How to Web Live Focus Edition – The Process Makes the Sale

Welcome to How to Web Live! The show you need to watch to discover the stars of the technology world sharing insights and lessons of their journeys so far. Every other Thursday, log in on YouTube and get inspired!

This Focus episode, Bogdan Apostol (CEO & Co-Founder at Nestor) and Laura Bivol (HR Transformation Lead at Orange) broke down the process of selling to an enterprise client and revealed how the Nestor app helps managers to elevate their coaching skills, in a conversation with Bretton Putter (CEO & Founder at CultureGene).

Orange, part of Orange Group, is the leading telecom operator in Romania, delivering the best mobile internet and the widest network coverage, according to Ookla, for over 10 million local customers. Orange supports entrepreneurs through the Orange Fab acceleration program, giving access to the newest technologies, on-demand mentoring and access to Orange’s national and international clients. Orange Fab aims to develop win-win business partnerships, by taking no-equity and covering costs for client pilot projects and relevant product enhancements. The end goal is to bring to market powerful products that improve our clients’ lives and the way they do business. 

Bogdan and Laura went behind the scenes and shared invaluable insights into successfully managing the collaboration between a startup and an enterprise. Here is a sneak peek into their discussion:

Watch the full discussion on our YouTube channel here.

Listen to the full discussion on Spotify and Apple Podcasts too.
3 takeaways from Laura, Bretton and Bogdan’s discussion:

►”And as I was saying, not only the product, but the moment was also very important, because the moment that we were choosing the tool solution for this new process was exactly the time that we were first entering lockdown, were those weeks in fact. And because it is a strategic programme, we knew for sure that we need a solution for it; for the recovery period also, and it will be a critical one for the time coming.” – Laura, on managing a well timed solution implementation at a critical moment.

►”I think that vote of trust is really critical for startups, and I think it’s clearly got to be built in terms of how you and Bogdan, and your team, work together and how you deliver. But you’re never gonna get to the perfect level of trust with this, you’ll never get it anyway, but you’re not going to be able to tick all the boxes in the same way you can tick with a larger organisation that’s used to doing this. I think that’s really hats off to you, the Orange team, for for doing this, because I see a lot of situations where companies get to this last hurdle and then somebody, and it’s often a lawyer, will come in and go, ‘No, we just you can’t deal with it’. ” – Bretton, on the importance of  trust in a startup – enterprise collaboration.

►”And as a company, you have to allow space for challenges if you want to really innovate as a startup. So you really have to challenge yourself and be challenged to really get the the innovation going inside the company. I think one of the most powerful things to remember as a startup, for us, is to remember that you have to make something that resonates with the client. So we keep a close partnership, we exchange ideas and actively seek feedback on our product. This is what makes the product better and makes it to fit their needs better. ” – Bogdan, on the drivers for innovation that come from good collaboration.

Watch and Listen to the full episode to get your own takeaways!

Are you more into Reading? The Full Transcript is below!

Bretton: Hi, everybody. Welcome to this exciting session today, I just want to thank Orange and How to Web for making this session possible. Today we’re going to be talking about corporate partnerships, particularly doing it right as a high growth startup. In my experience of 20 years of dealing with startups, I’ve seen many startup partnerships fail. So it’s really interesting to be able to talk to our two guests today and understand what it is that they’re doing right. Laura Bivol is the Human Resources Transformation Leader at Orange, and Bogdan Apostol is the CEO of Nestor, they have been working on developing a fascinating partnership to come out of Orange Fab. And it’s really great to have you both here with me today. I think it would be really good if you could maybe just give us a quick introduction, and then we can shoot straight into the questions. Bogdan, do you want to give us a quick overview of yourself in Nestor?

Bogdan: Hi, everybody. Thanks for hosting us. I’m Bogdan, I’m the CEO of Nestor, which is an intelligent employee coaching tool that helps managers with actionable insights on how to coach their people for performance, and focus on building a leadership driven culture. We are on a mission to build the first culture OS for organisation. And thus, we have a holistic approach to culture coaching practices and the modern performance management system. We do this by providing essential tools such as objectives and key results, surveys, one on ones, feedback loops and career and leadership development in a streamlined process.

Bretton: Excellent, thank you! Laura, tell us a little bit about your exciting work at Orange.

Laura: Hello, everyone, I’m very happy to be with you today. My work today as an Orange HR Transformation Lead means to sort of a project manager, in fact, project manager about transformational projects, about cultural issues and topics that we found important in this lifetime of our company.

Bretton: Excellent, thanks very much. So, Bogdan, why did you start Nestor, what are you trying to solve? What’s the big pain point?

