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Views from the Cloud

C2C Talks: How Jesse Nowlin, CIO at Westland Real Estate Group, Improved Remote Work Productivity by Using Google Workspace

Posted by Sabina Bhasin | December 17, 2020

Author’s Note: C2C Talks are an opportunity for C2C members to engage through shared experiences and lessons learned. Often there is a short presentation followed by an open discussion to determine best practices and key takeaways.

Google Workspace is a highly engaging topic among our members and we want to hear from you. To share your Google Workspace story and be a part of our blog series, email sabina.bhasin@c2cglobal.com

Jesse Nowlin, our first featured story, is not only one of our community’s pioneer members, but he is also extremely knowledgeable in the space. Really, check out his blog, his podcast, and his LinkedIn

Transforming tech and shattering entrenched habits—that’s how Jesse Nowlin, CIO at Westland Real Estate Group, began working at the family-owned real estate business. Five years later, the heavy lift didn’t ease as 2020 brought with it a new challenge: take 500 employees, who are used to working in an office, and make them comfortable working remotely. 

The challenge is becoming clear, but how did Nowlin respond? With Google Workspace, of course! Here’s how he did it. 

What is the primary challenge?

When Nowlin joined in 2015, Westland Real Estate Group was an established 40-year-old company with an unmatched devotion to Pentium 4 computers running Windows 7 and Exchange 2003. But, little did they realize, they were on the brink of exponential growth. 

“I very quickly realized that there were a lot more problems than anticipated other than an aging phone system and some old architecture,” Nowlin said. “When they said, ‘modernize the brand,’ or rather, modernize the infrastructure, they weren’t kidding.”

Hear Jesse describe the infrastructure. 

 

So he had to figure out how to set up new infrastructure, a more robust wireless network, and find a scalable solution that could accommodate affiliate offices. 

How did you use Workspace as a solution?

“Google Workspace has been a huge part of what we do—obviously, at the time, called G Suite,” Nowlin said. He added that it was a “lifesaver” for his organization because of its simplicity and ease of use, but it also provided financial improvements. 

“In 2018, we found that we were spending about 15% of our work on moving people around, whether it was computers or locations,” he said. “We [also] had a very high turnover in Vegas, and for some reason or another, the asset managers liked to play musical chairs. So to try and address that, we built automation software.”

By using Workspace, the movement of computers or locations didn’t cause a pause in business or any lag time in work due to IT setup or management. 

Hear Nowlin explain more and how other medium-sized businesses can do to improve business outcomes. 

 

Although improvements over the years helped get the organization to 2020, the workforce challenges didn’t stop. Once March hit and offices closed up, sending workers to manufactured workspaces in their homes, Nowlin had to pivot again. But he got creative by using the power of Workspace and some MacGyver-like ingenuity. Listen to the below to hear what he did. 

 

 

And how's it going?

Overall, it’s going well, and Nowlin is currently working on rolling out the updated Workspace features. 

Nowlin says they’re also moving toward zero-touch deployments, and it’s working well from an operations standpoint. But IT needs have changed, and they’re not always solvable. 

“Remote work really only works well if you have a dedicated space at home with which to work,” he said. 

When employees work in their kids’ rooms or closets because it’s the only quiet place in the home, there needs to be a solution that allows for a 50/50 split between working from home and going to the office. So that’s what he’s working on planning for now. 

“We've refocused all of our operations on figuring out how to be as zero-touch as possible and how to be able to do everything remotely and anybody being able to work on any device,” he said. 

Despite being smart, Nowlin admits he didn’t know much about transitioning to a fully remote environment. So, he did what all good students do and read—a lot. What did he learn? 

“Remote work won't be for everyone. But we need to adopt this way of thinking now, whether we like it or not, because everything we do going forward will reflect this new way of working,” he said. “So everything we do looking forward to 2021 should be designed for a flexible work environment, work-anywhere-on-almost-anything approach.”

We can’t wait to hear what’s next. 

Curious about what books Nowlin read of what tools he recommends? 

Check out the lists below:

Books:

  1. The Phoenix Project, which Nowlin says “is a must-read for everyone in IT”
  2. Range by David Epstein
  3. Rework by Jason Fried and Havid Heinemeier Hansson
  4. Distributed Teams by John O'Duinn

Hardware:

  1. Logitech Brio webcam
  2. Jabra wireless headset
  3. Logitech MX Master Mouse
  4. Logitech MX Keyboard

Chrome Plugins:

  1. Loom
  2. The Great Suspender
  3. Calendly
  4. Pocket
  5. Grammarly

And we’ll let Nowlin tell you about one last tech tool. “The breakout star in work from home, my Arlo Video Doorbell, so I can see who is at the door and if I actually need to step out of my meeting to get the door.”

Extra Credit

Our members have tons of great ideas—here’s what they’re reading and sharing:

  1. Discussing improved productivity inevitably leads to a discussion about metrics. Hear how one organization uses a tool called Prodoscore to improve sales team success.
  2. Bring Chrome OS to older laptops with CloudReady if you want to mimic what Jesse Nowlin did, but buying new Chromebooks isn’t a feasible solution.
  3. Google Workspace Admin Insights is a new YouTube show featuring C2C members Steve Larsen, Dominik Kugelmann, Kim Nilsson, and Brian Kim. 
  4. Workspace recap podcast, is by Jesse Nowlin and Steve Larsen. Check it out if you would like to keep up all the improvements, updates as they become available 

We want to hear from you!

  1. There is so much more to discuss, so connect with us and share your Google Workspace story. You might get featured in the next installment! Get in touch with Content Manager Sabina Bhasin at sabina.bhasin@c2cgobal.com if you’re interested.

  2. Rather chat with your peers? Join our C2C Connect chat rooms! Reach out to Director of Community Danny Pancratz at danny.pancratz@c2cglobal.com.