We've long talked about CIOs joining the boardroom discussion, no longer seen as solely responsible for keeping the lights on. Instead, IT’s leaders are seen as business value multipliers, not just using technology to enhance a company’s performance and products, but instead getting close to the customer and revenue generating activities.
Less mindshare however has focused on the larger IT organization, which too has evolved alongside the expectations of CIOs. Once tasked with maintaining a company's system infrastructure, IT organizations now identify inefficiencies in workplace processes where software can optimize procedures and allow employees to be their most productive. Enabling this shift is IT’s ability to store and leverage an abundance of information that can enable data-driven decision making.
Paralleling this shift in IT departments' focus, there’s been a rise in productivity tools that help employees. In an effort to free up employees’ time, enable collaboration, and address a changing workplace, a growing number of IT teams are focusing on ways to use these productivity tools to help employees. Overseeing this shift is a new role I call, “VP of Workplace Productivity,” who is tasked with identifying not only software tools that make employees more productive, but also monitoring how employees collaborate, whether working remotely, utilizing conference rooms, or chatting online.
To succeed in this role, a VP of Workplace Productivity is tasked with finding ways to create interoperability across services, remove cross-functional friction, and reduce inefficiencies. From Slack to Google Chat to Yammer, there are multiple ways in which teams might collaborate and communicate on a project. Understanding which and how tools are being leveraged is critical to identify how to create a workflow that takes advantage of the best software to create an optimal technology ecosystem.
When considering which tool is best, look at whether the platform enables a modern reference architecture. Slack, as one example, not only offers employees a communication tool, but it also enables integrations across many workplace services like GitHub, Trello, or Google Calendar. The benefit of these integrations is that it allows interoperability across a business’ organization, while also providing teams the ability to customize their experience. The VP of Workplace Productivity needs to closely monitor how teams use tools to understand sophistication of usage. For example, are teams using partner integrations? If so, what impact is it having on productivity? Answering this question can inform whether a unique use case could improve productivity across the organization. Conversely, if most users aren’t taking advantage of the partner tools — as was intended — this is also an indicator that the tool might not be a good fit, or company trainings should be considered.
There are several tools that empower VPs of Workplace Productivity to consistently review — both qualitatively and quantitatively — employees’ workplace data to surface hang-ups and needs so they can make decisions driven by data. Each software tools’ admin dashboard will provide a usage log, which offers quantitative insights about employees’ behaviors and whether a tool is providing the desired effect. To complement the specific software logs, it's important to also get holistic view on network usage using a tool like Thousand Eyes, as well as cloud usage with tools like Wavefront or Splunk. Using these monitoring tools allows you to get a sense of possible optimizations or areas for improvement, after all, the diamonds are in the data.
For example, at Box, we discovered from our data that we were spending an unnecessary amount of time helping unlock employee's Active Directory accounts after three failed login attempts. This took up the IT department’s bandwidth, while also hindering employees’ productivity and ability to work, particularly over weekends or late at night. By spotting this pattern, we identified a problem and introduced a solution: implementing a two-factor authentication with push notifications, which freed up our IT department from thousands of tickets, while also enabling our employees by almost entirely eliminating downtime.
The focus shouldn’t just be on software hang-ups: There are ways to optimize physical office spaces, as well. While the VP of Workplace Productivity would report to the CIO, they should work closely with human resources to identify ways to ensure office spaces are being fully leveraged. Today’s workplace environment is often open and social, enabling opportunities for spontaneous meetings and collaboration. Working alongside a head of human resources to identify a problem such as employees struggling to navigate, book and gather in appropriate rooms, enables a VP of Workplace Productivity to identify ways to optimize how spaces are used. There now are services that leverage voice operating integrations to enable booking rooms seamlessly, as well as check-in systems leveraging beacon technology that ensure booked conference rooms aren’t left unused. Tools like these can make collaboration in office spaces more seamless by simplifying the process to connect in person.
Businesses that don’t already have a VP of Workplace Productivity should consider hiring someone. This role has become crucial, because if employees don’t feel that their job offers them flexibility with how they work, over half will choose a new job that does. Today’s employees’ productivity depends on technology seamlessly empowering their changing workplace environment and it’s critical to remove friction not only to attract and motivate staff, but also retain them. This newer workforce expects to be able to collaborate,wherever and whenever.
Paul Chapman is chief information officer for Box.