The Intelligent Workplace

The Intelligent Workplace

Episode 3

Don’t forget the Digital Employee Experience

Cameron Smith, SXIQ

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The Intelligent workplace concept is only limited by your imagination. Each person I speak to defines it through the lens of their experience. With each conversation, the concept seems to grow and expand.
 
Cameron Smith works for the the highly regarded Australian ICT Services provider, SXIQ. Cameron’s experience is broad, having working in Financial Services, Insurance, Construction and Communications. He draws upon his experience in enterprise architecture, application development and digital transformation. His industry insights are valuable and thought provoking.
 
Cameron is a transformational thinker with a passion for delivering amazing user experiences. This is a very interesting chat.

Chris:
Hi, I’m Chris Lukianenko, and this is The Intelligent Workplace brought to you by LiveTiles, my chance to speak with the industry experts and explore the new ideas and technologies that are shaping and transforming the modern workplace.

Chris:
As I start to explore the world of the intelligent workplace, I’m realizing that it is only limited by your imagination. The broader your range of skills and the greater your understanding of technology, the more ideas you can throw at the concept.

Chris:
For that reason, I’ve asked Cameron Smith from the highly-regarded Australian ICT services provider, SXiQ, to join me on the podcast today. His experience is broad, having worked in financial services, insurance, construction ,and communications, and his understanding of the world of technology is top notch, with many years experience in enterprise architecture, application development, and digital transformation supporting organizational strategy. A transformational thinker with a passion for delivering amazing user experiences. I’m really looking forward to chatting with him today, so welcome to the Intelligent Workplace podcast, Cameron Smith.

Cameron:
Thanks Chris. It’s great to be on the podcast. Thanks for inviting us.

Chris:
Thanks so much. Mate, I’m really keen to get into this chat with you today, as I know you are very well-qualified to be talking about this, but let’s catch the listeners up on your background and your career, because they haven’t spent the last week googling your name and taking notes like I have.

Cameron:
Thanks Chris. My background is wide and varied, as far as my experience. Some of my more recent roles as former CEO of a client experience technology company, CoTe Software and Solutions, I’ve been a CIO for Vision Australia, I’ve had a variety of business transformations and digital transformation roles at IAG Computershare, so a very wide variety of experiences both from the business side, but also from a technical and delivery side. So that kind of consumer technology experiences is what we really kind of bring in, now, to SXiQ, in the employee experience side.

Chris:
Phew. It sounds like I’ve made the right decision to get you onto this podcast, then.

Cameron:
Yeah, fully.

Chris:
Speaking of the research that I did on you, I’m going to quote you from one of your blog articles that I read.

Cameron:
Sure.

Chris:
You said, “This is the golden age of technological change. There has never been a time where we possess so much technology and data that could change your business.” And I agree with you, and it’s really exciting. But on the flip side, I’m sure you’ve worked with some clients that are a little bit stressed out with handling so many moving pieces.

Cameron:
Yeah, look, it definitely is, and, as you said, there’s so much technology we’ve got access to, so much data. And, I guess, that that’s a really positive, it’s helping industries get disrupted it’s helping organizational change, accelerate their digital transformation. But if you think about it from an employee perspective, you’re really getting a lot of noise.

Cameron:
You’ve got core systems to do, your CRM to … lot of things about your customer. You’ve got a HR system, you’ve got data in different points in systems, you’ve been asked to do these different tasks, and there’s this whole lot of noise going in for enterprises around people just trying to do their daily job. So, whilst it’s creating a lot of disruptions in the market and industry, there’s been a lot more emphasis on the actual employees and how they operate, and how much information and data they now have to deal with just to do their job.

Cameron:
So, it’s really changing the dynamics of how people go to work. Things aren’t as simple as they used to be. They used to be logging into one system, and if you’re thinking the really old days, you just log into one little terminal and do your job in one application. Now you’ve got all these different systems just to do your day-to-day work.

Cameron:
One of the stats that we recently read, there’s nine apps, at least, as a minimum just to do your job. And some companies we’re seeing have up to 15 different applications just to do their job. It’s quite a changing landscape, and organizations are really struggling with, well, how do we get people more productive? How do we keep them focused? How do we keep them engaged? Particularly where it’s so hard to just do things.

Cameron:
And unfortunately, organizations, and we’ve talked a little bit about this in the digital transformation space, have been focused on that customer experience, and they needed to be, and having a great customer journey has helped organizations to be competitive, but who’s helping focus on the employee experience side?

