Nov. 10, 2020

Goodbye, 9 to 5. Hello, Flexible Workspace!

Goodbye, 9 to 5. Hello, Flexible Workspace!

Aligning technology and culture to enable flexible work, a holistic digital approach to connecting with customers during the pandemic, and more on this episode of Digital Workspace Works.

Join Ryan and Heather for an interview with Alex Clifford, director of Logic Digital. 

Topics include:

  • Logic Digital's use of Microsoft Teams for internal and client communication
  • Why creating a flexible workspace requires the right technology and culture
  • The role of AI in digital content

Alex has worked in the digital industry for over 20 years in both large and small agencies leading account teams in the development of digital products as well as strategic and transformational projects for clients across sectors. Over the last five years, Alex built his own digital agency in the UK with a small development team in India. His agency, Logic Digital, helps clients develop or optimise their digital channels to increase their presence, authority, and business growth. Core to the development of Logic Digital is engagement with apprenticeships and education.

Click here to join the Slack Workspace
Click here for the episode transcript
Books mentioned: The 4-Hour Work Week (affiliate link), The Shift: The Future of Work Is Already Here (affiliate link)
Alex's LinkedIn
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Ryan Purvis  0:00  
Hello, and welcome to the digital workspace works podcast. I'm Ryan Purvis, your host supported by producer Heather Bicknell. In this series, you'll hear stories and opinions from experts in their field story from the frontlines, the problems they face and how they solve them. The years they're focused on from technology, people and processes to the approaches they took that will help you to get to grips with the digital workspace inner workings.

Alex Clifford  0:32  
Alex Clifford, I run a business called logic digital. I've spent the past 20 years working across digital environments for large digital agencies across corporate environments. And for me five years ago, I set up my own digital agency to do it for myself, rather than building other people's businesses.

Heather Bicknell  0:51  
And what is it your agency does?

Alex Clifford  0:54  
Primarily WordPress, but we kind of, we do all of the normal kind of work. But WordPress and website design and development, SEO, PPC, social media marketing, where we like to sign and sort of start off though, is helping people first understand that not everyone can buy their products, where is their their real customer base? What are their personas, how can they better communicate with them? How can they kind of really understand and recollect what their value proposition is, and then put that across in an in a consistent way. So that we're not just, you know, joining the bandwagon, we're not just sending out more of the same messages and just trying to hit the numbers, we are actually trying to create something that grows, a company I particularly like to type and work for is a company where, you know, maybe they're they're already winning work, they're still growing in different things, but maybe that work they're winning is not really where they see their future or where they want to be. And it's really about helping them identify, really the type of work they like doing their work and the most money out of or works best for their future business direction, and then helping them get that onto a vision plan and a roadmap to start saving towards it.

Ryan Purvis  1:57  
That's great. And I'm assuming with the pandemic, you saw a lot of businesses that were sort of brick and mortar having to pivot to more digital means.

Alex Clifford  2:05  
Now there is I mean, there was a lot of people just did the old Panic of of switch everything off and stop doing everything and just remove budgets. So, you know, we like a lot of businesses lost a, you know, a good portion of our client base, because, you know, their bricks and mortar environments were shut down. But we also gained a lot of business from people that realize that, you know, while they couldn't go out and meet people, they could translate their businesses online and do, you know, particularly around sort of the training environments, move from classroom to online basis, move their courses and content online, and the other benefits and facilities that would give them. And then, you know, like we mentioned with, with a lot of the kind of sort of profile work that we do as to helping companies sort of raise their profile or demonstrate their expertise or experience. It's about kind of sort of taking that to the next level and showing them how they can improve that online. LinkedIn is a great example. Most people's LinkedIn profiles are a CV, and even if only 10% of the connections they've got on their people they can actually sell to. So it's starting to turn that round, so that it actually talks about the value add they give to other people, and then connecting them with the right target audience so that they can demonstrate their expertise, and hopefully, then use that as an opportunity to create conversations.

Heather Bicknell  3:18  
So we usually we like to start off with asking our guests to provide their own definition of digital workspace. I don't know if that's a term you come across often in your work life, but if you could give us your your opinion on what that term means to you. Um, yeah, I

Alex Clifford  3:37  
mean, it's something we we were really lucky with as a business. So we were quite, I suppose, in some ways, traditional in the fact that we had an office, we all came into the office every day and, and we all sat there, and we like that sort of collaboration and communication. But when things like lockdown happened, we were, we're pretty much able just to pick up our machines and just go home. And we've been the same sort of ever since. But but it means something is really it's about, it's about easy access, easy access to each other, it's easy access to the information, notes, files, things that we need to to run our business. It's about being visible with an activity, as well. So see what's happening without pestering people all the time or constantly having to chase them for updates, or write lots of worthy contact reports and task lists and to do lists, but have a look at those and then really checking the status. We use Microsoft 365. Through teams, we have that set up in quite a convoluted way. So we have different channels for internal communications, different channels for our own internal project discussions, and then separate channel setup as well for our client communications. But what that means is I can take a very simple 10,000 foot view across internal team collaboration, or client collaboration. So to look at the the sort of tonal what's happening or some of the challenges people are doing or someone's having to constantly chase someone for something and Really where the bottlenecks are within the business and then prioritize my time is to actually Well, I'm gonna go and solve this bit now and, and focus on that and not just chase around the things that that I think are important I can it sort of helps feed that information to me.

Ryan Purvis  5:14  
Did you find quite a, an easy adoption from your customers to switch over to something like teams or zoom have used that to be, you

Alex Clifford  5:23  
know, teams is a little bit awkward in the process, we've got a number of clients that wouldn't use anything else. And that's great, because you know, all of the collaboration and communication was in it. Previously, for teams where we're using, you know, a combination of slack, Skype, Google Hangouts, and everything else around it, which meant that our information on there and the continuity of information or the conversation was fragmented. Trying to move everyone across the teams is not always an easy process. But once they get there, and once they sort of see the benefit to it, then then it's great. I think there's a little bit that teams needs to do in making the different sort of team. I'm not sure how they word it. But obviously, we have our own team environment. And I can invite people as guests to that some of our clients have their own environments, and it's not a great integration between those environments. When they're in our environment, it's all perfectly clear, and it's nice and easy. But, but when they sort of have their own environments as well, sometimes it can get a bit clunky. But you know, we get around it.

