The Challenges of Being User Centric in a Global Context

Paul Boag

This week on the Boagworld Show we talk to Sandip Amlani from CISCO. We look at the challenges of being user-centric when trying to cater for the unique characteristics of individual country cultures.

This week’s show is sponsored by Balsamiq and FullStory.


Paul Boag: This week on the Boagworld Show, we're talking to Sandip Amlani from CISCO. We talk about the challenges of being user-centric while trying to cater for the unique characteristics of individual country cultures. This week's show is supported by sponsors Fullstory and Balsamiq.

Paul Boag: Hello and welcome to the Boagworld Show, the podcast about all aspects of teaching design and development and strategy. My name is Paul Boag, and joining me on this week's show is the very lovely Marcus Livingston. Hello, Marcus.

Marcus Lillington: Oh, that's nice. Very lovely, Paul Boag.

Paul Boag: We're just both very lovely. What can we say about it?

Marcus Lillington: Yeah. We go to the sun is shining. It's a bit hot in here actually, I'm at the office today. And this room gets really hot.

Paul Boag: Yeah it does.

Marcus Lillington: So I'm quite pleased that we're only doing kind of half shows and separate interviews these days, because it doesn't take as long.

Paul Boag: I know right. It's good. So yes I know what you mean about that, the office gets very hot. I'm a little bit worried about that with the house that we … we've been renovating our house. I'm might have got a bit carried away with the windows. There are a lot of windows.

Marcus Lillington: I see. Have you got all kind of … what are they called? With the houses with everything sealed, as well. You get extra points and the upgrade gives you money back and all this kind of thing.

Paul Boag: Oh we haven't gone that far. No. But fortunately, although we do have a lot windows, we do have bi fold doors that open up so my office can get a free draft one hopes.

Marcus Lillington: But fortunately you're not a big kind of paper person, are you?

Paul Boag: No. I don't do paper.

Marcus Lillington: Every time I do that everybody gets really hot at home. Fortunately my office at home is quite it's cool most of the time, but sometimes it gets really hot out the window and then I'll pop out for a cup of tea, come back in and there's 100 bits of paper all around the room stuck the walls, ceilings

Paul Boag: Yeah. And unfortunately, mine, we don't get a lot of wind full stop in our garden. So it's going to be an orphan. I've made a horrible mistake. There is no going back at this point. Were moving in a matter of weeks, and I just suddenly realized I've designed a greenhouse .

Marcus Lillington: And you're moving in in June, just ready for the really hot spell.

Paul Boag: Yeah exactly. Yeah yeah.

Marcus Lillington: You'll both be really miserable. You'll think you've made a dreadful mistake, but over the 10 months of the year it will be really nice.

Paul Boag: I'd be fine. It gonna be fine. It's all fine. It's fine.

Marcus Lillington: How long ago did you move out? It seems like years.

Paul Boag: March, last year.

Marcus Lillington: Oh, last year?

Paul Boag: No, I don't know. You know, I honestly don't remember, but I've blocked from my … I think we're going to be at, will have been out eight months.

Marcus Lillington: That's a long time.

Paul Boag: It is a long time, but they've done shit loads. Yeah. But yeah, I'll be glad to be back home.

Marcus Lillington: I like watching programs like Grand Designs and things, but then I think I couldn't actually do it. you see them going gradually madder and madder, and sort of killing people. I would actually kill people and go mad, completely.

Paul Boag: Yeah. I have done. There's no way round it. I have emotional problems now, although I did before.

Marcus Lillington: What do you mean now?it would have been less.

Paul Boag: Yeah exactly. Anyway let's talk about your thought for the day, Marcus. I like this bit. It's good, because we start the show and then I can sit back and do nothing while you talk.

Marcus Lillington: That's fine. This week's one is actually more like a thought for the day. It's kind of actually sort of along those kind of lines rather than me just rehashing an old blog post. This is it's just about … and I've talked about this show before, many times, because it's something that I'm quite good at, about trying not to worry and staying positive and stuff like that.

Paul Boag: Kind of relevant. That's very relevant, A, to me at the moment but also, B, as we're recording this, It's Mental Health Week.

Marcus Lillington: It is indeed Mental Health Awareness Week. We know this very well, because [inaudible 00:04:30] works for the Mental Health Foundation.

Paul Boag: Do you really? I didn't know that.

Marcus Lillington: Yeah we did this … I thought it was three years ago. Something like that. Yeah. right yeah. So that's in a tangent, it's completely thrown me.

Paul Boag: Sorry.

Marcus Lillington: That's okay. But yeah, staying positive and not worrying too much is something I'm pretty good at, so I occasionally sort of think about why that could be and I thought I'd share that. It's particularly relevant for us at the moment, at Headscape, because the first time in three years we've got a bit of a kind of lull in the proceedings. We're finishing off some stuff but there's a bit of a gap before we think things are going to pick up again. So that's always, for someone in your position someone in my position, something that means it can bring on the worries.

