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- Angela Huffman Edwards, Co-Head, DWG Technology Provider Programme
Spring 2023 saw DWG’s in-person member event take place at The Coca-Cola Company’s headquarters in Atlanta. Members often talk about DWG’s meetings as a barometer for the digital workplace industry: a chance to temperature-check change and share and capture new ideas.
In this Digital Workplace Impact podcast, Edward Taylor, DWG’s Chief Growth Officer, and Angela Huffman Edwards, Co-Head of DWG’s Technology Provider Programme, chat with host Nancy Goebel about the most prominent themes of the meeting.
At such member events, DWG facilitates assembled practitioners to uncover the latest challenges and best practices. Atlanta’s agenda also included a DWG Technology Lab, where technology providers share new solutions and ideas in comfortable conversations.
Hot topics from the two days included channel fatigue post-COVID, personalization of complex services, the desire to connect disparate technologies, and more. It was also clear that today’s digital practitioners are in a period of active experimentation, while still balancing the needs of existing digital headquarters.
To find out more about this energizing meeting and how you can get involved in the future, listen to Nancy, Ed and Angie covering takeaways, trends and the timeline for upcoming DWG events.
Show notes, links and transcript for this episode:
Episode 125: Expert takeaways from DWG’s spring member meeting
[00:00:00.330] – Edward Taylor
In terms of the sort of member meetings, I think looking back at them, I think most of the organization, most of the people who were there would sort of say in terms of the value that it brings them is enormous. I think some people have confided in me other member meetings that they view it as a type of therapy that really allows them to sort of step back from their day-to-day challenges and see what others are doing. And I think they find it to a certain extent, quite a relief that many organizations have very similar challenges to the ones that they’re facing. And I think in some cases they’ll hopefully get some ideas as to how they might be able to overcome them.
[00:00:34.970] – Angela Huffman Edwards
We’ve all been there where we’ve been like the one man team or one woman team, and I love hearing from those groups that they, oh, hey, I talked to so and so and they had this really great idea that I’m going to be able to try back my company when I go home. And when you have so few within your own network, it’s hard to get the ideas because you’re just trying to churn and support and keep the service up and running. But then when you’re able to talk to other practitioners that have been in the same problem scape that you’ve been in, suddenly you’re bringing new ideas and you’re able to try things out and be innovative where sometimes you’re not able to when you’re that kind of one person band.
[00:01:15.710] – Nancy Goebel
Today I had a chance to sit down with two fellow DWGers for an expert chat. They included Ed Taylor, who is DWG’s Chief Growth Officer, and Angela Huffman Edwards, Co-Head of DWG’s Technology Provider Programme. Just as background for this episode, we have an events program for DWG members. And in 2023 we’ve planned four in-person member meetings and technology labs. These are basically two-day in-person events that are hosted by a DWG member. Those two days take place in a mix of North America and Europe, although we do additionally have one hosted virtually for those who cannot travel. Members often talk about our meetings as a barometer for the digital workplace industry. And so in this episode, you’ll hear the most prominent trends that came to life across the two days from our spring member meeting, which was hosted by the Coca-Cola Company in Atlanta. And Ed and Angie not only share what they took away from the event, but also timelines for the upcoming member meetings and shared some background as to how practitioners, both DWG members and select guests, can get their all-access pass to attend one of those sessions.
[00:02:48.950] – Nancy Goebel
They also talked about how technology providers can get involved by sponsoring the technology labs as well. So lots of great stuff to hear as part of this episode. This is Nancy Goebel, DWG’s Chief Executive and, as always, your host for Digital Workplace Impact. Digital Workplace Impact is brought to you by Digital Workplace Group. Join me now in conversation with Ed and Angie. Happy listening.
[00:03:18.110] – Nancy Goebel
So, Ed and Angie, I am just thrilled to have a chance to catch up with you about our spring member meeting in Atlanta. And I’m sure that you’re going to have lots of great insights to share as we work our way through the next 40 minutes or so. But first, I want to just start by extending such a warm welcome to have you back, Ed, and then to welcome you for the first time, Angie.
[00:03:46.150] – Angela Huffman Edwards
Yeah, thank you. I’m super excited.
[00:03:48.900] – Edward Taylor
Thank you very much. Nancy.
[00:03:50.550] – Nancy Goebel
DWG is an organization that of course, has some special opportunities for members and guests to come together from time to time. This spring, DWG hosted its first such member meeting with a technology lab. And so, Ed, can you tell us a little bit about what makes this a unique event format compared to, say, an industry conference?
