mind was running wild. If you had a time box set up in your calendar, immediately what you want to do is just mute any other distraction that you might have on your computer, that you can actually focus and you can use that time box to get done what you’d like done. So yeah, certainly some interesting things there.


Stephen Graham:

And I think that those things are coming. Right now technology, I think we’re at this, such an interesting point in time, because we’re on the precipice of change. Change in behaviors and change in how we work and things. And right now, technology, although we’re doing these things and creating these things to allow us to work differently and better, we’re creating more distractions, so I think about things like smartwatch or more emails and everything else and distractions, or even the fact that we’re looking down all the time.


Stephen Graham:

We know it’s better for our state of mind now physiology looking up and open up, yet we’re kind of forcing ourselves into this state and this way of working. And I think that we can see the green shoots are coming through that and the sorts of thing you are talking about like being able to create time and focus work, and other things to get beyond that is on the verge of happening. Anyone that’s used an iOS device would’ve seen Apple’s failed attempts at this in recent time, so anyone else finding their phones, getting on focus mode and they’re missing calls because of them, they didn’t mean to is the signs of this stuff starting.


Shaun Leisegang:

Yeah, absolutely clear. All right. Good. Well, obviously you have a clear interest in automation. Now I often have this term that I say, instead of eat your own dog food, you need to drink your own champagne. So with the clear interest in automation, let’s talk about how automated is STCK today?


Stephen Graham:

I mean, I love this question because I’m really passionate about automating what we do and how we do it, but we’re in the early throws of it. And it’s partly because we’ve made an intentional sort of strategic view of what we want to do to kind of automate STCK. We have done things, especially around our delivery to kind of build a framework for delivery. And we build a service standard, which says, yeah, at certain stages, as we move through, certain things should be done.


Stephen Graham:

And what we’re doing right now is we’re refining that approach, including right from client onboarding to kind of follow up and we’re starting to go, well, actually, what do all of those things need to be? So then we can automate the steps because there are pretty consistent things that we do on each project. We tend to ask for the same sort of information, we tend to map out the stakeholder environment.


Stephen Graham:

If we can start to automate those things as requests upfront, and also we’re using this as an excuse to be clearer about our expectations about if you’re a engagement owner from a client side of a project that we’re doing together, then what are our expectations on you? And be really clear and get them to sign up to it because that helps them understand. And it helps us work better together as we go, so we’re really using automation as a way to drive some of the better behaviors that we want and how we work as well.


Shaun Leisegang:

Yeah. Well, it’s so interesting. And I guess one of the things that we do to kind of help that out is often people just want to know, with someone that deals with automation every single day, is this idea that I have, is it a good idea for an automation. And if it is a good idea for an automation, what are the expected benefits and what can I get by automating this specific process?


Shaun Leisegang:

And then thirdly, kind of what it costs. Because there’s going to be many ideas. You don’t have to sell automation to people. People love the idea, but it comes down to that time and money kind of perspective. And one of the things that we do in our world that helps out with that is we do something called an automation evaluation. And what that really is we sit down with a business user, subject matter expert, and we just ask them to show us what they do today. And what we do is then we ask some questions and we have a bit of a methodology behind it, where we come back to them with the one pager that we call an automation evaluation and it gives them those three things. Is it a good idea for an automation?


Shaun Leisegang:

And that could be all of the process, some of the process, the beginning, the end, the middle bits, whatever you like. If you’re going to automate it, what are the kind of the benefits you might get out of it? And then we put on a rough order of magnitude estimate in terms of how long would it take us to automate that? And of course, what the cost be associated with automating that specific process. And that’s a really good gauge for people to kind of figure out, okay, well, where does this fit in the bigger scheme of things and is it actually worth doing or not?


Stephen Graham:

That’s great. And for an organization like ours, then if I was just to play that out, having given what we’re doing at STCK. How would you sort of carry that conversation forward with someone like us? Where we’ve kind of gone, well, here’s the experience that we’re trying to create. Where would you step into that?


Shaun Leisegang:

Yeah, absolutely. Number one, I guess in our world would ask you to tell you similar to how you guys do it, right? Tell us about the problem and show us what you do today. And I guess similarly in the intelligent automation world, we have different tools in our toolbox, right? So one might be robotic process automation. One might be a mobile app. One might be a chatbot, one might be a digital form. Really it all depends on the outcome that you’re looking to get to. But what we would come back with is in that automation evaluation, we’d kind of paint a picture for you to say, “Okay, in our experience, here’s some really good tools that you might need to use to solve that problem. Maybe that’s one tool, maybe that’s multiple tools. It really just depends.”


Shaun Leisegang:

And we start to kind of supplement that automation evaluation and that concept with kind of real world examples of how we’ve done that for other customers before. So kind of just showing snippets of maybe things that obviously not sensitive, but maybe things that we’re allowed to show that show you how other people might have solved that before, so it really brings it to life for you.


