“It’s not just about ‘wowing’ our customers but our people as well.” So says GK Mishra, SapientNitro Technology Director/European Union Expert and Account Lead for one of the United Kingdom’s leading global retailers. It’s this motto that has enabled GK to successfully produce breakthrough work while keeping his team members engaged, excited and motivated on the construction of a long-term multichannel platform and international program. This complex platform is the realization of state of the art systems-thinking that’s scaling seamless narratives that tie brands to their clients in an always on world.
GK’s team leadership won him the 2012 Sapient Founder’s Award – the company’s most prestigious acknowledgement. Read on to find out how GK is producing game-changing experiences for his customers and team members in the creation of one of the largest ecommerce installations in Europe.
GK started working at SapientNitro nearly two years ago. The company promptly threw him into the fire by tasking him with the development of a new site in a new country for this global retailer. “I was working with people across the creative and technology spectrum to conceive of new and compelling ways to connect this client to their customer base,” said GK. Success was critical to winning the big prize - the client’s need for a massive multichannel platform and international program. The competition was stiﬀ – global industry leaders including a conglomerate of five top companies. Luckily GK’s team’s one-oﬀ site was a success and SapientNitro won the bid.
“In addition to being a large revenue generator in itself, the account gave us a chance to prove our retail prowess in the European market – our ability to tell stories, or what we call ‘storyscaping’– to a world digitally engaging via the Internet, mobile devices and even in-store,” said GK .“To deliver the complex multichannel platform, we had to scale our team from 12 to 200 people in two months – a tall order given the high-level skill-set we needed. The pressure was intense.”
GK hired mostly Java developers and immediately immersed them in a ramp-up program that included training on platforms like WCS, Endeca, and DAY CQ, as well as business sessions and mockup exercises.
“To make it fun and to connect with the client’s brand, we gave our new employees quizzes about this global corporate giant and sent them on tours of the actual store.”
In large scale projects – such as this one – with three year horizons, it’s easy for leads to be consumed by the demands of the work itself and neglect the needs of team members. But GK knew that his young team would burn out with stringent timelines and challenging targets over a span of 3 years. “SapientNitro has an unparalleled expertise in creating online experiences that connect customers to large corporate brands. My goal: extend this expertise to experiences that connect adrenaline-driven developers to a long-haul project. I needed everyone on my team to be inspired by the importance of this project – their personal role in the story – that’s moving the industry forward.”
GK launched a number of initiatives to ensure team members’ work/life balance. “No matter how demanding the work became, I wanted to make sure that we never lost sight of our commitment to people management.” To this end he institutionalized “5:30 Fridays” and made team members get his approval – and in some cases fined them – if they worked late on Fridays, on weekends or on their anniversaries or birthdays.
“Sometimes you have to put in the extra hours to get the job done. But I’m of the philosophy that this should be the exception not the rule. If someone is making personal sacrifices, I want to ensure that it’s really necessary and not a result of poor management.”
GK also made sure that something exciting was always happening on the shop floor. For example, GK initiated:
Nearly two years and nine projects later, GK has turned this client into the poster child for SapientNitro’s excellence in the international retail ecommerce space. GK’s ability to execute a large scale program and his commitment to people success won him SapientNitro’s highest award - the Founders Award.
“Normally people management is seen as a distraction from the actual work of large-scale projects,” said GK. “But this project’s success stems directly from the attention we gave to the company’s greatest asset- our people. We haven’t had the attrition you normally see with long-term projects. The outstanding product we produced – on time and budget - is a direct result of the inspired and motivated nature of this team.”
GK credits SapientNitro for giving him the freedom to launch these initiatives. “Other companies that I’ve worked for fear change and stifle new ideas. SapientNitro, on the other hand, gives you a free hand to manage as see you fit. It’s as if you’re running your own company. We strive to be our best because SapientNitro gives us the opportunity to turn ideas into reality."