Every month at 3 PM IST (India Time) on payday, the recreational area at Net Solutions’ Chandigarh campus comes alive. No, people are not lining up with their environmentally friendly bags to collect bundles of cash. Salary disbursement is electronic and always has been. In fact, we are strong proponents of Prime Minister Modi’s vision of a #cashless India. Why then, one wonders, are the people huddling on payday? It’s surely not to discuss climate change and its effect on bird migration.
The real answer is a bummer. People line up to collect their pay slips. #incomprehensible #areyoukiddingme.
Yes, I’m with you. There are many hashtags that can be used to describe this ritual. A company that counts Xerox, Microsoft, Yahoo, HBR and Haymarket among its clients, this does not add up.
The story starts much earlier than this. Most organizations, especially enterprises, have grown organically over the years. Net Solutions, too, has had a similar journey.
2017 is our 17th year of existence. We started at a modest facility (Sameer’s garage really) with a few people and even fewer execution tricks. Today, we have a state-of-the-art delivery center at Information Technology Park. Infosys is one of our neighbors (we have a better view of the Shivalik foothills than they do). It has been a journey full of positive experiences and challenges. We sorted out most of the teething issues as we grew over the years and digitized almost everything. Yes, salary slips weren’t a priority and probably still are not; we will take care of them, eventually. The glass is half full, people.
As a Product Development company that specializes in Digital Customer Experience curation and management, we have two facets. For the lack of creative nomenclature, let us call them: internal and external. The external experiences have always been top drawer. Right from that first call, logging the notes in Sales Force, conversion of the lead into an opportunity, closing the opportunity, Business Analysis, project execution and management, quality control, automated release management and iterative delivery of MVP/MVE, we have it covered. All electronic. All cutting edge. But, that is not what we will discuss today.
We want to talk about the internal experiences. Our workforce. The folks who make us who we are. What sort of an experience do we get?
To answer this, let us list some of the things that we do internally:
Biometric attendance, fiddle with tens of internal IT systems, fill time sheets, hop on calls with our partners (clients if it is unclear), interact with various teams (HR, Finance, Facility Admin, Sales, Pre-Sales, PMO, CX, UX, UI, Tech Leads, Product Management, Labs etc.), consume calories, hydrate, exercise, engage in mild gossip by the water cooler (alright, alright, full gossip), power nap in the recovery room, 1-on-1 meetings with managers, career planning meetings, strategy meetings, training sessions, Wisdom Wednesdays, Digital Fridays, playing with the little ones at the onsite nursery, and much more.
Phew. So many experiences. These have to planned, managed, tracked, optimized, and delivered. We would have no moral authority to build Digital Experience Platforms for our partners if we could not build one for our workforce. With this vision, a couple of years ago, we started unifying the experiences at our workplace. All those disparate experiences then started becoming Digital Experiences at Workplace.
The journey has been… unique. Inertia is one tough, son of a gun. People get used to doing things, however inefficient they may be. Identifying change agents and having people rally around them is easier said than done. Digitizing institutional memory is very important, especially for a company like ours where the median tenure of an employee is 10 years. That’s right, people do not seem to want to move out from here. We are like those kids who never outgrow their parental home. Lazy bums.
Jokes aside, we have had the need for that single source of truth that not only replaced those tens of IT systems that we had gotten used to, but also held everything that we considered sacrosanct in one place: our institutional memory, our engagements and interactions with each other, and a seamless way to go about our day-to-day at work.
Problem statements, meet the solution [drum rolls]: Grid.
Alright. Now, we’re talking.
As misplaced as the name sounds (since there is nothing to do with the literal or figurative [if any] meaning of the word), it encompasses the solution that we have created as an answer to our internal incoherence.
Chest thumping and swagger aside, an intelligent reader might ask, what does it really do, dude?
Fair question, and it’s best to go old school and bullet list the strengths of this solution:
1.Single Sign On (aka SSO, usually found listed as most wanted in the wish-list of most IT ecosystems with a large reward on its head)
Yes, we chose to eat this frog. (If you want to learn more about frogs and why you should eat them, take a look: https://goo.gl/JBHgmI). It seemed like a logical thing to do. We had tens of IT systems, we could not replace them all overnight. We went after the pain point. Multiple systems mean multiple accounts, which translates into every individual needing to remember those many passwords.
The smart ones just use 123456 as a password for all their accounts. The not so smart ones create secure passwords that are at least 10 characters in length, and contain numbers and special characters. We then write these passwords on a post-it note and stick it on our workstation monitors. Easy. God knows why people complain about password management.
2. Sentiment Analysis (wow, we are getting fancy now)
How are you feeling? I am okay. Next day, how are you feeling? I am happy. Three mornings later, how are you feeling? I am groggy.
Who wants to keep a manual record of how everyone is feeling in the organization at any given point in time? More importantly, is it even recordable?
