With increased emphasis on Digital Employee Experience (DEX) in the enterprise, industry analysts and vendors have been working on defining the factors and components necessary to deliver the optimal DEX. There is a need to measure application performance, application availability, and user sentiment.
Among the products and services under the control of IT, applications have the biggest impact on the employee experience.
It is paramount to take an application-centric approach when establishing your DEX strategy. You could build desktops for your employees with the latest Windows operating system, 16GB+ of memory, 4+ CPUs, powerful graphics cards, large high-resolution monitors, a state-of-the-art wireless mechanical keyboard, and the best headsets on the market, but it is all for not if the applications they need to work are not reliable.
Employees interact with applications throughout their day. If the experience using them is negative, it can sour their sentiments toward their entire working experience. Even worse, it can create the false impression IT doesn’t know what they are doing or simply does not care about them, creating friction between teams.
How Do You Drive Meaningful Change in IT?
How are you currently evaluating information on your DEX? What do you do with that data? For example, if you see application availability dipped below 98% last year, how would you interpret that? If user sentiment indicates employees are unhappy with lost productivity, it is likely they are losing confidence in the stability of your systems.
How does an enterprise address this effectively?
Perhaps data shows a widely used application takes close to a minute to launch, consuming 3% of CPU and 5% of memory. IT assumes there are no resource constraints, therefore no problem for them to address. However, user sentiment tells us another story. When asked for feedback, employees report frustration at how slow applications are running and problems they face with the applications from time to time. Raw data does not show this, rendering IT blind to these issues until employees shared their feedback. Again, when you find out about issues with the digital employee experience – which is contingent on your applications – how do you address it?
Incorporate Employee Feedback
There are many factors to consider when managing software in the enterprise. The most basic is identifying what software employees prefer. A classic example of this is PDF editing software. Sometimes budgets determine which PDF software employees use. This can quickly become a point of contention. Some employees spend a significant amount of their day working with this software. If they are being forced to use a tool, they feel is inadequate to competently do their job, they will be unhappy. It is important to architect an organization’s software estate for IT efficiency. This means removing unused applications, ensuring all applications are on the latest version and not running unsupported software, and standardizing on products (e.g., there is no need for three to four PDF editing products). Engaging directly with your employees on their preferences and product research will enable you to discern how to best meet the needs of all your employees. This will increase the happiness of your employees while saving your organization money by consolidating software procurement to a single vendor, rather than à la carte licensing for four distinct products.
Applications have many intricacies that can be a source of frustration for employees. When I was working within the healthcare space, I worked with doctors who had experience within multiple health systems across the state. As such, they had experience with different EHR products. Their lived expertise with multiple products and hospital systems enabled them to juxtapose workflows and features across EHR products and share these insights with IT. For example, there was consensus our primary EHR product is better than the others being used, however, they were unhappy with the workflow for discharging patients and requested that we change our workflow to align to that of a different EHR solution they felt did it better so we could create a more streamlined process. With concise, actionable feedback IT can more effectively enact meaningful change.
Develop Flexible and Agile IT Operations
Too often teams take a binary approach to the needs of their employees. End users may request certain applications, the applications in question are deployed to their desktop, and the ticket is closed. While the request was addressed, it is likely more work is required to provide the end user with a good application experience.
When I worked with administrative staff responsible for producing training videos, Camtasia and Snagit were preferred applications. The team made a business case to management on why we ought to invest in licenses for them. Unfortunately, when the staff had to work remotely utilizing virtual desktops, many were unhappy with the experience. The optimal experience required them to run these applications on their physical endpoints at home. Camtasia is a large application and rendering video can be resource intensive making it challenging on standard spec virtual desktops. For those who really needed them on their physical endpoints which had ample resources for rendering video, we could fulfill their request and deploy it in a self-service fashion for them to run on those physical endpoints as from a licensing perspective, we were covered for 2 devices per licensed user. We also had the means to provide the application to the users quickly via a cloud native management product.
Modernize Your Approach to Application Management
Application updates occurring at inopportune times were a constant source of frustration for those who went to work from home. The sentiment from users and their managers was overwhelming on this point. They were unhappy when application updates started to occur soon after they logged in to begin their day at work. It was a case of hurry up and wait. Log in to get the day underway but get greeted by install dialogs and slowness prompting employees to keep their hands off their mice and keyboards for fear they would disrupt something.
A lot of organizations schedule an all-team meeting at the beginning of the day to share what everyone is working on and level-set as a team. Applications and systems updating as people are trying to join a Teams Meeting can cause people to be late, which in-turn causes stress for everyone involved. To address this, we could look at the technology involved. Is a VPN the best choice for remote workers? What is the best way to deploy applications and application updates? We found that the VPN was unreliable when trying to support our organization’s entire daily network traffic. Even with an Always-On VPN, with soaring energy costs and sustainability goals, employees did not want to leave their work machines powered on when not at work. We changed how we deployed our applications and application updates to those with physical endpoints, to make these much faster, less intrusive, and more dynamic.
Enterprise application management can be overly complex, yet it is the crux of the digital employee experience. When you move beyond a binary fashion to evaluating DEX and actually listen to the wants and needs of your employees, you may be surprised what you discover. If your organization is truly committed to modernizing its approach to IT, you must take a user-centric approach. This inherently requires an application-centric approach, as your employees are working within their applications all day long, making now the time to modernize application management.
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