Digital Workplace Experience 2018 Recap

Last week I attended and was a presenter at the Digital Workplace Experience conference in Chicago hosted by Simpler Media and the Digital Workplace Group. During this 3-day conference, DWX attendees had the opportunity to see inside the world’s most successful digital workplaces through live tours, presentations and workshops. They were also exposed to the latest digital workplace trends, best practices and research during keynotes, sessions, and workshops.

I was fortunate enough to be able to participate and lead two of these sessions at the event. The first was a panel of experts in a gameshow format highlighting the most impactful trends in modern digital workplaces. The second was a session on what we at Akumina have seen in our customer engagements in terms of the challenges, opportunities, and best practices in delivering modern workplace projects.

The first event was on Monday evening and was modeled on the hit game show Match Game that ran for a decade beginning in the early 70’s. The concept of the game is that each contestant needs to answer a fill in the blank question with the help (or hinderance!) of a panel of celebrities. In this version we used a panel of experts in the field of employee experience to help the contestants. I was one of the panelists along with Chris McNulty (Sr. Product Manager for SharePoint and Office 365 at Microsoft) and Aaron Mitchell (Director, Employee Experience at Avanade). Our host, Tom Hoglund (Vice President, Digital Workplace at Avanade) MC’d the event. We had a great and engaging event that was both fun and informative for the participants, with Chris, Aaron and I sharing our combined 30+ years of experience working with organizations to improve employee experience and enablement.


The second event that I facilitated was Akumina’s Innovation Spotlight. The session highlighted the challenges, opportunities and successful outcomes that we have seen with our customers as we help them bring their visions for modern workplaces to life. To recap that session, we covered:

1. What organizations need to engage employees, improve productivity and foster collaboration in a modern workplace.

Digital workplace experiences that are:

Beautiful – Employees are tired of interfaces that feel like IT systems from 20 years ago and expect interfaces that match what they see in their personal lives across the web, mobile, and social channels.

Integrated – Employees struggle with juggling too many systems and interfaces to get their jobs done these days which leads to lost productivity, employee disengagement and ultimately an inability for employees to serve customers as well as they would like to.

Personalized – With so much information available to employees it is often challenging (or even impossible in some cases) for employees to find relevant information that allows them to get their work done efficiently. Leveraging personalized experiences that bring information to an employee or allow them to tailor the information they see to their interests drives better engagement, employee empowerment and ultimately improves bottom-line results.

2. Some of the challenges that organizations face in delivering these experiences. 

Traditional or custom builds – Most organizations that we work with at Akumina are on their 3rd (or 4th or 7th…) Intranet project as a company. They are tired of the old way of deploying intranets that take 12-18 months, cost far too much, fail to meet modern expectations, and ultimately are not easy to maintain or build upon. Organizations are looking for a way to deploy these solutions in a more agile way to deliver results faster, gauge the value delivered and quickly change the experience as needed to adapt to employees’ expectations more rapidly.

An overabundance of internal systems – The advent of cloud-based business systems has been both a blessing and a curse in the modern workplace. These systems from HR onboarding, IT and helpdesk ticketing to CRM systems and others provide great capabilities but have led companies to adopt in some cases dozens of disparate systems that their employees need to learn and use daily. This has led to employees not knowing what system to use when and ultimately leads to lost productivity and employee disengagement.

Lack of Self Service for employees – Employees are used to being able to do everything in their personal lives themselves with modern technologies like intelligent websites, mobile apps and automated assistants. When they come into a workplace they do not typically get these same self-service experiences. This leads to lost opportunities for employees to be more productive and for organizations to reduce the time it takes an employee to get the information they need to do their jobs. This can also lead to bad customer service as well which is highlighted by this anecdote that I shared at the conference:

I was traveling with my family earlier this year coming back from a vacation and of course our flight home was delayed. I like the hundreds of other passengers on the plane went to talk with the gate agent to get an update on our flight. When it was my turn to ask for an update the gate agent looked me in the eye and asked, “Do you have the airline app on your phone?” I said that I did, and he replied. “Then you will know the status of the flight before I do” Can you imagine how that gate agent felt having to say that over and over again? Do you think they felt empowered to do their job? Did they feel like they were being successful at work?

That anecdote could be adjusted for any organization in any industry in any customer service scenario across the globe. Organizations have collectively spent billions of dollars on “Customer Experience” solutions for their web, social, and mobile customer experiences but have consistently failed to invest in employee experiences that can help in the direct service of a customer. Ask yourself this:

When you last had a bad experience directly with a company in person, over the phone, over social media etc. Did you remember that experience or the experience using their fancy new website? What did you tell your friends, family and colleagues about, the personalized email campaign you got from that company or the bad customer service you received?

Companies need to invest in solutions that empower their workforce to better serve their customers.

3. Case studies of successful customer engagements. 

We highlighted many successful customer engagements and result from working with clients of all sizes across many industries including.

  • A major league sports team that integrated the same Chat based automated assistant on their intranet that they use with their customers allowing employees to give consistent information to customer in real time improving customer service
  • A major Pharmaceutical company that allows employees to tailor everything from news and announcements to policies and procedures to their personal working conditions (role, location, responsibilities etc..) that provides a relevant experience enabling employees to work more effectively.
  • A multinational financial services company that integrates dozens of line of business applications into a single dashboard for employees to juggle the information, tasks, events, and requests from these disparate systems into a consistent and simple to use interface. This improved productivity across the business and reduced time for task completion by 75%

To recap, it was a great show and it was my pleasure to be able to share from my personal experiences but even more so to share experiences from companies that have embraced the challenge of delivering modern solutions to their workforces. I am looking forward to next year!

Read More