Chris:
Now, mate, let’s just … I want to get your opinion. How do you like to frame up the intelligent workplace, and what it might promise us in the future?

Cameron:
I think it’s … the way frame it is, that organizations haven’t typically designed or curated experience for employees. They certainly have for their customers, and what we do with intelligent workplace is, say to organizations, “You have to design and curate an experience for different departments, teams and roles, so people can work and operate, and be effective the best way they can.”

Cameron:
The intelligent workplaces about providing data, insights, information, to people in that single pane of glass, or [inaudible 00:04:47], and that requires that experience to be designed, thought about, tried, prototyped, and tweaked along the way to get the best possible experience. Whilst intelligent workplace sounds like a technological approach to things, it’s actually about the human approach, and how do we design and curate that experience for people.

Cameron:
It’s about getting the intelligence and information for people in a way that they consume and use, so it’s not just about technology, it’s also about knowing the employee’s name, how they operate, their skills, the information they need, and really thinking through about, how can I make this a really effective experience for this employee?

Cameron:
Yeah, because if the employee is having a poor experience, no armada of technology is gonna really help them get the job done, but it feels like, sometimes, the digital employee experience is often forgotten about in designing solutions.

Chris:
Yeah, absolutely. I think everyone sees this. You and I both work for technology companies, and there’s real competing need for talent in the world, at the moment, Particularly in technology and the other industries, so people are expecting a lot more.

Chris:
So there’s that consumer-grade experience that people get in their real life, that they expect to have in the workplace now. The other day I had to try and work out how to change the bearings on my trailer. I used YouTube to work out how to do that. And my kids certainly do the same. If they need to work out how to find, and do something, they just go to YouTube. It’s there.

Cameron:
Absolutely.

Chris:
If they want information, we use Google, and search. But it’s very rarely that you find, in organizations, they’ve got the same consumer grade experience in the workplace. And it’s becoming a lot more competitive for talent in the workplace.

Chris:
People expect a certain level of experience, that they getting the consumer world, in the workplace, and it’s becoming a bit more of a … almost a war on talent, is how we phrase it, to make sure you get the best possible experiences.

Chris:
And organizations, they’ve been focused on other things. Sometimes you will focus on having a great physical built environment, so the office workplace, and that experience is great. They’ll focus on culture. How do we make sure our values are portrayed? And work through the organizations, but how often do you hear an organization talk about how they’re pulling all those, two of our elements, together in the digital experience as well?

Chris:
It’s not often talked about, or even focuses organizations.

Cameron:
Have you either worked with clients, or seen situations where a company hasn’t considered the employee experience, and just got it wrong and spent a lot of money implementing the system and then forgot about the end-to-end employee experience?

Chris:
Yeah, absolutely. One of the examples I often give is that I used to work for a fairly large insurance company, and we worked a couple of projects. And one of the projects, we spent millions developing a sort of new, core, external-facing portal for insurance clients that are more business to business related, and what happened was, the project was really sophisticated.

Chris:
It did multi-policy discounts, it looked at different ratings, and was able to produce quite a good product for the end-customer. But when the customer actually purchased the actual policy, it basically went and sent out an email to the operations team to fulfill. So quite a real, different experience on the employee side. Fantastic customer-experience side, but really lacking on what happens next, once it goes internal into the organization.

Chris:
And that’s often … I think that’s forgotten about, in terms of how the employee is going to use the information data, then, to fulfill the rest of the requirements. So it’s a common thing that you see, probably more often than not, that that’s the last kind of consideration, is, what the employee has to do to really help with that customer experience.

Chris:
And many people know there’s a massive linkage between the employee experience and the customer side. That really is a design, and that’s kind of our whole premise behind the employee experience work we do, but also the intelligent workplace strategies we have.

Chris:
How do we ensure that we keep the digital employee experience top of mind in this design process? I mean, one way I’ve heard of is to employ a chief experience officer. Have you seen a bit of that with your clients?

Cameron:
Yeah, we’ve seen a real shift that organizations are hiring chief digital officers, and the employee experience side, that are both responsible for the employee experience, as much of how it interrelates with the customer experience. We are seeing a lot more discussions at the exec table, where a combination between, potentially, HR director, and also a CIO, and who owns that kind of responsibility. So, there’s more and more discussions about where that lives. Is it a HR thing, is it a CIO thing, or this new role around chief experience officer?