Bogdan: So, before Nestor people data resided in multiple channels and processes and it was very hard, if not impossible, for organisation to collect, synchronise and draw data driven conclusions. With Nestor, every organisation can increase transparency, can streamline the process and take data driven decisions based on a powerful business and emotional intelligence prediction and analytics engine. We, ourselves, as founders, had previous experience in working with large organisations, managing people and becoming internal coaches, and saw the problem from multiple points of view, from both the employee side and the leader side. So this is why in early 2018, we decided to build a tool to help managers and employees alike to better grasp this process.

Bretton: Yeah, I think this is really critical. Looking at the sort of culture OS market at the moment, I think a number of companies are getting this wrong. I think, if we don’t have data, and we can’t use the data, then frankly, we can’t measure the culture. And that means that we can’t really apply it as a function in the business. So I’m really excited about what you guys are doing. And I believe that you had two accelerated experiences and you went through Y Combinator. Can you give us a little bit more information about what you did and how YC sort of prepared you for the world out there post the program?

Bogdan: Sure, sure. Thanks for the question. Well, we went through Y Combinator in summer of 2018. And it was for us an amazing learning experience from start to finish. The program itself is very intense, it’s focused on better understanding the business we are in, so understanding ourselves, on understanding the US market, and it’s very focused around fast iteration of product development, delivery to client, measuring and getting feedback and starting all over again, each iteration. And this iterations were kind of like one to two weeks. So it was like a very, very fast process for about three months during the program.

Bretton: And would you advise startups, if they get accepted to definitely get involved in YC?

Bogdan: Definitely, I would advise them to do this. It’s an experience for them, it’s a way to also know the culture there because the program runs in US, and it’s US based. So you have to be around three months, at least, there. We ended up staying there for about nine months that year.

Bretton: Okay, great. And Laura, typically, I find it’s not easy to make corporate startup cultures come together to make these these partnerships work. Firstly, what were the drivers that made you look outside your organisation and outside your typical partnerships to your usual suppliers to look for a solution from Nestor or others?

Laura: Thank you for the question. It’s a mix here, between the timing that we were into at the moment that we were choosing the provider, and also about the, let’s say, functionalities and the options that Nestor has. Because at that moment, and we are still in that, let’s say cultural change, we are, first of all, changing our mindset of leadership, switching from sort of responsibility of managers, to the responsibility of the team, and this is a program that started about two years ago, and is going to last for some years now, of course, because it’s a very big change. And that means a change of mindset, a change of tools that we need to drive this type of collaboration, and other tools and other processes that are connected to this type of mindset. So that’s one thing, it was the type of provider and the type of tool that we needed. And here, at this moment in Romania, we are probably one of the first multinational companies that are switching objectives to OKRs as methodology, or at least the principles of it at the company wide. And that was, let’s say, the moment that we were looking for this type of solution. So in Romania, Nestor is the only provider that was covering most of the needs. But also, because our, let’s say, decision process means also looking inside inside our organisation, because we also have it IT operations, IT departments, the classic ones and the new ones. And as I was saying, not only the product, but the moment was also very important, because the moment that we were choosing the tool solution for this new process was exactly the time that we were first entering lockdown, were those weeks in fact. And because it is a strategic programme we knew for sure that we need a solution for it, for the recovery period also, and it will be a critical one for the time coming. We decided that first of all, we need a quick solution, and second of all, at that moment, we were reorganising our projects, of course, the strategic and the most critical ones were those arguing for business continuity. So our IT guys, our IT teams were probably at that moment very busy with switching processes to remote and everything, so we can keep the business running for our customers first of all. So this is why it was a mix of decision making, as I said timing and also the solution.

Bretton: And I’m interested because working with corporates, there are some fairly heavy and hectic requirements on an RFQ and RFP process that a lot of early stage startups are not well prepared for. How did you have to adapt your processes when dealing with Nestor? Was that it? Was that something that you had to get your heads around internally?

Laura: No, no, of course not. It was the same procedure, in fact, we took the same steps. We had in our RPQ multiple suppliers at the same table, some of them big, very big ones, international in fact, but also local as corporate as we are. So the RFQ was the same. Let’s say the happy context was the fact that as I said before, we were in a very big hurry with making the decisions. So all our teams were working together on the most short deadlines that we could have had. But otherwise, just despite the fact that we are in a hurry, there was no exception, no other that processes now.

Bretton: Okay, great. Thank you. And Bogdan, you also spent some time in Orange’s Fab accelerator. What is the process that Fab took you through and what are your learnings from that accelerator?

Bogdan: So first of all, the Fab was the one that introduced us to Orange and made it possible for us to showcase our solution to the internal HR and IT departments at the right time, because they already have decided that they will look outside of the organisation. The Fab was and is for us a great opportunity to learn more about the local European market, especially when it comes to enterprise clients. We learned a lot about how an acquisition process goes from start to finish, and how it works in large corporations, how to think in terms of deploying the platform and the process alike, and how to set the right steps to make it a success.

