MetriSight Ep.63 - What's in a Connected Workspace?

May 30, 2024 00:28:27
MetriSight Ep.63 - What's in a Connected Workspace?
Metrigy MetriSight
MetriSight Ep.63 - What's in a Connected Workspace?

May 30 2024 | 00:28:27

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Show Notes

John Hurley, head of product marketing for Notion, explains the company's approach to collaborative work management... and shares why, as an entrepreneur at heart, he finds personal value in Notion.
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Episode Transcript

[00:00:21] Speaker A: Hello, and thanks for tuning in to this episode of Metrogy's Metrosite podcast. I'm Beth Schultz, the vice president of research and principal analyst at Metrogy, and with me today is John Hurley. John is the head of product marketing at Notion, and today we're going to be talking about connected workspace. Now, the idea behind a connected workspace in general is to provide a home for managing projects and collaborating on content and providing access to a company wiki or knowledge base, among other tasks. Now, in employee experience research that Matrici conducted, this was last year, we had about 500 participating companies globally, and we asked how many were using a connected workspace app. And about a third of those said that they were, and slightly less. About 29% said they intended to do so by the end of that year. So 2023. Now, we're just about to launch a study specifically on connected workspace, and ahead of being able to share those results when we have them, I thought it'd be great to talk to John about notion, and one of the reasons why I wanted to invite him here is because notion is really one of the foundational companies, sort of the formative startup in this space. So with that said, john, welcome. [00:01:44] Speaker B: Thank you very much for having me. Very excited. Feel like I say the words connected workspace all the time, so it's nice to hear someone else say it as well. [00:01:55] Speaker A: There you go. Okay, so, of course, you know, before I got you on this call in this podcast, I did a little background reading on LinkedIn, as we're want to do these days, and I read a few fun facts, and I want to kind of talk about those a little bit. So we get to know you personally before we talk about what you're doing professionally. So one of the first things I read is that you were a student athlete at UPenn. So that's interesting to me because, you know, being at Upenn is challenging enough, and then you're playing a sport. So what sport, what position, and how did that go for you? [00:02:30] Speaker B: I was a football player. I played quarterback. And yeah, being a student athlete is, it's fun, it's hard. And, you know, at Penn, playing a sport, you know, it was more trying to convince people that you had a football team and to come to the games versus, you know, some other programs in the country. But it was definitely rewarding experience outside of the knee pain that I today. [00:03:07] Speaker A: Oh, no. Oh, no. Did you play all four years? [00:03:10] Speaker B: I didn't. I had five knee surgeries across five years. So I eventually hung up the cleats. And that's actually what led me to the entrepreneurship programs and kind of set me on the path that I'm on today. [00:03:29] Speaker A: Okay, so before we talk about that, I also wanted to mention that I read that you are an aspiring winemaker. So I have a sicilian grandfather who moved to Chicago, grew his own grapes, made his wine in his basement, and then, you know, as we were little kids, we had to drink this very thick, intense wine he made. So I kind of. That. That really sort of intrigued me. What. What does your experience with winemaking entail? [00:03:55] Speaker B: Right. Well, he would probably make fun of me because he's doing the old school way. Right. And, you know, for me, I think the biggest thing about wine was discovered it living out here in California and spending a lot of time at wineries, getting to know winemakers. The thing that really sparked my kind of imagination here was the brand and storytelling side of wine and the ability to create something that you can really share with family and friends. So, for me, a lot of the time is not so much spending time in the winery. We have some experts that really help us do that. Otherwise, our wine would probably not be very good. And I get to spend a lot of time designing the brand, the story, building out the supply chain, and then celebrating with family and friends. [00:04:50] Speaker A: Okay. So you'll have to share your label with us so we know what that is, what to look for. Okay. You mentioned entrepreneurship, and that's certainly more germane to why you're here today and your career. So I read that you not only did you start up companies in your dorm room, but you were part of the Wharton venture program. So how was that sort of, what kind of companies were you starting up, and how did that early interest in entrepreneurship play out for you in your career up till now? [00:05:27] Speaker B: Sure. Yeah. Well, you know, this goes kind of all the way back to selling candies and scary books on the playground as a third grader and getting in trouble for it, to starting a mutual fund in 8th grade, where I was trying to get people to invest all kinds of stuff. So I guess I've always had this little bit of way before. [00:05:48] Speaker A: When you were in college then, huh? [00:05:50] Speaker B: Yeah, right, exactly. But, yeah, I was. You started to think about a business idea. It was kind of a silly idea at the time, really kind of like a branding company. And that got me into the program. I felt, again, pretty intimidated because I was pitching this idea right after some very impressive pitches. I actually went right after the founding team of Warby Parker, who were pitching this you know, new eyeglass company that was going to go direct the consumer. They called