A strong IT team, IT leaders, and IT insights are needed now more than ever with growing remote working environments across the globe.
Today, Tim Flower, Global Director Business Transformation of Nexthink and Thomas McGrath, Content Strategist of Nexthink, join Andrew Hewitt, a Forrester Analyst, on episode 1 of Digital Employee Experience for a dynamic discussion on trends across the industry. They talked about…
- A holistic outlook on the IT landscape and IT decision-makers
- The Q4 2020 Forrester’s New Wave Report
- Future job descriptions, skills, and landscapes for IT Professionals
The music at the end of the interview comes from Andrew Hewitt’s own group Sumyeti – you can stream the full album here.
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Speaker 4 (00:01):
You’re listening to Digital Employee Experience, a show for IT change makers. Let’s get into the show.
Tom McGrath (00:09):
Hello change makers, this is Tom McGrath. Welcome to the first ever episode of the Digital Employee Experience show. Here, Tim Flower and myself have the great privilege of talking regularly to some of the most fascinating people in IT, as well as to one another. Tim, how’s it going? How are you feeling about our first ever show?
Tim Flower (00:27):
Hey Tom, it’s going really well. Hope for you too. I’m feeling really good about this show. Had been thinking about doing a podcast for a while, and I love the concept of being able to speak with some technology thought leaders. So really looking forward to the guests we got lined up
Tom McGrath (00:40):
As am I. Now Tim, if the audience wants to be able to distinguish between us, because we do have similar names and sometimes people do get a little confused between them, I would describe you to our audience as someone that’s had a distinguished technology career spanning over 30 years, taking you from digital equipment to The Hartford to Nexthink. I’d say you’re a thought leader tried and tested by frontline IT experience. So what you think of that, Tim? How’d you let your intro.
Tim Flower (01:06):
Yeah, let’s go with that, Tom.
Tom McGrath (01:08):
Thank you. And would you like to introduce me in maybe similar terms?
Tim Flower (01:12):
Sure. I would say that first off, you’re the one with the accent, for folks to be able to distinguish, and after working with you for a couple of years, I would kind of put some thought into it, Tom, and say that you are the guy that works in marketing.
Tom McGrath (01:26):
Ah, well. Before my fellow host hurts my feelings any more deeply, then, let’s get to our first guest. Our first ever guest, of course, author of a recent EUEM report, among other things, for distinguished Forrester analyst Andrew Hewitt. Andrew, welcome to the show. What a pleasure to have you with us.
Andrew Hewitt (01:44):
Oh, it’s such an honor to be the first guest, and thank you for having me. I’m looking forward to the conversation.
Tom McGrath (01:49):
Do I have this right, Andrew, you’re basically very interested in rock climbing? I have to say you picked a great hobby for the age of social distancing, there.
Andrew Hewitt (01:58):
It’s a major hobby of mine. In fact, I became a full-time remote worker about a year and a half ago, prior to all this COVID stuff, just so I could be closer to the rocks. So I’m in Boulder, Colorado, which is known as a rock climbing destination. So yes, it’s a major part of my life. It’s pretty much all I do besides music, that’s my other area of interest that I do outside of work.
Tom McGrath (02:20):
What do you play or listen to?
Andrew Hewitt (02:22):
I play a lot of guitar. So I am currently in quarantine and going through as many Jimi Hendrix solos as I can and trying to learn them all.
Tom McGrath (02:30):
Andrew Hewitt (02:31):
So that has been my other goal in addition to just trying to get out on the rocks as much as possible.
Tom McGrath (02:35):
So how did a nice Jimi Hendrix guitar soloing rock climber come to be a technology analyst then?
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Andrew Hewitt (02:42):
It’s a great question. I spent some time initially in my career doing desktop mobile support at a think tank here in the United States, and then after that I realized I really want to get more into research because my background was in international affairs, did a lot of long form 15, 20 page research reports, that sort of thing. And I really liked the focus on economics, business, people, and having an international focus. So that led me to Forrester where I joined about six and a half years ago, was initially a research associate helping out our cloud analysts, but over the years started taking on more and more of my own research, moving from topics like mobile management, rugged devices, to things like virtual desktop infrastructure, and then most recently technology experience management as a category as well. Okay.