Marcus Lillington: Fortunate for us, our medium term pipeline's good, looking good, but you never know. But I think the advice is don't get too hung up on targets or plans or deadlines. Almost to a certain extent, lie to yourself. It's true though it's kind of true. It's about … I think that the real problem the reason why people get, they over worry or they worry too much, is because they overanalyze, and that creates this kind of cycle of stagnation that you just keep going over things you keep going over things and you might come up with a different conclusion about something but then you worry about that conclusion and that is it right. And actually just kind of get on with it is my-

Paul Boag: Really? This is your advice for not worrying? As someone that worries quite a lot, I just want to give you a slap at this point.

Marcus Lillington: That was the wrong choice of words. Getting on with something is better than psychically over analyzing.

Paul Boag: Yeah, I agree.

Marcus Lillington: That's what I mean.

Paul Boag: That over analyzing thing is a huge thing, it's really funny. Literally just today, I've posted a post showing how to overcome analysis paralysis. But it's about web design, not about running your own business because it's true. It goes round and round and round and round your head, it's horrible.

Marcus Lillington: But this isn't just about running your own business, this is about everything you do in your life. Some people overanalyze everything they overlay analyze their relationships, and then those relationships, in my limited viewpoint, often fall apart. So it's just try and … I'm not going to use words at that point, because I'll end up sounding flippant again. So, but yeah. You get that you get the point.

Marcus Lillington: Thing that really works for me is write stuff down even if it's just lists of things, because they're really easy to do and they give you this ability to kind of like get to the edges of something, because often you'll be worrying because it's too big for me to think about and I can't encompass everything. If you write it all down it might be a list of 20 things and then you go, "That's all of it. So I can see the edges it." And that's a good idea, but also just the act of writing it down I think is cathartic. It is for me anyway.

Paul Boag: I agree.

Marcus Lillington: And from a business point of view, what we need to do now. I mean we're still finishing other stuff off, but to use this downtime which we haven't had any of for a few years, to do some interesting, enjoyable stuff. [inaudible 00:08:00]

Paul Boag: I don't believe you. [crosstalk 00:08:05]

Marcus Lillington: But whether it gets built or not. Well I lied, there's the beginnings of a new design, but … I'm sorry, just checking my my notes here. The other one, the final point here is, that I've found … again, this works for me, might not work for everybody. It's just a kind of do random stuff, occasionally. Not all the time, but you know, you're good at this. You go, "what I'm going to go in just walk down the river, or I might walk away from the café." And that kind of thing. Rather than just staying in the same place every day doing your monotonous job or whatever. Change, basically, go out for lunch. Why not? Spend some money. That's it really. That's my thought.

Paul Boag: I like that. I think that's that's very good. That last piece of advice in particular, is a really good one. And even if it's changing what you were working on. At the moment, I've got too much stuff on at the moment. I planned it out, and I'm worried about it because I've got too much stuff on. And then you become like paralyzed. You sit down to do whatever it was that you were supposed to be doing, and it's like can't do it.

Paul Boag: So I just go and work on something else, even if it's not urgent because it's better to work on something that it is nothing at all.

Marcus Lillington: Yeah I'm exactly the same. When there's too much on, I do all the things I like doing first, and then yeah and then the pile of stuff I don't want to do just becomes it's like nagging away at me. You're there at the moment, aren't you?

Paul Boag: No, I find it different. It has a different response to me. So I start doing this stuff. the things I like, and then I build momentum and it gets me going. And then I feel able to do the more complicated stuff. Today was a great example of. So I've got feedback on a draft that I've written for a course, it's Shopify. I always want to say Spotify every time. So I'm writing this course for Shopify, and they given me a lot of feedback on what I've written and I looked at it and it was like just pages of comments, and you go, "I've lost the will to live."

Paul Boag: But by going and doing, I wrote my newsletter instead. I got some momentum going, and actually it wasn't that bad when I looked at it, and it goes back to that point about defining the edges, isn't it?

Marcus Lillington: Yeah.

Paul Boag: You know, things get bigger in your head.

Marcus Lillington: Red pen always looks worse, doesn't it? Whether it's red-

Paul Boag: It does.

Marcus Lillington: red anything, it's like ooh! It hit me as well.

Paul Boag: Yeah. And you also feel inadequate. "Oh no, I'm a really shit writer. I don't know what I'm talking about."

Marcus Lillington: Yeah. Oh yeah. All those things.

Paul Boag: So I turn that into raging anger, where I deep I deeply resent them and write lots of passive aggressive emails back.

Marcus Lillington: That you never send.

Paul Boag: Right, I never send them, though, obviously. It's all internalized. So Shopify, if you're listening to this right now, I do deeply hate you.

Marcus Lillington: There you go. It's out there in the world.

Paul Boag: It is, I've said it. So, you're already struggling to come up with subjects for the thought of the day, is that you had to go kind of airy fairy?

Marcus Lillington: Oh no, I thought I'd just do something a bit different.

Paul Boag: Just mix out.

Marcus Lillington: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Paul Boag: So yeah, there is a place that you can look now for inspiration, which is the Every day in the Slack channel, have you seen this? I'm asking a question.

Marcus Lillington: Yeah, it does make me laugh. This is Paul's way of dealing with the slack channel while he's got too much work on.

Paul Boag: Oh shut up.

Marcus Lillington: Put one question up in the morning and let them run. I responded to it this morning, Paul, twice.

