Chris McNulty, senior product manager of SharePoint and Office 365 at Microsoft: "The most successful [organizations] deploy their digital workplace projects as a series of small iterative changes."

Over the course of his career, Chris McNulty has lived and breathed Microsoft’s SharePoint collaboration software from a variety of vantage points: as a customer, a developer, a systems integrator, an author and, since October 2015, as a Microsoft employee.

So, it’s no surprise that the “biggest innovation” in digital workplace which McNulty calls out over the past year is the introduction of SharePoint spaces. “Being able to take any digital asset stored in Office 365 and use it to construct 3-D workspaces which extend into the physical world, using a tool everyone has — a browser — in the long run is a really exciting change,” he said.

McNulty is a senior product manager for SharePoint and Office 365 at Microsoft. He previously held CTO positions with Cryptzone/HiSoftware and Dell Software/Quest as well as executive roles at financial services providers GMO, John Hancock, Santander and State Street.

‘Completely Reimagine’ How Team Work Gets Done

As McNulty talks to customers about their digital workplace strategies, he encourages them to work towards digital transformation through the combination of intelligence, content and process.

“Digital transformation is about extending the innovation in consumer technology with automation, synchronicity and self-service into the entire work realm,” he said. “It provides an opportunity to completely reimagine all aspects of how team work gets done.”

McNulty will be speaking twice at CMSWire and Digital Workplace Group’s Digital Workplace Experience taking place June 18 to 20 at the Radisson Blu Aqua hotel in Chicago. He will co-present a workshop at the conference with Tom Hoglund, vice president, digital workplace at Avanade, titled “SharePoint Business Applications in a Digital Workplace” on June 18. Then, on June 20, McNulty will give a presentation titled “Achieving Digital Transformation at 200MPH with NASCAR.”

We chatted to McNulty about his thoughts on digital transformation, the important role of agile methodology and his advice on digital workplace best practices.

Let ‘Revolutionaries’ Lead Your Digital Workplace ‘Revolution’

CMSWire: How does a digital workplace initiative best fit within an organization’s broader digital transformation strategy?

McNulty: Anything which is analog or constrained by time or space is fair game for reinvention.

It’s worth noting that digital transformation begins with digitizing the consumer — a customer experience — and that overall trend is the one where we see so much happening in the digital workplace.

CMSWire: What have you seen working in terms of how organizations approach and define a digital workplace project and then keep that project on track?

McNulty: Some of the most successful organizations use agile methodology. And, they don’t even realize they’re doing it.

In short, agile methodology allows us to define short sprints of two to four weeks based on a prioritized product backlog ... I’m oversimplifying here ... Regardless, deploying a digital workplace seldom works as a massive 'big bang.'

The organizations that are the most successful deploy their digital workplace projects as a series of small iterative changes, the same way we build software at Microsoft.

CMSWire: What, in your opinion, is the promise of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning for the digital workplace?

McNulty: I think the promise of AI is not so much in large systems, but in personalization.

Having a massive system that recognizes patterns across millions of documents or submissions is helpful, but the next frontier is personal AIA (artificial intelligence augmentation) that learns from my choices and preferences and is able to act on my behalf without my knowledge to improve my time management.

CMSWire: What are your thoughts on how work will be performed by humans in combination with AI, IoT and robots? How does the nature of work change?

McNulty: The future of work is about innovation and design. Increasingly, task work or implementation will only be required for activities that are not yet fully digitized and empowered with cloud AI.

CMSWire: Drawing on what you’ve seen with customers and within Microsoft itself, which key best practices would you share with organizations who are either looking to embark on or to refine a digital workplace initiative?

McNulty: I think there are two things to remember about a digital workplace initiative.

First. it’s important for the revolution to be led by revolutionaries. If you’re using classic analog tooling, email, paper processes to govern your digital workplace project, you’re starting in the wrong place.

Additionally, be fair to yourself in evaluating success. Digital projects should be interactive. The fact that you haven’t achieved 100 percent digital transformation shouldn’t be seen as a failure. These are long-term ongoing trends.

Even an organization that has “achieved” digital transformation, whatever that means, needs to continuously re-evaluate and reinvent itself. This is about progress, not perfection.

CMSWire: Who is your favorite musician or band? What do you like so much about them and their music?

McNulty: That’s a subject that always requires continuous reinvention! I’ve been listening to a lot of U2 lately, going back to their classic sound as a prelude to their complete reinvention of themselves on “Achtung Baby” as a digital outfit.

I think it’s really hard for a band once they’ve established an identity and a sound to reinvent themselves. It’s one thing to invent a new sound, but it’s an entirely different endeavor to invent a second sound.

The Beatles went through this with “Revolver” and “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band,” and more relevantly to the point is Radiohead, whose “OK Computer” is probably the best band example of digital transformation.

Learn more about the Digital Workplace Experience here.