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Carl Lewis: Welcome to the Connected Enterprise Podcast. I’m Carl Lewis, your host from Vision33, and my guest is Justin Silverman from Mitratech. Justin, welcome to the podcast.

Justin Silverman: Thank you, Carl. It's great to be here.

Carl Lewis: Please tell us about Mitratech, what they do, and what you do there.

Justin Silverman: Mitratech's a leading provider of software to automate manual processes. We focus particularly on automating and digitizing in legal, risk, and compliance areas in larger organizations. We help companies protect themselves and their employees efficiently so the company can focus on serving customers, growing, and helping employees succeed.

Justin Silverman: I lead our product management organization as senior vice president. I spent 20 years in enterprise software in strategy and product management roles. The last 10-15 years focused on the legal and insurance software industries. I joined Mitratech seven months ago, so I'm new-ish, but it's been amazing. We focus on driving products forward, finding innovations to add value for our customers, considering partnerships or acquisitions that make sense, and adding more value in how customers work with us.

Carl Lewis: One thing that intrigued me about your experience is that you moved to something new during the pandemic. You seem well-positioned in terms of personal experience to talk about the future of work. How has the pandemic affected how everyone works and communicates? You had to learn about all new people. Can you be with them? Is everything remote? There are so many balls up in the air right now that everybody's experience is different.

Justin Silverman: Mitratech, like most companies, has had to adapt to this new environment. But the primary thing Mitratech has done is leverage a process they already had. It’s been critical for driving the business forward. It's a 15Five concept. On a weekly and then a quarterly basis, every employee chooses their top priorities for the next week. At the end of the week, they look back to determine how they did and prepare priorities for the next week.

Justin Silverman: It's an opportunity for everyone to collaborate and ask, "Are these the critical things?" And then align on them. Then do it again every quarter. Mitratech already used that process, but it’s been extra critical during the pandemic. I’m impressed by how well it works. If you compare the metrics from when I started until now—and even before COVID—there have been productivity improvements in support, resolving tickets, and development velocity. The hard part is not stopping as we potentially move to a hybrid world after COVID.

Carl Lewis:

A larger organization like Mitratech has more than one manager—and not every manager manages the same way. This standard sounds helpful because some managers adapt to change easier than others. When I was a manager, I did a lot of Management by Walking Around. Which isn’t possible in today's world.

Justin Silverman: Absolutely.

Carl Lewis: It’s important to revisit these standards and ask, "Is everybody doing it? Because it'll make us better.” What was it like when you joined Mitratech? People usually go through an orientation and "Here's your spot and your stuff." What about you?

Justin Silverman: Joining Mitratech during COVID was completely different from my experience at my previous company about five years ago. My first six months at that company was going to every office we had and meeting people in person. It was a critical piece of getting to know everybody. But that wasn't possible when I joined Mitratech. One nice thing was less travel time and juggling to get everyone together.

Justin Silverman: But I still wanted to build those relationships. So, I did it informally on Zoom. I got to know people, but not just at the beginning. I set it up on my calendar to be ongoing. It’s been vital with my team—and cross-functionally because, as you said, everyone works differently.

Justin Silverman: It's been effective, but it doesn't replace my experience from five years ago. But in two weeks, we're getting our product management team together on-site for the first time—everyone from across the country. I'm looking forward to it because even though we've done a great job, you can't replace in-person connections.

Carl Lewis: I bet everybody's looking forward to getting together after so long. How was Mitratech positioned for having employees work remotely? What accommodations did they have to make quickly to make everything smooth?

Justin Silverman: It took time to get the technology working. But the real focus has been on supporting our employees—retaining them and bringing in great talent despite the change in environment. One big focus is flexibility. There’s an upside to letting people work where, how, and when they want, if it works within the organization.

Justin Silverman: For example, we have many colleagues in Asia, so some US employees start their days at 5:00 am or 6:00 am to get overlapping hours with the Asian teams. But they don’t have to start then and work straight through. I have people who love cycling, so they ride from 10:00 am to noon when it's sunny. And that's great. It's what you get done and your impact that’s important—not where and when you do it.

Justin Silverman: Mitratech is based in Austin, Texas. I'm based in Denver, Colorado. This is the perfect role for me, but it would've been challenging for my family to relocate. The opportunity to do this from Colorado has been amazing. The second piece of making everything work is helping people find balance. Career is important, but delivering a company mission doesn't happen overnight. So, the more we can do to retain talent, the better.

Justin Silverman: We’ve added wellness days, which is extra PTO, and as many people as possible take the same days off and disconnect. We have “no meeting” days so people can get away from Zoom. And we've been expanding our recruiting. To recruit across the globe when we’re used to focusing on everyone being in the office has been an experience. Those are a few examples of how we’ve changed during the pandemic. I think we’ve done a great job of benefiting from them and working with our employees to make them successful.