[00:04:23.250] – Edward Taylor
Absolutely. I think first and foremost, it’s very much driven by our member community. So we have the opportunity in our most recent member meeting of traveling out to the offices of our member Coca-Cola or to give their full name, the Coca-Cola Company. And we were hosted by a lady who we’ve worked with for many, many years called Emily Schunior, who heads up their digital workplace program. And she was able to give us amazing facilities for us to host approximately about 50 people. And I think the key thing about all the member meetings that we run is that it’s very much about helping put practitioners at the heart of the agenda. And so through the course of the two day program, we’re able to hear from a variety of different voices in the room, from member organizations and those individuals who’ve been invited as guests to really hear about the success that they’ve had, the failures that they’ve had in a very sort of open and sort of trusted environment. And I think it’s a great thing that we’re able to put on and we’re able to do them approximately four times a year and we’ll talk a little bit more about some of the other things.
[00:05:24.230] – Edward Taylor
But I think in terms of sort of really comparing it to industry events, these sessions aren’t about sort of hearing what DWG have got to say about everything. I think our role is very much about facilitating conversations from the assembled practitioners there to hear about what’s happening in their world and allow everyone in the room to get insights around latest best practices and really work through the different challenges that they have at any particular point on their digital workplace journey.
[00:05:52.090] – Nancy Goebel
And Angie, to bring you in, you’ve had an interesting change of perspective because, of course, once upon a time you had a chance to attend our in-person member meetings as a participating member via Nokia. But this time, around you were part of the DWG team. So what was this experience like for you? What would you add?
[00:06:17.640] – Angela Huffman Edwards
Yeah, I mean, so many moons have passed since that time. So obviously the experience that I’ve gained in between those years, it’s been kind of nice now to be on this side and really witness people going through their own journey to improve their digital workplace or tackle their own challenges. Some of them I think we’ve spoke about are kind of timeless search and those kinds of things, but it was very exciting to be back in the mix and being able now to be on the side of helping those people through that journey.
[00:06:51.490] – Nancy Goebel
And so Angie mentioned that there were some tried and true themes that came up like search. What would you say? Are some of the other topics that were hotting up as part of the discussion?
[00:07:04.710] – Edward Taylor
Yeah, it’s an interesting question, Nancy. I think coming out of the live benchmark that we do as part of the member meeting is that we get a really useful insight into the main challenges and themes that we see. And that was sort of taken at the first part of the first part of day one. And I think some of the areas, some of the notes looking back that I took highlighted a number of different challenges that people or theme should I say, that people were looking at, one of which was sort of channel fatigue. So as we’ve come out of COVID and people are starting to work in more hybrid settings, there feels like there’s quite a lot of different noise coming from a variety of different channels across the digital workplace. And I think that’s an area that a lot of organizations are trying to get to grips with and really understand. What are the optimal channels that different audiences should be engaging with inside their digital workplace to ensure that they don’t feel like they’re getting overwhelmed by the volume of content that they’re receiving across myriad different communication channels. I think tied into that is potential lack of sufficient resources within digital workplace teams.
[00:08:10.900] – Edward Taylor
I think as more complexity is being introduced into digital workplace environments, then obviously that would follow suit, that you’d be able to recruit more people into that space to help manage those services effectively and provide the necessary governance needed. And I think the final sort of part of the jigsaw as well, which kind of ties into that sort of advancement of complexity is really around personalization as well. So how are we able to sort of personalize multiple different services around the different audience groups within side the business? So I think very quickly you can sort of see that there’s quite a few different topics that are kind of interlinked into this whole issue around how do we effectively manage complex services and systems in very large organizations that in many cases are often international, multilingual, et cetera, et cetera.
[00:08:58.980] – Nancy Goebel
And Angie, were there additional themes that really stood out for you, perhaps that felt different or fresh compared to perennial challenges like search?
[00:09:09.120] – Angela Huffman Edwards
Yeah, I mean, touching what Ed mentioned, trying to navigate now all the different applications and services that people have within the digital workplace. Emerging tech is now becoming a popular topic. How can we take new technology to help solve some of these problems? So I think that was one really that stood out to me. They start to kind of understand how much complexity people are dealing with now versus just even four or five years ago.
[00:09:39.000] – Nancy Goebel
And did the subject of ChatGPT make its way into the conversation as well?
