Does low code enable the impossible in enterprise?
Meet our hosts
John Koetsier and Peggy Anne Salz
Previously, he was the Mobile Economist for TUNE and the VP Insights for Singular.
IN THIS EPISODE OF LOW-CODE NINJAS :
You have to meet your customers and clients where they are, and increasingly, that means on mobile — even if you’re Bain & Company. In this episode of Low Code Ninjas, our hosts Peggy Anne Salz and John Koetsier, talk to Greg Callahan, partner at Bain about how the consulting firm is developing a B2B2B model enabled by a solid app, adapted to how Bain has been doing business for over 40 years.
Bain is in the business of “people change, behavior change” driving this change requires a mobile presence that delivers the results. Tune in to hear how Greg zeroes in on the importance of delivering something that people can understand and really use when it comes to a mobile app. Learn how Bain — with FollowAnalytics’ help — has built its app to be “useful, usable and intuitive.” Learn how Bain is defining a quality B2B2B app experience and more.
(This transcript has been lightly edited for clarity).
John Koetsier: Does low code enable the impossible in enterprise? Welcome to Low Code Ninjas.
Peggy Anne Salz: My name is Peggy Anne Salz. We’re the co-hosts here, and we look at low code at a lot of levels and a lot of verticals. But today, it’s about the enterprise, you know, where does it fit? What can it do? What can it enable, empower even, in the sales force?
John Koetsier: Excellent. And I’m John Koetsier. And specifically, we’re talking about what was formerly impossible, or at least very, very impractical. Things that took a long time or a lot of money. We’re talking about new apps that enhance processes and enhance workflow.
Peggy Anne Salz: And of course it’s more than that. It’s great to have an uptick in productivity, but massive increases in sales we’re going to hear about today, John. I was amazed. And we’re going to hear about that from Greg Callahan. Greg is a partner at Bain, a massive consulting company, I believe 40 years of history, bringing that all to mobile first. His focus: mobile marketing and sales, particularly B2B, or as he likes to call it B2B2B, right? So, Greg, great to have you here.
John Koetsier: So, to kick off Low Code Ninjas, we’re gonna chat with somebody who’s building mobile apps for top brands, with a low-code platform. They’re rich, they’re full-featured, they’re full on mobile apps, and we’re going to dive into it.
Greg Callahan: Terrific. Thanks for having me. Excited.
John Koetsier: We are very excited about it as well. And I actually worked for a company once that was acquired by Bain, I believe, so kind of interesting here. You know, Greg, this is different for us. We’re usually talking to marketers, we’re talking to mobile marketers, we’re talking to data scientists, other people like that. This is our first time where we’re having an analyst and a consultant on. You are a partner at Bain, obviously. Tell us a little bit about what you do there to set the context for some things that you’re going to talk about later.
Greg Callahan: Sure, absolutely. So, you know, I’d say until about 24 months ago my job was servicing and supporting Bain clients globally. And I spent all of my time in what we call “commercial excellence,” which is all-around product, marketing, and sales. And so how do you get the most out of your go-to-market organization. And in that role, I’ve worked across multiple organizations across multiple topics. And one topic that keeps coming back over and over and over again, and where we drive material value with our clients, is really in account planning. And so we went down this journey of saying, we love to partner, we love to work with different digital solutions to just try and make sure that we’re bringing the best to bear with our clients, and so it’s taking Bain methodology and digital solutions from partners. And what we ended up finding is that we couldn’t find someone to partner with, that we really wanted to partner with, and so we started down this journey of building out our own sets of solutions built off of Bain’s methodology. And so that’s why I’m here today, is really with a … I think of us as a startup inside of a broader consulting firm.
Peggy Anne Salz: So that’s really interesting because you’re talking about what you enable at Bain, you know, but thinking about how that’s delivered. Now some of us, John and I for example, we don’t have a choice. We live mobile first. But I’m imagining that’s not the same case for the enterprise, correct?
Greg Callahan: That’s right. We certainly, as you look across all of the sales tech, there’s just been an explosion of sales tech, but the reality is, is that so much of that sales tech is actually not being deployed in a mobile way. Or if it does have a mobile device it’s not being adopted. And so, it really starts with having the right set of answers and methodology and building that into a mobile first approach that is usable, accessible, and ultimately adopted by sales organizations.