Ryan Purvis  6:26  
Yeah, it's the tenants having two different tenants or three different tenants, we found the same problem when you specifically when you're doing things like, like, we record the session now, because you're not in my tenant, you can't get the video yet, on the voice, you'd have to download it into OneDrive and then share it that way or whatever. I think they are rumors of improvements like that with the roadmap, but it is it is painful.

Alex Clifford  6:50  
Oh, it's massively moved on. I mean, one of the challenges that we had when we first used is they had a temp file limit, when you're uploading files into into a folder system and stuff. I mean, all that immediate, you know, went really quickly. And doing it any seems done almost on a daily basis to to improve, I mean, little features, like, you know, recent ones that they've launched, where you can actually have teams open, I run three, three computer screens. So I can actually have you guys on my on my laptop screen and sort of be talking to you. I can have teams open on another one. But also have, you know, any kind of cheats, work documents, notes or things like that happening on another screen. So that that works nicely for me.

Ryan Purvis  7:29  
Yeah, I don't know, if you listen to my episode with with a couple other guys where we went through an email reduction, expedition exercise, and trying to move as much as we could to some sort of instant messenger. And I found recently that with a new, some new hires, they only use in semester like to send emails. Yeah, that's been quite a nice, nice way of working. Although you got to turn the sound effects off.

Alex Clifford  7:57  
Yeah, I really like I don't like the instant messenger pay, the bit I like is is, for me, that really translates into into a process of polite interruption. If you're sitting in an office full of people, you can see whether someone's got their headphones on, they've got their head down, and they're buried into it. And you can make a decision as to when to contact them. You start instant messaging, you want an instant reply, you start sort of getting the phone call or doing those you can be you know, it can be really quite disruptive, I find teams is a really good way of, of actually seeing where it is we haven't tied in, obviously to our calendars and different pieces. And the guys are very good at sort of blocking timeout to say like I'm working on this project at that point. So, you know, for developers working on a particular thing, I know that, you know, he needs focused time to do that he doesn't want me been bugging him with 20 questions every five minutes on what's happening. But when we do need a conversation, it's also very quick and easy.

Heather Bicknell  8:52  
Yeah, you can kind of tune your own status to kind of help with that. I think whenever we talk about teams, and any of the you know, it's not what do we call it? It's not I mean, it's more of like a continuous messaging platform than instant messaging, because obviously, they persist. But it's so much of it is about finding your own groove as an organization and determining your own culture around it. You know, I have colleagues were beyond at three in the morning and responding to me, but I'd rather sometimes drop them, you know, ping them something in teams or other than send out some like the email about it. Especially, you know, if the documents right there, and it's all just very neat, right? Inside the platform. So yeah, I think a lot of is just around the expectations and knowing like who is going to get distracted if you send a message right now. And you know, who's good about sort of self control in that way?

Alex Clifford  9:44  
It is, and that for me is around. I think, as I mentioned that sort of polite interruption. It's about being respectful of the guys that you've got working with you and what they're doing. And, you know, but also using it in the other way so that you can actually sort of see what's happening. You know, there are a number of times that I've looked at sort of things and I've read things into a client communication to deal with, you know, maybe the fact that they're not quite happy with something or it's not moving forward as quickly that you know, you can get into and the same with internal comms, you can you can have a look at what's happening. I mean, it's, it's been really hard since lockdown people are, I suppose lonely because of the lack of sort of human interaction and sort of things like that. We go to great lengths in and just kind of sort of arranging sometimes, you know, group meetings and different pieces like that just to bring everybody together to talk about their workload, what's happening with it, and where it is, so that we can, you know, try and sort of as a group help out rather than, you know, just leaving as to everyone's got this great stack of work to do, and there's nothing there to help them,

Ryan Purvis  10:42  
huh. Yeah, we've had to probably all change. Our way of team working is very silo of, well, I've got work to do today, and we have a daily stand up, and I was going to stand up. And then it's very easy to say, well, I've got six things to do today, I'll just do those six things, and disconnect from everybody else. Why are you doing that? Do you need to almost have those generic, catch up meetings, or at least talking to people, you know, to catch up with them? like you would if you were in the same office?

Alex Clifford  11:14  
It is. But again, like I mentioned, you know, before we're part of my role I see as you know, is yes, I own the business, I run the business, and I'm responsible for most of it. But you know, I employ people to do things that, you know, to be honest, I can't do you know, they're the experts in what they do. And I need them to do those pieces, I need to give them the room and I suppose facilitate the process for them to be able to do it. And trust me, trust is something I would see an article the other day on someone that was actually using keystroke tracking software to monitor what he's doing. It's click off stuff we're doing and taking screenshots every few minutes. And I if I forgot to that, but I think I changed direction to do something else.

Ryan Purvis  11:54  
That was another key training and the number one read article on the BBC, I think,

Alex Clifford  11:59  
yeah, it was it was appalling. But I'm gonna say there. And then one of the bits that I really liked with, with with sort of teams as being able to manage that, that. And as I suppose the way that we use teams is it does enable you to bring all those together, but it also enables you still to have that focus. And then we always need to have like a headphone policy, even in the office, maybe have music or whatever, or something or chatter happening in and around. But if someone was putting something on whether you're playing music or not, it didn't matter if they got the headphones on sort of thing it was Don't disturb them unless you really need to. But the process is with with with sort of teams Is it still enables you to have that focus, because everything is rather than you having to go into your email to try and find some communication and then seeing something else, you don't really need to that you then wander off on that channel to or getting most of it, you can almost just sort of drill straight into that thing, you've only got that conversation chain to do with that project within there. Everything's all in a single place. And it has brought all of that together. I used to hate working with slack and stuff like that, because I spent half my time trying to find the conversation and scooping back through things and over a whole bunch of other conversations that reminded me of something else that still got to do and just focus on this one for now and get it done and get it done. Right.

