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How to use data to plan your future organization

Join our guests from Prudential and International Game Technology as they share how they harness data to lead the future of work in their organizations.

The disruption we’ve experienced in 2020 is unprecedented. The global pandemic has left many organizations in a state of disarray as they find themselves having to adapt faster than ever to meet shifting market dynamics. Entire business models have transformed almost overnight. New, remote and socially distanced ways of working have quickly become the norm. And what was already ineffective and inefficient in the organization is only magnified in these challenging times. This is the time for HR and OD to step up to the plate. Business leaders are looking to you for guidance on what the future of work should be.

Join us in this session as we explore how to use data to: make your organization more agile, lead the necessary discussions across the business and help make decisions with complete confidence on what’s next. 

  • Shradha Prakash, VP Future of Work and Org Design, Prudential  
  • Noelle Maine, Senior Director Organization Planning & Analysis, International Game Technology 
  • Rupert Morrison, CEO, Orgvue and author of Data-Driven Organization Design  
  • Moderated by Ken Ferguson, CRO, Orgvue


Event host: With us now is the Orgvue team and some of their clients to share their experiences as we are rethink org design and the use of analytics. I want to first introduce Rupert Morrison, the pioneer behind Orgvue. Rupert is an economist, industry leader and visionary in data-driven organization management.

In 2008, Rupert founded Concentra Analytics, leading a merger of management consultants from A.T. Kearney with technology firm, Concentra. As CEO, he has steered the company to become one of the fastest growing technology companies in the UK, with a rapidly expanding presence in North America and emerging in Asia Pacific. And I can attest to that because I hear pop up pilots in different parts of the organizations I hear about. Rupert and his team have won numerous accolades, including Gartner’s Cool Vendor in the human capital software space in 2017.

Ken Ferguson will be acting as our moderator for this panel today. Ken has spent 20 years in the enterprise SaaS software market building high-performing teams. He is the chief revenue officer at Orgvue, responsible for the global field sales, marketing partnerships, customer success and the revenue operations teams. Prior to joining Orgvue, Ken lead the global sales organization as Visier and at Workday. Outside of work, Ken is an accomplished musician. So, welcome, Ken and Rupert, and I will have you introduce the rest of the panel.

Ken Ferguson: Thank you for the introduction. For all of you out there, really excited for this conversation today and hope you’re having a great conference so far. Our topic today is how to use data to plan your future organization. And we have two of our esteemed clients here today, Shradha Prakash from Prudential and Noelle Maine from IGT. Super excited for this dialog, so we’ll jump right in. Noelle, why don’t you introduce yourself, your organization and maybe give us some of your key priorities for 2021.

Noelle Maine: Sure, my name is Noelle Maine. I’m the senior director of organizational planning and analysis for International Game Technology. IGT is a global gaming company and a leader in its field. Essentially, we deliver software and technology platforms for the lottery and gaming markets. If you have played a Powerball or Mega Millions ticket, it most likely has been from our company; or if you’ve walked into a casino and played a slot machine, that’s most likely one of our machines as well.

We have around 11,000 employees globally and are both a manufacturing and a technology company. One thing to know about me is I’ve not been brought up in an HR environment. I’ve been with the company about 23 years and for 22 of those years I’ve been in a financial planning and analysis function either through a business segment or within the corporate financial planning organization. So, I’m very much a data-driven individual, analytical individual, which made it a much smoother transition into OP&A (organizational planning and analysis), which is a newly designed function within IGT. It’s only been in the company maybe two to three years.

Ken Ferguson: That’s great, Noelle. Really glad you could join us today. Shradha, why don’t you introduce yourself as well.

Shradha Prakash: Hi everybody, very thankful to be a part of this panel. My name is Shradha Prakash and I lead the future of work organization design, as well as talent enablement practice, at Prudential. Prudential is a very robust and legacy insurance company and we’re moving towards understanding what exactly the future of this organization would look like.