Bretton: And how many other companies were on were in the programme with you?

Bogdan: So I think the yearly there are a couple of startups that joined the programme,

Bretton: Okay. And what did you have to adapt in terms of your product, and the business to be able to offer this an effective solution to Orange?

Bogdan: Okay, so I’ll start with the product. And we knew even from the first steps, from the beginning, that in order to offer an effective solution to Orange, degree of customization of our solution will be necessary. And we were mentally prepared to make the changes in the platform in order to fit their desired needs and their deployment process. This is where the Fab jumped in and helped us a lot in understanding what will be necessary and how to actually plan for this deployment. This includes adapting the messaging in the platform, stuff like changing the internal flows of the application, and allowing a higher level of control over the overall setup of the platform. I think as with every other established company that already has various internal data sources, we had also to integrate different data sources that kind of bring data into our platform, or export that data from our platform, from other internal or external third party platforms. This is equally important, I think, for Orange and for us, that we synchronise the data and make this automation as smooth as possible. Kind of from a business perspective, pretty early on we realised that we would need to be very hands on with the customer support and consultancy. So if we usually involve just one client success manager with one company in this case, we firstly adapted to offering more, at least in this initial steps of deployment. So these are kind of the big changes we we’re doing in the beginning and we are still doing.

Bretton: And what were the other challenges? There must have been, I mean, I can see that you’ve had to pull some of your hair out over the last couple of months, because obviously there must have been some serious challenges that you thought, ‘wow, this is a whole new learning for us’, what else can you sort of share with us?

Bogdan: So I think we, as a company, we regard challenges as a way to grow. So for us every challenges is a way to redefine ourselves and to understand better the space that we are in, and to kind of get the product to the next level every time. So we can say that there were challenges in terms of, I didn’t know, that they were very hard or started, we couldn’t handle.

Bretton: And apart from the speed, which was obviously critical to get this up quickly, what made you choose Nestor above the other service providers?

Laura: Well, it was very interesting, because first of all, we found out about Nestor from a Fab internal events, because we are exchanging information about who Orange Fab works with, and what other projects that we know inside Orange that we are dealing with on our roadmap. So first of all, we’ve met Nestor for another smaller project that we had in mind, that we didn’t go with inside the company anyway, so we didn’t need the solution for that. But we’ve met and we saw the potential of the tool, and building the solution, because when we first met, we were in a design thinking exercise at that moment, that gave us the opportunity to come up with more cultural projects around the organisation. And after that, we knew that we need a tool. First of all, that had OKR methodology, the clean one, the let’s say, book methodology. But we also needed a tool to adapt our performance management process because being a very big company with all areas of business inside the organisation, okay, our methodology couldn’t be cascaded to all our levels. So we also needed a tool to be able to deal with everything that means business as usual, our operational activity, and everything that comes along with this hard stuff. That was one thing, so we needed a tool to mix those things. And also, because as I was saying, it was, first of all a leadership change, we started to take into consideration, of course, the continuous feedback and feedforward. But we know that we are not that type of organisation yet that will do that in a tool, we do that with visible and transparent methodology from the moment we’re going to start it. So we also needed a mix between continuous feedback and, let’s say, push surveys, but a type that it’s easy for us to manage, and also gives us the opportunity to look better, because it’s a very smart tool in terms of reporting also. So we know, and we feel the pulse of the organisation. And we know when to interfere if we need to. So this was the mix of, let’s say, things that we saw Nestor has, and also looking for further in other collaboration, of course, opportunities by looking into our future roadmap, which means the type of skills profiling that Nestor can include, if we are going to take this opportunity in the organisation, but of course, that’s going to be another selection procedure. But we were, of course, looking further to other types of collaboration and to be certain that Nestor is a flexible and more, let’s say, elastic tool enough to be able to embed other HR processes, except the classic ones that, of course, we have solutions for –  in terms of payroll, HCM, and other tools in that area. So I think the first and the most important thing for us that we’ve noticed was the flexibility of Nestor and the way it fits to our organisation and our pulse today.

Bretton: Yeah, that’s interesting. I’m seeing, for the leaders, this need to transform and adapt to remote work or hybrid work or whatever, you know, some form of work once this pandemic run its course. And I believe that you are already doing work at Orange to change the culture. So it’s interesting, because a lot of the companies I’m seeing, frankly, their leadership, have their heads in the sand a little bit. Even with this COVID pandemic happening it’s like, ‘oh, hopefully it’ll go away and we can go back to normal’, which is not going to happen. But it’s interesting that you, as an organisation, you’ve already made decisions to change almost before the C. Did that help you with this transition? And what was the thinking behind your culture change, your culture transition, this whole programme that you’ve been going through?