Peggy Anne Salz: And that’s about account planning. That’s what you’re really focused on, right? So what makes for a great experience there? Because that’s not just an app, that’s quite customized. That’s quite… it has to be actionable, actually. It’s not enough just to be on mobile and be an app.
Greg Callahan: Absolutely. I think there are a couple things, is we spent a lot of time working with our clients and understanding their needs. And so as with all organizations, as you start with kind of what are you building and what are you trying to achieve, there are a couple of things that came back loud and clear. The first was, hey, I only want to make my changes once, and so it needs to be deeply integrated with my CRM. And so if I’m making decisions, I’m thinking about a solution, I’m thinking about context with my account. I certainly don’t want to be duplicating my effort in multiple places. The second piece was, I need a really simple, intuitive interface and I need it to coach me through how to be more strategic. And so, as we think about it, you know, the use and the accessibility and the application, it should be so simple to be strategic that you actually stop thinking about the technology. It all goes away and it’s actually a conversation with yourself and your team on how do you actually get to those strategic insights that are going to break open that account for you.
John Koetsier: It’s really interesting that you talk that way. Because when we look at the history of enterprise technology. The history of enterprise technology is not characterized by extreme usability.
Greg Callahan: Well we hope to fix that. That is for sure.
John Koetsier: Let’s talk about low code. You’re working with low code and you’re building products with that. How’s that fit in? Why have you used that?
Greg Callahan: Yeah, I think like all folks today, to spend one, two, three months, let alone one, two, three years trying to build something too bright is just not going to work in today’s day and age. And so, what was really compelling as we started to think about our path, was how can we take a truly agile test-and-learn approach in a low code environment where we can move rapidly, take best-of-breed things from different places and ultimately get to a solution much faster. And that’s actually not only for us, but also for our clients at the end of the day, and our customers. They’re constantly coming back with feedback of, ‘Have you thought about this? Have you thought about this? Can you incorporate these elements?’ And building this whole application in a low code way just enables our speed of response to be much, much faster.
John Koetsier: So Greg, that’s really, really cool. You’re building really neat things. But I want to delve into a little bit of how low code’s making the difference for you. So, characterize for us what it looks like to build a mobile app from the ground up, native mobile app, you know, what’s the time involved and the cost involved to do the sorts of things that you would want to do, versus using a low code platform. What’s that difference?
Greg Callahan: Sure. So at the end of the day, the way we thought about it is what is the experience we want to drive? How do we want our users to engage? And ultimately when we think about our users, they’re both engaging on desktop and on mobile. And we actually didn’t want that experience to be different at all. The ease of access, the ease of writing, the ease of engagement in both places should be the same. And as we built this up as a SaaS solution, we didn’t really want there to be massive variability across all of our different customer types. We actually wanted it to be simple, easy to use right off the bat. And so when we thought about the different solutions, there was… you could imagine there are many different ways to build out that tech stack and make it work. And what was pretty unique is we started with actually, what’s the design, how do we want to build, and then what was unique is when we got to the actual movement to the mobile application with our partners, it was as quick as you can think. And so that was what’s truly unique about the building experience. And so, I can tell you it was materially cheaper to use a low code option, but also it didn’t impact the user experience. And that’s the big, that was the big unlock for us. We did not want to have a worse user experience outcome. And in fact, it was easier to do, it was cheaper to build, and we got the same type of experience that we wanted both on desktop and on mobile. And that’s what we wanted to try with our users.
Peggy Anne Salz: So we understand good reasons for leveraging a low code platform. The low code platform you’ve chosen, what company do you work with and how are you actually working to produce this product?
Greg Callahan: You know, we’re working with the team at FollowAnalytics, and they have been fantastic partners along the way. And I think what’s pretty unique about Follow, relative to other folks we’ve worked with, is they really help you along the way in the broader project management sense. And so, as you think about product, you could hire a set of software… a team, a software team, you name it and they can come in and give you some code and move on. But what’s pretty unique about the Follow team is that they really get in the weeds with you, understand your product, and so when you actually get the solution at the end of the day, it’s really what you wanted and much, much more. And so that is really what has made the partnership with Follow so strong. You know, they have the tech and I have complete confidence in the tech, but they combine the tech plus the team. That’s the special sauce.
