Employee experience is sick of the software industry

One of the major problems with employee experience is the disruption in work flow or information flow caused by the tools used.

When I became really interested in the subject, it wasn’t so much (or not at all) for the well-being or fulfillment of employees, but to put an end to what I consider to be a form of suffering at work that is too often overlooked and considered a necessary evil.

Its most visible manifestation is the incessant double data entry. Examples of this are :

  • Data already contained in one tool is copied into one or more tools. For example, entering information about a customer in a project management system, billing system, etc. while it is already in the CRM, creating a new employee in the HRIS while everything is in the application management system…
  • We copy data contained in business tools to put them back into spreadsheets, data visualization or dashboarding tools to cross-reference them, format them, and then we copy the whole thing into slides to present them to the stakeholders.

Do not confuse hard work with tedious work.

Seen from a distance this may seem trivial. In reality, sometimes whole hours are lost every week or even every day and I don’t even mention the risks of mistakes that this entails. And I’m not even talking about the tedious nature of the thing which at one point has an impact on motivation, engagement and ends up in resignations. Being recruited to do high value-added work and spending your time copying and pasting is not really a factor of professional fulfillment.

I take this opportunity to address those who find it a necessary evil and complain about lazy employees who complain for nothing: they make an error of appreciation. People don’t complain about the difficulty or intensity of a task when it is related to their work, but about repetitive and tedious tasks that have nothing to do with what is expected of them but are just barriers on the way to it.

The IT silo is not the only fault of the IT Department

We generally complain a lot about the organizational silos in companies that do not make work more fluid, far from it, but we cannot ignore the IT silos that are responsible for the evil we are talking about here.

It is usual and easy to blame the IT department for buying disparate tools that don’t talk to each other or for not investing in the necessary integrations to make them talk to each other. But it’s not responsible for everything: it’s the software industry itself that bears some of the blame, because of its culture and structure.

When Salesforce took over Slack, I said that having the best developers or buying the brightest companies wasn’t enough for a player to succeed in a new market. You can buy people, you can buy products, you can’t buy culture.

A customer relationship specialist will find it difficult to position himself in the HR or collaboration market and vice versa. Even the market mastodons who offer tools on just about every business vertical are always better in a sector, often their home sector, than in the ones they have added over time.

It’s not an insult to Microsoft to say that they are better at office automation than at CRM or that SAP is better at finance than HR. By the way, remember that Oracle or SAP tried to venture into the field of collaboration at the time of the emergence of “social” collaboration and it didn’t work out very well. Not that they didn’t have the talent to do it but in my opinion simply because they didn’t have the culture to do it well in a reasonable time frame in terms of go to market. Same with Salesforce Chatter.

So let’s take a look at these software industry silos, or even the mental barriers that ultimately translate into the employee experience.

HRTech vs. WorkTech

At one time I remember that IBM had highlighted the risks of resignation based on the analysis of the activity and connections between people on its corporate social network. Here we have the example of a project aimed at identifying the risks of resignations that enriches HR data with field and business data.

It takes more than HR data to drive HR, impact the business and create a competitive advantage.

The “performance” of employees is not measured in HR tools, only their evaluation is, which is not the same thing. Their performance can be seen in CRM, project management tools, business tools in the broadest sense.

Morale” and engagement is not measured in HR tools but in the intensity of interactions in collaboration and communication tools.

Training needs are partly performance driven. Managers raise needs, but with direct access to information and cross-referencing with HR data, it is possible to anticipate instead of observing and dealing with subjects that managers do not raise for good or bad reasons.

The objectives of each can be traced in an HRIS. But in order to know if they have been achieved, we will have to look elsewhere.

More broadly speaking, we have a problem between what we will call IT Technology (central systems such as finance or even HR) and Operational Technology, which is used at the level of business lines, entities, etc. that do not talk to each other and require a great deal of human effort to fill this gap.

Systems of Record vs. Systems of engagement

It’s an age-old subject that explains my pessimism about the Salesforce/Slack story.

Systems of Record” are those where the business data, the ones used to measure and drive the business, are located. These are ERP, CRM, HRIS…

What we call “Systems of Engagement” are those where people talk, collaborate.

I usually say that the former help to identify the problems of businesses and the latter the solutions. Your CRM tells you that there is a problem, that the “pipe” is too low, that a deal takes time to close but does not help you improve things. The solutions are found by discussing and mobilizing the necessary expertise and this happens in other tools.

One can throw a message in a bottle in an enterprise social network, create a discussion group that will be self-sustaining or serve as a complement to a physical or virtual meeting….

The discussion is disconnected from the data related to the problem. Sometimes you can’t even share the data because the people you need don’t have access to the tool where it is stored. And even if you can get around the problem by making a copy of the key indicators, the history that often says more than the final data is not shareable.