it DTC. No one had ever heard that term before. And, yeah, I ended up joining the program and I ended up joining one of the companies in the program when I realized, well, I have a lot to learn from other people. And, yeah, that really, again, kind of set. Okay, this is what I'm going to do. I'm going to join very early stage companies. And in a role that kind of, you have to be very entrepreneurial, even if you aren't the founder, because you have to wear lots of hats. You have to try to figure out you're at point a. How do you get the point b? You have to go from zero to one. So, yeah, ever since then, I've been joining kind of early stage companies and trying to scale them. [00:07:19] Speaker A: Okay. So just quickly, you don't have to go into any detail, but what companies have you been at? And then when did you join notion? And I would imagine you just sort of explain what attracted you to the company, but what else attracted you to the company as well? [00:07:33] Speaker B: Yeah, when I, the startup that I joined in college, we ended up selling not any major outcome or anything like that, but we sold that. And I immediately knew I wanted to go west to San Francisco, kind of be at the heart of technology. I was going to join Google. I had an offer there and a startup founder convinced me to not do that. And I joined a five person startup that was pre seed, pre revenue, pre product that ended up being in kind of like a b two b software space. What we ended up building, that's where I really kind of cut my teeth on, b two B software. After that, I joined Amplitude, which is an analytics company, was really excited about amplitude. Got to see that process from basically like 50 million in revenue to about 250 million and take the company public, which was a career bucket list experience. [00:08:40] Speaker A: Wow. [00:08:41] Speaker B: And after that, I've been a longtime notion user and kind of an admirer. But the thing that really attracted me to notion was that it's really competing on the main stage. You're operating in a space of the largest addressable market in software, productivity software, not kind of a niche space of analytics for a specific team or something like that, which is all great, but it really has the opportunity to be a ubiquitous tool used for your personal life as well as work life. And I wanted that kind of opportunity to really compete on that main stage. Also, notion has really created a space for creativity and design, puts a lot of emphasis on that in its ethos and its product. And I do think that's actually one of the leading factors of why notion kind of rethought what modern productivity workspaces could look like and how they engage and activated the community and users in a very unique way. So all those things really attracted me to the company. And you joined when, again, about a year and a half ago, end of 2022? Yep. [00:09:58] Speaker A: Okay. So I gave this sort of high level overview of what a connected workspace is, but how do you describe what it is? How do you describe what notion is to people who aren't familiar with the app? [00:10:14] Speaker B: Yeah, this is a fun question that I get to ask every new hire to give their definition. I sometimes describe it's like a snowflake. There's no one answer that's the same. But at the very foundational level, I think of notion as the modern productivity software. And what people do is it creates this one place for you to write, organize, plan, and collaborate in one workspace. And what we've seen people do with that is millions of people use it for their documents, their notes, their projects, their to dos, storing all their company knowledge, and then using AI to help answer questions about that knowledge, to help create more knowledge through writing and things like that. I think the thing that makes notion really unique, and actually is the part that makes it ends up making it hard to explain for people who know notion really well, is that it's so flexible that people do so many different things with notion, really, it's like reimagined what a document could actually become. And so that's both the hard part in describing notion, but also the exciting and beautiful thing about it. [00:11:35] Speaker A: So I think you just really sold it, because in order to really understand it, you have to use it right. You have to get in there and start playing around with it. But you talk about this sort of snowflake effect, or when you try to describe what a connected workspace is, it's like describing a snowflake, right? And that's something that we talked about in a market overview that we wrote about connected workspaces. And it's just not startups like notion, it's productivity vendors, it's project management vendors, it's document collaboration vendors. Because there's so many entry points to a connected workspace, there's so much interest from different segments of the market, it makes it very difficult to, I think that makes, is one of the reasons why it's hard to explain or to kind of get your mind around what, what connected workspace is. So in terms of how that challenges notion, how do you rise above all that noise around the idea of connected workspace or collaborative work management? And then I know notion takes a very workspace centric approach. So how much of a differentiator is that for you guys? [00:12:47] Speaker B: Yeah, I mean, I think the best way to, you know, rise above that is thinking about those like, concrete use cases or workflows. And so, you know, even when you heard me talk about, like, how I describe notion, I'll describe it as like, it's a place where you can plan, and a plan can look a lot of different ways. A plan can start with, you know, some scratch notes that you're, you know, not exactly sure about this idea, and you just want to write notes down, but then it becomes a document and a strategy. You know, it's a proposal of the plan that starts to become something