Paul Boag: Did you?

Marcus Lillington: Yes.

Paul Boag: I don't know I haven't looked at it, I've been too busy.

Marcus Lillington: You proved my point.

Paul Boag: Exactly. me far too well. But it's worked really well, isn't it? It's people have really got … loads of people that don't normally post have posted, and I was thinking I bet there's some really good answers in there you could use.

Marcus Lillington: Ian's one was the best one, [inaudible 00:12:05] He wants you to ask the question "What's everyone having for dinner tonight?"

Paul Boag: I don't know. Why did he want that answer?

Marcus Lillington: For inspiration.

Paul Boag: Oh. Okay, my questions have been far more useful. Anyway, if you want to join the slack channel you could do so by going to, and you, too, come find out what Ian's having for dinner.

Marcus Lillington: If you ask the question.

Paul Boag: Yeah, which I haven't yet asked. Anyway. Should we talk about our first sponsor of the day, and then we'll talk about who our interview is.

Marcus Lillington: Who's got our first sponsor of the day, Paul?

Paul Boag: Guess. It's always the same two people. So which one am I going to do first?

Marcus Lillington: Is it Balsamiq this week? Or Fullstory.

Paul Boag: Fullstory are first this week. So this is so nice, to have long-term sponsors, I really like it. It's great, you get to know them. I chat with them a lot. I get to know their product better so I can become more confident in recommending. Or alternatively I'd discover it's shyte. It could go either way. Fortunately, with Balsamiq and Fullstory, it hasn't gone that way. I still love them as much as I always did.

Paul Boag: Fullstory. Let's talk about that. So Fullstory is a session recorder, and you might be wondering why you need the ability to replay sessions to be able to watch user sessions. We've got so many great tools in our arsenal as designers that give us a kind of broad idea of what's going on with our product. We've got analytics, we've got social media monitoring, and we've got all these fancy tools but nothing beats that kind of visceral personal understanding that's given from watching real users interacting with your pages in real time. It is so much more human than analytics are, you can see those nuances of behavior that I think is so great.

Paul Boag: And although I'm a huge fan of usability testing, and it's something that I encourage people to be doing all of the time, as soon as you bring someone in and they know they're being watched, then immediately they start behaving differently. While with a session recorder, you can watch people doing their thing on the Web website completely unobserved. They behave completely naturally. Yes I know, it all sounds a bit creepy. It's all anonymized, and you can't see anything important like password information or anything like that. You're only seeing how they move around the site and they interact with the site. And it's just so invaluable for proving the experience. There is no … you can't use it in any kind of dodgy way. It just gives you insights into how people behave and it helps uncover those UX problems and general design issues you can't suss out from analytics or interviews, or that kind of stuff.

Paul Boag: So that's why session recorders, but why Fullstory? Well because Fullstory offers the highest fidelity session replay that you can get, basically, because the indexes every single event on a page, so you can search every action, every part. You can see where that user furiously rage clicks a button for example or instantly view any person that has got frustrated with the site and failed to get it to interact. You can also get insights that are invaluable and endless, it gives you kind of data on all of this stuff as well. So it's such a huge balance between the data and been able to watch so sessions back.

Paul Boag: You can sign up for a free month of their pro account. No need for a credit card or anything like that. And if you don't feel that you want to keep going with their pro account, that's absolutely fine. You can continue for free, up to a thousand sessions per month which is a really great deal. You can find out more about that by going to

Paul Boag: So this week. So what we had so far, we had episode 1, Virgin Atlantic. Episode 2, The University of Dundee. So in my continual search for random companies that are as different as possible from one another.

Marcus Lillington: Broad Spectrum.

Paul Boag: A broad spectrum, that's the word, rather than random. Yeah.

Marcus Lillington: It sounds like you meant it, if it's a broad spectrum.

Paul Boag: It does. And I did, actually, I went out my way to to get a broad spectrum. So this week we've got CISCO as the company that where we're chatting with, and a lovely gentleman I met called Sandip. And so, really fascinating because CISCO are in a very different place, again. They're a huge, huge multi-national company that spans the globe, can you imagine the kind of problems and challenges that presents in creating a great user experience, let alone building a user centric culture across that organization.

Paul Boag: And Sandip is kind of at the nexus of that in many ways, because he kind of sits between global, which do all of the kind of main strategy stuff, and then the individual countries and regions. So he's trying to create a unified experience and translate what it's been created at the global level for a more regional level. Amazing challenge that he faces. So let's jump into to the interview with him and see how he's getting off.

Paul Boag: Sandip, thank you so much for coming on the show. It's very much appreciated. I was thinking maybe a good place for us to start is you telling us all a little bit about your role and what it is that you do at CISCO.

Sandip Amlani: Okay. Yeah, well thank you very much for inviting me on this. So my role at CISCO is very much about the on site experience at My actual job title is manager for MER. It's a strategic role. It covers SEO, conversion optimization, user experience, and publishing across the 40 or so European websites. I work very closely with the global team because the spine of the site is very much pushed out from here on the global team, and that is how the site was initially set up.

