Digital Workplaces, Intranet 4.0

Understanding the User: Changes in the Digital Workplace

Intranet Boston_Kim Bild

Aaron Kim
Director, Innovation Research, Architecture and Digital Collaboration at Royal Bank of Canada

In the context of the Intra.NET Boston, we.CONECT spoke with Aaron Kim, Director, Innovation Research, Architecture and Digital Collaboration at Royal Bank of Canada.

we.CONECT: Which trends and challenges do you think will impact the digital workplace in the coming years?

Aaron Kim: The digital workplace is heavily influenced by what happens in the lives of digital consumers, so I expect to see the advances in voice and chatbot interfaces, real-time sharing, natural language processing, automation and mobility to make inroads in our digital working lives. One of the challenges is not necessarily to replicate the consumer experience, but to understand the peculiar aspect of each domain and design solutions that respect and maximize those differences. For example, Instagram-style stories of somebody walking on the street could be just a distraction at the workplace, but using a similar interface to live broadcast a business event may have significant value.
Furthermore, the increasing amount of our work that’s being digitized to bits and bytes creates an immense opportunity to derive insights from what is captured out there, from inferring skills and experience from our digital contributions, to understanding gaps of knowledge, to anticipating user needs. In the past, we developed software and processes that required a steep learning curve by people. In other words, people were required to understand the software and processes around it. The digital trend is to go the other way around: develop user interfaces and experiences that understand users, and anticipate their reactions and needs. This represents a major disruption in the way we think about the digital workplace.

we.CONECT: How does your organisation measure intranet user adoption and what would you suggest to your peers to increase engagement?

Aaron Kim: We found that there is no single solution that captures all the information we want, and that our need for insights goes beyond what most tools offer out of the box. Because of this, we use a variety of tools to get the data we need: the native data capture offered by the platforms we use, instrumentation via application performance monitoring, database extracts and online tools like Google Analytics. We also create many custom reports to get further insights by using a variety of other tools such as tableau and in-house developed visualizations based on D3. But measuring and reporting only make sense if we are using that information to make actionable decisions. For example, we capture the most searched terms in our social intranet, and use that information to create “best bet” searches, so that we don’t have to solely rely on search algorithms to detect what the user is looking for.
We also try to find from our data what kind of content generates the desired reactions, such as views, comments or real action, such as: can a post made to encourage people to enrich their internal profiles actually result in more people updating it? Or can a help and support post explaining how to make the best use of some software feature increase adoption?

we.CONECT: How do you improve user experience on your platform?

Aaron Kim: We are somewhat limited to what the software provides us out-of-the-box, but we do make customizations when the impact on the users is meaningful. For example, being in Canada, we need to provide some user widgets that display content based on the user’s language preference, instead of showing content in both languages. Being a financial institution, on every page of content we opted to identify if the content is open to everybody in the company or only to private members of a group, so users can make a conscious decision on how to best participate of a discussion.
We also keep an advisory committee with representation from all lines of business, whose members help us to understand opportunities and challenges.
Finally, we offer a myriad of learning and consulting opportunities to our users to make the most of the platform. We find that rich platforms are often not necessarily the most intuitive ones, so that extra help in key areas of need goes a long way in improving the user experience and perception of our platform of choice.

we.CONECT: Who owns the intranet? How do you and your team approach governance?

Aaron Kim: In a large company like ours, there are multiple properties that constitute our Intranet. From CMS, to wikis, to social platforms, to several specialized tools for project collaboration. Our Center of Excellence team works closely with the various groups who own the other mainstream platforms to ensure alignment and consistency of approach.

we.CONECT: How would you define a ‘social intranet’? How has your company been dealing with social media?

Aaron Kim: A social intranet in one that can go top-down, bottom-up and sideways: anybody can be a publisher or a consumer of content. For that to work in a large financial institution, it’s important to have strong governance and controls in place, while still allowing for user-generated content to flourish. We also believe in user education and maturity, so our Centre of Excellence often runs activities and publishes content to nudge users towards social intranet activities that add the most value to our organization.

we.CONECT: Which crucial topics or challenges did you set out to discuss with the Intra.NET Reloaded Boston community?

Aaron Kim: I’m a strong believer that digital is plural, and that there are many different ways to be successful in creating a digital workplace. I wanted to interact and learn from others who have chosen paths different from ours, and also from those who are having distinct outcomes. I’m especially interested in those doing work with data analysis, Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, Natural Language processing, integrating multiple platforms or having a complex intranet, composed of several solutions.

we.CONECT: Thank you for your time to participate in an interview.