“How you deliver value to your customers is made possible through your employee experience” – Dion Hinchcliffe
“The relevancy of the digital employee experience is not in doubt, it is certainly important and top of mind for many IT Leaders.” – Sean Malvey
Today, Dion Hinchcliffe, VP and Principal Analyst at Constellation Research, Inc. and Sean Malvey, Content Manager at Nexthink cover the impact of the pandemic on IT during episode 6 of Digital Employee Experience. This discussion focused on…
- How are IT leaders prioritizing the digital employee experience?
- What are companies doing to advance their digital employee experience?
- Where can IT leaders go to hear what their peers are thinking?
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Speaker 1 (00:01):
You’re listening to Digital Employee Experience: A Show for IT Change Makers. Let’s get into the show.
Tom McGrath (00:08):
Hello, change makers. Welcome to the show. I’m Tom McGrath, joined as ever by the main man, Tim Flower. How are you today, Tim?
Tim Flower (00:14):
I’m doing great, Tom. How are you? I’m thankful to not be shoveling snow, so all is good.
Tom McGrath (00:19):
Yeah. I hear you had a bit of snow fall out there. I’m okay. I’m slightly alarmed because today for the first time, we’ve got to handle, we have to juggle even, not our usual one guest, but a very special double bill. Hopefully, the reason we wanted to bring these two great guests together will soon become abundantly clear. But let’s first welcome them. Dion Hinchcliffe is VP and Principal Analyst at Constellation Research. He is an internationally recognized business strategist, best-selling author, and much more widely regarded as one of the most influential figures in digital strategy of the future of work and enterprise IT. He’s also made his first fantastic contributions to the Nexthink blog just recently. Dion, great to have you with us.
Dion Hinchcliffe (00:58):
Thanks, Thomas. It’s great to be here.
Tom McGrath (01:00):
And can I ask, Dion, I did hear a rumor that you were actually named after a Greek God. This sounds too farfetched a rumor to possibly be true, but I wonder if you could confirm or deny.
Dion Hinchcliffe (01:12):
It’s entirely true. So when I was a kid, we lived in San Francisco on the corner of Haight-Ashbury, which was-
Tom McGrath (01:18):
Dion Hinchcliffe (01:19):
You know that? That’s-
Tom McGrath (01:19):
I certainly do.
Dion Hinchcliffe (01:21):
The center where the ’60s really got their kickoff. And my parents wanted to name me something fun and important, so they named me after the Greek God, Dionysus. But they thought that’d be a little unwieldy to walk around with that name all the time. So they cut it short, Dion.
Tom McGrath (01:35):
Fantastic name and a fantastic origin. Were your parents hanging out with the Merry Pranksters down there, Dion?
Dion Hinchcliffe (01:41):
Well actually, a little straight-laced. It’s interesting. So we lived right there. They liked being in the proximity of all the free-thinking and my dad actually knew Jack Kerouac who was hanging out there at that time. That was before I was born. But yeah, they were all in the middle of all that.
Tom McGrath (01:54):
And we’d also like to welcome our friend, colleague and fellow Nexthinker, Sean Malvey. Sean is a writer and editor. He’s written for the Boston Globe among others, and has recently driven and overseen and now unleashed the Nexthink Pulse Report, which we will hear more about in due course. Sean, welcome to the show.
Sean Malvey (02:10):
Gentlemen, glad to be here. Thank you.
Tom McGrath (02:12):
And Sean, what are you named after? What’s the origin story behind the name, Sean? Come on.
Sean Malvey (02:18):
Just another Irish name from a kid from New England. So there’s millions of me out there.
Tom McGrath (02:23):
Well you are both hugely welcome to the show, gentlemen. Thank you very much indeed for coming.
Tim Flower (02:27):
Yeah. I think I always loved the mix of guests that we got here, and both of you are tremendous talents and have a lot to share. Dion, curious, the research that you’ve done really seems to be focusing in on this whole notion of the experience of employees as they interact with technology, right? Nexthink speaks to it in terms of digital employee experience. But I’m curious how significant a trend… And is that even the right word? Is it a trend or a fad, or do you think that this has some longevity and legs? And what drove your curiosity here?
