Workforce Enablement: The Case Study Episode
In this season finale, it’s all about practical application. Join us as Insight’s Senior Vice President of Services Mike Gaumond discusses the real-world successes of three of our biggest clients.
Find out how they’ve used workplace technology to drive efficiencies and transformation like never before — from real-time analytics to faster checkout solutions and more.
Note: Complete audio transcript found after author info.
Episode 6 - Workforce Enablement: The Case Study Episode
Published November 28, 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: Jeremy its so good to see you back in the saddle.
Jeremy Nelson: I know I have missed my spot here on Technomics.
Robyn Itule: Well Mike Gaumond kept it warm for you for our case study episode, which was another great one. We talked about beer, furniture, and healthcare. Three things which naturally go together.
Jeremy Nelson: Absolutely, everyones got it.
Robyn Itule: Yeah, yeah they do. Some interesting stories about how technology is changing the workforce and funny because of course because of course we got back to clients. But the really great thing is that we also got to some of the behind the scenes stuff to help lead us into Season 3 which is coming soon.
Jeremy Nelson: Doohhh. Spoiler alert. You got to let people know.
Robyn Itule: And its going to be your domain in Season 3 I think.
Jeremy Nelson: What's Season 3? Can you give me a hint?
Robyn Itule: Well no, you have to wait till you get there.
Jeremy Nelson: Oh man. Are we there yet.
Robyn Itule: We haven't finished this episode yet. 14 more gas stations. Coming up next, Mike Gaumond, great stories about beer, furniture, and healthcare. Next on Technomics.
Jeremy Nelson: One of my favorite people to listen to, I can't wait.
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Robyn Itule: This season we've been talking about workforce enablement and its something those of us who are in a profession of any kind feel very near and dear to because its our employers trying to help make our lives just a little bit easier, via technology of course. And so to bring it all together for us, we have arguably our most favorite guest, Mr. Mike Gaumond who is joining us to talk about some of the ways that we've actually been helping real life clients to make workforce enablement a real thing for the people in those organizations. Mike welcome back.
Mike Gaumond: Happy to share them, where do you want to start?
Robyn Itule: How about beer?
Mike Gaumond: One of my favorite topics of all time.
Robyn Itule: I know this is about you which is why it was first on the list. So let's talk about a very significant beer company who has been doing more than popping tabs and tapping kegs.
Mike Gaumond: Absolutely, so one of the largest brewers is a great client of ours and they are a global company so they have about nine business units around the world. Which, as you can imagine, adds quite a bit of complexity when you think about the workforce and everybody from brewmasters to sales and marketing people to business executives all over the world. They also do quite a few acquisitions. So they acquire a lot of other breweries and that's part of how they've grown to this scale that they are. And what was interesting was we started working with them and we talked to them about their workforce and what was holding back the productivity of their workforce. What we found was that through global growth and through acquisitions they had actually implemented a pretty broad set of different types of communication and collaboration technologies. Which is interesting they get to experiment with all of that. But most of them didn't actually work with each other. So it sort of defeated the purpose the employees couldn't actually collaborate very effectively because they were all using different tool sets. So they faced a pretty big challenge. And what we actually did was go in and help them architect and build and deploy a solution. And we leveraged the best of breed of two of our biggest partners, Microsoft and Cisco, to create a truly integrated and truly global communication and collaboration platform for their workforce. So now you could picture a brewmaster with a tablet working in a brewery. And you could picture a sales executive at one of their distributors or a corporate executive at headquarters all collaborating even though ones in a brewery on a tablet, ones at a client on a notebook, ones at corporate headquarters on a desktop, all working off the same information and collaborating on solving a problem together.
Robyn Itule: A single source of truth. Although I believe the Latin saying is that in wine there is truth. But this client managed to find that there is a single source of communication and collaboration truth in beer and Microsoft and Cisco.
Mike Gaumond: Yes, yeah. Beer helps you get to the bottom of a lot of truths.
Robyn Itule: There's so many great metaphors in this first case study, I love it. One thing that's interesting that you brought up is the collaboration with distributors and some of these outside entities that work hand in hand with that organization. How did that collaboration effect extend to that entire ecosystem?
Mike Gaumond: I think that's a great question. We see a lot of our customers actually extending collaboration beyond the borders of their company. So yes its cross functional and cross geography within a company but they extend it to their partners. Whether that's distributors or manufacturing partners or design partners, whomever they work with and again same concept. If I get everybody working off the same sheet of music if you will..
