Digital Workplaces: From the Sublime to the Ridiculous, and Back Again

Tom Kincaid is Akumina’s Regional Director—West. He’s an unrepentant millennial, and a true believer in the positive power of digital workplaces to make everyone better at what they do. Which should come as no surprise, because he’s experienced intranets at their very best and their absolute worst. He shares his personal journey here.

“Before joining Akumina, I’d worked with two companies that had Digital Workplace platform (DWP) experiences.

The first was a large global organization with an amazing DWP experience.

The second was a large global organization with a rock-bottom-AWFUL DWP experience.

This is my story. But before I get into it, you need to know upfront that I’m a whiney, snowflake millennial (much like many of your employees). I expect everything to be right in front of my face. You may infer that I think I’m special, but I’m not. The fact of the matter is that in the modern workforce, EVERY employee has the exact same expectation.

And that’s why my DWP experiences should matter to you.

Internet for BusinessLet’s start with amazing.

I’ve been in a sales capacity my entire professional career. I started with credit card processing machines and then jumped to a copier company (about 30 years too late).

Then I made the big time—a global organization with their HQ based out of the UK, a 30k+ workforce, and a 300k+ parent company. They were cutting-edge all the way and they adopted technology as soon as it came out. Their people knew how to use it, talk about it, and sell it (makes perfect sense, doesn’t it?).

In my first month I learned (fast) that everything was self-service. We were expected to drive results with little instruction. All the tools we needed were available to us, HERE—on the intranet.

As a whiney, snowflake millennial, I loved it—because it felt like the entire company revolved around ME. If I needed something it was in the intranet. Benefits questions? Right there. Who’s who? Check. Sales tools? Have at ’em. The integration with the DWP was down to the CRM level, so I didn’t even need to launch a separate app to show my reports. Bloody sweet, as they’d say back at HQ.

Whoa! Amazing gets better.

Again, this was a global organization. But the DWP experience made that big world feel small and comfortable. If I had a question, I could post it in Yammer and someone from, say, the Netherlands would respond back with exactly what I needed. Every time. Eventually, I’d meet that person and it would feel like we’d known each other for years.

If I had a great meeting, I’d upload a picture of the meeting for the distributed crew to see. They loved it. Everyone did it. It was proof of a great unofficial measure of a digital workplace: The experience can incubate an inside joke among teams or individuals in different geographies.

The intranet gave me all the tools I needed to do my job. But beyond that, I felt like an integral part of this amazing global company. I felt like I mattered, every day. And most importantly, I was treated like a person in a digital environment that I can truly call “polite.” I had no idea technology could do that.

Recall that I’m a millennial. Whiney, selfish, and entitled. Which meant that no matter how good I had it, the grass had to be greener somewhere. So eventually I moved on to…

A large global organization with a HORRIBLE DWP experience Workplace with modern devices and hologram screens 3D rendering

I left one cutting-edge company for an opportunity at another cutting-edge company. Both companies were pulling in a ton of revenue. Both of them had the same tools at their fingertips. Both were basically selling the same stuff to the same clients. On paper, there was not much daylight between the two. What could go wrong?

A whole lot, as it turned out.

Week one, I was assigned a list of accounts and told to go into the intranet where all the knowledge about my business was stored. This so-called “intranet” was a stone-age document repository with a joke of a UI on top of it. The knowledge transfer for my accounts was dated “2005.” I didn’t even open those files (OK, I did. But I don’t like to admit it).

Global company, global mess

In this organization, collaboration across the globe amounted to pretty much zero. Leadership would send emails with large attachments—the quickest way to lose a millennial’s respect. Did I feel connected to the culture? Hell no. But was I more productive? I spent more time sifting through emails from the Chief Sales Office than I did reading client emails. So again, hell no.

Yammer? What’s that? Mobility? We’ll look into it. You just keep going out there and making a difference with your clients who are asking for this technology.

Why the difference?

I’d say the difference was leadership. C-Suite leadership that executed on a vision of the employee experience versus leadership that sent 15 MB PowerPoints over email. Leadership that would urge employees to communicate through Yammer—yes, bypassing the intranet—and avoid using email at all cost. In short, leadership that wanted their people to be as productive as possible.

Now back to me just once more. That second company? I left after six months to pursue a greater good: building lights-out digital workplaces to help my fellow millennials. You know, just doing my part for humanity.

Would you like to see what I’m talking about?

Reach out to me directly for a quick discussion and demo of what of a digital workplace can really be.”

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