Setting KPIs the Alibaba Way

It was almost 4 weeks since we began our work at ANT Financial. All of us had got to know more about our mentors and the teams with whom we would be working on for the next 6 months. There were a few of us who thought they were not assigned any “real” work wherein there were a few other who thought the assigned work seemed impossible to complete in the given frame and then there was this third category who had no idea of what was in store for them the next 6 months as their mentors were away on business trips/foreign assignment. It was the Friday and we were already excited about the 4 day ‘Taobao Village’ journey on the following week wherein we could regroup again with the rest of the AGLA wolf pack and even learn more about the entrepreneurship at the rural villages in China. At about 10:00 am, the ever smiling Joyce (HR for the AGLAs at ANT Financial) typed away at the ANT financial AGLA Ding group. Meeting in 5 mins, we are going to discuss KPIs. What the …..! KPIs? Already? We are just getting started here. The meeting, however to our surprise was a short one. Joyce asked us to get in touch with our mentors and they would help us identify proper KPIs, basically formulate our tasks into measurable milestones so that we could be rated at the end of our rotation at ANT.

Thanks to the lightning meeting setup by Joyce, we hurried about to our mentors so as to formalize our deliverables and thus come up with appropriate determinants so as to measure their quality/completion. In no time, we could list out our deliverables following which we prepared detailed presentations to share with Brian and Neo. Once we got back from our trip to Taobao village and Yiwu, Joyce setup another meeting so that we could discuss our individual KPIs with the wider audience meaning Brian, Neo, AGLA team, Mentors and HR team. We had done our finishing touches to our PPT and shared the same with Joyce by the weekend and we were all geared up for a formal discussion of our KPIs on Monday. Over the weekend, actually on Sunday night at about 9:30 pm, there was another update from Joyce, mentioning that instead of presenting our individual KPIs we would be working on a group case study on Monday (details of which would remain a suspense till Monday). We had no idea with regards to the group project that we would be working on as a part of our time spent at ANT Financial international and thus we began to look forward to the discussion on Monday in order to get an idea around the same.


Next day, the meeting began right on time with the cake cutting by the birthday boy; our dear Chinese Spaniard Wilson Tseng (I’ve found him to be neither during our interactions) following which we had Yassine (our marketing specialist for the English version of Alipay) providing a detailed presentation around the English version of Alipay app specifically catered towards the expats living in China. He outlined the features and authentication protocols around the app and went on to outline the marketing activities engaged with KOLs (Key Opinion Leaders). After the presentation we were split into 2 groups with Barbara and Jenny, the two senior product development managers joining each group. Each group was asked to come up with a list of pain points that we had faced while using the English version of the Alipay app. The groups engaged in a lively discussion and came up with a list of about 4-5 pointers regarding both the benefits as well as pain points. The list went on from improper/incorrect translations all the way to the need to setup a foreign remittance feature for foreigners and these were laid out on the white board.


Liu ‘Dream’ Meng outlining points from Team 2 (Chia Hong, on the extreme left, dreaming about the subsequent implementation)

Once the list was out on the board, Barbara & Jenny took a look at it and gave their inputs with regards to the current affairs and reasons as to why some of the pain points (especially the ones around foreign remittance for foreigners using Alipay) could not be carried out owing to regulatory constraints by PRC. Then the product managers asked us to list the pain points in the order of priority that we would like to have them resolved during our time here at ANT Financial – International. Once we did that, we were asked to pick up the ones that we would like to work on solely based on our interests. Those who volunteered for full time got to become the founding members of this project and there was a photo session and display of the dreams by the founders. It was a re-affirmation in itself given the fact that every outcome at Alibaba is a product of the dreams of several Ali Ren.


Gary Topp, Binamra Dash and Liu ‘Dream’ Meng : Founding Members of the Project with Jenny

Eventually we had an answer to what we would be doing as a part of our group project at ANT Financial – international. The whole exercise took about half a day but it showcased an important aspect of customer focus. We got into the shoes of the customers and laid out our pain-points and then took up ownership of the deliverables based on our interests. Thus KPIs turned out to be SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant & Time bound), but Tiffany our lead HR went on to say that at Alibaba SMART KPIs need to be “close to the heart” of the employees so that they tend to deliver more than what’s been set to achieve as the work is very important to them at a personal level. The KPI setting activity did get us thinking on our feet and we are excited to bring forth interesting changes to the Alipay English version. It’s truly a rewarding feeling to realize that what we decide to implement would make an impact to over 3 million foreign users of the Alipay English version in China.

Joe B Joseph is an adventure enthusiast who loves to try out new things. He is open to varied experiences and enjoys learning from different cultures. He dreams about a world in which technology would empower human beings and eliminate inequity.

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