Don’t you fret. This isn’t one of those run-o’-the-mill, predictable Years In Review aptly timed to catch you at about noon on Friday simply because we know you need a good read to compliment your (delivered) Lunch-In-Bowl-Form.
(We prefer bulgogi bowls, thank you very much. Send us one.)
Nay, this Year In Review is a lightning strike of insights from Extensis CEO Toby Martin. Toby riffs on topics any business leader won’t want to miss, specifically:
Feel free to enjoy both Toby’s perspective and your delicious Lunch-In-Bowl-Form with reckless abandon. We wouldn’t want it any other way.
What did you learn about empathy, and Extensis customers, during the transition from Extensis’ long-standing solutions to the new Connect platform last May?
Toby Martin: We learned that we need to do a good job helping our customers transition from workflows and practices established, in some cases, for decades. This is to say we learned about the challenge of changing the status-quo, because it’s natural for people to develop a point of view that’s about committing to or defending the status-quo.
This reality relates directly to the transition to Connect, which taught us we better serve our customers by empathizing with where they’re at when we bring change to their long-standing internal operations, because only then can we effectively communicate how our new solutions help our customers build the future they deserve.
For example, now that Connect is launched, we’re better understanding the entire process that occurs for customers when we provide new and better tools, because while “new and better” helps them elegantly overcome workflow challenges, it also means, “change!” And when change is involved, listening to get a better understanding of the actual use cases and what customers need to hear to embrace change, instead of proving our assumptions, is the best way forward.
All that being said, the data we have now shows our customers were ultimately ready for the move to our new platform, especially our agency customers. That’s great validation to have! We’ll continue to help them find their way, especially as Connect continues to evolve.
Patrick McNerthny: There’s an adage that goes, “Making decisions based on new information is at the heart of leadership.”
How does this notion apply to both the Voice of the Customer initiative Extensis began in 2019, and the transition to Connect?
Toby: That’s a great question. Voice of the Customer reflects our commitment to listening to customers with the understanding that the information they’re generously providing strengthens our ability to rethink our assumptions. Of course, some of our assumptions prove correct, but others not so much. That’s why we love being inundated with actionable data from Voice of the Customer: it allows us to see what we’re missing.
What’s challenging about the adage, and what other industry leaders certainly know, is that many times there’s no information, partial information, conflicting information, or all three at once! So the hardest part is identifying the right information upon which to base conclusions, then remaining disciplined and dedicated to our decision-making methodology so we can use these conclusions as way finders, no matter how we feel about them. This is at the heart of every decision we make, including the transition to Connect, and why Voice of the Customer is invaluable.
Rumors abound that Extensis has an R&D lair somewhere under the steeply wooded hillsides of Portland’s Washington Park. What’s going on there these days?
Toby: Speaking to Washington Park, what’s going on there is our teams getting some fresh air, taking invigorating walks, and otherwise finding balance. We encourage their wellness, and they take us up on it, which is why we were nominated as one of the Healthiest Employers of Oregon, 2022 by the Portland Business Journal for the third consecutive year.
The projects we have in the works are a direct response to what’s going on in the agency marketplace today. Or what we call “FUD:”
Fear that Adobe is going to keep changing things to the degree that customers will struggle to adapt.
Uncertainty about what the workplace looks like moving forward as some agencies institute return-to-work policies, others commit to hybrid or fully remote work environments, and still others conduct layoffs.
Doubt about what the next few years of both large and small agency work economies and environments will look like as more and more leaders reframe the design profession into new paradigms.
Solving for FUD requires a systems-thinking approach. It’s easy for our customers to get caught up in the movement of systems, so a lot of what we’re doing focuses on giving agency leaders the time they need to pause, then make choices about how to address what’s going on in the system around them. That’s why we’re delivering three key tools: font usage tracking, font license tracking, and analytics reporting. Collectively, these tools give leaders the visibility, control, and confidence they need to navigate the systemic challenges presented by FUD.
Patrick: PostScript’s end of support for Type 1 fonts arrives January 2023 and will create substantial liabilities for agencies and agency networks.
Extensis customer polls and surveys reveal 50% of creatives are still using PostScript Type 1 fonts in their work, and 23% don’t even know how many Type 1 fonts are in their libraries, despite the threat of end of support.
How is Extensis helping customers run at the problem versus delay the inevitable? And what do creatives need to hear to move them to protect their work?
Toby: The first thing Extensis can help with is identifying the PostScript fonts customers have scattered throughout their files and libraries, and even better – how many of them they are actively using. Many customers know the end of support is a problem, yet it’s a bit like Bigfoot, they’ve heard about it, but can’t find evidence that reveals the magnitude of what they’re facing. When we show them how many files and libraries contain Type 1 fonts, it inspires them to address the issue.
But I also think a shift in how creatives are managed is long overdue. We see and often treat creative teams as groups of artists, and with that framing we can’t assign value to their art. Well, if you’re a Creative Director, you must be able to assign value to effectively manage and apply resources. So, if Connect can quantify the value of the work, we’re helping shift how creatives are managed in a meaningful way. That’s why we’re working so hard at quantifying value through license tracking as well as analytics and usage reporting
Speaking to the second question, what the Creative Director needs to hear is that when it comes to PostScript or anything else related to workflow, we can help them maximize billable hours by minimizing non-billable hours dedicated to profitless activities. That means we can work broadly across their business to assign meaningful stats on the impact of the work. From there ROI is as easy as 1-2-3.
Patrick: IT professionals worry they'll be made redundant by the cloud, but that's not the case as they still must manage systems in the cloud. Additionally, IT pros are innovative problem solvers, and thus need the freedom to work on other IT projects.
How does Extensis help Creative IT Managers understand the total ROI of a cloud solution?
Toby: First off, IT professionals are NOT going away or being made redundant, that’s more of that FUD conversation. Back to the question, the easiest way is by specifically identifying how on prem data centers are both burdensome to manage and expensive to maintain. Speaking to the burden, our move to the cloud with Connect eliminated patching to support every macOS or Adobe update. That means we removed a ton of busywork for creative IT pros so they can focus on value-add items like systems and optimization instead of managing patches just to keep the plane in the air.
It's important to note that IT professionals worrying about the cloud is less valid today than ever. In the old days sure, people were quickly made redundant. But smart business leaders know the way forward is a seamless partnership between tech and the other parts of the business simply to make everything better. Because better is better.
How will Extensis save agencies’ time in the future?
Toby: That we’ll continue to do is expand the number of things agencies can do with our suite of solutions so that they make a greater return on their investment. When we put more work into licensing and compliance, for instance, it will be useful not only for fonts, but for all digital assets. We think tying the two together is both the future of font management and the best way to streamline existing workflows.
When we speak with customers, what do they:
Toby: Adobe and Pantone making them pay to use colors. What’s up with that?
Toby: That systems just work together without requiring duct tape and bailing wire—a.k.a. substantial time invested—to hold it all together.
Toby: When things just work, and work like they’re supposed to, so they can finish their projects on time, and do great work they’re proud of.
Thanks so much Toby. We learned quite a bit in 2022, and we certainly expect to learn even more throughout 2023. One last thing: what’s your favorite Lunch-In-Bowl form?
Toby: Well, there’s this place called Feel Good PDX not far from the office, and I keep hearing that their smoked beet bowls absolutely make people’s days, so maybe I’ll try that! Plus I love the name.
Your reward for scrolling all the way to the end is this precious cat. Yes! (Fist bump.)