This needs to be done. Call it employee morale management, Sentiment Analysis or anything else that rocks your boat. The fact is, human resources are the most expensive investment for any organization and they need to be taken care of. Not just by doling out free lunches or planting expensive coffee machines (they certainly help), but by going into the psyche of human behavior and aspirations, and bridging the emotional disconnect.
Our implementation features logging of sentiment during work hours (and offwork hours if one chooses to share that they slept on the couch). Our Analytics engine then operationalizes the mathematical model (hand-crafted by our Data Scientists sitting in the House-of-the-Lords Labs area) over the data sets to identify areas where we need to bolster our defenses and make the workplace more hospitable.
Since our workforce does not believe in attrition, we might as well make sure they are happy during their decade-long pit stops with us. Sadly (or fortunately, whatever your taken on this is), we do not venture into fixing the couch fiascos.
3. Gamification (what are we but children at heart)
Our engagement program includes rewards and recognition in the form of popular choice (peer to peer) and critics choice (ahem, HR) awards. Folks earn points for contributing to the learning ecosystem in the form of blogs, knowledge sharing sessions, hackathons, critiquing posts, etc. It all links together (now this is the only known instance of validation of the name Grid) into a social network.
In fact, a few weeks ago, our engine detected a few people trading appreciation notes to notch up points on the leaderboard (shame, shame [Game of Thrones, anyone?]). The engagement grew further after an incremental product release where we disclosed how people have fared on the leaderboard over the months. Darn peepers. The more graphs we release, engagement goes up each time. People love to know what others are doing. Zuckerberg beat us to this revelation by 13 years. Alas.
4. Digital Asset Management and Wiki (this is getting serious and, by corollary, boring)
All fun and no work makes Net Solutions an unprofitable enterprise. In the spirit of getting paid for an honest day’s work, we need to manage our assets and the so called institutional memory. We built the DAM module to manage our memory bank and regulate its access through RBAC (role based access control).
In fact, RBAC is in the foundation of Grid. People can be given privileges to perform a variety of functions and these privileges can be upgraded and downgraded on demand, without the person having to…..wait for it…..wait for it…..without having to logout and back in for the updated permissions to kick in.
These assets can be organized around a partner project, an internal initiative or anything in between. No more tossing documents over Skype or email.
5. Public Announcements and Discussions
We realized that we were tired of sending companywide emails that in essence were “this is to inform you that Nyquist won’t be running in Preakness Stakes this year.” Boring. Drab. Dull. Stoic. Yada yada yada.
We want emotions pouring in, a way for people to engage in a community dialogue and not let announcements be a monologue. We created a module that lets relevant stakeholders (nah, we aren’t publicly traded, yet) announce their bit, ruffle some feathers and kick back with a beer and watch the fun. People, given an opportunity, can be pretty darn vocal about how they feel about things. We try to keep it civil but many a toupee have been lost in skirmishes.
Polls and surveys live in Grid’s arsenal to solicit feedback with a positive intent to course correct, hear back from those we do not speak of and let the system balance monarchy and democracy.
Certain polls have been very successful. In one such instance, people voted in favor of improving food options at our on premise restaurant by including “nicer delicacies,” AND also voted to reduce the meal price. Sky Chef gracefully declined to be our in-house meals service provider.
Where there are humans or machines, there are problems. If you remember any of the team names that were mentioned during early parts of this blog, you would have identified that some teams exist to work behind the scenes to keep the ecosystem running flawlessly. These teams - HR, Finance, IT, Facility Management make sure the rest of us can focus on our work without having to worry.
Things still go wrong though, and when they do, we don’t want to breathe down their neck or keep calling them till the time all coyotes have been shooed away from the premises. We have an electronic ticket logging and management system that folks use to raise their issues. Since Grid is powered by RBAC, we can easily add / change first responders and create escalation queues to ensure timely resolution of all tickets logged. Descriptive Analytics and a variety of reports (Aging, TTL, MTBF etc.) ensure everyone is on their A-game. Bite me Zendesk.
8. CXO Dashboard (really? This is so 1970.)
With Grid, one of the focus areas has been to give everyone the information they need to do their jobs while keeping it fun and engaging. With blue collars getting what they need, the white collars also need something. Monarchy and Democracy need to be balanced, remember?
The CXO dashboard gives the economic view on the projects being developed. Which projects are in red vs black? Which projects have the most number of bugs open? Which projects are unlikely to meet the timelines and do we send nine potential mothers to create that baby in one month? There are plenty of other markers, several proprietary, which I cannot discuss here.
The idea being that this dashboard provides an unadulterated, unfiltered view of what’s happening on the floor. Those found guilty are called for an inquest on Fridays.
This, ladies and gents, is our Grid. There are companion mobile apps for iOS and Android distributed through Enterprise deployment. There are several other components of Grid such as Predictive Analytics, Forecasting, Profitability Metrics etc., which I will cover in another post, someday.
Grid has rapidly become our go to and only source of truth. We took down everything else so people did not really have a choice, and that is the secret sauce :)
If you are looking for any help on building such or any other digital solution for a better customer or employee engagement, please contact us at [email protected].