MyAgenda: Tom Marsden

Saberr creates happy, high-performing teams with software that helps people work well together. This month it scooped a DigitalAgenda Impact Award for business transformation. Chief executive Tom Marsden takes our 10-point Q&A test.

tom marsdenWhat’s top of your agenda for change?

“We want to encourage organisations to support teams more. We think there’s a lot of focus on the individual and the organisation but not enough practical support for team collaboration. Many results are achieved through teams – we need to recognise and support them.”

What are doing about it?

“We are seeking to help organisations do two things better. First design more effective teams through understanding team fit. Second, to educate teams on the principles of great teamwork and nudge them to better team behaviours. People are worried about performance management at the moment. We think in many cases we are asking the wrong question. We shouldn’t be obsessing over how to measure individual performance we should be thinking how to enable team performance.”

How did you find yourself doing what you do now?

“I’ve transitioned slowly to smaller and more entrepreneurial businesses. I started my career funding leveraged buy-outs and then was a management consultant. It became clear to me that one of the biggest strategic advantages is having great people on board and aligned to a common purpose. I was considering a number of options for a start up. An old friend from McKinsey, Juan Lobato (CEO at Ebury) introduced me to the a team that was researching team dynamics.”

How is technology helping you to secure the change you want?

“Technology can help us scale and therefore have a bigger impact. More people have the opportunity to benefit from what once might have been to expensive or specialised. Also, the potential for AI to drive intelligent nudges for teams is something that even two years ago would have seemed sic-fi but is actually quite possible.”

What’s the project you’ve worked on that has made the most difference to date?

“It’s been great to work with a cluster of growth tech companies that are using Saberr to try and actively shape a culture. Many have said they had no tools to understand or impact culture. Saberr has given them a greater understanding of the levers they can control.”

What’s the biggest challenge for people wanting to make a difference through technology?

“I think the greatest challenge we face is to ensure all our recommendations are robust and evidence based. At the same time we want to make the technology super simple to use. Marrying the scientific rigour with simple UX is tough.”

What technologies are most exciting you in the space right now?

“I’m excited that teams have had such a positive reaction to the open, transparent communication that Slack provides. A simple change but one that has big impact. I think the work that the team at deep mind has been doing is fantastic.”

What would you have done differently in your work looking back?

“I might have jumped to start my own business a little earlier. However, I don’t underestimate the benefit of the experience I gained over the years.”

What’s your piece of advice to people looking to do good through digital?

“First, stay close to the users of the service. It sounds easy but requires real focus. Second, encourage all teams to discuss the purpose of the work they do. Connecting to a meaningful purpose is one of the strongest correlates with team’s being successful. I believe even in what may appear somewhat mundane environments we can take pride in the work we do.”

DA WINNER logoYou’ve won a 2017 DigitalAgenda Impact Award. What impact does that make on your work?

“We have doubled up on our efforts on measuring the impact we can have. It’s been a boost to the team. It’s been great to share with many of our clients that care about having social impact and a happy workforce.”