I lead the practice, which is fairly new for Prudential, and we’re trying to understand how to create an organization that is dynamic, fluid and self-sustaining and that’s not dependent on processes, structures and reporting hierarchies, but more on the work outcome that we’re trying to achieve. What are the capabilities that we’re building in the organization and how can we break down silos to collaborate better and achieve our business outcomes.

As for Prudential’s priorities for 2021, we’ve been building a very robust approach and framework around how we actually do this, and we’ve done some really successful pilots to explore how we should be thinking about the future and about the organization in terms of work outcomes and capabilities. The remit this year is to work out how we scale up. How do we ensure that our leaders understand this language and are able to translate to into the work they do on a daily basis.

Ken Ferguson: So Shradha, given your remit, can you tell us a more about how Prudential is tackling future of work and how data is enabling those initiatives?

Shradha Prakash: So, the most important thing in how we look at the future of work at Prudential is the work itself. It’s really important to understand that what exactly the work is and it’s changing. And in order to get that, we tie it back to data insights because everything that’s changing can be tied back to data we already have in the organization. So, we can relate back to how activities and tasks are changing. So, it’s extremely important for us to understand this, so we can identify capabilities we’re trying to build in the future. And not just a technology capability or the capability of the person or process; it’s the confluence of all these things that builds an organizational capability.

If I talk about, say, the omnichannel experience for our customers, that’s not driven just by technology platforms or by changing a process or just upskilling our people. It has to be all of these together, so we need to understand how our work is changing in order to cater to that capability. And we do that by understanding what the tasks and activities are that we do today.

Secondly, in order to do new work, what are the skills I need in my organization? How should people e do that work differently? Because if the work has changed, I need new skills and talent in order to get that work done. So, what are the skills requirements to make the people who are doing this work successful? What investment do I need to put in to upscale those people?

So, it’s an ecosystem that relates to how the work and skills are changing. Now with the pandemic, the location, strategy and how I’m getting the talent from different locations, that becomes super pertinent. For all of these elements – work, skills, location, diversity mix – that are becoming so important, we need to have very robust insights. And the data is already there in the organization; it’s just that we need to look at the data in a different way and draw the right insights from it.

And the last thing I would highlight here is that sometimes we have a tendency in the organization to over index on some things. If we’re only looking at how to upskill and reskill people but don’t know how the work itself is changing, things fizzle out very quickly because we don’t know how to use those new skills to achieve a certain outcome.

So, we need to think about changing work, changing skills, changing dimensions of the organization, bring it all together through robust data insights and make meaningful decisions in a way that is self-sustaining. Gone are the days where a consulting firm will come in, do the org design for a year and then the rest of the organization upholds that design for the next three to five years until we get into the stress and start the process again.

Right now, the pace of change is so fast, we want this org design to be dynamic and ever-changing to be able to cater to business needs. And that is what is the most important thing right now; how do we get that data insight regularly and then how do we tweak our organization, so we’re able to produce business outcomes.

Ken Ferguson: Noelle or Rupert, any thoughts on some of Shradha’s comments? I thought that was a very good view of the organizational future of work, but any other thoughts from the rest of the panel?

Rupert Morrison: Just one thing to pick up on that Shradha was talking about. We need to understand each of the different lenses of organization design, it’s not just a focus on structure. You mentioned work and activities and connecting skills, so we can execute the strategy. The other thing is doing this on a continuous basis; you need the data there on hand the whole time, so you can continually adapt to change and to your strategic imperatives, as opposed to it all being in PowerPoint and Excel and each time it’s a Herculean task to build a baseline build and get it out there.

I think a lot of what we look for in the work is not only where people spend their time but also do they enjoy the work they’re doing. So, it’s not just understanding the proportion of time that people spend on the work, the cost of the work and how fragmented the work is, but also is it motivating? So, it’s not just about whether the right people are doing the right work and in the right location, but are they enjoying the work they’re doing and are they best suited for that. So, I’m wondering if you’ve started to explore some of those concepts, Shradha, of bringing qualitative as well as quantitative data into the discussion.