Tom McGrath (03:33):
Congratulations on the new EUEM New Wave report.
Andrew Hewitt (03:36):
Thank you. It’s a pleasure to finally get it out.
Tom McGrath (03:38):
And I was interested, I mean, does the EUEM space feel to you in some way like your baby? Is it something you feel some sense of ownership over, and as such, is seeing the New Wave report rolled out this, is it like seeing your child go to college? Is that as analogous?
Andrew Hewitt (03:53):
It’s not as sad, I don’t think, because now it’s out there and everybody’s seeing it, as opposed to a child going away. I imagine that would be a little bit sadder. But this is just pure joy. This is absolutely something that I saw as an opportunity and wanted to build out further. Particularly we didn’t have any research really on… At the beginning it was desktop PC analytics, that was what people were talking about, PC monitoring. We’d get questions around that and we never really had an exact answer. I mean, we were familiar with vendors like Nexthink for instance, but we had never done an in-depth evaluation.
Andrew Hewitt (04:29):
And as we started to see the importance of technology experience coming to the fore, we started to see large enterprises, huge banks in the US for instance, being interested in experience, that seemed a huge opportunity to go out and provide something to the market that hopefully is really useful for folks. So I’m really proud of the work that went into it. And there’s a lot of pre-work in addition to the actual Wave evaluation itself, so I just hope it’s useful for folks out there as they consider their options. But yeah, absolutely, this is certainly an area that I’ve been looking to do for a while and glad to have finally got it out.
Tim Flower (05:04):
Andrew, Tim Flower here. I just want to welcome you to the show as well. It’s always great to not only hear you at our conferences and web events, but also to take advantage of some direct conversation time. It is so welcome.
Andrew Hewitt (05:14):
Thanks Tim. It’s great to chat with you again as well.
Tim Flower (05:16):
As an end user compute guy for 30 plus years, even just the technology for me, once we saw it, it was that eye-opener, that holy cow, we’ve been looking for something like this for so long, almost where’s this been all my life kind of a feeling. And I’m curious, as the market grows and as people see the advancement or the evolution from just looking for a desktop monitoring to really managing an end user experience, I’m curious what the reception has been like from different enterprise stakeholders. Are you hearing from execs or frontline tech? What’s the feedback been so far?
Andrew Hewitt (05:46):
Yeah, I think the major thing that I’m hearing is a lot of organizations saying we really want to be holistic about technology experience, and that’s the big difference, I think, and why this market really started to gain traction was it came out of that initial shell of PC monitoring and started to address other types of technologies. And what I hear from C-levels as well as their direct reports is, “I really need something that’s going to be comprehensive across the entire technology environment.” So that was what gave a lot of impetus to the writing of this Wave was that we were getting those questions and the feedback has been very positive about the way that we have framed this market as an employee facing market, as a holistic technology experience management platform. I think people are confused a little bit by the acronym and have trouble saying it, but that’s not the worst thing out there.
Andrew Hewitt (06:35):
I think a lot of them are definitely pretty psyched about the first round of this, and then they’re asking about where do we go from here? So we have the telemetry collection, we can look across devices, apps, networks, users, et cetera. But what else are we missing from the technology experience? There’s things like adoption of different technology tools. How do I train people to use technology better? That can be a huge gap. There are more folks asking about user behavior and not just the collection of the data, but how are people using the technology? Not so much adoption, but things like am I actually using a cloud suite of productivity applications, or am I just operating in the old way of saving things to USB drives or saving things locally on the device, that sort of thing.
Andrew Hewitt (07:20):
So it’s definitely igniting more discussions around where can we go from here and address some of these other parts of experience as well, and whether this market grows it to address some of those I think remains to be seen, or if there’s other vendors that can come up to play an integrative role with the end user experience management market, that’s something that we’ll be asking about over the next 12 months or so.
