VMware’s Agents of Change initiative celebrates technology leaders who challenge the status quo. By harnessing the power of digital transformation, they create unlimited possibilities for their businesses. Here’s the next technology leader in the Agents of Change series: Jan Saan, CTO, CM.com.
“Set a goal. Make it a ridiculous goal. Then do everything you can to hit it.”
This is the seemingly playful advice of Jan Saan, CTO of CM.com, a leading player in mobile messaging and payments services. Jan’s heartfelt advice comes from lessons learned as part of CM.com’s ambitious management team.
Started in 1999, CM.com was among the first to leverage text messaging as a serious marketing tool, initially promoting the clubbing scene in the Benelux. CM.com rapidly expanded into new industries and countries and won large enterprise customers. Today, it’s an award-winning, highly profitable, global operation growing and further professionalizing the mobile messaging and payments platform.
“It’s part of our management culture to stretch ourselves and set these big, audacious goals.” Saan explains. “At first, they seem ridiculous. But then we think them through, get imaginative about achieving them, and then the goals are not so outrageous anymore. And if our plan works—as it often does—it takes the business to the next level.”
In its early years, CM.com spearheaded mobile technology, and this technological edge helped fuel its fast growth. Now, as a much larger company that acquires others, it needs to ensure innovation doesn’t slow down. By moving to a hybrid cloud model, CM.com maintains the agility necessary to innovate and the ability to scale IT infrastructure as the technical platform anticipatedly grows by 400 percent over the next five years.
“This is a great age to be in,” says Saan. “A lot is changing and a lot is possible that wasn’t imaginable even five years ago. As a company, there are lots of areas and technologies that we’re experimenting with and getting really excited about. The cloud helps us turn great ideas into amazing new services.”
For example, Saan and his colleagues are capitalizing on the benefits of Conversational Commerce. This is where brands start and complete an entire conversation, such as a transaction with a customer in a single messaging channel. Consumers engage with the brand via both chatbots and human interaction, discussing topics like price and reviews. “Conversational Commerce will be big in 2020,” Saan predicts. “For the consumer, it’s a natural, convenient and personalized way of shopping.”
On building a culture of innovation within CM.com, Saan says, “A little bit of chaos can be a good thing. If people aren’t sure what to do, if they’re a little bit lost, they have to figure it out. This can result in major breakthroughs. You have to be careful, though. Too many changes can sometimes cause fatigue in your team. As a change agent you need to spin it around, remind them of the positive side of change and how this way of thinking keeps us vigilant, agile and will take us further as a company.”