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Prudential Financial's push beyond productivity to outcome-based work - a Workfront use case

Jon Reed Profile picture for user jreed October 9, 2020
Getting your workforce as productive and safe as possible is a good thing. But how do we go beyond reacting to a more strategic approach to work? That was a big topic at Workfront's recent analyst day, where Prudential Financial's Kevin Brucato shared his team's story.

Prudential Financial's Kevin Brucato
(Prudential Financial's Kevin Brucato talks shop)

The pandemic economy forced us into new ways of working. From the remote work push to the enormous challenges of phased re-openings, we've had to juggle. From keeping essential workers safer to keeping work-at-home parents sane, there's been no shortage of workplace adversity.

Even those of us fortunate to have work right now are faced with the question: are we working effectively? How do we measure the success of our dispersed teams? How do we thoughtfully intervene when issues emerge? Most workplaces have automated manual tasks that the pandemic disrupted, but that was automation-by-necessity. The collaboration platforms we now rely on generate a load of useful data - or is it just digital exhaust?

At Workfront's recent analyst day, Workfront leadership presented a framework for such questions - an automation maturity model. My colleague Phil Wainewright analyzed the model in Workfront outlines its maturity model for automating work. Another big piece in Workfront's approach? Shifting from task productivity to outcomes - a topic I covered after Workfront Leap 2020 (Productivity is too narrow - we need outcomes. The future of work, according to Workfront).

Prudential Financial - create your work transformation story

Maturity models? Useful. Outcomes? We all want those - as long as they're good ones. But these concepts must pass the pandemic economy relevance test. At the Workfront analyst day, we had the chance to hear the story of Workfront customer Prudential Financial, and hear how these ideas apply. As Kevin Brucato, Vice President, Creative Operations at Prudential Financial told us, Prudential's work transformation was well underway before the pandemic hit. The focus?

Prudential's transformation, which was also informally known as future of work, is really about simplifying and changing the way we work, how we position the business for growth - reducing operating costs and making the right strategic investments for technology, processes and talent.

Each department within Prudential was asked to create their own change agenda, to align with the broader goals. For Brucato, that means setting the tone for Prudential's global communications:

To make that vision a reality, all parts and groups within the company were asked to basically create their own transformation story that looks out three to five years, and aligns with the guiding principles they set forth.

Brucato finds the "outcomes" approach relevant:

It's really about moving to a new model that organizes an expanded set of capabilities around outcomes, and why that's so important. We believe that an outcome-based model actually provides us the potential for the greatest business impact and strategic value, and will ultimately get us to our full potential.

But let's not sugarcoat it - that's a goal you work for. It doesn't land in your lap. As Brucato told us, you must break out of departmental silos, into an "ecosystem" mindset.

We're moving away from where we are today, which is that very siloed departmental hierarchical organization that was strictly output-based. And we're moving to one that's more agile, built on fungible resources - more horizontal and powered by project teams, or we like to refer to them, as ninja teams.

From project tracking to workforce planning - how do you judge a win?

One crucial job: figuring out the right metrics. Start by tying work metrics to projects:

In the beginning, when we started thinking about work, it actually wasn't that long ago, and we were more or less flying blind. The questions we were asking were really about: what are the projects we were doing? What is important to us? And then what kind of metrics can we get around the projects we're doing? As we evolved, and we got a little bit smarter, the tools evolve with us.

Brucato pointed out that metrics must evolve. They must incorporate the challenges real people face. Now you're into workforce planning:

How busy are [your people]? Do they have the capacity to take on more work, or maybe they're overtaxed. Maybe we should reprioritize the work so they can actually take on less. So that brought on all these new metrics and insights around resource and capacity planning, and helped us with things like demand management and prioritization of the work. So the evolution continued.

But there's another problem: even if you complete a project on time, does it have any strategic value? As Brucato put it, their team kept learning, and Workfront's tools evolved as well. They identified another gap in their approach:

We were thinking, "There's really a gap in the system." We could plan for the project; it could be executed flawlessly, and many might score it a success. But did it move the needle on delivering a key strategic objective for the company? And if it didn't, can we really say that it was a win, even though it was on time, and executed flawlessly?

Brucato anticipates that Workfront's new Align product, which brings enterprise goals to the individual work level, will help them get there.

The new organization design connects, like we were hearing earlier, from business strategy to work execution. More importantly, to be able to measure it and report on it in real-time, right? So that's why I'm super excited for the Workfront Align product, because it's going to help us to answer four key questions that we like to ask:

  • What is the problem we are trying to solve?
  • What is the desired outcome we're trying to achieve?
  • Was the work a success or a failure?
  • And probably the most important thing to us is what did we learn?

So, that brings us to where we are today.

If work-by-silo is the undesirable state, what is Brucato's preferred result? He calls it ecosystem management. What is that? It might sound fancy, but it's really just an acknowledgment that "We are just a key stakeholder in a much larger universe." The subject matter expertise your team might need for a pending project could be outside your group, or even outside the company itself. And you need a way to pull them into the work you are tracking. That's a big priority for Brucato's team now:

I want to get back to the concept of ecosystem management, because it's so important to me. It's actually what I think of as the neural network of our organization. So as a capability in the outcome-driven model, we're building out a prototype around this concept called ecosystem management, with the intent that it actually gets used more broadly across the company.

The wrap - work tools must play nice with others

There's a catch here: productivity is a multi-tool, multi-vendor game. Workfront can only live up to its outcome-based aspirations if it plays nice with others across a given workflow. So how does that work out for Brucato? He cited onboarding as an example, where Workfront's external integrations (via Workfront Fusion) factor in:

Probably the best use case for us is onboarding. If you think about the onboarding process, we will try to create a white-glove treatment, where user users coming into the organization have a great first day and a great experience. So we use Workfront to manage all the tasks in our department to do the onboarding, which could be upwards of 80 different tasks.

But now with Fusion, we could actually connect into a tool like Workday that our talent organization uses to source talent, recruit talent, scheduling the interviews. So now think about marrying the two pieces of information so that we know where we are with the onboarding process. When new hires are coming; when they're going to start their first day.

It doesn't stop there:

Then we can coordinate with a tool like ServiceNow, that we use for all of our IT procurement of equipment and hardware and provisioning of access, so that when they start their first day, new hires can be effective. How much better can that make an organization?

Office 365 integration fits in here:

We're an Office 365 shop, so a lot of folks work in PowerPoint and Word, and they started files in SharePoint. But again, it's not a big deal, because on the back end, Fusion allows us to automate a lot of the back end stuff, and then we move the information. And we could also move the assets to where we need them. And then we can actually report on them again. So one, one source of truth.

Con't force users to use new tools if the existing ones get the job done.

This allows our users against the stay in those environments they're comfortable in, but then actually pull the data and move the conversation or the information into one source of truth.

So like I said earlier, the ecosystem has many, many, many moving parts. But that's why having an operational system of record is really needed. So we can actually track everything that's happening across the organization.

I look forward to hearing about Prudential Financial's progress - this is a different type of productivity conversation.

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