Friday, August 9, 2019

IT and HR: Not such an odd couple

How businesses perform has always depended on how well their employees perform. Yet never before has the relationship between how well employees work and the digital technology that they use been so complex.

At the same time, companies are grappling with the transition to increasingly data-driven and automated processes. What’s more, the top skills at all levels are increasingly harder to find -- and hold onto -- for supporting strategic business agility.

As a result, business leaders must enhance and optimize today’s employee experience so that they in turn can optimize the customer experience and -- by extension – better support the success of the overall business.

Stay with us as BriefingsDirect explores how those writing the next chapters of human resources (HR) and information technology (IT) interactions are finding common ground to significantly improve the modern employee experience. 

Listen to the podcast. Find it on iTunes. Read a full transcript or download a copy. 

We're now joined by two leaders in this area who will share their thoughts on how intelligent workspace solutions are transforming work -- and heightening worker satisfaction. Please welcome Art Mazor, Principal and Global Human Resources Transformation Practice Leader at Deloitte, and Tim Minahan, Executive Vice President of Strategy and Chief Marketing Officer at Citrix. The discussion is moderated by Dana Gardner, Principal Analyst at Interarbor Solutions

Here are some excerpts:

Gardner: Art, is there more of a direct connection now between employee experience and overall business success?

Mazor: There has been a longstanding sense on the part of leaders intuitively that there must be a link. For a long time people have said, “Happy employees equal happy customers.” It’s been understood.
But now, what’s really powerful is we have true evidence that demonstrates the linkage. For example, in our Deloitte Global Human Capital Trends Report 2019, in its ninth year running, we noticed a very important finding in this regard: Purpose-focused companies outperformed their S&P 500 peers by a factor of 8. And, when you think about, “Well, how do you get to purpose for people working in an organization?” It’s about creating that strong experience.

What’s more, I was really intrigued when MIT recently published a study that demonstrated the direct linkage between positive employee experience and business performance. They showed that those with really strong employee experiences have twice the innovation, double the satisfaction of customers, and 25 percent greater profitability.

So those kinds of statistics tell me pretty clearly that it matters -- and it’s driving business results.

Gardner: It’s seemingly commonsense and an inevitable outcome when employees and their positive experiences impact the business. But reflecting on my own experiences, some companies will nonetheless talk the talk, but not always walk the walk on building better employee experiences, unless they are forced to.

Do you sense, Art, that there are some pressures on companies now that hadn’t been there before?

Purposeful employees produce profits 

Mazor: Yes, I think there are. Some of those pressures, appropriately, are coming from the market. Customers have a very high bar with which they measure their experience with an organization. We know that if the employee or workforce experience is not up to par, the customers feel it.

That demand, that pressure, is coming from customers who have louder voices now than ever before. They have the power of social media, the ability to make their voices known, and their perspectives heard.

There is also a tremendous amount of competition among a variety of customers. As a result, leaders recognize that they have to get this right. They have to get their workers in a place where those workers feel they can be highly productive and in the service of customer outcomes.

Minahan: Yes, I totally agree with Art. In addition, there is an added pressure going on in the market today and that is the fact that there is a huge talent crunch. Globally McKinsey estimates there is a shortage of 95 million medium- to high-skilled workers.
We are beginning to see even forward-thinking digital companies like Amazon saying, “Hey, look, we can’t go out and hire everyone we need; certainly not in one location.” So that’s why you have the HQ2 competition, and the like.

Just in July, Amazon committed to investing more than $700 million to retrain a third of their workforce with the skills that they need to continue to advance. This is part of that pressure companies are feeling:

“Hey, we need to drive growth. We need to digitize our businesses. We need to provide a greater customer experience. But we need these new skills to do it, and there just is not enough talent in the market.”

So companies are rethinking that whole employee engagement model to advance.

Gardner: Tim, the concept of employee experience was largely in the domain of people like Art and those that he supports in the marketplace -- the human resources and human capital management (HCM) people.

How does IT now have more of a role? Why do IT and HR leaders need to be more attached at the hip?
Download The Economist Research
On How Technology Drives
The Modern Employee Experience
Minahan: Much of what chief human resources officers (CHROs) and chief people officers (CPOs) have done to advance the culture and physical environment with which to attract and retain the right talent has gone extremely far. That includes improving benefits, ensuring there is a purpose, and ensuring that the work environment is very pleasurable.

However, we just conducted a study together with The Economist, a global study into employee experience and how companies are prioritizing it. And one of things that we found is organizations have neglected to take a look at the tools and the access to information that they give their employees to get their jobs done. And that seems to be a big gap.

This gap was reaffirmed by a recent global Gallup study where right behind the manager, the number one indicator of employee engagement was if they feel they have the right access to the information and tools they need to do their best job.

So technology -- the digital workspace, if you will -- plays an increasingly important role, particularly in how we work today. We don’t always work at a desk or in a physical environment. In fact, most of us work in multiple locations throughout the day. And so our digital workspace needs to travel with us, and it needs to simplify our day -- not make it more complex.

Gardner: Art, as part of The Economist study that Tim cited, “ease of access to information required to get work done” was one of the top things those surveyed identified as being part of a world-class employee experience.

