Back to the Future – People really are a company’s most valuable asset

Albert Kalaja, COO, Hidden Cove Solutions, writes about his experience on People, growth and change management:

Talk to most successful business people and they’ll tell you that creating a successful business is all about having a unique product or service, a strong online presence, financial stability and excellent customer service.

They might even add that having the right systems, software and processes will contribute to making the business successful.

Those things are the hallmarks of a successful business but it’s not why those businesses are successful.

When you analyse it, you realise that the logistics, operations, systems, products and even business models can be copied by competitors.  And it’s not just competitors that could be copying you, because start-ups can quite easily establish themselves in this digital age at the fraction of the cost that it once did and be competing for your market share, virtually overnight.

So, what can’t be copied? – it’s the people who work for you.

Companies can do their best to be unique, but at the end of the day, it is the people behind the organisation, running and working in the company that makes the difference.  It really is – isn’t it?

Now I believe that I first heard the phrase “Our people are our most valuable asset” back in the late 70’s. The phrase may have even been coined long before then. To me, the phrase acknowledged the importance that people played in the fortunes of the business in which they worked.

However, during the next 30 years of my working life, I realised that the phrase was more a platitude than anything else.  A one-line slogan that sounded good.  Management would apply conventional capital asset thinking and treat people purely as something else to measure for ROI etc. Those were the years where organisations were exclusively hierarchical and were run under command-and-control structures.

Just before writing this post I thought I would google the phrase “people are our most valuable asset” out of interest.  I obtained over 12,000 hits. And so many of those hits were on articles which themselves quite often had over 100 comments. A lot of people have experienced the lip-service given to phrase. There were many comments from people not wanting to be referred to as “resources” or being used as a resource.   There were other comments from people saying that those companies that did value their people did it through actions and not by uttering the platitude or by having it in their mission statement.

The sincerity and genuineness of the sentiment are important and so is the language that’s used to express that sentiment.

I saw one post that offered this as an alternative phrase “Our people are our greatest strength”

So – have things changed?  Are people now truly valued by the organisations in which they work?

Is this age of digital disruption and of being Agile changing the way people are viewed by their organisations?  If there is a change, then is it simply because there are newer generations of managers with different attitudes and values that are running those organisations?

What do you think?

Hidden Cove: The journey so far and ahead

It all started 13 years ago when Vivek Aiyer, a 28-year-old network engineer decided to take the entrepreneurial leap by creating new software-based tools to efficiently rollout 3G related hardware.

‘I have always been innately curious about people and technology. Whether it’s about how something works or what steps someone takes to do their job – I’m always thinking how it can be done better. I love connecting the dots to see how different pieces fit together for a better outcome. The inception of Hidden Cove as a technology business arose from this thought. We started the business just prior to the advent of 3G network technology. I saw immense potential in these technologies and started to carve a niche in designing and developing efficient service enablement tools and processes to help with the roll out of 3G related hardware. This was a great first step for Hidden Cove and provided the foundation for our growth’ explains Vivek Aiyer, Founder-CEO of Hidden Cove Solutions and Appearition.

This is how Hidden Cove began its journey in 2005.  Vivek saw a need and then designed and built the software which improved efficiencies, reduced error rates and overall made life easier for the staff involved in the rollout processes.  In hindsight, Hidden Cove’s first engagement was the birth of its mission, ‘to enable the success of others.’

From being a humble four-person operation, the company has grown to a business with a multi-million-dollar turnover and engaged on projects for the likes of Telstra, Visionstream, CROCS, Ericsson, Motorola and Raytheon to mention a few. “We always become very excited when creating and adding value to our customers’ business,” says Vivek.

It may sound very cliched and all too obvious but Vivek strongly believes that satisfying customer needs and helping them to solve their problems is at the heart of being a successful business.

Vivek believes that it is only by driving innovation, that Hidden Cove is able to solve and satisfy its customer’s needs and requirements.  ‘We ask our customers for feedback following every engagement and we are so pleased to say that they consider us to be responsive, reliable and knowledgeable.” It makes me very proud to hear those words from our customers.  That is what we stand for.’

Albert Kalaja joined Hidden Cove in December 2016 as its COO, just as it was about to embark on its next period of growth   Albert and Vivek had first met in 2008 when they were both involved with TiE.

‘The company’s mission of enabling the success of others resonated with Albert.  Success can come in all forms and not only applies to our customers but to everyone in our eco-system. It includes our staff, our collaboration partners, joint venture partners, and suppliers. We believe that this is what provides our own success,’ says Kalaja.

Hidden Cove believes that being customer-centric must be a part of everyone’s DNA at work and not the job of just one department to cater to customers. ‘It is very important to examine and understand what the customer values the most.  These days customers aren’t wanting the prestige that comes with being the first to have something new or shiny. They want to enhance what they do and how they do it. A lot of our plans arise from our conversations with our customers. It pays to listen,’ explains Aiyer.

Further, Hidden Cove has the distinction of onboarding long-term customers. Kalaja adds, ‘from start-up enterprises to million-dollar clients, our ability to serve them beyond just one project or one service has brought longevity to our relationships.’

In fundamental terms, Hidden Cove is a technical professional services firm that helps companies implement solutions. ‘We work at our best when we fully understand a customer’s challenge and innovate accordingly” shares Kalaja.

The Future

The team is closely looking at Robotic Process Automation (RPA) and building expertise in that area. RPA is all about the rapid automation of administrative processes – with or without the use of machine learning and artificial intelligence. Unlike traditional application software, the robotic software creates a digital workforce that runs application software in the same way a user does. It operates on top of existing applications and orchestrates other application software through the existing application’s user interface.

We will bring RPA to the Telco space first – the industry where we have the most subject matter expertise, but we will quickly hit the Utilities thereafter.’ Kalaja briefs.

Hidden Cove will continue to focus on enabling the success of its customers.

Why you need to know about AR if you are in telco

Are you ready for the onslaught of Augmented Reality (AR)? You may be aware of Virtual Reality (VR), which is related, but not the same. Perhaps you are familiar with Pokémon Go, which is an example of AR being used for entertainment. If you work in the telecommunications industry, you can expect AR to affect your professional life too – it’s not only about gaming.

Let’s look initially at the distinction between these two emerging technologies. VR simulates the user’s physical presence in the real world or an imagined world. The experience of VR is akin to watching a movie, but with a greater sense of reality. AR differs in that it brings a combination of computer generated content such as video, audio and graphics to a real-time, real-world environment.

For the telecommunications industry, the implications of the growth in AR are twofold. Firstly, it is clear that telecommunications companies will use AR for their own needs. The other area of interest is the new and expanded infrastructure that will be required in order to meet bandwidth-hungry applications in industries as diverse as gaming, tourism and the military.

AR in telecommunications operations

Imagine a field technician on site, investigating a fault after being called out by the telecommunications company’s operations centre. With the benefit of AR, the technician brings all necessary data and repair instructions to a phone or tablet. As the device is geo-tagged, the data is specific to the equipment being repaired, right down to correct versions of software to be used.

When it comes to the demand for new infrastructure to support AR, the requirement for bandwidth will put a strain on last-mile networks says Alexandre Pelletier, Head of Innovations at Tata Communications. However, not all network providers see this as a landline issue. In Africa, where mobile prevails, EON Reality, Orange Telecom France, Mauritius Telecom, and State Informatics Limited (SIL) have formed a partnership to bring AR (and VR) to the region’s mobile subscribers.

In Australia, we are more likely to see a mix of solutions. While the technology is still developing, one thing is clear. AR is on the way, and telecommunications providers who ignore it will do so at their peril.