John Koetsier: Very, very cool.
Peggy Anne Salz: Also hearing somewhere in there sort of like this evolutionary element there that, you know, you’re really pleased that you can get that experience, but you’re also in account planning. That’s a moving target, right?
Greg Callahan: Yes, it is. And I think at the end of the day, there are a couple of things that we’ve focused on as we think about account planning, which is … it needs to be super simple. There are so many account planning solutions and tools and methodologies, and you pick any topic in sales and everyone’s got an approach. And what you do is when you go out into the field and you talk to the sales organizations and the people on the frontline who have to do it, the only thing they tell you time and time and time again is, ‘You know what? This is a massive administrative burden on me, and you asked me 50 questions and then my marketing team came and added 10 more questions because they want to know answers, then finance asked me 10 more questions.’ And at the end of the day, this is not a useful exercise, and so for us, simple, simple, simple, simple, simple. And if the sales team is getting value out of it, that’s the target. And if they’re not, that’s the moment we need to start pulling back. And so, coming to your point, Peggy, yeah, it’s certainly a moving target. We believe, Bain’s been at this for 40 years and we’ve done it in a pretty analog way for many of them. And so we’ve been working at this for a long time and this was a big step change for us to take what was our analog approach and bring it to a digital medium.
John Koetsier: It’s really interesting to hear that because I’ve worked in companies in a number of different areas where I’ve seen sales and marketing work together — or try to work together — and sometimes that’s a real challenge. And there’s nothing more that salespeople hate than filling in fields in a CRM.
Greg Callahan: Yeah.
John Koetsier: They hate that. They want to do what they’re good at. They want to talk to people, they want to have discussions. They want to have, you know, the lunch and the meeting, and make the sale, and get the contract, and not fill out the million other questions. But guess what? The CFO needs stuff, and as you mentioned, all the other places need stuff. But you mentioned actually the results are really, really impressive there. And I gotta think, hey, at the end of the day, that’s what salespeople care about the most is actually growing. So what are some of the results you’ve seen in organizations where you’ve done this?
Greg Callahan: Yeah, absolutely. So very tangibly, we typically see account planning is focused on a subset of accounts. So you’re not gonna really do it on the long tail. It’s those accounts that you can drive differential performance in, in absolute dollars. And so whether it’s the enterprise accounts, you name them, or the top 400 accounts, or the midsize accounts on up, it’s that there’s a sweet spot in there. But for the accounts that you’re doing strategic account planning on, we typically see a 20 to 30% uplift in performance of those accounts. And what precedes that is, we typically see a three to five times increase in the actual pipeline for those accounts, and so you really see strategic results. And the reason is because we are so well trained as sales leaders, as sales reps, as people on the frontline to go after live opportunities. And so the entire CRM industry has trained us so well… what’s a phase one, what’s a stage one, what’s a stage five, what’s my proposal to negotiate, how do I get my live opportunities through the funnel.
But what we’ve lost in all that is actually going and stimulating demand. And so that’s what we believe is our secret sauce and what differentiates our methodology and approach versus others, is at the end of the day, we actually need to teach our customers what we do, and we actually need to show them how we’re different. And that means we actually have to go out and engage them and talk to them about our new solutions. You know, the constant, the feedback I always get from CEOs and senior sales executives is they host these large conferences for their top 100 customers or top 200 customers. And at the end of those two to three days of this dog and pony show, you take them all through the stuff, you shake their hand on the way out the door and they say, ‘You know what? This was amazing. I didn’t know you did that!’
And these are your top 100 to 200 accounts, ‘I didn’t know you did that. This was such a great learning for me.’
And the whole point of account planning is to remove — we have to eliminate that word from your largest customers. And we do that through proactive engagement, through sales process, and through account planning, and then ultimately account planning drives much bigger ticket sales.
Peggy Anne Salz: It’s really impressive with the pipeline, I have to say. I mean, the increase in sales, you know, 20, 30, we discussed 30 to 40, you know, it’s in that range change. But the pipeline being able to fill that, I think that’s really impressive. And you’ve done some other impressive research on growth overall. You know, what makes for a low-growth company versus a high-growth company? What are they doing differently? What are some best practice? And that’s going to be also very mobile-focused at this point.
Greg Callahan: Yeah.