Sandip Amlani: So we have [inaudible 00:19:10] lead a very heavy role in our capabilities across region. We've worked very closely with the country teams though providing design best practices and setting the processes and providing them with education as well. So giving them the means and knowledge and the expertise to actually build out journey's pages for themselves. And we work very closely with the campaign teams as well. So we have new campaigns, quite often these campaign are coming out for mobile. Probably like an SMB campaign, for example, [inaudible 00:19:47] us because we want to really, really show SMBs that CISCOs and not just about enterprise customers. We're off those really the SMBs, the smaller companies really can find value in what we could provide. So those campaigns will come down from global, and we would then adapt them omni channel managers add those to the touchpoint strategies and then roll those out across the European websites. So yeah that's it. In a nutshell.

Paul Boag: Wow, cool. I mean CISCO's obviously a huge organization, and also has been around for it for a very long time. And so, I'm kind of quite interested in what the culture is in relationship to user experience, because you often find that the bigger the company, the longer it's been around, the more challenges there are about having a very user-centric culture. Has that been a challenge at CISCO?

Sandip Amlani: Yes, absolutely. I mean since it's been around since the early 80s, so long before the digital era ushered in companies like Facebook and Amazon and Google. And part of the issue that a company like CISCO has is those companies that came around in the digital age were they have certain characteristics are inherent within what they do. So collaboration and working in an agile way, failing fast, iterating, building, testing, all of those things inherent what they do is stock that we've had to retrofit insight into the processes that we have at CISCO and that's not been easy. It's composite.

Paul Boag: So tell me some of the challenges, maybe, that you've faced around that. Because up there will be a lot of people listening to this, they might not work in the company of the size of CISCO but they understand what you mean in terms of retrofitting, so you're kind of not alone, at best. So I'm kind of interested in in maybe some of the challenges, specific challenges that you've had.

Sandip Amlani: Okay. So I guess a key one, I guess this is something that people in many big companies will really resonate with them, is teams working in silos. So they've got their own objectives. They get very fixated on their own KPIs in their area. And quite often, those KPIs and those objectives that they have within that specific silo within that department, it's not necessarily aligned with the broader picture that company's trying to achieve.

Sandip Amlani: So this is a point where you need to start challenging, and say Okay so you work in marketing, your KPI is to increase engagement points, so it's to increase the number of form fills that you have. But actually, is that the best thing for the customer? Are we going to change all of pieces content just so that you can hear your KBIs have increased in form fills, and these are things that do need to be challenged, and those mean that was previously been in place, the status quo that they've always worked against. That's not necessarily the best thing for the customer, and therefore it's not necessarily the best thing for the company. And those things, you do need to sometimes shift away from a company that's been around for 30 years [inaudible 00:23:26]

Sandip Amlani: The best thing the way we've been doing this, the way that I've certainly done this, is to be much more data driven. So really, just looking at the numbers, looking at the proof, in terms of the analytics that we have, even things NPS score, how people actually feel about CISCO as a company. Those are things that we can move the needle on just by being much more customer centric.

Paul Boag: So I mean do you find that actually… you talk about KPIs there and how individual silos or departments or regions are measured. Do you think sometimes CISCO is measuring the wrong KPIs? That then those capabilities are not customer centric focused enough? And is that a kind of a senior leadership problem, or are you getting the right kind of message from the top?

Sandip Amlani: We're certainly getting the right kind of message from the top. One of the things that … And I've only been at CISCO for about 15 months or so, but one of the things I've noticed about this company is it's always willing to listen. So if any run at any level pushes back and challenges ways that we do things in the past, then senior leadership are willing to listen. And the form fill side of there was something that we've been dealing with recently, and actually for our most recent campaign about this that means we have not created any content whatsoever, because there has to be a fair value exchange. As to if you're asking for someone's e-mail, what do they get back in return? Is it something they can get elsewhere? Are we providing ultimately the best experience for them.

Sandip Amlani: The example that we've used internally is around … for example, if you're buying a pair of trainers you might go to the Nike website and you might look at all of the specs you want all of all the technical stuff around the trainers, but when it comes to actually buying those trainers, they may have like a e-commerce functionality on the Nike website. But people generally tend to go off elsewhere, and that's a very similar story for CISCO, in that people will pick up the phone and talk to their account manager and their partner, and not as much would come through the CISCO site directly.

Sandip Amlani: So if that's the case why are we making it difficult for our users to find the content information that they need in order to make a decision which ultimately affects the company in a good way? Even if they go after a partner to then buy their kit.

Paul Boag: One of the things I find quite interesting about huge companies like CISCO, and you've kind of already touched on this, is you've got a central global function, a central UX team. Yet you're a multinational company and you're dealing with this range of cultures and languages that all impacts how you go about approaching and creating a good user experience. Is that an area that you found challenging? Is that it is the global team aware enough of all those cultural nuances? Because that's a really hard challenge for any single team to be able to approach.

Sandip Amlani: Absolutely. And we're probably about halfway through a five year digital transformation plan. I mean, digital transformation doesn't even it doesn't and once you get to the end of that five years. The key now, and the facets of what we're trying to change, we're probably about halfway through that. And that's actually part of the reason why this regional digital team was created, just to get closer to those countries because everything was from global. There might be a handful of people at regions. There'll be additional marketing managers in country, but everything was actually pushed out from global, and it was then implemented to varying degrees by the countries, with a certain level of leadership from region.

