Interview 001: Paul McCarthy, CEO, Snapfix - conducted June 2019
Cathal [00:00:04] I’m here with Paul McCarthy, the CEO of Snapfix. Paul, just to confirm that you are OK with having this interview recorded.
Cathal [00:00:11] Good morning Cathal, Paul McCarthy here and I agree to have this conversation recorded. Happy to be speaking to you about this.
Cathal [00:00:38] Paul, I want to discuss ‘Snapfix’ which is a cloud native product and then how Snapfix has been integrated into the organizations that are using it at the moment which are primarily hotels. So if you could maybe give a brief overview of what Snapfix is and then maybe we can go into a discussion of a single instance of a major user or several major users of your cloud system.
Paul [00:01:17] Of course, Snapfix is a very, very simple teamwork platform. We decided initially to focus on the building environment and our initial niche is the hotel sector as you mentioned. When I’m visiting a hotel, I have already spoken to the general manager and they usually have Snapfix already setup before my initial meeting.
Paul [00:01:45] Our product is based in the cloud. Their [the hotels] IT department doesn’t have to be involved, they can use it as simply as downloading an app from the app store or the Android play store and they can be up and running very, very quickly.
Paul [00:02:00] So right. Yeah.
Cathal [00:02:03] So Paul in terms of how they would be set up before you even arrive there, would that mean they have just downloaded the app or installed the app and then you would take them through the usage or would they have tried to use the app prior to you visiting?
Paul [00:02:22] It’s a combination of both. In some hotels I haven’t met them for a number of weeks and they have been using it for a number of weeks. The aim is for them to use it without any involvement but at this early [beta] stage of Snapfix I get their e-mail addresses beforehand and set them up. I f I don’t, then I set them up right there and then and we walk around the hotel and start taking photos and they are putting their content into Snapfix from day 1.That helps them to get it [up and running] right away.
Cathal [00:03:19] And so Paul in the long term I guess you may not have full visibility to what every customer is doing within their organization in order to use Snapfix or adapt to Snapfix. In regards to the hotels that are your primary customer and I guess we could call them ‘beta’ customers, how have they adapted to using Snapfix if at all and have they changed their processes and their internal workings or their communications or their roles and responsibilities in order to best use Snapfix.
Paul [00:04:03] Well, in the hotel environment, we chose the hotel environment because it’s 24/7, they are very demanding in quality and they have a large audience of multiple types of staff and [Snapfix] has radically change the way they work. So, I’ll give an example of a large hotel here in Dublin, it no longer accepts reports, text messages phone calls and emails and issues everything goes through Snapfix. All the teams use Snapfix and if they see any issues anywhere in the hotel at any point in time 24/7, they just take a photograph.
Paul [00:04:41] [the photograph] appears in the maintenance engineers phone. [The maintenance dept] can leverage the eyeballs [of all staff] throughout the whole building, at all times and it helps the maintenance department to be fully organized and more efficient.
Paul [00:04:57] I’ll explain that now. On the organized front, we have a feature which allows us to prioritize work so that jobs could be coming in from all over the hotel, but they will prioritize the dozen or so that’s important for today. And on the efficiency side, they keep using photographs to describe… previously an engineer might have had to go to a room and check what bulbs were blown or whatever, but now they see a photograph and they can identify the exact right bulbs that they need to bring up, so making them more efficient because they can be more [?] visible. It’s really changing the way they work.
Paul [00:05:29] So making them more efficient is because they haven’t been what is it not true. It’s really changing the way they work.
Cathal [00:05:38] That’s interesting. It’s a complete transformation of their previous system which could have involved legacy software use or a fully manual approach.
Paul [00:05:50] Correct, where both parties were coming from paperwork, texting or people using WhatsApp which is great for chat but it’s not great for task management and they were dropping lots of balls in the hotel sector was finding out about TripAdvisor and they want to address those get those photos on Snapfix before they end up on TripAdvisor.
[the point the interviewee was making is that hotels have a fear of maintenance issues being reported by guests on TripAdvisor. They want the issues captured and resolved before they can appear on TripAdvisor and adversely affect the hotels ratings].
Cathal [00:06:16] OK.