Tom McGrath (07:40):
And I’m always curious, Andrew, when a report like this comes out, you must brace yourself a little bit. There must be some hurt feelings out there. What’s it to know that some people are going to be really pleased and some people are going to be really disappointed in terms of vendors and customers?
Andrew Hewitt (07:54):
It can be tough for sure. But what I get back to is what we do with the research is grounded in customer expectations. That’s the whole point of the Forrester Wave is to say, “What do customers need? And then what are vendors delivering?” And the really great part about being an analyst, which I think is very distinct from a lot of other jobs out there is that I’m actually paid to tell the truth. I’m paid to be unbiased. So it doesn’t really matter what my opinion is. There’s definitely some hypothesis around what’s really important based off what I hear from customers, but at the same time, my goal is to get as unbiased with what do customers needs and what are vendors providing as I possibly can. So that has been a really rewarding process.
Andrew Hewitt (08:38):
And at the end of the day, I think a lot of vendors, whether they do… Depending on whatever their position is and the overall Wave, they respect that, that we do try to take that really unbiased approach to the market. We’re not trying to market or sell anything specifically, but we are just trying to match up what is the best things for our clients to go out there and buy. So it’s a pretty rewarding process in the sense that I do feel I get to tell the truth, which is a really cool thing that I think a lot of jobs don’t necessarily have. I’m not trying to pitch anything. I’m just trying to tell it it is, basically.
Tom McGrath (09:09):
You’re effectively a politician, Andrew. That’s what you’re trying to say.
Andrew Hewitt (09:14):
Yes, yes. To some degree. I think it depends on which one, but yeah.
Tim Flower (09:18):
I don’t know if I would link politicians and telling the truth together in this [crosstalk 00:09:25].
Andrew Hewitt (09:24):
Yeah. Maybe we need to delete that one. I don’t know.
Tim Flower (09:27):
But Andrew, you make some interesting points and I’ll piggyback a little bit on Tom’s. Nexthink really has no reason to be upset. You identified us as leading the pack. What do you think about, if you can provide any comment around, Nexthink, where do you think that we’re right now standing out? We obviously, I think it’s fair to say, we feel we’ve got the most well-rounded product. Real-time analytics, the ability to score and take action and engage with employees. But as you look at what enterprises need today, what general commentary can you give that stands out for you?
Andrew Hewitt (10:00):
Sure. So with Nexthink there are a couple of things that really stand out. One is the holistic nature of the platform. So I mentioned earlier that people are really looking to manage all the different technology that impacts experience, and turns out that yes, every piece of technology impacts experience. So if you want to address it, you need to have holistic nature. And Nexthink does a good job of saying, “I’m not just focused on the device, not just focused on the app, not just on external networks and so forth, really looking at the holistic nature of that.” So that’s the first thing, holistic experience management differentiates Nexthink.
Andrew Hewitt (10:32):
The other thing that comes to mind is Nexthink was one of the first to bring out the qualitative piece of this too, with the Engage capabilities. So that changes a lot of the conversation in the market in terms of the value for qualitative collection of data. So that is becoming increasingly important, and certainly what Nexthink has done around not just having someone select a happy or sad face with their overall tech experience, but being able to input information, actual text, being able to analyze that information, combine it with a digital experience score, and then be able to run specific campaigns that are targeted based off of the context of the user, and being able to use that, as we’ve mentioned before, I think, in a couple of other webinars and so forth is giving that data out to other business stakeholders like HR people too.
Andrew Hewitt (11:21):
So I think in terms of the qualitative piece, that’s another big strength of Nexthink. And then the final piece is around continuous experience improvement. So the digital experience score, where you’re bringing in all of the different hard metric technology scores, plus the user sentiment, providing a single score and then tracking that over time, tracking that across roles, departments, geographies, et cetera. That idea of this not being a one and done thing, again, it’s that switched from IT to a purveyor of technology to someone actually manages that experience on a daily basis, that becomes increasingly super important. So I think in terms of continuous digital experience improvement, that would be the third area. So overall it’s holistic nature, it’s the qualitative feedback, and it’s the continuous improvement focus.
