Episode 3: Daniel Lambert

“Well, in my case, it’s about making something that will matter. Note that as a venture capitalist, I was involved with a company called Taleo and it was sold to Oracle for many billions of dollars a while back. And it was the best deal that I contributed to. But I wasn’t part of it. I’m not the one who made it happen. It’s the CEO and his team and I realized that. And I said, I should try to do something that will last and matter, and that’s why I jumped on the other side.” (Read full transcript)

Tracie Edwards:

Hello everyone and welcome to Traceability Podcast. I’m your host, Tracie Edwards, and today my guest is Daniel Lambert. Daniel is based in Montreal and he’s a marketing and finance strategist assisting companies in their growth and business architecture and digital transformation. He is currently Vice President of Business Architects at Benchmark Consulting out of Montreal. And he’s also a published author. Author of the Practical Guide to Agile Strategy Execution, which I, for one, find very interesting as Daniel, that was sort of my master’s thesis, was agile and architecture. So it’ll be a fun conversation today. Welcome.

Daniel Lambert:

Thanks a lot for inviting me, Tracie.

Tracie Edwards:

Really happy to have you here. And so typically how we start out here is we sort of go back to the beginning and ask you to tell your story of how you got your start in your career and then business architecture.

Daniel Lambert:

Okay. I’m 58, Tracie, so I’ll do a fast rewind. I have a master degree in finance and I been a venture capitalist in enterprise software enterprise for about 20 years. And I know a lot about developing and commercial and doing marketing and deploying complicated B2B applications to small and large companies. I’ve been practicing business architecture for about five years and we do business consulting usually to very large companies between 5,000 and our largest is 400,000 clients. And we also commercialize our software application called IRIS Business Architect that does business and architecture mapping on top of making planning. And it goes up from business strategy, architecting, project planning and requirement agile, epic and user-story micro-planning.

Tracie Edwards:

Terrific. So you have this degree in finance and you’re working in venture capitalism and how did that sort of lead you to architecture? What led you to discover architecture? What was it about architecture that really sort of drew you in?

Daniel Lambert:

Okay. W when you were a venture capitalist, you’re not in the team that is developing a new technology and I wanted to be in one of them and not financing one of them or finding good a management, which is mostly what venture capitalists do. And instead, I wanted to be part of one. And I’ve tried a few and business architecture is the one where I fit the most because I know a lot about management, either finance or marketing. There’s a very simple rule of tongue when you’re doing venture capitalism, is if you want to stop pouring money into a startup, make sure that the revenues grow. And so being good at both is something essential. And in business architecture is in brief digital transformation of companies using software, enterprise software applications. That’s something I know extremely well.

Tracie Edwards:

So I have spent my career mostly as a business analyst and much of that work is definitely more on the tactical side. And I know that looking more towards strategy and that kind of thing, and organizational development is sort of the sweet spot for business architecture. So just really briefly maybe talk about what it took to really segue from one career to another. Because I think, especially in these times, we’ve got people that are looking for employment and people who are maybe having to pivot that they didn’t necessarily expect that they would need to pivot. And so what was that pivot experience really like for you?

Daniel Lambert:

Well, when I was a venture capitalist, I managed to make money. I had the positive ROI and everything else, but my partners didn’t. So typically there’s a caring for venture capitalists and I didn’t get one. And it wasn’t because of me. It was because others weren’t as fortunate as I was, and I wanted to be on the other side and be part of the action. So we decided not to raise a second round of financing within our venture capital firm and this is why I began being an entrepreneur and be on the other side. It was about 10 times more difficult than I thought, but now I get the handle and I prefer it because you’re closer to the action. But venture capitalists drink and eat their own food and are usually very far away from what really matters. All they do all day long is talk about money. And it’s not just about money.

Tracie Edwards:

It’s about finding meaning and.

Daniel Lambert:

Well, in my case, it’s about making something that will matter. Note that as a venture capitalist, I was involved with a company called Taleo and it was sold to Oracle for many billions of dollars a while back. And it was the best deal that I contributed to. But I wasn’t part of it. I’m not the one who made it happen. It’s the CEO and his team and I realized that. And I said, I should try to do something that will last and matter, and that’s why I jumped on the other side.

Tracie Edwards:

I think that’s great and I think I have definitely felt those feelings where you want to be making a difference and you want it to be part of something that is going to be beneficial for lots of people. And I think lots of folks feel that way these days. So a couple of things that I want to sort of ask about. First, what was it like sort of going out on your own in that entrepreneurial experience. And second, as you go into these organizations, what are some of the questions you’re asking and to make sure that they’re sort of ready for what it is that you can give them?