Cathal [00:06:17] So I would imagine that the organizations that are doing it in the way you describe, using emails and using some manual processes, they would have probably a slightly longer adoption range or find it slightly more difficult to adopt to Snapfix than department within an organization that were already using WhatsApp for example.
Cathal [00:06:45] Would you agree with that and do you see any differences in the amount of change required from a more traditional email or manual approach and the change required from departments that have already decided to try and use WhatsApp or something similar to manage it.
Paul [00:07:08] Yeah there’s two sides to that question. People [or] companies that are using WhatsApp at the moment in their businesses certainly adopted very quickly because it was WhatsApp. But the users already use WhatsApp so they’re familiar with the concepts. Everybody knows what the camera icon looks like, everybody can take a photo, everyone can tag a photo so we’ve seen rapid adoption because we’re aligned the solution to one of the most widely used software platforms in the world, that being WhatsApp.
Paul [00:07:46] The other interesting side to things, when they see it working successfully for maintenance they quickly wonder will this work for fire safety checks, security checks, the toilet checks, landscaping, fitouts, project management, renovation, all aspects of the hotel.
Paul [00:08:08] So we’re offering more services and we will be offering more services, to service the entire hotel, rather than our initial, just to get out of the gate we concentrated on maintenance. We will be selling a complete solution for hotels and then subsequently all buildings.
Cathal [00:08:27] Okay. So when you say they would have already been using WhatsApp, do you mean at a personal level but possibly not within the business? And that’s why they can adapt very quickly, but not using it within the business.
Paul [00:08:48] Absolutely correct. Everybody can use WhatsApp and a they just used it as a chatting app to report things. But the first thing they say to me is they can’t track and don’t know what has been reported or completed and we offer a solution that’s similar to WhatsApp, but allows for task management and they can adopt it right away.
Cathal [00:09:11] OK. Could you describe possibly how you’ve observed a single power user or champion of the system, or the person within an organization that uses Snapfix the most. And also on the other end of the spectrum, if you could comment on the users that only occasionally use Snapfix [during the beta testing phase of Snapfix].
Paul [00:09:47] OK, very good. We have a complete mix of hotels. I’ve got one hotel with a couple of thousand jobs on it and the general manager herself is really, really involved. She is involved on a daily basis. She sees all the jobs coming into […] her own team and her service providers. So she stays on top of it. The new priority feature is very important to her. On the other side, you have other general managers who are infrequent users because their operations team or their operations management would be taking the primary responsibility.
Paul [00:10:30] What they can do is filter jobs that they care about and in some cases they care about Health and Safety, they care about accidents or incidents, whereas they trust the maintenance team to do everything maintenance related, they just want to have an immediate notification of something that’s super important. And we have a concept that we’ve been developing called alerts and that will help them to be alerted in a better way.
Cathal [00:10:56] OK, In terms of the frontline staff. What kind of a professional or technician would be one of the main users, for example would it be a maintenance person or a cleaning person or a combination.
Paul [00:11:21] Maintenance use the system and the house staff usually report issues. The housekeeping team for example have to turn a mattress every three months or whatever. So we’re using it to schedule their own work as well. We’ll usually start off with them reporting issues up to the maintenance team and the maintenance team resolving them.
Paul [00:11:46] The maintenance team would be very much on moving the digital jobs to green, whereas the housekeeping would be creating the jobs.
Cathal [00:11:56] OK. And could you briefly describe the evolution of a single job within the Snapfix system. Just to give an example… the housekeeper takes out her phone and takes a photo and then… rather than putting words in your mouth maybe just to describe that progression, briefly, of a job [going] from red to green within the context of Snapfix.
Paul [00:12:27] Sure, I’ll do that by example if that’s OK. So very common one that we’re seeing is a dripping tap. For example, housekeeping will take a photograph of a dripping tap and they will annotate, they will write on the photo, the room number. That instantly appears on the maintenance teams screen and they’ll attend to that room right, let’s say it’s room 21 […] they’ll go there and repair the issue. Very often they will take a photograph of the fix so management know the tap is fixed, or they will just go straight to green. So it’s minimal data entry to signify progress of a job.
Cathal [00:13:12] Oh okay. Great. And so when you say they annotated, what you mean is, similar to where people in Snapchat or Instagram just draw a little thing on top of an image like an arrow.
