This article, written by Vincent Bieri, Nexthink Co-founder, first appeared on Forbes on September 10, 2018.
There’s a job description you don’t see often, but unfortunately, it’s much closer to the truth about what companies are truly looking for these days in an IT manager.
Technology has taken over the workplace. And this is a wonderful thing, one that has changed the way we all work for the better — improving connections, productivity and efficiencies while also making it easier to work remotely from the beach house or to multitask, or swap that shift, or quickly respond to an email while at your daughter’s baseball game.
As the workplace becomes more and more connected — and reliant on technology — it also becomes increasingly complex and difficult to manage. Technology has an outsized effect on how employees regard their workplace experiences. If everything works as intended and helps employees get their jobs done better and more efficiently, then consequently, employees feel their digital workplace experience is a good one.
But when things don’t work as intended — perhaps a database isn’t calculating results the way an employee thinks it should, or the email system continues to refuse to send an attachment — then employees start to feel differently about their digital experience and their overall work experience. And in this day and age, where there’s low unemployment and every incentive to retain the employees you’ve already invested in, keeping the employee experience at a high level is critical to having an effective, engaged and productive company.
The Need For Clairvoyance
It becomes the IT department’s main task to maintain and improve the ultra-connected workplaces we all work in. The larger the workplace, the more complex the systems are — and the harder it is to understand what is happening in the organization from a technology standpoint.
Within a large operation that’s firing on all cylinders, that soon seems like an impossible task — unless you’re clairvoyant (in which case, what are you doing working in IT?). So, companies turn to monitoring and application performance management tools to better understand what’s working and what isn’t and to help them prioritize their team’s daily activities.
But those tools, no matter how advanced, are often simply not enough. There is a gap between what the tools show and the reality your employees are facing. You could have ultra-green dashboards on IT health and the five 9s (99.999% service availability) showing up on all of your dashboards, making your team feel like they’ve had another excellent day protecting the digital employee experience. Meanwhile, John can’t get his work done as his computer is operating slowly, or Caroline in the next cube over is struggling to send email because her Wi-Fi signal isn’t strong enough.
More often than not, the IT team doesn’t immediately see the day-to-day problems employees are experiencing unless they tell you about it. The data center and cloud are all up and running, according to your monitoring tools, but issues in the employees’ own perimeters — such as local resources memory issues, or version conflicts making apps crash, or modified local settings stopping critical apps from connecting, or incompatible plugins and browser versions — are unknown to the IT team. If employees file a ticket or tell you about them, then you can fix them, but many won’t as they’re afraid of IT, don’t have the time or have accepted that “that’s just the way things work.”
An employee’s view of their digital experience can quickly take a turn for the worse as a result of these issues.
If IT managers are to understand the digital employee experience, then they need to both receive proactive information about the organization’s use of technology and to establish better connections with the employees themselves.
Traditional surveys or performance reports don’t help the IT department understand the actual conditions experienced by the end user. But without having the power of clairvoyance in your tool belt, you need to be able to connect with users on a regular basis and learn from them what their IT experiences are really like.
Instead of forcing IT explanations on employees or believing that employees aren’t “doing it correctly,” part of embracing proactivity is understanding how they’re trying to use technology and the experience they’re having. You need to walk a mile in their shoes so you can understand and proactively predict issues next time around — fixing them before end-users decide to alert you.
To gain insight, IT managers should become better at asking the right questions at the right time. When an upgrade is happening, ask for immediate feedback. Utilize tools that can make this connection or share this information for you. Waiting months until an implementation is done is too long. You may miss something that’s not working for end users and could have been fixed in real time.
In addition, part of this process should be comparing what end users are saying with what your monitoring tools are telling you. Connecting the direct IT experiences of employees with what the tools and programs are telling you will help you to identify issues and to know what to look for next time, so you can prevent a problem from becoming an issue.
IT managers should also embrace a philosophy of continuous improvement. As the information you’re receiving improves in frequency and quality, you’ll be able to make changes faster and quicker and, more importantly, in a way that doesn’t disrupt how employees work. Look for employee satisfaction changes during major roll-outs or upgrades and predict how what’s a simple change to you could be a workflow-shifting change for an employee. Identify these issues and learn to predict them.
The digital employee experience is critical to today’s businesses. Employees are the backbone of a company, and with the low unemployment and high cost of replacing the knowledge lost by a key employee, the time is now for IT to proactively make sure it is doing its part to create happy, engaged employee end-users.