LACERS: Digital transformation, all at once, overnight


Most IT organizations consider digital transformation to be, well, a transformation — a gradual change in state. As Chief Digital Officer of the L.A. City Employees’ Retirement System (known as LACERS), Vikram Jadhav had set his organization on a path to roll out digital technologies over time. That was the intention when introducing Box as a central content repository in 2019.

As Jadhav describes it, “The lynchpin for our entire digital strategy hinged on showcasing our ability to work digitally, bring our content into the cloud, and foster collaboration across the organization. Bringing on Box was the first domino piece in a larger strategy to move our entire organization.”

Then came a global pandemic. When the COVID shutdowns occured, LACERS was still in the early stages of centralizing all its content on Box. Suddenly, every single employee was working from home — and digital transformation happened all at once, overnight. 

First things first: Migrating content with Box Shuttle

LACERS manages retirement benefits for all L.A. city employees, and any breakdown in processes can be catastrophic for members who count on those benefits. Being able to keep business up and running with Box was critical when the pandemic forced a sudden shift to remote work.

At first, Jadhav’s team took charge of migrating core, high-priority content to Box, in house, using Box Shuttle. He says, “We did it in an unorthodox way because we were wedged up against work-from-home orders.” Initially, efforts were focused on enabling everyone in the organization to work at home for three weeks or so. But as we all now know, weeks of remote work turned into a month... turned into a year.

Eventually, the team followed up with a larger, assisted migration to bring everything over. But Jadhav is grateful that his team was able to manage the initial transfer to the Content Cloud successfully. He says, “If we had fumbled that first step, we would have fumbled the next level of intentions. But since we were able to get our teams up and running in that first round, it gave us a runway to deepen teams’ usages of Box.”

The mandate of sudden adoption

Getting files migrated was one hurdle. Getting teams to adopt new tools was another. There were a few ways that Jadhav’s team inspired quick adoption of Box:

  • Partners periodically held town halls to walk through governance practices for each team as well as best practices for file sharing, tagging, and controlling content
  • Box evangelists were identified within the organization to act as digital transformation leaders and point people
  • People in different roles, and with different technology preferences, could work on content in different ways — in Box Drive versus their mobile device browser, for instance
  • The Microsoft 365 integration allowed people to keep working in familiar tools like Word and Excel while keeping content centralized and secure

Empowering people within the organization in these ways encouraged them to find more and more uses for Box over the course of the last year and a half. Jadhav calls this “a confederated approach” of allowing various users to solve their own “points of consternation” with the provided tools.

A better experience all the way around in the Content Cloud

Jadhav’s team has spearheaded an initiative to replace the old LACERS retirement application process with a customer retirement application portal built by Box Consulting. Now, rather than submitting a paper application via mail and waiting weeks to hear back, retiring city employees can apply online, with the ability to sign in and return to the application whenever they have new information to update or want to check in on the process.

This gives customers much more insight and visibility into their own retirement process, which is precisely the goal of the LACERS IT team. “It will allow our members to retire more seamlessly than the traditional process did,” says Jadhav. “For our members, we want to reduce all friction points.”

But when he thinks about the customers his IT team serves, Jadhav also thinks of internal LACERS employees. “Within the L.A. world,” he says, “we want to have a best-in-class workplace.” Transforming operations with digital tools like Box and the integrations it enables will help get LACERS to that endpoint. The retirement application process won’t just make retiring easier for external customers; it also makes the backend processing of applications profoundly easier for employees. A whole backend workflow will now route applications across different teams and ultimately into the permanent system of record.

The continued transformation that lies ahead

In the months that have passed since Box became the de-facto tool for remote work and the platform behind exciting new public-facing tools, the LACERS IT team has applied Relay to automate various processes, and is now exploring using Box for public records requests. Currently, this is a complex process that requires routing records from team to team within the organization, gathering signatures, and providing documents to the public with the right names and information redacted. Box, Relay, and Box Sign will be key to these efforts.

Box Sign will also help LACERS streamline other processes that require multiple signatures across organizations and with external parties. As the use cases get more sophisticated and stakes higher in terms of privacy and regulation, Jadhav is glad to be able to build on “the early wins” his team gained with Box and the Content Cloud.

Hear from LACERS and other customers at BoxWorks on October 6th!