Businesses are using technology to create better work experiences, leading to higher productivity, efficiency and loyalty from employees and customers. But actually getting there is complex. Insight’s Doug Fink reveals what it takes to tackle these challenges — and how mastering your method can open up a world of revenue opportunities.
Note: Complete audio transcript found after author info.
Published October 17, 2016
Announcer: You're listening Technomics. Connecting you to insights on digital transformation and the marketplace, with your hosts: Robyn Itule and Jeremy Nelson. The hosts' opinions are their own. Enjoy the show!
Robyn Itule: You know the business benefits of having engaged employees seem pretty obvious when you talk about what that might mean. If you have engaged employees you can have really happy clients. But getting to that, investing in that is a lot more complicated than it sounds.
Jeremy Nelson: It’s a lot harder to put it down onto paper, it’s a lot harder to connect the dots of, "If I invest here, I will see and reap the benefits for that here."
Robyn Itule: I think it’s a universally understood notion though that when you have things like great communication, effective collaboration, scenarios where people can be truly productive, you're going to see those benefits.
Jeremy Nelson:Absolutely, even just in the demeanor and the behavior of the people that are interfacing with your customers. Because they're going to feel empowered. And when they feel empowered to make something happen and to change someone's perception, usually they do.
Robyn Itule: Well that empowerment is something that is really striking as well because you've got to enable people to be able to make decisions that are in the best interest of the customers. And they need the information and they need the lines of communication in order to be able to do that.
Jeremy Nelson: Absolutely.
Robyn Itule: When we come back, we are going to talk with Doug Fink who leads the modern workplace practice and he can help us communicate a little bit better about some of these workforce enablement issues.
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Robyn Itule: Jeremy have you ever had just a really great experience with someone at a company. They were trying to help you out and they just did a really, really great job.
Jeremy Nelson: That's a good one, I can think of lots of negative ones. But I actually have had some positive ones, again coming back to the traveling. Southwest has some great, great support folks, very engaged.
Robyn Itule: Can I ask what they did?
Jeremy Nelson: One of the things was we were late taking off and it was the flight crew on board who obviously recognized the amount of tension right. So it had already been a plane swap because of mechanical issues and we were delayed, it was like an hour and a half delay. And the flight crew just muscled forward and really went the extra mile to give an extra touch, "Hey sorry we're late." Gave out some free drinks to people.
Robyn Itule: That always helps.
Jeremy Nelson: Yep and just really went the extra mile to try and smooth it over for something they had no control over.
Robyn Itule: Did they make sure to read you all of them, "Okay if you're going to Chicago we're going to need you to go to this gate, everybody please."
Jeremy Nelson:You got it.
Robyn Itule: Yeah and they probably had a few tools in their pocket to help make sure they had the right information to make that experience better.
Jeremy Nelson:Oh absolutely. The way that they were able to process a pretty substantial line, it was a full flight, a lot of people to have to deal with, obviously not in the most pleasant of states at the time. But the tools that they had, the attitudes that they had, it made all the difference.
Robyn Itule: So in this instance it sounds like they had two things really working to their advantage. Some great technologies that were allowing them to communicate and free drinks.
Jeremy Nelson: Yep, those two things together, probably I would reverse the order but..
Robyn Itule: In terms of priority.
Jeremy Nelson: Yes I would but all in all, those were the keys I think to their success.
Robyn Itule: So all told, that means that when they had engaged employees, they were able to create happier clients and it turned out to be a business benefit, if not at least a little bit of a hassle, at least it wasn't a total disaster.
Jeremy Nelson: Yeah it went from a minor inconvenience to a total meltdown type situation.
Robyn Itule: That's good, from defcon five to defcon one or two.
Jeremy Nelson: Yeah something like that.
Robyn Itule: Well having engaged employees is increasingly dependent on the kinds of communication technology that you are able to give to your workforce. Which is why we have none other than our own Doug Fink who leads the modern workplace practice at Insight to help us talk through some of these issues, hi Doug.