Dion Hinchcliffe (02:57):
Well what’s interesting is over the last year, digital employee experience has become the primary employee experience. So it’s interesting, it’s been usually the 11th priority of any top 10 priorities of an organization is to invest in the employee experience. Something else always comes first, whether it’s cybersecurity or moving to the cloud, our analytics not understanding all of your data. Our actual workplace has been under invested in for years. And then it really bit us last year when we all suddenly had to go remote. So now, those who really had been paying attention understand that that’s how you deliver value to your customers is made possible through your employee experience and making it hard for your workers. You’re giving them friction, not even great tools to do their job that we now have in great abundance. That’s just the wrong focus.
Dion Hinchcliffe (03:40):
And so it’s been great to see this enormous level of investment, interest, of renaissance in employee experience. So I’ve been gratified at my research area of the last 20 years has now suddenly become the hottest thing out there because that’s all we have now. But you’re an essential worker, which is now most of us, you’re now a digital employee.
Tim Flower (03:56):
Yeah. So it’s interesting. Just to follow up there, I don’t know who the great philosopher was who said it, but necessity is the mother of invention, right? So we’re focusing on this now because we have to. But what do you think the reasons were for a lack of attention in the past? Was it funding and budget? Was it the need is going to be low risk? What do you think drove that lackadaisical attitude?
Dion Hinchcliffe (04:18):
Well people who are not in IT don’t understand how much of an investment has been made into IT for just the workers. So if you look at the IT spend in a large company, it’s about $30,000 a person per year. And about half of that, 14, 15,000 on average is spent on the end user experience. [inaudible 00:04:37]. We’re talking total spend of IT is about [inaudible 00:04:40]. So the organizations are already spending 15 grand a year to keep the licenses and the lights on and all these different apps. There’s usually hundreds of applications that run a given business. And so the challenge is they’re already spending so much that adding more to that per employee, those numbers really add up. You would have to have something that’s going to have significant impact. And so we’ve already done all the easy things. If you think about that, how much IT, all that’s been purchased for a reason, not because it’s nice to have, but for a particular reason.
Dion Hinchcliffe (05:07):
And so you have to have something to look at it and say even $25 a year per worker is a big number when you’re talking about 130,000 person organization, right? So people say, “What are we going to get from that?” Forever locked in these ROI discussions, what’s this value? And it’s another thing to train the user arm and it’s another thing to onboard everybody for and to support and to paper every year. So we’re getting actually more and more technology all the time. But the reality is the landscape is very complicated and it’s hard to figure out what the right thing to do is.
Tom McGrath (05:40):
Sean, it’s a perfect time then to talk about your new report. So first of all, please tell us about what inspired it and how you went about getting the data.
Sean Malvey (05:47):
Yeah, sure. So I think the inspiration behind the Pulse Report very much came from the pandemic itself. We’ve run surveys before in the past pre-pandemic largely focusing on the digital employee experience. But as soon as we were all forced to shift to a remote work, or at least a hybrid working environment, this just became more and more relevant to us. But we also heard a lot of stories through our customers and from different conferences about the challenges that IT leaders were facing. So we decided to take a microscope to this situation and find out how people were fairing. So we actually teamed up with a market research firm out of Silicon Valley called Pulse. And basically, the idea was if I could get a few hundred technology executives, the C-suite, in a room and ask them questions, obviously it’s pretty difficult to do pre-pandemic or during the pandemic, but if I could do that and ask them these burning questions, what could we do with that? How would we see that report play out?
IT's Top Execs Spoke & We Listened
Nexthink Pulse Report - Tech Leaders reveal biggest obstacles and opportunities since the pandemicDOWNLOAD
Tim Flower (06:47):
One of the things that I found interesting, and each of the reports or studies that we put out is unique and interesting in its own way, this one looks like one of the powerful components to this was the ability to track data over time. What things did you find in that trend line relative to employee experience? What things did you discover in that tracking?