Laura: Well, it was a, let’s say, pretty long journey until now. It started about, I think two years ago. It started with design thinking exercise around our HR big services for the organisation. After that, the prototypes that we had were around skills and projects market on one thing, around talent management on the other thing, and of course, on performance, because we knew for sure that we needed to change it anyway. And to be able to be more adapted to other needs that we have, to the fact that our organisation is going to be more and more complex, and we need to keep our talents and we need first of all, to see them clearly, and then to be able to keep them. So, we started this transformation culture about, as I said, two years ago, of course, with a large exercise, like a design thinking and also profiling the whole organisation. Of course, we found out many things, and it was a very hard exercise to pick the smart battles and to prioritise what to begin with. And this is why we had the, let’s say, top two or three projects that we have now, the first one was the leadership one, as I was saying before, a transition from leadership and individual interactions to team and collaboration and going to the real meaning of the team enabler for our company, and the big potential that teams have, instead of individuals. And the second one was, and it still is, this big one, the new performance ecosystem, because in fact is not a process, it’s a mix of many products. So we had this in mind, we knew that this was the direction and we still know that this is the direction now. It was at that moment, let’s say, more like aspirational one, we were dreaming. We know that all those words and all those things were fitting with our culture, we just needed to take action. But you know, when you need to make a change, there are these two things that need to happen. First of all, it has to be a big discomfort with the current state, and of course, a dream to have, an aspirational one. So the second of that we had before pandemic, pandemic gave us the discomfort with the current state because we know that we need to change it, it became a need to bring people closer, to keep the teams together around the common objective of the sense of belonging and the sense of meaning around the work. So this becomes crucial now, when people are not together, and we are a very relationship based organisation, who works with us knows that, we are together all the time, we meet a lot, we are friends beyond working relationships, and at this moment is very hard for us. So we need, let’s say, this type of small steps into the most common processes, to be sure that people are coming together, and are still there together around their teams, around their managers, they meet, they have the conversations that they need, they know the why behind their work. Those were things that were happening very naturally in the past, at the office, in a break, of course, at a coffee break, at lunch, we’re discussing a lot. And now we always need a Zoom or a Teams meeting to do that. So we need something else. This change comes with this kind of needs, also. We didn’t imagine it at the moment we started this, this is true.

Bretton: Yeah, I think it’s quite hard to imagine the situation where the whole world is all in the same boat in this odd place. So I think for a company like Orange to go through a really big culture transformation, like this, is a big step. But Bogdan, I mean, Orange is what I sort of disparagingly call a big, hairy gorilla. It’s a rather large piece of an animal. And I’m sure you’ve got other smaller SMEs or mid sized companies. Give us an idea of the other companies you work with and are they as aware of the culture change that Orange is aware of? What are you experiencing on that side, with your other customers and the other sizes of customers that you work with?

Bogdan: So thanks for the question. We, at Nestor, work with companies of all sizes and all growth stages, beginning from startups with just a few small teams, to enterprise Fortune 100 companies, in industries like finance, IT, software development, real estate, and even HR tech. Our solution fits perfect for enterprises. But at the same time, it’s an awesome resource for small and medium businesses. The difference comes in deployment, implementation and actually who drives the process. In the case of small and medium businesses, the Nestor platform offers them a strong framework to start building really early on solid foundation for their culture, and actually maintaining it through success, through growth stages. This is usually driven and streamlined by the processes in Nestor, which is out of the box. But the difference when it comes to medium and large enterprises is that the HR department leads the process, it takes full control, and needs full support and the right tools to drive their desired processes, and this is what Nestor helps them achieve. For for SMEs, we have a flexible product that lets you set up and start small, and gradually introduce and synchronise with each growth step in your organisation. Things like team culture fit, achieving performance, coaching and leadership development. I think no matter the stage of the company is in, we believe that it’s important to have data driven tools that can help you drive and along the way even evaluate the leadership culture in your organisation. As in for the second part of the question, I really do think that if in the beginning, a lot of companies and we experienced this, at a lot of companies have not been aware of the change that’s happening, and they kind of hoped, I think everybody hope for the best, that this will pass in one or two months, and things will get back to normal, well, it became over the summer a reality and a new way of doing business actually. So I think, if they were not aware of it now, they feel it. So it’s becoming a new reality.

Bretton: Yeah, I think what I’m finding is that we were lazy in the office, because the office almost did the work for us, of developing and maintaining our culture, that osmosis that happen bumping into somebody saying ‘hi’ and the informal communication, the camaraderie, that social connection that just happened and leaders could, frankly, be lazy. And the ones actually who worked harder at it, I believe did a better job and actually will have a better transformation into this new reality of remote or hybrid work, like the way Orange is going through. I’m interested, Bogdan, can you give us a little bit more detail on the data side of it? So, what kind of data, how do you surface it, how is it used? Just a little bit more granular information for our listeners and watchers.