Carl Lewis: You mentioned several vital things. My company’s job listings say, "You can work for us from anywhere." But before the pandemic, hiring people from all over the globe wasn't top of mind. But we figured out people can be productive no matter where they are. Not everybody's work lends itself to that global perspective, but ours does. And retention. So many people are leaving their jobs, and it seems more competitive than ever to get qualified people.

Carl Lewis: Justin, did Mitratech have to deploy technology for employees to work together? Did you have enough Zoom licenses, that kind of thing? You mentioned it was a scramble at first. What were the early adjustments?

Justin Silverman: It was a combination of technology we had to implement and some process automation. We talked about my onboarding. Making onboarding a digital experience is something Mitratech had to do. I imagine other companies did as well. Often, we could bring our own technology to bear and improve our capabilities with Zoom, Teams, etc.

Justin Silverman: The tools we build for our customers have been critical for accomplishing that. But so much of what we provide for our customers is around that automation/collaboration process. For example, a workflow solution called TAP. It's a tool to drive and automate workflows, forms, and analytics and understand what's going on across your business. Several customers use TAP to drive the COVID vaccination requirements the US government is mandating. They collect information from their employees about their vaccination status and documentation around that their employees can attest and sign to the regulations/rules the company's putting in place. They’ve been able to work quickly, as the rules have changed frequently. 

Justin Silverman: Another example is related to onboarding. Mitratech has a solution that helps from an HR compliance perspective. It's called Tracker I-9. When a new employee joins a company in the US, they must sign an I-9 form and provide ID to prove they’re who they say they are. It used to be that within the first two or three days of employment, someone in HR had to physically see that documentation. COVID made that impossible, so Tracker I-9 digitizes the process. The employee uploads their document, and HR reviews it virtually. It’s been a critical enabler of the remote onboarding experience.

Justin Silverman: Those are two examples of Mitratech's and our customers' experiences and how our customers have used these tools to succeed in this environment.

Carl Lewis: It's great that you’ve been able to use your internal skills and your business focus to address these situations. You mentioned Mitratech has allowed some flexibility for employees. How does that compare to your job five years ago?

Justin Silverman: One, it's evolved from meeting people in person to building relationships and driving alignment in other ways. And I also liked Management by Walking Around, so that was tough to lose. Now I ask, "How do I make sure my teams are aligned with each other and with our cross-functional colleagues? Are we driving to the same objectives?” That's been the change: How to meet objectives with a different approach.

Justin Silverman: It’s a structure around sharing priorities as a team, getting together cross-functionally, and driving those priorities in a documented way. Because the company won’t be as effective if you aren't aligned. So, maintaining alignment and priorities without Management by Walking Around is my focus.

Carl Lewis: I enjoyed having coffee with people in the break room. Just 10-15 minutes enjoying the coffee and the conversation. So recently, I've been setting coffee appointments—to get as close as I can to what we used to do in the break room. Because it matters. I feel like something’s missing when my only exposure to people is in Zoom meetings with agendas. Everybody needs non-agenda interactions.

Justin Silverman: I agree. We've done happy hours that way. We do fun facts as a team to get to know each other. We discuss what we did during the weekends, so we know what people do outside of work. We also think it’s critical to recognize the great work people are doing. We don't want it to get lost. Those are big pieces of building relationships and driving the business forward.

Carl Lewis: Justin, what's the future? What will the workplace and our experiences be like? You said hybrid. What does that mean?

Justin Silverman: I wish I knew the answer, Carl! Mitratech is envisioning a hybrid model, but there are a lot of questions about what that means. What does it mean from an office space perspective? When will people come in? How much room do we need for them? What does it mean from a technology perspective? How do we create environments where remote people are on the same footing as in-person people? What does that mean from a recruiting/hiring perspective? Where should we be looking for talent? That’s what we're working through.

Justin Silverman: Later this week, we have our first in-person board of directors meeting. It will be hybrid—some on-site, some remote. We're asking: How do we make people feel equal? What's the technology set up and where? 

Carl Lewis: It’s fascinating that we're watching even the US president have virtual conferences. There are trials with virtual testimonies. It’s everywhere. Many companies were surprised by the pandemic and not totally prepared, but others were more prepared because they were doing business in the cloud, making it easy to transition. Is Mitratech better prepared for whatever challenge comes next?

Justin Silverman: I think so. It's in Mitratech's DNA as a company that helps organizations manage risk and compliance. It’s our nature to be ready for things. That's why we're adapting well and making sure we have the framework to work through these situations—although hopefully we don't run into them!

Carl Lewis: I lost a good friend a few weeks ago. He used to say, "There's no good or bad news—there's just news. And what you’re going to do about it." It sounds like Mitratech can act no matter what happens. Justin, thank you for joining me today. People should hear about others’ experiences because those who are struggling need to know they’re not alone. Nobody has all the answers, but collectively there are a lot of answers out there.

Justin Silverman: I enjoyed our time together, Carl. Thank you.

Carl Lewis: Absolutely. And everyone else out there, until next time, stay connected.