Shradha Prakash: I think that’s a fantastic question, Rupert, and I think that’s most important part – is the work meaningful for us? It’s good that it creates business value but is it meaningful for a person to do that work. If it’s motivating enough, they’ll create more and more, and it will infuse innovation and creativity in the organization itself. So, I think it’s a great point. I think this is a part of inclusive organization design and that’s definitely a next step for us. We haven’t delved deeply into it yet, but we’re interested in how we create a design that is inclusive of different motivations as well as diversity in a true sense. It’s not just diversity of ethnicity, gender and age, but also diversity of ideas. How do we create an organization design that brings the best out of all the diversity we have? But that’s a great point Rupert, thank you for brining that up.

Ken Ferguson: So, it’s interesting, as we talk about proper organizational design and how the future of work impacts that. Taking some of what was just spoken about around that lens on people and the work, Noelle, you can bring a very interesting view to this with your background being in financial planning and analysis world. It’s such an important dynamic between Finance and HR. Can you tell us more about how this is playing out at IGT as you put the financial lens and the OP&A lens on your organization and the challenges you have?

Noelle Maine: Sure. To reiterate some of what Shradha mentioned, given that Finance aligns to the strategy of the organization, so must the organizational planning side of it and we must look at each aspect of that. With our headcount, our labor cost and our skill set, we make sure we’re aligning to strategy. So, we’re starting to try to look if we are learning and working towards having new law contracts and growth opportunities, how are we looking to achieve that? If we’re looking at a new technology, do we need to build the technology capability or do we buy that capability?

As an organization, we have multiple initiatives at this point in time but one of the key things is having a strong focus on analytics. We’re typically a very transactional-based business, but it has become much more analytical and has risen to the top executive team this past year. And the critical point was COVID.

COVID started hitting our Italy markets before it hit the US and as we saw casinos being shut down, we needed to take some action to mitigate the significant cash flow disruption. So, when most of the US shut down in mid-March, Italy was already working remotely. Come April 1st, our organization was having to cut costs significantly. So, how do you do that? From an HR perspective, what is the key point that you need to handle that? Obviously, you want to align your cost savings with where you’re seeing revenue decline. And as casinos were being shut down, so was the operational component, and that’s really where we started focusing our efforts.

What was revolutionary for IGT with regard to this was cross collaboration. This wasn’t just an HR initiative. I was working with Finance to make sure that initiatives that were communicated by executive management to do with key cost savings were being reflected in our people systems. So, it became a cross collaboration between IT, finance, legal and HR on how we were going to move forward with that type of action. And we had to incorporate into our data system key components that would enable us to report to the executive team, including fields that would show how many people were furloughed, what countries they were in, what was the job functionality, salary reductions etc.

We used Orgvue to be able to communicate that on a daily basis through various visualizations and not just from a headcount perspective but also the associated labor cost. So, data analysis became exceptionally critical during that COVID time to be able to communicate and make sure that, as we saw revenue decline in certain areas, we were taking action in the right areas.

And we worked through that in different ways, and as casinos have started to open, we now focus on particular jurisdictions and field operations to support the growth of that revenue. And we’ve been working with our customers as they deploy new games and products. So that becomes another point for data analysis.

At the same time, we underwent a massive organizational transformation, redesigning our organization from a regional perspective to a product line perspective and moving 11,000 employees to various product lines. We worked with managers to make sure we were moving lottery and gaming employees to the right locations, which was a massive effort.

One of the key learnings from this future of work focus has been the breakdown of silos. This really became a collaborative effort between different organizations to make sure we were all achieving the same goal. And we got great reporting out of Orgvue and it became a tool away from Excel that allowed us to work with our managers directly, to sync up and make sure we had the proper organization for the company.

So, organizational transformation was another critical component of understanding the whole financial planning process and what the downstream impact was of moving people to the financials and performance.