Bogdan: So, as I mentioned before, we have multiple modules and multiple data point collections, which create in the end an employee profile for each employee in the organisation. This helps you see it in a granular level seat, at a team level, and at kind of a department level. So you can really dive into data as deep as you want. This collection creates for for us, in Nestor, a profile that’s both professional and behavioural. So you’re looking at two sides at the same time, so you’re you’re looking at kind of the operational part of it, where you see how things are going, how the business, as usual, goes in the organisation, but at the same time, you see what drives the people in your organisation, and assures you that their career in line with the direction of the company.

Bretton: Okay, cool. So what are your experiences, Laura, of the positives and minuses of working with a startup? There must be challenges of working with a startup, you’re getting the speed, but you may be not getting all of the delivery that you’d expect? And then how did you connect that all into the company? Because they are connecting into the back end, and not, you know, not the core part of the the operation, but a lot of the back end of the operation? How did how did you make that happen with IT and getting your IT department to often think they can build it themselves? Or can do some of it themselves? How did that work? How did that come about?

Laura: Well, that’s a stream itself in this project. In fact, the operational model that we have between Nestor and our internal team was one thing that we took, let’s say,  very seriously, because, in fact, and building on what Bogdan was telling you before about the data and information that we have around our people, this is, in fact, one of our biggest directions today. So for that, of course, we needed new competencies around the company and also an IT team, let’s say, not necessarily dedicated, but fully on board with this subject. So this IT team who is handling now all our people needs in terms of analytics information that we are now having, and of course, trends, and anything that we feel now that it’s very important for us, as a big company. So this IT team is also engaged with the same objectives and the same mission that Nestor has, so this is why they’re working together, in fact. First of all, on the, let’s say, critical streams, making those connections between our database and what we need in Nester and all this stuff, I’m not good at this, but I trust them that they’re going to make it happen better and with our standards, that we need, and we know this is happening now. But also, in terms of, let’s say, future projects that we have, and the way we are looking at our internal clients and the way that we are looking at our people it’s very important for us, now as HR. So, as I was saying, the operational model that we have with the only IT that is a single point of contact with all those issues and became very specialised with those requests that we have, is, of course, working together and very close with Nestor to make this happening if it is about the adapt of the Nestor tool or the Nestor product, or it’s about the connections that we need, with our systems, the reporting, everything that we need to be in place. So in terms of operating model, is this one, it’s a mixed team, and the way that we were working without necessarily having this as a purpose was an agile one, because we started with the proof of concept, first of all, that we were running with some of our colleagues. And of course, based on their feedback and the project team feedback, they were together, making small adjustments  to the product. So this was a common effort, in fact, it’s a mixed team, it’s a mixed project team, that implies our internal IT and Nestor, of course. In terms of what means working with a startup, I think it’s a very, very long discussion here, it was a very long learning, and a very good experience that we are still, of course, living with them. Working with startup, of course, means flexibility and time to delivery that we need, and that’s something that it’s, I don’t know, common sense, I think, in terms of what startups as, let’s say, brand mean. Also, from my point of view, now, as an HR specialist, what’s very important with a startup is the fact that a startup can concentrate on delivering a very detailed solution. They work very hard on, let’s say, limited subjects, they are not good at everything, their solution is good for any HR approach or for any HR service. No, it’s a very targeted product, for targeted needs and this is what we were, in fact, looking for, to build that trust around the fact that there are experts on this field, more experts than we are. We know that we are learning, we are discovering new methodologies, we are discovering and we are going in a new HR area, and we are going together, and they are looking close to what they are selling, they know what they are selling, they know very well their product, they are adapting to what we need, and that’s very important. Otherwise, going with the, probably, more general solution would have meant a lot of adjustments, as Bogdan was saying before. This is a tailored, let’s say, internal process, we were driving the design of the process. But of course, their expertise, and sometimes Bogdan is bouncing back to my request and he’s questioning why we need the things, and of course, these are very good challenges that coming from him, because he loves his product and he believes in the methodology. And sometimes we are trying to make it more elastic to fit all our feedbacks and sometimes it’s, probably, not the right way. So a startup that believes in his product and a startup that knows very well his product and the core of the needs that they are going for, I think that’s a very good and big asset. So in terms of, let’s say, not so happy, I don’t know experience, there is nothing that comes to my mind at this moment, but of course, working with startup means, probably, more concerns in terms of security, we had to be very careful about the support subject, because, of course, as a big company and thousands of internal clients, we have to be very careful about the support that we received from Nestor, as a support line, that’s one thing. And it was very important for us that, in fact, Nestor is a local and works with the same timeframe as we are, because other experts in terms of OKR methodology and continuous feedback we found in United States or other countries that are far away from us and working with another timeframe, and that was a concern. And also, in terms of the way that we are directing and the way that we are dealing with ticketing and stuff like that it’s, of course, not my area of expertise, but in those areas of troubleshooting and support, we had to be, of course, very careful. And the way that we are dealing the operational model for maintenance, that might have been, let’s say, some sort of concern, because this is where questions may come up with a startup, are they going to be on the market or not, things like this, and how are going to handle this relationship on a long term when it comes to maintenance. And because this is, let’s say, a spot or an area that we don’t have support on, or we don’t have history, Nestor doesn’t have history, or other big companies in Romania, or around our HR connections, on the group side, let’s say, don’t have proof of continuity, of course, it might be a concern. But in fact, we gave the vote of trust and we know that we’re gonna deal with this, and it’s gonna be a very, very long collaboration, not just to buy and adapt the product, but also on one maintenance.