Tom McGrath (12:09):
I know, Andrew, that you speak to customers a lot when you’re preparing the New Wave report or any report. I’m interested in the kind of feedback you get from Nexthink customers, what the character of their feedback is like as much as anything detailed.
Andrew Hewitt (12:23):
A couple of things that come to mind. One is on the customer support angle. I’ve heard a lot of really good feedback from customers around your willingness to partner with them, help them address their experience issues. One person told me they go went to the Nexthink office or something and felt like a rockstar because everybody knew who they were, and they were like, “How do you guys know who I am?” So just the focus on customers as well. It’s definitely come up in a lot of our conversations, whether in the Wave or outside of the Wave as well, we did a lot of pre-work interviewing different customers. So certainly the customer support model is definitely a big advantage.
Andrew Hewitt (12:58):
The other piece that I hear quite a bit is just the ease of use of the UI and the dashboarding capabilities. I’ve heard that from a number of different customers where you’re turning a lot of that data into the actual insight and then increasingly moving towards the action associated with that insight. So it’s not really enough to just understand 60% of my PCs are experiencing a blue screen of death, every, maybe, 15 minutes, let’s say. Extreme example, but what do I do with that? Can I go and fix that? Can I go in and remediate some of those issues? People really appreciate the overall feel of the console and being able to take those insights and then also give me some suggested actions to go and complete those, which is not the case across everyone in the market today. Sometimes a lot of the more monitoring focused solutions will just give you the data with no action and no insights. So that’s a big thing that I heard a lot from the Nexthink customers.
Tom McGrath (13:50):
Just had one more thing, which is regards to the New Wave report, which is I recall that Nexthink really stood out in the roadmap category, and I wonder if you could speak to that and what distinguished us there?
Andrew Hewitt (14:01):
Yeah, sure. So I think what stood out to me was one, what I look for in a strategy and roadmap is any areas that you feel are gaps, that you’re trying to fill those. So that’s one thing which a lot of vendors do do that. So that’s, that’s a really good area to focus on and make sure that is there, but from the rest of the vision and strategy perspective I think one of the big things that I saw was more of a focus on collecting a lot of this data en masse and being able to share that and being able to have actual recommendations about what to do in your environment based off the data that Nexthink is collecting, and either comparing that across different departments or roles, or comparing that within a specific industry if people are going to opt into that.
Andrew Hewitt (14:44):
That ability to basically give recommendations around this is what your environment should look, and increasingly becoming more sophisticated with that with different algorithms and so forth, really made a lot of sense to me in terms of an overall strategy is giving more of that data, utilizing that, and continuing to move people towards a cloud enabled model for EUEM. So that definitely stood out to me. And then just continuing to create this vision of a holistic experience management tool. The other thing that stuck out to me too was a vision that was not necessarily just focused on IT. IT’s well and good. We all love IT. But there’s opportunity to use these tools in broader ways outside of the IT department. So that was another thing that obviously we started to see with some of the Nexthink customers. I think that that will continue. But how do you use this platform even more strategically than just as a technology experience tool? I think that that came clear as part of the overall vision as well, is it’s a business transformation tool, not necessarily a technology monitoring tool.
Tom McGrath (15:46):
You obviously provide a lot of insight into the changing technology landscape of IT. Do you give much thought to people who are entering or early in their IT career in terms of how the changing landscape should impact the choices they make, the way they think about their profession, the experiences and technological experience that they should reach for in order to ensure that they’re successful longterm?
