Digital Workspace
November 18, 2020

The Digital Workplace Is Like Plumbing: It Needs to Work

It’s 8 a.m. and you’re ready to start your work day. Your boss is expecting you, your calendar is stacked with meetings, and you have a cup of hot coffee in hand. You open your laptop, ready to tackle your inbox and get a jump on the day.

But wait. Your VPN isn’t working. Teams won’t load. And wait — is your Internet out again?

Welcome to the new normal in 2020. When we talk about the digital workplace and our virtual experience as team members and employees, we like to think about the innovative, exciting tech of the future. But first, we gotta talk about the plumbing.

No, not that plumbing. I’m talking about the infrastructure that makes widespread remote work actually work.

I talked to Andy Picmann, who spends a lot of time thinking about digital plumbing and how 20,000 Rocket Mortgage team members connect, collaborate, and get things done. Andy’s title is Director of Team Member Experience, and he oversees a systems engineering group that runs the company’s Office 365 (Outlook, Teams, Sharepoint) and other core software and operating systems.

A lot of the tech that Andy focuses on is critically important for employees. “We’re talking about things that we usually take for granted. People are used to showing up at work and their internet works, their microphone and camera work, the screen settings are correct. They’re like air and water. But when you’re at home and something’s not working, it’s a huge issue. If these things are working well, you don’t even notice them. But if they’re not, you’re almost inoperable.”

I’m always interested in the language we use to talk about the digital workplace. Andy says when his team was considering what to call themselves, they floated “endpoint engineering.” The “endpoints” they were focused on were employee devices — the computers and phones that people used to work.

But Andy says they realized: “What are we really focused on? Yes, we’re focused on the endpoint devices, but what do those devices do? We realized our work is really about the team member experience.” So they chose the name “team member experience.” I love that insight. Especially on tech teams, we can get so focused on the tech and the devices that we forget why we’re doing any of it. The technology isn’t the goal, it’s the means to the end.

Since Quicken Loans moved its entire workforce to remote work back in March, reliable execution from Andy’s team has been critical. Andy’s favorite ISM (the company’s collection of guiding phrases) is “innovation is rewarded, execution is worshipped.” He’s focused on both innovation and execution right now: solving important, immediate problems like making sure VPNs and microphones are working — but also keeping one eye on areas they could improve in the future.

“We’re diving deep into areas of opportunity. We’re always trying to make the team member experience better, fighting fires while we also plan for the future.”

Talking to Andy reminded me just how important the plumbing is at work. If you’re thinking about the digital workplace, remember that it’s not all about bells and whistles. It’s about the pipes, too.

Looking for more advice like this? Download our eBook on How to Build a Best-in-Class Digital Workplace below. You might see some words of wisdom from Andy himself.

How C-Suite Leaders Built an Exceptional Digital Workplace

Everyone wants to build a great employee experience, and the need for a robust digital workplace has been written in neon since COVID disrupted business as usual. But how do you put this into practice? Learn from 8 C-Suite Leaders from Rocket Mortgage, a leading financial services firm, on how they have built an exceptional employee experience.
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The Forge

A monthly collection of the latest Sift content, thought pieces, and resources, we keep you updated on what's going on in the world of work and Sift.

It’s 8 a.m. and you’re ready to start your work day. Your boss is expecting you, your calendar is stacked with meetings, and you have a cup of hot coffee in hand. You open your laptop, ready to tackle your inbox and get a jump on the day.

But wait. Your VPN isn’t working. Teams won’t load. And wait — is your Internet out again?

Welcome to the new normal in 2020. When we talk about the digital workplace and our virtual experience as team members and employees, we like to think about the innovative, exciting tech of the future. But first, we gotta talk about the plumbing.

No, not that plumbing. I’m talking about the infrastructure that makes widespread remote work actually work.

I talked to Andy Picmann, who spends a lot of time thinking about digital plumbing and how 20,000 Rocket Mortgage team members connect, collaborate, and get things done. Andy’s title is Director of Team Member Experience, and he oversees a systems engineering group that runs the company’s Office 365 (Outlook, Teams, Sharepoint) and other core software and operating systems.

A lot of the tech that Andy focuses on is critically important for employees. “We’re talking about things that we usually take for granted. People are used to showing up at work and their internet works, their microphone and camera work, the screen settings are correct. They’re like air and water. But when you’re at home and something’s not working, it’s a huge issue. If these things are working well, you don’t even notice them. But if they’re not, you’re almost inoperable.”

I’m always interested in the language we use to talk about the digital workplace. Andy says when his team was considering what to call themselves, they floated “endpoint engineering.” The “endpoints” they were focused on were employee devices — the computers and phones that people used to work.

But Andy says they realized: “What are we really focused on? Yes, we’re focused on the endpoint devices, but what do those devices do? We realized our work is really about the team member experience.” So they chose the name “team member experience.” I love that insight. Especially on tech teams, we can get so focused on the tech and the devices that we forget why we’re doing any of it. The technology isn’t the goal, it’s the means to the end.

Since Quicken Loans moved its entire workforce to remote work back in March, reliable execution from Andy’s team has been critical. Andy’s favorite ISM (the company’s collection of guiding phrases) is “innovation is rewarded, execution is worshipped.” He’s focused on both innovation and execution right now: solving important, immediate problems like making sure VPNs and microphones are working — but also keeping one eye on areas they could improve in the future.

“We’re diving deep into areas of opportunity. We’re always trying to make the team member experience better, fighting fires while we also plan for the future.”

Talking to Andy reminded me just how important the plumbing is at work. If you’re thinking about the digital workplace, remember that it’s not all about bells and whistles. It’s about the pipes, too.

Looking for more advice like this? Download our eBook on How to Build a Best-in-Class Digital Workplace below. You might see some words of wisdom from Andy himself.

Get Our Newsletter

The Forge

A monthly collection of the latest Sift content, thought pieces, and resources, we keep you updated on what's going on in the world of work and Sift.