That doesn’t surprise me because we are asking people to be more data-driven. But to do so we have to give them that data in a way they can use it.

Are you seeing people thinking more about the technology and the experience of using and accessing technology when it comes to HR challenges and improvement?

HR plus IT gets the job done 

Mazor: Yes, for sure. And in the HR function, technology has been front and center for many years. In fact, HR executives, their teams, and the workers they serve have been at an advantage in that technology investments have been quite rich. The HR space was one of the first to move to the cloud. That’s created lots of opportunities beyond those that may have been available even just a few short years ago.

To your point, though, and building on Tim’s comments, [employee experience requirements] go well beyond the traditional HR technologies. They are focused around areas like collaboration, knowledge sharing, interaction, and go into the toolsets that foster those kinds of necessities. They are at the heart of being able to drive work in the way that work needs to get done today.
The days of traditional hierarchies -- where your manager tells you what to do and you do it -- are quickly dwindling. We are moving to a world where teams are forming in a more agile way, demanding new toolsets.

The days of traditional hierarchies -- where your manager tells you what to do and you go do it -- are quickly dwindling. Now, we still have leaders and they tell us to do things and that’s important; I don’t mean to take away from that. Yet, we are moving to a world where, in order to act with speed, teams are forming in a more agile way. Networked groups are operating together cross-functionally and across businesses, and geographies -- and it’s all demanding, to your point, new toolsets.

Fortunately, there are a lot of tools that are out there for that. Like with any new area of innovation, though, it can be overwhelming because there are just so many technologies coming into the marketplace to take advantage of.

The trick we are finding is for organizations to be able to separate the noise from the impactful technologies and create a suite of tools that are easy to navigate and remove that kind of friction from the workplace.

Gardner: Tim, a fire hose of technology is certainly not the way to go. From The Economist survey we heard that making applications simple – with a consumer-like user experience -- and with the ability to work from anywhere are all important. How do you get the right balance between the use of technology, but in a simplified and increasingly automated way?

A workspace to unify work

Minahan: Art hit the exact right word. All this choice and access to technology that we use to get our jobs done has actually created a lot more complexity. The typical employee now uses a dozen or more apps throughout the day, and oftentimes needs to navigate four more applications just to get a single task or a bit of information that they are looking for. As a result, they need to navigate a whole bunch of different environments, remember a whole bunch of different usernames and passwords, and it’s creating a lot of noise in their day.

To Art’s point, there is an emergence of a new category of technology, a digital workspace that unifies everything for an employee, gives them single sign-on access to everything they need to be productive, and one unified experience, so they don’t need to have as much noise in their day.

Certainly, it also provides an added layer of security around things. And then the third component that gets very, very exciting is that forward-thinking companies are beginning to infuse things like machine learning (ML) and simplified workflows or micro apps that connect some of these technologies together so that the employee can be guided through their day -- very much like they are in their personal lives, where Facebook might guide you and curate your day for the news and social interactions you want.

Netflix, for example, will make up the recommendations based on your historical behaviors and preferences. And that’s beginning to work its way into the workplace. So the study we just did with The Economist clearly points to bringing that consumer-like experience into the workplace as a priority among IT and HR leaders.

Gardner: Art, you have said that a positive employee experience requires removing friction from work. What do you mean by friction and is that related to this technology issue, or is it something even bigger?

Remove friction, maximize productivity 

Mazor: I love that you are asking that, Dana. I think it is something bigger than technology -- yet technology plays a massively important role.

When we think about friction, and what I love about that word in this context, is it’s a plain English word. We know that friction means. It’s what causes something to slow down.

And so it’s bigger than just technology in the sense that to create that positive worker experience we need to think about a broader construct, which is the human experience overall. And elevating that human experience is about, first and foremost, recognizing that everyone wakes up every morning as a human. We might play the role of a worker, we might play the role of customer, or some other role. But in our day-to-day life, anything that slows us down from being as productive as possible is, in my view, the element that is this friction.

So that could be process-oriented, it could be policy and bureaucracy that gets in the way. It could be managers who may be struggling with empowerment of their teams. It might even be technology, to your point, that causes it to be more difficult to, as Tim was rightly saying, navigate through to all the different apps or tools.

And so this idea of friction and removing it is really about enabling that workforce to be focused myopically on delivering results for customers, the business, and the other workers in the enterprise. Whatever it may be, anything that stands in the way should be evaluated as a potential cause of friction.

Sometimes that friction is good in the sense of slowing things down for purposes like compliance or risk management. In other cases, it’s bad friction that just gets in the way of good results.
View Video on How Companies
Drive Improved Employee Experience
To Foster Better Business Results
Minahan: I love what Art’s talking about. That is the next wave we will see in technology. When we talk about these digital workspaces -- moving from traditional enterprise applications – built around giving functions and modern collaborations tools, they are focused on team-based collaboration. Still, individuals need to navigate all of these environments -- and oftentimes work in different ways.

And so this idea of people-centric computing, in which you put the person at the center, makes it easy for them to interact with all of these different channels and remove some of the noise from their day. They can do much more meaningful work -- or in some cases, as one person put it to me, “Get the job done that I was hired to do.” I really believe this is where we are now going.