Doug Fink: Hello Robyn and Jeremy, thanks for having me today.
Robyn Itule: We're so excited you're here, because we've been talking about workforce enablement this season. Last season on Technomics we discussed customer engagement and we had some phenomenal ideas come out of it and a lot of them had to do with customer service and what the employees were doing. And I feel like we're going to have some nice crossover back to Season 1 in this conversation as we talk about, "What do we need to be giving employees so that they're able to carry out that customer engagement mission?"
Doug Fink: Yeah and I think it’s going to be exciting, this is an area that I'm super passionate about. I think there are a lot of pieces that go into driving success in organizations. And this is a very important piece and one very personal so I think I'm very passionate about it.
Robyn Itule: So let's start with a fairly lofty question. Why is there such a huge gap between companies top priority of engaging customers and one of the arguably, the biggest driver of that priority which is engaging the workforce with the tools they need to do exactly that.
Doug Fink: Well that is a lofty question. I think it’s tough these days. Probably when I talk to customers and even business partners, the biggest challenge they face is trying to get the right talent in the right place. So this talent pool has gotten a lot smaller at the really top levels of the talent pool. So retention and attracting that talent is very, very critical and it’s very hard to do I think. So I think identifying that gap is tough, it’s a balance between actually finding ways to be profitable and achieve your business goals, but making sure that your employees are happy so that they want to be engaged in those happy customers. I think that is a huge challenge for people and they've got to find somewhere in the middle.
Robyn Itule: So where does technology play into that. Like what are the drivers there. What knobs and levelers can you toy with to try and hit the sweet spot with engaging the workforce.
Doug Fink: I think there is a lot of conversations going on about this today. Things like the consumerization of IT, you hear a lot about, it’s almost overused, the whole millennial conversation. We know that this new workforce is much more talented than probably we were 10 or 20 years ago. They've got all the tools, they've got XBOX, they've got lots of techno capabilities.
Robyn Itule: I love that XBOX was first on your list. Was that a plant from Jeremy?
Jeremy Nelson: We're playing Pokemon Go after we walk out of the production room by the way.
Doug Fink: Yeah, so they're finding ways to use those talents that they grew up with in the gaming world and take those into the workplace. The problem I think is that this consumerization of IT really talks to the technology that we have at our fingertips with cell phones and video games and not having that same capability when I get to the office. So that's the gap that we're trying to solve for. The companies that do, name a couple like maybe the Silicon Valley stalwarts like Google or Facebook, people love working for those guys. They want to go work there because they provide them all the technical tools and experience to be happy. And clearly that drives a perception around those companies, a brand if you will that's a very positive in the marketplace. They show up very highly usually when we look at who's rating the highest in places to work. So I know studies have been done around the top 100 places to work and how they drive profitability, what their perceptions of brands are, and that's really critical. So, I think it starts there.
Jeremy Nelson: It’s interesting that you mentioned a couple of key things there. So the phones and the XBOX as catalysts to some of the expectations. And when we look at companies like the Facebooks and the Googles, I think one thing that if there's a theme across all of those is communication right? The way to collaborate, the way to bring people together in different ways that we see often in enterprises that are challenged with kind of unifying that message and unifying that collaboration.