Ryan Purvis  13:12  
Yeah, I think there's a need to structure your channels and projects appropriately. And then, you know, having the confusion around having your teams inside your teams. But but having that stuff organized to the point that you're not involved in every single group, or every single channel and only called in when you need to be involved is also also nice, and noise that goes on.

Alex Clifford  13:36  
Yeah, it does. And you know, we have a bunch of other things as well. So we've, we've always been a lot with sort of, you know, spinning up virtual machines and an online machine. So we have a couple of extra servers that we have available to us as well. So if one of the guys is doing some video work, rather than tying up their computer doing all the you know, the compiling and everything from that, they can actually log in, do that on a server, almost kind of log off from it and leave that running while they get on with something else. So it's again, it's about freeing up, you know them in their environment to to pull that in as well.

Heather Bicknell  14:09  
What solutions are using for your VMs

Unknown Speaker  14:12  

Unknown Speaker  14:15  

Alex Clifford  14:19  
VirtualBox I think it is. And, um, so we can just spin up as many machines as we want. We got a I got a couple of Zeon rackmount servers that we can, you know, access through VPNs to get into and then we can run them. It's great. Obviously if we're testing, especially one of the things with moving away from the offices, obviously normally a digital business like us would probably have a you know, a stack of old technology, some old laptop, some old screens and some baseline that testing things on and environments. It's hard to do that when you know people can't take all that own. So you know having all of that available on on different machines and being able to spin up different environments or test scenarios. They can they they can create their own structures for it. Or if we're doing a, you know, a big messaging campaign for a client or doing something like that they, you know, they don't have to tie up their, their machine to do it, they can actually get another machine to do it, which in itself also makes it more possible for us to other people to get and go in and support them if there's a problem, collaborate in it and share it as well. So we have that risk recently with a with a client software where it wasn't linking through correctly. And, you know, if you've been on the person's machine or on their desktop would have been a bit stuck. But because it was all remote access than capable it was, it was nice and easy. But, but it doesn't, technology is part of it, though. But there's like you mentioned the beginning that culture is massively important. You know, we in the office had sit stand desks, you know, I'm sitting down at the moment, but I could stand up. I think like you're around at the moment and and sort of doing it, it's, it's about that sort of sort of comfort, people can only work at kitchen tables for so long. And it's a case of making sure that they've got it we ever everybody in the office had dual screens. Yeah, I've my guys at the moment, I've gone back to single screens. And that's a benefit. In some ways, they said they seem to find it easier, but I think it's about, you know, managing their own home environment as well. Because you know, having to connect and set up your screen environments and keep moving them off the kitchen tables just just not great. And I think as businesses like ours, we need to start having a look at, if we are going to not go back into an office environment, how we can actually start to give some of that back to them. And I spoke to a couple of people recently where they are actually looking at providing staff with with incentivized loans or discounted loans to help them make some home improvements to do it. I'm quite lucky, I had this this cabin at the bottom of the garden before lockdown, I've had it for about 10 years, I think until March I was I overwintered my fishing here while I was still at the pond our benefit is is though I was able to move in here, I've now got this all network cable dog powered up and everything else. I've got four desks in here. So I've tried to create a space for them to come if they need to get away from that kitchen table for a break. So they can actually sort of come and sit here and work here as well. So we actually have choices and options. Because I mean, as a business, we have we I've given up on the office at the moment, we're only in a shared office environment. It didn't make sense. And keeping it on, especially as we were doing so well are working remotely. And as businesses, although we have a UK team, we also have an Indian team as well. So you know, we're used to working in that sort of international environment. You know, that's been good.

Ryan Purvis  17:38  
And we're very similar in that. We've also given them offers, lease runs out in December, but none of us have gone into that office, you know, barring picking up things that we want you to use at home, or when it comes to back at the office, we want to, you know, make it easy to pack it up. And we've worked with our teams we've had, we've had developers in many countries. So if we take for you, it's always been a case of working remotely and distributed because you know, your cost of resource and your expertise are global long term, located just the UK. Yeah. I mean, when you with your shared office space, I mean, you're very lucky to have I mean, you I'll be honest, when I look at the video, now your office looks like a proper office. I mean, you said to share the bottom of the garden. I mean, I didn't expect to use it. But are you expecting I mean, when you say using the shared office, or using something like a Regis or we work or something like that, or

Alex Clifford  18:31  
we the shared office we had was building called the MVP Enterprise Center, it was a I think originally started off as an incubator there just actually became a very, very nice shared office environment. It met with a lot of things that I wanted to do. So we've done a number of apprenticeships and things like that it was also on the tram line. So you know, we did a lot of kind of sort of younger people when we first started off as well, so that that fitted with us, but it was, yeah, just a nice, comfortable environment where everything was was provided. And it meant that I could leave people in the office as well or have them opening up the office. The difficulty with this place, obviously is in my back garden, they're not having the front door key unfortunately. It's it's it makes that a little bit more difficult. But

Heather Bicknell  19:18  
do you think this fully remote mode will be a sort of a continual thing for you? Or do you see some sort of move back to the office eventually? Or like, you know, hybrid model where people come in for a couple days and go home for a couple days? Or what are your thoughts there?