And you have seen it in consumer technologies. The web came about to organize the world’s information, and apps came about to organize the web. Now you have this idea of the workspace coming about to organize all of those apps so that we can finally get all the utility that had been promised.

Gardner: If we return to our North Star concept, the guiding principle, that this is all about the customer experience, how do we make a connection between solidifying that employee experience as Tim just described but to the benefit of the customer experience?

Art, who in the organization needs to make sure that there isn’t a disconnect or dissonance between that guiding principle of the customer experience and buttressing it through the employee experience?

Leaders emphasize end-customer experience 

Mazor: We are finding this is one of the biggest challenges, because there isn’t a clear-cut owner for the workforce experience. That’s probably a good thing in the long run, because there are way too many individual groups, teams, and leaders who must be involved to have only one accountable leader.

That said, we are finding a number of organizations achieving great success by at least appointing either an existing function – and in many cases we are finding that happens to be HR – or in some organizations finding a different way of having accountability for orchestrating the experience. The best meaning is around bringing together a variety of groups -- those could be HR, IT, real estate, marketing, finance, and the business leaders for sure to all play their roles inside of that experience.

Delivering on that end-customer experience as the brass ring, or the North Star to mix metaphors, becomes a way of thinking. It requires a different mindset that enterprises are shaping for themselves -- and their leaders can model that behavior.
Delivering on that end-customer experience as the brass ring becomes a way of thinking. It requires a different mindset that enterprises are shaping for themselves -- and their leaders can model that behavior.

I will share with you one great example of this. In the typical world of an airline, you would expect that flight attendants are there -- as you hear on the announcements -- for your safety first, and then to provide services. But one particular major airline recognized that those flight attendants are also the ones who can create the greatest stickiness to customer relationships because they see their top customers in flight, where it matters the most.

And they have equipped that group of flight attendants with data in the form of a mobile device app that they use to see who is on board and where they sit in the importance of being customers in terms of revenue and other important factors. That provides triggers to those flight attendants, and others on the flight staff, to help recognize those customers and to ensure that they are having a great experience. And when things don’t go as well as possible, perhaps due to Mother Nature, those flight attendants are there to keep watch over their most important customers.

That’s a very new kind of construct in a world where the typical job was not focused on customers. Now, in an unwitting way, those flight attendants are playing a critical role in fostering and advancing those relationships with key customers.

There are many, many examples like that that are the outcome of leaders across functions coming together to orchestrate an experience that ultimately is centered around creating a rich customer experience where it matters the most.

Minahan: Two points. One, what Art said is absolutely consistent with the findings of the study we conducted jointly with The Economist. There is no clear-cut leader on employee experience today. In fact, both CHROs and CIOs equally indicated that they were on-point as the lead for driving that experience.
 We are beginning to see the emergence of a digital employee experience officer that’s emerging at some organizations to help drive the coordination that Art is talking about.

But the second point to your question, Dana, around how do we keep employees focused on the customer experience, it goes back to your opening question around purpose. Increasingly, as Art indicated, there is clear demonstration of companies that have clear purpose and are performing better -- and that’s because that purpose tends to be on some business outcome. It drives some greater experience or innovation or business outcome for their customers.

If we can ensure that employees have the right tools, information, skills, and training to deliver that customer experience, then they are clearly aligned. I think it all ties very well together.

Gardner: Tim, when I heard Art talking about the flight attendants, it occurred to me that there is a whole class of such employees that are in that direct-interaction-with-the-customer role. It could be retail, the person on the floor of a clothing seller; or it could be a help desk operator. These are the power users that need to get more data, help, and inference knowledge delivered to them. They might be the perfect early types of users that you provide a digital workspace to.

Let’s focus on that workspace. What sort of qualities does that workspace need to have? Why are we in a better position, when it comes to automation and intelligence, than ever before to empower those employees, the ones on the front lines interacting with the customers?

Effective digital workspace requirements 

Minahan: Excellent question. There are three, and an emerging fourth, capabilities required for an effective digital workspace. The first is it needs to be unified. We talked about all of the complexity and noise that bogs down an employee’s day, and all of the applications they need to navigate. Well, the digital workspace must unify that by giving a single-sign-on experience into the workspace to access all the apps and content that an employee needs to be productive and to do engaging work, whether they are at the office, on the corporate network, or on their tablet at home, or on their smartphone on a train or a plane.

The second part is obviously -- in this day and age, considering especially those front-line employees that are touching customer information -- it all needs to be secure. The apps and content need to be more secure within the workspace than when accessed natively. That means dynamically applying security policies and perhaps asking for a second layer of authentication, based on that employee’s behavior.

The third part is around intelligence. Bringing things like machine learning and simplified workflows into the workspace to create a consumer-like experience, where the employee is presented with the right information and the right task within the workspace so that they can quickly access those -- rather than needing to log-in to multiple applications and go four layers deep.

The fourth capability that’s emerging, and that we hear a lot about, is the assurance that those applications, -- especially for front-line employees who are engaged with customers -- are performing at their very best within the workspace. [Such high-level performance needs to be delivered] whether that employee is at a corporate office or more likely at a remote retail branch.