Peggy Anne Salz: What are some of the things that you learned from that?
Greg Callahan: There are a couple of things that jump out. The first one is, everyone kind of knows what the right questions are, and so having the perfect question for account planning is not going to make the difference. Asking if what’s their growth strategy over 12 months, versus 18 months, vs 24 months, that’s not gonna be a game-changer. What we do find are the two really, really big drivers of performance. The first is: are you mining your best practices? Are you actually going in, you’re getting whatever the big deal wins are and codifying that and bringing it back to your sales organization. Getting your subject matter experts into those accounts where you need to make a difference. And so it’s really building best practices so that they can be repeatable.
And the second one, as you pointed out there, Peggy, is really about being so integrated within their workflow. And so, today, part of the challenge within sales is we have this massive swivel chair problem, whereby you’re in one application, then you’re in the next application for your incentives, and the next application for your enablement tools and whatnot. And what the feedback time and time again of high-growth business is, is that they have a mobile first approach. They’ve integrated it when it’s not on mobile and on desktop, it’s in your core applications, whether that be your CRM or something else, but everything has to be so natively integrated into your workflow that you never have to leave that environment. And so that is the pretty unique piece of this all, is that being mobile first was a prerequisite for high-growth businesses, and so you had to start there.
John Koetsier: Very, very interesting.
Peggy Anne Salz: I have to just digest that for a moment. That is one hell of a quote.
John Koetsier: Yeah, it actually is. We almost need that again. It reminds me of research I did, sheesh, it’s gotta be about two years ago and I took all the top 1000 companies on the Fortune 1000 list. And I looked at all the mobile apps from all those companies, gathered all those together and where they ranked, where they rated, how successful they were. And then I looked at the economic performance, financial performance of those companies, and the companies that were doing better financially over the past year, or multiple or series of time, had more mobile apps, had better mobile apps, had apps that were more popular.
Of course those were external outward-facing apps, but you’re talking about internal apps and apps that people use for company processes.
I want to talk a little bit about how you’re building them. What’s that process look like? How’s it work? I’m assuming that you’re not getting on a platform yourself personally, but talk to me a little bit about what that process looks like and how that platform works.
Greg Callahan: So as we think about our process and how do we work forward, clearly we have a multidisciplinary team. So we have architects, we have coding experts, we have design experts, we have product leaders, we have a whole… we have an agile team built together to really think about the customer first. And I realize we’re talking about apps, but if you’re not being customer-first, then you actually don’t have anything to bring to your customers.
And so as we think about our building process, we actually start, we always start with the design and how we want the user to work through our process. And so, we know the end outcome … we want to drive growth. We know what the strategic questions are, but we actually want to figure out how do we get them from those strategic questions to growth in the most efficient way. And so we start with the design.
And once we’ve really nailed down the design, then we actually work through, how do you actually put that into a mobile format? And so that’s what’s pretty unique with our team is that we all are working very, very purposefully to what is that user experience that we want to deliver so that they actually come back. And that is the big thing. Whether you pick your favorite thing — and I spent a lot of time in martech and salestech, and all this stuff. The number of people who open the application for the first time is quite high. The number of people who open up the second time is lower. And by the time you get to it, you know, if you look at most CRMs, the number of people using the mobile application for their CRM is like, 20% of the sales organization. It’s horrible.
John Koetsier: Yeah.
Greg Callahan: And so, it’s because it’s not worth the time, it’s clunky. And so that’s, we have to rethink that. And you need to have a tech stack flexible enough, and a low code set up flexible enough that you can actually do it quickly and on the fly.
John Koetsier: That’s interesting when you talk about your team of designers and developers, because sometimes when you have developers — and I’ve worked with, I’ve led a development team in the past for websites and for apps — and there’s a not-invented-here syndrome sometimes. And there’s a like ‘I build stuff’ right, ‘I build from the ground up.’ How has your team of developers worked with the low code platform and how’s that felt for them?
Greg Callahan: Well, John, you nailed it a bit. I think it’s everyone’s been learning together, and I think there’s been a lot of experience learned over the past 24 months through this journey. And I think we’re at a point now where there’s just built up trust. And I think like with all teams, whether we’re trying to climb Mount Everest, or we’re trying to build the best strategic account planning app on the planet, what we need in our cross-functional team is trust. And we need to believe that we’re all going to actually deliver on this. And so, yeah, there’s an element of just fundamental trust you need to put between the two teams to make the thing work.