[00:09:44.410] – Angela Huffman Edwards
It was, it was sprinkled throughout trying to figure out and navigate how, how could it be used? Can it be used? Some of the companies are thinking about it and trying it out, but it’s still such a really new as far as the digital workplace is concerned.
[00:10:04.150] – Edward Taylor
I think to add in a point, it felt like quite a polarizing topic in terms of some organizations have been given quite a large amount of leeway to really trial ChatGPT within their organizations, whereas some that potentially come from more highly regulated industries sort of had been prevented from accessing those services until their legal team and compliance teams and risk teams had sort of been able to get their heads around how potentially it could be brought into the organization. So I think we’re going to sort of see some interesting conversations play out over the next sort of months and into next year around sort of appropriate usages of ChatGPT and similar services.
[00:10:43.330] – Angela Huffman Edwards
Yeah, I agree.
[00:10:44.500] – Nancy Goebel
So very active period of experimentation at the same time as trying to push ahead on some of the core elements of the digital headquarters, in other words.
[00:10:57.680] – Edward Taylor
Absolutely, I couldn’t agree more, Nancy.
[00:11:01.810] – Nancy Goebel
And so just to pull on the string of the emerging tech space a bit more, Angie, can you talk us through this idea of the technology lab that’s now built into member meetings and how that works in practice?
[00:11:17.110] – Angela Huffman Edwards
Yeah, I think this has been an interesting addition to the member meetings, which sort of allows members to get more close up and personal with some technology providers out there that either other members are using or that are kind of contributing something to the playing field that the members can really benefit from. So the way that we set it up is the second half of that second day, we bring in about five providers and we break up the members into smaller groups, rotate them through and allow them a chance to have a close and personal discussion with these technology providers. Instead of like a conference where you’re going up to a booth and really getting a sales pitch. This is more a conversation, it’s more talking about the real life digital workplace issues that they’re facing today. And then the technology provider then is able to talk through how they’ve been able to solve that kind of problem for their clients. So we started off with sort of an armchair chat with the DWG leaders and talk through some of the problems we’ve been seeing for the past two days, and then we kind of roll into those technology labs and allow people to rotate through and be able to have those conversations built on that opening agenda.
[00:12:27.670] – Nancy Goebel
So connecting challenges with solutions.
[00:12:31.110] – Angela Huffman Edwards
[00:12:31.680] – Nancy Goebel
And Ed, can you add any additional thoughts about how members and some of the guests would want to participate in something like this?
[00:12:43.170] – Edward Taylor
Yeah, I think as digital workplace practitioners, we’ve kind of got a duty of care to have an awareness of the different technologies that are coming out into the marketplace and what potential functionalities and features they could bring into their own digital workplace environments. And I think that’s quite useful always to get a bit of a sense check as to what’s emerging and what’s happening. I think also it gives you potential for an understanding of gaps in your own services with potentially with your current provider as to where you might want to try and get them to add in new features and services as part of their ongoing roadmap as well. I know that was one of the comments that was sort of given to me as part of the tech lab process, that that was quite a valuable sort of exercise to go through, to be able to sort of baseline capabilities of other platforms so that it can help inform future direction of travel. So it’s really, really helpful. And I think, as I said, I think there’s a duty of care for digital workplace practitioners to have a good understanding as to what technologies might be appropriate to bring into their digital workplaces at a later stage in the future.
[00:13:45.640] – Nancy Goebel
And so what were some of the standout trends for you, Angie, looking at the technology lab separate from the member meeting portion of the agenda, per se.
[00:13:57.210] – Angela Huffman Edwards
I think especially with the technology labs, a lot of the members were looking for something, like I’d mentioned, to connect all their disparate technologies. I think now so many have been coming up, especially since COVID it’s hard to keep that digital friction kind of connected. And so a lot of them were going into those sessions to talk through that sort of, how do we make sense of this now? Pretty chaotic environment as far as applications are concerned.
[00:14:25.890] – Nancy Goebel
And Ed, what have we missed, whether it was just in terms of takeaways from the member meeting broadly or the technology lab specifically?
