Over course of his career, Ted Sapountzis has worn many technology hats including analyst, strategist, angel investor and sales head, all of which inform his current role as marketer.
After working for companies including iCharts, McKinsey, SABRE and SAP, Sapountzis joined Simpplr as vice president of marketing earlier this year. He was drawn to the social intranet startup because “I’ve personally felt the pain we try to solve” and he was “intrigued” that enterprise apps vendor Workday was Simpplr’s first customer.
Employment Engagement Is Vital
Sapountzis believes it’s vital for organizations to use technology in combination with other approaches to counter the problem of disengaged employees, since the issue is only going to become more pronounced over the next 10 to 20 years. “I’ve seen the importance in a good and in a bad way of having a team not act as a team but as a group of individuals, which can then make or break a company,” he said.
Sapountzis will be speaking at CMSWire and Digital Workplace Group’s Digital Workplace Experience taking place June 19 through 21 at the Radisson Blu Aqua hotel in Chicago. He will participate in a panel discussion chaired by James Robertson, founder and managing director of consultancy Step Two Designs, titled “Boardroom Session: Employee Experience” June 20.
We spoke with Sapountzis about some of the pitfalls to avoid when implementing digital workplace tools, the importance of employee engagement and his thoughts on the evolution of intranets.
Turn Opponents into Digital Workplace Champions
CMSWire: Why are some companies only starting to wake up to the importance of employee engagement and the dangers of dysfunctional corporate cultures?
Sapountzis: There’s plenty of research to demonstrate the value higher engaged employees bring to organizations. But some companies don’t believe they can really measure employee engagement concretely and so they don’t do it. For them, the number of bugs fixed or of deals closed is easier to measure, whereas culture is more fungible and so harder to measure.
The other part is realizing that you have a problem. It’s scary how late it is before some companies realize their employees are disengaged. It amazes me that in 2017 I still talk to companies about employee engagement and they’ll say, “Yes, we do that, we run employee surveys once every couple of years!”
CMSWire: In your opinion, what are some of the major pitfalls organizations need to avoid in order to successfully launch a digital workplace?
Sapountzis: We’ve already talked about the need for employee engagement. Also important is not to think of technology as a silver bullet. You can’t just click that checkbox and expect your digital workplace will magically happen. It won’t.
Sometimes when people embark on a digital workplace project, they have a vision, but no concrete goals. So, how do they know if it’s working? They may use Google Analytics to track how many people are logging into the system or reading blogs, but their CFO doesn’t care about that. What you need to measure is if the digital workplace is making your people more engaged and productive.
CMSWire: What are some of the unexpected benefits companies have realized after implementing a social intranet?
Sapountzis: It’s not unexpected but, in my experience, what customers are seeing is that they’re building a stronger culture. If you create an environment for people where they’re not afraid to speak and you provide a place to congregate, all sorts of magic can happen. People start to create their own self-governing affinity groups. It could be a biking group or a knitting group. If people feel more connected at work, they will give 110 percent.
CMSWire: How can companies secure the engagement of employees already jaded by promises of multiple earlier, not entirely successful, intranet rollouts?
Sapountzis: Sooner or later, you will have to win these people over. So, flip it around, go out and find these people and make them digital workplace champions. Most organizations, instead of embracing the most vocal, passionate people, have a tendency to shut them down. But, if you’ve secured the support of your most ardent opponent, what do you think will happen?
Also, take baby steps in the beginning for your intranet project. Don’t bite off more than you can chew. Start with small goals — roll it out to one office or one department — and whatever you do, set goals and measure how you’re doing. Then you can share those successes with the rest of the organization and gain their engagement. Taking a much more measured digital workplace approach will pay off in the long run.
CMSWire: How do you see today’s intranets evolving to support a future where humans, robots and AI will work closely together?
Sapountzis: Everywhere you turn, you see stories about AI, robots, chatbots and a lot of use cases. My fundamental view of technology is it’s an enabler. Technology has to make your job better, for instance, to help you make better decisions.
According to multiple studies, we waste 60 to 80 percent of our time trying to find information and responding to emails, so we are only at 20 to 40 percent productivity. Imagine what happens to the world if you can remove all that extra friction and take that 60 to 80 percent away — the opportunities are limitless.
CMSWire: As a licensed private pilot of a single engine plane, what do you enjoy most about flying? What has been your most memorable flight to date and why?
Sapountzis: For me, learning to fly was the hardest thing I ever had to do. It was a lot of work and required significant dedication. When I’m flying, it’s probably the only time when I’m not thinking about anything else. My mind is completely free of any other thoughts. I feel like I’m completely relaxed.
My most memorable flight is flying to Lake Tahoe from the Bay Area where I live. The Sierra Nevada mountains are close by the lake. It’s just beautiful and the scenery is breathtaking.