Bringing some of the historical infrastructure like networking technology to bear in order to ensure those applications are always on and reliable is the fourth pillar of what’s making new digital workspace strategies emerge in the enterprise.
The Employee Experience is Broken,
Learn How IT and HR Together Can Fix it
Gardner: Art, for folks like Tim and me, we live in this IT world and we sometimes get lost in the weeds and start talking in acronyms and techy-talk. At Deloitte, you are widely regarded as the world’s number-one HR transformation consultancy.

First, tell us about the HR consultancy practice at Deloitte. And then, is explaining what technology does and is capable of a big part of what you do? Are you trying to explain the tech to the HR people, and then perhaps HR to the tech people?

Transforming HR with technology 

Mazor: First, thanks for the recognition. We are truly humbled and yet proud to be the world’s leading HR transformation firm. By having the opportunity as we do to partner with the world’s leading enterprises to shape and influence the future of HR, it gives us a really interesting window into exactly what you are describing.

At a lot of the organizations we work with, the HR leaders and their teams are increasingly well-versed in the various technologies out there. The biggest challenge we find is being able to harness the value of those technologies, to find the ones that are going to produce impact at a pace and at a cost and return that really is valued by the enterprise overall.

For sure, the technology elements are critical enablers. We recently published a piece on the future of HR-as-a-function that’s based on a combination of our research and field experience. What we identified is that the future of HR requires a shift in four big areas:
  • The mindset, meaning the culture and the behaviors of the HR function. 
  • The focus, meaning focusing in on the customers themselves.
  • The lens through which the HR function operates, meaning the operating model and the shift toward a more agile-network kind of enterprise HR function. 
  • The enablers, meaning the wide array of technologies from core HR platform technologies to collaboration tools to automation, ML, artificial intelligence (AI), and so on. 
The combination of these four areas enables HR-as-a-function to shift into what we’re referring to as a world that is exponential. I will give you one quick example though where all this comes together.

There is a solution set that we are finding is incredibly powerful inside of driving employee experiences that we refer to as creating a unified engagement platform, meaning the blend of all these technologies in a simple-to-navigate experience that empowers the workers across an enterprise.

We, Deloitte, have actually created one of those platforms in the market that leads the space, called ConnectMe, and there are certainly others. And in that, what we are essentially finding is that HR leaders are looking for that simple-to-navigate, frictionless kind of environment where people can get their jobs done and enjoy doing them at the same time using technology to empower them.
HR leaders are navigating this complex set of technologies out there that are terrific because they're providing advantages for the business functions. A lot of technology firms are investing heavily in worker-facing technologies.

The premise that you described is spot-on. HR leaders are navigating this complex set of technologies out there that are terrific because they’re providing advantages for the business functions. A lot of the technology firms are investing heavily in worker-facing technology platforms, for exactly the reason we have been chatting about here.

Gardner: Tim, when it comes to the skills gap, it is an employee’s market. Unemployment rates are very low, and the types of skills in demand are hard to find. And so the satisfaction of that top-tier worker is essential.

It seems to me that the better tools you can give them, the more they want to work. If I were a top-skilled employee, I would want to go with the place that has the best information that empowers me in the best way and brings contextual information with security to my fingertips.

But that’s really difficult to do. How do businesses then best enhance and entice employees by giving them the best intelligence tools?

Intelligent tools support smart workers 

Minahan: If you think about your top-performing employees, they want to do their most meaningful work and to perform at their best. As a result, they want to eliminate a lot of the noise from their day, and, as Art mentioned before, that friction.

And that friction is not solely technological, it’s often manifested through technology due to certain tasks or requirements that we need to do that may not pertain to our core jobs.
So, last time I checked, I don’t think either Art or myself were hired to review and approve expense reports or to spend a good chunk of our time approving vacations or doing full-scale performance reviews. Yet those types of applications that may not be pertinent to our jobs or processes, tend to take up a good part of our time.

What digital workspaces or digital work platforms do in the first phase is remove that noise from your day so that your best-performing employees can do their best work. The second phase uses those same platforms to help employees do better work through making sure that information is pushed to them as they need it.

That’s information that is pertinent to their jobs. In a salesperson’s environment that might be a change in pipeline status, or a change in a prospect or customer activity. Not only do they get information at their fingertips, they can take action.

And what gets very exciting about that is you have the opportunity now to elevate the skills of every employee. We talk about the skills gap, but this is but one way to go re-train everybody.

Another way is to make sure that you’re giving them an unfair advantage within the work platforms you are using to guide them through the right process. So a great example is sales force productivity. A typical company takes 9-12 months to get a salesperson up to full productivity. Average tenure of a salesperson is somewhere around 36 months. So a company is getting a year-and-a-half of productivity out of a salesperson.

What if by eliminating all that noise, and by using this digital work platform to help push the right information, tasks, right actions, and the right customer sales pitches to them at the right time, you can cut that time to full productivity in half?

Think about the real business value that comes from using technology to actually elevate the skill set of the entire workforce, rather than bog it down.

Gardner: Tim, do you have any examples that illustrate what you just described? Any named or use case types of examples that show how what you’re doing at Citrix has been a big contributor?

Minahan: One example that’s top-of-mind not only helps improve employee experiences to elevate the experience for customers, but also allows companies to rethink work models in ways they probably haven’t since the days of Henry Ford. And the example that comes to mind is eBay.