[00:14:34.890] – Edward Taylor
Well, I think in terms of the sort of member meetings, I think looking back at them, I think most of the organization, most of the people who were there would sort of say in terms of the value that it brings to them is enormous. I think some people have confided in me other member meetings, that they view it as a type of therapy that really allows them to sort of step back from their day-to-day challenges and see what others are doing. And I think they find it to a certain extent quite a relief that many organizations have very similar challenges to the ones that they’re facing. And I think in some cases they’ll hopefully get some ideas as to how they might be able to overcome them. But I think it’s a very supportive environment. I know that the people that are attended there are very willing to share and help and get in front of the audience and talk through specific challenges that might sort of bubble up to the surface as we go through the sort of two days that we’re together. And I know that in conversation with consulting clients of ours that were in attendance at the event, they’ve already been in touch with a number of different members to sort of get some ideas and thoughts on as to how they can deal with some of their sort of problems in a more confidential setting after the member meeting is finished.
[00:15:45.970] – Edward Taylor
So it’s always nice to sort of know that the sort of relationships that are made during the member meeting sort of continue for a long period of time. And obviously we expect that to happen given that on average I think we’ve got members that are with us for seven years. So in many cases, DWG membership really does add a lot of value to people’s sort of extended network and the knowledge that they can leverage through that.
[00:16:08.150] – Nancy Goebel
It sounds like based on what you’re describing, DWG is almost an accelerator both from a networking point of view, but in supporting the flow of ideas and challenges and practices that practitioners can share with each other. And I think the layer that I would add to that is I think part of why this is so unique is that what you see is a very cross functional perspective from this group of practitioners. Because we’re drawing from not only a mix of digital workplace practitioners from technology, but also business transformation teams, knowledge teams, communications, HR, essentially the full stakeholder group that is responsible for stewarding the digital workplace transformation inside of large organizations.
[00:17:09.310] – Angela Huffman Edwards
Nancy I think it’s even nice to hear from the smaller organizations. We’ve all been there where we’ve been like the one man team or one woman team and I love hearing from those groups that they, oh hey, I talked to so and so and they had this really great idea that I’m going to be able to try back with my company when I go home. And when you have so few within your own network, it’s hard to get the ideas because you’re just trying to churn and support and keep a service up and running. But then when you’re able to talk to other practitioners that have been in the same problem scape that you’ve been in, suddenly you’re bringing new ideas and you’re able to try things out and be innovative where sometimes you’re not able to when you’re that kind of one person band.
[00:17:53.760] – Edward Taylor
I’d agree with that. It feels like we’re helping people sort of glue answers to problems and vice versa. And I think that’s a nice environment to be in. And I think the other thing I would say, Nancy, in addition to sort of that cross functional sort of aspect of people, there’s a lot of rich resources that come out of a member meeting. So we usually get organizations to sort of share all of their screenshots of their environment so that people get some tangible insights into what other organizations have done just beyond sort of talking. They actually get some visual insights as well that’s obviously available as part of the DWG member extranet. So I think that’s quite valuable as well. And I think you’re right, Angie. It’s like the willingness of people to say, let me just fire up our Internet or our digital workplace and I’ll show you.
[00:18:39.830] – Angela Huffman Edwards
They get so excited. Oh, let me show you how we did this. Check this out. I just love that part.
[00:18:44.890] – Edward Taylor
I think so as well. And I think over the course of the two days, people become very comfortable with the environment that they’re in. I think we create a setting where people feel that if they want to share, that’s great. If they don’t want to, they don’t have to. I think it’s a good environment for people to sort of really get the best out of the sort of assembled knowledge that’s there. And I think just thinking about the session in Atlanta, we had a number of organizations that were Digital Workplace of the Year award winners. For example, the team that won that award last year was present, and I know they were sort of sharing lots of interesting insights about the journey that they went on to other businesses. So there’s lots of food for thought that comes out of it. And I think it helps organizations, as Nancy said, accelerate some of their thinking because they’ve been able to validate it against what they’ve seen other organizations achieve during the course of the member meeting.
[00:19:36.860] – Angela Huffman Edwards
It gives them credibility when they go back as well. Well, so and so did this, or Coca-Cola did this. Right. So now we have it allows for you to kind of put an idea on the table and help them to see that, hey, there are other companies who are doing this too.
[00:19:50.680] – Edward Taylor
Absolutely. And I think getting those external sort of data points to help validate your thinking is exactly what we do. And I think an extension of that is that obviously we can help introduce other members. If you’re a new member organization coming into the DWG world wanting to get access on particular topics, then obviously we can help broker those introductions and help people get the value that they need to help accelerate that decision making process.
[00:20:16.150] – Nancy Goebel
And of course there are also quite a few additional opportunities for DWG members and guests to come together in person alongside some of our virtual events. Ed, can you share a few of the upcoming dates and cities where we’ll be?
