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An Interview with a User

Coaching Consultancy , Performance Equations, Managing Consultant Joe Espana spoke to Andrew Barber from CoCo G2L Unity

Joe is also a valued member of our CoCo Faculty

Its a cool breezy day in autumn and the rain hammers loudly at my window. This feels a long way from the warmth of a Piha summer’s day and the exotic tableau that had filled my view when first scratching the CoCo concept into stone.

Now I was swapping the dreamy vistas of plunging green cliffs, blue skies and raging Pacific surf for the dull drone of a European winter, hot tea and a constant craving for stew and dumplings. For me, the CoCo platform was born in the “surfy” backwaters of New Zealand’s Waitakere Ranges. And now, amidst COVID, dreary autumn lockdowns and lengthening hours of darkness, I was due to meet with an actual user so to gauge our progress.

I am a system architect by trade, so for me, almost every project plunges me deep and gasping into a brand new industry. My initial introduction to coaching had been a period of several months interviewing coaches, consultancies and HR managers, so to establish their areas of pain and the things they wanted to see most in a product. And now, with the first phase of development complete, it was time to see how well I had listened.

Joe Espana is the Managing Consultant for Performance Equations Coaching Consultancy, through which he had agreed to carry out a pilot of the platform so to ascertain its viability as a tool for its more general use within their business. That pilot now complete, I had arranged to interview Joe so to establish whether our efforts so far reflected the real world environment for which the platform had been designed.

I nervously fidget at a button as I make ready to fire out my first question. Such moments are always charged with a degree of anxiety, as every platform I design is a form of my artistic expression. It is critical that I have understood the needs of the industry and reflected that in my design and as such am now more than a little nervous to receive my first proper feedback.

We start with the news that Performance Equations are to partner CoCo – my relief is almost audible and I am instantly at ease as I dive into my first question.

“As a Consultancy”, I begin, “what differentiators proved to be the key when deciding to partner CoCo”?

“I think there were a number of things that led me to wanting to collaborate with CoCo, but I can point to three in particular for the moment”. Joe scans some notes scribbled on some nearby paper while taking a sip of warm tea. “The first is its ease of navigation. Simply put, this means that my clients can find what they want nice and easily while assigned coaches can manage the programs effectively. To me, this is a one stop portal for coaching”.

“My two other points are to do with functionality and use. Evaluating the tangible results of coaching has always been a headache for a number of reasons and the outcomes are usually fairly weak. My impression is that this is becoming an increasingly important factor, especially for sponsoring clients, so they can get a sense of the value they are achieving from the coaching investment. I can also see very clearly that this is a dynamic platform that already has exciting developments in the pipeline, and I could tell immediately that CoCo was listening acutely to my needs as a coaching consultancy when adding more functionality”.

Somewhat buoyed by this, I dive straight into my next question. “Speaking as a coach, I am interested to know what major benefits you see coming from the platform”?

“As I’ve already mentioned, the fact that I can do everything from one place is a real winner for me. I can identify and select a coach, manage the entirety of the coaching program and then evaluate its impact and for this is a very attractive proposition. But as a coaching consultancy, being able to take an overview of what assignments are on the go and what progress is being made makes a big difference to me. Previously this was done using a number of spreadsheets. In time with further developments in functionality, I can see that the coach-coachee relationship can be supported and enhanced by the site itself through the availability of support materials and other new tools.

On a roll, I dive in with a question about expected ROI. “How are you hoping CoCo will change your coaching business and what benefits are you expecting it to bring”?

“My vision is twofold: I would like to build a community of coaches, where they themselves can feel supported by each other and through my consultancy”.

“The other exciting application of the platform I am keen to develop is its use in support of wider development interventions such as Leadership programs. Depending on their design, I can foresee a situation where participants on a leadership development program have either individual or team coaches assigned to them. The platform can then support and track the development through setting of personal goals and tracking progress. This would have the added benefit of giving the sponsoring client of the development program complete oversight of its progress. I really believe this is an area in which the application and use of the CoCo platform will start to provide additional value to clients in ways that they hadn’t previously thought of”.

Obviously a key factor for you is your client relationships, what feedback have you received from the clients you have shown the platform to”?

“Well so far there has been a unanimous appreciation of the platform as a whole. They particularly like that coaches can be found using search criteria appropriate to any given assignment. For instance, when seeking a female coach or where a particular specialism is important. This means they don’t have to trawl through loads of complete profiles to find the right match. The item that is getting most interest though is the measurement functionality. Already I am getting questioned about how this could be incorporated into other processes like internal 360 degree feedback or other assessments”.

“Do you think the adoption of CoCo by the coaching industry will be lead by HR departments or by Coaches”?

“My view is that in the first instance, it’s adoption will be led by Coaches, but as more HR, Talent and L&D professional get to know of CoCo it will in time be driven by sponsoring clients. I think this is the usual adoption journey of any new technology, there are going to be some early adopters and some laggards”.

Are you aware of any new functionality coming to CoCo soon that you find exciting and think will make things even better”?

“I’m obviously not privy to all the functionality developments, but as a partner I like the fact that my opinion and market experience is continually sought. For me personally, the two general developments that stand stand out are the evaluation and measurement functionality and other items that strengthen the coaching relationship. I believe these two will make the platform one that will increasingly draw users to it, so that it becomes the go-to site for all things to do with coaching programs”.

And finally, while already lifting myself to my feet, I fire the final question. “Adopting any technology can be arduous, how intuitive is CoCo and how well supported is the platform”?

“I must say that the tech guys above all are very supportive and responsive. They listen to ideas and are continuously implementing little things that make the user experience that much more friendly and easy”.

For me, any endorsement is a positive, but to gain the partnership of one of our earliest pilot consultancies is affirmation that we are on the right track. The road has not always been smooth and I am sure there will still be challenges ahead. But for as long as our membership are finding true and genuine value in our offering, we can feel satisfied that we are providing something worthwhile.

I still fondly recall my winter sun Piha retreat and the birth of the new CoCo platform – but as the rain continues to smash hard at the window, I find myself looking forward to a future filled with promise.

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