We are all familiar with eBay, one of the world’s largest online digital marketplaces. Like many other companies, they have a large customer call center where buyers and sellers ask questions. These call center employees have to have the right information at their fingertips to get things done.

Well, the challenge they faced was with the talent gap and labor shortage. Traditionally they would build a big call center, hire a bunch of employees, and train them at the call center. But now, it’s harder to do that; they are competing with the likes of Amazon, Google and others who are all trying to do the same thing.

And so they used technology to break the traditional mold and to create a new work model. Now they go to where the talent is, such as the stay-at-home parent in Montana and the retiree in Florida, or the gig worker in Boston or New York. They can now arm them with a digital workspace and push the right information and toolsets to them. By doing so you ensure they get the job done even though if you or I call in we don’t know that they are not sitting in a centralized call center.

This is just one example as we begin to harness and unify this technology of how we can change work models. We can create not just the better employee experience, but entirely new ways to work.
How to Harness Technology
To Inspire Workers to Perform
At Their Unencumbered Best
Gardner: Art, it’s been historically difficult to measure productivity, and especially to find out what contributes to that productivity. The same unfortunately is the case with technology. It’s very difficult to measure quantitatively and qualitatively what technology directly does for both employee productivity and overall organizational productivity.

Are there ways for us to try to measure how new workspaces and good HR contribute to good employee satisfaction -- and ultimately customer satisfaction? How do we know when we are doing this all right?

Success, measured 

Mazor: This is the holy grail in many ways, right? You get what you measure, and this whole space of workforce experience in many ways is a newer discipline. Customer experience has been around for a while and gained great traction and measurement. We can measure customer feedback. We can measure net promoter scores, and a variety of other indicators, not the least of which may be revenue, for example, or even profitability relative to customer base. We equally are now starting to see the emergence of measurements in the workforce experience arena.

And at the top-line we can see measurements like measuring workforce engagement. As that rises, likely there is a connection to positive worker experience. We can measure productivity. We can even measure the growth of capabilities within the workforce that are being gained as a result of -- as we like to say -- learning in the flow of work, to develop their capabilities.
That path is really important to chart out because it has similarities to those tools, methods, and approaches used inside the customer space. We think about it in very simple terms, we need to first look, listen, and understand to sense what’s happening with the workforce.

We need to generate and prioritize different ideas of ways in which the experience for the workforce can be moved. Then we need to iterate, test, refine, and plan the kinds of changes you might prototype that provides you that foundation to measure. And in the workforce experience space, it’s a variety of measures that we are starting to see to get down into the granular levels below those top-line measures that I mentioned.

What comes to mind for me are things like measuring the user experience for all of the workers. How effective is the product or service that they are being asked to use? How quickly can they deliver their work? What feedback do we get from workers? So kind of a worker feedback category.
We need to generate and prioritize different ideas of ways in which the experience for the workforce can be moved. We need to iterate, test, refine, and plan the types of changes you might prototype that provide a foundation to measure.

And then there are a set of operational measures that can track inputs and outputs from various processes and various portions of the experience. There is that kind of categorization “in those three buckets” that really seems to be working well for many of our clients to measure that notion of workforce experience to your point, of, “Did we get it right?”

But in the end, as I shared at the beginning, I think it’s really critical that organizations measure that workforce experience through the ultimate lens, which is, “How are we dealing with our customers?” When that’s performing well, chances are pretty good, based on the research that we have seen, that the connection is there to the employee or workforce experience.

Minahan: When we are talking about the employee experience, we should be careful -- it’s not synonymous with just productivity. It’s a balance of productivity and employee engagement that together ultimately drives greater business results, customer experience, satisfaction, and improved profitability. Employee experience has been synonymous with productivity, it’s certainly a key integer into it, but it’s not the only one.

Gardner: Tim, how should IT people be thinking differently when it comes to how they view their own success? It was not that long ago where simply the performance of the systems -- when all the green lights were on and the networks were not down -- was the gauge of success. Should IT be elevating how it perceives itself and therefore how it should rate itself when it’s successful within these larger digital transformation endeavors?

Information, technology, and better business 

Minahan: Yes, absolutely. I think this could be the revitalization of IT as it moves beyond the items that you mentioned: keeping the networks up, keeping the applications performing well. IT can now drive better business outcomes and results.

Those forward-thinking companies looking to digitize their business realize that it’s very hard to ask an employee base to drive a greater digital customer experience without arming them with the right tools, information, and experience in their own right in order to get that done. IT plays a very major role here, locking arms in unison with the CHRO, to move the needle and turn employee experience into a competitive edge -- not just for attracting and retaining talent, but ultimately for driving better business results.

Gardner: I hope, if anything, this conversation prompts more opportunity for the human resources leadership and the IT leadership to spend time together and brainstorm and find commonality.

Before we sign off, just a quick look to the future. Art, for you, what might be changing soon that will help remove even more friction for employees? What is  it that’s down the pike over the next three to five years -- technologies, processes, market forces – that might be an accelerant to removing friction? Are there bright spots in your thinking about the future?

