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Matthieu Silbermann, Powell Software: “shadow-IT exposes enterprises to cyberattacks and data leaks”

When companies fail to provide their employees with efficient platforms and tools to use, they turn to “shadow-IT,” which puts individuals and businesses in danger of malware and data breaches.

Maintaining proper digital hygiene is not the only challenge today’s employees face. While having to navigate their way through complex IT systems, many workers turn to readily available products they find online, which might be neither practical nor safe. The need for a single effective intranet is as high as ever, with new companies constantly joining the market.

Matthieu Silbermann, the Chief Product Officer at Powell Software which provides numerous solutions to improve the digital working experience, shared with us what the future of “work” will look like and what enterprises can do to create a productive and safe environment.

How has your company evolved since your launch in 2015?

Over the past six years, we have evolved from a start-up to a scale-up. We now serve over 400 enterprises and have 1.7M+ employees using our solutions in more than ten countries.

Our portfolio has extended from intranet solutions for Communications teams to a full Digital Workplace for HR managers and business owners. We also help IT professionals manage Microsoft Teams and allow employees to improve repetitive collaborative processes.

Could you tell us more about Powell Intranet? How does it differ from an intranet a company might already have?

Powell Intranet goes beyond a communication portal where you can post the latest news and access official documents. It also helps Communications departments to engage with employees through gamification in programs such as the Ideation Hub and Employee Advocacy, the social sharing tool. Communication managers in large organizations benefit from being able to easily manage contributions and information sharing across M365 tenants while respecting security and identity management rules.

This is also a place for HR to improve the employee experience and connect employees in the hybrid workplace. Powell Intranet helps HR with tasks such as new employee onboarding, Flex-desk booking, and virtual water-fountain conversations.

Powell Intranet brings the best Office 365 services into one single Digital Workplace that is easier for employees to use. Forms, PowerBI, Delve, and Microsoft 365 search are just some of the services unknown or not used by employees. By embedding them into the intranet portal, we help organizations maximize their M365 investment.

For IT teams, Powell Intranet ensures documents, information, and identity respect the security and compliance standards defined by them through Microsoft 365 and Azure Active Directory, as all remain in the customers' M365 tenant. We also offer the ability to integrate 3rd party solutions such as ServiceNow, Workday, SAP & Oracle thanks to our API, which can collect and push information in or out of the Digital Workplace.

Maintaining workforce engagement seems to be one of your key priorities. Which techniques do you use to achieve it?

First of all, we encourage Comms and HR to let employees consume information where they want to: on their mobile, from their desktop browser, or in Microsoft Teams.

Then gamification is at the core of our portal: Comms teams can define points for employee actions such as sharing, contributing, commenting, or liking. They can allocate badges and can even extend to reward programs.

As mentioned, we also propose ready-to-use tools to be deployed in the intranet or in Teams to keep employees connected: our virtual coffee machine supplemented by a virtual water fountain, a conversation starter, has been used a lot these last months.

What are the best practices companies can adopt nowadays to maintain smooth and secure remote operations?

Generally speaking, organizations should provide the right solutions for employees that are easy to use and attractive. Otherwise, employees will equip themselves with their solutions, often from the consumer market. This shadow-IT exposes the enterprise to cyberattacks and data leaks.

Specifically for the intranet, as it stores important documents, it’s a best practice to use a platform that the IT department trusts, which is Microsoft 365 for many companies.

Keeping employees' read and write access under the umbrella of the Active Directory allows the IT department to ensure everything is managed properly between IT & Communications.

Specifically for Microsoft Teams, it’s crucial to implement strong governance and lifecycle management to control Teams sprawl. Allow employees to create Teams as they need but frame them with clear rules like a naming convention, guest access, tagging, and expiration dates. The benefits will extend to the employees' experience as they will more easily find information among all the Teams they belong to.

How did the pandemic affect Powell Software? Were there any new features added to your services as a result?

As an international scale-up, we were used to remote work with our colleagues around the globe. That being said, we had to switch 100% of our employees in our headquarters, near Paris, to full remote with only a few days’ notice. From a productivity point of view, we were prepared, as all our solutions are in the cloud.

This said, we had to adapt in terms of management and social interactions. As our customers were impacted like us, we discussed a lot about how to maintain a social link with new features in the digital workplace: virtual coffee machine, ideation, classified ads, etc.

In light of the current global events, maintaining creativity has been a struggle for some companies. How can organizations foster creativity and innovation when the majority of employees are working remotely?

Before technology, it is the culture of the enterprise that counts. Inclusivity and diversity are two elements that favor creativity and innovation. Include all employees and not only the digital savvy, push for diversity of nationalities and skills to generate ideas from every culture and every opinion.

It does not only apply to employees but also to our customers. A huge amount of our innovation comes from listening to our customers and partners who use and implement our solutions.

Then digital solutions help for sure: co-authoring live or asynchronously, setting a framework to generate new ideas with a good balance of freedom.

Which issues do you notice most often when it comes to companies that don’t have a proper workforce platform?

From the productivity point of view, it is the proliferation of tools, whether IT-provided or shadow-IT, which lead to security breaches and loss of information. Often to a point that employees lose a considerable amount of time finding where the information is stored or who they should talk to. This prevents the generation of new ideas or good execution of business operations.

From the HR point of view, it leads to a company with no culture, no sense of belonging for the employees. It can add up to considerable time loss in onboarding new employees.

In your opinion, what will an average workplace look like in the foreseeable future?

We expect the average workplace to be even more connected to the apps employees use to do their work. We also expect it will be mobile-first for the frontline workers.

We think the information that is pushed to employees will be more relevant and specific to their job, just like the feeds from consumer social networks.

Share with us, what’s next for Powell Software?

Keep it to yourself: we are preparing the next generation of a Digital Workplace that could sit in a Virtual Building. What if you could come to your virtual office each day even when you are remote and sit at a virtual desk to start your work? What if you could chat & discuss with your colleagues even if you have no meeting scheduled?

More to come in the first half of 2022!

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