Bretton: I think that vote of trust is really critical for startups, and I think it’s clearly got to be built in terms of how you and Bogdan, and your team work together and how you deliver. But you’re never gonna get to the perfect level of trust with this, you’ll never get it anyway, but you’re not going to be able to tick all the boxes in the same way you can tick with a larger organisation that’s used to doing this. I think that’s really hats off to you, the Orange team, for for doing this, because I see a lot of situations where companies get to this last hurdle and then somebody, and it’s often a lawyer, will come in and go, ‘No, we just you can’t deal with it’. So I’m personally impressed that you and your team have got to this and obviously that Bogdan and his team have given you the ability to trust him and and the team to deliver. Bogdan, on your side, what are the biggest challenges of working with Orange? I know they are your customer, and they’re an important customer, but myself and the other people out there would like to know   what are the challenges? And then can you just take us from, you know, the first conversations through Fab to launch? How long did that take and a little bit of that journey? And  maybe some of the challenges of working with this large gorilla.

Bogdan: So a lot has been said by Laura, but I’m gonna jump into the second part of the question where we were fortunate enough to be introduced to Orange and presented to them at the time they already had decided that they needed a outside platform to support their internal HR transformation process. So it only took us about six months from the initial conversation to becoming the chosen vendor and deploying in the organisation. And I think this was a kind of the right startup, at the right time, let’s say, to be dealing with this, so we were very fortunate in this. Of course, there are challenges and that come to us as every large organisation that we are working with, and this is no different. But as I was mentioning, before, we regard challenges and opportunity. And as a company, you have to allow space for challenges if you want to really innovate as a startup. So you really have to challenge yourself and be challenged to really get the the innovation going inside the company. I think one of the most powerful things to remember as a startup, for us, is to remember that you have to make something that resonates with the client. So we keep a close partnership, we exchange ideas and actively seek feedback on our product. This is what makes the product better and makes it to fit their needs better. For us, a big challenge was the beginning of all of this, when we went through the complicated RFP acquisition process. It was a first experience for us. Before entering the competition to provide a solution to Orange, we haven’t experienced this, but we treated each step of the way, of the process, very, very seriously and very rigorously, and in the end, it was a great experience for us to go through the process, from start to finish and to experience this. And of course, it was very rewarding for us to win it, as a startup.

Bretton: And so, in terms of that initial stage of it, adapting, what did you do from a team perspective? Did say obviously, we’ve got this big opportunity, and then how did you organise internally to be able to deal and adapt and respond both to Orange’s requests, but also, business as usual, day to day work? How did you how did you set the team up?

Bogdan: So we, as I mentioned earlier, we knew that we would have to focus a team around developing and adapting the tool for Orange and for their purposes, for their internal purposes, so we planned for this, we also knew that they would require a close consultancy and support from us. And this means, I think me and Laura every other day, we are talking on the phone, even if not Zoom or e-mail. So we kind of try to cover everything and we kind of left no page unturned, so we try to dive deeper into subjects and to analyse the process behind, understand very well and offer them the best solution that will also fit the product direction in the future, so that they can in the future benefit of the new features coming in Nestor. So we’re always trying to, kind of keep a common line and give them visibility about what’s going to happen from our product perspective in the future.

Bretton: Speaking of implementation, what did you deploy it in when and how? Did you deploy it into a smaller team? Did you deploy the first sort of functionality and then add functionality? How have you done that? What’s the approach been?

Bogdan: So since we have a holistic approach to the process, it usually is impossible to deploy the entire solution at once. So together with Laura and her team, we decided to go through a multi step, or gradual deployment, so that each user is not getting overwhelmed with all the new elements of the process at once and of the tool, and has time to adapt to each step. This was needed, especially since introducing a new process and a new tool at the same time is challenging. And it needs to be in tandem with internal messaging of the organisation, the internal steps, the internal pacing of the organisation. And Orange is moving extremely fast, I have to say, and I know Laura is pushing every day to make it happen faster.

