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PHOTO: Clark Tibbs

Roger Noia has been at SAP for the last seven years, supporting the enterprise software giant’s collaboration solution SAP Jam as senior director of product marketing for digital workplace experience solutions. Before SAP, he worked in Microsoft’s Real-time Collaboration group on Microsoft Office Live Meeting, Communicator and Live Communications Server. Then and now, his philosophy is to make work better and engage as many people as possible.

 “We’re all people, we have to make the best out of work. That’s what gets me excited about digital workplaces; it’s all about making work better for people,” he said.

SAP is a sponsor of the Digital Workplace Experience, a free event being held online Oct. 13 and Oct. 14. Noia will present a session on Oct. 13 titled, "What’s Hot: Trends in Productivity and Experience in the Intelligent Digital Workplace." He spoke with Simpler Media Group about obstacles organizations face in implementing a truly digital workplace, the role of automation and the impact of culture on digital workplace experience.

Digital Workplace Experience: Bring Together What Matters

SMG: What does a digital workplace mean to you? Are there specific elements that have to be present, and why?

Roger Noia: For me, 'digital workplace' is really a vague term, because it is so subject to interpretation. It’s everything that matters to the business. It’s everything that matters to the employee, and everything in between. It’s me, my work life, my personal-at-work life, it’s my job, my team, the job I do, how I contribute to the company and all the processes that have to happen to get it done.

SMG: What are the biggest obstacles to a truly digital workplace?

Noia: Most companies are run by IT. They make the rules, they decide what, when, where, how to implement technologies. They take direction for organizational-wide initiatives, but often forget how complex these can be for non-IT people. For example, here’s a horror story: one customer told me their organization had 17 systems they needed to use, each with their own username and password; the passwords had to be twelve complex characters and needed to be changed every 30 days. 

I mean, how could you get anything done? How much time are these folks spending logging on, resetting passwords, getting locked out? It’s a waste. 

Can IT come up with something better? Yes. It’s called identity and access management and single-sign-on, and it’s been around for years. But yet, many companies don’t have it, because IT, at its core, isn’t a people-centric organization.

Every department in an organization is competing for attention. Sales usually wins the budget battle because they’re obviously revenue-generating. Companies need to be more holistic and consider not just the obvious, but — what solutions would everyone benefit from, and what could everyone use to be more productive?

Information silos. Everyone’s department thinks they are special — or wants to be special so they can justify their budget. You’ll hear things like, 'Sales needs their own collaboration tool because they need rapid communications!’ Well, when every department has their own tool or their own special service to do their own thing, how does anyone outside of that department benefit? They don’t. It’s a mess, and it’s not the 'right thing' for the company.

SMG: How can organizations overcome those challenges? 

Noia: Become strategic and/or holistic. Be brave. Be visionary. Become employee-centric. 

Roger Noia of SAP: "We’re all people, we have to make the best out of work. That’s what gets me excited about digital workplaces; it’s all about making work better for people.”

Automation and Culture 

SMG: What role does automation play in creating a digital workplace, and how can it enhance digital experience?

Noia: Automation is one of those subjective terms. It can range from the super-complex robotic process automation that magically collects data, de-dupes it, sanitizes it, uploads it to a central database and then — ta-dah — it all works!

It could be as small as interacting with an AI-based chatbot within our portal that helps with ordering a new PC in three steps without having to go through IT procurement.

Yes, automation has a role; it just depends on employing and deploying it where it makes sense. You have to ask where it makes sense to spend the resources to investigate, design and develop the automation, versus where it makes sense for the employee to deal with the process or workflow as a manual task.

SMG: How does organizational culture relate to a digital workplace?

Noia: Culture is a critical aspect of the digital workplace — this happens to be one of the areas our SAP digital workplace solution, SAP Work Zone helps empower. How your company works, in general, is reflected in its people and therefore, culture. How do people communicate with each other? How do they work together? Do you have open team spaces in your collaboration solution that are publicly visible so anyone can see, or are you private and have invite-only spaces?

Do your people post content, like PowerPoint documents, for example, for feedback and comments? Or do they only post the final document when it’s been approved and finalized, preventing any feedback?

Is your organization run via top-down broadcast-email-from-your-executives? Or do employees provide feedback and discuss — we call this 'bottoms-up engagement.' In some companies, this totally doesn’t exist. But why not? Because executives don’t want to hear from the lower ranks? Not necessarily; they usually haven’t thought about that aspect, really. 

Most companies will send out an HR survey once a year, maybe twice, and say they’ve got the 'pulse' of their organization. But progressive companies will leverage every communication, every intranet posting as an opportunity to share, learn and grow — every announcement opens the door for discussion, learning and sharing. That’s where executives get uncomfortable! But that’s OK — it takes time to get used to. It’s a major culture change to go from broadcast to discussion.

Register for your free Digital Workplace Experience pass today.