On Data Strategy and the Workplace Experience: A Q&A with Eric Nelson


On Data Strategy and the Workplace Experience: A Q&A with Eric Nelson

This interview with BenchCore member Eric Nelson originally appeared in The LEADER Magazine from CoreNet Global.

CoreNet Global’s The LEADER had the following conversation with CoreNet Global member Eric Nelson, head of Global Workplace Experience at LiveRamp, a data-connectivity platform headquartered in San Francisco and with 16 offices on four continents. In a conversation covering a wide range of topics, Nelson shared with The LEADER his background, his role at LiveRamp, his views on the importance of a data strategy, and his aspirations for the future.

The LEADER: There has never been a clear and consistent path to corporate real estate (CRE). So, Eric, can you start by telling our readers about your career?

Nelson: I have been involved in the commercial real estate industry one way or another for over 18 years. I started the journey with a commercial moving-and-logistics company and then a Haworth dealer. I later worked on architectural interiors and project management assignments, including construction, lease, and contract negotiations. My work was largely operational; I quickly learned about the industry from the ground up and found it to be rewarding and intriguing, but I had my eye on more strategic work.

Next, a global workplace-resources opportunity luckily arose at SuccessFactors. I grabbed the opportunity. It, too, proved to be a great place to apply skills, learn and grow. So after nearly 10 years as an end user, I am still engaged and intrigued by our industry!

The LEADER: As you were charged with more responsibilities, how did you accelerate your acquisition of knowledge and skills?

Nelson: Industry-specific networking through CoreNet Global, peer support, and a constant hunger for knowledge were, and remain, important to me. I was lucky in that I was able to build upon an operational base of knowledge. To develop longer-range strategic thinking, I primarily focused on employee success, alignment with the business, and how data and metrics can have a huge impact on understanding, business alignment, engagement, and adoption, which have each facilitated my career growth.

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The LEADER: To provide context to this conversation, perhaps you could tell us about LiveRamp – the portfolio size and characteristics and the culture, or “DNA,” at LiveRamp.

Nelson: Okay, let’s start with our portfolio. We occupy 16 office locations both in the U.S. and globally. This makes up a footprint of over 175,000 square feet (16,258 sq. m.) and houses over 1,300 employees.

Simply put, LiveRamp’s core business is accessing data where it lives, transforming it into a customer view, and doing so at scale. At its core, LiveRamp is a data-connectivity business. We help customers aggregate, analyze, and optimize the use of data. As a dynamic, rapidly growing technology company, we believe culture is imperative to our growth. In this industry, the competition for top talent is fierce. This is why we place such an emphasis on employee experience, satisfaction, and engagement.

One of the main functions of my role as head of Global Workplace Experience is to work out how we can measure things like employee satisfaction, collaboration, and productivity, all the while ensuring the ethical collection and consumption of this data because, at our core, that is what we do and who we are.

The LEADER: Would it be correct to say that data is the foundation of the business and informs the management of real estate?

Nelson: That would be correct. Data is the backbone of the company. Data and data privacy is embedded in everything we do. Data is the language of the business, and it follows that data, privacy and measurement is also the language of our virtual and physical workplace experience at LiveRamp.

The LEADER: Let’s dig a bit deeper and explore more specifically how you manage and deploy data and how you put it to work on behalf of your tactical and strategic goals.

Nelson: Great. This is something I talk about frequently and with genuine passion. Our data is, of course, quantitative, but we are increasingly interested in the use of qualitative data to optimize outcomes. We want to know what the data means and what it is telling us. Maybe we could look at sample reporting and talk about the analytics. I am showing (above) reports as produced with our corporate real estate benchmarking partner, BenchCore, and their parent, the property-technology company RefineRE. I have altered the data since we regard it as business confidential. Nonetheless, readers will be able to understand how we approach the deployment of data.

These reports give us a clear and trusted roadmap to reducing expenses. We also can quickly model scenarios and identify ways to advantage the company in relocations, lease renewals, the efficiency of space utilization, and other metrics important to LiveRamp.

The LEADER: What’s next? Or, what do you see as the future for real estate’s data strategy?

Nelson: We have accomplished a great deal by building a data foundation and then putting that data to work. However, there is more work to do, and there will never be an end to finding new ways to improve our workforce and company.

For example, we are focusing on employee collaboration, productivity, and satisfaction. We integrate multiple sets of seemingly disparate data to explore and ultimately improve how employees interact and collaborate. Our work includes both formal and informal methods of communication.

Consistent with our corporate philosophy and strict requirements, we do all of this with an adherence to the highest ethical data-privacy standards.

The LEADER: If you had a magic wand, what would you wish for?

Nelson: More and better ways to tackle productivity and its connection to the workplace and real estate. I often ask what measures productivity for different kinds of teams within the company. From a workforce or workplace perspective, some are easier than others.

I also am driving the simplification of complexity, asking what matters most and what will yield the best results in ways that are easy to absorb and then put the answer into action.

The LEADER: Do you have any advice for your peers within CoreNet Global?

Nelson: We all need to be effective at both the tactical and strategic levels of management. I care about cost per fulltime equivalent (FTE), but I also care about our ability to recruit and retain smart and productive people. My quarterly business reviews include benchmarking and other data in both of those dimensions.

We are all learning to be “remote-friendly” and, at the same time, provide for in-person collaboration where and when required. We need to be skilled at designing and providing a hybrid workplace both in the physical and virtual world.

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