Daniel Lambert:

Well when I approach all startups, they wanted money. They wanted to raise money, and that’s why they were talking to me. And that’s not what I wanted to do. I wanted to be part of the company and be part of building the product. Not being the product manager, but building the product and getting the first customers, which is so difficult to do. And it took a few to make it happen. And with Benchmark Consulting and they have a product, I was architect. We’ve managed to make this happen. And we also realized that we didn’t need that much capital to do it. I think it would have been a lot easier should we have raised capital, but venture capitalist has a bias. I think I had the same bias when I was a venture capitalist. If you’re 50 or over, it’s very difficult to raise capital in a very small company. And we realized that after a while and refocused accordingly.

Tracie Edwards:

So you basically bootstrapped.

Daniel Lambert:

Yes. And its growing took longer than anticipated, but now we’ve got very good clients. We’ve got, in the U.S., we’ve got FedEx, but we’ve got Optum and UnitedHealthcare. These are humongous companies and we’ve got a bunch of insurance companies. We’ve got the TD Bank, we’ve got the U.S. government, we’ve got the British government. We’re growing and that’s what matters, but it took longer. If we would’ve had the money, it would have been simpler and we could have accelerated it a lot more. We could have built our features in our product quicker.

Tracie Edwards:

I can definitely understand that as someone who is trying to sort of bootstrap my own sort of side hustle these days, everything is always easier with funding.

Daniel Lambert:

Without funding, it forces you to go where it really matters. In other words, when you’ve got a lot of money, you try a lot of things knowing that most of them will not work, especially in marketing. And you stop doing that when you’re bootstrapping. It’s got to matter and it’s got to provide and generate some money. And otherwise, you’re not going to waste your capital. That is good. The thing is that when you’re bootstrapping, you do just about everything and sometimes you require help, especially on the development side.

Tracie Edwards:

Right. That makes perfect sense. So you kind of called out to some very large organizations that you have been working with over the years at Benchmark. So especially with very large enterprises, that agility and flexibility are not always something in their wheelhouse, because they’ve been doing business under regulations and such for a very, very long time. So what has that sort of been like as you’ve gone into some of these larger organizations to sort of help them to become more agile and flexible?

Daniel Lambert:

Well, the story is different with two of our clients. Let’s say we take the TD bank. They have about 90,000 employees. And we started with one business unit and on the American side of this Canadian company. And they were our first and they were not aware of it. We did not lie to them or anything like that, but they didn’t ask, are you a small company? How many are you? Are we the first? They didn’t ask, so we didn’t tell. So they purchased it and American… Many Americans are forgetting this, but you should remind yourself that you are extremely good in business, in startups, in managing risk, in taking risks. You’re the best in the world. And you should not forget this as you are often pointing fingers at each other. You should stop doing that and remind yourself that the easiest place on earth to do startups is in the U.S. because my client, our first client at the TD Bank, he was an American.

And he said the following, very, very American style. Okay Daniel, I’m willing to take a bet on you. And that was it. And he probably knew that startups would do an incredible customer service, and we’d be very responsive to whatever they were asking us. But we later on deployed our software in other business units in the company. And we went in Canada, in Toronto and they found out that they were our first customer, and they asked us, how did you do that? And I said, I didn’t go towards Toronto first, it would have been impossible because Canadians are risk averse, very risk averse. And we do not have many Canadian companies because of that. We have lots of Americans and they’re very satisfied, but we wouldn’t have started with in Toronto because their mindset is more closed up. And in the case of FedEx, they’re humongous, but people are forgetting that they were a startup when I was about 20.

And I don’t know what many know the story, but they owed a lot of money. They were small. They owed a lot of money. They had a long time to repay in form of a venture. And they didn’t have enough. And the due date was, I believe, a Monday. So they went to Las Vegas with the last amount of cash they had and bet on it. And they were lucky. The founders were lucky and had enough to pay the lump sum of the debt. And then we all know what happened next. They grew and grew and now they’re probably the biggest company in transportation. So all I say is it’s not because you are humongous that you do not have an entrepreneur spirit. And in their case, they’re bundling architecture, business architecture, and enterprise architecture with SAFe, which is a corporate agile methodology.

And they are planning their value streams at the high end for one of their business unit. And they do the business strategies. They do all of that and then they build very detailed value streams, and then there are enabling capabilities. And then they move downward and then have epics user stories and sprints and projects. And they define everything at that level, that the description of epics and user stories are made mostly using words from their business architecture model. So for every word in the description, you can hyperlink and half the description of the world, what it relates to, how it is measured, documentation about that. And so, suddenly building, planning epics, and planning user stories is not done with a blank page in front of a subject matter expert.