else. Like, okay, what are all the deliverables and tasks and projects? And then how does that plan roll up to, if you're again thinking about this as a company, roll back up to our company objectives and okrs? And then how does that plan then become a place where you actually execute on the plan, write the technical spec or write the blog post, whatever it is. And that's how you really both rise above the noise is say, okay, well, what are you trying to do? And then what would be actually the most effective way to do that? Would you like to use ten different apps to try to do all that work and try to stitch that stuff together? Great way to build on it, right? And have to learn the UI for those ten different things? Or do you want to be able to do that in one clean workflow, learn one UI, have all that information connected together, and all the teams working on that in one place. I think that is what ends up really resonating with people is talk about that workflow, talk about the use case, the pain points of doing that today in this fragmented space versus what could that actually look like if you're using a connected workspace? So I think that's really important. There's other things that we've focused on to rise above the noise, enabling a community of very passionate users, and focusing on the next gen enterprise and the next gen knowledge worker are the people who use notion, who have chosen notion, we want to celebrate them. And then a brand that kind of resonates, because that's very intentional investment from us, because we believe that people decide on the tools that they use not purely based on the utility, but they place value on the user experience. On the community, on what the younger generation called the vibe of the, as much as they do as the functionality. And so that becomes really important also rising above the noise. [00:15:55] Speaker A: Okay, great, great. And great points. You've just made these connected workspaces. They have to be flexible, right? They have to be highly customizable, which I imagine notion is, how do you approach that? [00:16:11] Speaker B: Yeah, I mean, this is in a lot of ways the double edged sword, right, of like infinite flexibility, because notion of all of the, like, even the flexible versions of connected workspaces and productivity applications out there, I would say notion is maybe the most versatile and the most flexible. [00:16:33] Speaker A: It's wide intimidating, right. If you, until you really get used to using it, right? [00:16:37] Speaker B: Totally. It can totally be intimidating. And so, you know, there's ways that we try to help people through that, right. Is first off, templates, right. There are 10,000 templates. I think there's, I think it's up to like twelve or 13,000 notion templates out there. And that's just the ones that we know of and allowing people to say, like, again, what are you trying to do? What are you interested in doing? Is it very simple? Like you always want a journal or note taking app? Great. Here are some of the top note taking templates that you can go in and just start using immediately. And so that's helping you like fight through the blank canvas kind of analysis paralysis type of situation, as well as adding guardrails to that flexibility, especially for larger companies who are starting to bring all of their teams, all of their docs, all of their knowledge, all of their workflows into notion. How do we get people to get that set up and implementation right, but also then add some guardrail so that things don't break. And so, you know, if you're going to offer that type of flexibility, you have to make it easy to get started and customize, but also easy to control. [00:18:05] Speaker A: Okay. Does AI play a role here? [00:18:10] Speaker B: Absolutely. The role of AI think, in this side of things is like if you're starting with a blank canvas, just ask AI what you want and it can actually just effectively generate a template for you that can be as simple as an outline or a structure or brainstorm best practices for how to go into a proposal meeting. But I think where we see AI going that can help you not just kind of get started on what you want to create is actually starting to create things for you. So imagine a world where you have a standardized project proposal template that everyone within your team uses. AI could actually help complete that for you, as long as you give it the knowledge that it needs. And so that's, I think, where we are starting to see things go with AI is not just being able to ask it questions or generate things that are somewhat generic, but it knows what you're trying to complete, and it can actually, again, follow some of those guidelines that you want it to, to actually do some of that work. [00:19:31] Speaker A: Okay. And this isn't just theoretical. You are offering AI across notion, correct? [00:19:38] Speaker B: Correct. Yeah. There's, I think, over 1010 million workspaces, notion workspaces today, they're actively using notion AI. And yeah, it is certainly a big focus of our roadmap over the past year and moving forward. [00:19:59] Speaker A: Okay, so you gave us a lot of great information. What else do we need to know about notion in terms of what you offer today, as well as what else is coming in the future? [00:20:10] Speaker B: Yeah, well, in terms of what we offer today, I think again, there's the core use cases, the core applications that we've mentioned. If you're looking for collaborative documentation, collaborative knowledge management, project management, task tracking, calendar, apps, we offer a lot of those core productivity tools. But I encourage folks to go explore what else they can do. I was just at an event yesterday, seeing how a company does all their incident reporting in notion in ways that I didn't even imagine notion could in that functionality, explore the possibilities of the use cases, explore things like the template