Sometimes to understand the context of a project in order to make the right decisions we will find :

  • Sales data (if it is for a customer) in the CRM.
  • Discussions to understand the key elements (why an option was chosen, what are the real or hidden issues for the internal or external customer) in emails, chat, group discussions.
  • The financial data of the project in the ERP
  • Resource data in a planning tool.
  • Exchanges between teams and with the client in a project management tool, a collaboration tool, a chat, emails…in fact depending on the subject and the people involved you will have 3, 4 or 5 channels of conversation.

Of course if you end up having to immerse yourself in depth in the subject during the “delivery” phase, everything that happened before in the conception or sales phase is often inaccessible to you because it concerned other teams, other channels of which you are not a part.

Today, the challenge for a company is not only to quickly identify problems, but above all to effectively mobilize the right expertise, no matter how diverse, whether or not they are part of the team concerned, in an ad hoc manner, to find solutions. Today we have walls between the two.

EmployeeTech vs ClientTech

At a time when COVID has put the spotlight on e-commerce, the comparison will be easy.

Imagine going to a site to make a purchase. You validate your order. Then you have to create an account on another site and copy information related to your order to pay. But it’s not over yet. A third site and therefore a third account and a third retyping of information will be necessary to manage the shipping.

Inconceivable? Yes, it is. And yet this is what employees experience every day in the workplace. I’m only talking about a break in the user experience and (even if real progress is made) I won’t even venture on the subject of user interfaces.

To stay on this type of example I remember a “memorable” experience with my phone carrier with whom I also have my internet and mobile subscription. I used to manage everything in my online customer area in a very simple way.

One day I had to make a modification to my mobile subscription and I took the opportunity to pass in front of a store to do it, telling myself that for once I was going to do it with a human being and that it would be “nice”.

I saw a very kind and willing counsellor sweating profusely in front of me. He opened a window on his screen, wrote down a data on a post-it, copied it in another window etc… After fifteen minutes of juggling different tools, he had finally managed to do what I could have done in one click at home.

I did not get impatient or angry: I saw that he was doing his best and I understood that he was not responsible for the situation and that he was suffering it himself. I even think that he was aware that he was giving me a much lower experience than I could have had online.

I finally understood why one day when I was talking to one of the carrier’s senior executives. Before, for them, mobile, landline and internet were separate activities, housed in separate entities. Each with its own tools, its own CRM, its own billing system. One day, everything was brought together under the same brand name and they understood that unifying customer relationship management would be a major undertaking that would take several years.

On the client side, a “front office” has been developed to give the illusion of a unified system and offer a quality experience. But the real overhaul of the system, which would result on the employee side and make the artifice deployed on the client side useless, would take much more time and require a significant investment. So for years they’ve had a degraded experience on the employee side and a quality experience on the customer side. After that we wonder where the customer preference for online channels comes from…

Here it is not so much a question related to the vendors world as a question of state of mind and approach at all levels. We always accept, and even find it normal, to provide employees with working conditions that are worse than what we offer the client. This is partly due to vendors who have been slow to invest as much in UI/UX on products for internal and external use, but also to companies who often do not make the “last mile” or multiply disparate tools in a logic of “best of breed” by thinking tool by tool and not by thinking about the user.

This is all the more surprising since I am convinced that building a good CRM and a good HRIS requires the same way of thinking and that when you know how to do one, you know how to do the other.

Tools vs. journeys

To finish and by way of conclusion I find that here two rationales clash.

The first is a tool based approach. A tool is specialized in a domain and seeks to excel in that domain in terms of functionality (always) and user experience (often). It is first and foremost seen as a self-sufficient product in “standalone”. This is the approach taken by software vendors and CIOs, and even by business departments in their choices.

The second is a journey based approach. A user does not live in a tool but moves from one to the other to do his job and he would like the information to do the same. He is interested, of course, in the experience within a tool, but what interests him is the experience in the journey with the passage from one tool to another. It is the approach of the employees and certain business departments that are closer and more concerned with the reality in the field and what the employees are experiencing.

And until the two can be reconciled, there will be disruptions in workflow, information flow, degraded employee experience, impact on commitment and productivity, which will one day be felt on the customer’s side.

Image : prison walls de  Ilija Erceg via shutterstock

Bertrand DUPERRINhttps://www.duperrin.com/english
Head of People and Business Delivery @Emakina / Former consulting director / Crossroads of people, business and technology / Speaker / Compulsive traveler
Head of People and Business Delivery @Emakina / Former consulting director / Crossroads of people, business and technology / Speaker / Compulsive traveler

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