Doug Fink: Yeah typically when you talk about these sort of challenges its around do people want to work from home, how transient are they, how do you supply the technology to enable that properly. There's other things that come into play there around compliance and security and other things that you have to be careful of. But again I talked earlier to that balance and there is a certain enablement around tools and allowing them to drive to quicker decisions to get products to market faster, that anywhere, anytime capability. Being able to reach out and grab experts in the field rather than flying them into a meeting perhaps, that face to face communications. So there's a lot of technology that we have access to today to make that happen. It’s probably been slower in the adoption phase in the corporate space than maybe people are doing at home. Again, I love the use of the example of Skype. People have been using Skype with their relatives overseas for years and years and years. Voice over IP technologies, talking over the internet, providing video at virtually no cost to the consumer. Yet, look at the marketplace today. So few corporate institutions still have broadly or pervasive video communication technologies rolled out within their organizations. That we know for a fact really means important things to the consumer. Being able to see that baby that was born overseas maybe while I was deployed in the military. We know that face to face communication is huge so why are we not taking advantage of that. And I would suggest that one is education. Clients and customers need to be educated on how to get there. So it’s the planning around that and the ability to execute again there's a pretty small workforce that's capable of doing this in a seamless way. And I think that's where we want to come in. That's where we want to help people. We want to help educate them. We want to help build a plan build a plan for them to get there. Because it doesn't happen overnight. It's something that happens over months and years. But you've got to start now with that plan. And then once you start rolling out that plan, we want to help them execute on that.
Jeremy Nelson: Is there, and so just off of that, you brought up video conferencing, video chat, video meetings, virtual meetings. Do you feel like there is a general perception issue where I think there is a stall word of people who are used to conducting business in person. Which drives a lot of travel and other barriers and things like that. And so it’s challenging to convince them that a video conversation can be an adequate substitute for that in person face to face conversation.
Doug Fink: Yeah no doubt Jeremy. I think there's to camps really. You have some of the older kind of cultures out there that, I used to have a manager that used to say that leaders need to be seen. Expectation wise, you're in the office every day right? But the millennials, now that we used that term already, their expectation is I'm going to get up, I'm going to start working early in the morning, I'm going to crush 16 hours a day, I'm not going to leave my bedroom right? So I think you have to create an environment that supports both of those. I think, you hear a lot about now, I don't know if you spend any time in Silicon Valley, but pretty much all of those clients have the very low kind of cubicles, they're very work group kind of based. There might be a white board in the middle with 4 or 5 cubes around there and the expectation that people come in there and grind it out together. But then you also have the remote worker, and to get your hands on all of that talent you're talking about and you're not going to achieve both by one or the other. I think it's a combination of the two.
Jeremy Nelson: Yeah speaking of Silicon Valley, again for our listeners who are used to hearing me, that's one of my favorite shows.
Doug Fink: Love that show.
Robyn Itule: We're tackling all of your favorite things. We've already discussed XBOX and Silicon Valley today.
Jeremy Nelson: I am all smiles, you know if this was a video podcast, everybody would just see me glowing right now. This is just so great. But on Silicon Valley, the show, it was very similar right? Where it was that hybrid approach that you were taking about. You had your core team with your executives and leadership and core architects that have that physical same place, but when it came time to really ramp up and to really be able to extend their presence and bring in a massive number of developers. And obviously this is in a show but it is based on some real world experiences and realities. Is that they're initially stuck with that paradigm of, "Okay, we need to being a whole bunch of these physical bodies in." Well they're extremely expensive and office space and all of those things that come along with it. And eventually they end up using video chat. You have your core team right there to kind of face it and crunch it out. But at the same time, interface with maybe some of those satellite responsibilities where they bring in people from literally all over the world through video chat and they have regular meetings through those video experiences and it ends up obviously providing the experience where it will be successful and scale.
Doug Fink: Yeah I think it’s important to talk about two things there. One is still agree, there is this still this hybrid approach. And that leads to two things for me. One is the technology, how do you support a hybrid model from a tech perspective. And I think when you look at the technologies that we're spending a lot of time with clients on today. Things like O365 or Office 365 which is really taking those desktop applications and email and things that we're so used to out to the cloud. Things like Azure as a platform to do business on. That is enabling both the mobility and the ability to access, we hear it a lot, any device anywhere anytime. But moving those things to the cloud for certain applications that make a lot of sense in that use case. That's really important to getting us there. It’s either cloud based, premise based or now even more so, a hybrid solution of the two. So that's kind of the technology. So as we move the technology out to the cloud, we've enabled it from a technology perspective, and we've been pretty good at that. If you look at all the migrations for email to the cloud and those work screens. We're seeing just a lot more of the platform as a surface capability. So as we're moving along out there, we've got that figured out, I think we're pretty good at that. But what people are not real good at is the change management or the adoption behind that. So you talked to video and I think this is so critical. We really, really have to spend a lot of time with customers to make sure they really understand not only do you put in the video but you have to spend a lot of time helping people understand why they're using video because their hair is messed up or they don't like to be, not everyone's a Kim Kardashian right? Popping selfies one after the other. So you have that challenge and then you have to.
