digital-workplace-paul-chapmanOne of the tremendous benefits of being the CIO for a company that is less than 20 years old is that there's little-to-no legacy infrastructure to contend with.

That creates far less of a hindrance for moving forward with digital initiatives. In fact, organizational culture, cost and legacy infrastructure are cited as the top three barriers to digital transformation, according to the Logicalis Global CIO Survey 2017-2018 which canvassed 890 CIOs in 23 countries.

For Paul Chapman, CIO at Box, a cloud content management company founded in 2005, the challenges he faces in his role are different from those of CIOs who work for older, more established brands but are no less demanding. Because he works for one of the industry's leading digital businesses, Chapman feels compelled to make the company's IT organization the best and most referenceable example of the digital workplace to the company's clients and prospective customers.

HMG Strategy recently caught up with Chapman to discuss these and other steps he and his team are taking to lead the organization through digital excellence.  

HMG Strategy: What are your digital transformation priorities at the moment? 

Paul Chapman: Transformation typically applies to a company that was built in the last century and is looking to transform itself. At Box, we help companies transform themselves and the way they work. 

Because we are a digital company, we in IT at Box have to be the first and best referenceable example of the digital workplace. We are often asked to share with companies visiting Silicon Valley to connect their technology leadership with ours so that we can share how we think about IT at Box and how we think about the digital workplace and the digital business at scale. It's not really digital disruption but it is a new modern style of IT. 

What have been your key accomplishments at Box?

PC: What we're most proud of is that we've built a very agile and modern architecture that blends best-of-breed services using machine learning into our business processes to automate and replace mundane tasks. 

Can you cite an example of this?

PC: The best example involves contract lifecycle management. We're bringing together multiple services to curate the end-to-end experience. We'll take a contract that is sent to us and automatically pull it out of an email without any human intervention, and use a machine learning service to automate 80% of the redlining process as applied to terms and conditions. We've also integrated e-signatures in contracts for approvals. We're also extracting the metadata from contracts and storing that information so that we can conduct searches and build workflows against that information. 

Moving to the cloud isn't just about moving service to the cloud - there is nothing particular innovative about just moving. It's about creating service interoperability and bringing together the innovation of the best-of-breed ecosystem of services.

The other initiative is tied in with our workplace productivity efforts - how we're creating a more digital workplace for our employees. In the past few years, we've almost tripled in revenue, doubled in employee size and expanded our sites new cities across the glove. Each site is built with employee productivity in mind without having to increase our back-end IT staff to support our employees.

Being that you're on the front lines of the digital revolution, how have employee work styles changed in the digital era?

PC: One of the biggest differences is that you have this changing of the guard in the workforce itself. There are more digital natives in the workplace, fewer digital transients and more people from the self-service economy who are more comfortable with servicing their own needs and less dependent on an IT organization for support. What we've done is studied where friction occurs in the working environment and we've looked to eliminate those points of friction.

For instance, we have completely automated things like AD password unlocks - we'd get 2,000 requests per month and we've brought that number to zero. 

What are some of the ways that you demonstrate your value to the CEO and the board? 

PC: We're getting further away from traditional IT service metrics which tend to be centered around how well we have responded, such as the number of tickets handled. At Box, we aren't measured the same way. We focus on getting IT out of the way. A better reflection of how we do this is through a Net Promoter Score (NPS) and how well we deliver capabilities to reduce the dependency on IT and allows our employees to be their most productive selves. 

At Box, we try to provide them a very seamless onboarding experience. We create this strong sentiment for the IT organization. We think of everything from an outside-in service elimination mindset. From an IT operating report perspective, we don't necessarily come in with a scorecard based on reactive metrics. Instead, share data and metrics on the consumption of our services, how they're being used and how we're improving on them, which is reflected in changes in our NPS. In some cases, less use is a good thing.

What's your involvement in helping to cultivate the workplace of the future and in supporting the CEO's vision? 

PC: One of the things that we talk about with regard to the future of work is where culture and technology come together. Any company that's disrupting is enabled through technology but the disruption is not created because of technology. It's this intricate loop of culture and technology coming together. 

The difference here at Box is that when companies visit us for insights they're interested in how we work. We have a very open, social, collaborative working environment and we talk a lot about the culture of innovating, which means being agile and receptive to change. I can't stress the cultural element enough. We also don't have a lot of entrenched behavior or resistance to change, which is something that I've found in past jobs to hold a lot of companies back. 

We spend a lot of time consulting C-suites on two main areas. The first is how to think about what the future of work looks like and what we're seeing as companies are transforming and disrupting. The second, as part of our shared services organization, is dedicating resources to work with customers on transformation as a consulting service. 

Key Takeaways

  • Going digital offers executives an opportunity to reimagine and reinvent the business - both in terms of crafting new business models as well as creating operational efficiencies via automation.
  • Machine learning and other forms of automation offer incredible opportunities to automate standard repeatable tasks, giving back time to focus on higher value activities.
  • CIOs who haven't already done so need to shift away from sharing look- back responsive-based metrics such as speed of service response. Focus on demonstrating to the CEO measurable improvements in the reduced need for IT and Net Promoter Scores. The more you try to reduce the need for IT, the more valuable the work we do becomes.