Digital workplace best practices have shifted and evolved over the years; enterprise technology vendors work to keep pace with modern business needs, and provide new innovations to support transformation. Cloud services have simplified information and communication technology (ICT) provisioning and management, and cloud providers have improved their offerings, reacting to privacy and security concerns.
The symbiotic relationship between enterprise, users, and software vendors drives solution development. New products, new capabilities, new business opportunities, and ever greater expectations are the themes underpinning the future of work, and frequent topics here at MARGINALIA as we peer ahead. Beyond the cloud, Vice President of Marketing at Igloo Software, Mike Hicks sees ‘Solutions as a Service’ as the next evolution.
MARGINALIA spoke with Hicks to explore this new approach. In this interview, Hicks speaks about the need for vendors to move away from simply providing software, and how Igloo intends to support enterprises through its new portfolio of digital workplace solutions and services. The name, Solutions as a Service, is more than a catchy phrase, it heralds a shift in Igloo’s focus, to better serve the unfulfilled needs of companies and help them achieve a fully developed digital workplace.
Gloria Lombardi: You have just unveiled ‘Solutions as a Service’, your new approach for helping organisations throughout their digital transformation journey. Tell us more.
Mike Hicks: Solutions as a Service is the evolution of Software as a Service. The latter, as we already know, is securely cloud-hosted and enables businesses to get instant software updates and anywhere-access. However, the Software as a Service industry – including Igloo until now – has created a gap in expectations.
It’s not uncommon for enterprise software to become part of the very challenge they bought it to address! Enterprise software can be complicated and complex. Compatibility issues arise, legacy systems remain indispensable, and managing the tech becomes everybody’s job. Surely, the technology should be almost invisible – unremarkable in its effectiveness and ease of use, as it helps people solve larger business problems.
With the Solutions as a Service model, we look to address the gaps created with software as a service by providing the software platform, the solutions, and all the associated services that companies need to be successful in their digital transformation. The reason we are so confident in our new approach is that we’ve based it on the lessons learned through our experiences with over 10,000 digital workplaces globally.
GL: Is Software as a Service no longer an appropriate model?
MH: We think that Solutions as a Service is the way to remain relevant in the market.
To be successful in digital transformation, companies require much more than software: they need assistance with all the pre-launch planning, training and adoption tactics, objectives and KPI setting, and measuring and reporting. Success doesn’t come by deploying software or launching new tools, but with ongoing work to meet employees’ needs and providing solutions to real business problems. We help organisations address employee engagement, and the employee experience as the organisation continues to digitally evolve. And more importantly, we move beyond generic software and provide a portfolio of solutions that address specific business challenges.
While many players in the digital workplace sector provide platforms and a few days of consultancy to help design user interfaces, we mean to push the sector as a whole to better meet enterprises’ needs, before, during, and long-after implementation.
At Igloo, we understand that our customers aren’t necessarily experts in digital transformation and it’s our job to provide the level of expertise, resources and support that they need to be successful. This goes well beyond just providing software. By focusing on solutions and services instead of software, we are finally enabling organisations to significantly reduce time to launch and time to value.
Digital transformation is a long-term strategic matter. It requires an understanding of the shifting market and of the organisation’s objectives. Few organisations have limitless resources, and the tactical deployment of software solutions and accompanying new ways of working can be disruptive. With our Solutions as a Service approach, we help enterprises make better use of their resources, letting people focus on high-value tasks and their core work, rather than getting bogged down in system management. For example, there’s the option to have the digital workplace managed by our Igloo experts, a concierge, freeing up the in-house staff to focus on their core work.
GL: As society evolves, language, meanings, and definitions evolve with it. The ‘digital workplace’ is a rather fascinating and complex concept. What definition, if any, underpins your own idea of a digital workplace, especially considering your evolution towards Solutions as a Service?
MK: You can think of the digital workplace as the next gen intranet, and the successful ones are comprised of three things.
First, the technologies the organisation uses. To be as seamless as possible, the digital workplace needs to integrate with all the existing tools – whether it is file sharing, or HR software, or CRM platforms. Whatever they are, integration with key enterprise systems is key.
Secondly, there are digital workplace solutions. What business problems must be solved? The key challenges often revolve around cultural engagement, corporate communication, knowledge sharing, and collaboration. Sometimes the underlying problems are unknown, or leaders are content with current, but low, levels of collaboration and productivity. As part of our Solutions as a Service model, we work to uncover and identify problems and address them in a holistic sense – changing processes and ways of working through our digital workplace solutions, not just changing software.