Alex Clifford  19:36  
Well, that's what we've kind of set up. So I have set this up so that I can have you know, three of the team in here with me at any time, and all socially distance, which is which is quite nice. The the benefit from that then is is that we may go back to an office but I think it'll be more of a large kind of open off office sort of space rather than you know, where you have fixed desks as we used to and everyone had their own set. draws and everything kind of set up, it will be more of that client collaboration kind of posted no workshop session space rather than anything else. I mean, I've tried to do some of that with with the whiteboards there behind me and stuff. Because again, we are doing that virtually at the moment. So, either through Microsoft whiteboarding, and stuff like that, and different tools. But you know, in some ways, it's still not the same.

Ryan Purvis  20:22  
You know, if you think we're moving back to that sort of mobile worker, your backpack in your backpack is everything you need. And you can just work anywhere, you know, any time providing connectivity. To work.

Alex Clifford  20:37  
It is, but I mean, it's like most of my career, I've spent traveling, you know, I wish I'd kind of been able to do some of this remote working and video working and everything else as much as I wouldn't know, so many intimately, so many airports, and lounges and different spaces like that, or spend so much time waiting for planes and through delays, you know, but this is not really that different to it, you know, I used to have to pack into a bag, all of my post it notes, my, my boards, all of the pieces and actually take them out and then run the sessions remotely in client offices. So really, you know, we the only difference is the fact that I can't shake the hand now. Yeah. And then that bit is as worth Well, we do have to look at, you know, sometimes how long we spend in front of the screens. So So creating those, and actually making, you know, work sometimes is stressful. So sometimes making that a bit more fun. You know, as a business, one of the things that we had, which was, you know, this sort of two meetings, we have a meeting in the beginning of the week, which talks about what we've got on that week for people to help out. And we have one on a Friday, which is just called Yeah, it's Friday. And really, the whole process of that is there is nothing negative in that meeting, I do sometimes have to send the note out to get people to start thinking of positive things that have happened in that week for them to bring up in the meeting. But it's just kind of a fun, Mickey Tate way to kind of finish the week off and get everyone into the weekend.

Ryan Purvis  21:55  
That's quite cool. I like that idea. Because we say we do the daily ones. But they get the feeling now that's a bit monotonous. So maybe we'll we'll still use a Friday meeting. And yeah, four o'clock on Friday drinks meeting.

Alex Clifford  22:09  
Yeah, it's a good way to sort of do it, it's, you know, I didn't because I bought a my role, I suppose is making sure that they the team are a facilitator, unable to do the jobs that I need them to do for the revenue and the clients that we want to work with. And part of that is their own kind of sort of, sort of mental attitude and where it is. So that's why we've kind of had the structures that we've had, because that's what works on the team, I'd like to say I've had all those ideas, and I've put them all in, I've just allowed them to do with the bits that I kind of agree with and can benefit with it. It's, you know, a lot of the systems that we use, and the tools and the processes are actually come from from the team and giving them the freedom to set those up.

Heather Bicknell  22:51  
Yeah, I guess we've heard from a lot of our guests that, you know, this whole work life balance and knowing when to shut off. And all of that has been a huge challenge. So I think it's really important to set at that time to focus and reflect on on positive things that have happened, because it's so easy right now to just, you know, keep your nose down and just like work through all of the challenges that all of us are facing, and all the ways that our jobs have changed, and just our normal activities have been have been impacted?

Alex Clifford  23:23  
Yeah, yeah, it is. I think the benefit for me, although we kind of even did it in the office, we had, I've always worked for businesses that have been fairly flexible, time wise, and I'm not really sort of, you know, nobody standing on the door clocking in clocking out, it's, I never worked one place with there, and I I didn't last very long. The the benefit for me is, you know, the guys come and go as they please, you know, one of the team messages this morning, he wasn't gonna be there for our quick morning, catch up car, things were going because he, you know, his wife was on a call, and he had to walk the dog. So you know, and it's a case of having, you know, the sort of the trust and the capability within the team to do that. You know, if they want to start at seven, and finish at three, that's fine by me, I don't mind. So long as we don't have, you know, clients chasing them in different bits. But again, through teams, they're there, they're able to filter that or monitor that on their phone. And if they do need to step back into something they can do. But I do try and make sure that they don't overdo it on that piece as well. It's it's kind of, you know, it's always difficult for me in managing that client expectation. And I think sort of managing clients that don't understand that switch off piece or doing those and trying to sort of protect some of those pieces. And we're only a small team. So sometimes they have clients have the right assets, the people in the team, and sometimes I do have to kind of sort of, you know, ask the team if maybe that is now is the best time to be responding to that or checking on to it but but that's why again, teams is quite nice for us on that I can see those communications and requirements coming through. You know, and the danger is is you end up with you know, we all work 20 hours a day. I'm sure we could all find enough to do and other things, but that wouldn't be good.

Ryan Purvis  25:06  
Yeah, that's that is the trick is that you gotta you got to have boundaries. I think we almost got away from the nine to five factory mindset. Yeah. But if you're doing you know sort of like I take my son for walks seven to 930 in the morning that I love on fly first call and my second goal then it's then it's waiting for them to take him for something else. He gets a good now with a daughter, she's also getting some some time, they get the time for me that they would never get if you're working in the city every day. And then you can work the afternoon but then you Boston was that time that you never have, you're not getting but you've also been productive with your work because you're having mental breaks. And most of the time that mental break is not a screen break, you're going from watching the screen while you do the zoom call to go watching an episode of Netflix while you have lunch, which your brain still sees it as a screen. Yeah, that's not really a break. That's, yeah, it's

Alex Clifford  25:59  
nice to get out of it. I do like that flexibility. I think going forwards the workplaces is going to be very flexible regarding on sort of, you know, even location days of the week, people work, you know, if someone's got to have something done or wants to go, you know, to go out somewhere then and doing it but hours of the day, you know, we don't you know, I've worked with developers and people in the past that that were better an evening. And we just set an environment up and they work through the evening. And particularly with some of the American clients we've worked with that was it was a godsend, because they were able to work at that time zone and different pieces, which just made life easier.