Sandip Amlani: Now that we have this regional leadership team built out within digital, it certainly helps with things like setting up processes, setting up government structures, getting closer to those countries that have those nuances whether it be, whether it be around language, around how their business really read the site, how they use the site, if they're interested more in products or solutions or case studies. We're much more closer to it now, so it is something that we're in actively.

Sandip Amlani: One of the phrases I'd like to use is itself freedom within the framework. And what I'm saying by that is that in order to get scale, you do need to have a centrally managed service to a certain extent. At the same time so you do need to have your services your offerings and what you're putting out to your visitors locally or supplies, it needs to be country relevant. That's what we're trying to achieve with this … what we're now calling regionally lead country relevant portal. So in the past would have been like a global model. We did dabble with a country centric model, which clearly became clear that it wasn't scalable to any standard. So actually, the middle ground the hybrid is a regionally led country relevant. You may have 80% of content on the is pushed up by global or it's localized by global, but 20% of the content is very much locally focused. It's local events, things that are much more relevant to those local markets.

Sandip Amlani: I just wanted to also mention one of the ways that we achieve this is that we have a program called One Voice Web and that's, again, it's really by global, and it focuses on the top hundred odd pages across the web, so we have 89 country websites. They all look the same in terms of structure, they've got similar home pages, top tier pages, and secondary pages. And this One Voice Web program allows us to, at scale, or update those key pages, whether it's the Routers home page, the [inaudible 00:29:58] page, all of those are managed locally. Whenever there's updates that come out from the product teams, they're updated on those pages localized and pushed out. And the key challenge of that is if you try to localize absolutely everything you're going to end up with the localization bill of like Millions. Millions and millions of pounds.

Sandip Amlani: So yeah, we got around that by, depending on the tier of a country, so the size[inaudible 00:30:29] you'd get 100% of One Voice Web program, all hundred localized. Beyond that, when you start into lower-tier countries, it might be 80% or 60%$. One of the challenges we have is that you will end up, say if you're on the Polish site, for example [inaudible 00:30:47] you'll then get off of the US site, because we don't have a localized version. So whilst it's understandable why we do that, it's also important we understand, that we treat the customer carefully here, and we show them what's going on, they understand what's happening.

Paul Boag: I mean is there, within the individual countries. Is there an awareness of the importance of user experience? Is the skill there or are you really kind of spoon-feeding from a regional?

Sandip Amlani: We're very much spoon feeding them from a regional point, Oh yeah absolutely. It has been a challenge actually, where you UX is … I wouldn't say it's a new discipline, generally speaking, but it is something that's being driven from global as we're disseminating education out into regional, Global is … is it has been quite challenging, but it's not only about progressing, we're starting to think about user experience, expertise within region. We're starting to do a lot more user researching feature, because the stuff that happens in the global scene out in San Jose, that's not necessarily going to be relevant to Germany or the UK, and in France. So the importance of actually having a UX function by region is very much recognized amounts our people.

Paul Boag: So you're kind of, I'm guessing, at fairly early days in that process, so how are you addressing it? Are you trying to bring people in-house that have got user experience skills or are you relying on regional agencies? What's the kind of approach on that?

Sandip Amlani: It's actually a mix of utilizing the global teams. So, we've just had a bit of a reorganization within the US organization in the US. And there's much more of a focus on actually making sure that in Regional, we are actually building things up a lot of sense. We've also got things like drop in clinics for UX, so if someone in Regional or in country wants to build a journey or a page that they can actually drop into this UX clinic. They have like office hours MER, office hours [inaudible 00:33:06] it covers the globe. And you can see it right I'm building this out. We want to put these components on the page. This is the objective of the page. This is what we're trying to do. And will get some expertise from those pools.

Paul Boag: I love that, that sounds like a really interesting idea. So essentially anybody that needs help with UX can get access to that help very, very quickly [crosstalk 00:33:35]

Sandip Amlani: Yeah, exactly. So you can just give them a heads up a week beforehand, say look this is what to do, let's discuss this on the [inaudible 00:33:40] next week. And we have the same thing for SEO, [inaudible 00:33:48] office hours. So again if it's anything that you're trying to do you can get expertise from the global team. With that said, we do have regional. [inaudible 00:34:04] that's now trying to push the agenda here, which is … it's been interesting.

Paul Boag: So do you have like training material or like self-learning courses or a service manual or anything like that that kind of helps people that more local level understand what they need to be doing, and how they need to be working.

Sandip Amlani: Yeah, there's a number of forums as well, so we are able to within our intranet we collate all the training that we've put together, whether it is around UX, SEO, CRM, paid media, whatever it might be and we put them up on our Intranet and make it available to that to watch it managers across Europe, and not just them as well, but we also have what we call audience expert, that they're basically the subject matter experts for each product found. [inaudible 00:34:55] So it's really important for them to know about things like writing SEO friendly copy, over pages they need to understand the flow of the page or what the objective is, so having training available to them. We run it on WebEx, obviously WebEx is a key product of CISCO, so I think it's quite useful, too.