Bright symphony ahead

Mazor: I think the future is really bright. We are optimistic by nature, and we see enterprises making terrific, bold moves to embrace their future as challenging as the future is.

One of the biggest opportunities is the recognition of the imperative for executives and their teams to operate in a more symphonic way. And when I say that I mean to work together to achieve a common set of results, moving away from the historical silos that were emerging from a zeal for efficiency and that led to organizations having these various departments, and then the departments working within themselves and finding it a struggle to create integration.

We are seeing a huge unlocking of that, in the spirit of creating more cross-functional teams and more agile ways of working -- truly operating in the digital age. As we talked about in one of our recent capital trends reports, the idea of driving this is a more symphonic C-Suite, which then has a cascading effect for teams across the board inside of enterprises all to be working better together.

And then, secondly, there is a big recognition by enterprises now around the imperative to create meaning in the work that workers are doing. Increasingly, we are seeing this as a demand. This is not a single-generational demand. It’s not that the younger generation needs meaning or anything like that, that fits into stereotypes.

Rather, it’s a recognition that when we create purpose and meaning for the workers in an enterprise, they are more committed. They are more focused on outcomes, as opposed to activities. They begin to recognize the outcomes’ linkage to their own personal purpose, meaning for the enterprise, and for the work itself.
 And so, I think those two things will continue to emerge on a fairly rapid basis, to be able to embrace that need for symphonic operations and symphonic collaboration, as well as the imperative to create meaning and purpose for the workers of an enterprise. This will all unlock and unleash those capabilities focused on the customer through creating terrific employee or workforce experiences.

Gardner: Tim, last word to you. How do you foresee over the next several years technology evolving to support and engender the symphonic culture that Art just described?

Minahan: We have gotten to the point where employees are asking for a simplification of their environment, a unified access to everything, and to remove noise from their days so they can do that meaningful, purposeful work.

But what’s exciting is that same platform can be enabled to elevate the skill sets of all employees, giving them the right information, and the right task at the right time so they can perform at their very best.

But what gets me very excited about the future is the technology and a lot of the new thinking that’s going on. In the next few years, we’re going to see work models similar to the example I shared about eBay. We will see change in ways we work that we haven’t see in the past 100 years, where the lines between different functions and different organizations begin to evaporate.
What gets me excited about the future is the technology and a lot of new thinking that's going on. In the next few years, we're going to see new work models. We will see change in the ways we work that we haven't seen in the past 100 years.

Instead we will have work models where companies are beginning to organize around pools of talent, where they know who has the right skills and the right knowledge, regardless if they are full-time employees or a contractor. Technology will pull them together into workgroups no matter where they are in the world, to solve the given problem or produce a given outcome, and then dissolve them very quickly again. So I am very excited about what we are going to see in just the next five years ahead.

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

How rapid machine learning at the racing edge accelerates Venturi Formula E Team to top-efficiency wins
The next BriefingsDirect Voice of the Customer advanced motorsports efficiency innovation discussion explores some of the edge computing and deep analytics technology behind the Formula E auto racing sport.

Our interview focuses on how data-driven technology and innovation make high-performance electric racing cars an example for all endeavors where limits are continuously tested and bested.

Listen to the podcast. Find it on iTunes. Read a full transcript or download a copy.

To learn more about the latest in Formula E efficiency strategy and refinement, please welcome Susie Wolff, Team Principal at Venturi Formula E Team in Monaco. The interview is conducted by Dana Gardner, Principal Analyst at Interarbor Solutions.

Here are some excerpts:

Gardner: Aside from providing a great viewing and fan experience, what are the primary motivators for Formula E racing? Why did it start at all?

Wolff: It’s a really interesting story, because Formula E is like a startup. We are only in our fifth season, and Formula E and the management of Formula E disrupted the world of motorsport because it brought to the table a new concept of growing racing.

We race in city centers. That means that the tracks are built up just for one-day events, right in the heart of some of the most iconic capitals throughout the world. Because it’s built up within a city center and it’s usually only a one-day event, you get very limited track time, which is quite unusual in motorsport. In the morning we get up, we test, we go straight into qualifying, and then we race.

Yet, it’s attracting a new audience because people don’t need to travel to a race circuit. They don’t need to buy an expensive ticket. The race comes to the people, as opposed to the people going out to see racing.

Obviously, the technology is something completely new for people. There is very little noise, mostly you hear the whooshing of the cars going past. It’s a showcase for new technologies, which we are all going to see appearing on the road in the next three to five years.

Race down to Electric Avenue 

The automotive industry is going through a massive change with electric mobility and motorsport is following suit with Formula E.

We already see some of the applications on the roads, and I think that will increase year on year. What motorsport is so good at is testing and showcasing the very latest technology.

Gardner: I was going to ask you about the noise because I had the privilege and joy of watching a Formula One event in Monaco years ago, and the noise was a big part of it. Aside from these cars being so quiet, what is also different in terms of an electric Formula E race compared to traditional Formula One?

Wolff: The noise is the biggest factor, and that takes a bit of getting used to. It’s the roaring of the engines that creates emotion and passion. Obviously, in the Formula E cars you are missing any kind of noise.