Paul [00:13:27] Exactly. People will always find the laziest way to report something. So they have the option in Snapfix to tag it to a specific room number, but people being people, and humans being humans, the easiest way is to take a photograph and just write the number on the photos because it takes two seconds less. We will be looking at technology to help auto-tagging in the future.
Cathal [00:13:51] OK. OK great. And then would you be familiar with how that same person would have reported the same issue prior to [using] Snapfix.
Paul [00:14:03] Absolutely. The overwhelming response from the hotel teams is that they no longer use post-it, they no longer receive texts, they no longer receive emails, voicemails, phone calls, it just helps to streamline the entire process.
Paul [00:14:20] Some of the best general managers, will be the best sponsors, will dictate that nothing is reported unless it goes through sponsors.
Cathal [00:14:31] From a different perspective, in the earlier days of Snapfix. I know my own experience in dealing with you, is that you’re very proactive in tailoring the product to what the customer needs and to reduce the friction. It’s through this iterative design process that you eventually came to where Snapfix is right now. Can you describe some of the main feedbacks that you received in the past year or two that come to mind and that affected your own design choices for Snapfix.
Paul [00:15:17] Certainly there’s been a couple of key design changes. At the very beginning we were placing all of the jobs together. The red, amber and green jobs together. Weve adopted a horizontal traffic lights set of icons on the whole screen which has really ,really been positively received by the customers because they really care about their red jobs.
Paul [00:15:46] They don’t need to be looking at the jobs they’re resolved in the past.
Paul [00:15:52] And as volumes have gone up the second major improvement we’ve made just very recently in the last weeks, is to have the volumes, we’ve put in a very, very simple flag feature to allow them to prioritize their jobs. They can have hundreds of jobs active in red at any point in time but the only want to work on the up. It’s allowing the teams to get very focussed on the jobs that they’re working on.
Paul [00:16:20] OK. And those are the two main changes in the past week with other changes that we’re planning in the future. I mentioned the alerts alerting people at the appropriate time and also given the volume of jobs that are that are in the system we’re getting requests for better dashboards and reporting.
Cathal [00:16:42] OK. And just to go back to that first first major change you mentioned which was the introduction of the traffic light system, red, amber, green. If I remember correctly, I won’t say the name here, but it was a major logistics company. Were they the first ones to suggest this kind of red amber green approach?
Paul [00:17:01] [No] it was always in the initial design of Snapfix. It was the layout of the home screen that they requested, because we were showing them green jobs when that wasn’t a priority for them to see it. So it really had to do with just filtering using the red, amber, green as a primary filter and let them stay in the red zone if they want to be working on red jobs. Once something was gone green they could forget about it. So it didn’t need to be primarily visible on the screen right there and then.
Cathal [00:18:18] Was there any historical use of a red amber green type categorization within professional organizations that had a large facilities management department.
Paul [00:18:39] Absolutely, the traffic lights symbol would be quite widely used for prioritizing and structuring tasks [I have slightly paraphrased].
Paul [00:19:01] Snapfix uses red or green with photographs. So we’ve taken the level of simplicity to the limit, so we’re using photos and types of colours to allow people to rapidly resolve issues. So in previous companies with previous software solutions they would have used the red amber green concept in forms that are time consuming and complex. For me, the traffic light symbol is the universal symbol for team work.
Paul [00:19:38] I’m in my car right now coming up to a junction which is full of traffic lights and all the drivers are behaving as part of a team because of these traffic lights. And that’s why we want to use that universal symbol of teamwork. We want to use photographs, tags and messaging to keep everything as simple as possible.
Cathal [00:19:59] Okay. That’s quite interesting. So from the beginning you had put a lot of thought into ways to best tailor the system to existing processes while bringing in the improvements you wanted in a cloud native solution like similar to WhatsApp. Is that correct?
Paul [00:20:26] Absolutely. I studied and researched a lot of the work that Steve Jobs and Johnny Ives did at Apple. They had a system where they would look at a process and ruthlessly eliminate everything that wasn’t necessary. And that’s what we did at Snapfix in the early days, to report an issue should be as simple as taking a photograph. To progress it [the job], it should be as simple as changing a colour. So that means no text, no typing whatsoever. That would be the simplest job on the planet. Photographs get taken and moved to green. That would be the simplest. And then we were careful about adding features on top of that so as not to take away from the simplicity of the solution.