Sandip Amlani: We then put these recordings up, these WebEx recordings up on our Intranet sites saying okay this is where the audience is useful for. This is what the training is what it contains and here's a recording for it go ahead. Just self-serve.

Paul Boag: Yeah that makes a lot of sense because the drop-in centers are great to some … certainly a brilliant idea, I've not heard that one before and I really love it, but having that kind of self-serving self-learning stuff is really good as well. So yeah, really interesting.

Paul Boag: One of the things that I often, we kind of touched on this earlier, but it's a problem that I often see, it's this balance between a company objective and company targets and those kinds of things, and meeting the needs of users. Do you see that as a conflict point in CISCO? How are you dealing with that that kind of relationship between, you got to remain profitable, you've got targets you've got to meet. But also we don't want to alienate users in this. Where you are as a company?

Sandip Amlani: Yeah, I mentioned the past when we were talking about the Nike example, so you have different teams that have different objectives. They're often conflicted with each other against the greater good for the company. By I do very much stand by the same, you solve customer problems you will probably end up solving business problems. What I mean by that, one of the initiatives I left recently is around a geo router light box laptops, So a lot of people go to the global site, type in they end up on the global site, even if they're in the UK or France and there's a local site available to them.

Sandip Amlani: Also from SEO perspective, if they type anything then they go into the US site, and there's SEO there we need to do to make sure what we need to do to make sure that those sites appear. The key thing is that 70% of users on the global site are not from the US. So how do we resolve this, how do we actually solve this? Obviously, you can see if their IP address and present them, recognize where they're coming from and present and other light box that says hey, it looks like your from UK site, so as you enter and see some local events products and services, click here. Or you could stay on the proper site.

Sandip Amlani: Now that, it was very challenging to get through because a lot of resistance, or people said Well that's very intrusive, it's in your face and it's not very user friendly. The fact is, if you are a customer or visitor in France, and you go to the global site, not aware that there's local content available for you, you'll probably appreciate being called in a light touch way a [inaudible 00:38:21] can provide that. You can you can ignore it, you can click around it, you stay on the side that you're … stay on the US site. But once you do that, you'll start solving business problems such as well, we don't get out of traffic on the French site so we can't run any tests, that is going to take statistical significance.

Sandip Amlani: So just by solving that, just signposting the local site for visitors to go to, you start solving business problems.

Paul Boag: In going back to this kind of embedding that user-centric thinking in the company and encouraging that at all platforms. It sounds like there's a kind of an established user experience culture at the global level but maybe not so much at the region or country, or certainly not the country levels, and then you seem to be quite campaign-driven in certain ways as well. Are there things that you're doing to encourage more user centric thinking? I mean you've mentioned a couple of things in terms of the self-learning material drop in center, but that kind of requires people to recognize the need for that kind of thing. Are you running any kind of promotion or new internal comms campaign to raise awareness?

Sandip Amlani: CISCO does invest quite a lot in things like persona's, and it's been building now really, really quite out our personas all of our all of our types of buyers whether they be enterprise network buyers or SMB buyers or whatever it might be, and I know there's a tendency in some organizations just to do the commission that really expensive piece of work and just have it sat in a drawer somewhere. No one can actually use it now. You probably have seen them yourself. So you did get learning and put that really in front of people's faces whenever they working.? And one of the things are on the question for the moment is that the to distill these kind of huge documents, 10 page documents about the persona, of each persona. Their likes, dislikes, what [inaudible 00:40:39]

Sandip Amlani: And actually distill that down to something that you can just stick on the wall somewhere. [inaudible 00:40:40] I'm working on an assembly campaign this is what I need to make sure [inaudible 00:40:52] just to keep it front and foremost in people's minds when they're building up campaigns. But you're right, we are. We can be quite campaign led at CISCO, and there does need to be a level of always on, in terms of what they're creating, so one way that we're dealing with that is things like using SEO data to inform content decisions. So in the past CISCO was very much building things out from a CISCO perspective. We wanna talk about products we wanna talk about this product. If you've seen the site recently, we've moved away from that site thinking about how we can help our customers. What papers do they have, what they care about, and how CISCO can [inaudible 00:41:42].

Sandip Amlani: So just by using the SEO data you're actually using data. But people are actually searching for these things in their own language and what we've been presented to the new audience experts is that maybe you should be writing content at best because what's on it. It will search on Google also. And it's is like a light bulb, oh yeah that's right. Okay great. If they're looking for it, I'm going to be writing content for it, fishing in a place where there's fish.

Paul Boag: Yeah, absolutely. Now that's a really good idea. It's funny isn't it, a lot of UX people I think have quite a negative attitude towards search engine optimization, you shouldn't design for search engines, you should design for people, and I kind of get that and I understand that point of view but what you've just described is actually using the data that you get back from that kind of search to discover people's mental models. How they think about things, how they word things how they talk about things what they care about-

Sandip Amlani: We've gone from just standing up your site with keywords, and SEO it's such a fine art now. You have to write in natural language. And like you said, you have to write for humans and not a box, but there is a balance there, it's not that you can still include rankings but not create content not sounds natural.

