Balance the ways IT can support a well-tuned digital workplace without exerting control over that environment
As I will say time and time again, every digital workplace strategy must start with the end user – as delivered by IT. Each employee is at your company for a reason — whether to serve customers (both internal and external ones), contribute to research and development, or ensure well-tuned business operations. And as Darryl Wilson, Kyndryl Consult’s Global Vice President of Digital Workplace, has said: “2023 will be the year of the employee.” Everything IT does is, in fact, in support of end users, so IT must have a seat at the table to get this strategy right. This is especially true in this day of remote and hybrid work and “the continued war for talent,” as Darryl notes.
A digital workplace strategy is fundamentally a plan of action for IT to cover all elements that boost productivity in the digital workplace: means of collaboration, digital skills training, data security, change management, etc. This plan of action is crucial for knowing where to start. One of the biggest aspects of this strategy is the digital employee experience, or DEX, meaning the quality of employee interactions with the tech and digital tools needed to do their jobs. DEX ties into all other elements of a digital workplace strategy because the reality is that if your people are not happy because they can’t do what they need to do, then all the other digital workplace issues are rendered moot. That is why DEX should be on the radar of every company with employees who need the right digital toolsets to optimize their productivity.
Think about the consumer experience that has become second nature to many employees, especially millennials and subsequent generations coming into the workforce. They are used to digital experiences that are frictionless (more or less): from downloading their own apps to using their own devices loaded with their preferred digital tools on their self-selected devices. We in IT must support that mindset of our modern workers. So when we talk about building out a digital employee experience strategy, starting with the end user means making sure that the employee is getting the experience they expect.
It is also imperative to create a work environment that is as error-free as possible. For IT, making sure that devices function properly at the precise moments the employees need them is
one thing; ensuring that employees have the confidence that their device works is another. Otherwise, an employee may put off a task or project until another day when their devices or applications are not acting up or rendered unreliable.
The tricky part, however, is balancing ways IT can support a well-tuned digital workplace without over-exerting control over that environment. After all, the modern workforce is now used to flexibility, especially having worked through the pandemic when IT did not have the visibility or ability to control devices — remotely or effectively. That said, IT now must figure out how to support this current digital workplace environment in a way that makes for a fairly seamless digital employee experience.
This issue of IT control is one that has changed dramatically, even before the pandemic. Having worked in the IT trenches myself, for example, I recall that employees couldn’t even change a desktop icon without IT’s permission. The attitude of the day (in the early 2000s) was, “This is what you get and you don’t throw a fit.” Today, by stark contrast, the prevailing sentiment is, “IT this is what I want and need for my own remote island … how can you support me?” It is worth considering potential attrition if IT is not able to support the needs and wants of today’s workforce.
Giving up this kind of control is understandably quite unsettling to enterprises, even prompting enterprise leaders to try to swing back the pendulum to in-office requirements where IT has better visibility and control of networks and systems. The reality, however, is that hybrid work rules the day. Although remote workforces may start to decline (from 56% in 2021 to 19% in 2024), the hybrid work model is expected to grow from 42% in 2021 to 81% in 2024, according to an AT&T study.
Enterprises and their IT teams therefore must adapt in a strategic way, especially now that we’ve emerged from pandemic-sparked scrambling to support remote employees. Enterprise IT departments understand they can’t control home networks, nor can they control endpoints. IT therefore is struggling with the fact that we have all these systems in not the most secure environments (e.g., open wifi, home wifi), but IT still must control what that asset has on it, especially with file-sharing and SaaS-based applications.
Visibility across the IT estate is imperative — that is, visibility from data will transform IT, in turn transforming the end user experience. From my perspective, gaining visibility across the entire IT endpoint estate does not mean Big Brother and IT control; instead, it means being able to
leverage data to understand what’s happening “under the hood” of endpoint assets regardless of their location (since employees are no longer just sitting in an office) to sharpen root cause analysis, tackle brewing IT problems before they manifest in employee downtime , and, most important, adopt a proactive approach to IT. The result? Employees who get what they expect — and need — from their digital workplaces to be productive and happy in their jobs.
If you want to hear more from me and my colleague Darryl Wilson from Kyndryl Consult, join us for our upcoming webinar on building a holistic digital workplace strategy.