Building Modern Digital Workplaces: An Interview with Joe Kristy about Enabling Productivity through Technology

Interview with Joe Kristy

It’s not an exaggeration to say that Joe Kristy is a core component of Base22: he leads the team with clarity and passion. As our Chief Revenue Officer, he is also one of the main forces behind Base22’s focus on portals, intranets, and digital workplaces. We sat down with Joe for a quick chat on these topics: why should companies and organizations of all sizes care for their digital work environment, how they should start, and, more importantly, what they shouldn’t do? Take a look at our conversation here and get in touch if you have any questions.

How would you describe a modern digital workplace?

A modern digital workplace brings together information that’s localized to the specific need of people in an organization. For example, organizations have units. They have departments; they have divisions, and they have locations. So the content that they get and the services that they get should be in context with those units that they reside in.

In addition to that, they can consume common services like HR and benefits or purchase and procurement of common services that are available. The digital workplace brings those things together for that person in the context of those units that they are in. So if you have calendars of news and communities and forms and alerts, you should see them from your department.

If you’re in management, you should have KPI dashboards that tell you the things that you’re interested in from all kinds of important sources and aggregated specifically for you. So when you wake up, you can see what’s going on. You can see what you should be paying attention to, and you can access services and applications you need to act on.

A digital workplace can be something as simple as using Slack or as complex as a completely digital environment. What would you say are the main components as you see them of a good digital workplace? What should the organization be able to accomplish through it?

The main components of a good digital workplace… It goes back to digitalizing content and access to applications. You should be able to have the ability to find people so that you can collaborate with them.

We used to call it “expertise location”. You should be able to find subject matter experts on various topics in your organization, and you should be able to reach out to them through texting and instant messaging. And you should be able to say; I have a problem; I need help.

So expertise location is critical. Personalized content is critical. Dashboards and knowledge dashboards with KPIs are critical. And as I said before, that content is delivered in a personalized manner based on the units that you live in within your organization. And you should actually have access to common services.

Finally, you should have access to services that you don’t use that exist in other units.

Many organizations and businesses want to solve the digital work environment need with OOTB solutions. Do you think companies should consider tailoring digital workplace solutions to work better?

I think complex organizations and larger organizations have to fit into who they are, how they’re structured, and how people work. An out-of-the-box solution can work for a small organization with needs for policies, procedures, forms, and common services.

You can throw in collaboration and toolsets in small organizations, but collaboration in larger organizations is completely different. And as I said before, I think it’s based on “expertise location”. I think it’s based on the ability to find somebody to solve your problem. It’s not based on social interaction.

How important are digital workplaces today?

You have to think about it from two levels. The first level is what we’ve been talking about: access to information remotely. Because everything I’ve talked about so far means that information is available to an individual at that individual’s fingertips, no matter where they are, and if possible, working with others remotely. That’s very important.

The second piece of this is the zero-trust model. So that means that the digital workplace is critical to help move people from accessing applications and content through their network to accessing those applications and content through the Cloud. This means that you’re reducing the vulnerability and access controls that you have to your network.

Large corporations have these large networks that have all these firewalls and security built around them. And you have to have an ID, have access to the network, and then access the applications. That creates vulnerabilities because once someone hacks the network, they can access the applications.

With a zero-trust model and a cloud-based model tied to the digital workplace, that’s not true. They can steal your ID, but they can’t access anything beyond that digital workplace. They can’t access applications. So it’s a two-part, right? Content and applications are made in a zero-trust model. I think those are the two key elements of a digital workplace and what’s important and why you want to have one.

Walk us through briefly the initial stages for an organization preparing to create a modern digital workplace. What would you say are the first few steps that they really need to cover?

They need to cover first who their key anchor tenants are. So those are typically common services and common needs, and that’ll vary. All organizations have HR and benefits as a common service. But to some organizations, like drug companies, compliance is a common core service. The ability to make sure that people are following protocol and signing off on that protocol.

So you find your key anchor tenants, and then you build around what their requirements are. That gives you impetus that gives you people invested in the process, but you have to be careful that they don’t take over the portal or take over the digital workplace.

Then what happens is you start to understand these units that I talked about. What’s most important in your units?

When we built Nissan years and years ago, the factories were very important. The locations and the factories and then the divisions. So if you were in one car division of Nissan, then your identity was associated with that division, with that factory, and the function within the factory.

And so, a portal was built around that concept. You can look at the organization and see how it’s structured. See how people work with each other. You have to understand how the organization works because you’re creating a workplace that facilitates that work.

UPS is another example. UPS has a lot of independent businesses within it; an airline, for example. Those units work within themselves. And so, you need to structure your portal and digital workplace and your delivery of content around what those units are doing. The airline has unique needs that the rest of the units don’t care about.

That’s how you start to figure out how to take your anchor tenants and your common services and structure a digital workplace to serve how the company is structured. Those are the first steps for me.

At Base22, we typically say that digital transformation is not necessarily about technology. It’s about people. How does that idea come into play in this topic of digital workplaces?

It’s about adoption, right? The key element of a digital workplace is to get adoption. So that means that you have to get buy-in.

You have to sell it. You have to provide all the functionality that we’ve talked about in a way that’s useful to them. And then you sell it. There’s a whole change management approach with a digital workplace that you have to go through. People are not going to adopt it just because you’ve created it or because it’s shiny and new.

In your opinion, what would be a misunderstanding or misconception regarding digital workplaces?

That it’s a social network. That would be a complete misunderstanding. That’s the wrong objective.

Another misunderstanding: is that it hosts all access to all applications. That would be a wrong approach. Because not all applications belong in a digital workplace. Many do not. And trying to fit them in is just wrong.

The misconception is that there’s a separation between what employees do and what customers want. One of the things that a digital workplace has to do for certain roles is to facilitate interaction with the customer, right? One of the things you should be focusing on with the digital workplace is that it has to enable people who deal with customers. An inappropriate view of a digital workplace is to say that it’s just for employees.

You have an objective to serve your customers. And so everything you do better be focused on that. You’re enabling them to serve customers. So you need to give them functionality, and you need to give them access to things that will allow them to serve as customers. So your Call Center has to have access to the digital workplace and all the applications they need in one spot.

And it needs to be seamless. You need to be able to go between different applications to find things. That enables an employee to provide service to a customer.

976 664 Base22 Staff
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