How Four Winds Interactive Pivoted Its Product to Meet the COVID-19 Moment

by Quinten Dol
September 17, 2020
four winds interactive
Four Winds Interactive

In your pre-pandemic life, you likely saw digital signage everywhere: airports, hotels, college campuses, stadiums and even your office. They displayed important and engaging content designed to help you gather information as you moved through whatever physical space you happened to be in. 

Except you’re probably not moving through many — if any — of those physical spaces right now. So how does the company that builds the software powering those signs react?

This was the problem facing Four Winds Interactive, the company whose software controls most of those signs you used to see. But as Chief Product Officer Chris Keefe explained in an interview with Built In Colorado, the team reacted fast to this new reality with a new product line to complement their existing software suite.

“We started to work on a solution that would reach remote workers on their own devices,” he said, “and have taken it a step further by developing templates that help our customers rethink the look, feel and timing of the content they push for those consuming content from their desktop — instead of a large format screen in the office.”

The company has also rolled out software to provide so-called “desk hoteling,” meeting room management, workspace analytics and other functionality to help employees at Four Winds’ customer organizations return to work in a COVID-safe manner.

 

Chris Keefe
Chief Product Officer

When did you decide to pivot your focus as a business? And what did that look like?

One of our main focuses at FWI is on the digital workplace experience, powering employee communications through digital signage. As most of our customers shifted to a work-from-home structure during the rapid onset of COVID-19, we knew that internal communications would become even more important to ensure employees stayed connected to both their company and colleagues. We started to work on a solution that would reach remote workers on their own devices, and have taken it a step further by developing templates that help our customers rethink the look, feel and timing of the content they push for those consuming content from their desktop — instead of a large format screen in the office. We were able to achieve this with our core platform, fully integrated into the content management tools designed for traditional screens.

In addition, we understood that businesses would have countless considerations as they started their return-to-work planning. Guidelines would differ by state, by city and by industry — and could change depending on the week. Most importantly, we knew our customers would need to gain the trust of their employees to ensure their health and safety was a top priority. This pressing need led our teams to develop a suite of solutions dedicated to health and safety through the use of digital signage. A few examples include a space notification application that informs in-office employees of available common areas or recently sanitized meeting rooms, digital screens integrated with hand sanitizer or personal protective equipment to communicate critical safety information and a directional wayfinding application to help employees navigate their evolving office space. We also just acquired SmartSpace Global, a UK-based tech company building applications that help enable social distancing as employees return to the office.
 

We already knew that our teams were some of the best out there, but the past few months have shown just how resilient our employees are.”


How did conversations with customers inform these decisions?

We talk with folks across our customer base on a regular basis, through our customer success and delivery teams as well as our established customer advisory board, which is a healthy mix of business and technical stakeholders across various verticals. FWI prides ourselves on being a strategic partner with our customers — we worked with several businesses, hotel properties, educational institutions, casinos and retailers to better understand the impact that COVID-19 was having on their employees, customers and revenue streams. We were able to uncover that every industry was focused on both short-term goals to help bring people back to their locations safely, as well as their long-term goals to return to growth. These ongoing discussions helped propel the health and safety solutions that we’ve recently launched and have also informed our roadmap as we enter into the fourth quarter and 2021 to evolve the experience of our customers’ target audience, whether that is employees, customers, students or patients.

 

four winds interactive product shot
Four Winds Interactive

 

Which teams have played a part in the shift of focus and strategies? How have they impacted the success of this roll-out?

Several teams across FWI have played a significant role in our shift to support our customers as they navigate the rapidly evolving impact of the pandemic. Our customer-facing teams, including sales, customer success, delivery and technical support, have been instrumental in providing both qualitative and quantitative data based on customer feedback. These teams enabled us to keep close tabs on customer sentiment, product feature requests, industry trends, and specific return to work or reopening plans. This type of feedback ensured our product and development teams prioritized the right work while also continuing our focus on the roadmap that we had promised to customers at the beginning of 2020.

In addition, our internal teams are instrumental in our roadmap planning process each year — we interview stakeholders from across the company in various departments, roles and levels to ensure we have a comprehensive view of the internal and external needs of the business.

 

What have been your biggest findings throughout the pandemic?

There have been countless learnings as a business over the past few months, and there is no doubt that we will continue to navigate uncharted waters for some time. We already knew that our teams were some of the best out there, but the past few months have shown just how resilient our employees are. Like many other companies, we’ve seen a significant amount of change in the way we work, how our personal and family lives have quickly meshed with our daily schedules, increased anxiety based on world events — and all while maintaining a packed day of meetings, emails and general productivity. We’ve seen our teams pull together, taking on roles that aren’t necessarily in their job description, sharing the woes (and wins!) of working remotely, and creating some of our most epic all-company meetings yet.

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