Cameron:
It’s becoming more of a discussion. It’s quite new, I’d say, so some organizations are really thinking about the employee experience side, and some are grappling with where does the ownership live, in terms of digital employee experience? For now, some organizations are saying employee experience lives with HR, but then it becomes a little bit murky when it’s the digital experience.

Cameron:
So, you might be the productivity tools they use, or the core systems. Well, who owns that experience, and where should it live? It’s a really interesting discussion point, and a lot of executives at that at that C-level are really discussing it quite prominently at the moment.

Chris:
Yeah, it sounds like a good idea, to me. Now, you’re drawing those, those parallels between external customer experiences and internal employee experiences. Are there things that we can learn from providing great external customer experiences, when designing the intelligent workplace for our employees?

Cameron:
Well, there’s lots of parallels between the two, and we talk a lot about the internal insights in that digital employee experience kind of provides. So for customer experience, the moments of truth are the small elements, when a customer’s going through a buying journey and there might be something that doesn’t quite work when they get to checkout and pay in a E-commerce situation.

Cameron:
And there’s similar things that we call moments that matter. For employees, their moments of truths, or moments that matter, is really around things like, “I’ve got to do an expense claim and it’s an arduous process”, or, “I just need to get approval for a new head-count.” And this whole broken experience process is what causes that, what you call, poor employee experience, from those things that just don’t quite work.

Cameron:
Because that’s a real parallel between the two. Other ones is that the best kind of way, best connections, are human, so in the customer experience world, people like to deal with humans. They like to interact and get outcomes. No one likes to talk to an automated machine. They want to feel like they’re conversing and working through that.

Cameron:
So, how can we use technology to help people connect, and work together through collaboration, through connection? Most of us work in organizations that could be global, or interstate, or remote, and how do we make sure people feel connected to part of that workplace? But also, pull through things like that culture and how do we make people feel part of the team, if you like.

Cameron:
So that’s making sure that people feel that we focus on the human experiences.

Chris:
This one’s really interesting to me, because I feel like that sometimes can be that missing link, talking about water cooler conversations, and feeling part of a team when you’re working remotely. What are some of the technologies that you’re suggesting to your clients, that they use to sort of help bridge that gap?

Cameron:
Well, there’s many, in regards to that, and there’s obviously Microsoft Teams, and Slackit, and there’s things like Yammer which help that conversational type of interaction, and working on things. And there’s many facilities around with the types of video conferencing through Teams, and Skype, and those sort of technologies.

Cameron:
The more interaction that people can feel, where they can just quickly chat, they can interact, they can see each other, they can joke around like you would in the water-cooler situations. How people … to feel part of the team, no matter where they are. And that’s really important for teams that, as I said, might be remote, or need to interact or work together, but you know, not just doing it through email, where it’s a send-and-forget, and then you’re waiting to receive.

Cameron:
It’s dynamic interaction. There’s many technologies that … you might already … organizations might already have. It’s about designing how can we get that kind of feel, and make it fun and make people want to interact? Sometimes there’s … in designing some of that experience, how do we make people interact?

Cameron:
For us, in our digital team here at SXiQ, many of us are working on remote, interstate, or on client sites, or in the office and out of the office, so we connect and joke around on our Teams sites. Some of it is obviously work related, where we’re working on projects together. And other … we’re just we just sharing things that we would when we’re in the office.

Cameron:
It’s about encouraging and helping people understand how they can use the tools to do that, and then having people that really champion and drive it, and it’s been very successful, because were doing the same way we would in the office, as well, so it’s helping us a lot.

Chris:
I think it’s important to bring that human element back into those communications, and that’s why I really like the ones that are either audio or video, because you can tell what people are saying by the way that they use their voice, or the way they react with their face, as opposed to something where you’re typing things down and sometimes translation can get lost there.

Cameron:
Yeah, absolutely. And it’s interesting, we have different generations in organizations, and some of the newer generations prefer chat.

Chris:
They do. Yeah.

Cameron:
Typing, versus the video-conferencing side. So it is interesting that … we’ve got technologies that can provide multichannel kind of interactions, which is great, because it caters for different types of demographics and what people’s preferred method of channel is.

Cameron:
And that’s probably the other kind of insight, which is around that hyper-personalization. Everyone’s a little bit different in how they like to work, and there is ways to weave in the different preferences and channels that people would like, to work together.