Sean Malvey (07:09):
Yeah, definitely. So I think what was interesting with this was we had the fortune of serving IT leaders in the past. So we were able to see… Basically asked a section of IT leaders do you agree that digital employee experience is essential to your IT department? And we asked them in May 2019, way before the pandemic, this question, and about half of IT leaders agreed with that statement. We then were able to ask them again early in May 2020, so in the early days of the pandemic, and that jumped up to almost 80% agreeing with that statement. And then with this Pulse Report, and we asked them again, a similar group, the same question, and that jumped up to around 96%. So the relevancy of the digital employee experience, it’s not in doubt. It’s certainly important on top of mind for many, many IT leaders.
Tim Flower (07:58):
What things did you find as you saw that data come in? There’s this notion of understanding the enterprise and understanding employees and their experience, gathering all those metrics can be a valuable exercise. But it’s really useless without action, right? Companies have to take that and now formulate action plans based on data and based on information. Are you seeing results come in that enterprises and businesses are actually acting upon the data that is being exposed to them?
Sean Malvey (08:27):
Well I’d actually posit it like this. So we’ve seen the surge in the relevancy of digital employee experience within these IT departments, but we then followed up on that and said do you have the ability to actually measure it? You can’t really improve it if you can’t measure it. And unfortunately, only a third of the respondents said that they can measure it, but with manual methods and roughly half said that they don’t measure it at all. So it’s definitely a challenge that I think a lot of IT leaders are now facing and realizing.
Tom McGrath (08:57):
Dion, did you have a chance to look at the Pulse Report yourself and whether any statistical trends that stood out to you in particular?
Dion Hinchcliffe (09:03):
Well I did look at it. And what was interesting is I did my own survey of what I felt were the top 100 CIOs in the world saying what are you going to do for 2021? And we see the same things like cybersecurity stands out head and shoulders. But when I made the list, top leading organizations, or at the edge of forefront of IT, digital transformation actually came out slightly ahead of a cybersecurity because our workers have moved and our customers have changed their behaviors. They want to be serviced at home. So we had the two major audiences, the two largest audiences have all shifted their behaviors. And now, digital transformation is a mandate. And we did it halfway. We did it in a hurried way in 2020 and 2021. That’s the priority.
Dion Hinchcliffe (09:41):
In fact, the first six months of the year, the data showed that that’s what they’re expecting to make major changes and shifts. So that’s along with all the other things that Sean was talking about there, which also came up on my survey, is workers are really struggling. IT can’t keep up with the support. In fact, 70% of the workers I surveyed in another effort said that they don’t think IT has everything they need to support them. So we have a lot of work to do. But the good news is we have better tools than we ever had before to drive that change. And I’m trying to encourage IT to don’t look at the stuff you have now, look at these much more powerful, new tools and ways of working. That’s what we should be investing in.
Tim Flower (10:17):
Dion, it’s interesting you talk about the notion that digital transformation is still top on the list, but it’s being challenged by other things. I’ve made the argument recently that digital transformation, one of the reasons it’s on the top of the list is because the 2020 transformations were the ones that were being executed for our survival. It wasn’t the ones we planned on. It was almost like 2020 was a throwaway year. And now, we’ve got to get back to work and we’re actually behind the eight ball and we got a lot more to do. Do you hear executives talking in those terms? Or is it-
Dion Hinchcliffe (10:48):
Completely. I would say that 2020 wasn’t felt that it was wasted, it was felt that it was a year of imperative. All those things that we were supposed to have been doing and we’ve been forced to put off we now had to do. We suddenly had to create an entirely new digital employee experience with many of the same old systems, but we had to make it much more productive and much more accessible. And same thing with our customers. So I talked to one mortgage company who said that when the pandemic started, they didn’t have remote signatures, digital signatures, that they FedEx everything to your house. This is a major company. They realized they were going to go out of business because people were shopping around and finding other mortgage companies could do everything electronically, no FedEx, all online. And they had a decision to make. Either we adapt this now, which they had all these regulatory reasons and process reasons why they couldn’t do it, well they did it in a couple months to stay alive.
