We need more touch in tech

Tuesday, August 17, 2021

The gift of communication

Marco Gianotten never wanted to work in IT. His career took off to an unusual but rapid start at the age of 22, when he wrote a groundbreaking and widely published graduation thesis which articulated issues with IT decision making in executive boardrooms. Before he knew it, Marco was being invited to write columns and blogs, and travelling to the U.S. to interview dozens of CIOs for a book he co-wrote alongside a professor. He was brought into contact with many senior executives, which opened a window onto the world of CIOs. The experience resulted in Marco’s involvement with the hiring of the first CIO at KLM, at the age of just 24. “My gift was that I was able to communicate what needed to be communicated. Like a translator, I was able to talk to the IT guys and the non IT-guys.”

Marco’s gift for communication became the touchstone for his career progression. But it was during the early days of his career that his attention sharpened to the disjuncture between the IT world and everywhere else, with businesses totally disconnected from the needs and interests of their users. “There is a culture of apathy, not empathy, for the average user in tech-development, people are often jumping to the solution, rather than listening to the problem. This is why we develop IT systems that nobody wants. The missing link is touch: we need to bring more touch into tech.”

Empathy not apathy

With his company, Giarte, Marco aims to achieve exactly this – putting human needs at the centre of IT services. At Giarte, they developed XLA (Xperience Level Agreement), a methodology and mindset for working in IT which measures the impact IT has on people. Unlike the standard SLAs (Service Level Agreement), which measure statistical data, XLAs are based on feeling and experience. They also redefined KPI to ‘Key Proudness Indicator’, shifting attention away from performance metrics and encouraging employees to ask themselves: am I really proud of what I’m doing? “The future of technology starts with empathy. Start with understanding the people you work for, the people you have to make happy and engaged. If you impact them, and make them feel valued, you will have pride in yourself.”

A father figur

This is perhaps what Marco does best. Motivating people and cultivating meaningful relationships with those around him. As his company’s founder, Marco makes it a priority to act as a father figure to his employees; to make them feel listened to, heard, and appreciated. “People don’t remember how I look or what I say, they remember how I make them feel,” he says. “I like to help people think differently, to help them find a solution to something in a way they never thought they could.”

“A good leader is very honest about what they can do and what they can’t do. Be open about your weaknesses; your strengths are the starting point for opportunities.”

Marco believes a sense of belonging is critical for workplace morale. He argues that most companies focus on diversity, which, while an important value, is still a statistical measure that doesn’t necessitate happy employees. Focus on inclusion, he says, making the workplace a safe environment for everyone: “Do they share the same common language? Do they share the same value indicators? These are the questions you should be asking.” He adds “Having a lot women employed in your business means nothing if they don’t get maternity cover.”

It’s about fellowship

Marco carries this philosophy to his perspective on outsourcing. Many people treat outsourcing as a commodity, but it’s more than that, Marco says. To make a good product, you need to partner with other companies that are more specialised or experienced in something your company lacks. “But we have to work together and focus on the same outcome. We are a fellowship, not just a partnership.”

Asked if he believes IT will change for the better in coming years, he answers with infectious optimism: “Of course, because a movement only needs 10% of people for it to be effective. Not because we change people by force, but because we kill them with kindness.”

Join us at the next Tech Talk on 28th October!