Robyn Itule: Are you, I'm sorry for the interruption, are you suggesting that corporate cultures also need to when they deploy video conferencing issue contouring and other makeup tips?
Doug Fink: You know it’s an answer, I hadn't thought about it. You know, I think we have an opportunity there.
Jeremy Nelson: There we go.
Doug Fink: There's probably good margin in there.
Robyn Itule: Listen all we need to do is create an app filter right? I mean it’s just like Instagram, there's a million dollars in this, probably a whole lot more..
Doug Fink: Well I'm going to admit I probably know more about the Kardashians than I would like to on this podcast. But if you look at the money they're making off their applications.
Doug Fink: But I am definitely saying that the time on the back end has to be spent to change culture. That does not happen by enabling technology. That is really adoption and driving culture change and spending a lot of time. So what I think you're seeing is customers having to wrap their minds around shifting their investment dollars from the front end and the product cycle to the services heavy adoption capabilities and change management. That's a big shift for people, they haven't always seen value in that when it came to looking at the cost of a solution. But what we're finding is that enables the utilization of those new technologies. And that allows them to be driving that happy, happy employee kind of thing. Because I'll tell you, I just finished working on a very large client that moved to a soft phone capability. So their hard phones on their desk that you and I are used to picking up and talking through no longer existed. When they came in on Monday, they had, their laptop rang, they had a Bluetooth headset. Can you imagine anything more frustrating than someone calling you, your phone is ringing, and you have no idea how to pick it up?
Jeremy Nelson:That would be awful.
Doug Fink: Or when you did pick it up, you couldn't hear anyone right? So these are just kind of the tenants of life these days, yet those no longer existed for a lot of people. Because they hadn't properly been educated on and enabled around the technology. So huge miss there. So those are the important kind of things to make sure that your employers find a happy medium.
Robyn Itule: Well and it’s also, if you think about how quickly the technology is evolving in the workplace, and its evolving around about half the pace of the marketplace at large. So where a lot of people are just coming onto enterprise versions of Skype that are fully video enabled, truth of the matter is you're probably looking at more of a Snapchat style application coming into view quicker than anybody wants to admit. There's a lot of communication that's evaporating or needing to have, "What's your story line, are we going to have a story line for this project? Can we fire off individual messages that can expire and have filters that turn you into a piece of toast?"
Jeremy Nelson: Well I will say, so Doug and I work very, very closely together. I work with a lot of his teammates and one individual is very much in that camp. And I love getting on video conferences, or just any conferences cause he's one of the first people that will turn on that video capabilities. And he's very much into kind of making it a little fun to try and drive some of that interest to get people to embrace this. And that is a little whimsy and continuously having filters that put little Santa hats on or a little Christmas tree with blinking lights and a nametag at the bottom. Very creative individual who really has just embraced that and is using some of those fun, I mean we laugh, but he uses some of those tools to help encourage the enablement of that technology on a wider scale.