Cameron:
I’ve watched my son play video games on the PS4, whilst face-timing his friends on an iPad, which is a really interesting way in how they collaborate and work and they-

Chris:
I have the same thing.

Cameron:
Absolutely. And they’ll be the next generations that’s working, where my daughter would use Instagram and chat technology, and prefers not the video conferencing side. So, these kind of considerations around personalizations and catering for the different kind of ways people want to interact, is something to be mindful of as well. Some people just don’t prefer to do the whole video conference with 30 people in the room. That kind of experience, and cultural elements, that you want to bring through, needs to be considered, I’d have to say.

Cameron:
There’s probably more of a cultural thing too. You’ve got all these technologies, you set your rules of interaction, how that works, and then, hopefully, people will find their way through that.

Cameron:
I often find that I’m sitting in a room here at work with 20 people, and I’ll get messages from half a dozen of the younger guys, who like to interact that way. And I’m like, “Why can’t you come over and have a conversation with me?” But that’s the way that we’ve trained them to interact with each other, is more around these chat rooms.

Chris:
Yeah, absolutely. And I think that’s a consideration, particularly when you’re designing that employee experience. You’ve got to consider the types of demographic. Do you have people who are more frontline workers and basically working on-site with people, and chats an easier mechanism to interact with, or is things like having a face-to-face more important because you want to bring that culture of talking and working together?

Chris:
That’s how we advocate to work. And before you jump, knees-deep, into technology, and consider designing the experience, so mapping out and designing those personas of how people work, to the top of, organizational behaviors you want to bring through, how do you encourage the cultural elements, that you’re trying to demonstrate through values, into that experience? And that’s really the process, and, I guess, part of our practice is designing that experience, up front, before we start getting into the technology side, because that’s often the largest gap, and the things that are missed the most.

Cameron:
I love that you mentioned there that you work with personas, to try and bring those things to life, because I’ve found them such a really effective way, both internally and externally, to make sure that you hit the nail on the head when you’re developing any of this sort of thing.

Cameron:
Yeah, look, a fair bit of our work at the moment is designing those personas, a day in a life, actually speaking to people who work in the organization, and what they do for a day-to-day basis. And you’d be surprised at how often organizations just aren’t speaking to the people, in a deliberate way, around how they operate, what they do. And they often surprise about how people work around systems because they’re just not getting information and data than need. How they work around the processes of things, because it’s just not a considered, or orchestrated, process.

Cameron:
But then, you’ll see organizations that spend a lot of time doing the personas for a customer journey, to make sure it’s precise, and is different ways that no customer is lost, and … I don’t have to tell this story more than once, in that there’s all this consideration, but when you look at an employee, it’s kind of, “Yeah, here’s his tool for this. Get the data. Go there to get this,” and it’s a real hodgepodge of different solutions, and information, and processes, just to get their day-to-day work done.

Cameron:
So that persona mapping, and having a deliberate thought and process around, “How do I extract what people are doing, and what would really benefit them and help them?” is often a bit of a lost art in organizations at the moment.

Chris:
So the 40 year old persona for Chris likes to talk face to face and the 20 year old developer persona likes to chat. Sorted.

Cameron:
Yeah, look, absolutely. And I think it’d be interesting, if every organization undertook that process, what that would discover about how people actually like to work, and is there a better way of designing it so that we could work more collectively together? It’d be great.

Chris:
Yeah. Mate, rounding all of this stuff out, how much of a difference to productivity can a good employee experience actually make?

Cameron:
Yeah, look, for organizations, it makes a huge difference. We’ve seen high as 25% increases in productivity. For different organizations, they’d focus on things like compliance and safety. I’ve had organizations that wanted, for their trucking company, three points of safety when a truck driver arrives at a site. And those sort of things can, potentially, save lives or reduce injury. For different organizations, there’s different metrics around things like productivity, compliance, safety.

Cameron:
Some organizations want people to be more productive, and get more things done. We work with organizations, like law firms, who want more billable hours. Those sort of metrics are normally established at the start of a project or an engagement, where we try and understand what people are trying to get out of it. And organizations are slightly different. Some have more … they want to improve things like engagement, so how people score the organization on engagement, and we see things around 15 to 20% around those, as well.

Cameron:
So, there’s lots of things that can be return on investment in these sort of projects, but different organizations have different drivers, and it’s a really key part to designing the experience, not only to make it an enjoyable engagement experience but there’s different kind of organizational drivers, or behaviors, that people may want to gather as well.