Robyn Itule: Harmony.
Mike Gaumond: Harmony. What happens is productivity goes up. People are able to collaborate more effectively, come to decisions, solve problems, meet the needs of their clients more quickly than they could in the past. We're also seeing it, I think we talked in one of the prior episodes, about the millennials in the workforce. And the millennials have grown up expecting to use these kinds of technologies. So you can not only improve productivity, but in many cases you can actually make the employees happier about the work that they're doing by giving them better tools and technology and actually increase retention of your workforce at the same time.
Robyn Itule: Yeah that's true whether or not you're selling beer. Which seems like another easy sell when you're trying to recruit for some of those rolls. Especially out of college campuses perhaps.
Mike Gaumond: I think that's my next career, is a microbrewery.
Robyn Itule: I believe that, I believe that. So Mike we know that you are a pretty savvy business guy. So in addition to being a sophisticated brewmaster we're going to go ahead assume that you'll have a very successful brewery and perhaps you'll do some investing and trading with the piles and piles of cash that you'll be making. So it takes me to another case study about a financial services company that wanted to help their team be more effective in training for their clients.
Mike Gaumond: Absolutely, so we worked with one of the largest banks based out of New York City. So they manage investments on behalf of their clients. And one of the things they want to do is protect those investments against fluctuations in currency and foreign currency when they're investing in multiple different markets around the world. So they actually have a dedicated foreign currency trading desk who's job is, the traders there, their job is to understand the different movements and potential movements of foreign currencies and buy and sell foreign currencies, not so much to make money on the currencies, but to protect the core investments of their clients against foreign currency movement that could adversely impact the returns on their investment. The challenge they had was that their currency traders were not getting accurate, timely, or usable data, to help inform their decisions about which currencies were moving in which direction and whether they should buy or sell or how they should hedge their investments. So what we did through our BlueMetal team was actually create a currency trading dashboard and give them real time analytics and visibility into information such as the volume of currency trades over time. The distribution of those trades across different currency trading channels. As well as of course the exchange rates that they were changing at. And we put it into a highly visual, very intuitive dashboard that a currency trader could look at very, very quickly to determine what types of moves they should make and which different currencies. And its pretty exciting by implementing this. The traders not only did faster, more profitable currency trades, but they also did in fact mitigate the risk of the core investment portfolios of their clients, which was the whole business goal that they started with.
Robyn Itule: That data visualization is such a big focus for companies because they've got spreadsheet after spreadsheet with thousands and thousands of lines on it. And making sense of it isn't a matter of pivoting tables, its about putting it into a really fast, digestible mechanism. And this example really highlights that. If you're trading in real time, you don't have the luxury for scrolling for even 100 lines. You need to be able to make a correlation and a decision really, really quickly.
Mike Gaumond: Exactly and the trick here that you alluded to was number one, you have to make the information available in near real time, because the currency movements happen very, very quickly. And if you're a financial institution that has billions of dollars of assets under management, you have very, very small percentage change, one basis point change could cost you tens of millions of dollars in that currency. So you have to be able to do this at near real time. And then secondly to your point, you can't just spew a whole bunch of numbers in front of a currency trader that they can't interpret quickly. So its visualizing that data in a way that a currency trader could look at it and in an instant, the way a pilot might look at the key indicators on their cockpit and make a decision right then and there as whether to buy or sell and how much of which different currencies.
Robyn Itule: Really interesting application of synthesizing big data. Don't go away we have some more on Technomics coming at you in just a minute.
Robyn Itule: Data is a pretty powerful thing today and Jeremy, I need some of your opinion on this. How are you seeing data transforming the way that businesses are operating.
Jeremy Nelson: If you're a regular listener to Technomics, I don't think that's a secret. We've done a lot of conversations with developers that focus on Internet of Things and big data and just the way that that is used to help drive business forward. Data is at the heart of all of it.
Robyn Itule: Its a real game changer not just for businesses, but for the entire world that we live in. And one company that has always, always been a big player here is Microsoft.
Jeremy Nelson: Absolutely, some of the very first data base experiences or just data centric experiences I can remember in my career have been around Microsoft products.
