Michael Jordan once said, “Talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence win championships.” Darshan Appayanna, the chief information, knowledge and security officer of Happiest Minds is harnessing the same thought to boost employee productivity in the firm.
Looking for a cultural shift
The Bangalore-based digital transformation IT consulting and services provider wanted to create a community where employees could perform daily operational activities and gain actionable insights in the process. “The idea was to make the intranet community sustainable auto-update itself,” says Appayanna. Instead of an intranet where somebody creates content like in a newsletter, the goal was to make it more community-centric and voluntary, he adds.
Earlier, the company used the WordPress platform, but it lacked real-time interactions and resulted in stale content. Enter SmilesCentral–the smart intranet–which not only brought technological transformation but also a much-needed cultural shift in the workplace.
“To define it very simply, SmilesCentral is a single gateway for employees to perform daily activities, whether it is operational activities like submitting time sheets, leaves, approvals or connecting with the right skilled person or looking at historical data like proposals, solutions, projects, etc.,” explains Appayanna.
It forms an open community within the organization and provides employees a way of knowing what is happening around them, and gets rid of communication silos.
Explaining the logic behind naming it SmilesCentral, Appayanna says, “SMILES came from the core values of Happiest Minds, and Central means this is a single gateway to do all the things you’re supposed to do, connect with people, share knowledge and collaborate on when you are in office.”
Microsoft Office Suite forms the core of the entire ecosystem. “We’ve built a user experience layer on top of this platform and leveraged our project management system so people can get additional information about projects they’ve worked on,” says Appayanna.
It is backed by cognitive intelligence leveraging Microsoft Graphs, has a simple “google search” like interface and has the capability to trigger a Chabot or give personalized/promoted search results based on user inputs. The search in SmilesCentral integrates a user’s communication history from different portals such as Sharepoint, OneDrive, email, chat, yammer, Skype for Business.
“It is able to look at interactions that somebody has had, and point him towards a team member who has worked on the similar topic. This helps in creating serendipity and the employee can help or collaborate with that team member,” he adds.
Every department was involved in its implementation. “Basically, we had to identify some evangelists from each business group like sales, business, HR, IT etc.,” he explains. But what about access control? “The access to information depends on how the owner of that document has shared it. Certain things are public, like the information about who worked on a particular project, but certain things only show up if you are authorized to see it,” Appayanna points.
Commenting on the future of the platform, Appayanna said that currently it is browser-based and has a responsive design, which allows employees to use it on their mobiles. “We are in the process of integrating SmilesCentral with our in-house mobile application,” he adds.
Improved productivity by spotting the right talent
Appayanna pointed out how this is a big cultural thing and it’s not just about technology. “You start with one person and then you see the multiplier effect. It’s been a slow journey but we are starting to see people interact more and leverage this platform,” he says. “It improves employee productivity enormously. Since it is mobile friendly, employees are also able to access information and finish some of their daily tasks on the go.”
SmilesCentral also allows users to locate the right information or talent that meets their requirements. For example, if someone is looking for a Java skilled person, the platform searches for information across the project management system, emails, yammer, Sharepoint, Onedrive documents, and locates the right person who can provide help. According to Appayanna, this use case alone if leveraged to the fullest, potentially reduces the average bench by 3 percent, which translates to making 60 people more productive, which translates to a revenue of about USD 2 million.
“Have we been really successful in doing everything? No. But this is a start. Hopefully, we’ll see multiplier effects and increased serendipity instances, which will help people maximize the benefits from this solution,” comments Appayanna. “There is a huge cultural change that needs to be worked on and I don’t think we will ever get everyone to use this to the fullest potential, but even if we get 60 percent of the employees to get involved, it will be a giant leap towards fostering innovation, collaboration and improved teamwork in the organization,” he adds.