Bretton: Laura, talk us through that support of, you know, internal support, internal pushing the internal communication cadence. Take us through what you did there for the success, because I often see companies get to the stage ‘Okay, we’ve signed the deal’ and then it goes, ‘nothing really happens’. So what have you done then? And why is it work so well?

Laura: Well, first of all, to tell you the truth, we are still doing it. In fact, let’s say, the roadmap of the project looks like six months of implementation from the moment that we had Nestor as our partner within this. So the implementation was piloting to adjust the users, piloting to adjust the tool as I always telling you before, for three months. Three months for internal trainings, that means all people managers in classroom of course, Zoom classroom, and other types of communications, meetings with managers, meetings with directors, everything that was very important to be done. And our, let’s say, very lucky input is that the tool, because as I was saying before, and you, of course, felt it in the conversation, that change is not the tool, that change is the mindset and the process itself. Our very lucky asset is Nestor, because it’s a very friendly tool, so the tool, first of all, doesn’t bring efforts to be adopted, but it’s the effort of the new behaviours that needs to be adopted, and that’s not a very simple thing to do. This is why the first wave were those first six months of implementation, and the second wave is another half year wave, which means to quarterly rolling out that we are going to assist the company, the people managers and the teams to properly use the process. So the adoption plan is, in fact, longer than the implementation plan. So I think that’s very time consuming resource, in terms of people, HR people, resource consuming, but it’s the only way to success, this kind of change. Otherwise, of course, it could have been a very sexy solution, we have Nestor, it’s a very nice tool, is very friendly, we could have launched it, and that’s it, but of course, it would have been probably easy mission. But of course, we knew that the outcome of this change wouldn’t be there. And probably next actions after one year or two years to revive, to rebound, to look again at what we’re doing and for sure, changing some real stuff. So that was not an option, and with this pandemic, of course, it’s not an option. So probably taking the time and the energy to be close to our colleagues during this adoption it’s a very good thing, coming with the moment, with this pandemic, as we were talking before, with also probably a very good moment to bounce, a very good moment to talk because we won’t be talking and we won’t be dealing and exchanging feedback about this process, but of course, about all our changes and challenges that our leaders have. So I think it’s a very, very useful moment to take all the advantages and the opportunity of.

Bretton: Yeah, I think the best company, although this is very trying and challenging at the moment, the best companies, both large and small, are looking to find the opportunities and make the opportunities and find the silver lining into this very dark cloud at the moment. And Laura, in terms of results, what’s been achieved, what can you share with us? What’s been a success so far?

Laura: So far, what we are doing, it’s running the process in this quarter that is going to end in a few weeks, doubling the existing process because of course, we couldn’t end an internal performance process during the year. So we had some, let’s say, milestones that come from the yearly and quarterly and half year cadences of financial results and our old process, so we couldn’t switch earlier this year. So now, all the teams are embarked with the tool, are using it, surveys, setting objectives, trainings, and everything, this is now done and the tool is in place, is running from a few weeks now with all our colleagues. So this is a very good achievement, a great achievement, in fact, because we took the time and the quarter to learn and this was the meaning of it, the learning cycle, as we say we had it. So it was a very important step for us, and of course, the tool was in place for all the trainings. I worked in learning before this project and, of course, I remember how important it is to have everything in place the moment you need your organisation to start learning, not to start doing. Of course, learning by doing is the most effective one, but it can leave marks, so now we had this, let’s say, luxury of having this quarter of learning, and the great achievement, let’s say, is the fact that we had it and that we took the most advantage of it. So everybody in the company or people managers had at least one experience with the new process. And now we are, of course, preparing the official launch, which means communicating internally all the aspects of the new process, because, first of all, we focused on the new methodology of setting objectives, which is one of the biggest changes. But of course, now we have to be very careful with all other aspects that the performance process has, and now we are switching to communication again. So, in terms of what has been the result, until now, it’s a lot of word of mouth, everybody knows what’s going to happen, everybody took the chance to work with, with the tool by now, so when facing with the first of January, the new process, everybody’s on board and knows what’s going to deal with, so that’s a very great achievement, I believe. And what’s another, let’s say, result that we are hoping for, and we are aiming for, but this won’t be a quick one like this, we won’t be living it now, we are going to be living it probably in two years, or one and a half year, anyway, more than two rolling outs of the new process. So that’s going to be a new curve, that’s a new curve, not a Gauss one, in terms of performance, but the new curve of performance which is going to be more close to what we are now having as challenges within the organisation. Of course, dealing with talent, dealing with making our people more visible within the company, but those are the effects that we’re going to hope for after we’re going to rollout the new process more than two times. And of course, because it did bring in terms of business performance, also some very big new changes, those one we’re going to probably see more quickly.