Robyn Itule: So they're introducing Microsoft Sequal Server 2016. Sequal Server 2016 is a data analytics platform with features and lots of enhancements that are delivering breakthrough performance. That are helping companies to advance their security, enrich integrated reporting and analytics that helps them run smarter.
Jeremy Nelson: Absolutely, and I think one of the big topics that we've talked about here on Technomics as well has been security. And with the release of Sequal 2016, there are definitely some advancements in security features there too.
Robyn Itule: Yeah its the least vulnerable database that protects data at the rest and in motion with new, always encrypted technology. So good, that's a good thing.
Jeremy Nelson: Especially as people are moving more towards cloud based data bases and we're leveraging the cloud and making sure that we have everything secured and locked down in that slightly public space is obviously a very, very good thing.
Robyn Itule: Not only that, its in-database advanced analytics operationalize data using services in real time. Which we know from other conversations has been incredibly important for businesses to help transform by understanding what's happening in that minute. Last but not least, from on premise to cloud, there is a consistent experience across server and database as a service. Which is super, super important as people are making that transition to hybrid.
Jeremy Nelson: And if you're interested in learning more about Insight, and how Microsoft Sequal can work for you, visit www.insight.com/sqlserver to talk to an Insight specialist. That's www.insight.com/sqlserver.
Robyn Itule: Going in a completely different direction here, I want to talk about a point of sales system that we worked on for a consumer furniture business. That's a really interesting environment where you're not plucking something off the shelf in a lot of instances there. You might be sitting on the couch and want to buy said couch and there's no hauling that until it comes through your door. So talk to me a little bit how we were able to impact the sales environment both for the workforce and there's an obvious extension to the consumer on this one.
Mike Gaumond: No absolutely, and this was a home products and furnishings retailer that has several hundred stores across the United States. And they do sell things like furniture, like couches and chairs and dining room tables. They also sell things like spatulas and little things. And I think one of the first places they saw the problem was someone that might go in. Let's say I walked into this store and say I was just going to buy a couple of spatulas and I look and I see the checkout line, there's five people in line. I mean I'm not waiting for five people to checkout, I'm putting the spatulas back and I leave. So they have not only a lost sale, albeit a small one, but they have a not very happy customer which is not where they want to be. So we actually helped them develop a mobile point of sale solution that their store associates can carry with them on a tablet, through out the store and checkout something simple, like I'm buying three spatulas and a cook book in the aisle. We have the ability to integrate it with their inventory system so that they know if the inventory is in the front or in the back of the store. They know the pricing, they can take the customers credit card, its integrated with the store's point of sale system so at the end of the day of course, they need to be able to count up all the sales. It can't just be on the mobile. Its also integrated with third party payment processing so they can actually charge the credit card. So its actually made the store associate actually much more productive. Instead of having to run to the back room or call someone to find out if they have inventory or usher a customer up to the counter. Its also made the customer experience much better. So they're avoiding the lost sales and improving the customer experience. And in fact I had the opportunity, my wife and I were buying a couch at store and the sales associate had the tablet on her arm.
Robyn Itule: You guys have good taste, I'm just saying.
Mike Gaumond: She has good taste, I just follow along and do as I'm told. The sales associate had the tablet on a bracket on her arm, on a little adapter on her arm. She was able to tell us which versions of the couch they had in stock, versus if it needed to be ordered, what the lead time was to order it, where it would be shipped from, how much it was, and different fabric selections, all of those things in real time, show us pictures, show us different options for the configuration. We made the decision, did the buy, clicked, paid for it right then and there, never left the couch in order to complete the sale. And then of course I proceeded to ask her about 34 questions about the application and how it worked and whether she liked it. It was quite interesting, she was a little puzzled about why I was more interested in that than the couch.
Robyn Itule: Did she feel enabled?
Mike Gaumond: She actually loved it. She said being able to address a client's questions in real time while they're there, being able to check availability of products, being able to know things like lead times, ship times, cost of different fabrics or configuration options at the click of her finger. The only negative she had to say was that it was on a brace on her arm and she said it gets heavy if I'm wearing this all day. But that wasn't the application. The application is very light.
Robyn Itule: Well played sir. The ergonomics opportunity I see in there. Well that's wonderful, gosh how satisfying too to be able to see the team's work first hand and be able to experience from the client side. We ultimately want to help businesses run smarter. And in so many ways we're lucky because a lot of the clients we get to help out, we're their customers too. So its lovely when the table flips and we see that the hard work our talented team mates are putting in is truely delightful.