Doug Fink: Yeah and I think uh the tools have the opportunity to drive happier employees and create a better perception of their clients and customers. However, I think there's another piece to these applications, the smart app mentality that if you look at a model that maybe we've used for a long time around call centers, contact centers, which we call a lot of times now customer care centers because we're kind of changing now how we handle the customer. The idea behind that was allowing the application IE, NADE call routing system [assumed] to determine maybe which call center agent the customer interacts with. And we base that on maybe past interactions, scores, other things like that. So if you're platinum level customer calls in, you want to make sure that you are routing that call to someone who's very good at handling high end cases, complex cases, high service levels, etc. So when you think about that, we've had the technology there for a while but now we're able to really extend that to not just call center agents but potentially everyone in the organization. Instant messaging is an example where maybe now we can begin to understand who's available anywhere anytime maybe what their skill sets as we begin to attach things like the disciplines and competencies behind certain individuals. Now we have a much broader way to interact with our clients and customers to drive the right person to the right client.
Jeremy Nelson: These are some great perspectives Doug. And we're loving the conversations. We're going to take a quick break and we'll be right back with more Technomics.
Robyn Itule: Jeremy do you ever feel like you have a hard time figuring out what the most important technology news is on a weekly basis?
Jeremy Nelson: Always, I never seem to know where to go.
Robyn Itule: There's so much of it.
Jeremy Nelson: So much.
Robyn Itule: Fortunately for people like you, there is The Script. Which is one of our newsletters that is about the news, best practices, and current trends in technology. We have scoured the web and we've looked for only the most important things. So if, like Jeremy, you need a concise, valuable, way to get the most out of the technology headlines, visit www.insight.com to subscribe to The Script. They're IT headlines worth repeating.
Robyn Itule: So there's so many different opportunities and technologies that you can put at the fingertips of your workforce but how do you start to make the decision about which one to invest in, especially when we know from things like the Insight technology index that enterprise businesses are really struggling to keep up with their infrastructure. How do they make decisions about investing in the workforce and enabling them with the right technologies when they're still trying to play catch up?
Doug Fink: Yeah that one's always going to be a challenge for customers. I can tell you how we typically handle that from a service perspective is. One it starts with like I said, really understanding their business first and foremost because very few customers can go out and fix all of those fairly quickly. So it tends to be a lot of conversation with customers and understanding what their big business initiatives are, what funding they have available and how they prioritize that. I mean a lot of times that's very vertically based. Maybe in the healthcare space, there are a couple areas that will drive a lot of return on that investment very quickly, financial sectors in education, other sectors that have different models there. So I think it typically starts with understanding their business, asking a lot of questions, understanding what's important to them, and then beginning to sit down with them and create a road map or a strategy for that. Road mapping is so important these days for us just to understand really big building blocks and where they want to get to. It's kind of the old Stephen Covie, begin with the end in mind. I mean it’s really that simple, it’s not that hard. You just tell us where you want to get to and let's find a way to get you there. That's digestible from a cost perspective it doesn't provide a lot of impact. You know, along the way there it’s pretty east to go in and understand and measure some of that impact assessment and help prioritize though. So that's typically I think where we would start. And Jeremy, I know your team does a lot of work for us as well and it’s been pretty successful.
Robyn Itule: What's the most exciting thing you see. Maybe that you're not working on it right now but boy you'd sure love a project that involved it. What's that unmet need that you think is out there for a customer that you'd love to see deployed?
Doug Fink: Wow that's a good question. I would say just passionate around collaboration tools in general. We kind of went through this voice over IP capability and instant messaging becoming prevalent, video becoming pervasive. But I think the silver bullet is when you put all of those together into a single kind of platform and we're starting to see some of those come along now. We're taking a bunch of different instant messaging and video and voice tools and putting them onto one thing. Cisco Sparks is one example that's out there that's still fairly new in the industry. That when you look at now all of your collaborations happen within a single virtual room and they stay there pervasively so that you can go back and review those at a later date. You can make calls within a certain room as a team and you have to bring everybody in very quickly. That's just one example I think the same when I think O365, how Microsoft perspective is and Sharepoint and some of the other tools, they're bringing that together in a way that I think will be very, very powerful in the coming weeks and months and years so.
