Embracing behaviors in a new technological age
Tim Christensen, CTO, SocialChorus, explains to Business Chief how the employee engagement platform understands the nuances of employer to employee communication, making it the best in the market.
SocialChorus has earned its name as one of the top employee engagement platforms by working with CEOS to maximise the delivery of information to employees in what is an increasingly misaligned environment. SocialChorus was founded by Greg Shove and Nicole Alvino in 2008, and as the company started to gain momentum, Shove was on the search for a CTO who wanted to transform the company, taking its consulting-based foundations and making it a truly staff-led. Tim Christensen's belief in creating genuine value in people’s day-to-day lives aligned with Shove on a philosophical level, and so he joined the team to create a software that would achieve this.
He explains: "Initially we didn't have a firm idea of what we desired the product to be, but we knew what we wanted it to do: improve a person's day."Christensen, who hails from a working class family, reflects that over the last 30 years very little has been divested to the blue-collar worker, despite the continued evolution of technology. “For this reason, we wanted to build a product that didn't discriminate against position or function; one that promoted equality and added value into every worker's day." Reflecting on the five years since, Christensen shares one particular milestone he is particularly proud of: increasing the product’s daily users from a few hundred to over half a million. "It's very rewarding to see that it is working and making an impact,” he says “This has always been about reaching as many people as possible, and my personal satisfaction is seeing this impact on an individual level."
Considering SocialChorus’ success, Christensen explains that, while there are several platforms designed for internal communications, knowledge management and collaboration, there is no concrete space in enterprise that connects knowledge and news. "From a workflow perspective, we aim to make the communicator more effective, assist them in telling the right story and we will assist in its delivery and amplifying the goals of the communicator." This, he explains, benefits the worker. "If we can make their lives easier in two minutes each day, then we've been successful, because we're looking at it holistically, both from the worker and from the communicator."
Within this, SocialChorus must embrace the existing preferences of CEOs and workers when delivering information. "For example," Christensen explains, "a CEO may communicate via email, or workers may receive information when congregating in the break room. Our role is to amplify these messages in a way that enhances preferences, and not just discard them." This often becomes an oversight that has caused many companies to lose out on delivering an optimised service. "Some competitors want to push organisations to use one centralised platform, but if marketers enjoy using Marketo, or engineers enjoy using Slack, or if a grocery teller uses a break room, then that needs to be respected. For example, if you get your information in the breakout room, then a digital display may be the best way to communicate information, or by sending it to their personal email. By pushing users to move to a different platform altogether, another hurdle is placed between the communicator and worker, and that is not solving the issue," says Christensen. "Real success is getting customers to engage with the content, not getting them to engage with the content on our platform."
To carry this attitude with confidence and success, the platform must be accompanied by exceptional service, which Christensen believes the team at SocialChorus has in spades. "We have a great deal of pride in all that we do. For example, our support team will not be satisfied with anything less than SLA 100%, and they will be disappointed with even 5% less. This sort of attitude is present across all of our departments, and prospective clients can see this from us when deciding between us and a competitor: they can see how much we care. As a smaller company, we don't want to win on scale or number of features, we want to win on quality."
While competitors have larger teams, Christensen explains that having a smaller team rewards a much higher quality of due to the close-knit dynamics and collective conscientiousness, and this is reflected in positive customer feedback that deems SocialChorus the best in the market. "It is rewarding to know that we have an excellent product,” he says, “it doesn't just give out features, it solves real problems."
Christensen forecasts that this year will bring a number of new challenges: "I will likely begin working on new translations and transcripts, as well as low band-width usage." One of his key challenges is to connect the CEO with employees in demographics with low technology, or in other instances, where the CEO may not speak the same language as employees. "I would like to be able to have a CEO record a message while traveling to an airport and have the service transcribe and translate it to go into an article to be distributed to workers, say perhaps, in Zimbabwe, where there is a weaker internet connection. This would give these workers the same access to information as those in headquarters."
As data is only growing in value, Christensen shares that the next step in the company's growth is to build upon SocialChorus' analytics capabilities in order to deliver insights and intelligence, not only to discover trends, but to be able to identify why they change and how to respond to it. Paired closely with this, machine learning will be used for auto transcriptions and translations, and AI will enable recommendations and relevancy, for speed and tuning.
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GfK and VMware: Innovating together on hybrid cloud
GfK has been the global leader in data and analytics for more than 85 years, supplying its clients with optimised decision inputs.
In its capacity as a strategic and technical partner, VMware has been walking GfK along its digital transformation path for over a decade.
“We are a demanding and singularly dynamic customer, which is why a close partnership with VMware is integral to the success of everyone involved,” said Joerg Hesselink, Global Head of Infrastructure, GfK IT Services.
Four years ago, the Nuremberg-based researcher expanded its on-premises infrastructure by introducing VMware vRealize Automation. In doing so, it laid a solid foundation, resulting in a self-service hybrid-cloud environment.
By expanding on the basis of VMware Cloud on AWS and VMware Cloud Foundation with vRealize Cloud Management, GfK has given itself a secure infrastructure and reliable operations by efficiently operating processes, policies, people and tools in both private and public cloud environments.
One important step for GfK involved migrating from multiple cloud providers to just a single one. The team chose VMware.
“VMware is the market leader for on-premises virtualisation and hybrid-cloud solutions, so it was only logical to tackle the next project for the future together,” says Hesselink.
Migration to the VMware-based environment was integrated into existing hardware simply and smoothly in April 2020. Going forward, GfK’s new hybrid cloud model will establish a harmonised core system complete with VMware Cloud on AWS, VMware Cloud Foundation with vRealize Cloud Management and a volume rising from an initial 500 VMs to a total of 4,000 VMs.
“We are modernising, protecting and scaling our applications with the world’s leading hybrid cloud solution: VMware Cloud on AWS, following VMware on Google Cloud Platform,” adds Hesselink.
The hybrid cloud-based infrastructure also empowers GfK to respond to new and future projects with astonishing agility: Resources can now be shifted quickly and easily from the private to the public cloud – without modifying the nature of interaction with the environment.
The gfknewron project is a good example – the company’s latest AI-powered product is based exclusively on public cloud technology. The consistency guaranteed by VMware Cloud on AWS eases the burden on both regular staff and the IT team. Better still, since the teams are already familiar with the VMware environment, the learning curve for upskilling is short.
One very important factor for the GfK was that VMware Cloud on AWS constituted an investment in future-proof technology that will stay relevant.
“The new cloud-based infrastructure comprising VMware Cloud on AWS and VMware Cloud Foundation forges a successful link between on-premises and cloud-based solutions,” says Hesselink. “That in turn enables GfK to efficiently develop its own modern applications and solutions.
“In market research, everything is data-driven. So, we need the best technological basis to efficiently process large volumes of data and consistently distill them into logical insights that genuinely benefit the client.
“We transform data and information into actionable knowledge that serves as a sustainable driver of business growth. VMware Cloud on AWS is an investment in a platform that helps us be well prepared for whatever the future may hold.”