And for the future of work in 2021, one of the key things we’ll be working on is position management, working with finance to identify what the positions are that we need to be hiring for and what the budget is for those. Now, what’s important is making sure that those budgeted positions done by finance align with other company initiatives.

As an example, we’re looking at our real estate footprint now. It may not make sense to hire people in certain locations any longer, we may not need to do that. Those people could be almost anywhere now if their position is flexible. So, we may not have to go to a high- cost location, we could go to a low-cost location because it doesn’t matter where they are.

Ken Ferguson: So, it sounds like your data analysis and looking at data through a different lens at IGT is having some impact.

Noelle Maine: Significant impact. And I would say the most critical component was the data integrity. We had a massive acquisition, which doubled the size of our company, so we’ve been in the process for a couple of years of merging our data to get it to be consistent across both the organizations. And we’re finally at that point of having a strong system in place and the data is critical, because your foundation for your results is based on the data.

Ken Ferguson: Rupert, this might be a good place for you to jump in. We’re talking a lot about data here. How critical in your experience is the role of data and proper organizational design and planning? Where should organizations start when building their business case? Where should they start with looking at data and trying to see where that quick win might be?

Rupert Morrison: So, I think to answer the first question, how critical is data, I couldn’t do better job than Noelle and Shradha in presenting that. It’s fundamental to your plan. A lot of analytics and a lot of data is used to drive backward-looking insight, but what we’re really talking about here is future-focused and that modeling and the ability to do what-ifs and what we’ve discovered with COVID is that we need to do this continuously and at pace. And I think what Noelle and Shradha have been talking about shows that.

And to the business case, how can you execute your strategy if you don’t have the right organization? And how you get the right organization is through ‘holistic design’, understanding each of the components of the organization. So, you need the data in place; there has to be a core capability that you own and don’t outsource to management consultants. It’s your core responsibility to own and drive.

Then the question is, how do you do it once you’ve solved the why? And you need to be robust in defining the different data sets that are required. So, there are a range of data sets, such as people data, and that’s where we would start, Ken, getting your people data right, so you’ve got a baseline. And if you don’t have the data, then there are ways of crowdsourcing it, cleaning it visually and putting in master data management using proper look ups to sort that.

Then you go from your people data to your position and role data, which is what Noelle’s talked about. Because your position data is your to-be organization design. And those are born out of roles, because for every role there might be one or many positions that people then occupy. And often the basic mistake that organizations make is they get confused between people and the positions they sit in, how those positions change over time and how those people change over time. Those are different processes you have to manage; positions get budgeted and controlled, and there’s a basic workflow around that.

Then the next stage is understanding the work, the activities that people do. So, you’re building activity taxonomies and understanding where employees spend their time, what should they be doing and what’s the gap? And that’s a dynamic process. So, start with people, then move to position and roles, then to activities and competencies or skills.

I think what happens too often with analytics is it’s a bit passive and backward looking. Looking at a dashboard is not the kind of analytics that we’re talking about here. It’s not what-now analytics, what’s happened, let’s look back. We’re talking about what-if analytics, the forward-looking piece that you can use to change your future. And probably my last point to make is organization design moves and morphs into organizational planning, workforce planning, then monitoring that, so you achieve what you need to achieve?

Ken Ferguson: That’s great color, Rupert, and to your point, having a place to start is super important. There might be some folks listening that are trying to decide where to start and how they approach this. Maybe one last question before we take some of the questions in the chat. Shradha or Noelle, where did you start on your data journey and how did you overcome any hurdles along the way? Do you have any stories when you started down this journey from a data perspective?

Shradha Prakash: I’d say that our data journey has been fascinating being at such a large organization We moved to an understanding of people and positions fairly recently, which is a big deal. I think it’s a distinction that we should all make sooner. And I’m glad that we’re on a path where our data is stored to distinguish between a position and a person. So, we’re building that muscle and business leaders understand, “oh, this is just a position and now I need to think about the person who sits in that position”; and knowing that both the position and the person will change over time but not necessarily at the same time.