Jeremy Nelson: Yeah I think that's a great call. You look at the way the communications happen within any enterprise, its voice, its video, its documents, its email and the tools that you mention do a great job of basically trying to bring all of that together to live under one umbrella. Especially if you were again, in this kind of conversations model, where you have them hopefully in that room, or that theme if you will. So you have one place to go if you want to learn anything about that particular thing.
Doug Fink: So you just pointed out Jeremy that the biggest challenge we've had in this industry has been the silos that we've created with a bunch of great applications right? Instant messaging, voice video, Sharepoint and content management all of those pieces. So bring those together, not only within a single vendor, but across vendor, and maybe taking that to the cloud as well. So truly we get to an anywhere anytime capability. If I want to access email from a cruise ship I can do that without my laptop I can do that, those kinds of things. That's really where the next big leap is here.
Jeremy Nelson: Not healthy though, don't recommend that.
Robyn Itule: Yeah if we're going to talk about productivity, let's respect the fact that some time of is a critically important.
Jeremy Nelson: Work/life balance.
Robyn Itule: In this whole function.
Doug Fink: But yeah I agree. So we're working on both of those. That's really I think the next big leap in technology is breaking down some barriers there and allowing those applications to work, that would be big.
Robyn Itule: Yeah I think that's a great call. I love to quote and do so with some frequency and will do so now, love to quote Marshall McLuhan who is the rather famed communicator who said, "The medium is the message." And we've come up with so many different mediums that we do start to lose the message. And I think we're probably at an inflection point where we're going to be able to boil those back down so we actually can start sending true messages again through defined mediums.
Doug Fink: I mean we talk a lot about the technology and how it drives happier employees. There are ancillary benefits here and that's something we've been chasing for a long time in the business world and that's to reduce cost and really the driving up of some productivity. And so those benefits are becoming real too and I think in the past we struggled to articulate those in return on investment models. But I think we can really gather some hard evidence here in the coming months.
Robyn Itule: So what's your one-liner to prove that ROI when you talk to a client. Give it to me in one sentence.
Doug Fink: Well I think actually the proof is in the pudding is probably the best line to prove this. Too many times our ROIs are talked about soft cost, but at the end of the day we only care about hard costs. And I think that only happens through earnings per share and financial models and things like customer satisfaction ratings and so the reality of it is I think the proof is in the pudding.
Robyn Itule: Well and that is a great way to close because the proof is in the pudding and Forrester Customer Experience Index really backs that up because they say that one of the key success factors for companies is customer satisfaction and the link between employee satisfaction and customer's perception and opinion is extremely strong. So employees are enabled and that are happy are able to deliver on that customer experience. The hard dollars are in some of the mushier stuff which makes the pudding analogy so appropriate here.
Jeremy Nelson: It’s like the Oreos in the pudding.
Robyn Itule: I mean that could be like a crunchy surprise that we weren't expecting.
Doug Fink: We found another one of Jeremy's hot buttons I think.
Robyn Itule: Oreos, XBOX.
Jeremy Nelson: Man I do not have very healthy things here.
Robyn Itule: As long as we're not going down the route of like Flaming Hot Cheetos I think we're okay.
Jeremy Nelson: Oh that's another good one too. I love those in my burritos.
Doug Fink: You had to go there.
Robyn Itule: Are you, oh man. Well we have come to the end of another delicious and delightful episode of Technomics. Doug we're so grateful that you took the time to come and talk about workforce enablement and how to create cheerful clients.
Doug Fink: Yeah thanks for having me Robyn and Jeremy, I had a good time.
Jeremy Nelson: We'll have you back.
Doug Fink: Awesome.
Robyn Itule: We'll bring burritos. More specifically you will.
Doug Fink:Taco Bell.
Jeremy Nelson: I will, with Flaming Hot Cheetos in them. Thanks for listening to Technomics. If you want to find more episodes you can download the podcasts from iTunes, Google, or your favorite podcast provider. And for more stories on intelligent technology, visit www.insight.com.