Ryan Purvis  26:33  
I think as Australian business in the sense you no longer I mean, people lead naturally like to work with someone local to them, your geographic geographically located, but they can be timezone integrated in the sense that you can work with any customer plus or minus two hours of your location, it's a because you know, it's all online. And yes, you might do that, when you're allowed to fly into a country depending on where color list you're on. But to do face to face meeting, but to do the to do a virtual meeting first and then engage and do the work. Everyone get used to it, though, is kind of a nice, with best intentions. And other spending, it's been a nice, nice byproduct.

Alex Clifford  27:16  
It is and we're kind of said in some of the projects that we're starting to do that there's been a big shift in some of the work pieces if you like in, you know, in the past, we used to do a lot of sort of customer experience mapping, profiling, turning that into an information architecture, and then starting to match those customer journeys to something that would, you know, reflect their brand and create an online presence that was was enjoyable. The difficulty now is that that a lot of people are a dosing to have jumped into, I just want an online presence. So we do get a lot of requirements at the moment of, you know, well just take a WordPress template and color in, stick my logo on the top, and there's a lot of that happening at the moment. And so they're doing it, for me, I think the big shift is going to come. And this is like the way that lockdown and this current sort of situation we find ourselves in is like change the way our our, our opinion to our use cash to how we use shops to how we interact in the high street to, to how we interact socially with other people. And and really kind of, you know, it's sort of jumped is about five years forwards. And in some of those processes. So you know, like, you know, helping businesses really sort of take that less traditional approach to their business and the way they had to do business to actually learn starting to think about, you know, the bought in them or to be digital disruptors, if you like, and only taking forward the challenges in how their industries work. And that's gonna be really cool. I mean, from from the way that training courses are delivered to the way that mental health support and guidance and even hospital appointments and everything now are delivered. And, you know, a lot of people are finding it the norm now to discuss intimate details over a video camera with a doctor. Now, the fact that we will, in the future be able to do everything from, you know, viewing cars to green getting trained to doing that, regardless of where we are in the marketplace, you know, and that takes away all those bits as you know, brings it back to that location. It doesn't matter where I'm whether I'm you know where I am in the in the world, what day of the week it is I can work what times of the evening that I want to. So, you know, a lot of people can make that flexibility really happen for them.

Ryan Purvis  29:24  
Yeah. Did you ever read the book, The Four Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss?

Alex Clifford  29:28  
No, I haven't

Ryan Purvis  29:31  
read it's on that same premise. How do you how do you set up your life that you only have to work? Okay, the four hours a week is a bit of a misnomer. But but in the chunks that make sense. While you actually are experiencing the things you want to experience. I don't wait to retire and then going to the world. Go to the world now. Did you still set yourself up that you can work anytime, anywhere you want? All that kind of stuff? Is that i think i mean i you know, the last years we've come back to South Africa for me To see family and all the rest of it, and I've worked from there, but it's taken a lot of education of the people I work with to say, it doesn't matter that I'm in South Africa today, and, you know, London tomorrow, and UK tomorrow. You know, I'm still online, I'm still taking me Even I'm still doing phone calls. It's just, it's just geographically different. Yeah, I've

Alex Clifford  30:20  
got a couple of clients that are, you know, running a UK business, but, you know, part of the management team at Digital kind of nomads, if you like, you know, there were recently we were running a collaborative workshop where there's one of the guys was in Bali, one of the guys was in the Swiss Alps. And one guy was in Milton Keynes, I think, or somewhere or Norfolk, somewhere it was it kind of got the short straw, unfortunately. But it doesn't sort of, you know, it doesn't matter, mostly, for me, it's more about that kind of attitude. And, and giving people the tools in the workplace so that they can actually work effectively, without having to hunt it. So they've got the information they need at their fingertips if they like, and they can then collaborate, ask questions and, and evolve as part of a team. But then, you know, just just taking that on to creating something that has that flexibility, I've kind of lost where I was going, really without a commit, but creating that kind of flexibility of, of what they're trying to do the speed now that we can sort of, and we always used to talk about sort of, sort of sort of rapid, rapid prototype development and proof of concepts and stuff, but the speed of what we can do that now, rather than you know, even now waiting for, you know, me to come back and write a brief up to give it to a team and then take arrange a meeting with them and doing it. And just doing that now, in a completely collaborative environment. Some of those bits have just become so much easier.

Ryan Purvis  31:40  
Yeah. Yeah, that friction, you're talking about trying to reduce that friction. That is that is a huge thing about the digital workplace. I think this anecdotally, when when this lockdown kicked in, and there were so many companies that had no was this kind of continuity plan, besides going from one site to another site, we had the same problems. Now they had to go and issue a whole bunch of laptops, they didn't have to just say we're instant, second socially distant second lockdown. I mean, you know, I think for a lot organization that if those first two to four weeks are probably a nightmare, whereas other organizations that have planned this sort of thing, using virtual tools, virtual desktops, and all the rest of it, part of this picked another switch or, or just reduced capacity to increase capacity, reduced load to increase capacity, and repairing working. Yeah. Yeah, it's about that friction. So you're saying the future work. So there's a book that I am going to reread again, it's called the shift. Okay, I'm trying to get hold of the author I read a couple years ago, and you analogy of the person, you know, being in Bali and other person being in wherever she that's how she sort of starts the book is that, you know, you wake up out of bed, but instead of you joining your conference call as you and your pajamas, whoever is joining the meeting, and you having the conversation while you're brushing your teeth, your avatars in a suit and whatever, and you're doing the meeting,

