Hi, this is Sakadai from R-Hack team. Today’s article is about the interview with Kane, the Manager of EC Market Place Business Support Development Department (abbreviated as ECBD). Please enjoy!
General Manager of EC Market Place Business Support Development Department
Sakadai Thank you very much for your time for our interview today.
Kane Thank you too.
“Dived” into Rakuten for its future possibility
Sakadai First could you tell us why and how you joined Rakuten?
Kane Rakuten is the second employer for me, joined in 2003.
I was working for Sler who is a manufacturer-type business organization when I was a new graduate. I was in charge for the system to manage the factories for semiconductors.
I was not quite a fan of programming at that time but I tried very hard to study it by reading through the codes written by my senior colleagues.
I began to be more interested in the job which is closer to the users because the systems I was involved in developing were the ones for managing productions, processes and equipment that were only some part of the whole manufacturing lines.
I found it difficult to get the whole picture of our business and I rarely had a chance to collect feedback from the people who were running the system, despite that we made a huge effort for releasing the system.
So I started to think about finding a new job in the IT industry where I saw the possibility of future growth, also I thought it was a fun to work in the IT industry.
During the job search process, I found out about Rakuten who was very aggressive and ambitious about being the No.1 company in the world; then decided to join Rakuten as I thought I was young enough to manage all difficult things whilst a bit concerned about having no experience in the internet industry.
Rapid growth of Rakuten, rapid growth of myself
Sakadai What was your responsibility at Rakuten?
Kane I joined Rakuten as an engineer and was in charge of the development of the order management part of the systems used by tenants of Rakuten Ichiba.
I experienced all flows from the development to operations of the system, as well as responding to inquiries from tenants etc.
In addition, I got involved in working for various services or functions as it was the period where the firm was rapidly growing by M&A.
I think the number of services I worked for was more than the number of my hand fingers – I really had a great experience at that time.
I recall some changes in my mindset occurred after experiencing a lot of things in that department and was promoted to a manager role.
Until then my focus was to complete the production of the requested system as soon as possible, with less bugs as possible.
However, I was not aware that such attitude of mine was really a passive one, whilst Rakuten wants its staff to be a self-starter, enthusiastic in improvement or in optimizing the processes so that we could reduce the volume of operational tasks or number of inquiries, for which someone needs to be taking initiatives in his/her work.
I realized such difference through my interaction with various employees within the firm including the time when I transferred to other positions and I could deal with my day-to-day work thanks to that change in my mind.
So – I think I was very lucky be in that environment.
Things To Do after experiencing both Sales and Development jobs
I was put into a training called “Get Training” upon joining Rakuten.Honestly speaking, that was the hardest time I ever experienced at Rakuten so far. It was the first time for me to work on something that requires interaction with people, whilst my previous career was just “facing the systems”. Also things/decisions by the firm changed so rapidly like daily changes…
At that time I realized that the jobs of business unit people or sales people are indeed hard ones – I still feel in that way now. And I strongly felt there was a kind of “distance” between the business unit and development unit.Aaccept, but Sales team cannot say no to their clients.
I could understand that difference by experiencing both roles; I was convinced that the firm is supported by both development side and business side who are desperate in making things better and growing the firm’s business. That feeling triggered me to start thinking about “who are supporting those people in the business unit” – at least, we do not have such group for development unit.
What would happen to our business if the working environment for the members in sales and planning group is not good enough? – my concern about this point was not too small to ignore.
We decided to launch the new department to support the business unit in terms of technological support which I thought was necessary for us; my manager at that time also agreed that we needed such function.
Days spent to understand the colleagues in business unit
So the new department launched – but nobody knew what to start with. We needed to be very proactive in finding the work to do otherwise nothing we had as our task. It was a true zero-start. Actually the team to support the business did exist prior to our launch but we needed to clarify our roles and organize our work with only a few tens of members.
The first thing to do for us was to understand people’s needs – what are their issues, what kind of solutions are required. We walked into the office area where business unit members were working so we could catch the real voice and see the real-time events live there – maybe we looked like doing the sales promotion activities!
Being in the user’s view and see things from their side, and work naturally on what is naturally necessary.