Tim Flower (11:38):
Dion Hinchcliffe (11:38):
And it’s not a lost year. It’s a year of step change. It’s a quantum leap for many organizations to get the changes they had to get done.
Tim Flower (11:48):
That’s a great point. And one of the things that Tom and I try to do is we talk a lot about the technology, we talk a lot about our employees, but we also like to focus on the IT people as well that are doing all of this work. What are your thoughts about how these trends, these fast evolution, it’s not revolution, it’s very fast evolution of technology, but what does it mean to the future for an IT career? How do you see IT career planning and development continuing to mature based on these changes?
Dion Hinchcliffe (12:15):
We are seeing over the last couple of years, and this started before the pandemic, a real shift in how people were looking at the IT career path. Some people were still looking for lifetime careers, but others wanted to work on the projects of their choice. They wanted to use the very latest skills and latest technologies and maybe their company wasn’t using them yet. So we’ve seen this large rise of the gig workforce in IT. We typically think of the gig economy as an Uber driver hardly making any money. But we’ve now seen this enormous rise of the professional gig economy. And I have a short list of the names of the top companies. And it’s a big way of sourcing talent now. CIO’s tell me they use these services all the time. I’ve talked to the big assistant integrators. They’re sourcing a lot of their talent, not low double digit percentages, but middle double digit percentages, half their workforce, using these new on demand tools.
Dion Hinchcliffe (13:07):
And this allows this designer IT career where you can pick the projects that inspire you the most, you can choose the technologies and products you’d like, and people who want that come to you. And you get to work from wherever you want, however you want. That has a lot of appeal and it’s not for everybody. And so it’s not yet a majority model, but there is a chance that it will over the next five years become a majority model, it’s growing that quickly. So we see this more on demand staffing where your IT staffing curve looks like your business demand curve, right? So business goes down, you don’t have to pay these people. But they still have lots of work to go off and do. And so that is perhaps the most substantial shift in a generation I’ve seen in IT, and we’re tracking that closely.
Tom McGrath (13:45):
Sean, final question about the report itself. One of the interesting trends I think that you found concern ticket volume. I wonder if you could go into that a little bit.
Sean Malvey (13:54):
Sure. Yeah. So early on in the pandemic, we pulled a group of IT leaders and about half of them cited that their support tickets was a big challenge for them. We went back in the Pulse Report towards the end of 2020 and 70% of IT leaders cited ticket volume as an issue, most of which that volume has gone up about 50% for these people. I think the important thing though that sometimes gets lost in this, so obviously, IT departments might be drowning in tickets, but it’s also what about the times when people are not bringing up the ticket? And we found that in other surveys that we’ve done in the past, where we’ve looked at 1,000 employees, 2,000 senior IT leaders, that on average, about half the time, people don’t even report the issues that they’re facing.
Sean Malvey (14:39):
So for those instances, that can cost companies millions of dollars just on loss productivity. So they obviously have to get more proactive in the way that they’re able to find and solve problems when it’s presented to them. But also before I say I report an issue to the IT desk, they should be able to figure that out.
Tom McGrath (15:00):
Fantastic. Well look, gentlemen, thank you so much for coming on the show. It’s been a pleasure to talk to you, both, Dion, Sean. Happy 2021 and thanks for coming on.
Dion Hinchcliffe (15:09):
Thanks for having us.
Sean Malvey (15:10):
Thanks a lot, guys.
Tom McGrath (15:13):
And that’s the end of this week’s show. What you no doubt want to do right now is go and read the Pulse Nexthink Report, which you can find free of charge in the show notes. Until next time, change makers.
Speaker 1 (15:24):
To make sure that you never miss an episode, subscribe to the show on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or your favorite podcast player. And if you’re listening on Apple Podcasts, make sure to leave a rating of the show. Just tap the number of stars you think the podcast deserves. If you’d like to learn more about how Nexthink can help you improve your digital employee experience, head over to nexthink.com. Thank you so much for listening. Until next time.