Cathal [00:21:15] OK. And just to conclude. Even though I’ve been involved in the software engineering aspects of Snapfix, I haven’t had much visibility into the adoption of Snapfix within organizations. When you were trying to introduce Snapfix into early adopters organizations, did you receive blowback or resistance to its usage and could you just describe the nature of those organizations. And maybe if you could speculate on why they had such resistance to the usage of Snapfix.
Paul [00:22:08] Absolutely. When I go into, pretty much, every hotel, you get the folded arms resistance and fiscal position. When I ask them how they handle their processes at the moment, they tell me it’s paper based and they’re using WhatsApp. And I should, I ask them then, well would you like to know, before you go up to room 17, what are the outstanding issues in room 17 and you can have that information before you go up there. The penny drops and they can see the concept right away. The other thing is, I went into a hotel in the middle of December last year. Of course Christmas time is a very busy time for hotels and they said there was no way they could roll out a brand new system before Christmas, it was just to much just to do. When they saw the simplicity of the app, they had everyone on their team on Snapfix within two days.
Paul [00:23:09] Everybody, I’ve never met any member of the housekeeping staff even today, but everybody knows what the camera icon is. So our job in Snapfix now is to press on these organizations that it’s a simple concept and will now take a major [change]. That there is no training to it and it’s not going to be a major negative impact. We don’t need to talk to the IT department about it, which is the beauty of this SaaS solutions as well. And that helps with them. So I get resistance in every single meeting but I think that I show them I can tell them how other hotels have been using it and they get it right away and they want to start using it. That’s the power of it.
Cathal [00:23:53] OK. And do you see any correlations between hotels that you would perceive as being antiquated, compared to hotels that [… are] tech savvy.
Paul [00:24:29] Most hotels are up to date with technology because they’re all hooked into Booking.com, they’ve got reservation systems, they’ve got ‘rev-par’ systems which are revenue per available room, so they get quite good analysis on how well their rooms are performing.
Paul [00:24:43] They’ve got a large audience and turnover with HR systems. The area they have neglected or the areas that need room for improvement is in the area of communication issues around the customer experience. Again they want to have issues resolved on Snapfix and not on TripAdvisor, so Snapfix is all about helping to improve the guest experience […] and they appreciate that. They are very open to new technologies. They are very savvy and open to improvements because they want things to be more efficient.
Paul [00:25:47] They want to keep costs down all the time. Unfortunately some of the competition is charging multiples of 10 times as much as we’re charging and they can no longer be paying these software costs. They want simple solutions, the RyanAir of maintenance solutions. It has to be super simple.
Cathal [00:26:22] Paul, we’re almost at the 30 minute mark. I’ll describe the specific research area that I’m looking at, and you can give me your final thoughts.
[… I briefly described the specific nature of my research]
Paul [00:27:36] Yes. The one part that comes to mind there is in Snapfix there are two types of users. The management users see all activities. And then there is the regular users. And that type of parent during renovation in that hotel or and management there. And it has a kind of mirrors the organizational structure in the hotel. They have a management layer and a staff layer. All of these hotels, office building, when they are maintaining them… it’s all around communication and collaboration. Happens one to one or within a group. Snapfix mirrors that very, very nicely… we’re not forcing them to do anything they don’t want to do.
Paul [00:28:19] We’ve kept the structure simple, it does mirror the way the organizations work. We also have the concept of Snapfix ‘groups’ where they can have different teams for different activities which mirrors what happens in hotels and other building environments… provides infinite flexibility.
Cathal [00:29:43] Okay. That’s great Paul. We’ve just reached the 30 minute mark and I think we’ve got a lot of value from our talk.
Cathal [00:30:01] And so, I would like to thank you for your time Paul and for contributing to the research.
Paul [00:30:08] Absolutely delighted to help, and happy to help anytime in the future Cathal.
Cathal [00:30:12] Great. Thanks Paul. And I’m going to stop the recording now.
Paul [00:30:17] Thank you.