The other insight I would say we’ve had is keeping data clean, having the data integrity that you were talking about Noelle, that is extremely important. If we’re drawing insights from data but the data is not clean to start with, then everything falls flat.

So, having that discipline in the organization to keep data clean and up to date, so it can be used at any time for any insight without having to worry about its validity, that itself is a big thing and we are working towards that.

Rupert Morrison: Shradha, I’m just going to add that by using the data and visualizing it, that also keeps it clean because it drives the processes to keep it clean. If you can quantify the quality of the data, then you’ve got a metric against which you can improve it. So, with the integrity of your hierarchical data, for instance, knowing how many orphans or orphan groups there are is a measure that you can use to quantify data cleanliness and then track it. And if the data is critical for your decision making, the whole thing becomes a virtuous circle.

Shradha Prakash: One last thing we’re trying to do is create org wellness metrics. We talk so much about people’s performance, the potential of people and people skills, but we don’t talk enough about how the work is changing and what the organizational metrics are to quantify that work to your point, Rupert.

So, we present a high-level dashboard to our business leaders to ask, “What are the orphans in your organization? How many player coaches are in the organization? Do managers have the right span of control? Do they have too much depth in the organization? Do we have too many managers?” and things like that. This gives them a visual cue to say, “is my organization doing well enough by these measures and what do I need to tweak to make it better?”

Noelle Maine: I completely agree with what you were saying, Shradha. For us, our organizational effectiveness team is maybe two to three years old, and we’ve now made it a center of excellence within our organization. We started with the backwards analysis and we raised it with the executive management to show them what we’re seeing. And now we’re starting to provide good quality assessments to our management team. when we’re at high cost to low cost, it’s not just a matter of looking at the location but at the skills as well. We’re also trying to change the cultural component, because much of what we talk about is a new language for our organization.

So, we’re really trying to bring home some of these concepts by presenting key components and analysis that we haven’t done before. And executive management starting to ask more questions, which provides a basis for the conversation to open up and hone in on the analytics that can drive our business forward. So, this is a path of migration for us, but we’re beginning to see what we can bring to the company from a strategic standpoint.

Ken Ferguson: Another question you just hit on, Noelle, with regard to changing org designs, how do you handle challenges by senior leaders resisting changes that they perceive as reducing their importance or the power of their silo?

Noelle Maine: From my perspective, it’s really about bringing value. It’s change management theory, so you need to get them on the same page and show what would provide value to them in order to start changing their mindset? What are some of their key initiatives that they’re trying to drive and bring resolution to them? Many times people are trying to feed information on their own agenda. You need to get on their agenda and understand what they’re trying to achieve and then start opening up the conversation is my personal opinion.

Shradha Prakash: I totally agree that having a common ground is important to break the silo. And that common ground could be how we are serving the customer or how we are creating the common value or what is the work outcome that we need to create? If we don’t have a common ground to solve for, it will always be very comfortable to stay in our own silos and create efficiencies.

So, as a leader, we need to figure out what that common ground is and how we can collectively create better value for the organization. And once we have that clarity, that starts to break silos and this feeds into the next question on how you create traditional versus strategic workforce planning? So, traditional or workforce planning is more static, while strategic workforce planning is about how we create future value and how we plan for the organization?

Ken Ferguson: That’s fantastic. I want to thank Shradha and Noelle for your time, just great insights. You’re both tremendous clients of ours and we value your thought leadership today. Anything you’d like to add, Rupert?

Rupert Morrison: Just a big thank you. And just on the last question about politics, if you focus on structure, that’s very political. If you focus on the work and the activities, it takes the politics away. And that’s when Shradha was talking about common ground. So, normally you organize the activities into value chains and then all of a sudden you’re talking about clients or customers or users or whatever the value chain is, and that transforms the conversation. So, that would be my last little thought. A big thank you, Noelle, Shradha. I really appreciate your input, and thank you, Ken.