After going through the process of understanding the situation and needs of business unit members, the first task we worked on was to improve the quality of support for CS / members which seemed to be one of the biggest issues.
The member support team at that time was having a very hard time dealing with the inquiries from the users; they could not respond to the questions immediately but was responding on the next day – now of course it is not the case though.
There was an apparent reason for such lateness with the support. The internal tool was separately developed by each development team by which they could find the solutions to each problem, however, quite often the inquiries from users are complicated with various conditions in different scenarios therefore it was not that simple to find the solution by using a single tool. So the customer support needed time to work on multiple tools and download some data which led them to respond to the users on the next day. Rakuten have been providing many different services for which it requires a lot of effort to grow a staff to be an experienced customer support person. At that time it took about 6 months for a new support staff to be operating independently due to the complexity and the numerous tools they needed to use.
The development units at that time were “vertically split” – and we did not have a system that was designed as operator-friendly.
Our team picked up that problem and started to prepare the prototype for the system where all necessary information for customer support are integrated. We collected feedback from CS/ member support team on the prototype for further improvement day by day.
It was nothing new but was something taken for granted – something we naturally needed to do; but was a great success in improving the CS/member support quality. I feel our work is very rewarding when I see operators using our system at my visit to the call center for hearing meetings.
All for the people in business
Sakadai Please tell us about ECBD’s Mission.
Kane Actually, we dare not to set the “Mission” – it may be a bit mis-leading though, but we have been trying to be flexible depending on the situation at each moment and trying to actively think about the ways to support the growth of our business; rather than sticking to certain thoughts or set of actions because there have been a lot of changes with this firm and we never know what will happen in our future organization. We believe there should be many different approaches possible after such thoughts and attempts. That’s ECBD.
These days we have started thinking about if we could expand our systems for cross-divisional usage within the Commerce Company, not just for Ichiba service. We believe it is the next challenge for us to explore within the Commerce Company.
Being a department of quick & active works
Sakadai Now, could we ask you about the ECBD as a department please?
Kane Currently we have more than 100 regular employees in our department; 200+ in total, including non-regular employees. Our culture and atmosphere might be a little different from others – we are “leaning forwards” type of people; very sensitive about the information around us, so we could catch up with any information within the firm so we could work for the members in business unit immediately when they are in trouble.
Also, I think we respect the “player’s spirit” very much. Many managers in our department proactively get involved in the work as a player. We want our people to have the sense of “touch it actually, be there locally”. Hence we send the managers to visit other Rakuten sites all over Japan for them to see and check how the operations are going at each location.
Wide range of services and products
Sakadai As the next question; what products are covered by ECBD please?
Kane For business units, we have a wide range of products including CRM, SFA, BI, DWH and ERP etc. Some parts are developed internally within Rakuten and for some other parts we are utilizing the enterprise solutions available in the market. We would like to continue developing the systems for tenants so that they can utilize them for their analysis or messaging etc. and enhance the diversity of individuals. We also offer the consulting services to resolve the system issues by speaking directly with the shops or external developers.
We believe there are much more things we could do; we would like to strengthen our support for tenants on Rakuten Ichiba in addition to our current support for the business unit.
ECBD’s future to be explored by proactive staffs
Sakadai Finally, please tell us about what kind of talents ECBD is looking for?
Kane We of course would like to hire those with high communication capability, but also with strong commitments and willingness with initiatives. We are hoping our department to be full of active proposals like “Let’s do this!” from members by hearing the voice of actual operators/tenants.
And we look forward to having new members who are keen and enthusiastic to develop the environment where shops can also enjoy their business!
This time we interviewed with Kane-san, the General Manager of ECBD. During the one-hour interview, he kindly went through all questions we asked with a very comprehensive structure in such limited time.
ECBD is a little unique in their services because most of development teams are providing services for users of Rakuten services but they do so for their internal clients – the colleagues in the business unit. Supporting the business unit leads to the improvement of the performance of business unit members – such as good results from the consultation for tenants- then contribute to the growth of our sales. It was a great learning experience for me personally to listen to the stories about their background since the launch of their department.
Thank you Kane-san and ECBD!
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