gallery, and you'll find a lot of opportunities where you could actually consolidate down workflows or tools into this one connected workspace? Where we're going, I think, is somewhat doubling down on that. How do you bring more knowledge, more workflows and AI all together into this connected workspace? Another area is actually more packaging without losing the flexibility. So how can, again, we bring people into their use case or into a workspace that feels like a very packaged point solution app for that use case, but still allows them to customize and still allows that flexibility. I think that's always kind of a balancing act for us. And then finally, I think we are again entering this next wave of AI, where we've kind of moved from just generic content generation and this retrieval of knowledge that lives within a connected workspace, asking questions that all rely on writing prompts to kind of the beginning of the end of having to write prompts where AI actually knows. Okay, based on what you're currently doing, the page you're on, the project you're working on, what are potentially the actions or questions that you would want to know at this point and maybe just giving you the option to click a button to do the thing versus having to really master how to write the prompt to actually have it do the thing you want. [00:22:50] Speaker A: So you're not going to have to be a prompt. Engineering to benefit from generative AI, I. [00:22:54] Speaker B: Think that role will maybe be one of the quickest to rise and quickest. [00:23:00] Speaker A: To fall, all thanks to AI. [00:23:04] Speaker B: Yeah. [00:23:05] Speaker A: Okay. Okay. A few last questions for you, John. One of the interesting things about connected workspaces, as you point out, you could use it as an individual. You could do it for, you know, you can use it to plan your personal stuff, work stuff, or you can purchase it at a corporate level. So what's your sweet spot at this point? Who are you working with within companies? What sorts of companies? Give us the rundown there. [00:23:35] Speaker B: Sure. Notion definitely, for the last several years has been very much a bottoms up driven type of adoption. Even the type of adoption where people are using it for their personal life, and then they bring it to work, and then they bring it to their teams, and then more teams start to adopt it. And then we start to talk about these wall to wall types of deployments. There's a few teams that we see the highest adoption rates in the technical teams, engineering, product design are some of the top adopting teams. Marketing teams are some of our largest audiences that are using notion as well as the program, project management, kind of like operations types of roles, lots of adoption across, across all of those types of teams. And what often will start to happen is they create this one workspace, they're all starting to work and collaborate together. And then we start to talk to, whether it's CIO's, sometimes it's HR or people teams about how do we do this wall to wall type of deployment work. We can bring all teams here, bring all your knowledge in the one place, all of your project management into one place. So those are kind of the types of roles and kind of adoption model that typically happens. We're starting to see more of the down deployments as well. These are really kind of the, I'd call them the gen enterprises that are often, they might be in technology space or fintech, or have gone through full digital transformations. And I think the two places that we see, especially in the larger companies, a lot of interest in notion is when they're investing in efficiency, trying to do more with less. That's where they're trying to either consolidate down their tool stacks or just reduce down sprawl in general and increase the collaboration and efficiency of the team but also when they're investing in employee experience, which is actually one of the most commons we see people bring notion in, is because when they ask their employees, what tools do you want to be using at work? Notion is often at the top of that list because so many people use it in their personal life. So especially students, that new generation of knowledge worker loves notion, and we have very, very high adoption in that group. [00:26:22] Speaker A: Okay, so let's wrap up with one last question. That being, what are the trends that you see in collaborative work management connected workspace for the rest of 2024 and beyond? You sort of inferred a bit with the reference you had for AI, eliminating the need to actually write out prompts. But what else do you see coming down the pike? [00:26:44] Speaker B: Yeah, of course, AI, AI here on more of the automations and actions you'll see agents often reference. I think another trend is just more consolidation of workflows. And what I mean by these workflows, it's bringing your project management, your ticketing, your potentially CRM, anything that's built on a database that could be crafted into a workflow and has interconnectivity across use cases where a bug reporting tool ends up connecting back to your task tracking for engineers, which ends up rolling up into a marketing campaign and feature launch, all those things are connected. They're all separate today. Workflows within these different teams that often don't talk to one another. How can you consolidate more of those tools, those workflows and teams together in one place? I think that's going to be a big thing that we're already seeing. Whether it's in notion or others, we'll continue to see that a lot. [00:28:01] Speaker A: That's going to be really exciting. Future. I know playing around in these apps, it does change the way you work and you think about work. Yeah, I think that is a great place to leave off. I want to thank you again for sharing with us today. Until next time, everybody take care.

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