Peggy Anne Salz: So we talked about how it is to build it. Let’s talk about the speed, right? The speed of what your clients want, because especially now, you know, agility it’s, it is like the buzzword. It has to be fast. It has to be flexible in these times. So using what exists, what have you been able to, perhaps in general terms, you know, performance or other uplift for you, for your clients. What’s low code done for you?
Greg Callahan: I’ll talk to the agility piece first, and then we can talk about performance. But I think as we think about the development of our application, and again, with all of our colleagues on the Follow team, when we started out on this process, we said we need to be agile in certain areas and we need to be strict in others.
And the reason being is that we don’t want people… the very foundation of what we talked about from the beginning is simplicity is key. And so we don’t want to leave such an open-ended application that you can add whatever you want and just create clutter within the app. And so what we, as we thought about our setup, is we need a clear structure, but then we’re going to create flexibility and agility where you can, where we don’t even have to be involved in the process and our customers are making all those design decisions.
And so, for example, whether it be, you know, you follow the process, but you’ve got to add your whole product stack and how is your products changing and what’s going on. Or who are the competition that you’re going after? Or you need agility that you’re adding opportunities all the time in your CRM or net new contacts, or you’re adding new people to your account team. And so as we thought about the buildout of our application we said, these are the things that need massive amounts of agility, and not only… we have instant connection with CRM, with our applications, so that if you change it in your CRM, and by the time you flip over to your mobile app or to the tab, it’s already in the system.
And so for us, it’s really about defining what were the areas that we needed massive, massive agility, and what were the things that we didn’t want to let them have control, because we need them to follow the process. And so that’s, to me, the definition of agility for us is: it should always feel like you’re in one system and there should never be … it should never feel disconnected that, okay, I’m moving to a new application so I’ve got to wait 5 to 10 minutes before these things to sync up. To us that wasn’t success. And so as we built out the low code and how we thought about the development process, these are our must-haves, and then how do we build out the application based on those things.
Peggy Anne Salz: I like that ’cause it makes it feel as if because it’s so flexible, you know, you almost have like your bucket list, right, of these are the things I would have if I really could. I mean, has it been that way? Is it something where it’s things you couldn’t conceive of building before, that now you can build? Or even for that matter, push the envelope a little bit, break some rules and really do what you need, not what the rules are of the test.
Greg Callahan: Yeah. You know, we feel like we’ve moved light years in a very short period of time. And I think the reality is that the tech has kept up with us. And I think that is what is unique about this situation is that, you know, if we talked 24 months ago, this was still an idea. If we talked 12 months ago, we were designing. And then when we actually built the whole thing out, both from our desktop setup and our low code set up, we were done and dusted in about, you know, 60 to 90 days. Which is incredible, to go from a bunch of ideas to actually a fully completed integrated application that has both desktop and low code agile-first approach in 90 days, was just incredible to us. And then, you know, you gotta iterate, but that is rapid speed.
John Koetsier: That is really fascinating. You mentioned that before as well, that when you were done with the desktop version, you were also done with the mobile version. I mean, it was synchronous. It was working together.
I wanted to dive a little deeper. You talked about design. We’re talking enterprise here. We’re talking major brands, and it matters to a major company and a major brand that it looks the way they want it to look, that it has the features they want to have. And sometimes you worry in a low code environment, will I be able to do what I need to do? Will I be as flexible as I need to be? Did you have that issue or was everything there possible and available in terms of design and features?
Greg Callahan: We are working with enterprise accounts. You could be doing 100% growth, but when you’re talking about the likes of Disneys and Walmarts and things of that size and scale growing 20 to 30% is insane. And to do that, you actually need to have that flexibility. I think the challenge, especially when you’re going to organizations of that size and scale. When you have 100 sales reps, 500 sales reps, 5,000 sales reps, you know, we need the flexibility to scale the application up and down, but we also need to have it regimented enough that there is a standard approach to enabling the organization. So it’s not a net new build every time. And more importantly, how do we make sure that when you actually go and train that sales organization on how to be strategic, and how to leverage the app to be strategic. We need a really, really well built out approach to make sure it’s so easy and intuitive to get up to speed. And so, as we think about, you know, fundamentally the flexibility for those enterprise applications, one, you gotta be able to put their product stack in there. Two, you gotta put their competitors in there. You gotta adjust based on people with tons and tons of different roles floating around and you need different access points for all that stuff. And so, pre-building in all of that into our app was really important. But then at the end of the day, we need to have a really simple, simple, simple delivery approach so that we don’t have 20% adoption rate on our mobile app. We have 100% adoption rate on our mobile app. And so it should just be that stinkin’ simple.
