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Journey of a Workplace App: A Q&A with Tim Cook, Goldman Sachs VP of Corporate Workplace Solutions

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Goldman Sachs first launched its mobile workplace app, Canopy, in 2019. In 2020 the firm rapidly adapted and redesigned the experience putting employee safety first with the advent of COVID. Today Canopy provides a unified, localized experience for its global workforce across 75 locations.

Goldman Sachs VP Tim Cook gave us the gift of his insights along the journey of their app:

  • Define goals and start with a framework of guiding principles
  • Architect the app to prioritize employee enablement and productivity — with Modo’s flexible platform at the base and Goldman Sachs’ institutional knowledge focused on features
  • Design it to give every employee a local experience of global systems and processes
  • Plan for a phased launch, starting small, gathering input, iterating, and expanding wide
  • When faced with the unexpected, enlist stakeholders and pivot; making the app a mission critical tool in ensuring new protocols were met
  • Continue to expand features, driving more users to the app, more often          

Watch the webinar 

Tim also let us dive deeper with some questions.

Screen from the London location.

Q. What drove this project and the urgency for a workplace app at Goldman Sachs? 

A. A fundamental piece of Goldman Sachs’ culture is trying to think ahead to what’s around the corner. How do we create a positive experience for our employees and our clients? The launch of two new buildings in Bengaluru and London gave us a great opportunity to provide an experience that would allow the employees there to engage with the buildings. The urgency piece really came with COVID when Canopy, our mobile app, was already in place. At that point it had a personalized experience in Bengaluru, in London and provided a good foundation around which we could pivot.

Under COVID it was imperative to the business to provide our workforce with a safe working environment. We needed to inform them with the latest information available to get ahead of the curve. And we saw that it would be a big deal to do so. We needed a plan. We knew the mobile capabilities of Canopy would position us well, to bring the employee population back to the office in a safe, productive way. Having Modo as the mobile foundation platform with its global device compatibility allowed the solution to come together a lot faster than expected. We had the technology and the app building tools to get us there.

Office Density Maps available for employees to choose seats with safe social distancing.

Q. Can you talk a bit more about how you adapted Canopy during COVID?

A. What Canopy gave us during COVID was a tool that enabled the collaborative partners who came together to respond to returning to the office. It gave us a way to notify everyone and reduce employee uncertainty. It offered a way to communicate — and receive — information on what was going to happen. We were able to lead in offering a daily health attestation. We were able to provide guidance around adhering to the latest regulations to give employees confidence that we were offering a safe workspace for them to come to. Providing that safe work environment allows us to minimize distractions, help drive productivity, and enable  employees to stay focused and do their jobs while feeling comfortable.

The daily health attestation was just the first instance of using Canopy during COVID, and because the platform was so agile and nimble we tapped it for other mission critical services. We started getting into testing. How are we going to apply different testings? Maybe integrate that into the access control systems within the building? We were able to present people with local, personalized experiences for the buildings that they’d go to. Now, as we have gone through testing and vaccination is starting to be a piece of our solution, we can start to leverage Canopy for vaccination information. We continually look at how we can help our people adhere to what’s coming down the pipeline. I don’t think the story is over. We’re going to continue to use the nimbleness of the platform to respond to where we feel appropriate.

Q. One of your initial goals for a workplace app was to help facilitate employee productivity. What are some examples of that at Goldman Sachs?

A. We were really looking at how changing the focus to a unified user experience would improve productivity, as historically, all of the systems we have would support single transactions. With Canopy we take the user on a journey that is catered to them. You don’t just say, “Hey, I want to book a visitor. And I’d like to book a meeting room.” It’s an experience that you’re probably going to want to provide a car service for. You’re going to have a meeting. There will be people that are not from Goldman. They should automatically be registered as visitors. And you might want to have some catering and interact with the food and beverage system. We really want to create a unified experience that’s much more focused on the user as opposed to single function platforms. The productivity gain comes from being able to seamlessly navigate throughout the entire employee workday — all mobily in the palm of their hands. 

Q. I’ve heard you use the phrase ‘one app to rule them all’ in your quest for productivity. What does that mean?

A. It’s really one app to facilitate or to enhance all of the different experiences that are happening at a workplace. And that’s exactly what Canopy is. How do I make these things easier to access and use? It’s less about being a dominating force, but rather that all of the aspects of the experience are easily accessible in one working place.

One example of the direct line from this philosophy to productivity is how we onboarded facilities requests: I’m too hot, I’m too cold. I changed a light bulb. Those sorts of things were always handled through help desks and phone calls and follow-ups. Once we put a user-friendly experience onto the Canopy app, we saw over 30% adoption of self-service support tickets going right through the mobile app. That is a huge productivity win, both from the operations side with people leveraging self-service tools, and on the end user side, as people aren’t sitting on the phone with the help desk as their ticket gets handled.

Location selector for the Canopy app.

Q. How are you facilitating and managing various needs across 75 locations with the Canopy app? 

A. We do have 75 versions of Canopy, and what’s great is that it’s geo-aware. So for the end user, it’s automatically going to pop up to the experience that you need to have. We have different underlying platforms and all of these locations. If you click ‘I would like to get something from the cafeteria’, it’s going to pull up the experience that reflects your location. It’s very intuitive; there’s not a lot of selecting the end user needs to do. It also gives us the ability to target particular solutions to particular populations at the appropriate time. Our COVID tools first launched in Asia and we expanded as needed to other locations. And we’ll continue to follow suit with that as we roll this out and modify the 75 locations for permanence importing.

Q. In our poll today we asked our audience whether they believe their employees would prefer to work in the office, remotely or have the flexibility of either. 95% said they believe their employees want flexibility. Is this in line with what you see at Goldman Sachs?

A. I think it’s going to vary by business unit and division and really what the needs and culture are within those various teams. Working remotely and having flexibility is nothing new at Goldman Sachs. We have supported that, as most companies have. The pandemic certainly proved that we’re able to scale up to full remote, but I think there is a big piece of that culture which can only be achieved working in the office. We’ll continue to exploit new collaboration technologies to help bring parity to that experience for people working in the office and working remotely and bringing all those experiences together. I think we’ll find a little bit of a blend in there and we’ll probably support all of those options.

Modo thanks Tim for sharing Goldman Sachs’ experience. It is incredibly rewarding to see these results on our platform. The dialogue and collaboration with Goldman Sachs have led to capabilities that are available to many organizations out there. We’ve focused on building a platform that is the basis for agility, for the workplace and for the digital experience. It doesn’t matter whether you’re technical or non-technical, you can take advantage of this platform and make a workplace app with very little effort because the out-of-box features support a first-class mobile experience. And as Tim shows, the Modo platform can also support so much more. It’s all about the art of the possible. Crowdsourcing your innovation across anybody that would like to participate in your workplace experience will allow you to accelerate, like Goldman Sachs has in their own journey with Modo.

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