E4 - Podcast transcription

RVB: 00:00:00.879 Hello, everyone. My name is Rik, Rik Van Bruggen from Neo4j, and here we are again. We're recording another episode in this wonderful quest that we have embarked upon, the quest for graph value, right, which is all about trying to better understand how we create, build, present, and then realise the value of graphs. And to do that, I have a partner in crime. That's my dear friend, Stefan, on the other side of this Zoom call. Hi, Stefan.

SW: 00:00:39.154 Ba da ba bop ba bop bom. Hello, Rik Van Bruggen. Such a long time ago. Nice to be back.

RVB: 00:00:46.228 You really need to get a drum roll machine or something like that [laughter], Stefan, to introduce yourself. [That would be great?].

SW: 00:00:51.755 Do I really need that?

RVB: 00:00:53.925 No. You--

SW: 00:00:53.930 Let's see what we can do in post. Maybe you asked for more--

RVB: 00:00:58.115 [crosstalk].

SW: 00:00:58.476 --than you can handle, most likely. Let's see what the people think. Let us know in the comments below.

RVB: 00:01:05.478 Yes. So, Stefan, we've been on this journey for a bit. We've got a couple of episodes and a couple of articles behind us. We're trying to get better at building the value case for graphs. We've highlighted some of the issues with that in the first episode and explained why we think this is important. We've also tried to give people a little bit of a hint of how to find their graph use cases. Right? [We?] use some techniques there. And in the last episode, we were also talking a little bit about, how do you build this actual value case? What are the things that you should be looking for, the techniques that you should be using to actually identify the value parameters for a graph application for any organisation? So this episode is like the sequel to that.

SW: 00:02:01.613 Cool.

RVB: 00:02:02.011 And we're going to be talking a little bit about, let's assume that we have a use case. Let's assume that we have the value case for that use case. Now, how and where and when do we present that value case? Right?

SW: 00:02:18.001 Oh, my favourite topic, yeah.

RVB: 00:02:20.799 Yeah. I think it's really up your alley. I know you're a frequent public speaker, and I've seen you on stage multiple times. And I think you would agree that presentation is important. No?

SW: 00:02:34.254 It is important, but also I would like to take this opportunity to share something about my background. Right? So I usually hated presenting. I wanted just to be alone, to build cool things. Right? I didn't want to present a single thing. But I learned the hard way that either I get somebody to present for me-- but then they need to know what I want to build, which they don't, so that's also troublesome. So I needed to get better at presentation. So one thing that I see very often is that we think that we are good because we solved it - but we aren't. We haven't solved it to the other people that's actually going to pay for it. So very often we are in this false dilemma, this false dichotomy of PowerPoint or code. Right? This is not the case. I know that we love coding. We are all tech nerds here. Right? But sometimes we need to also understand that everybody aren't, right, that somebody needs it in another format. So let's share how we can actually think of that and start tapping into a couple of tricks, basically. Happy to share that. So yeah, just like [crosstalk].

RVB: 00:03:40.787 [crosstalk]. Yeah. That's a great intro here. And I think kind of the first thing that we should really have a think about is, who do we present this to? Right? We often start our graph conversations with technology people, but I guess there's lots of other people involved. Right? And we need to think about that.

SW: 00:04:05.161 Yeah. Yeah, totally. It's such an important part. Very often it's a game of perspective. Right? It's all about perspectives. That's what I see. So obviously we are a tech company. I mean, usually then in our case, we work with data. Right? So we understand that it's a data and technology perspective, obviously. But if we don't make the money, that's what this is about, the value [inaudible] kind of part. Right? That's also interesting, and that comes from the business side of this. Right? What are they looking for? And then we have, how innovative is this? How kind of groundbreaking is this? How will this actually affect the end consumer or the user of the tool? Right? How does this change the game? And if we've covered those kind of angles, usually that's a very good way. It's very easy to think about that we're just going to do technology or technology and business. But if we forget about people, usually it doesn't fly. We have all been part of when the CEO bought a new software and tried to smash it to people. Emil wouldn't do that. He's a nice person. But in all my previous companies, that has happened, and we know exactly how people react when somebody do their thinking for them. Even if they're right, you're not going to like it.

RVB: 00:05:32.419 Yeah. So thinking about the persona is what I'm hearing, right, understanding who you're going to present it to. Right? Is this a project? Is this a value case that is mostly for a technology leader? Is it more for a business audience? And I do think it's quite interesting that in modern-day organisations, we very often see that there's actually separate teams, separate organisations that sit between those two worlds, right, oftentimes in a digital or an innovation team or something like that, that really allows you to leverage that innovative aspect of graphs much more explicitly. No?

SW: 00:06:20.408 Yeah, no. And one thing that I think about the [inaudible] presenting, as my previous life, I had only one screening question. Does it feel like a gift? Right? It is not about bribing, but if I give something to a person and they really feel like, "Wow, this solves my problems," I'm good. Right? This is a very good screening question-- or, "Are you just selling crap to me? I'm most likely not going to buy it." Right? That's just the case. "I know you have a goal to sell it. I don't care." But does it feel like a gift? And think of that because, I think, even if you're presenting-- so I'm going to use now Rik as an example. If I'm presenting to Rik, but I know that Rik will present this to Lars, our CEO, then I need to think about, how can I help Rik present this to Lars, in that sense? So it's a trajectory game, which is, of course, super [graphy?] here, again. So think about the [traversal?], "Where does this go next?" and, "Can I remove friction from Rik's life by adding a narrative that actually helps him tell the story in the next step?" Then we should be very, very, very good because we all know that it takes time and most people don't like doing these kind of presentations. So that's a good trick though. Does it feel like a gift? If it feels like a gift--

RVB: 00:07:39.790 That's a great idea, yep. Now, the other thing that I find, and I've seen some issues with it in my graph career, is timing. When do you present the case? There's a good time and there's a bad time. And I'm not talking about a morning person or afternoon person. [laughter] I'm--

SW: 00:08:01.442 Coffee or not coffee.