Paul Boag: Yeah I mean it's really interesting I wrote a post not long ago which was basically saying how focusing on SEO has helped me improve the user experience on my blog. And it actually did, thinking about the terminology that people use and all of those kinds of things [crosstalk 00:43:35]

Sandip Amlani: Which is great, but I know in the distant past we were very much focused on talking about Telepresence, which is our local videoconferencing. And the directive was let's just talk about Telepresence[inaudible 00:43:57] campaigns around Telepresence. The fact is no one was searching for the word Telepresence. Everyone was searching for the word videoconferencing. So again light bulb moment. As soon as you turn that round it's okay. People are searching for that, this way.

Paul Boag: Absolutely. Is such a simple thing isn't there. But it's amazing how companies see all the time companies pushing a name of their product that means nothing to people, it's a waste of time. I mean you've been there 15 months, did you say? I think you said 15 months.

Sandip Amlani: Yeah.

Paul Boag: So in that time what do you think the best thing that you've been able to do to make the company more user centric, what was the-

Sandip Amlani: Well, the geo router light boxes is, in terms of a single initiative that's been the key ones just because of the resistance I'm getting that might actually be how it's become something all countries are getting involved in. Like let's test this on for size. But in terms of things like ongoing processes, just recently set up an agile optimization team within India. And this is not something that we've done in the past. It's been kind of like a side job maybe 5-10% off like the analysts to look at that data, and to understand where we might have some gaps, and then get a global team to build out a test for us. But we just weren't getting the cadence of test out there, as of the last couple of months we've just bought out this team and got the support agency [inaudible 00:45:32] with the opportunity identification, the hypothesis, but also with that build and the analysis, those tests.

Sandip Amlani: We're also getting a lot more people involved in the optimization process, from audience managers to audience experts and digital marketing managers, and even the developers of developers have a lot of input into that should be designed. So when you build an agile optimization team like that it becomes, testing becomes much more ingrained in the culture of a company as opposed to software side job.

Paul Boag: Yeah, which is brilliant isn't it. So, that that sounds like a really good time. That sounds really exciting. I've got one more question for you and I'm going to change the question that I gave you in advance. All right. Which is it sorry, sorry. There's nothing like just dropping questions on people on the fly. But I'm quite interested in what do you want to do next? What's what's the next thing you want to achieve to improve user experience, or to establish a more user centric-

Sandip Amlani: I think in terms of like the way that a company is set up, and I'm thinking quite holistically here, a lot of companies … and you've heard the same, nowadays you shouldn't have[inaudible 00:46:59] You should have any issues with that title. And that's right to a certain extent if you work in those companies that were there with the digital era. That makes a lot of sense. In a company like CISCO, you have to start on a digital team. You have to have that level of skills and experience and knowledge in one area and then at the cemetery across the company. What I'd like to see is employee [inaudible 00:47:36] is actually an inherent part of what everyone does.

Sandip Amlani: So that's I'm talking kind of years ahead, but that's how I see the ultimate goal.

Paul Boag: I would totally agree with that. It's a progression, isn't it? You need to pass through the stages of centralizing digital in a single team for a while, while you establish that new culture, that new methodology, that new way of doing things, and then eventually you want to get to a point where you've really established that culture across the organization, where everybody kind of inherently knows how to do it and at which point, you're right, you're doing yourself out of a job. Those things will happen organically naturally across the company and there won't be a need for that. But you can't skip one of those stages. Can you? You can't just go from complete chaos to suddenly everybody understands and knows digital and what to do with it. So, yeah, I think that's a worthy goal and you have my full support. Carry on.

Paul Boag: All right. Thank you so much for your time. That was that was really interesting. It's good to talk to a company that is going through this process. You know that is in the middle of this transformation. We're trying to speak to a kind of a range of different companies in different places. Some people right at the beginning, where everything a bit of a mess. We've got some post digital companies like Uber and people like that that they obviously have got it baked into their DNA, but to talk to a company that is going through this transformation process is really interesting because I think that's where a lot of people are at. You know a lot of people are in that journey, and so it's good to hear your experiences.

Paul Boag: Thank you very much.

Sandip Amlani: Thank you.

Paul Boag: There you you go, that's Sandip. Marcus, what did you think of that? It was an interesting one, wasn't it?

Marcus Lillington: It was. I found myself nodding a lot, going. Yes. It was kind of like listening to somebody who's doing all the right things and they're half way through it and yet didn't really have an awful lot more to save that other than the kind of usual observations of massive companies and how I would never want to work at one. It's like all the different endless jargon, and all the different types of people who are all doing the same job. You know digital managers, analysts, SEO, marketing specialists global this, regional that [inaudible 00:50:10] all these people.

Marcus Lillington: But anyway that it was just kind of encouraging to hear that it didn't go well. We're we're doing 80% of it's working. But the other 20% we're never going to get an answer. It was there was nothing like that.

Paul Boag: No. And actually, they struck me as quite open to change as a company. You know I was expecting, when I met Sandip for the first time because they asked me to go in and speak at one of their internal events, and I was expecting to find quite resistant culture, you just find that with larger organizations, but there isn't really that sense there. I think that their biggest challenge is just that with an organization that big it takes a long time to turn the ship. It's not that anyone is debating that the ship needs turning or that or what direction even to turn, it just takes a long time to do, and that I thought was quite interesting. You know, that just because you're a big company doesn't mean everybody is utterly risk averse and a little bit negative.