Peggy Anne Salz: Well, I know from the prep that you were actually very excited, Greg, because you’re seeing people who were absolutely the opposite of mobile first saying, ‘Hey, you know what, you know, speech-to-text is pretty cool. I’m going to use this,’ right? So what are some of the surprises? What are some of the features that are critical and what you’re seeing in high demand? Because it is not just a tech change, it’s a mindset change, and it’s enabled by this technology that as you’ve said, it’s super simple and can keep with the crowd that you’re building it for.
Greg Callahan: Yeah. So you’ve nailed it. I think that was one of the most interesting things as we went through the rollout process with many of our accounts was, you know, a lot of the strategic thinking you’re doing is, okay, who is my buyer? What matters to them? What are their financial metrics that they need to personally drive over the next period? And how am I going to help them with it? So that’s some deep thinking and you could sit in front of your computer for hours trying to think through the right answer. That’s not our goal. But certainly, one of the big pieces, what was pretty unique as we went out and spent more time with our clients and many of the folks on the road, is that they said, ‘You know, I could sit in front of my computer, but I’m in sales. And before COVID, I’m always on the go and in coffee shops, I’m working everywhere.’ And the actual ability to do speech-to-text and using the mobile app, the natively built-in speech detection in the mobile app was fantastic. And they said, ‘Oh my goodness, the simplicity of this, the speed of this’… and there’s just massive, massive, promoters built into this process as they realized the feature and functionality that was built in the app was pretty unique.
John Koetsier: That is really interesting. I can totally imagine sales reps wanting that and liking that and enjoying that because there’s less that they actually have to tap on a little device or type in later or something like that. You can give it fresh while it’s right in your memory and all those sorts of things.
Greg Callahan: Yeah.
John Koetsier: This has been really, really interesting, Greg. Bringing it to a close right now, I guess maybe I’d ask sort of one sort of general question. If you had some tips for executives in enterprise who are considering building, whether it’s internal or external apps in low code, what would those be?
Greg Callahan: Well, one, consider it. I mean, let’s start with the easy one. There are horror stories every day of people spending millions and millions of dollars building applications and getting nothing for it. And so there is lots of great stuff out there, but fundamentally, you know, challenge the status quo and be willing to try something new, because just going at it the old way probably isn’t worth it. There’s been massive, massive advances in how people are thinking about these things. So one, if you’re not considering it, put it on your list and ask your team. You know, and I think that the second thing I’d encourage executives to think about is you’re not just buying tech. You’re actually buying a team. And so you need a team that can really work cohesively with your own teams to actually deliver the solution you want. If what you’re paying for is just a little bit of tech and, you know, a hope and a prayer, and that people figure it out. You’re probably gonna get that as your outcome. And so just, one, consider it. And two, think about it as a team and not a tech solution. And when you can bring those two pieces together, that’s really where you get the rapid results.
John Koetsier: That’s amazing. That’s really, really good. Greg, I want to thank you for joining us on the Low Code Ninjas podcast. You are just our second guest. This is brand new, we are just starting this out. We really do appreciate you.
Greg Callahan: I appreciate it. Thanks John. Thanks Peggy.
Peggy Anne Salz: Thank you, Greg. And it was a great show because I think we learned a lot about, well, thinking differently about the enterprise. I mean, you guys are pretty mobile savvy, so I’m impressed. Great to have you here and everyone here as well, you know, thanks for tuning in. And there’s going to be more in the series for sure, and you can subscribe. We are a podcast. We’re also on all the usual platforms, so go there, check us out, and we’ll be coming back with many more.
John Koetsier: Excellent. Until then … this is John Koetsier for Low Code Ninjas
Peggy Anne Salz: And this is Peggy Anne Salz signing off. Stay well, keep safe.