Andrew Hewitt (16:11):
Yes. And we’ve covered that in a couple of different reports on… I did a report on digital experience architects, essentially, and I’m planning some research on digital experience teams over the next year in 2021. So there is this changing requirement around what types of skills do you need as a person that’s going to go in knowing that you’re going to be evaluated on experience? So I just recently pulled the data. I think it was 50% of IT decision makers say that their team and themselves personally are evaluated on the technology experience they provide to employees. So if that increases, and we assume that it will give the momentum around employee experience, then people are going to need new skills. And some of them are more people skills. So being able to go and converse with end users, be very empathetic with them, have much more of a UX design product focus as opposed to a keep the lights on, keep uptime and availability high going forward. You’re going to need more of those people skills in order to continue advancing in your career. That’s a piece of it.
Andrew Hewitt (17:11):
The other piece is a little bit more technology focused, which is really around automation. And as these tools start to get more sophisticated, say we get more predictive about device failures and so forth, we can make better predictions around how to fix and experience, more of that is going to be automated for the person. So the question is how can I use automation strategically to advance my own career? I think you’re in a good boat anytime that you’re trying to automate yourself out of a job, because that is going to position you and propel you to, one, save costs for your company, which always looks good for your career prospects, but to give you time to focus on other things that may be more innovative as well.
Andrew Hewitt (17:49):
So as employee experience grows in importance, that younger generation that comes in is going to have to worry about all the traditional hard metrics and so forth, but they’re also going to be increasingly looking for how do I deliver innovation through automation of undifferentiated tasks that I might have? And then two, how do I develop even more people skills, or how do I utilize those skills, maybe I have them already, to go and actually have those conversations directly face-to-face with employees? So I think there’s going to be a fairly big change in terms of what those resumes will require, what those jobs descriptions will look like going forward.
Tim Flower (18:24):
So let’s flip to the other end of the career spectrum. So if you’re already in a senior position, and maybe I’ll kick this off maybe with a trivia question. What is the typical time in role or time in position of a typical CIO?
Andrew Hewitt (18:38):
A typical CIO I think is not very long at all. I think it’s a couple of years before they move on or they make a decision that impacts the overall business.
Tim Flower (18:46):
Exactly, yeah. It’s two years. So they don’t have much time to come in and assess and plan and implement and show results before they’re out the door. So if you’re in that role, if that’s your role today as a CIO, how should you be adapting your career? What should a CIO be doing to be able to quickly demonstrate the value of both them individually and the teams that they guide?
Andrew Hewitt (19:06):
It’s a great questions. So I think the major thing is delivering some type of innovation really quickly, whether that is business technology for employee facing use cases, business technology for customer facing use cases, and getting to know the needs of those teams very quickly and in depth to provide something that’s going to be completely new in differentiating is going to be absolutely critical for long-term success in that CIO role. Of course, if you mess up and there’s a data breach because of something that you did, you’re gone probably pretty quickly. So there’s definitely things that you’re going to need to cover from the beginning. But the question is how do you deliver differentiated value upfront?
Andrew Hewitt (19:43):
And with this market in particular, one of the things that we heard from a lot of customers is that right when you start, and Tim, you’ve done a ton of work on the ROI piece, but depending on how much of a mess the overall technology environment is, you can get a huge ROI just from cleaning up disk space and reducing different disruptions and app crashes and hangs and so forth. So for a CIO that has that opportunity to basically come and say, “Okay, we’re going to save millions of dollars right now just by cleaning up some of this stuff that we have, this mess that we have in our environment.” And that can help say, “Okay, we’ve innovated right away. We’ve saved costs. Now let’s go in and provide something that’s even more differentiated going forward.” So the CIO role is tough because you’re managing so many different priorities, whether it’s management, security, experience, cost. All four of those things are going to be incredibly important to have some type of strategy behind them.
