Friday, October 6, 2017

Digital Workplace Concepts 101: Personalization

Jeremy Williams, Sr. Director, Modern Workplace

Over the next few weeks, I’ll be writing a series of posts on some of the basic concepts, features, and experiences of the modern Digital Workplace. The goal of these posts is intended to be equal parts of definition, benefits of each capability, and some of the prerequisites to properly support each capability. To kick this series off, I’d like to address one of the top-requested capabilities we encounter: Personalization.


Personalization is the act of modifying the user experience and/or the content that each user experiences based on information we know about that particular user. In the most common and simple implementation, we attenuate the news a particular person sees when they log on to their Digital Workplace. This attenuation of the content means that the user will see stories and content that they’ll likely be interested in.

As a simple example, let’s consider two (fictitious) employees working at Stark Industries, Arthur from Accounting and Evelyn from Engineering. Here’s a snippet of what each of their experiences may look and feel like (specific to consuming corporate news):

Arthur’s View


Evelyn's View


As you can see, there are stories that pertain to both Arthur and Evelyn (as we see them on both of their experiences); however, we also see that Arthur and Evelyn have different pieces of content that show up as well—and these items appeal to their roles and interests at Stark Industries. We see that each Arthur and Evelyn have a story that is pertinent to them because it’s from their department, but we also see some other stories where it isn’t readily apparent why it’s been targeted to each person—these stories were targeted to Arthur and Evelyn respectively based on their interests at Stark Industries. Arthur is an avid cycler and belongs to the Cycling community, whereas Evelyn is looking to inspire youth’s participation in the STEM space, which is why she’s seeing content for the upcoming Girls Who Code event that Stark is sponsoring.

There are certainly more complex manifestations of this scenario (a couple of them are also visible here, like the user’s location and their commute time to their home), but at a basic level, the premise is to modify the content and/or experience of a particular user based on information known about them.


Outside of the just-plain-cool factor, why should we even consider personalization? Again, at the surface-level, here are some of the most common benefits we can expect to gain from personalization:

  1. Efficiency: As an example, if we show our user the top five stories for them out of potential of 25 total stories created on a particular day, we can take advantage of our user’s limited time available to spend on the site by providing them with content they need/want to see. This will not only help to ensure people don’t miss important communications, but it also demonstrates that we’re willing to help our people make the most of their limited time. In other words, instead of someone using four of their five free minutes skimming all of the news to see what’s pertinent to them, they can spend all five minutes consuming the most important news for them. 
  2. Productivity: Another common form of personalization is to give people a glimpse into their systems and platforms where they spend a good amount of their time. For a sales person, this may be your CRM/Sales & Service platform, for a knowledge worker this may be project collaboration sites, and for an executive it may be a dashboard. Regardless of the system/platform of interest, if we can easily bring the key insights to the forefront for our people, we can help them make quicker data-driven decision, vs. wasting time trying to navigate a myriad of portals.
  3. Less Email: Once we’ve established the personalized experience as the authoritative place to go for the news and content that matters to our people – it means that we can stop using email as a primary communication tool.  This isn’t something that most organizations can realize right away if email is the defacto tool for communicating at an organization-wide level. However, once well established, you can move away from using email as a primary corporate communication tool—which will reduce the amount of emails sent, and yield yet more efficiency and productivity for your workforce.


Some key considerations before embarking on personalization within your Digital Workplace:

  1. Do you have enough content to support personalization? Not enough content available means empty and/or out-of-date content areas – which will kill your adoption and anticipated benefits.
  2. Do you have a plan to continue generating enough of (and the right) kind of content for your users?
  3. Have you considered how you will personalize content? E.g. Based on information you know about your employees, information they share/subscribe to, graph databases and/or machine learning algorithms to find similarities among users and content, etc.?
  4. Do you have you content classified and organized in a way that makes it easy to personalize based on your selected strategy?
  5. Does your current or anticipated platform make any of these things easier for you?

Parting Thoughts

Personalization is certainly not a new concept, but it’s an important one for you to consider—it’s been a key element of award-winning intranet and digital workplace experiences over the past decade. You’ll likely notice that personalization will require thought and work around: content strategy, information strategy, as well as technology, strategy, and sustainability. If you’ve got questions or need help with any of this, let’s talk.

Jeremy Williams is Senior Director, Productivity & Collaboration, at Rightpoint. Follow Jeremy on Twitter and LinkedIn.