Finally, and most importantly, is the digital destination, the place where employees start their day and where they come back to throughout the day to complete their work. The destination is all about the employee experience as shaped by their interactions on-screen. This is, in part, the employee brand too. It’s about how the organisation works digitally, how people relate to each other across locations, and how the corporate culture is experienced.
These three elements help software and tools become a fully developed digital workplace.
GL: The digital workplace includes a multitude of tools, not just one piece of software, many of which could be thought of as your competitors in some respect. Is the new Solutions as a Service opening Igloo up to a broader ecosystem?
MK: For us it’s all about solving the organisation’s business challenges, and that often means embracing other software platforms and apps. The Igloo platform is pretty broad and has all of the capabilities that an organisation needs for communication, collaboration and knowledge management built right in, including file collaboration, wiki’s, blogs, forums, search, tasks, etc. However, these capabilities only go so far, as organisations usually have other enterprise level systems, CRM, HRIS, ECM, etc., that are a core part of their business. It’s critical that the digital workplace solutions can integrate with these systems, and business challenges are far more complex than any single piece of software can handle in many cases.
GL: You talk about Igloo wanting to push the whole industry forward. Beyond Solutions as a Service, what else is Igloo doing to further this mandate?
MH: I’ll use the ‘test drive’ analogy to explain this. When you go to a car dealership to buy a vehicle you don’t expect to build it before using it. You take a test drive. While many vendors offer you a free trial of their software, it’s often a blank canvas – everything’s empty; it’s like taking that test drive but being limited to first gear. It’s hard to understand the value of the technology when it’s without data, users, or purpose; you end up having to invest a lot of time in building your own dummy demo. It is a big time investment.
We offer a proper test drive. We put you right in the driver’s seat and you can start testing out features, solutions, and integrations. You get a full digital workplace suite of solutions without having to build anything yourself.
Through test-drive we provide a live environment, a thriving community of real people, and so there’s real data and information. Our Igloo experts are right there, ready to help in real-time through chat or over hours and days in discussion. So, the community helps each other, tests functionality out together, and works out how they would choose to tackle specific business problems.
GL: In your previous conversation with MARGINALIA, you shared six key recommendations to implement a successful digital workplace transformation: having a roadmap; starting small; employee feedback; prioritising the business challenges; aligning the digital footprint; and governance.
What further advice can you give around communicating change?
MH: When facing digital transformation, it is important to involve cross-functional stakeholders very early in the process. There is a lot of inefficiency in the way employees currently work, the tools they are familiar with, how they currently communicate and collaborate within their teams and across multiple teams. Yet despite frustrations and obvious inefficiencies, people are creatures of habit and can resist change if they don’t immediately see the personal benefit.
When communicating such wide-scale change, it’s important to bring in employee representatives, especially of those groups that will be most affected by the transformation. While you’ll want to explain the features and benefits coming, it’s important to listen and learn about real-world problems and employee expectations. Everyone needs to be on the journey, and so engagement and culture cannot be ignored.
Start communicating early! Make people aware of what’s coming long before you start talking about features or how they will have to get involved. People want to know what will be happening, when it will be happening, and why it’s necessary. Soon after, they’ll want to know how to be involved – people want to be part of the decisions, otherwise it feels like change is something that’s being ‘done to them’ rather than something we’re all co-creating.
Post-launch, you’ll want to have feedback mechanisms in place. You’ll want to know if the solutions are being used as you envisioned, or if people need further support to better grip the new tech and new ways of working. You’ll only really know if you’re on the path to success if you’ve already set your KPIs and have measuring in place. What are your 6 month, 12 month and two-to-three-year goals? Are you progressing toward them? You need a plan around how and when you will review your metrics, goals, and overall strategy.
Igloo’s moves to offer Solutions as a Service reinforces the company’s commitment to be a trusted partner to companies and help them meet their digital workplace objectives.
Nevertheless, Igloo understands the challenges that organisations face with new ways of working and why vendors need to change themselves to be quality providers.
As Hicks puts it: “We are our most critical customers. We use the Igloo platform every day, all day, to improve the way we work. We can instantly see where our solutions are not as optimised as they could be. We frequently put change requests to our developers, so that we are delivering the best possible solutions to the market”.
Many IT departments have transformed, owing to the capabilities of cloud hosting; we’ll soon see if CIOs are ready to adopt Solutions as a Service and work ever closer with expert partners.
It’s a great concept from Igloo, but I wish they’d just be straight up and say they re talking about intranets rather than trying to re-define ‘digital workplace’ to fit their marketing purposes!