Tim Flower (20:33):
Without a doubt the level of pain dictates the level of opportunity to improve. Folks ask me a lot about the 80% reduction in user-generated calls to the help desk that we achieved. Well that was the level of how much pain you’re on, and you were at the tail end a of a project that had some problems. But I have not seen an enterprise IT shop yet that is clean and running smooth and has no pain. So there’s always opportunity for a CIO to come in, identify that pain quickly, and then as you said, put together something that can make a meaningful difference on a short-term basis. And I’m curious, maybe to start to wrap things up, I’m curious what your thoughts are and how big a part it plays in having that nimble, ahead of the curve kind of mentality, as well as the ability and priority of looking at employees as part of the equation and not just technology. You think that’s a must have for folks moving forward?
Andrew Hewitt (21:23):
Absolutely. Absolutely. And I think the CIO plays a huge role in that. I mean, when I think about that employee experience index again, empowerment, inspiration, enable. The CIO for the most part is the only C-level executive that has exclusive rights to improve one third of the overall employee experience, which is enablement. You might have some executives or people in sales or marketing or something that might dictate some of the technology choices, and that’s becoming actually more common in a lot of cases with specific offerings that are out there on the market. But in general, the CIO is really dominating that 30%, and the other thing that I think a lot of people don’t think about is what’s the ripple effect of, if that enablement is really good, what does that do to empowerment? What does that do to inspiration?
Andrew Hewitt (22:08):
So if I can provide a solution that is really inspirational, let’s say I identify, I have a need for my frontline workforce to go serve people in need in the community, I’m a healthcare organization. The technology I provide directly links that person to the mission and values of the company if they’re able to use that successfully with patients or customers or something. And the same thing would happen with empowerment, and I think a lot of CEOs now are starting to think about, “Okay, how do I create an environment in which people have clarity around their job role, their activities, tasks that they need to do, working in a team, especially in a remote work environment?” And more and more organizations are buying things collaborative work management tools out there, which gives that type of clarity of goals and responsibilities and so forth. And that’s all driven from the technology organization.
Andrew Hewitt (22:56):
So although there are these three bucket, and I would say HR, the CX people are mostly going to lead the empowerment and the inspiration pieces, CIOs dominate the enablement and then also have these ripple on effects in inspiration and empowerment as well. So significantly, in my opinion, more important than a lot of often they’re credited with overall.
Tom McGrath (23:18):
Andrew, lastly, before you go, we’re almost at the end of 2020, thank goodness. Question for you is predictions for 2021.
Andrew Hewitt (23:25):
Predictions for 2021. So I’ll give you my first formal prediction, which is Forrester’s prediction, which is 300% permanent increase in remote working. So one in five workers permanently remote workers going forward. So that’s really going to impact overall employee experience initiatives in organizations, it’s going to impact how we manage technology. So this is going be a significantly more difficult thing to support, and it’s going to be one of the main reasons why people are investing more in EUEM tools over the next 12 months. The other thing is, I think in general, this move to the office, I think that we’re going to start to see a lot more of a focus on changing the usage of the office going forward. And that’s also going to have ramifications for technology leaders. It’s not going to be an area where people go and just do heads down work and don’t talk to one another.
Andrew Hewitt (24:14):
We’re already seeing some organizations say we’re going to make these hubs where basically you go into team building, et cetera, going forward, and it’s basically for collaborative types of activities and that fundamental office environment is going to change quite a bit. We started to see that with Dropbox. I don’t know if you saw their announcement, but they’re doing a fully virtual first model. So everybody’s a remote worker and then they just have these hubs where people go and collaborate, basically. So I think that’s going to start to become more apparent as people realize that hybrid working is going to be very difficult. So I think we’re going to see a change in how offices are utilized going forward, and that’s going to also impact it decision makers as well as they try to equip that with room booking, desk booking types of technology, contactless entry types of technology, all of that. So I would say those are the main two that I’m thinking about right now in terms of how 2021 on unfolds, and hopefully it is a lot better than 2020.
Tom McGrath (25:10):
Okay. That’s the end of our first ever show. Huge thanks to Andrew Hewitt and Tim Flower. And if you’d to download Andrew’s EUEM New Wave report for free, simply check the show notes, follow the link, and it’s all yours. Thanks for listening.
Speaker 4 (25:27):
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