Bretton: I think it’s a tremendous achievement for a big organisation to get it to the stage as quickly as it has. I work with smaller companies, you know, 50 to 100-150 size companies, and sometimes take me takes me a long time to get 150 people going in the right direction. So actually making this shift has been a very, very good achievement of getting it done so quickly. Bogdan, from your point of view, why do you think this partnership has succeeded to date? And what do you think the lessons you’ve learned are, that you can share with other startups?

Bogdan: So first of all, we are honoured to be working with a partner such as Orange and we are thankful for their trust in us even if it was a blind trust in the beginning. And I know they took a big leap of faith when when choosing us. Since then, we have discovered that there is a consistent alignment between Nester’s direction of the product, and the future plans and inside trends in Orange, in terms of modern people management. We were extremely pleasantly surprised to see that an organisation of their size can be extremely open to new and innovative ideas and how open they are in driving the adoption of the future of work trends inside their organisation, so this was a very pleasant surprise for us. Overall, I think the partnership is succeeding and I like to think that it’s succeeding. It’s because we keep an engaged and active communication, we always take valuable feedback from them. And both of us, at Nestor and Orange, though it may seem surprising, move forward, and I would dare to say that we are moving at a speed of a startup.

Bretton: Very good. And Laura, from your perspective, lessons learned that really stand out for you, and why you think it’s working at the stage?

Laura: Well, I think there are lots of lessons to learn from this at this moment, and I hope we’re going to take the time that we need to really reflect on this, probably after this big milestone that we are having ahead now. But what I can tell you right now, and what we feel today, is that this relationship with Nestor works very well, because it is based, first of all, on trust, and I think that’s the most important thing. And besides that, as I was pointing out before, I think for us very important is the way that they believe in their product, and the way they are leading changes, and finding the most simple solution to sometimes very complicated request that we have, of course, with our internal team also. But this, let’s say, drive to solutions, and to the most simple ones that are, you know, probably sometimes the most intelligent ones, and then looks like they’re coming from a bigger complexity before and sometimes that’s exactly how it is. But their experience with their product and the way that they believe in it, I think this is what is keeping this working. And from day to day, as Bogdan was saying before, we have a very close collaboration loop, and that team or that operational team that I was mentioning before, of course, has recurring meetings and keeps the track, the live one, in almost real time, so that’s very important. That’s not necessarily the way we do things in Orange. We don’t use the agile in all our internal developments or in all our international projects. But of course, it’s a lesson for us too, to move that quickly, not necessarily adopting a methodology, but adopting a rhythm. So I think it’s a lesson also for us that things can be done.

Bretton: Excellent. And my last question is for both of you, and maybe, Bogdan, you can start and Laura, you can finish us off, but what one piece of advice would you give founders looking to work with Orange, in particular? What’s the one thing you could say this is what I highly recommend?

Bogdan: So I would advise any founder in startup that is solving the real life problem, first of all, as Laura was saying, to know their space very well and have trust that they have the necessary expertise in this. And know from us that it’s just a myth that large enterprises will not talk or choose the solution provided by a startup. So against all odds, this is possible and it’s not just something that’s not not doable. At the same time, I would advise them to be patient, to have the necessary patience, because selling into enterprise can be a lengthy process. At the same time, once you get into the solution, you have to be agile, you have to be open to feedback, and really have a degree of flexibility in adapting your solution and in understanding the real needs behind the requests.

Bretton: Thanks. Laura, and in two minutes, what are your what are your thoughts on advice?

Laura: Well, building on what Bogdan was saying, I think also, too, that having patience is gonna be a very good asset, because Nestor was also lucky, as I was saying before, that was the right solution at the right moment. But also, I think, for a startup and for us, as a big company, to give the vote of trust to a startup, is to be very clear, first of all, for yourself on what’s the mission of your product, was the mission of your company, and what are the specific needs that you want to address? What problems do you think you’re going to solve for big company with your products? Is that clear for you as a startup, is that clear on your, let’s say business case, on your everything that you’re promoting, the product will solve that? And trust me on this one, because big companies are looking for specific products, for things that might solve on a very quickly based a specific problem, and this is a trend that is starting now. So believe in your product, be very frank and be very honest on your mission and what you want to achieve by being a partner with a big company. And when that’s clear, everything, I think, becomes easier.

Bretton: Awesome, thank you both, it’s been a fascinating conversation. I really enjoyed it, and it’s great to see this happening in these big companies. Thanks to How to Web and Orange for hosting us and hope you all have a great day. Thank you.

Bogdan: Thank you!

Laura: Thank you, too!


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