Even the cars we are starting to drive on the roads now have a little electric start and every time I switch it on I think, “Oh, the car is not working, I have a problem.” I forget that there is no noise when you switch an electric car on.

Also, in Formula E, the way that technology is developing and how quickly it’s developing is very clear through the racing. Last season, the drivers had two cars and they had to switch cars in the middle of the race because the battery wouldn’t last long enough for a complete race distance. Now, because the battery technology has advanced so quickly, we are doing one race with one car and one battery. So I think that’s really the beauty of what Formula E is. It’s showcasing this new technology and electric mobility. Add to this the incredible racing and the excitement that brings, and you have a really enticing offering.

Gardner: Please tell us about Venturi, as a startup, and how you became Team Principal. You have been involved with racing for quite some time.

A new way to manage a driving career

Wolff: Yes, my background is predominately in racing. I started racing cars when I was only eight years old, and I made it through the ranks as a racing driver, all the way to becoming a test driver in Formula One.

Then I stepped away and decided to do something completely different and started a second career. I was pretty sure it wouldn’t be in motorsport, because my husband, Toto Wolff, works in motorsport. I didn’t want to work for him and didn’t want to work against him, so I was very much looking for a different challenge and then Venturi came along.

The President of Venturi, a great gentleman, Gildo Pastor, is a pioneer in electric mobility. He was one of the first to see the possibility of using batteries in cars, and he set a number of land speed records -- all electric. He joined Formula E from the very beginning, realizing the potential it had.
The team is based in Monaco, which is a very small principality, but one with a very rich history in racing because of the Grand Prix. Gildo had approached me previously when I was still racing to drive for his team in Formula E. I was one of the cynics, not sure Formula E was going to be for the long-term. So I said, “Thank you, but no thank you.”

But then he contacted me last year and said, “Look, I think we should work together. I think you will be fantastic running the team.” We very quickly found a great way to work together, and for me, it was just the perfect challenge. It’s a new form of racing, it’s breaking new ground and it’s at such an exciting stage of development. So, it was the perfect step for me into the business and management side of motorsports.

Gardner: For me, the noise difference is not much of an issue because the geek factor gets me jazzed about automobiles, and I don’t think I am alone in that. I love the technology. I love the idea of the tiny refinements that improve things and that interaction between the best of what people can do and what machines can do.

Tell us about your geek factor. What is new and fascinating for you about Formula E cars? What’s different from the refinement process that goes on with traditional motorsport and the new electric version?

The software challenge 

Wolff: It’s a massively different challenge than what we are used to within traditional forms of motorsport.

The new concept behind Formula E has functioned really well. Just this season, for example, we had eight races with eight different winners. In other categories, for example in Formula One, you just don’t get that. There is only the possibility for three teams to win a race, whereas in Formula E, the competition is very different.

Also, as a team, we don’t build the cars from scratch. A Formula One team would be responsible for the design and build of their whole car. In Formula E, 80 percent of the car is standardized. So every team receives the same car up to that 80 percent. The last part is the power train, the rear suspension, and some of the rear-end design of the car.

The big challenge within Formula E then, is in the software. It’s ultimately a software race: Who can develop, upgrade, and react quickly enough on the software side. And obviously, as soon as you deal with software, you are dealing with a lot of data.

That’s one of the biggest challenges in Formula E -- it’s predominantly a software race as opposed to a hardware race. If it’s hardware, it’s set at the beginning of the season, it’s homologated, and it can’t be changed.
In Formula E, the performance differentiators are the software and how quickly you can analyze, use, and redevelop your data to enable you to find the weak points and correct them quickly enough to bring to the on-track performance.

Gardner: It’s fascinating to me that this could be the ultimate software development challenge, because the 80/20 rule applies to a lot of other software development, too. The first 80 percent can be fairly straightforward and modular; it’s the last 20 percent that can make or break an endeavor.

Tell us about the real-time aspects. Are you refining the software during the race day? How does that possibly happen?

Winning: When preparation meets data 

Wolff: Well, the preparation work is a big part of a race performance. We have a simulator based back at our factory in Monaco. That’s where the bulk of the preparation work is done. Because we are dealing with only a one-day event, it means we have to get everything crammed into an eight-hour window, which leaves us very little time between stations to analyze and use the data.

The bulk of the preparation work is done in the simulator back at the factory. Each driver does between four to six days in a simulator preparing for a race. That’s where we do all of the coding and try to find the most efficient ways to get from the start to the finish of the race. That’s where we do the bulk of the analytical work.

When we arrive at the actual race, we are just doing the very fine tweaks because the race day is so compact. It means that you need to be really efficient. You need to minimize the errors and maximize the opportunities, and that’s something that is hugely challenging.
If you had a team of 200 engineers, it would be doable. But in Formula E, the regulations limit you to 20 people on your technical team on a race day. So that means that efficiency is of the utmost importance to get the best performance.

Gardner: I’m sure in the simulation and modeling phase you leverage high-performance computing (HPC) and other data technologies. But I’m particularly curious about that real-time aspect, with a limit of 20 people and the ability to still make some tweaks. How did you solve the data issues in a real-time, intensive, human-factor-limited environment like that?