You can do a first draft and then go to the subject matter expert, tweak it, and then out you go. It’s a lot quicker, a lot more precise and a lot less risky. And you save a lot of time and odds of delivering something that matters to the corporation is much higher. And that’s what FedEx is doing in a very entrepreneurial way, despite the fact that they’re so… That there’s a lot of users and viewers of our tool there.

Tracie Edwards:

So a couple of lessons learned that I’m hearing there are you with the Benchmark and the Iris product, and you sort of took a strategic risk as far as what you were going to target, as far as organizations that you were going to target you. The strategic risk was with geography and with a smaller sized unit that was part of a overall larger unit, but you sort of started out less risk averse, strategic way that then allowed you to scale once you could show the success at the smaller business unit.

Daniel Lambert:

Geographical is not exactly how I would put it. It’s not that well plan-crazy. It’s more opportunist. We chose to do our marketing mostly on LinkedIn and online. And we can get very large checks without ever meeting the person. And this always surprises me, but I’m sure before paying us and sending us a PO beforehand, they know a lot about us, probably more than we do. And yet, sometimes we have not met beforehand. I think it was the case with the TD Bank, FedEx we met a few times. And so it’s more opportunistic. We let, people came to us and it’s a numbers game. Many do not pull through and then some do, and then you focus on those that find value in what you’re proposing. And this can happen anywhere. We’re finding our opportunities… We’re having more and more opportunities places that I’ve never been. We have clients in Australia and I’ve never been there.

I wish I had. They seem like special people. A little weird, but I’m very weird too. So I’m very weird just as much as Australians are. It’s all to say that in today’s world, this is the reality. Geography does not matter as much anymore as it did. I’m not a client of [inaudible 00:19:23] sport. We’ve never seen each other. And yet there we are talking to each other and some people listening and it’s crossing the border although we cannot cross the border, neither of us.

Tracie Edwards:

Not right now anyway.

Daniel Lambert:

No. And the pandemic is forcing us to accelerate the process of doing it differently. Now, we need to keep on providing products and services and more and more, we will not see each other. It’s a reality.

Tracie Edwards:

Another lesson learned that I heard there was the importance of socializing your goals over social media and LinkedIn and other social media platforms. I’m assuming it was, hey, LinkedIn, we’ve got a great product. Come get to know us kind of socializing.

Daniel Lambert:

It’s mostly, I’d say it’s 90% LinkedIn. It’s a business social media platform. And thank God it’s there. It’s far from perfect, but thank God it’s there. And most people view LinkedIn as a recruitment tool. I think at least half of their business is, but it’s an excellent tool for awareness. We’ve been putting content about our… It’s called the content marketing strategy. We’ve been putting content on LinkedIn for many years. Four times a day, five days a week, 50 weeks a year. During Christmas time, I take a break and taking a break for entrepreneurs is just three hours of work.

When nobody sees you, then you go and take care of your emails. And we’ve grown. I’ve grown the number of my followers to over 20,000. I think I’m close to 22,000.

Tracie Edwards:

Fantastic.

Daniel Lambert:

Yeah. Most of them are architects, program managers, portfolio managers, and business analysts. And we provide content that people want to read and architects and business analysts, if you have a diagram and an article or a video, they tend to be freaked about those diagrams and they click. My biggest post, I believe there was 25,000 people that read it, 25,000 for an architect document.

Tracie Edwards:

But think of all the traffic that that’s bringing to or potential traffic that that’s bringing to Benchmark and.

Daniel Lambert:

Yeah and our policy is out of the four posts today, one is pushing our services or product and the other three are meant to educate, inform the followers.

Tracie Edwards:

So I was reading in a book yesterday and the chapter was on sort of socializing change and they gave an example of one company that maybe had had six corporate speeches in various forums talking about a change. Whereas if you’re socializing that change through speeches, through blog posts, through emails, through meetings and et cetera, you’re going to get the message out much quicker, and people are going to buy into it much easier. And it sounds like that that’s the experience that you’re having with Benchmark.

Daniel Lambert:

Yes. If we would have been funded, we would have done advertising, targeted advertising to business architects, but one LinkedIn ad, if you click on it, it’s six bucks. It’s a very expensive. So we had no choice. Since we were a bootstrap, we needed to find another way. And content marketing was the way for us. And for those of you that are interested in this approach, all we had is buffer. It allows you to… I do my reading on Sunday, and then I do the schedule. And I schedule to four every day using that on various platforms, but mostly LinkedIn. I do other platforms. Twitter is, we have followers there, but not a lot. And architects are not fans of Twitter. Twitter is made for journalists and politicians mostly, as you probably know Tracie.