[00:20:35.850] – Edward Taylor
Absolutely, I mean, we’ve already had quite a busy year as it is. I think we did an online session with the team from MassMutual in April. We’re all about to assemble in the start of June with our member Fidelity Investments, and then looking out later after the summer. I’m very much looking forward to the session that we’ve got hosted at Intuit by our longtime member Priya Thummalapalli who’s Director of People Experience Solutions at Intuit. And that’s going to be super exciting. That’s taking place on the 20 and 21 September. And then we’ll then be leaping back over to Europe in November to hang out with our good friend and former DWGer, Patrick Bergman, who is now the Product Owner at Malmö Stad, which is the city of Malmö, which is their sort of local council in that part of the world. And they look after about 28,000 employees. So that’ll be happening in November and that’s going to be really exciting to sort of see both of those organizations and what they’ve been doing over the last couple of months on their digital workplace programs.
[00:21:38.650] – Nancy Goebel
That’s terrific. And Angie, will the technology labs be incorporated into those additional member meetings?
[00:21:45.550] – Angela Huffman Edwards
Yes, definitely. I won’t divulge too much to give to the element of surprise, but we still are looking at five technology providers to be at each event and we hope to bring in some emerging tech as well. So some really exciting things up and coming I hope.
[00:22:02.970] – Nancy Goebel
Terrific. And DWG members can register as always for these in person events as well as everything that we have going on, virtually using the member extranet. But for those practitioners who might like to experience what it is like to be a DWG member for a couple of days, what would they need to do to apply for a guest place?
[00:22:33.070] – Edward Taylor
Yes, so there’s lots of different ways. So firstly, if you want to come to one of the in person member meetings as a guest, you can head to digitalworkplacegroup.com/events and you can register for the Malmö session that we’ve got coming up and the one at Intuit in Mountain View. Additionally, you can also find me on LinkedIn and reach out and we can have a conversation on LinkedIn and we can facilitate registration for those events. Additionally, if you’re unable to travel, you’re very welcome to sign up to a free 45 day trial for DWG membership. That would give you access to a range of online content and also online events that are part of the member program and you can find that on our website at digitalworkplacegroup.com. And then finally we’ll be sharing links to all of those as part of the show notes within this podcast as well.
[00:23:23.330] – Nancy Goebel
Terrific. Angie, is there anything you were hoping that we would cover as part of this discussion that we’ve missed so far?
[00:23:32.470] – Angela Huffman Edwards
I think the only thing I would probably add is that I definitely hope that technology providers out there who are interested also in participating and would also reach out as well. We have a place on the extranet and also on the web for that. So anyone who feels they have a digital workplace technologies that they feel would benefit to our member group, then we definitely would like to hear from them as well.
[00:23:58.110] – Nancy Goebel
That’s great. And so we will absolutely be sure to include links to the DWG website for not only prospective guests who want to attend as practitioners, but then also technology providers who may want to look at sponsorship opportunities as well. Ed, any final thoughts about these unique events?
[00:24:22.010] – Edward Taylor
Yes, I’ll just encourage anybody who’s listening to this podcast to reach out to us. I think key at DWG is that it’s very much about seeing us in action and seeing if we’re the right fit for your organization. And I think that what we want to try and do is give any practitioner the opportunity to sort of come to one of these events, find out a little bit more about the network, find out about the other services that we have beyond membership. So obviously we’ve got benchmarking consulting, which we do a lot of work around. But I would strongly encourage that if you’ve liked anything that you’ve heard on this podcast today, to reach out to us and get in touch and hopefully come along to one of the member meetings that we’ve got coming up, or join us on the trial online and take it from there. But we’re very happy to help, very happy to have a conversation and yeah, hopefully we’ll see you all soon.
[00:25:07.160] – Nancy Goebel
Sounds great. Ed and Angie, thank you so much for stepping out of your day to do a little bit of sharing from an expert point of view. Some takeaways from DWG’s Spring member meeting and technology lab series, and then, of course, to give us a window into the next set of sessions that are coming up as well.
[00:25:30.200] – Angela Huffman Edwards
Yeah, thanks for having me.
[00:25:32.410] – Edward Taylor
Fantastic. Absolute pleasure.
[00:25:35.450] – Nancy Goebel
Digital Workplace Impact is brought to you by the Digital Workplace Group. DWG is a strategic partner covering all aspects of the evolving digital workplace industry, not only through membership, but also benchmarking and boutique consulting services. For more information, visit digitalworkplacegroup.com.
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