Digital Workplace leader Shaun Slattery: "Organizations tend not to spend enough time thinking holistically about their technology ecosystem."

Shaun Slattery, director of change management at LumApps, has a long history of working on employee collaboration and has also spent significant time in academia.

There are two common threads across what might appear to be disparate careers: “One is that I’m passionate about helping people work better together, usually through collaboration,” he explained. In addition, Slattery considers himself a lifelong teacher and learner. “In advising customers, I’m in a teaching position just like I was when I was in the classroom,” he said.

Helping Organizations Along the Transformation Journey

For the past decade, Slattery has led strategic business and digital transformation planning, design, execution, change management and success measurement in a variety of verticals. He also mentors students at Northwestern University’s Master’s program in learning and organizational change. Joining the fast-growing LumApps, a social intranet that creates a fully-integrated, holistic workspace, was a natural fit.

“From a career standpoint, I've been interested in helping organizations with the broader transformation activities that need to happen in order to take advantage of the full potential of a social intranet or digital workplace collaboration platform,” he says. “LumApps was also looking for someone to help companies along the transformation journey implement best practices in organizational change management.”

LumApps is a sponsor at Simpler Media Group’s Digital Workplace Experience, which takes place June 3 to 5 in Chicago. We spoke with Slattery about the trends driving the need for significant change management efforts towards digital workplace transformation, as well as the best practices for agile, people-focused success.

Digital Workplace Strategy: 'Prepare for a Marathon, Not a Sprint'

CMSWire: Can you discuss a couple of the trends that are driving the need for all organizations to do a deep dive into digital workplace strategy?

Slattery: There are several factors afoot: One is the increased digitization of everything. All business processes are now typically supported by some sort of technology. We are also an increasingly mobile society, so folks are interacting with work while they’re commuting, for example. Unfortunately, now we are also seeing the challenges of coronavirus and how organizations respond by working in different ways to protect the safety of employees. Being wired for remote work as an organization is an important component of that.

The question is, how do organizations create a strategy to respond to those trends? It means preparing for a marathon, not a sprint. It means thinking carefully about what you want to change and getting a holistic assessment of the collaborative technology landscape in your company. Then, it’s about creating an achievable roadmap of how to get there.

CMSWire: What are some of the biggest challenges for organizations looking to implement an effective digital workplace strategy? Where do they tend to get tripped up along the way?

Slattery: Organizations tend not to spend enough time thinking holistically about their technology ecosystem. Because technology tools integrate with one another, it can be advantageous to see across where people are working and what data needs to be coordinated. For example, if content targeting is the objective but employees are overwhelmed by email, creating a targeted home page is a good objective but requires good employee data to support that. Is your active directory well done, for example? If you have three or four active directories with permission groups, do they address the populations you want to target content to?

CMSWire: What do you see as the most important best practices for agile, people-focused change management, especially in the digital workforce area?

Slattery: This may sound obvious, but it is so important to involve people in the change process. There’s a tendency to appoint a team that huddles down and attempts to figure everything out, rather than reaching out to check in with people, propose or test-drive ideas. That’s what makes the agile approach so attractive: If you break a large initiative into its component parts and involve people strategically, it can help the entire enterprise anticipate the potential impact on employees and find out what users struggle with. Then, testing solutions and getting rapid feedback can help you ultimately succeed in your transformation efforts.

CMSWire: Where do you find most customers and clients you work with are in terms of change management?

Slattery: I think most organizations would admit they are a little under-resourced and underinvested. They care about their people and want to do right by their employees, but there is a lot to learn and a lot of work to do. My role at LumApps was created to help the company provide content and resources to give organizations a jumpstart with some tailored change-management practices. That goes a long way.

CMSWire: How has the evolution of employee collaboration platforms changed the game for organizations looking to improve the digital workplace? Where are there still areas that technology doesn’t have all the answers?

Slattery: The industry has come a long way from static websites and messy employee social networks. What I see now is that the modern social intranet can help balance the excitement of employee interaction with manageable platforms that have matured. LumApps, in particular, includes not just places to collaborate but good knowledge management best practices and capabilities that drive value over a long period of time. The early days were exciting but hard to manage later in the ownership of the platform. 

What the technology will never do is solve culture issues. The organization’s leadership, communication and HR teams, and lines of business have to band together to make the social intranet a rewarding place to engage. That means developing content strategies and thinking about a plan for employee engagement, the stuff that good technology makes possible.

It will be exciting to see the continued development of seamless integration capabilities, because our employee experience is not made up of just one platform but several things have to hang together. Also, automation is an exciting new road ahead.

CMSWire: What are your favorite parts of working remotely? How do you think companies can evolve their remote working options for employees, especially with what’s going on in the world these days?

Slattery: My first thought is sweatpants. It’s great to be cozy. But it is really the flexibility and access to people I enjoy. Despite being physically distant, I have great access to leadership within my own organization, because the interactive component does flatten it. I can post something and our CTO can spot it in Paris and ask a clarifying question. That happened during my first week on the job. It helps you feel seen and recognize that what you’re doing matters.

CMSWire: What is your favorite business book you’d recommend on the digital workplace, collaboration or change management?

Slattery: One is "Agile Change Management: A Practical Framework for Successful Change Planning and Implementation," by Melanie Franklin. It helps me think about how to put the right plan in place. Then there is "Get Together: How to Build a Community with Your People" by Bailey Richardson, Kevin Huynh and Kai Elmer Sotto. It’s much broader than business — all about what motivates people to come together and work for a common cause.

Learn more about the Digital Workplace Experience.