Tracie Edwards:

I think you’re right. So I’m hearing a lot of things that I think are important for individuals in their careers, through the example that Benchmark is providing there. Because you’re talking about needing to make adjustments in ways that are going to bring you the most value and the most return on your investment. And I think that there’s a lot that can be learned as people are pursuing their own sort of personal transformation about taking risks and about getting the right return for the right investment and that kind of thing. So as we get ready to sort of sign off, what are some other things that you might share for folks who are perhaps trying to sort of personally transform themselves, especially in the time of COVID?

Daniel Lambert:

Hang in there. I remember at the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis receiving an email from LinkedIn, from an architect in Denmark. Her husband and her wanted to move in Canada, and it was in March of this year. And she wanted to let go of her job and start brand new in Canada, and I said to her the following. I don’t think you’re aware, and many people, especially younger crowds, they don’t know about recessions. It’s tough. It’s extremely tough. And if you’ve got a job, hang in there, keep it, be nice to your boss and pray to God that you’ll keep it. And yet be open to what’s out there and prepare for plan B should there be bad news coming up. And I said to the lady, it’s the worst time for you to move in Canada?

We love immigrants. We don’t make enough kids. Americans, you do a lot of kids. And our kids, we don’t make enough, and we have no choice but to have lots of immigrants. And there’s plenty of space in Canada. But now, this year, and probably next is not a good time, keep your job. And as those of you that are in transition and have lost their job all I can say is try to find another one and if things are slow to materialize, my sister, again in Denmark, she’s in tourism. She lost her job. And what she’s doing is trying to find a job and starting our own little commerce online. And she’s very focused and little too narrow. I’ve told her to expand a little or line of product and maybe our geography, but she’s handling two things at once and see what will stick.

The reality is you’re never in perfect control of your agenda. Opportunities will come up, you don’t know which one. And if you have one, jumped on it and do whatever you can to make it happen. The trick is to recognize them quickly and promptly, and then act upon quickly. And the same is true with entrepreneurs. Those that have the most difficulty are those that cannot recognize an error. If you’re quick in recognizing that you’ve done something wrong and you know what it is, and you know what to do to repair it, the quicker you materialize your success. If you cannot recognize any of your failures, you’ll never be a good entrepreneur. You’ve got to be able to recognize your failures quickly. You can ask the CEOs of Tesla or Facebook or anyone else, they made tons of errors, but were able to recognize it and react upon it quickly. And reacting is something that you understand very well but recognizing that you’ve made a mistake is very difficult. Your ego takes a beating but you’ve got to do it.

Tracie Edwards:

I think that was a perfect pronouncement there. Certainly I believe that now’s a great time for opportunity, but as you say, make sure that you’re taking the right risks and recognizing opportunities when they come, and if they’re not coming, hang in there until they do come them and socialize yourself and your message and keep putting out there one foot in front of the other every day. I have very much enjoyed our conversation, a lot to ponder on. So greatly appreciate your time today. So what is coming up next for you?

Daniel Lambert:

Up, more of the same. Four posting a day, consulting and emails and sending proposals and winning some and hiring. More of the same Tracie.

Tracie Edwards:

Great.

Daniel Lambert:

And it’s obviously in my family. There are young adults or adolescents, and they’ve got to make their own mistake. It’s hard to let them do that, but they have to and help them get up again.

Tracie Edwards:

So, yeah, providing encouragement to as we keep moving forward. So, and so the best place for folks to find you is on LinkedIn?

Daniel Lambert:

It is. If you type Daniel Lambert, you will probably find me and then ask to connect or follow me. And if you ask to connect, if you’re an architect, an analyst, or in the industry we’re involved with, odds are very high that I will connect with you. If you’re a salesperson, odds are a little much slower.

Tracie Edwards:

I can attest to your willingness to connect and help others. And I know that I reached out to you on LinkedIn, and I appreciate you responding and sharing your time with us today. So thank you. For those of you listening, your call to action is to hang in there, keep moving forward, hang in there. This time will pass and there will be opportunities ahead. If anything that we talked about resonated with you today, please shoot me an email at tracie, T-R-A-C-I-E, @traceabilitypodcast.com or reach out to me on LinkedIn at Tracy Edwards. Would be very interested in connecting and encouraging each other along the way.