Stephen Graham:

Yeah, really interesting. It’s funny listening to that example and I’m going to make so much sense. It’s just about kind of looking at how quickly we can get to putting a price on something that we have a relatively high level of confidence as a solution for. One of the things I find myself talking about quite frequently is this, what I call the continuum of certainty of solution and one end, you can save someone’s life or a million dollars, so don’t worry about how you’re going to do it, just do it, just get it done as quick and as fast as you can to get the prize.


Stephen Graham:

Whereas at the other end, I’d like to say you have no idea. And at that end while it’s really about first learning and discovering and kind of going, what creates value in that circumstance? So deeper research that. And we tend to not offer at either end of those. And sounds like you are kind of more at this, how do we very tech quickly capture, probably not right at the start of build, but slightly back into understanding what you’re doing and then executing more quickly. So that’s really interesting.


Stephen Graham:

And then as I start to think of that sort of continuum of certainty of solution, I have a question for you about what must be happening in this space, which we saw with you, if we go back to the applications and forms for mobile example again. We’re starting to see organizations build muscle and skill in automation. And as we start to see that, what are you noticing as changes in the environment and how organizations like STCK can help those organizations as they continue to build that muscle and transform and where they should be going external and where they should do more of it internally.


Shaun Leisegang:

Yeah, absolutely. I guess a few answers to that question. I think number one, what we see in the market today is there’s many systems out there in the world today, right? Let’s take an example like Salesforce. Salesforce recently or not so recently anymore purchased MuleSoft, which is the ability to interact with different systems. And they’ve just released their own robotic process automation tool.


Shaun Leisegang:

And there’s many systems that now have automation built into that system and then that example, Salesforce might have automation. But in my experience, it’s not about automating just a specific system, it’s really about being the glue between any of your existing systems that spans multiple people and processes. And how that relates back to what you guys do is unless you understand the bigger picture and how that relates to everything and everyone in that part, you could do a little automation down here in a system, but that might not help the whole process.


Shaun Leisegang:

And when you need to do automation, you need to think about being the glue between existing systems and orchestrating that information across people, processes, and systems. That’s really where I see you guys coming in quite significantly, because you look at that process and you look at it holistically rather than just Mary, Joe or Frank is having an issue in Salesforce today. You can come back out and you can go, “All right. Well, if we actually fix that part on that part, that might be an automation opportunity, but we need that to bring that whole process together.”


Stephen Graham:

I love that concept of the glue that brings it together. We often talk about the connective tissue and I think between the two, that’s really where change thrives. And so leaning into that further then, if we are seeing a lot of organizations that are trying to shift and starting with automation, how does that starting with automation play out and how do you see that coming upstream to the more strategic? Is that something you’re seeing or are you seeing it the other way around?


Shaun Leisegang:

Yeah, no mate, absolutely right. I think we definitely start to see that. We do a lot of sessions that we call out of the possible sessions. What that really is we can often pick up a pain points or what might be a pain points in a company or organization. And really what people are looking to do in the starting point is to figure out, hey, do other people have this problem? And if they have this problem, how have they solved it before, and what are the things we should think about when we think about this problem?


Shaun Leisegang:

And what we do in that space is we have a very specific workshop that we call out of the possible, where that might be focused on finance, or it might be focused on legal, or it might be focused on insurance, or it might be focused on HR. And we take some very common problems that we see out there in the markets and put together kind of some real world demos and solutions to show them how other people have solved it. That gets the hamster running on the wheel and really then people start to think about the art of the possible, oh, does that mean I can do this? And what happens if I’ve got this? And yeah, it’s kind of just taking the people along for the journey in terms of how we can help them get started.


Stephen Graham:

Yeah. It really goes back to where we started, wasn’t it? Really being able to help take some of that pain away so you can create the space to kind of think of the bigger things and starting … The other thing I love about the art of the possible as an idea is that you’re really putting people into a positive proactive mindset. And you’re kind of like, “We can do it, we can get beyond this.” Which is so needed today. I think is you speak to people in organizations and they want to change, but having the energy and the ability to lean into the problem space, and that means we need some positivity and some kind of creativity to go with it, so that kind of really resonates with me.


Shaun Leisegang:

Yeah, absolutely. All right. We’ve heard a little bit about STCK and kind of some of your service offerings, but if people are keen to find out more, what’s the best way to find out more about you guys and what you do?


Stephen Graham:

Yeah, sure. Hit me up on LinkedIn, so Steven Graham, design director at STCK. Also STCK the website, so www.stck.com.au. And of course LinkedIn is the other place, you look up STCK there, STCK design. That’s also a good place to find us.


Shaun Leisegang:

[inaudible 00:40:14]. Good stuff. I guess coming towards the latter part of the interview, I mean, obviously it’s such an interesting space and I’ve really enjoyed the conversation of bringing together these two worlds. But what has you most excited about the future? I mean, what keeps you up at night? What gets you awake in the morning? Tell us a bit more about that.


Stephen Graham:

I think I touched on it before. I think for me I just feel like we’re on this, the behavioral societal shift we’re seeing right now, we’re on the precipice of great change. And that’s just so exciting to me because we have the ability to shape and control and create a new future where we’re working in ways that are way more aligned to who we want to be, like seeing our organizations shift to be the organizations they should be, moving beyond this industrial mindset to being more service and value orientated rather than we are not … very few organizations today are building widgets off a production line.