Alex Clifford  33:06  
talking about this with a with a client recently. And again, I suppose part of the issue at the moment is what we've helped a number of clients with, what I can do is lock down videos, if you like, whether they're starting do their own presence and pay their own videos. And in some instances, that's not quite right, we do a lot as a business to a lot of content generation for the clients. Yeah. And one of the bits that we're looking at doing is how we can actually use AI technology to support some of that, know where you can actually have it. And you can very simply now kind of sort of get yourself sort of digitized and say a few words and have a record of and then basically, we can give that avatar a piece of content. Yeah, I think read it almost as though you were at the, you're actually reading yourself and, and give you that content straight back in quite a personal way. The technology just got a little bit to move on in sort of doing it to be really usable. But I think in the right kind of sort of context and gimmicky or a little bit, maybe sort of tongue in cheek way, when there's certain ways that we could use that really quite effectively. And make it really easy to to repurpose content. And again, that's something that we tend to do a lot of so we will create a piece of content for a client. And that piece of content may be a good piece of content on its own. But if you're looking at it from your own industry, your own challenge perspective, sometimes it's still quite hard for you to go read that article or read the whole article, and understand really what you should understand from it. So we do a lot of, I suppose in that same way of translating that. So we will take that article and then reshare that out or promote it to certain people and tell them why it's important to them and what they should get from it or almost in the article where they should get that information. Because, you know, it's the classic case, isn't it? It's if you were sitting across from a client now and they asked you for a case study, you wouldn't just give them a document, which was a case study, you would say here is a case study or a white paper that we've written might not seem completely irrelevant to you and your industry on the first point, but actually, it was important to you for these reasons. Now what we'll have a look at, you know, Section four and paragraph three, then there is actually a process or a similar challenge that we solve for another client. But to give them a 20 page document and hope that they find that paragraph is is just impossible.

Ryan Purvis  35:18  
Have you seen that, from the open AI institution GCP, I think the GCP library, which is a AWS solution, which is an AI engine, that they're basically set up to consume knowledge articles, and then it's wrote its own article, and the people that were reading and couldn't turn the test, we couldn't actually tell the difference between the article written by the robot versus the human one. And basically, all those have been the same thing, you take a whole bunch of your materials, and you ask, and you set it up to write the article, that is the summarized summation of what you're looking for, to give to the customer, which is nice and personalized, and, but it doesn't cost you, you know, too many man hours to deliver that content anymore.

Alex Clifford  36:02  
Okay, sounds really quite interesting. We've we've done a number of things like that in the past. So one of the projects we did last year was was was about sort of keeping data current. And there's always a range of so you give a sales team a whole bunch of PDFs and content to send out. Yeah, it's very difficult to police that process. And to make sure that they aren't still sharing content you gave them a year ago that's sitting on their C drive that, you know, that they're still sharing out, because it seems relevant to them. But you know, it's maybe got to version iterations or has been improved in certain ways. So we actually created a system that held that as almost like a centralized Knowledge Library, but then provided the sales team with a shareable link. So rather than them sharing out a PDF, for example, we lighten the load via email, or if they were sharing it via social channels, have made it simpler for that by just giving them a shareable link. But then everybody that went to that it didn't matter whether you had that link two years ago, or yesterday, you got the most current piece of content that was relevant to it. And there's a lot of that kind of sort of, sort of shift in making sure that people are getting, you know, up to date information. And then I think is also also as well, more auditable trackable, you know, you can actually start to put a funnel metric on top of it, you can start to monitor exactly how people are coming to it and the impact of content, or actually look at where you lead them to it, you know, I do get a poll sometimes, or the amount of people that are still sending out just a PDF, and then hoping that that turns into it, because there's so much more you can do with that technology now, in actually using it to sort of start a journey, or engage a client. And that works really well. Cool.

Ryan Purvis  37:40  
What do you see some some of the challenges for both both technology and sort of business 2020 2020 2021

Alex Clifford  37:49  
challenges across a lot of businesses are going to be scalability and experience, one and sometimes getting them to be as familiar with technology like teams that we are, because a lot of our clients, you know, that isn't their core business. And while we can talk about how great and easy that workspace is, if you throw lots of different tools at them, and different processes, it can become quite difficult. And again, as you mentioned, if you're if I give them access to my version of Microsoft Teams, if that's not what they're familiar in the environment they're familiar with, sometimes it is still a struggle to get them to, to update it, they don't see the updates, they don't have it sort of coming in. So there's still a culture shift in sort of bringing people up to that point. And we're constantly almost training people on how to communicate with us, as much as everything else. The big part of it, then is really, it's kind of looking at, I suppose, really kind of redefining what it is they want from it, and what they want to get to it, a lot of our role still hasn't changed in that process. You know, a lot of what we do still is about actually helping people understand how to best make effect of a digital environment, you know, additional strategy is not a website. Yeah. It's actually how that integrates into their sales channel, how it integrates into their marketing, how their customers interact with that, and how they then use that information of those interactions. And those those success or failure points to actually optimize that environment. Because it doesn't you build it once and then that's it for five years. It's an evolving cycle, it has to grow change and, and adapt to to different customer needs and processes. And customers are all at different parts in the cycle. You know, some people might still be sitting there at the, you know, the research cycle, trying to work it out. But how do you separate those from the people that are actually ready to make a buying decision already for one of your sales people to talk to them? You know, personalization, there's never quite really got there in a lot of the way that that I've understood it in the past through some of the big sort of personalization tools and things like that. But if you do set up sort of lead scoring and lead benefit processes onto clients, it can help you really kind of identify back to you know, because This person has done these five tasks, there's a higher purpose, you know, possibility that they're more interested in, in doing this or the other right point in their knowledge, very knowledge base for us to talk to them about this. And we do, you know, have to be aware that, you know, clients are there. And I think one of the biggest differences that we have as a business, and maybe it's a good thing, maybe it's not, we don't always do what the client tells us. I've yet to find a client that can always brief us perfectly. And I always had that process where, you know, I want a website, how much is it? We don't know, what does it really need to do? How does it need to look? Well, we've got a brand. Now you've got a logo and a, maybe a little bit of a design system? How do we actually create that into an experience? How do we then start to, to put that in and help you your customers identify better with your value in your proposition of what you want to sell them, rather than just the features and functions that unfold? That's the kind of process I do see part of our role as a business in guiding clients on on which bits actually need to be there. I'm a big believer in the the process of, of, sort of, I suppose growth driven design, which is a case of well, we'll work out what the end point needs to be. But we'll keep building it in small stages, and through an analyzing that against an agreed measurement framework, so that, you know, we're not going on this process where we'll build, you know, the world, and then everyone will come to it, we're going to sort of set it out and use interaction successes and different dynamics to actually work out which of the features and functions we build next. And I suppose we need to take that that personal vanity of what we want to do out of some of those pieces,

Ryan Purvis  41:42  
how do you balance that sort of priority versus impact?

