Focus On

The six characteristics needed to thrive in a complex work environment

By Elizabeth Akass, Editor, Engage Business Media

Samsung explains why being entrepreneurial, patient, smart, resilient, and skilled at negotiation are key to thriving in a large and complex work environment.

Samsung is one of the most successful electronics brands in the world today. It produces a wide range of consumer products, including: phones, TVs, tablets, cameras, smartwatches, VR headsets, computers, laptops, printers, home appliances, security systems, and many more. Founded in South Korea, the company has played an integral part in transforming the country’s economy over the past 50 years, helping it develop from one of the poorest countries in the world to one of the wealthiest, contributing over 17% of its GDP.

Nick Milne, Director of Customer and Marketing Analytics at Samsung, introduces the company further: “Politically and economically, Samsung is very important in South Korea.” He notes that although Samsung is most known for its electronics, it has also played a role in creating some iconic landmarks. “Not many people know that Samsung built the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, and the Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur. The building of the Petronas Towers is one of the key reasons Samsung is known for the quality, and speed, of its work.”

He explains the transformation that has occurred in his team’s work and objectives since he joined the company. “When I joined the Samsung European office two and a half years ago, we were in a position where we just had specific little projects that we were picking up from an analytics perspective, and this wasn’t creating the impact that we needed within the organisation to really sell what data and analytics could do for Samsung.”

To progress from this, his team created a framework which informed the organisation that they were becoming outcome-focused in terms of their approach to analytics. “Then, everything you do needs to better understand how you drive acquisition, retention, customer engagement, and also that you can pull all of the analytics projects together to show how they are working to deliver to that end goal.” Milne explains that he had a two-year timeframe to prove the worth of this: “Samsung works on two-year cycles, so every local market, every business unit, has a CEO for two years and then they move on to the next job. You need to show your senior stake holders and leaders that you’re delivering value within those two years.”

He emphasises the importance of being able to show a clear set of deliverables in reaching your end goals. “Having a North star, our marketing excellence framework, was great, but you need to show the organisation the stats and deliverables that you are going to be delivering which help you get to that North star, and therefore show the value of each of those as you are progressing,” he says. “That’s what’s really important, because you need to have credibility with your approach, and you need to show that the approach is working. If you break it down into those smalls steps and you can say that each of those steps has delivered value along the way, then this gives you credibility, momentum, and the impact you want as an organisation to be able to say that you want to do more, and you’re going to deliver more and add value through doing it.”

To help in achieving this effectively, Milne discusses six characteristics that have been key to his team’s success. The first is to be entrepreneurial. “You can’t just have one or two projects that you are working on, you need to have a number of different projects that are in different stages of growth and maturity. At any point the organisation is going to change, and the tools and the capabilities that you’re delivering and that have helped add value to the organisation is going to have to change as well. At any point we might have between five and seven projects on the go at different stages that we’re delivering, and then we’ve had to change direction depending on where demand is in the business.”

The next characteristics are to be patient, be smart, and be resilient. “You need to be flexible when working with other departments within the business, and know how you add value on top of what’s already being delivered elsewhere. Over and above everything else, being resilient is the number one thing you need.”

The final elements are to persevere and know how to negotiate. “When I joined Samsung, I took over a project that was a vision of our previous European president, but it didn’t mean much other than people saying that Samsung needed a business intelligence platform,” he says. “We needed to understand what that was, what it would look like, how we would get there, what we needed to do it in terms of investment and resource. Negotiation and perseverance were particularly important over the 12 months and four trips it took out to our HQ office in South Korea to get approval to launch the platform. There is always going to be back and forth, especially in an organisation as big and complex as Samsung. At every stage you have to work quickly and be able to show the value your work is adding.”

Milne highlights that the biggest challenge Samsung is currently navigating is moving from a product-led approach to a customer-led one, and he explains the progress Samsung wants to make in this area. “We talk about the fact that we need to become more customer-focused rather than product-focused, but that’s quite hard to do – particularly in an organisation like Samsung where you haven’t needed to be as customer-focused as other organisations because the attractiveness of your product comes through the great innovation and quality of the product that Samsung has.”

He continues: “We’ve also got more competitors coming into the market producing equally good quality phones, but selling them at a cheaper price than Samsung or Apple. For us, the approach that we traditionally had was around the point of purchase, but now we as an organisation need to start thinking how we can operate differently, and create personalised experiences and communications for customers over their lifetime. If a customer buys a phone at month zero and they are looking to buy a phone again at month 28, then  we’ve got 28 months of opportunity to talk to our customers in a way that’s relative to them rather than just bombarding them with sales messages.”

“We need to become more customer-focused and really understand what that means, and then deliver those experiences and communications in a relative fashion and in an integrated way,” Milne says. “We don’t currently tap into emotional messaging with our customers as much as we could, and we want to start doing that more often across our customer touchpoints.”

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