Wolff: First of all, it’s about getting the right people on-board and being able to work with the right people to make sure that we have the knowhow on the team. The data is real-time, so in a race situation we are aware if there is a problem starting to arise in the car. It’s very much up to the driver to control that themselves, from within the car, because they have a lot of the controls. The very important data numbers are on their steering wheel.

They have the ability to change settings within the car -- and that’s also what makes it massively challenging for the driver. This is not just about how fast you can go, it’s also how much extra capacity you have to manage in your car and your battery -- to make sure that you are being efficient.
The data is utmost in importance for how it's created and then how quickly it can be analyzed and used to help performance. That's something HPE has been a huge benefit for us for. ... We can apply that ability to crunch the numbers more quickly.

The data is utmost in importance for how it’s created and then how quickly it can be analyzed and used to help performance. That’s something that Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) has been a huge benefit to us for. First of all, HPE has been able to increase the speed at which we can send data from factory to race track, between engineers. That technology has also increased the level of our simulator and what it’s able to crunch through in the preparation work.

And that was just the start. We are now looking at all the different areas where we can apply that ability to crunch the numbers more quickly. It allows us to look at every different aspect, and it will all come down to those marginal gains in the end.

Gardner: Given that this is a team sport on many levels, you are therefore working with a number of technology partners. What do you look for in a technology partner?

Partner for performance 

Wolff: In motorsport, you very quickly realize if you are doing a good job or not. Every second weekend you go racing, and the results are shown on the track. It’s brutal because if you are at the top step of the podium, you have done a great job. If you are at the end, you need to do a better job. That’s a reality check we get every time we go racing.

For us to be the best, we need to work with the best. We’re obviously very keen to always work with the best-in-field, but also with companies able to identify the exact needs we have and build a product or a package that helps us. Within motorsports, it’s very specific. It’s not like a normal IT company or a normal business where you can plug-and-play. We need to redefine what we can do, and what will bring added performance.

We need to work with companies that are agile. Ideally they have experience within motorsports. They know what you need, and they are able to deliver. They know what’s not needed in motorsports because everything is very time sensitive. We need to make sure we are working on the areas that bring performance -- and not wasting resources and time in areas that ultimately are not going to help our track performance.

Gardner: A lot of times with motorsports it’s about eking out the most performance and the highest numbers when it comes to variables like skidpad and the amounts of friction versus acceleration. But I can see that Formula E is more about the interplay between the driver, the performance, and the electrical systems efficiency.

Is there something we can learn from Formula E and apply back to the more general electric automobile industry? It seems to me they are also fighting the battle to make the batteries last longest and make the performance so efficient that every electron is used properly.

Wolff: Absolutely. That’s why we have so many manufacturers in Formula E … the biggest names in the industry, like BMW, Audi, Jaguar and now Mercedes and Porsche. They are all in Formula E because they are all using it as a platform to develop and showcase their technology. And there are huge sums of money being spent within the automotive industry now because there is such a race on to get the right technology in the next generation of electric cars. The technology is advancing so quickly. The beauty of Formula E is that we are at the very pinnacle of that.

We are purely performance-based and it means that those race cars and power trains need to be the most efficient, and the quickest. All of the technology and everything that’s learned from the manufacturers doing Formula E eventually filters back into the organizations. It helps them to understand where they can improve and what the main challenges are for their electrification and electric mobility in the end.

Gardner: There is also an auspicious timing element here. You are pursuing the refinement and optimization of electric motorsports at the same time that artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) technologies are becoming more pervasive, more accessible, and brought right to the very edge … such as on a steering wheel.

Is there an opportunity for you to also highlight the use of such intelligence technologies? Will data analytics start to infer what should be happening next, rather than just people analyzing data? Is there a new chapter, if you will, in how AI can come to bear on your quest for the Formula E best?

AI accelerates data 

Wolff: A new chapter is just beginning. Certainly, in some of the conversations we’ve had with our partners -- and particularly with HPE -- it’s like opening up a treasure chest, because the one thing we are very good at in motorsports is generating lots of data.

The one thing that we are clear at, and it’s purely down to manpower and time and resource, is the analyzing of data. There is only so much that we have capacity for. And with AI there are a couple of examples that I wouldn’t even want to share because I wouldn’t want my competitors to know what’s possible.
There are a couple of examples where we have seen that AI can constitute the numbers in a matter of seconds and spit out the results. I can’t even comprehend how long it would take us to get to those numbers otherwise. It’s a clear example of how much AI is going to accelerate our learning on the data side, and, particularly, because it’s software, there’s so much analyzing of the data needed to bring new levels of performance. For us it’s going to be game changer and we are only at the start.

It’s incredibly exciting but also so important to make sure that we are getting it right. There is so much possibility that if we don’t get it right, there could be big areas that we could end up losing on.

Gardner: Perhaps soon, race spectators will not only be watching the cars and how fast they are going. Perhaps there will be a dashboard that provides views of the AI environment’s performance, too. It could be a whole new type of viewer experience -- when you’re looking at what the AI can do as well as the car. Whoever thought that AI would be a spectator sport?

Wolff: It’s true and it’s not far away. It’s very exciting to think that that could be coming.

Listen to the podcast. Find it on iTunes. Read a full transcript or download a copy. Sponsor: Hewlett Packard Enterprise.

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