Mike Gaumond: It really is, it was a great experience for her as a store associate working there and it was a great experience for us as customers, much easier than what would have typically happened.
Robyn Itule: Well from the couch, to a decidedly different environment, and that is for a healthcare system in the New England area. We did quite a bit of work there on a staffing app. So what's the story behind that.
Mike Gaumond: So it’s a really interesting story. It’s a healthcare system in the Northeaset that has multiple hospitals and clinics and doctors' offices. And one of the challenges that they faced was staffing the right different disciplines of nursing at the right hospital, clinic, or doctor's office at the right time based on what was happening. And what they had historically done was pretty manual and they would figure it out very near real time and then say we need more pediatric nurses over here or we need more ER nurses over there. And they're trying to react and pull people in off of vacation to do the staffing. So what we actually did was help them to do analytics enabled staffing. So we did analytics and looked at admission rates, check in rates, medical procedure rates, all different kinds of factors to determine what actually drove the demand for the different nursing disciplines in the different locations and came up with staffing algorithms so that they could much more effectively have the right types of nurses at the right facility at the right time to optimize the care they needed to provide. So it actually made life better for the nurses because they knew further in advance where they needed to be and they were less likely to get called in off of break or vacation in an emergency. It also was a better experience for the patients because if you have the right skilled care there, you're going to have a better health outcome and obviously, if you're a patient in a healthcare system, that's your primary goal.
Robyn Itule: So some very cool stories here, I want to take a different take on things because as we come to a close on the workforce enablement season, I think there is a real opportunity to talk about what's possible. It’s something that we hear from our leadership team all the time, looking forward to that next horizon and imagining just what might be out there. And it might seem outlandish but the last time something seemed outlandish, that was the next thing that Forester and Gartner and IDC were predicting would be the next big thing. So what do you see up ahead for enabling the workforce that really, really, is exciting?
Mike Gaumond: I think it’s taking some of the kind of real time analytics that we've talked about and putting it on steroids if you will. So right now, and this kind of plays into the whole Internet of Things world and that's broadly used and probably over used term right now. But if you think about many, many things will have some kind of sensor built into them, whether that's reading water temperature or pressure or reading volume of events that are flowing through a manufacturing line or almost anything you could conceive of could have a sensor on it. And then gathering that information, feeding it back, providing some analytics. I think the interesting and disruptive part of that is, can you add some of that intelligence to that mountain slide of data and make sense out of it for a client. And then deliver it again in near real time so that I can influence a business decision that someone in the workforce is making in near real time. I think that's what's going to get really, really interesting. Historically, people looked at the last six months worth of data and tried to predict what was going to happen in the next six months and tried to make purchase decisions or marketing decisions, or product development decisions based on that. Well now you can start to envision, "I'm not going to look at six months worth of history, I'm going to look at 60 seconds worth of history. It’s the last 60 seconds and I'm going to make a decisions right now based on what's going to happen for the next 60 seconds." To me I think that is going to be pretty interesting and very, very transformative for the way companies work and the way workforces are enabled in the future.
Robyn Itule: You gave me such a perfect tee-up for just doing a little bit of teasing about what's coming up next on Technomics. And if you think about the kinds of data and the amount of information that is required to be transmitted to deliver that minute by minute real time information to the workforce to help serve a more demanding customer who will require that real time to be engaged as well, it ultimately is going to come back to your infrastructure being optimized.
Mike Gaumond: Absolutely, if you don't have an infrastructure in place that enables you to gather, protect, analyze, and then somehow share that information, you're not going to succeed in the new world.
Robyn Itule: Well that is a great lead for some of the exciting conversations that we're going to be having in Season 3 of Technomics and we'll be taking a much deeper dive on a lot of topics around infrastructure optimization. But so excited to again have the opportunity to chat with you Mike about the amazing work that we're able to do to transform patient engagement and the retail experience and crazy currency trades, and beer.
Mike Gaumond: Don't forget the beer consumption.
Robyn Itule: Best for last right? So I lift my pint to you and thank you for your time with us on Technomics.
Mike Gaumond: Thanks Robyn, great to be back.
Jeremy Nelson: Thanks for listening to Technomics. If you want to find more episodes you can download the podcasts from visit iTunes, Google, or your favorite podcast provider. And for more stories on intelligent technology, visit www.insight.com.