BMC's Shafath Syed

Ask Shafath Syed for a quick description of himself and he’ll tell you he’s “half inventor and half marketer,” a combination of skills he currently applies as leader of digital workplace product strategy for BMC Software.

“The two big passions I have are for building and evangelizing,” so first creating technology to solve people’s problems and then driving awareness for that software. Syed has spent most of his career, over 20 years, in the consumer products space at multinationals like Adobe, Apple, Barnes & Noble and Microsoft. Along the way, he also founded a pair of mobile startups — mezz and Plumera.

Learning Simplicity From the Consumer World

BMC brought Syed on board in January 2016 in part because of his consumer experience. As senior director of product management, his strategic focus is on how to help BMC customers improve their employment engagement.

Developing more usable business software is one key to unlocking employee productivity and making their lives easier. Syed sees business software vendors, including BMC, learning from the consumer world and starting to make “some good progress” in building “simple interfaces to mask back-end complexity.”

Syed 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 give a workshop titled “5 Steps for Digital Workplace Implementation” June 19. 

We asked Syed for his advice on how organizations should approach a digital workplace implementation and then later improve the maturity of their digital workplace.

Reevaluate Your Processes, Understand Your Employees

CMSWire: When implementing a digital workplace, how important is it to adopt a holistic approach encompassing people, process and technology?

Syed: It’s absolutely critical. Too many times in the tech world, people tend to gravitate to, “Oh, if I just take this technology and implement it, everything will be fine.” 

If you don’t understand your culture and processes, simply dropping new technology into your organization won’t work. An organization needs to be mature enough to adopt technology even though that new technology may be 10 times better than what you currently have.

One thing I’ll be doing in the Digital Workplace Experience workshop is helping attendees understand where they are now on a digital workplace maturity scale. So, asking questions like: “Do you offer the ability for employees to work remotely? Do you offer collaboration tools? Do you offer self-service?” Then you can set benchmarks, determine what’s your desired state for your digital workplace, and map a path of where you are and where you need to get to.

CMSWire: Which areas, in your opinion, do organizations forget to include in their digital workplace strategies and why?

Syed: One major issue we see with many organizations is that they have a certain technology and processes based on that technology. When they replace the technology with another technology, they will not change the processes. It’s a guaranteed recipe for disaster.

What ends up happening is they don’t see the improvements they expected. As they implement new technologies, organizations must take a fresh look at their processes and determine whether they make sense or not.

CMSWire: What steps can companies take to advance their digital workplace maturity and what benefits can they expect to realize by doing so?

Syed: Many times, organizations struggle with understanding what their costs are. It’s not just hard costs, but also it’s the cost of things not changing. Some industries, like retail, are going through massive change. If they don’t change, they may not exist. Their survival is at stake. They shouldn’t get lost in the weeds re what particulars, like a digital workplace, may cost.

It goes back to understanding your employees. Survey them to find out the top three problems they encounter in trying to accomplish their jobs and where the inefficiencies are.

What organizations may learn is their employees aren’t nearly as productive as they should be. It’s then easy to quantify and put a financial amount on the number of hours of productive work which are being lost. It could be hundreds of thousands of dollars or millions for an organization. If they don’t change anything, they’re going to continue to lose that money. If they bring in a digital workplace, they may save that money and perhaps more besides.

CMSWire: What is your opinion on the issue of remote working and how it may factor into the digital workplace of the future?

Syed: My personal take is if you understand what everyone’s doing and your employees understand what they should be doing, it really shouldn’t matter where they are working. It’s about having trust and measuring performance versus measuring time. Decades ago, work was about punching a clock. The world doesn’t work like that any more. The amount of time is irrelevant, it’s about output and performance.

I believe the notion of people all working in the same building at the same time will go away. Technology will enable us to be just as productive anywhere through communications and collaboration technologies. It will be completely irrelevant where you are. 

This will completely change society. For example, you won’t have a need for large buildings in a particular location. You can tap the best talent from all over the world since you’re not limited to the talent that’s available in your local area.

CMSWire: If you could choose your own superpower, what would it be and how would you use it?

Syed: I don’t know whether it counts as a superpower, but it’d probably be time travel. I’m a big believer in learning from history. I would love to go back in time and learn the mistakes people made and then go into the future and see what the future holds. If it’s not good, then I’d go back and make sure we don’t go down that path.

Editor's note: Learn more about the Digital Workplace Experience hereRegister today.