Digital tools and systems

Today employee experience is sacrosanct

Digital tools and technologies need to be blended with humility, good management, and supportive working environments to generate success.

A survey done by McKinsey & Company highlighted that most respondents expect the technological and digitisation changes i.e. the movement to cloud-based tools or video conferencing made due to the pandemic will continue in the future. This underlines the benefits of investing in tools and structuring suitable environments for an organisation’s people, which means a faster and more focussed route to achieving business objectives together.

The landscape today

Typically, bigger enterprises rely more on enterprise systems such as Oracle, Salesforce and Zendesk. They may be functional but they do capture the scale many bigger businesses demand, while being malleable to a certain extent. On the flip side, bespokely designed systems used by smaller enterprises can be hard to scale and require a level of regular upkeep that can become costly and inefficient over time.

This problem is not new to businesses of all sizes; it has played itself out in the technology space for decades. Take the recent movement towards low-code and digital experience platforms that reduce development effort and allow for all manner of applications to be developed more quickly, among other attempts to streamline experiences.

Today the stakes are even higher. Digitally native talent can go wherever they want, whenever they want given the rise of blended working and work from anywhere. Organisations globally are coming to terms with this. Employees working from home rely heavily on digital tools, but ad hoc sharing and ”watercooler” moments in physical proximity are hard to recreate using digital tools. That’s even without considering the 60% of people who don’t work from home.

With top digital talent increasingly spending their lives using digital tools to do their jobs, the key to success is empowering employees and offering them a sense of belonging. The easiest way to do this is to bring them into the decision-making process about tools and systems by co-defining solutions.

The secret to better supporting employees

Top-down technology decisions may be right from a financial, legal, and infosecurity perspective for big enterprises. But limiting the access to, or utility of, technology without employee input could expose the organisation to lost time and productivity. Worse, it could lead to the introduction of a shadow IT or individually driven workarounds.

The best way to combat this potential reality is through regular and considered engagement with employees from across the organisation. Qualitative insight from interviews with employees about what’s working and what’s not with their existing systems can uncover pain points that have never been considered. For example, how administrative user profile management can be incredibly detrimental to people installing new tools on their machines. This insight must be understood at a departmental level, i.e., what works for the infosecurity team might not work for finance or engineering. Overlaying this with quantitative information gives you a composite picture of the existing landscape.

An interactive and up-to-date skills matrix can also help manage and deploy people more effectively. This includes documenting people’s hard and soft skills, as well as learning and communication styles, essential work-based motivators and technology preferences. This can then be used to align employees to the most rewarding work with the right tool sets for them. This flips the anonymity of digital work on its head and gives people a sense of being listened to during the process of being assigned, and carrying out work.

Using this combination of information and insights to work with vendors on customisations and onboarding new tools can lead to an empowering experience for employees. Taking this further by involving them in the testing, rollout, and feedback on customisations and new devices can create champions within teams and business units. We’ve seen this work in some of our bigger enterprise clients in the application management space. These people are then more likely to feel personally connected to trying to solve the problem of empowering and deploying tools and talent across a business at speed and with focus.

A tooling and learning culture

Open forums for tooling on an ongoing basis can help you go even deeper here. By regularly bringing people from departments together, you can identify synergies and discordances, and promote collaborative problem solving based on employee knowledge and experience with existing tools in different business units. This supports shared problem-solving.

An example of this could be having a clear place where tools and platforms live, their typical use cases, and other teams they might benefit. Often we find tools are purchased at an enterprise level but are not open to the whole enterprise to use. However, we have seen instances where tools like JIRA, more typically used by technology teams, have been picked up by operations and then used significantly. What an enterprise-level licence means should form part of the contractual negotiation with vendors and the rollout to teams.

Considering introducing regular spot surveys and feedback prompts as part of tools and applications – not just those that go to the software provider – can also help foster more effective talent deployment with the key themes emerging from the surveys being discussed in cross-departmental technology forums.

The biggest thing to get right is to regularly replay to employees how they have contributed to evolving the digital tooling ecosystem in an easily digestible way by using clear infographics, data dashboards and real feedback quotes from employees.

How to save money through tooling

By creating shared discussions around tools, businesses reduce the risk of unnecessary or poorly utilised tools and systems that don’t work, or are unsuitable for specific subsets of your organisation. A better understanding of employees and their needs can help organisations better understand, manage and structure costly enterprise deals and licensing fees, and additional feature requirements in a way that goes beyond the standard of licences and seats.

Insight can also impact configurations of the core systems that employees use daily quickly and effectively. For example, if an enterprise relies on Salesforce as a core technology to power their business, moving to a new tool without like-for-like configurations capabilities could cost countless hours of employee time.

Open dialogue and crowdsourcing problem shooting from across organisations will offer employees greater autonomy over their toolset, improve productivity and heighten employee experience. Enterprises who work hard to create a shared culture and ecosystem of digital tools that bring employees to the fore, will be the ones that succeed.

About the Author

Chaitanya (Chai) Rajebahadur, Executive Vice President and Head of Europe for Zensar Technologies – global digital solutions and technology services company. Chai is evangelising the efforts for taking the Zensar digital mandate and ‘Return on Digital’ across the market in Europe with over 20 years experience. Chai has built a strong base in Financial services, Manufacturing, Retail and Telecom industries.

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