Alex Clifford  41:49  
If we tend to sort of with any project is play the futures game so so in the future, what will that mean to me as a business or to my customers, and how would they be able to do something or interact or do something on my business. And once you have that, you can then bet on that back down to a set of features and function sets for your own project delivery. And then it's just a classic process of running through that with a you know, I suppose a Moscow roll or, or, or an effort to cost timescale calculator that you start to prioritize things. And rather than going away, then or doing a three month build, you come back with a with a new build three months, sorry, with a year's build, you come back at three months with, you know, here is the first iteration. Let's now roll these pieces out and grow that learn from it, improve it, take it on to the next stage, and you actually create this evolving cycle rather than sort of boom and bust that happens with a lot of big digital projects.

Ryan Purvis  42:42  
Unless the dream of continuous improvement project or approach as opposed to fire and forget almost,

Alex Clifford  42:49  
yeah, and that's the you know, to use that analogy you've got it is it is about aim and fire rather than fire, then aim. Yeah, and taking that in a control process. And if you can get a client that works well within within an iterative cycle, you can set up, you know, we've done it with, with, with large financial institutions with with a, you know, two week sprint cycles, and building functionality and testing it and challenging it and then taking it out. Most clients will probably work on a four week, Sprint cycle fits nice into for us as a business into a monthly billing cycle and sort of a budget of all processes as well. But it also means that you know, the trick sometimes like with any optimization is not doing everything all at once, because then target to analyze which bit worked. But if you can actually sort of build them out in different stages, or test and challenge different pieces. I suppose it's like a grandiose plan of of a B or multivariate testing.

Heather Bicknell  43:46  
I have sort of a bit of an off the wall question. So if you if you don't, I want to put you on the spot. So if you don't have an answer, we can just cut this out. But I'll say no, no, sir. Move on. No, what I've noticed a few companies going undergoing some major you know, web rebrand is logo rebrand, sort of like refreshing their whole image during this time. So the two that come to mind for me are Intel and Citrix who both just released some new logos and, and a web redesign. So I'm just wondering if that's like a trend that you've seen in your industry as well? Or if you've any idea, you know, why? Why now? Or if it's just a coincidence that I've noticing it on the tech side?

Alex Clifford  44:29  
Um, I think there is a, again, probably goes back to that piece of the value proposition I think this period are in now has changed the way it's changed the longer the beat or challenges that their customers have. And I think they're probably reacting to some of that to either align or associate themselves better with that with them as a solution. You know, in by cider, a lot of businesses that previously didn't need the internet to survive or didn't see the point of the internet's survive because they want their work through through totally You know, on internet related activities, networking, personal relationships, are all now having to jump online because that's the only way they can keep in touch. And, you know, we've got a number of those, they probably fit into that, that area that I mentioned, which is, well, I just, you know, Columbia in a WordPress template or, you know, do something like that, it's, it's a little bit more than that it's, but you know, I suppose as a business, we are more towards the type of customers that are probably second generation website owners. So they're there, they've had a website, it's not work for them, they're growing, you know, we're, we're gonna help them kind of sort of, you know, understand where it went wrong or evolve it to the next level.

Ryan Purvis  45:39  
I think that's been the beauty in some senses, but businesses that have had a tried and tested way of working have had to change. And they've had to cut steps out that friction. Yeah. You look at simple things like like ordering food, how many pubs Have you gone to now, where you can order your food? Why am I don't have an American Oh, no, but this is very nice here in the UK. Yeah, you're rocking up, you've got the menu before you get there, you're putting your order in, as you sit down to the food's just arriving, you know, your drinks are coming when you want them almost because you can order from the aircraft after leg someone down. You know, it's been a it's been technology, for probably, I don't know, 1520 years, or at least at this level, the iPhones been around. But now, we haven't had to do it, because that's the way they survived because they can do takeaways and they can do, they can just allow for people sitting with tables,

Alex Clifford  46:28  
the bit for me is like with a change in the way that we use cash, the way that we network as businesses, the way that we keep in touch with customers, the way that we engage with it, that whole sales process, all of that's going to change, I mean, the high street has been going through through through a massive change for the past five years or more. And, and, and hasn't had the ability to deal with those issues, this now is actually created that that point of change in a very, very short period of time. whereas previously, they were, you know, I don't have any projects on at the moment that are cross platform, offline and online requirements, whereas we want to also have a website and we also want to drive footfall through to our environment, because all of that as just stopped. But, you know, hopefully, once we've all worked out really what that what that value point is really how our business interacts with it, or can interact with it, or work with a good agency or communications company to identify where those targets are, and define that, I think there's a lot of businesses are going to come out of this very, very strong. And that's, you know, that's not just the people that have jumped on the bandwagon selling, you know, hand sanitizer and masks at the moment, you know, these are the businesses that, you know, in the past, we would have taught around digital structures, you know, like Uber and things like that and stuff, but it's, you know, that those are going to happen there, they're going to happen across all the industry, we're going to see lots more of those coming up in the near future, it's going to be, I don't know, really quite exciting, to see how some traditional businesses really do evolve, or get overtaken by some some of the new kids.