Stephen Graham:

And if they are, there’s probably a service rapper around it, yet we still treat them like you’re just a production thing. We work 9:00 to 5:00 and that’s not how we work as humans, that’s not how the human mind works, it’s a muscle, you got to remember those things. I’m really passionate and excited about what’s happening in the world and the role of technology to shift and allow us to do that.


Shaun Leisegang:

Yeah, exciting times. And I was often thinking it’s kind of the worlds of strategic design and intelligent automation collide and deliver some amazing kind of outcomes for customers, because there’s so much synergies between your world and our world and how those can come together to really help our customers and some of the problems that they have.


Stephen Graham:

Great. Yeah, absolutely.


Shaun Leisegang:

Awesome, mate. Well, listen, thanks so much for your time for sharing all things strategic design and STCK with the viewers and listeners today. But before we go, we’ve got my favorite part, which is what I call the hot seat. The hot seat is where we fire quick fire questions to Steve and we get some of his answers. So to get started, what did you want to be when you grew up?


Stephen Graham:

[inaudible 00:42:19].


Shaun Leisegang:

Beautiful. I love it.


Stephen Graham:

I mean, I still do. This is just temporary right now. I won’t call myself a designer forever.


Shaun Leisegang:

Oh, love it. Beautiful. And tell us about something that’s on your bucket list that you’ve managed to tick off.


Stephen Graham:

I’ve done loads of travel, so loads of travel, that’s been something I’ve always wanted to. And I think if you really want to understand how you view and interact with the world, go and travel, live in another culture and just forces you to kind of see things that otherwise would be hidden to you. Especially if you’ve come out of living in Australia where we largely have one culture that we think about and interact with the world through. I know for you, Shaun, I’m sure you’ve lived in a few different countries. I’m sure you could reflect on that.


Shaun Leisegang:

Mate, absolutely right. I too love travel and I love all the experiences and the different opportunities it gives you to learn about different people, cultures, places, things that you might never have even been exposed to. It’s an amazing thing. And yeah, if I had a choice, I’d definitely spend the rest of my life traveling around and experiencing new places and cultures and that type of thing. But let’s ask the reverse of that rather. What’s something on your bucket list that you haven’t managed to do just yet?


Stephen Graham:

I’d like to learn to fly and probably specifically a helicopter, there’s something about that that just seems fun. Maybe playing way too many video games as a young man.


Shaun Leisegang:

Yeah, love it. Mate, and what about moving on to something that you might be reading at the moment, or maybe one of your all time favorite books or something that just kind of resonated with you. Atomic Habits, I like it.


Stephen Graham:

I literally started reading this a few days ago and I’m really enjoying it. Really powerful book around how you can kind of do little things that over time will make a big impact and have that drive and that’s all about behavioral change and that’s really good, highly recommend it.


Shaun Leisegang:

I will definitely read, put that on my reading list, I’ve not read it yet, so I will definitely add that. Thank you very much. All right. And last but not least, how do you want to be remembered? That’s a deep question.


Stephen Graham:

Yeah. I mean, that’s a tough one. I think being remembered one is definitely something I [inaudible 00:44:51] happen. And I think on a personal level as a father and a brother, a son and a partner, really important, have a really positive and that I’ve made a positive impact on those people. But also in the world, I’d like to think my work’s going to have a positive impact on shifting towards this world that I think is possible. And I think we’re in a place to have a really big mark on it right now.


Shaun Leisegang:

Yeah. Beautiful. All right, man. Well, listen, thanks so much for joining us today and sharing all things strategic design. But just before we say goodbye to the viewers and listeners, are there any final parting thoughts or comments you’d like to leave everyone with?


Stephen Graham:

Yeah. I guess just as we kind of move into the thinking about everyone in this conversation about automation, I’m really keen to kind of leave people the two thoughts. Let’s not waste the opportunity that automation provides. When we get in there and we’re automating and we’re streamlining and we’re making things better and we’re creating, we’re taking that pain away. Let’s not miss the opportunity to kind of create the future that we want to create. So use that capacity that we create to kind of build towards the future.


Stephen Graham:

And yeah, I think that’s a big thing I want to leave with everyone. What we’re doing today isn’t going to be what we do tomorrow or forever, so really leverage the opportunities that automation provide for us and then use it at the other end quite strategically and pointed to go, well, actually now we know what we want to do. Let’s not do it manually. Let’s automate it. And let’s concentrate on the things where we can create value and enjoyment for people.


Shaun Leisegang:

Mate, absolutely. What a great way to finish it. All right. And let’s focus on where we can create the most value and help people out, help them do more with less. As we all know, automation is all about people and how we can help them out, so brilliant.


Stephen Graham:

Fantastic.


Shaun Leisegang:

Thanks so much for your time today. It’s been awesome to have a chat and we look forward to speaking to you soon.


Stephen Graham:

Thanks, Shaun. My pleasure.


Shaun Leisegang:

See you.