We talked to Jeremy Lu of GroupMap about engaging students online and face to face in focused activities, and he had the following to say:-
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Jeremy Lu: Thanks for asking. We are all doing well but have been separated by closed borders, which means that more than ever, we are trying to find new and meaningful ways to stay in touch personally as well as professionally.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded GroupMap.
Jeremy Lu: My background has been in group facilitation, business consulting, teaching, and working with the not-for-profit and health sectors. When I was a lecturer at Curtin University, I found that there was a real need to engage students online and face to face in focused activities and to be able to provide feedback in a more timely and efficient manner. As part of the OzApp awards, we were given prize money, where we created an online brainstorming tool that used customizable templates. (GroupMap). Since then, we have been used in over 41 countries and helped facilitators, meeting leaders, and conference organizers find the best ideas from their groups. Later on, we expanded to add a second product (TeamRetro) to our product family, which is in the same space but focused more on Agile retrospectives and a directed and more refined workflow that helped with the continuous improvement objectives of each team. It also ran health checks so that you could assess the overall happiness of remote teams.
How does GroupMap innovate?
Jeremy Lu: While we rely on our own lived experiences, we are also highly customer-focused and led. Our innovations crush through the walls of complicated systems and software that don’t allow for easy meeting facilitation. We focus a lot on making it easy for meeting facilitators to run their workshops and retrospectives. We have bi-monthly meetings where we look through the product backlogs, use the data and information from our customers and users to determine what happens in our next sprint cycles, and then employ agile practices that help us move to delivery as efficiently as possible. For the creative aspects, there’s an element of playing and wishing, as well as role-playing to understand what it is the customer experiences when they are running their meeting.
How has the coronavirus pandemic affected your business model?
Jeremy Lu: There has been minimal impact to our business model as we were designed to scale from the beginning. However, one of the things that impacted the way we work is the increased requirements in data security and privacy. We have changed where and how we host and process data, improved our security measures, and ensured that our client data is always as safe and secure as possible.
Did you have to make difficult choices regarding human resources, and what are the lessons learned?
Jeremy Lu: We have always been a remote team, to begin with, so there hasn’t been too much of an impact in terms of working from home and remotely. The team continues to do what we need to do to stay connected and productive.
How did your customer relationship management evolve? Do you use any specific tools to be efficient?
Jeremy Lu: For us, we have moved to a more partnership-based model with our customers. For those who simply need a tool, we can be that for them. But we have looked and taken up opportunities to explore meaningful and authentic relationships with our customers where possible, providing a “full service” as needed. This has meant growing and upskilling our own team, but it has also meant that we have been able to keep our product development roadmap grounded with lived experiences and real-life insight, as opposed to a more speculative model. Alongside VC tools like Zoom and MS Teams, we have used GroupMap to run online collaborative brainstorming and group decision-making in meetings, workshops, and events. We have used TeamRetro as a way to run team health checks as well as agile retrospectives.
Did you benefit from any government grants, and did that help keep your business afloat?
Jeremy Lu: We benefitted from the government’s research and development grants, which helped to accelerate our research into new innovations, level up on technology, and experiment with different technologies that would enhance outcomes while helping to refine our meeting process and outcomes.