Ryan Purvis  48:05  
But it's something that we had, he mentioned that humanity's changed. You know, we've found that because we probably have more time now are rushing to compete until the rest of it, you've got the time that had the conversation, to a storage, etc. And let's be robotic about why we're 25 tasks to get done today. And I've got seven hours to do it in. Plus my commute that's also quite a nice change because, you know, you've got a bit more bit more space.

Alex Clifford  48:37  
And hopefully, you know, we've created an environment you know, certainly for me, my business and the way that we work, you know, credit a bit more family environment created a bit more kind of processor less tied to the office kind of culture, it's you know, we are more, you know, flexible and free even though we're you know, as a business fairly flexible and free anyway, but it's, you know, and hopefully the other businesses will start to embrace that change, you know, people will abuse it people unfortunately always well, but, you know, if we can't trust people, then we're we're kind of stuck really, aren't we? Yeah,

Heather Bicknell  49:12  
exactly. And playing you know, you can play games at the office, you know, nothing about being in person means that people if people are gonna, you know, in my opinion people not not be efficient they can doesn't matter where they are.

Alex Clifford  49:24  
Yeah, it is. We have a whole team's channel just for for not work related stuff. You know, one of the guys had a very dodgy haircut soon recently. So unfortunately now morning teams call he had that screenshot taken and share to the rest of them

Unknown Speaker  49:37  
when he did himself.

Alex Clifford  49:39  
Oh, yeah. No, he did one of the brave the shave kind of things and shaved his whole head. So it was quite good.

Ryan Purvis  49:46  
It's on WhatsApp, but yeah, you got to have it. You got to have a informal channel and an informal channel.

Alex Clifford  49:55  
Yeah, it is. But unfortunately, people like that person on that BBC. Article Don't, don't don't see that part to it they, you know, they take it all the completely the other way and unfortunately use technology for, you know, I suppose, fairly underhanded processes.

Ryan Purvis  50:13  
God, it's funny to chat about it because someone posted it and I do you think there is a use case for monitoring people's devices when you when they work for you, but not for those reasons I think there's valid validity in is the device performing well enough for what that person is doing? Are they using applications that they should be using that go with their job, you know, if you're going to be spending four hours a day in Outlook, and then probably not writing enough code for there should be writing. And you want to pick that up? In the same token, if you've given them a very small underpowered device, you're going to pick them up as well, if they're trying to compile code and like other stuff. But so that's about coming back to results, not not prisons, you know, making sure they can deliver. But but not not for what, you know, was that kind of micromanagement style. Yeah,

Alex Clifford  51:08  
yeah. I mean, when we went into lockdown, and everything else, I got the decision, we actually upgraded a lot of our own hardware. So you know, so the two senior guys in my team have all had, you know, nice, sort of more powerful sort of machines, because, again, you know, there's nothing worse than then having that lag. So they're sitting there or trying to get into it, you know, said things, one of the adverts on the radio at the moment is, you know, the lady that's created a wonderful office in our attic with a Wi Fi doesn't reach out there. You know, it's that kind of kind of, kind of issue. But, you know, having sort of, you know, the technology that's suitable to do the machines, the access to information, keeping that sort of free and available. But we're also working with a client at the moment, that is, I think, identifying who people are talking to, and making sure that those are the rights or the things. So we're we're working with a client that is, is around sort of protection, child protection. So rather than and they're working at it, and quite nicely have come at it from completely different aspect to where anyone can download nannies and parental controls and stuff like that requires the parent to actually know how to do that and have access to the child's computers or phones to be able to do it, which which is which is not easy. They're approaching it from another way where through the schools, and the and the process that the the child will be validated by the school as a child. So therefore, then that information then will be made available to the social platform. So the social platforms to make sure that none of the content that is given to that child is inappropriate. And that then means that the people that really know the real answers are able to make sure that they're providing the right information. And people that should be taking more of a of a control on the sort of content that's available on their platforms are actually hold to task on making sure that they deliver that correctly. You know, and Facebook's had an under age limit for ever since it was launched, but places it nobody

Unknown Speaker  53:09  
lives. Okay. Yeah.

Heather Bicknell  53:15  
I guess Alex is, is there anywhere. You know, people can find you if they want to get in touch or learn more.

Alex Clifford  53:23  
I'm yeah, I'm available on LinkedIn. I think Alex Clifford, I'm in my own LinkedIn URL now.

Heather Bicknell  53:33  
I'm sure if they find me, I you and your agency.

Alex Clifford  53:37  
As a business, we're we're very active on LinkedIn. And we publish a lot of content both under my own profile, but also under our company, larger Digital's profile on doing those, and obviously larger digital code at UK is our website address.

Ryan Purvis  53:50  
Well, thank you again. Once it was it was a great conversation.

Alex Clifford  53:54  
Excellent, super. Thank you for the opportunity to chat to you.

Ryan Purvis  54:00  
Thank you for listening today's episode. Hey, the big news producer, editor. Thank you, Heather. for your hard work on this episode. Please subscribe to the series and rate us on iTunes or the Google Play Store. Follow us on Twitter at the DW w w podcast. The show notes and transcripts will be available on the website www digital workspace that works. Please also visit our website www dot digital workspace that works and subscribe to our newsletter. And lastly, if you found this episode useful, please share with your friends or colleagues.

Transcribed by

Alex CliffordProfile Photo

Alex Clifford

Director Logic - Digital

With over 20 years of agency experience, my client-side experience includes the Public Sector, Telco, FMCG, Retail, Education, Utilities, Finance and Banking, Transport & Logistics working for organisations such as the UK’s Police Forces, Alstom, Thales, Baxi, Enterprise Inns, RBS, Simple, Vodafone, Olympus, McDonald’s, Ed-excel, NEC Europe, London Underground, E.ON, Islamic Bank of Britain, Flair Plc, lLEX, Mills & Boon, OUP, Sport England, VTech, Wolseley and Zurich.