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Exit Interview by Patrick Donegan – Newsletter #4

By: Patrick Donegan

For some time, I’ve been looking for one “source” that curates modern takes on HR Tech, perspectives from the people who build it, and its impact on enterprise — something that’s tailor-made by professionals for decision-makers. 

I never found it — so I decided to build it. 

Every week, I’ll be sharing fresh insights on tech platforms, design, data, and the future of work — straight to your inbox.

My Thoughts

As many of us found on Monday morning, Slack opened 2021 with an outage. 🔦🎊🎁   Following the Google and Zoom outages last year, it’s the latest demonstration of how the new normal is prone to disruption. Especially after the Salesforce deal, all eyes are on Slack to deliver reliable service. As we place more and more of our trust in remote collaboration and workflow tools, a tool’s reputation for uptime will become paramount.

Tech Innovation at Work

In terms of Slack’s longterm outlook, I completely agree with Aaron Levie, CEO and Co-Founder of Boxon the Salesforce acquisition of Slack. Levie writes: “this is massive validation of the modern, best-of-breed enterprise software stack. It creates even more choice in the ecosystem for the future of work… we’re on the verge of another massive wave of adoption and innovation that is going to be fundamentally enabled by the move to the cloud.” 🐖🏆🔮  

We would all probably prefer to forget 202o. That said, it was a stellar year for enterprise M&A. 🔥🤑👌   The top 10 deals totaled $165.2 billion compared to $40 billion in 2019. There were 6 deals at $10 billion and above. In case you weren’t keeping track — here’s a breakdown of the biggest M&A deals of 2020.  

Continuing the year-in-review, here’s an insightful interview with C-level executives from L.L. BeanPatagoniaCotopaxiMinistry of Supply and Arc’teryx on new retail trends going into 2021. ⛷️👟🏊   Outdoor gear retailers have been hit hard by the pandemic, but there’s definitely a desire to return to outdoor activities. With vaccines already rolling out, the sector is likely to recover in 2021. 💪😎🌲   Sustainable and recycled materials, build-to-order, and the integration of smart technologies into outdoor apparel are just a few of the trends to look for this year.

Square co-founder Jim McKelvey has something to say on investment after COVID-19. McKelvey thinks the moment is ripe for innovation, and VCs are looking for something new: “Chaos opens people’s minds. The innovators of the world are living in a golden age right now: People are more open to new ways of doing things now than they will be for the next 50 years.” ⚡🐣   He offers this advice for entrepreneurs: “There are moments in everybody’s life when you will probably run up against the edge of what mankind has figured out. In that moment, every fiber of your being is going to tell you to go back into the herd. And that’s when you have to decide whether you should turn back, or whether you should keep going and innovating.” 🙌🌟  

The Changing Workplace

Great insights from Quip COO Molly Graham on how startups can scale successfully. 💡🤔   The hardest thing about growth is what she calls  “giving away your legos” — scaling quickly requires that everyone “give away their job” every few months. Graham puts it this way: “Adding people is the opportunity to find a new job (or the new version of your old job). But this requires individuals to freely give away parts of or sometimes all of their old job — handing over projects, programs, products, code that they probably built from scratch. It means trusting other people with something you care about.”

Graphic: First Round

When workers return to the office, the collaborative spaces they rely on will also look different. Here’s a niche interview with Beth Goff-McMillan, CEO of SKG Inc, an Austin-based design firm. COVID-19 has enabled the firm to experiment with designing larger, more distance-friendly collaborative work spaces. One idea is creating a free-address office space — a space where no one has a designated area.

In case you missed it, 200+ Google and Alphabet workers are unionizing. ✊⚖️   Getting Alphabet to recognize their efforts will be difficult. Alphabet has historically —allegedly — discouraged efforts to unionize. Here’s the letter in the New York Times from union leaders Paul Koul and Chewy Shaw. They write: “We joined Alphabet because we wanted to build technology that improves the world. Yet time and again, company leaders have put profits ahead of our concerns.”

All About Data

We’ve seen yet another notable development in cloud services and a sign that Amazon is serious about dominating healthcare AI. 🤖💊👩‍⚕️   Amazon Web Services (AWS) recently introduced Amazon HealthLake — a HIPAA compliant healthcare data lake service that will store, transform, and analyze data in the cloud. It’s unclear at this point, but HealthLake will probably integrate with other Amazon tools and Amazon’s growing number of machine learning services.

2020 was a game-changing year for HR.  Organizations relied on HR to transition to remote work amidst a pandemic. 👀👏📈   According to Deloitte’s Human Capital Trends Survey, the proportion of HR executives who are very confident in HR’s ability to navigate future changes doubled last year. Confidence in HR departments has also increased — the proportion of business executives that were “not confident” in HR dropped from 26% in 2019 to 12% in 2020.

In addition to steering organizations successfully through COVID, this is an opportunity for HR to rethink its scope and how it can help make new improvements sustainable. Here are a few factors to consider this coming year: 

Source: The 2021 Deloitte Global Human Capital Trends Survey.

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Patrick Donegan

Managing Director

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