Cameron:
There’s something we haven’t mentioned in the whole chat this morning. Where does AI play a part, in the whole employee experience?

Chris:
Yeah, it’s a good question. And we’re obviously working with companies like LiveTiles and Microsoft, and all that, leveraging a lot of our AI technology, and there’s large type of projects that we do in the AI space, and in the bot space, where they’re learning … they’re sort of taking and helping employees augment some of the processes, or some of those mundane tasks, and using some of that AI technology to either learn how people are asking it to perform certain tasks, improve automation and workflow, and, even in data space, giving people insight, so, people not having to join the dots themself, but leveraging AI technology to look at these different types of reports and data and go, “We’re seeing some correlation here. Did you know about this?”

Chris:
And it’s really augmenting, and … I like to think about it in terms of, how can we help automate some of those employee tasks that are not adding a lot of value? And getting bots and AI data, and give people insights to make them more productive, but make their job easier, and allow people to do more creative, more high value tasks.

Chris:
We’re seeing a huge growth in projects and the demand for how AI can help augment employees’ intelligence. Rather than, as I said, go through mountains of data, and reports, and spreadsheets, and all kinds of things, and how AI can really play a dramatic role, to give insight, show new patterns that people couldn’t see, and also automate some of those monotonous tasks, as well.

Chris:
So, it’s a booming market at the moment, in that space, and it’s something that people are getting more excited. And a lot of it used to be quite hard to do. A lot of it used to require things like a data scientist to help with the modeling, and specialist AI developers, and tooling, and all that sort of stuff. But a lot of it, these days, can be deployed quite quickly and can get quite good wins in small amounts of investment in time.

Chris:
And that’s where we’re seeing the big shift, where organizations are going, “Do you know what? We can actually afford to do this, and it’s not a big stretch for some of the current talent we have to learn the technology.” And that’s where we’re seeing the greatest uptake, as well.

Chris:
It’s an exciting time to be a part of the technological space right now, isn’t it?

Cameron:
Yeah, absolutely. And as I said, there’s never been a time where we’ve had access to so much technology, so organizations are certainly keen to understand how they can leverage it more, as well.

Chris:
I’m loving it. I think I got into this space at just the right time. It’s all happening.

Chris:
We touched on AI a second ago, and how it sort of fits into the intelligent workplace, and that sort of rolls into my final question for you, which is what I’m going to ask each of my guests, and I’m calling it the billion dollar question. So, Cam, once the machines are doing all the work, what will the humans do? Are we destined to become the pets of AI in the future?

Cameron:
Look, it’s a good question. I’ve had this discussion many times, and I think there’s a place for technology and machines to augment what we do, and it allows us to focus on more high-value tasks, the creative process, the ability to think alongside machines, in terms of getting the insights. So, I see AI in technology as augmenting our intelligence, and helping us to leverage things that we couldn’t do before and see before, in terms of data and information. But I think that allows us to step it up a level, and take our creative thinking and look at new ways that we can think of each other a lot more, as humans, and helping each other more, rather than to focus on low-value tasks that don’t have as much value.

Cameron:
I think there’s a greater role to play, but I think it’s a role that we kind of have to evolve, with technology, a little bit, as well. Evolve us, and evolve technology to focus on a higher-level playing field, and leverage our creative side, a lot more. Leverage our more human traits of being personable, and mindful of everyone we interact with, so it’s probably a bit of a deep and meaningful question which we should probably have over beers, but I think there’s an opportunity for us to augment how we work, and allow us to step up, as the human race, to do a lot more.

Chris:
Well, I might take you up on that offer of a beer. Sounds good to me, mate.

Chris:
Look, Cam Smith, from SXiQ, thank you very much for joining me on the Intelligent Workplace podcast, today. I’ve certainly learned a lot and, mate, I’m loving some of your thoughts around digital employee experience and how that fits into the intelligent workplace.

Chris:
It’s great stuff, mate, and I encourage everybody to jump on to your blogs, and your LinkedIn page, and check out some of the stuff you’ve got there in the written form.

Chris:
So mate, thanks again for joining me, and hopefully we’ll talk soon, for that beer.

Cameron:
Thanks, Chris. A real pleasure. Thank you.

Chris:
Thanks for joining me on the Intelligent Workplace podcast, brought to you by LiveTiles. If you have any feedback, or want to suggest a guest for a future show, email podcast@livetiles.nyc. Thanks for listening. I’ll catch you next time.

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