Matthieu Silbermann, Powell Software's CPO

Matthieu Silbermann relishes being at the intersection of technical innovation, business solutions and customer support. Over the course of his 20-plus year career, he’s served customers in the IT department at large global organizations, in product marketing and product management and, most recently was in charge of the enterprise Microsoft 365 market in France. When the opportunity to combine all the facets of his experience arose with Powell Software, he couldn’t say no.

“I was really impressed by how Powell Software succeeded in building a platform that leverages Microsoft 365 services to help organizations build a comprehensive digital workplace,” Silbermann said. As Powell’s new Chief Product Officer — he started in the role in early September — he’s excited to bring his experience to bear working with the R&D teams to develop new functionality and with marketing and product management to articulate the value proposition to Powell Software’s customers.

Powell Software is a sponsor of Simpler Media Group's Digital Workplace Experience, taking place online Oct. 13 and Oct. 14. Silbermann's colleagues Antoine Faisandier and Matthew Weston will be presenting a session titled, "Hybrid Work: The Requisite Merger of Intranet and Teams Into a Modern Digital Workplace." Silbermann spoke with SMG about company culture’s impact on digital workplace experience, measuring success and how spending time with his family in the French countryside has taught him valuable life lessons.

Taking an Iterative Approach to Digital Workplace Journeys

SMG: What, in your mind, is an "ideal" digital workplace experience? How does that differ from what organizations are delivering?

Matthieu Silbermann: Ideally, it would be a digital workplace that truly connects employees and their organization to achieve two goals: ensuring all the employees get access to the information they need, no matter where and how they work, and helping to transform business processes.

Connecting employees covers the ability to communicate in multiple ways: top down, or corporate communications; bottom up, meaning employee engagement and employee voice, as well as favoring transversal communications and facilitating teamwork. To achieve this, you need to merge the traditional corporate intranet with new team collaboration and information-sharing spaces such as Microsoft Teams. We believe our Powell 365 platform is unique in that it encompasses all aspects of communication and collaboration through our two pillars, Powell Intranet and Powell Teams.

You need also to leave the choice to the end-user how they choose to access information and on which devices — PC or smartphone, etc. — or portal —dedicated apps or browser.

Transforming the business processes is a long journey!

From a solution perspective, it requires opening your digital workplace not only to traditional communications and collaborative solutions such as Microsoft 365, but to other business solutions in IT as well, like ServiceNow, and for HR for example, Workday, and sales via CRM, to name a few.

Another requirement, which is even more important, is that from a people perspective you must incorporate change management for end-users. You need to provide guidance and in some cases, templates, for many of the most important business processes to jump-start workers’ first steps. These templates need to be easy to customize when employees get comfortable enough with your processes so they become second-nature in their day-to-day activities.

Matthieu Silberman, Powell Software: "The digital workplace experience has become the main conduit for a sense of belonging to something bigger."

SMG: How can organizations bridge the gap between the 'ideal' and the reality?

Silbermann: Keep the ideal as your objective, and include reality at each step of the journey. That means adopting an iterative approach for all aspects of the journey, from the technical implementation, to end-user change management and most important, business priorities. You must listen to feedback, implement that in small steps, see how it works and then adjust, over and over.

Let us start with the business priorities: identify what the top priorities are for the organization. Which ones are the most urgent and then look at what is easy to implement for first steps: Is it corporate communication, employee engagement, business process digitization? Which departments should you work on first: HR, sales, marketing, operations?

Then, your technical choices and implementation plan will occur. Select a solution that will allow you to quickly set a 'first version’ of your digital workplace, and will deliver tangible results as quickly as possible. This solution must also have the capacity to scale to your future needs and long-term business priorities. As an example, Powell Intranet, our solution, allows you to start quickly with an intranet-in-a-box solution that can be configured at the unique pace of the customers. Same thing with Powell Teams — it allows you to start with standard best practices for creating and accessing Teams. And, our teams templates are highly customizable so you can automate each business process that requires repetition.

Finally, don’t sacrifice change management in the name of highly technical implementation. Build in enough time and resources to ensure all the employees will be accommodated as they adjust to the transformation of the way they work. Also, take the time to celebrate all achievements, each step of the journey. 

Give Employees a Say in Their Digital Workplace

SMG: What is the relationship between company culture and a good digital workplace experience? 

Silbermann: There’s a few ways to look at this. One, the digital workplace is the medium that conveys the company culture and keeps employees engaged. Especially in this 'new normal,' where so many people are working remotely and separately from each other, the digital workplace experience has become the main conduit for a sense of belonging to something bigger. It’s an essential way to communicate corporate values, key information on corporate strategies, news, financial results, etc.

Also, the digital workplace defines the culture of a company by how it’s structured, to an extent. Is it exclusively top-down, hierarchical? Does it enable people to collaborate, to participate, to engage? In a nutshell, the digital workplace has become the measure of how a company culture is defined.

It is, for sure, the employee who is the link between the two. If you have technology-enabled, open communication and smooth processes then you will have happy, engaged and positive, cheerful employees, which contributes to a good workplace experience. Employees must have a say in what their digital workplace is, and what they need to be productive, and then they’ll be happy to adopt that. Without employee adoption, organizations will not have healthy company culture. 

The experience should be smooth and integrated enough so the end-user feels they can easily navigate to find information and engage in key activities. A sleek intranet with templates dedicated to corporate news and social engagement is the perfect space for that.

Company culture is also the consequence of how employees work together. So, the digital workplace experience should also be collaborative, transparent and open: employees want to define their own space to work efficiently with their team, within guidelines, so that the experience is replicable and efficient.   

SMG: How can you measure success in DWX? What metrics should you be tracking and why those? 

Silbermann: I’ll use our Powell 365 as an example. Our partners use three categories of success criteria when they’re implementing our platform:

  • IT-led metrics, such as time-to-implement, availability of the solution and, most importantly, time- and cost-to-administrate the platform.
  • End-user metrics are related to the adoption of the solution, of Intranet or Teams, the number of views, the number of likes, per device, per department.
  • Business metrics also are used to quantify how some processes have improved. That could be how fast a new employee is onboarded for Human Resources, for instance, or measuring the time-to-market for a product launch.

SMG: What do you do in your spare time? And what lessons do you take from your hobbies/interests that apply to your work?

Silbermann: I spend time outdoors as often as possible, alone or with my wife and four children. We love hiking and biking in the fantastic countryside of France. The lessons I take away from that are that the best victory is not necessarily the one you reach on your own, it is the one you reach with everybody together, from the youngest to the oldest. And that everything can be achieved with an iterative approach: maybe your ultimate goal is to climb Mont Blanc, but you have to start small. Hike the hills of Provence, and celebrate each completed milestone on your journey.

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