Marcus Lillington: I mean all the stuff about having the drop in clinics, I'm thinking well if if they were generally negative risk averse then nobody would turn up to them. Obviously they do, because they're still doing them. So I just sort of thought yeah. It's not a very exciting observation, but it's kind of like well they're doing all the right things.

Paul Boag: I did like that drop-in Clinic idea. I thought that was a really good … because I often, I've got this tendency to focus on oh let's produce a load of online training material for people, which is fine if you're someone like me that's very online orientated, tends to be like self-learning, but not everyone like me there are different people and different people want different things. So a drop in center I thought was a brilliant idea.

Marcus Lillington: I think so, and particularly for less digitally savvy people. I mean I just think people in general. So I think most people learn more from another person who's an expert. I think.

Paul Boag: Really.

Marcus Lillington: Yes.

Paul Boag: Now that's just radically different to me because I don't like other human beings, that I definitely don't like other human beings who are cleverer than me.

Marcus Lillington: Yeah, but it could be something you know nothing about [inaudible 00:52:33] But the trombone I can.

Paul Boag: You could imagine me learning the trombone, could you?

Marcus Lillington: Yes I can. And I think that you wouldn't have a problem with a human being trying to teach you that, surely over learning about it from YouTube, say.

Paul Boag: Do you know what? I would bet, if I'm being entirely honest, because when you're with another person you're showing your ignorance, right. I would feel silly. Why don't I get this, why on my hands doing what they're meant to? Why am I so clumsy? Why haven't I picked this up quicker. While with something like YouTube or some self-learning stuff, nobody sees me fail.

Marcus Lillington: Yeah but it's you just you're not always going to get the little knacks of things that somebody can point out them you have one thing that you should be doing that you don't know that you haven't picked up from watching YouTube or whatever they can to see instantly and tell you.

Paul Boag: That kind of emphasizes the need for a bit both.

Marcus Lillington: I just think I think you're in the minority, but I might be wrong.

Paul Boag: I think you're in the minority.

Marcus Lillington: La la la la la.

Paul Boag: La la la la la. I don't care. [inaudible 00:53:48]

Paul Boag: That was our interview with Sandip from CISCO and that's going to be particularly interesting because next week he says after going on about Broad spectrum or whatever it was I said, next week we've got IBM. Now IBM obviously in some ways very similar to CISCO but they're much older than CISCO, so have been around a much longer and a very different cultural situation but also very different place in terms of where they are on that kind of user experience journey. So the contrast between the two is really quite fascinating and I think you'll enjoy comparing the two.

Paul Boag: So let's talk about second sponsorship which is Balsamiq. Most of us have used by some at one stage or another in our career but most of us have used the desktop app, because for a long time that's that's was all that's available and still desktop app's available if you want it. But now some it is mainly web based. Right which makes it perfect for collaboration, right. So it's got things like builtin threaded comments with call outs, and you could do real time collaboration, and there's even a chat panel and that kind of thing. So it's really designed for brilliantly for remote teams to be able to work together at the same time on a prototype. So you can have multiple project owners on an individual project, but you can set different permissions. Basically you can have editors, you can have reviewers, can even allow public access to the prototype you're building, which is obviously great. You know you have this one link that doesn't change. You can hand out to people. People can comment on what you're doing which is really good for opening up to a wider community.

Paul Boag: Of course it's still Balsamiq, so it's still easy to learn, lots of drag and drop and resizing perfect for you your project managers and CEOs and people that don't use those kind of same digital tools that perhaps we do design tools. You could get 30 day free trial, go for it. Try it out. See if you like it. You can get that by going to As a little sweetener if you then decide you want to sign up for the main account, you can get the paid version you can get three months additional for free. So when you go in and add your billing information you'll see a place for entering a code if you just entered the code BoagWorld, then you'll get your first three months of the cloud. Absolutely free of charge, which is brilliant.

Paul Boag: Cool so that is pretty much it for this show except obviously for Marcus's joke.

Marcus Lillington: Yeah. I need some more jokes, people. I had to go and find this one all by myself. So you've been warned. Two guys sitting in a kayak were chilly. But when they lit a fire in their craft, it sank proving once and for all that you can't have a kayak and eat it. [inaudible 00:57:03]

Marcus Lillington: Alright I'll just find them all, then.[crosstalk 00:57:08]

Paul Boag: You need to you need to moan on the slack channel. People in slack a lot more responsive to the podcast listeners. I'm disappointed with the podcast listeners, if I'm honest, they're a disappointing bunch. But if you want to prove me wrong, see I'm using reverse psychology here, Marcus, and then never get it. They'll never realized that's what I'm doing. If you want to prove me wrong, you send an email to Prove to me that podcast listeners are better than slack listeners. There we go.

Paul Boag: So that's it for this week's show. I think that covers everything, and don't forget to join us next week when will be talking to IBM about what's going on there I should be very exciting. But until then thanks for listening, and goodbye.a

Thanks to asharkyu from Shutterstock for allowing me to use this image.