RVB: 00:08:02.939 Coffee or no coffee. I'm more talking about, is it in tune with a corporate agenda or an organisational agenda? Have you seen something like that as well?

SW: 00:08:18.419 Totally. And I think especially for innovative or new kind of technology approaches, if you're not aligned with the budget cycle, you're going to be completely off always. It's almost like it doesn't even matter how good you present it. It doesn't even matter how good of a value narrative you have. If you present it at the wrong time, it's just going to sit there, and then people forget about it. And then you feel kind of left out, and then you're not going to present it again at the right time. So think and understand those kind of things. There's some really interesting studies on this also, how you can totally see how these align. It sounds boring. It sounds like it has nothing to do with innovation, but it has everything to do with innovation and new business value. So trying to understand that and see how you can do it and understand how to slice budget or not and what to do.

RVB: 00:09:15.117 Yeah. And I think there's always a creative aspect to that as well. Right? I mean, at the end of the day, these graph projects, these big disruptive graph projects, very oftentimes you can slice them up a little bit, and you can iterate over it, and you don't need to do everything all at once. You can walk before you run. So there's a lot of things that you can do to get better in tune with that budgeting cycle, for example, and I think there's a lot of possibilities there.

SW: 00:09:48.762 To kind of slide in, [maybe?].

RVB: 00:09:50.530 Yeah, maybe. Yeah, exactly. Lots of possibilities. Now, the last thing that I wanted to quickly touch on is the techniques that you can use to present the case. I've seen you on stage, and you've actually done some [in-sessions?] for our team at Neo4j around presentation techniques and stuff like that. But just relating it back to graph value case, presentation techniques, in my book, seem very important if not only because graphs are so wonderfully visual. Right? They--

SW: 00:10:28.380 Yeah. They're super visual. And I think, again, think about who will be in the room. Right? We're going to have the different personas. Try to understand that they're looking for different things, and then add those things. So maybe some will look for a little bit of a code snippet just to feel that this is also about technology, but don't put a full [kind of?] [inaudible] there. So one thing that I do very often is that I present it with some sort of business kind of question, the [money query?] or [may so be?]. Then I have a little bit of explanation what that is. Then I have a visual of actually solving that. And it can be a recorded demo as well, and then a little bit of the code that actually does it. And that allow me to kind of tackle this at the same slide from the different perspective. But also one thing that we see a lot, it's people add too much text. Right? Too much text, always, always, always. And if you have too much text and conflicting messages, the likeliness they will get anything from those slides are zero. So it doesn't matter that you put them in there.

SW: 00:11:27.756 So I suggest that what you can do in these cases are, if you present this in person, which I suggest you do, is that you have one version where you present it and tell them the story. You can use bullet points to click them through. Don't show them all the bullets because they're going to read faster than you can talk. That's for sure. So you can have one version where you present and one that you actually send to them. Right? So don't try to do everything at once. That usually just become a Swiss Army knife. You can do everything, but you're crap at everything. So you're not going to be the number one tool. Right? So I think that is very, very important. And think about the framework. And since we're all sci-fi nerds, I'm going to share my favourite one, the hero's journey. It's a great framework for telling stories. Right? So think of any-- we can do Empire Strikes Back or whatever episode we want of Star Wars. It's there all the time, but think of this. We have the young Jedi, has not developed the skills, stands in front of the task of saving the world from Oracle-- oh, sorry, I mean, the Death Star. [laughter] I'm sorry about that bad joke, but this is fun. Right? So then I need to go to a distant planet. I need to find a creepy guy, small, little creepy guy. Rik Van Bruggen here will be Yoda. Yoda will teach me all of my super skills of graphs. Having my new [returned?] skills, I return to my home country or home planet and save the world with graphs. Right? So it's a good framework. So we are here. We then, during this week, explore this wonderful technology and process way of doing things. We enable new things which allow us to do this, and now we actually solve the problems that were unsolvable before. So it's a classical framework.

RVB: 00:13:10.140 Yeah, it really is.

SW: 00:13:11.407 And it really works, especially for graph because you are learning new things. You are doing things that hasn't been done before very often in this case. So go check out Star Wars if you haven't done that already. Hopefully, most people have done that, so they know what I'm talking about. If not, you're up for a treat.

RVB: 00:13:27.670 Fantastic. Cool. Well, I think we've covered a lot here again, the core point being, be wary, be understanding, be conscious of how you present your graph value case. And hopefully, there's some tips in this episode but also in the articles that we wrote just to give people a little bit better help on making those graph use cases and those graph value cases come to life. So let's wrap up this episode, Stefan, and I think we have one more to go. Right? We have kind of--

SW: 00:14:03.803 One more, the final, the grand finale.

RVB: 00:14:05.539 Yeah. I'm looking forward to it, the grand finale, exactly. So after having done these past couple of sessions, we're going to wrap it up by making sure that we can actually achieve graph value. So that's in the next episode. Thank you so much, Stefan, for being here and talking to me about that, and [crosstalk].

SW: 00:14:26.469 Yeah. Love to be here. Talk to you soon, my friend. Bye-bye.

RVB: 00:14:30.237 Bye-bye.