CMSWire contributor of 2019, Sam Marshall: "Organizations aren’t struggling with specific tech, they are struggling with the complexity that emerges from the many elements of their digital workplaces"

For someone with a Masters of Science in artificial intelligence, it rarely comes up as a standalone topic in Sam Marshall's monthly articles. Because even when Sam writes about some of the workhorses of the digital workplace — intranets, collaboration tools, enterprise search — his focus isn't on the technology per se. It's on how that technology, whatever it is, can help simplify and improve the day-to-day work for employees. 

As founder of ClearBox Consulting, Sam helps clients untangle the complexities of the digital workplace, making abstract topics accessible and developing achievable action plans. 

Make Tech Approachable to Everyone

What's your proudest accomplishment — personal or professional — from 2019?

For the last four years my team has been producing a report reviewing SharePoint intranet products. This year it really felt like it had become established and recognized as the authority in this space. I’m also pretty pleased that I didn’t fritter away my entire working year railing against unhinged politics on social media. 

What gives you hope in the tech world today? 

People take the user experience — and now the employee experience — so much more seriously than they used to. Tech is so pervasive in our lives that it’s important that it is approachable to everyone, and doesn’t cause so much frustration that our children learn new words. 

Which of the articles you wrote for CMSWire this year was your favorite and why?

"One Dashboard Will Never Be Enough in the Digital Workplace" (aka “The curse of the weather widget”). It’s a principle I’ve been mulling over for nearly two years and there’s lots of interest in “rolling up” and “single pane of glass” in the digital workplace world at the moment. It’s probably a bit too geeky for most, but in writing it, I felt things became clearer for myself about what’s going on and where people may be going wrong. 

If you could wake up tomorrow and be an expert in one thing, what would it be and why? 

I wish I could speak a very different language like Mandarin or Russian. Languages embed a different mindset too, so it would be fascinating to really see the world richly from another perspective. Mind you, if I woke up suddenly speaking Mandarin my wife would think I’d had a stroke. 

What is your favorite part of the work you do?  

I love the sense-making element. When people come to me after a conference talk or one of my client workshops and say it helped them understand something they’d been confused about, it feels enormously satisfying. 

What's an important story you'll be tracking in 2020?  

I’m excited about Microsoft’s Project Cortex. I think it’s a use case for AI that strikes the right balance between automation and human curation so could really take off.

What advice would you give someone starting out in your field today? 

Go wide! Organizations aren’t struggling with specific tech, they are struggling with the complexity that emerges from the many elements of their digital workplaces. It requires a curiosity that spans psychology, business, information science and IT.